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Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Man of Destiny, Announces Presidential Bid to Lead France.

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Mélenchon: Man of Destiny.

Jean-Luc Melenchon announces 2017 France presidency bid

Jean-Luc Mélenchon annonce sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle.

(Freely Translated)

Mélenchon intends to represent a “France proud of being rebellious.”

Humanity’s general interest has to be uppermost today. Climate change has started: this is the time to  transform our ways of producing, exchanging and consuming. 

To the question of who supported this surprise announcement Mr Mélenchon replied, addressing humanity in general, replied: “My convictions,   that’s the most important, and perhaps the French people. They can do nothing at present about the conditions I’ve just described as long as they are tied to European Treaties.”

Mélenchon’s bid stand for humanity in next year’s French Presidential election not been universally welcomed.

The Parti Communiste Français (PCF), partners in the left bloc, the Front de gauche(FdG), expressed surprise at the declaration. Their spokesperson Olivier Dartigolles noted that Mélenchon had not bothered to discuss his decision with the other parties inside the FdG.  He had only become aware of the decision through watching the television channel TF1.  Clémentine Autain, representative of the other main group in the FdG, Ensemble, has so far remained silent.

The PCF is involved in a campaign for a “primary” extending across the left to elect a common candidate for the Presidential elections.

More:  Jean-Luc Mélenchon, une présidentielle sans parti ni primaire. Rachid Laïreche

A man of destiny, addressing the French People, has little need for such carping at this historic moment.

In a fitting style Mélenchon has created his own movement for  “La France insoumise, le peuple souverain.”

In the founding statement he notes that the coming eleciton, and his candidature, can be an opportunity for our people, to turn the page on a cruel and unjust order that reigns in our land and our continent” “The (French) Presidential Monarchy, and the present European Treaties, deprive our People of the means to settle our problems. These are the roots of our wretchedness; they must be swiftly chopped off.”

Je vous propose ma candidature pour l’élection présidentielle de 2017. Cette élection peut-être une chance pour notre peuple. C’est l’occasion de tourner pacifiquement et démocratiquement la page de l’ordre injuste et cruel dans lequel s’enfonce notre pays et notre continent. 2017 sera une année décisive : un nouveau traité européen sera proposé et le projet de marché commun avec les États-Unis sera achevé. Il faut les refuser. C’est le moment d’agir. Soyons la France insoumise.

Le changement climatique a commencé. Il ne faut plus céder aux lobbys productivistes pour changer notre façon de produire et de consommer. Soyons le peuple souverain.

Ma proposition de candidature est donc un appel à l’engagement. Il s’adresse à qui a compris ce point essentiel : tant que dureront la monarchie présidentielle et les traités européens actuels, notre peuple sera privé de tout pouvoir pour régler ses problèmes. Là est la racine de toutes nos misères, celle qu’il faut trancher d’urgence.

The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.

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Ni patrie ni frontières !

This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.

Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.

From mondialisme.org, the journal: Ni patrie ni frontières. 

Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).

Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political  destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.

During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.

In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.

We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.

Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.

We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.

The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.

It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.

The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)  and their 2005  Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left,  various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac)  active in those days,  and some on the Trotskyist left.

The group was soon criticised  by people for whom who I have respect.  Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).

As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.

But it has been challenged on the left.

Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).

The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular”  French areas,

France: Countrywide Protests At the State of Emergency.

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Paris: Protesting Against the State of Emergency. l’Humanité. 1st of February.

Des manifestations ont eu lieu dans 70 villes de France, comme ici à Nantes.

There has been dearth of reports in the British media about the weekend protests – 70 across the country – against the ‘state of emergency’ in France.

Le Monde carried the story prominently: Des milliers de personnes manifestent contre l’état d’urgence.

Voir l'image sur Twitter

 “Hollande, frankly, you disappoint me” (play of words on  décevoir and déchoir – reference to new law “stripping” somebody of their nationality).

État d’urgence: pourquoi il est surtout urgent d’en sortir by Laurent Mouloud.

Manifestation contre la Déchéance de Nationalité et l’État d’Urgence

Parti de Gauche.

