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French Presidential Elections Poll: Divided far-right (Le Pen and Zemmour) totals historic high at 29%.

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Divided far-right (le Pen and Zemmour) totals historic high at 29%.

For those following French politics this is a thorough and must-read study.

The rival far right candidates, despite the issue of immigration coming at 31% third in the list of people’s concerns (after living standards, 40% and Covid 33%), seem to have been pushed aside by Vallière Pécresse of Les Républicaines. She is of the traditional (formerly ‘Gaullist’) centre to hard right and now looks to be the main challenger to outgoing President Emmanuel Macron.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon continues his decline below 10% and now stands neck-and-neck with the Green candidate Yannick Jadot The Socialist Party candidate and Mayor of Paris, Hidalgo fails to reach 5%. The rest of the left barely registers, the Communists have the same score as sovereigntist Frexit campaigner Dupont-Aignan. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste are at 1,5% as is left sovereigntist Montebourg. At 0,5% Lutte Ouvrière are at a level that is statistically irrelevant. Jean Lassalle despite nicking his party name from Chris Williamson (Résistons) is a centrist, far from the left.

Le Monde comments;

Two elements call for caution, however. First of all, abstention. According to our panel, 61% of those questioned declared themselves “certain to vote”, which is nine points less than in December 2016. Logically, “probable” and “potential” abstainers are 27% of those questioned. , compared to 18% five years ago. As the campaign progresses, the French will take an interest in the stakes of the ballot and some of these abstainers could decide to vote. It remains to be seen for whom.

Another very important data: electoral mobility. Our survey shows that in two months 30% of respondents have changed their minds and are part of those we call les changeurs” (literally, money changers/currency exchangers) . A significant figure.

.. if the total of all the candidates of the left, environmentalists and the extreme left is between 24% and 29.5%, it seems impossible to join together, or even co-exist, their programmes which diverge on points as crucial as ecological transition, nuclear power. , security or secularism, or even imagine that revolutionaries will line up behind reformists.

Election présidentielle 2022 : un scrutin plus que jamais imprévisible, selon la troisième enquête électorale publiée par « Le Monde »

The left has been further shaken up by this announcement,

Former left-wing justice minister Taubira considering run for French presidency

France 24.

Christiane Taubira, a leading figure on the left of French politics and a justice minister in the Socialist government of former president François Hollande, said Friday she was considering running for president next year, and would give an update on her plans in January

In a video posted on her Twitter account Friday, Taubira said: “What matters is the fragility of daily life for millions of you, the uncertainties of the future, the fragmentations that are at work in French society.”

Christiane Taubira, a leading figure on the left of French politics and a justice minister in the Socialist government of former president François Hollande, said Friday she was considering running for president next year, and would give an update on her plans in January.

In a video posted on her Twitter account Friday, Taubira said: “What matters is the fragility of daily life for millions of you, the uncertainties of the future, the fragmentations that are at work in French society.”

Taubira comes across very well, “Taubira was nominated Minister of Justice by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, following the victory of François Hollande in the 2012 elections. At the time, she was one of the few black, female politicians within a prominent ministry in the French government. She soon emerged as one of the most outspoken and progressive voices in the government”.

Many people, including the writer of this Blog, like her.

However…. there are those who recall her Presidential candidacy in 2002, which some blame for fragmenting the vote at the time. “In 2002, Taubira was a Left Radical Party (PRG) candidate for the Presidency, although she did not belong to the Party; she won 2.32% of the votes.”

Taubira 2022 : le spectre d’une candidature sans projet

The left magazine Regards is not short on criticisms,

According to what generation you are from, Christiane Taubira does not evoke the same memories. There are those who remember her first steps in the National Assembly in 1993 when she supported vote of confidence in the Prime Minister of the time, a certain (centre-right) Edouard Balladur…. A year later, she campaigned alongside Bernard Tapie for the European elections, supported by the Left Radical Party (PRG).

