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French Socialists fragment further as Benoît Hamon quits Party to found left ‘Mouvement du 1er juillet.’

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Hamon: I’m Leaving the Socialist Party, not Socialism. 

Alors qu’il lançait son Mouvement du 1er juillet, le vainqueur de la primaire a annoncé qu’il abandonnait le PS.   (Libération)

Benoît Hamon, this year’s  presidential candidate of the French Parti Socialiste (during which he scored a humiliating 6,36%), has  announced his departure from the Party on Saturday afternoon at the first meeting of his Movement 1 st  July, Reuilly in Paris. “I spent thirty long and beautiful years in the Socialist Party. I loved this party, I loved it passionately. Today, I am leaving the party but I do not leave Socialism and the Socialists, “ he said. They were nearly 10,000 present at the rally, according to the organisers.  The former MP  continued “I have not changed my beliefs,  but it is time for me to turn the page.”  He added,  I’m not saying farewell to the Socialist Party activists.” 

Hamon, with a background of  many  years of work in the PS, as a party spokesperson (2008 – 2012)  including serving as a Minister (2012 – 2014) he played a leading role amongst its left-wing tendencies, including amongst the ‘frondeurs‘ who criticised the drift, fiscal orthodoxy,  and market friendly politicies of President François Hollande and his governments,  considers that he and his new association will be part of the foundations with which the French left will be able to build a new “common Home”, ( ‘la maison commune de la gauche’).

For the recent Presidential contest Hamon was selected as the candidate of the Parti Socialiste through the publicly open “primary” of the Belle Alliance populaire (BAP) launched by the PS and its close allies.

In the second round he won with 58,69% of the votes (1,181,872 ballots). His rival, former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, lost with 31,48% (831,871).

Despite signing an agreement to respect the result Valls (and it is alleged many others close to President Hollande)  lost no opportunity to sabotage Hamon’s campaign. Amongst those who blamed the left-wing ‘frondeurs’ for the collapse of the French left vote, Valls was at the forefront of those who backed  Emmanuel Macron. The right-winger left the PS a few days ago to more clearly show his support for the ‘centrist’ new President. Valls now sits as an MP as part of Macron’s La République en marche (Manuel Valls quitte le Parti socialiste et rejoint le groupe LRM à l’Assemblée).

Hamon accuses Macron of representing a social minority. His counter objective to bring together that social majority with the left to become a political majority.

“Notre objectif, c’est que la majorité sociale d’ici cinq ans, et pour commencer d’ici 2020 aux élections municipales, redevienne une majorité politique” (le Point)

Amongst those present at the new movement’s first public meeting were former Ministers Philippe Martin and  Dominique Bertinotti, Green politicians, Jannick Jadot and former Green party (ELEV)  leader, Cécile Duflot as well as representatives of the Communist Party (PCF)  Fabien Guillaud-Bataille  and (a former leading member of the  Trotskyist Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, at present a member of the PCF) Christian Picquet.

More Le Monde:  Benoît Hamon annonce qu’il quitte le Parti socialiste.

This report summarises the contributions of the meeting. All were agreed, despite their differences on the need for  “new structures for the left”  “reinventing” the and building anew the left. (tous, malgré leurs divergences, s’accordaient à dire que la gauche devait se « reconstruire », « se réinventer » et abandonner ses vieilles structures.) on the ruins of the PS which seems now to be like a Church without believers.

In a Tweet Hamon said to members of the PS that he did not say adieu but see you again

 

In his pre-Presidential book, Pour La Génération qui Vient (For the Coming Generation 2017), Hamon begins by describing his own generation (he is still in his forties), born after the post-War boom, a cohort that has known four decades of crisis. Yet today, he continues, politicians look backwards to an “imaginary” country, a land now ‘besieged” and in “decline”. The supporters of fear and nostalgia have to be faced up to, there is no “homme providential” (Man of Destiny) that can save us, no saviour, “Au culte assumé du chef, la gauche a toujours oppose la force d’un espoir collectif” (against the claims of the cult of the Leader, the left has always put forward the power of collective hope, Page 18).