France 24 published this in English: Thousands rally in Paris over extending state of emergency.

But it’s the French Communist Daily, l’Humanité, which has published the most comprehensive report now available in English.

State of Emergency: The Real Emergency Is To End It. Humanité in English.

Translated by Henry Crapo, Isabelle Métral

More than 70 demonstrations were held last Saturday (30 January) organized by more than a hundred associations, to demand the end of the state of emergency , as being a (régime d’exception) that threatens our fundamental liberties, and has proved to be inefficient.

Protest against the state of emergency is bringing the people out into the steets. While the government has announced its determination to prolong the state of emergency for another three months, beyond 26 February, 111 associations and 19 unions will be all marching behind the banner of the collective Nous ne cèderons pas (We will not give up!) at the Place de la République, and all over the country, to demand its immediate repeal. In their view, nearly two months after the bloody attacks in Paris and St. Denis, it is high time to put an end to this régime d’exception that infringes upon our fundamental liberties. Not just for matters of principle, but also for very pragmatic reasons. “The authorities’ response, intended as martial, guarantees neither security nor repect for our liberties”, as emphasized by the associations in their joint declaration.

One single indictment

In truth, measured against its initial objective (“the fight against terrorism”), the state of emergency proves to be as dangerous as it is disappointing. The effectiveness of the exceptional provisions, having been in place since November, is today thoroughly under attack. From a statistical point of view, the figures alone may appear impressive. By January 21, the authorities have made 3189 administrative searches [1], have placed 392 persons under house arrest, and opened 549 judicial procedures. But the truth is that most of these procedures are common law cases: possession of illegal weapons, drug trafficking, or illegal presence in France. All in all, according to the figures of the Ministry of Justice itself, no more than four investigations have so far been opened for “criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise”, and only one person has been indicted… Since mid December, the daily figure for new house arrests has been close to zero. And the daily average for searches has been no more than ten for the month of January. “These figures prove the obvious inadequacy of the judicial framework of the state of emergency in the fight against terrorism,” the Judges’ Union concludes.

Many observers agree, and point out that the shock and consternation [2] induced by the state of emergency, which, in the early stage, was one of the Ministry of the Interior’s arguments, quickly faded and has now all but disappeared. “We are less frequently called upon”, a policeman anonymously confirmed. “Those house searches have enabled us mostly to collect local information, to confirm or invalidate certain leads, which may well be useful, but are now useless with regard to the direct prevention of terrorist attacks. The notion of an ’imminent peril’, specific to a state of emergency, can no longer be invoked.”

The fight against terrorism has been weakened

Eventually, the state of emergency might even make things worse. Thousands of civil servants waste their time conducting exceptional searches, only ten per cent of which end in the pursuit of a person, and even then only for minor criminal offences … “Obviously, they would be more efficiently employed in the detection and prevention of averred criminal projets,” the Judges’ Union insists. Some policemen point to another flaw: the furious staging of one search after another may be detrimental to security, by prematurely revealing the information secured by the anti-terrorist departments, thus encouraging potential suspects to even greater discretion. Unlike the former intelligence service (“Renseignements Généraux), the General Department for Home Security has made very little use of administrative searches. For fear, some of its agents say, of “killing off some of our most important investigations”… As another policeman says, it would seem that the state of emergency is no more than political gesturing. Contrary to the government’s repeated assurance, most of the measures (night searches, house arrests, bans on gatherings…) are already possible under common law, notably in connection with anti-terrorist activities, but naturally with the sanction of the judiciary.

The verdict of the Judges’ Union is categorical: “Far from contributing anything to the fight against terrorist activity, the state of emergency tends to weaken its efficiency.” The short – and worst – of it is that it infringes upon our civil liberties, all the while being ineffective in matters of security.

[1not subject to judicial authorization

[2“sideration”

Appeal against the State of Emergency.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Presidential at Paris ‘Plan B’ for Europe Anti-Austerity Rally.

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https://fdg13.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/discours-plan-b-en-europe-euro-jean-luc-melenchon.png?w=220&h=126&crop=1

L’ère du peuple: The era of the People. 