There are those on the left who hated her in 2002 when she decided to run for president. The same people accused her of having weakened the left with her 2.32% in the first round, preventing, according to them, the Socialist Lionel Jospin (16.18%) from reaching the second round and having made the run off possible between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen – often forgetting that among the other contenders for the Élysée Palace, there were other left candidates, Arlette Laguiller (5.72%), Jean-Pierre Chevènement (5.33%), Noël Mamère ( 5.25%), Olivier Besancenot (4.25%) or Robert Hue (3.91%).

Finally, there is the Christiane Taubira of the last two decades, the one whose voice and lyrical flights still resonate with delight in our ears, when she defended in 2001 the historic law recognizing trafficking and slavery as a crime against humanity or that in 2012 in favour of gay marriage (marriage pour tous). The same person who resigned, some time later, from the government of Manuel Valls to mark her political disagreement with his project to deprive people of French nationality (Note: initially for offences that, “constituant une atteinte grave à la vie de la Nation” serious damage to the life of the nation, essentially terrorism, after intense and complex controversy the law was not passed) – even if we forget a little too quickly that the only minister, in the Council of Ministers, who strongly opposed this announcement was George Pau-Langevin, in the Overseas portfolio.

..

Despite everything, she remains an icon of the left without really knowing the grounds or the reasons for it.

(full article via link above).

Regards is historically a Parti Communiste Français magazine, although it has a broader left basis at present.

Guardian:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2021 at 1:50 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Launches Presidential Campaign. On ‘Le populisme de gauche – Sociologie de la France insoumise. Manuel Cervera Marzal.’

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on his third bid for the Elysée, held his first Presidential campaign meeting at La Défense today with a call for a “union populaire” a “union par la base” (unity from below) against the Right. The 70 year old’s opinion poll rating stands at between 8 and 10%. That gives him the top score of the 7 French left candidates.

Yet if these divisions were not enough the leader of La France insoumise (LFI) has yet to create a full-hearted union with the majority those who have backed him in the past. The principal allies of LFI, Ensemble (who have 3 MPs), have yet to come out with clear support, as the tendency known as Ensemble Insoumis.es has complained. In an effort to bring some genuine unity to France’s left the “primaire populaire” continues to try to bring together people behind a vote for a common presidential candidate (Présidentielle : forte de sa dynamique, la primaire populaire espère toujours rassembler la gauche). This is unlikely to happen.

As it stands it looks unlikely if anybody on next year’s ballot for France’s Head of State from the Greens, Socialists, Communists, Trotskyists, or LFI, will get enough support to get enough to challenge Emmanuel Macron, Marine le Pen, Éric Zemmour, although Mélenchon may beat the new standard-bearer of the traditional right-wing party, Les Républicaines, Valérie Pécresse, who hovers at just over 10%.

Confronting the far right.

How can the left make its presence felt in this environment? The left-populist US magazine Jacobin has just published The French Left Is Struggling to Win Back Voters Who’ve Turned to the Far Right by Manuel Cervera-Marzal. The article is devoted to the way LFI has tried to deal with the rise of the far-right in France, “Mélenchon’s approach is especially a response to the rise of the National Front (FN), and its mounting strength in blue-collar France. ” He suggests that “Despite its limitations, a left-populist strategy does in certain contexts seem able to allow the Left partly to reduce its distance from the working classes. Yet confronting the far right on its own terrain — on its preferred themes (immigration, security, nation, sovereignty) and in its own press organs (Valeurs actuelles, BFMTV, etc.) — is a highly risky operation, with little results to show.”

The Liege University sociologist has written a revealing study of the problems of La France Insoumise which ranges much further than the failure of its efforts to win over the irate and people inclined to the far right. These, difficulties – which indicate why the challenger for the Elysée is a divisive figure for the left – are deep-rooted. They amount to a serious democratic deficit. They cast doubt not just on its ‘left populist’ efforts to win over angry voters who opt for the far-right in the ballot box (‘fâches pas fachos’).