We hope that Hamon can fulfill his objectives.

The new association, the Mouvement du 1er-Juillet, will be based on participative democracy and local committees.

Official site.

 Image result for Mouvement du 1er juillet

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 2, 2017 at 11:56 am

The End of the French Socialists?

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https://i0.wp.com/scd.france24.com/fr/files_fr/imagecache/home_1024/edition/dls_rvp_une_auj_en_fr.png.jpg

The End of the Socialist Party? Not so sure….

The French Socialist Party (PS) is still in the throes of its historic rout in this year’s Presidential and Legislative elections.

While some of its representatives have switched sides and now support centrist President Macron, others are calling for a ‘refoundation’ of the party.

The PS will not support a vote of confidence in the government of Eduouard Phillipe, although sufficient ambiguity has been left open for those who will abstain instead of actively voting against.

For former First Secretary of the PS,  Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, interviewed in Libération today,  the party must remain socialist, green and pro-European. Its future lies in resisting both the “bonapartisme social-libéral” of  d’Emmanuel Macron  and the (leftist) “gauchisme autoritaire de Jean-Luc Mélenchon”. He floats the idea of “Launching a movement that will lead to a new party.” (Il faut déclencher un mouvement pour déboucher sur un nouveau parti.)

Former Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon – 6,36 % in those elections, he lost his seat in the Parliamentary contest – has created a new movement. This “transpartisan” body, which aims to draw in support and debate from the whole left, will hold its first meeting on the 1st of July. Also on the PS left, Arnaud Montebourg, has called for the party to adopt radical policies, an internal shake-up rather than an approach outside its organisation. His proposals, centring around ‘Inventing a new left”, have so far  attracted 700 PS supporters (PS: des proches d’Arnaud Montebourg veulent inventer “la gauche nouvelle”.

The Parti Socialiste’s National Council meets today (Saturday).

Some commentators suggest that, given its long existence, structural roots in civil society,  and  no obvious signs of internal collapse, that the Parti Socialiste, despite its reduction to 34 MPs and  7,44% of the vote in the Legislatives, is not going to disappear. Re-branding, negotiating a new ‘synthesis’ of ideas, or reaching out to other parts of the left, or a further haemorrhageing  to Macron, will take time. To begin with. Where they will end up is very far from clear.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm

French Legislative Elections: A Victory for Social Liberalism against Populism?

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Seats in the Assemblée Nationale.

Nuances de candidats Nombre de sièges
Extrême gauche 0
Parti communiste français 10
La France insoumise 17
Parti socialiste 29
Parti radical de gauche 3
Divers gauche 12
Ecologiste 1
Divers 3
Régionaliste 5
La République en marche 308
Modem 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 18
Les Républicains 113
Divers droite 6
Debout la France 1
Front National 8
Extrême droite 1

 

Percentages of the vote and abstention (57,36%)

Nuances de candidats Voix % inscrits % exprimés Nombre de sièges
Parti communiste français 217 833 0,46 1,20 10
La France insoumise 883 786 1,87 4,86 17
Parti socialiste 1 032 985 2,18 5,68 29
Parti radical de gauche 64 860 0,14 0,36 3
Divers gauche 263 619 0,56 1,45 11
Ecologiste 23 197 0,05 0,13 1
Divers 100 574 0,21 0,55 3
Régionaliste 137 453 0,29 0,76 5
La République en marche 7 826 432 16,55 43,06 306
Modem 1 100 790 2,33 6,06 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 551 760 1,17 3,04 17
Les Républicains 4 040 016 8,54 22,23 113
Divers droite 306 240 0,65 1,68 6
Debout la France 17 344 0,04 0,10 1
Front National 1 590 858 3,36 8,75 8
Extrême droite 19 030 0,04 0,10
Nombre % inscrits % votants
Inscrits 47 292 967
Abstentions 27 125 535 57,36
Votants 20 167 432 42,64
Blancs 1 397 496 2,95 6,93
Nuls 593 159 1,25 2,94
Exprimés 19 176 177 38,43 90,13
Ministère de l'Interieur

interieur.gouv.fr  MINISTÈRE DE L’INTÉRIEUR Second Round.