At the sommet pour un Plan B en Europe in Paris over the Weekend in Paris Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who scored 11.05% of the vote in the first round of the French 2012 Presidential elections, is reported to be already gearing up for the 2016 contest.

Le Monde reports,

On Wednesday, on his blog, he explained that “the European Union remains harmful, hostile to democracy and social justice”. He developed these remarks in a small room of the Maison de la Chimie (7 th district of Paris), where he expounded the view that “in the context of the European fiscal treaty, no progressive policies are possible” and called for “break” within the framework of  the current treaties. In passing, he denounced the EU’s “rhetoric” of  “Europe that protects” noting the  “failures” of the EU in the refugee crisis.

The meeting brought together academics, researchers – largely from other European countries,  and a few not very well-known representatives of other left-wing parties such as Podemos, Izquierda Unida, the Greek Popular Unity group, The Danish Red-Green Party, Die Linke, including the respected figure of Oskar Lafontaine,

You can watch  and hear Mélenchon’s concluding speech here:

A notable absence was that of  Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek Finance Minister was, it was claimed, unable to attend because of diary problems.

Varoufakis is engaged in a much broader pan-European movement against austerity , a ‘Plan C’. This will be launched in Berlin in February: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Plan C.

Here is a full list of participants (in English)  and more details: Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe.

The people addressing the  session entitled, Win back our economic sovereignty included Morvan Burel who backs a return to ‘Popular sovereignty’ in place of the European Union.

Last April Burel  wrote this on the Front National’s demands: La reconquête de la souveraineté des peuples doit devenir le cœur battant de la gauche

…sortie immédiate de l’euro, rupture avec l’UE, rétablissement des frontières nationales, retour du protectionnisme, etc.

Il est capital pour la gauche radicale de ne pas refuser de s’emparer de ces revendications précisément parce que le Front national les a intégrées à son discours.

,,immediately leaving the Euro, breaking with the European Union, reestablishment of national borders, a return to protectionism. It is essential that the radical left does not refuse these demands simply because the Front National has woven them into its discourse. “

French speakers included members of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche and Cédric Durand, an economist and part of Ensemble, the ‘third’ component of the Front de Gauche.

The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français. PCF) did not participate in the rally.

On Saturday Le Monde published a report on negotiations for the French 2017 Presidential campaign between forces to the left of the Parti Socialiste (Mélenchon peaufine sa candidature pour 2017 – full article read in print edition). While noting that Mélenchon continued to score well in opinion polls (over 15% favourable opinions, January 2015), his populism, calls for a ‘democratic revolution’, hostility to the European Union that focuses on German power, and many of his  personal traits are not universally popular amongst his partners on the left.

Mélenchon, a fluent Spanish speaker, has close links with the Latin American left and with Spain’s Podemos. Like the latter he has sought inspiration in left populism. In these respects his discussions with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are of great interest  Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon (2012).

During the round table debate with the academic theorists of the “radical democratic imaginary” the  Parti de gauche’s use of national symbols, including the French Flag, and references to the French Revolution which dot his appeals to a new democratic Revolution featured prominently  (See also: L’ère du peuple. 2014).  How far this populism can go is not always clear. In 2015 his book,  Le Hareng de Bismarck, le poison allemand, which attacked German ‘arrogance’ was strongly criticised for nationalism (L’Allemagne n’est pas notre ennemie).

The Communists note that one ‘anti-system’ Populist candidate, Marine Le Pen, already exists. There is little space for another.

There is continued  talk of a break up of the Front de gauche alliance between the PCF and Mélenchon.

Le Parti de gauche veut Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme candidat puis élaborer un programme, le parti communiste veut faire naître un projet d’une réflexion collective avant toute désignation: leurs stratégies pour 2017 semblent à ce stade irréconciliables.

The Parti de gauche wants Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a (Presidential) candidate, and then they will work out a programme. The Communist Party want a project born out of a collective process of careful consideration before any candidate is chosen: their strategies ap[pear at this point irreconcilable.

Libération. 23rd of January.