Le populisme de gauche – Sociologie de la France insoumise is an in-depth analysis of Mélenchon’s party-movement-rally. It evokes the leader’s career (from the Parti Socialiste, and four independent organisations before creating LFI in 2016), and his ‘charismatic’ impact, but the study’s joints and stays go beyond Mélenchon himself. That is, to the different dimensions that define a political party: its strategy, ideology, electorate, its structure, how it operates, and the way it talks to people, or, to use a word employed by left-populist theorist Chantal Mouffe, its “discourse”. It is punctuated with observations from LFI activists including those holding positions in the movement. They are often unnamed, for reasons which quickly become clear. Cervera-Marzal concludes with comparisons with the history and concept of populism and the French case of “un populisme de gauche à  l’européenne”.

Internationally La France insoumise is best known for the call “to rally ‘people’ from different political and ideological backgrounds against the ‘oligarchy’ theorised, with ideas about the “networked world” in which The People becomes an actor by networked connections, in short books such as  LÈre du peuple (2014). Classical Marxist ideas about class are sucked up inside the broader picture of a political and social, “popular” struggles against the ‘caste’ the globalising elites. He uses symbols of French national ‘revolutionary’ pride, like the Tricolore, and the Marseillaise is sung at his public meetings. For some time these declamations included favourable references to the Révolution Bolivarienne in Latin American, though following failures (to put it no higher) in Venezuela this is less prominent today.

Charismatic Leader’.

Mélenchon the man is famous as a talented orator who evokes the French Revolution and often illustrates his perorations with poems, calling himself “le tribun-poète”. His celebrated charisma is not universally admired. His last attempt to enter the Elysée in 2017 won a more than respectable 19,58% but still only 4th place in the first round. Outbursts of anger at, famously shouting “La Republique est moi” at a police officer wishing to seize documents from LFI’s HQ, are, Cervera-Marzal alleges better taken by activists and some of the “classes populaires” than the middle class. Others, one may remark, consider his aggressive outbursts ridiculous from the elderly gent.

But by far the most striking aspect of the present study is how people are organised inside the structures of the LFI ‘movement’. “Le mouvement n’est ni vertical, ni horizontal, il est gazeux” (the movement is neither top down, nor horizontal but effervescent) declared Mélenchon. This fizzing organisation has only three actual members, Manuel Bompard, Marie-Pierre Operandi and Benoît Schneckenburger, who form the legal entity “l’association France insoumise”, the Office, “le Bureau”. There is no vote and will never be a vote on Mélenchon’s self-proclaimed leadership. The 500, 000 or so people who have, at one time or another, clicked on the Net and networked with the movement are supporters nothing more. (Page 211) The yearly Conference, the Convention Nationale (two thirds attending are selected by lot, not elected) has no real debates and is described as “un show de rock stars”. On the ground LFI is organised in self-financing “groupes d’action” (the money largely goes on centrally run Net-based campaigns); activists have considerable autonomy on how to apply the line, deciding by consensus – votes are forbidden. Tendencies and factions are not permitted. You can be booted out without explanation or the right to appeal. There is not even a show-trial.

Harassement of Staff.

Cervera-Marzal says that LFI is made up like an onion, concentric circles, with an inner core, not a top down pyramid. This is not perhaps the best way to describe what is often chaotic operation, without people knowing who made what decision. National offices and support for the Parliamentary group work poorly paid staff to the bone and are the scene of abusive behaviour, “violences sexistes et sexuelles”.

Mélenchon has periodic ‘Maoist’ clear-outs of older cadre, though, the author asserts that he is not a megalomaniac who controls everything, an impression one may have got from Thomas Guénolé, La Chute de la Maison Mélenchon : Une machine dictatoriale vue de l’intérieur (2019). Rather he wishes to be free from any constraints, able to do whatever he wishes. In an interview with Slate this is repeated and called “« anarcho-césarisme » : une grande liberté de la base se conjugue à une immense liberté du leader” (anarcho-Ceasarisme, freedom at the grass-roots with a huge freedom of the leader) “The result, as signalled early in the study is a structure with the imprint of a 5th Republic presidential monarchy rather than a self-managed republic (Page 46). Disagreements do exist, but, as he goes onto remark, the “absence of democracy, the absence of pluralism, opacity, informality and organised chaos” do make it an attractive model (Page 96).

At its creation in 2016 LFI claimed 500,000 supporters. Few of them were active on the ground. Of those that were large numbers melted away after the 2017 elections. Le populisme de gauche estimates that the present figure for the number of committed activists involved is about 9,000, although that number is bound to be reinforced by those willing to lend a hand as next year’s Presidential contest approaches.