This morning on the French radio the expected news of the triumph Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche was immediately followed by an announcement that  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would tolerate no pot-shots at his government from his own quarter. The fresh-faced majority would not see its own deputies becoming “frondeurs” – critics that the right-wing of the Parti Socialiste  now blame for their own crushing defeat, from the Presidential elections to the legislatives.

To one admirer of the new President,  Will Hutton, “Macronism is the emergence of a fresh grounded economic and political philosophy – a landmark moment.” (Macron has led a brilliant coup – could the British now do the same? Observer). In the grip of enthusiasm he continues, “An ancien regime of tired and corrupt conservative and socialist politicians, indissolubly linked to the immobilisme that has plagued France, has been swept away.”

As in Macron Minister Richard Ferrand (accusation of dodgy property deals) Justice Minister and leader of Macron’s allied party, the Modems, François Bayrou (alleged misuse of European funding)…..

Hutton’s 1995, The State We’re In, proposed a ” radical social democratic ” programme for Tony Blair’s Labour Party, with a strong dose of constitutional reform – apparently the key condition for  transforming the UK’s dominance by financial interests – as the answer to British economic difficulties. It drew support from a constituency that emerged at the end-tail of the ‘New Times’ politics of the disintegrating Democratic Left, the largest Eurocommunist tendency of the former  Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), some within the Trade Union Congress, and the liberal left. He has since sifted  through a variety of ever more diluted versions of these themes, ending up with a plea for “fairness” in Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society (2010), and others whose contents I defy anybody to remember anything about.

In the latest of the columnist’s band-wagon efforts his embrace of the glimmer of a new ‘progressive’ movement – it seems that Macron is keen on “social investment” is on very wobbly ground indeed.

Hutton rushes overboard to back the very measure which will raise the hackles of the French trade union majority – apart from the ‘negotiating reformists of the CFDT – ‘reform of the labour market’. This “loosening” of the Code du travail met with mass protests and strikes in 2016.

Will Macron’s priority for legislation in this area, apparently based on a (vaguely sketched) ‘Nordic Model’ though perhaps the ability to sack at will does not figure there, run into a similar storm?

The subject is not mentioned.

A Defeat for Populism?

Macron has been described as populist, in the sense that his idea of ‘progressive’ is ‘beyond left and right’ and is, well, popular. But there is little else to tie him to the debate about populism. He does not support the incarnation of the People in France, or pit the Nation’s sovereignty against Europe and Globalisation. He is not anti-pluralist, En Marche! does not promote  an exclusive form of identity, aim at actual or potential ‘occupancy’ of the state, the suppression of civil society and pluralism, or use any form of demagogy.

Macron’s policies on the European Union (pro, with the promotion of reform) and globalisation (pro- but moderated)  are anti-populist.

So how do we begin to come to grips with his politics?

Since the Referendum Campaign and the victory of Brexit, and Trump’s election, many commentators have talked up the ‘populist wave’.  David Goodhart (The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. 2017) talked of “values tribes”. The somewhere people – those rooted in a specific place or community –  were contrasted with the anywhere people, urban, socially liberal and university educated.

Macron’s party, with its strong support (up to 90% in Paris) in cities and amongst those with degrees, open minded on social issues, liberal on equal rights and  equality of opportunity is  anywhere placed and given a location. These French anywheres  have been beaten off the somewheres, the ‘periurban. the inhabitants of France’s ‘rust belt’ who voted for the Front National.