 

You can read more of Mélenchon’s ideas here, on his blog modestly titled, L’ère du peuple: The era of the People. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Ligue des droits de l’homme demands France lifts state of emergency.

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« Avec l’état d’urgence, celle qui a perdu, c’est la démocratie »

Protest at French State of Emergency: between the Hammer of Terrorism and the Anvil of the State…. (December). 

La Ligue des droits de l’homme demande la fin de l’état d’urgence

Reports Le Monde. 20.1.16.

Adapted Extracts.

In the formal appeal to the French State Council, made ​​by the lawyer Patrice Spinosi, the Ligue suggests that in the event of a refusal to withdraw the full force of the state of emergency, it should at least suspend some of its measures, especially administrative searches and the prohibition of public meetings. In the short term  they could let run house arrests continue until 26 February but to ban the Ministry of Interior and the prefects from implementing  other measures.

“The persistence of a state of emergency more than two months after its declaration constitutes a serious and manifestly illegal attack on  fundamental freedoms”, they have written in the petition to the State Council. And evoke the right to respect for privacy and family, the freedom to go and come, freedom of work, etc. To justify such a request, the League of Human Rights, does mean “to challenge the centrality of the fight against terrorism”…..

The bulk of administrative and house arrest raids were ordered in the first two weeks following the attacks of 13 November. Jean-Jacques Urvoas, chairman of the Law Committee, has noted that “the main targets and goals had been treated” and that “the surprise effect has largely faded”.

Perhaps the most important part of the Ligue’s statement is that they fear  that continuing the state of emergency will  mean  authorising a permanent state of exception in the name of the fight against terrorism, and the definitive end of a state of law. (à autoriser le maintien perpétuel du régime exceptionnel au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme et ainsi renoncer définitivement à l’Etat de droit)

L’Humanité reported at the start of the year,

Five weeks of the state of emergency, 2,700 searches and… one indictment

Translated Sunday 3 January 2016, by Adrian Jordan

TALLY. In just over a month, the state of emergency has allowed the police to seize arms and drugs, but not to bring new terrorist networks to light. One sole indictment for terrorism has been issued.

Approved in a heavy vote in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks, the state of emergency, over and above the infringement of liberties which are inherent to it, has it been effective in the fight against terrorism? It is doubtful. Certainly, no new attacks have been perpetrated in the country since the deployment of police, the banning of rallies, the 2,700 searches held between 14 November and 16 December, or even the 360 cases of house-arrest sanctioned by the interior ministry. But no indictments seem to have resulted thanks to the big kerfuffle created in the fight for security.

To date, one sole indictment for criminal association in connection with terrorist activity has been issued against a 27-year-old Chechen national, who has been placed under house-arrest in Tours. During a search of his home, police found a video in which he made allegiance to Daesh [1]. During questioning, the man admitted putting the said video online but denied any will to commit terrorist action. In total, three antiterrorist investigations were spurred by these searches, including the one involving a Chechen who came to France with his family as an adolescent.

Even if they have not dismantled new Islamist networks, at least the police have not completely wasted their time. “431 weapons, including 41 military-grade weapons, were seized in three weeks, which represents a third of the year’s seizures”, advanced Bernard Cazeneuve on 15 December. 488 judicial procedures have been started, of which 167 for drug offences. “Seizing arms and drugs, is all well and good, but that has very little to do with the fight against terrorism”, underlined Maître Henri Leclerc, honorary president of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (League of Human Rights). Although it does not usually make statements, the national conference of prosecutors sounded the alarm on Friday, alluding to a judicial frenzy since the 13 November attacks. In addition, prosecutors have announced the intention to set aside certain activities such as crime prevention or participation in urban policy, to concentrate on activities “having an operational interest”. As yet there has been no response from the Chancellery.

[1Translator’s note: I have deliberately changed legitimating terms such as IS and jihadist to Daesh and Islamist as I feel it would be irresponsible journalism not to do so (even within the remit

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

France: Front National Leads Vote But Fails to Win Regional Power. A Left Analysis.

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Final results graphic from second round

The BBC reports,

The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.