What kind of people voted for Mélenchon and LFI, which has (including Ensemble which has independent structures), 17 MPs, 5 MEPs (but a low score of 6,3 % in 2019), 25 Regional Councillors, though largely invisible in the 2020 local elections during which it backed “initiatives citoyennes” (citizens’ initiatives lists)? The present study, putting an end to the efforts of the MP for the Bouches-du-Rhône efforts to claim he owned the 19,58 who backed him in 2017, indicates an electorate that is “composite, infidèle et volatile” , heterogeneous, unfaithful and volatile.

Populism.

The concept of populism, the ‘people’ as a political subject against its enemies is discussed through various stabs at laying it out as an ideal-type. It breaks-down, it is argued, as an empirical generalisation covering such disparate phenomena as Narodnik movement, the US People’s Party, Latin America., Trump, Brexiters, European national populists such as Viktor Orbá. Others would say that national populism, which focused on the Nation and its foes, globalisers and immigrants and promotes national sovereignty, is a useful term. As can be, in a general way, the expression, left-populism. This Cervera-Marzal argues has some use, a political current that, in Europe, looked for way between the old far-left, seen as outdated, and social-democracy, considered corrupted, social liberal and having run out of steam. This strain, at least in France, has a “republican” wing, but also evident in forms of ‘red-brown’ cross-overs that emerged in Britain during Brexit, and fed a ‘confusionist’ drift to the right.

How Corbyn fits into this is far from obvious, one point being, as he notes, is that Labour is a mass party with democratic structures independent of any Leader. Membership requires payment, not just “quelques clics” – and enables one to vote on conflicting resolutions and internal office holders, including for opponents of Jeremy Corbyn. Another is the word the ‘people’ in UK left discourse tends to be submerged within the widest definition of the working class, corresponding to the French ‘classes populaires’.

Constructing an ideal-type (which is a way that can indicate differences as well as similarities) of left-populism, runs into a number of further problems despite its utility as shorthand for a left that is wider than Marxist emphasis on the proletariat and the theme of a rebellion against the political system and those that dominate it.

First up, the Spanish Podemos, for example, often said to have emerged in tandem with LFI, has developed more democratic structures beyond ‘virtual’ Net based politics, from, as he puts it, their already self-organised and convivial ‘circles’. It is equally in coalition with the social democratic PSOE. Next Podemos has had is splits, from the break-away of la Izquierda Anticapitalista to Iñigo Errejón, and his allies in Más Madrid. Its ‘charismatic’ leader Pablo Iglesias, who has faced criticism on the Hispanic left for holding his own ‘Court’, left politics this year without the party collapsing. It is hard to imagine LFI continuing after such splits and without Mélenchon. Finally, leaving aside the experience of the Greek Syriza, and the importance of the Portuguese alliance of radical left and social democrats in the  Bloco de Esquerda, it is hard to see any useful generalisations emerging at present about what is, Cervera-Marzal states, a political recipe that no longer pays dividends.

Robert Michels asserted that “Who says organisation, says oligarchy.” Yet what kind of oligarchy is built by La France insoumise and other networked parties – the most famous in France being La République en marche (LRM) of their nemesis Emanuel Macron – limited companies run to mobilise a constituency of on-line sympathisers? This book is an important step not just in analysing La France insoumise but in looking at these, much wider, changes in the nature of politics and political parties.

Le Populisme de gauche. Sociologie de la France insoumise (La Découverte, 2021).

Written by Andrew Coates

December 5, 2021 at 4:33 pm

The Far-Right and the ‘Covid Sceptic’ Bandwagon.

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Piers Corbyn Shown the Door.

(Anti-vax protestors including Piers Corbyn have been forcibly removed from an event led by Sadiq Khan in North London tonight.)

The presence, and in important cases, the leading role of the far-right in protests against restrictions brought about to deal with the Covid pandemic, has been widely reported. The hard core have propagated the view that efforts to stop the spread of the virus are part of a ‘globalist’ plan, run by a Cabal of various bodies, Big Pharma, an opportunity fabricated by those planning the Great Reset of Capitalism (after the expression prominent at the 2000 World Economic Forum).