The constituency of En Marche!, one suspects, is less ‘socially liberal’ on policies  that cost money and taxes, real equality, or is social in the sense of engaging with the social struggles waged by trade unions.

The ‘freedom’ of the market come first.

But this is only the beginning of efforts to come to terms with Macron, and his party-movement.

The Basis For French Political Realignment. 

Thibault Muzergues (Le réalignement politique n’est pas vraiment idéologique, il est d’abord sociologique) fleshed out the sociology behind the changing French political scene.  First of all Muzergues  talks of “millennials“, white I find this claim goes against the observable pattern) , educated, frustrated at not finding a job, and one could add, at the cost of higher education, above all at the continued fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, austerity. They tend to back the radical left, Corbyn in the UK, Podemos in Spain, and La France Insoumise in the Hexagogne.

Then there is a “white minority”, the left behind, the inhabitants of the ‘rust belts’ in Europe (and the USA). They are the ‘losers’ of globalisation. They tend to back the Front National, supported Brexit, and, obviously, Trump.

Next is the  the “creative class”, the winners of globalization, cosmopolitan Bobos (bohemian bourgeois), from high-flyers to right-wing smug Hipsters (I add this latter bit off my own back) who are Macron’s constituency.

Finally, Muzergues sketches as those attached to their ‘somewheres’, “terroir’ et tradition’, They are the polar opposite of the Bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who like Macron. The “boubours” (bourgeois-bourrin, which comrade Google translates, as “philistine nag” and I would say something approaching Essex Man) are as much a part of this cohort as the French equivalent of Home Counties pious Tories. Unlike their British counterparts  included in their conservative values are the existing system of social protection (in France, and no doubt the UK – the Welfare state, notably for the elderly). These lean towards the classical right, Les Républicains onwards.

The game of identifying the constituencies in the new French political landscape will no doubt continue, with the addition of exploration of the largest body in this second round: the abstentionists, who included 4,2% who voted, blank or spoiled ballot papers.

For one person at least, Mélenchon  not voting was a form of “civic strike” “forme de grève civique) , a protest whsope negry can be deployed in futrue against Macron (France Culture)

But if Muzergues tends to work backwards, from the choices on the ballot, voting patterns, to constituencies, it is a better framework than the somewhere/anywhere couple. It  has the merit of outlining one group which appears distinct from the sterile distinction between populist salt of the earth anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation somewheres and the urbane creatives. The constituency of the millennials is an interesting one and has can be seen to have parallels elsewhere, in the United Kingdom and the basis of much support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to start with. A lot more needs to be added on the Front National, which I will postpone until the slew of  post-election books arrives.

End of Left and Right?

There has  clearly a game-changing series of changes in this election. Some argue that these new voting blocs are overshadowed by a profound transformations in French political topography.   This year’s elections have undermined the traditional blocs of left and right, as organised and  institutionalised parties, bodies with histories dating to the early years of the 20th century – Socialists, to the foundation of the  Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO, in 1905 – with origins still further back to the tumult and aftermath of the French Revolution.

An emerging political system which centres on personalities and their ‘movements‘ , as it is emerging in France, sidelining decades of a (complex) left-right party system, is without direct counterparts elsewhere. Even Italy, after the break up of the Communist Party, continues to cling to a  stem of organised parties, and the 5 Star movement looks well  past its peak.  (Pierre Rosanvallon : « L’élection de Macron redéfinit le clivage droite-gauche ». 17.6.17)

That the Parti Socialiste has managed to get 29 seats with a pitiful 5,68% of the vote, masks its own split between those who consider that they are “Macron compatible” and those hostile to him. One of them  Myriam El Khomri, in whose name the previous labour ‘reform’ was carried out, lost to the traditional right in the second round on Sunday. The Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, was also eliminated in the first round. As a sign of their divisions, Hamon then called for a vote for La France insoumise  in the constituency where his  PS rival, Manuel Valls, was standing.