France 24.

Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.

The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).

The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.

The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.

Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.

Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.

In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.

After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.

Pause for breath – there is worse to come:

“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”

Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”

The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.

The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.

Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.

Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.

“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”

On the left there is not much relief.

Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.

The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.

L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.

We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).

Observations.

  • The Front National has failed to take over some of the levers of the established French political structure. This is a victory for their opponents. Regional councils, it has been observed, are a relativity cost-free platform for the display of  administrative stagecraft. Control of their budgets gives an opportunity to show off policies, reward patrons, and attract attention. Control of one of them would not have tested the FN’s national policies. It would have given the far-right party momentum. They do not have this.
  • The cost of the “sursaut républicain” is not to be underestimated. Despite reports that the FN is now attracting members from highly educated and .experienced French  administrative sectors (traditional sources of political cadres) the party continues to claim that it stands alone against the other parties, the political elite, the equivalent of the Spanish ‘casta’. With the Parti Socialiste calling its supporters to vote for Sarkozy’s  Les Républicains in the regions where they were alone capable of beating Marine Le Pen’s party, the claim will continue to appeal to their electorate.
  • The FN still headed the results. Indications that they performed well in the first round amongst young people (34% amongst the 18-24 year olds), the unemployed, workers (43%) , self-employed, farmers and agricultural workers (35%), white collar public sector workers (30%) and indeed all social categories. While the party is most supported amongst the young and the “popular classes” the results  suggest a party with a broader national appeal than any other French political force. (Elections régionales : qui a voté FN ?)
  • From a rate of 57% in the first round, to 50% in the second, abstention marked these elections. That workers, the out-of-work, and above all the young, are amongst the biggest groups of abstentionists, is thin against the above evidence of their far-right voting.  (le Front national, premier parti chez les jeunes… qui votent.Le Monde. 7.12.15.)
  • Claims that there is a “left wing’, ‘national’ socialist (protectionist and working class) strain in the far-right’s language in the formerly left North, and a more traditional hard right (xenophobic and morally reactionary)  line in the South East, have been eroded in this election. They were always doubtful – given the homogenising effects of modern politics. ( Les trois visages du vote FN Joël Gombin  Le Monde Diplomatique November 2015.) But both the protectionist, and above all the xenophobic  themes in the FN’s policies have had a nation wide impact.
  • The results have produced a crisis on the French right and left. On the right there are growing voices to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to run again for the Presidency. . The former is a serious political project, led by Sarkozy’s long-term more emollient and apparently more ‘moderate’ rival, Alain Juppé after what is widely seen as a personal set-back for Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Sarkozy face à un échec personnel).
  • On the left, there are those in the ruling Parti Socialiste who wish to create a new centre left party free from the historic baggage of the left, and indeed the word socialist. This skirts over the more difficult task of re-connecting with the popular electorate. A government headed by one of the few politicians in France to admire Tony Blair, Manuel Valls, that has failed to offer substantial reforms to improve the quality of life for wage-earners, reduce unemployment, and has been unable to relaunch economic growth, is not in a strong position to appeal to these lost voters.
  • The left, taking stock, did not suffer electoral annihilation, although it lost in important regions, including the Ile de France (surrounding Paris, perhaps the consequence of a big, 10.2% drop in the FN vote between rounds). With 5 regions for the left against 7 for the right it may seem as if their formal political strength has stood up. The Socialists, in agreement with the Greens (EELV), 6,81 %, and the Front de gauche,  nevertheless did not shine in the electoral scores (around 7%). Inside the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained that the complex regional alliances and lists that the bloc has entered into prevented getting a clear message across. It is very doubtful if this was a major factor in their results – although perhaps somewhere in France Mélenchon’s personal message of the Bolivarian Revolution, on the Venezuelan model has support. His own refusal to give any recommendation for the second round was not universally appreciated.  The Greens lost half their votes – they had 12,18% in 2010.  ( Elections régionales : la débâcle des écologistes).

There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)

President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.

His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.

The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.

The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.

The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.

In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.

Its policies centre on  ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.

These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.

Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.

The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.

Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst  some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.