A widely broadcast video, Hold Up, Retour sur un chaos by French conspiracist Pierre Barnérias claimed that the virus was created in “l’Institut Pasteur before being sent to Wuhan. On-line it was seen by over two million of people in France and elsewhere. The film compiles a variety of false claim “These include the supposed futility of face masks, claims that hydroxychloroquine is a proven remedy for Covid-19, the theory of links to 5G mobile networks and the notion of a totalitarian global government – known as the New World Order – bent on enslaving the people.”

During Lockdown there were protests in many countries, including Ireland and the UK. Their theme was ‘freedom’ from health based restrictions but included conspiracists and the far-right. No formal rightist presence was noted, although the robust anti-vacinne actions called by ‘Official Voice’, “a collective forum of like-minded truth seekers”, in September had a quasi-militarist look about them.

When in France the government introduced the Health Pass (Pass Sanitaire) large demonstrations took place. On the 17th July 100,000 marches across the country, initiating public demonstrations which reached a peak of 237,000 in the middle of August before declining to a few thousand in November. The leading role of Florian Philippot, former henchman of Marine le Pen put the leader of his own far right party, Les Patriots, back in the limelight. “When Philippot was addressing the Paris rally and introduced a man called Benjamin onto the stage, saying, “He got vaccinated, but that was his choice,” there was an awkward moment of hesitation in the crowd, Le Figaro reported. It then erupted into cheers when Philippot said, “But he’s against the health pass!” as Benjamin ripped up his vaccination certificate.” (France 24).

Phillipot’s association with the anti-Health Pass movement was joined by the participation of other extreme-right groupuscules. Their presence went with the anti-Semitic symbols and placards of some protestors, (asking Qui ? ‘Who’ said to indicate a cosmopolitan plot behind the Macron/Cazeneuve measures). This did not deter some left-wingers from joining the upswell, sometimes on the very same ground. For them it was an issue of civil liberty. Jean-Luc Mélenchon called the Health Pass, and other moves, Une addition de sottises sans nom, dans une inefficacité totale et une brutalité absolue.” (a pile of nonsense, completely ineffective and totally brutal) while dissociating himself from the racist presence. The La France insoumise Presidential candidate rejected being lectured to by the Macron political “caste” and complained of having to put up with the far right and anti-Semites on the rallies, ( France Info, “de devoir supporter l’extrême-droite et les antisémites.) Some suggest that the motive of this section of the left was to make a populist appeal to the remains of the gilets jaunes movement which has supported the movement.

At present France’s far-right is engaged in a battle for next year’s Presidential elections. In the duel between Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen Covid issues have come up. The former has winked towards the anti-Health pass movement and has promised to abolish the Health Pass, adding, that boosters will be only for the over 65s. The candidate of the Rassemblement National has called to end the obligation of health care workers to be vaccinated and an easing of restrictions. Florian Philippot has announced his own Presidential candidacy, around the call “le rétablissement de toutes nos libertés” (re-establish all our freedoms) which barely registers (Présidentielle 2022 : Florian Philippot candidat 16.11.21).

The issue has come to the fore across Europe with the weekend demonstrations in Austria, the rioting in the Netherlands, and outbreaks of violence during a Brussels march.

Today the US NBC sums up the most recent developments.

Far right spies an opportunity in Europe’s new wave of Covid pain and protest

A new fault line is emerging in Austrian and European politics: whether or not a party supports Covid restrictions.

The Vienna rally was organized by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest political party in Austria, which experts say has used the pandemic to further its anti-establishment credentials and re-establish public support after a high-profile scandal.

“STOPP Impffaschismus,” (stop vaccine fascism) one sign in Vienna read. “Kontrolliert die Grenze, nicht euer volk,” (control the border, not your people) another said — just some of the slogans mixing vaccine skepticism with right-wing ideology.

Austria has become an explicit case of direct far-right involvement in these issues.

What of the UK?

Piers Corbyn is still at it.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 24, 2021 at 2:44 pm