Re-founding the Left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  La France insoumise (LFI) now has a parliamentary group. Apart from those primarily devoted to his own person it includes, François Ruffin, the author of the film Merci patron!, credited with inspiring the Nuit Debout movement, and Clémentine Autain, the independent minded spokesperson for the left alliance Ensemble (Législatives 2017 : La France insoumise de Mélenchon aura un groupe à l’Assemblée nationale.

How far they will fit in with the Left Populist leader’s plans to lead the People against the Oligarchy, and whether agreements can be reached with the 10 Communist deputies, pleased not to have erased from the electoral map, as once seemed possible (Législatives : le PCF retrouve quelques sièges historiquesremains to be seen.

Their priority will obviously be to defeat Macron’s plans to liberalise the labour market by weakening employees’ rights.

In the longer term many have called for a profound re-thinking of the basis on which the left has stood, and the future of all forms of socialism. (1)

Their debates will be of great interest to the whole European and international left.

As the ‘incarnation of the programme’ Mélenchon may not have to face people who might disagree with him inside his rally, La France Insoumise that Pablo Iglesias has found in  Podemos, or opponents of the statue of Íñigo Errejón.  But it may well be that he’ll find that he meets his equals in the new National Assembly, people who are more interested in this re-foundation of the left than in an individual’s plans for the French People.

*********

(1) The Parti Socialiste General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis in his resignation speech called for thoroughgoing change “La gauche doit tout changer, la forme comme le fond, ses idées comme ses organisations. La gauche doit ouvrir un nouveau cycle. Il s’agit de repenser les racines du progressisme, car ses deux piliers – l’État providence et l’extension continue des libertés – sont remis en cause. Il s’agit donc de repenser l’action publique, en mêlant principe d’efficacité et demande citoyenne. C’est le socle indispensable d’une nouvelle offre politique à gauche pour contrer à la fois le néolibéralisme et le nationalisme.”

More Information: France 24.

Record abstention

While Macron’s triumph paves the way for the sweeping reforms he has promised, it also comes with a number of important caveats, starting with the massive level of abstention that made it possible. For the first time in history, turnout in a legislative election has slumped to below 50%, in both rounds. On Sunday, a mere 43% of voters bothered to cast their ballots. This means the 42% of votes won by LREM candidates account for less than 20% of registered voters.

The record level of abstention underscored the widespread election fatigue accumulated over more than 12 months of non-stop campaigning, successive primaries, and a two-round presidential election. It also highlighted the imbalance inherent to France’s electoral system, in which legislative polls tend to be seen as a sideshow to the all-important presidential bout. With his hyper-personalisation of politics, Macron has dramatically increased this discrepancy.

Above all, the measly turnout reflected voters’ widespread disgust with the mainstream parties of right and left that have dominated French politics for decades. A few weeks ago, the conservative Les Républicains were still hoping to win a majority of seats. As results trickled in on Sunday, they were projected to win just 126, their lowest-ever tally. Reflecting on the debacle, their campaign leader François Baroin had little to offer, besides wishing Macron “good luck”.

Socialist wipe-out

As for the former ruling Socialists, they slumped to an all-time low of 29 seats. Last week saw the first-round exits of party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadélis and presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. More heavyweights fell on Sunday, including former education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who was seen as one of the party’s rising stars. As the scale of the defeat became obvious, Cambadélis announced his resignation, adding that “Macron’s triumph is uncontestable”.

Among the survivors from left and right, several have already pledged to support the “presidential majority”. They include former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, who saved his seat in the Essonne, south of Paris, by a mere 139 votes – and only because LREM chose not to field a candidate against him. His far-left opponent has challenged the result alleging voter fraud, and a recount is on the cards.

Indicative of the extraordinary realignment of French politics was a flashpoint contest in northern Paris, in which centrist Socialist candidate Myriam El Khomri enjoyed Macron’s support, while her conservative challenger Pierre-Yves Bournazel was backed by Macron’s prime minister. Victory went to the latter, marking a huge upset in a constituency that was once solidly left-wing.