Populism, as they say, is about being popular.

In this respect, with 27% of the vote,  the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.

The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche,  Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work  (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).

Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche,  have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”

Front National Win in First Round of French Regional Elections: an Analysis.

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Front National: National Preference.

France 24.

France’s far-right National Front (FN) party rode a wave of fear over immigration and terrorism to storm to a commanding position in the first round of voting in the country’s high-stakes regional elections on Sunday.

The anti-immigration party led by Marine Le Pen scored around 28 percent of the vote nationally and topped the list in at least six of 13 regions, according to final estimates from the interior ministry.

The FN came ahead of both former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), which earned 27 percent, and President François Hollande’s Socialists, with 23.5 percent, official estimates showed.

Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen broke the symbolic 40 percent mark in their respective regions, shattering previous records for the party as they tapped into voter anger over a stagnant economy and security fears.

The polls were held under tight security in the first national vote since Islamic State group terrorists killed 130 people in a wave of attacks across Paris on November 13.

Despite its commanding position, the FN now faces a tougher battle in a second round of voting next Sunday after the Socialists announced they were withdrawing candidates in three regions in a bid to block the far right from power.

Progression of Front National.

Le Monde states that the Front National (FN) totaled 6 million votes in the first round.

The real importance of this result gives Marine Le Pen’s party a chance to normalise and streamline its presence,

The Financial Times cites this,

James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University said: “These results are a shock but they shouldn’t be a surprise.

“What Marine Le Pen wants above all is a chance to show that her party can govern more than a medium-sized town. For that, a region with several million inhabitants offers a perfect testing-ground, giving her party time to deliver some results before the presidential and legislative elections of 2017.”

The Front National has talked of the “suicide collectif du PS” – the group suicide of the Socialist Party.

The far-right won in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, one of the birthplaces of the French labour movement, and the socialist and Communist left. Over the last few months there have been many reports on growth of the FN the area, including a whole series on the radio station France-Culture. As the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus states, “C’est une région à forte tradition ouvrière, victime de désindustrialisation, de délocalisations, de chômage de masse et de fermetures d’entreprises,” It’s a region with a strong working class tradition, the victim of de-industrialisation, the delocalisation of companies, mass unemployment and business closures.”

Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées was another region affected: the birthplace (Castres) of Jean Jaurès (1849 – 1914) the leader of twentieth century French socialism. It was where he received his first Parliamentary mandate, backed by the miners of Carmaux. Jaurès was assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the extreme right, precursors of the Front National.

There is little doubt that spreading anxiety about Islam played a part in the elections. But the FN’s breakthrough cannot be simply attributed to fear in the wake of the Paris murders and Marine Le Pen’s leadership’s (not to mention their activists) attempts to spread hatred against Muslims.

Its  strategy has been to campaign and stir up hatred against all foreigners, beginning with those running the European Union (EU). The message, given very clearly in the poster above, is that outsiders are out to get the French, take their jobs, their homes and undermine their living standards.

The party demands that France leaves the Euro, and that “priorité nationale”(or La préférence national) be given to French nationals in employment. Jobs will be given to those with French nationality in preference to anybody else (Les entreprises se verront inciter à prioriser l’emploi, à compétences égales, des personnes ayant la nationalité française). This also means – in terms very close to those proposed by the David Cameron’s government, that social benefits, from housing onwards, are taken away from migrant workers and immigrants. It demands an end to “massive immigration” and free movement in Europe. The FN denounces immigration as “une arme au service du grand capital” (a weapon of Big Business), an apparently ‘anti-capitalist’ position They propose to limit legal immigration 10,000 a year.  Being born in France will no longer mean automatically acquiring French nationality.

If the FN claim to support ” laïcité” and to support “assimilation” of different cultures into France this is on the basis of the «racines chrétiennes de la France», Christian roots of France (sometimes «judéo-chrétiennes») – at odds with the universalism of humanist values which have no such unique roots.