Le Pen enters parliament

While LREM capitalised on the anti-establishment sentiment, other parties that had been hoping to ride the same wave fell way short of their objectives. It was notably the case of the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in last month’s presidential contest, which failed to translate its strong showing in presidential polls into a large parliamentary contingent.

François Hollande “writes off” his party candidate, Hamon, and seems to call for Macron vote.

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Image result for francois hollande caricature mr flamby

Hollande: dumps his own Party’s Candidate.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get more confused in the French Presidential elections, this story erupts.

Si François Hollande n’a publiquement pris position pour aucun candidat à la présidentielle (ce que Manuel Valls ne juge “pas normal”), sa préférence semble aller à Emmanuel Macron.

If François Hollande has not publicly taken a position in favour of any candidate in the Prsidential elections (which Manuel Valls estimates is “not normal”) his preference appears to be for Emmanuel Macron.

Benoît Hamon accuse François Hollande de “pousser les socialistes à rejoindre Macron”

Now if there is one thing President Hollande was famous for, it was that he was a “party man”, a stalwart figure of the Parti Socialiste,  the Genial  First Secretary and all that.

Apparently not.

The story is developing:

 Sans vraiment le dire, François Hollande a discrètement appelé à voter pour le candidat d’En marche! dans un entretien à paraître jeudi 13 dans Le Point et dont le journal  Le Monde développe les principaux points dans un article paru ce mercredi 12.

Without exactly saying it François Hollande has discreetly called to vote for the candidate of En marche! in an interveiw which will appear on Thursday in Le Point (Note: hard line ‘liberal’ right wing weekly). Le Monde has outlined the principle point in an article which has come out today.

France Soir.

Le Monde,

François Hollande sort de son silence : « Cette campagne sent mauvais »

Sans appeler à voter Macron, le président s’inquiète de la percée de Mélenchon et semble avoir fait une croix sur le candidat socialiste, Hamon.

François Hollande  breaks his silence: this campaign reeks.

Without calling for a Macron vote, the President is worried about Mélenchon’s breakthrough, and seems to have written off the Socialist candidate.

This is the dilemma Hamon faces:

Four Way Race in French Presidential Election: Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck with François Fillon.

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Video Game, “Fiscal Kombat“: Mélenchon versus  Socialist Party Tax Evader Cahuzac.

France 24 reports, “Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck, or even ahead, of conservative candidate François Fillon.”

The  Independent states,

The first round in the French presidential election could turn into a four-way contest, after a leftist candidate’s unexpected surge in the polls.

Jean-Luc Melenchon is now 0.5 per cent behind conservative Francois Fillon, who sits in third place.

Mr Melenchon gained one percentage point in the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll, putting him at 18 per cent, while Mr Fillon was stable at 18.5 per cent.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is seen as leading the first round of the presidential election at 24 per cent, while centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is at 23 per cent.

The Independent points to this,

Ms Le Pen has drawn protests from her election rivals bydenying the French state’s responsibility for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during the Second World War.

Her comments appeared at odds with years of efforts to make her once-pariah National Front (FN) more palatable to mainstream voters.

“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” Ms Le Pen said, referring to the Nazi-ordered roundup by French police in the Velodrome d’Hiver cycling stadium of 13,000 Jews, who were then deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1942.

“I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France,” she said in an interview with media groups Le Figaro, RTL and LCI.

Other polls give Mélenchon 18% and Fillon 17%.

The left socialist, and anti-‘Third Way’ candidate of the Parti Socialiste,  Benoît Hamon, is now below 10% in the opinion polls.

With an audience of 70,000 in Marseilles on Sunday Jean-Luc Mélenchon spoke of peace and in defence of “métissage” (cultural and ethnic mixing). He called a minute’s silence to respect those who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe (A Marseille, Mélenchon à bon port)

 

Meanwhile Macron’s latest backer is unlikely to bring him much joy:

French Socialist Party Right-wing Commits Suicide: former Socialist PM Manuel Valls Backs Macron.