The Front National has also worked UKIP and British tabloid territory in spreading scare stories about benefits and housing for migrants and refugees. They even include the principle that demonstrations in favour of illegal migrants are forbidden. and that anti-French racism is  recognised as  an aggravating factor in criminal offences (1)

The measures the FN propose imply a disengagement from the EU and a return to full national sovereignty. In some respects the FN’s ideas have an echo across a wide spectrum of political currents, including a section of the left. The FN does not simply attack the EU and the effects of globalisation. They stand for ‘sovereignty’, restoring what they claim should be the full power of the ‘nation’. This, known in France as “souverainisme” (soveriegntism)  is  embraced equally vociferously  in the United Kingdom by those urging leaving the EU. Like the British Conservatives they are also hostile to the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the FN this is wider than a political demand.  It is tied to a wider programme of economic protectionism. These economics are more widely shared than in the UK. Emmanuel Todd  – known in the English-speaking world for his scorn against the Je Suis Charlie movement – is a long standing supporter of “intelligent protectionism”. He, like the FN,  is anti-Euro and goes so far to find inspiration in the German nationalist protectionist Frederich List.

Many of the FN’s national policies may be classed as pure demagogy. For their working class and “popular” electorate the FN  propose to raise the minimum wage, benefits, notably pensions,  (for French citizens), and put controls on the price of  gas, electricity, transport and petrol. (Le Front national, cette imposturele Monde. 4.12.15.)

The governing Parti Socialiste has been unable to offer much in the way of making life better for those out of work in regions like Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie – the national unemployment rate stands at a  stubborn 10,2%. In this northern area unemployment amongst the young is at  31,8 %.

These economic issues, rather than identity or religion, are also at the heart of the failure of the Parti socialiste to continue to win overwhelming support from those of a Muslim background. Le Monde (4.12.15.) reports that it is not opposition to gay marriage or to teaching gender equality in schools – issues on which a number of organised Islamic groups made common cause with the conservative Christian right – which has affected their voting behaviour. It is the inability of President Hollande, and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls to improve their living conditions which has struck home.

The complicated alliance of the Socialists’ left opponents in the left-wing Greens (EELV) and the Front de gauche make it hard to decipher their national score of 10 to 11 % (sometimes aligned together, sometimes not), although it is clear that the Green vote has almost halved (l’Humanité). To to predict where and if there will be agreements with the PS is equally hard.

On the far-left the results are negligible. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) was too weak to present its own lists and backed Lutte ouvrière who obtained  320 054 votes nationally  (1,5 %)

The Socialists meanwhile are discussing – and arguing about – possible agreements with other forces for the second round.

Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (LR) have just announced that they will refuse to enter into any alliances with the other parties.

The French political class – and all those dependent on the decisions and funding of the French Regions – will soon have to face up to the Front National with its hands on some levers of power.

Indications that initial flash points will concern exactly the allocation of the regional funds.

Left reaction:  Communiqué de Ensemble! Contre le Front national et la droite, il faut un sursaut à gauche !

Political scientists’ analysis: «Le FN réussit à incarner le vote utile contre la gauche»

Le vote Front national devient « un vote de plus en plus national » et « inter-classiste ». C’est ce qu’estiment cinq chercheurs de l’Observatoire des radicalités politiques (ORAP) de la fondation Jean Jaurès. Dans une analyse fine des résultats, ils mettent en évidence « l’hégémonie culturelle » de l’extrême droite, l’échec de la « stratégie Buisson » de la droite et l’aveuglement de la gauche.

Their voters are more and more national (and not locally based), and cross-class. They decsibre the “cultural hegemony” of the far-right and failure of the right (LR, Sarkozy) to capture their electorate by their own nationalist rhetoric and cultural conservatism (Buisson, one of his main advisers), and the blindness of the left.

You can read this (downloaded paper) for free:  Le « nouveau » Front national en question. Alexandre Dézé April 2015.

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(1)  Front National programme: Immigration Stopper l’immigration, renforcer l’identité française: “Les manifestations de clandestins ou de soutien aux clandestins seront interdites.

– Le racisme anti-Français comme motivation d’un crime ou d’un délit sera considéré comme une circonstance particulièrement aggravante et alourdira la peine encourue.”