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Image result for Valls soutien macron video

Renegade Socialist PM Valls Backs Macron.

Former Socialist PM Valls backs centrist Macron for French presidency. France 24.

French former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday he would vote for centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron rather than Socialist contender Benoît Hamon, who had trounced him in a left-wing primary earlier this year.

Valls, a Socialist himself, said the election was wide-open and he would to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second-placed in opinion polls, did not clinch power on May 7.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls told BFM TV.

Macron, who quit the Socialist government last year to run as an independent, has drawn support from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and is favoured by opinion polls to win the election.

Valls is only the latest in a string of prominent Socialists who have deserted Hamon, the party’s embattled candidate.

He had previously pledged to respect the outcome of the primary organised by France’s ruling party in January, in which he was surprisingly – and decisively – defeated by Hamon.

More in English: BBC, Guardian,

The latter point is taken up by Libération: Valls sans hésitation, (Valls,….Waltz…without Hesitating…)

Valls avait promis qu’il se soumettrait à la discipline élémentaire de la primaire (sans laquelle elle n’a aucun sens). Il fait exactement le contraire. Un double cas d’école. Ou un Manuel du reniement.

Valls had promised to respect the elementary discipline of the Primary (without which the contest would have been senseless). He’s done exactly the opposite. A double lesson. Or a Manual (Manuel..) of denial.

Comrade Laurent Joffrin lists some of the Socialists who have proceeded Valls in the Macron rush, and  cites a previous betrayal in French politics, Chirac’s switch of support from his own party to Giscard in 1974, an act which, following nomination as PM, allowed the future President to take control and stab, in turn,  Giscard in the back.

Macon, Joffrin notes, is unlikely to reward his renegades so handsomely.

In the meantime the Socialist Party, whose candidate, Hamon is not doing at all well in the opinion polls, risks “exploding” under centrifugal pressure. (il faudrait encore que le PS n’éclate pas sous les poussées centrifuges des uns et des autres).

More in the latter vein here (le Monde): Valls choisit Macron, quitte à faire imploser le Parti socialiste.

Libé continues, Valls vote Macron et coupe les ponts avec le PS.

Burning his bridges with the Socialists Valls claimed that his support for Macron lay in the dangers represented by  the Front National. Briefly. Then he launched into a tirade against the following targets: from the PS candidate Benoît Hamon and his allies, the “frondeurs socialistes”, not to mention President François Hollande and the moderate social democrat Martine Aubry who has backed left-winger Hamon.

Evoking the ‘risks’ for France represented by Marine Le Pen Valls declared that his renegacy was justified in terms of his intimate acquaintance with the superior national interest, which is above party,  “L’intérêt supérieur de la France va au-delà des règles d’un parti».

Those with a strong stomach can read the full article via the link above.

You can watch Valls make his declaration on BFMTV, “Valls soutient Macron“.

There are signs of a re-alignment on the left.

Some on the French left welcome this treason, freeing Hamon from the ball and chain of the authoritarian, right-wing and unpopular Valls.

Emmanuel Macron: in the “battlefield” against Populists in French Presidential Elections?

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Image result for emmanuel macron affiche en marche

After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.

For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.

A Bulwark against National Populism?

For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart,  Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.

It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.

These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri  labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.

A Tool Against Hamon.

The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.

The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.

It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)

Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.

For Europe.

France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.

(and, this precondition fulfilled…)

Much deeper integration within the eurozone.

Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….)  and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.

This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times”  The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.

Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.

It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.

All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!

The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”,  by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?

The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.

Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.

Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.

We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..

See also this,  French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s ‘anti-system’ angle is a sham 

Latest Opinion Polls.

Présidentielle: Le Pen et Macron au coude-à-coude, Fillon distancé