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Posts Tagged ‘French Politics

British Liberals Go Macronmania.

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Image result for macron reunion a londres facebook

 

French Presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron visited Britain yesterday.

There was great interest in this trip.

Macron is said set to make it through to the final two-round contest against Le Pen since the Republican candidate Francois Fillon has been enveloped in the “Penelopegate” scandal.

Though few would be certain about the French polls at present, as this one (also yesterday) indicates: SONDAGE. Fillon repasse devant Macron, Mélenchon rattrape Hamon. Emmanuel Macron’s rating how gone down, to between (First Round) 17% – 18,5%, with Fillon at 20%.

The alt- and far-right Express headlines,

Macron blasted for ‘abusing’ British hospitality and ‘making enemies’ during London visit

FRENCH presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has “made many enemies in Britain” by “abusing” Theresa May’s hospitality to slam Brexit on the steps of Downing Street, the leader of a powerful Tory think tank has blasted.

A more sober account appears on the France 24 site,

It is unusual for a British prime minister to host a foreign candidate for elected office, although Downing Street noted that former prime minister Tony Blair had hosted Nicolas Sarkozy months before he became French president in 2007.

“Monsieur Macron was already in London, he asked for a meeting and we were able to accommodate,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

Asked if May would be prepared to meet Le Pen, he said: “There’s a long-standing policy that we don’t engage with the Front National.”

Conservative leader May promised a close post-Brexit relationship with France on security and defence as she met with French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in London on Friday.

The Guardian reported,

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate for the French presidency, has vowed his campaign will learn from the mistakes of David Cameron’s Brexit and Hillary Clinton’s failed election campaign by being boldly pro-liberal and pro-Europe.

Speaking after a meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street on Tuesday, Macron defended his decision to be unambiguous in his views as he fights a campaign against the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, saying: “In the current environment, if you are shy, you are dead.”

He added: “In the current environment, when extremes and anti-globalisation win elections, that is probably the best moment for France to decide to do the opposite.”

Le Monde described his Rally at Central Hall,

Largement composé de jeunes employés dans la finance ou d’entrepreneurs, le public du Central Hall, grandiose salle de congrès de style 1900 surmontée d’un orgue géant, a bu du petit-lait quand l’ancien ministre a fustigé le système fiscal français qui « empêche les gens de réussir trop bien ».

The former Minister addressed an audience, largely made up of young employees in finance or entrepreneurs, at (the Methodist) Central Hall, an enormous conference Chamber in 1900 style complete with a giant Organ. His denunciation of the French tax system,  an “obstacle to those who succeed too well”, was music to their ears.

« En France, on stigmatise l’échec et on n’aime pas le succès, a-t-il insisté, alors on va le chercher ailleurs. »

‘In France we vilify failure and we don’t like the successful”, he emphasised, “so people leave the country to try  their luck.”

Libération summarised the speech bluntly, “Macron caresse dans le sens du poil les Français de Londres” – he flattered and buttered up the London French.

They noted this, ” Il y a même des Britanniques, dont l’ancien ministre à l’Europe de Tony Blair, le travailliste Denis MacShane, venu «en observateur».

We do hope  Denis is keeping well.

Yesterday on British news programmes the visit was top news.

Newsnight followed reports with a discussion as to whether Macron and his political ‘party’ or rally, En Marche! represents a fight-back against ‘populism’ from the liberal centre.

Polly Toynbee’s admiration for Macron has been echoed by a number of pundits, although divisions between pro-EU centre-left and centre-right were quickly apparent in the studio that followed.

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As the le Monde report indicates, Macron stands all too clearly for the ‘winners’.

Not everybody is a winner.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 22, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Marine Le Pen in Fake Job Scandal as Poll gives 44% of Working Class Voters behind her Presidential Bid.

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This story has been rumbling on for the last few weeks, but this is the first proper report in English, from the always-worth looking at France 24 site (the French language version often covers different stories and is also well worth reading).

Bearing in mind that Marine Le Pen heads French polls (and by far and away, is the strongest candidate amongst working class voters at 44% ) – though is unlikely to get from the first round in the Presidential elections to win in the second.

Répartition des intentions de vote au premier tour de la présidentielle selon la catégorie socioprofessionnelle (enquête Cevipof).

Le Monde.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday vehemently denied having ever admitted to anti-fraud investigators that she misused EU funds to pay her bodyguard, saying she is the target of outright lies.

“It’s a shameless lie, I have never admitted such a thing to investigators,” the National Front leader told French radio France Bleu Besançon.

The comments come after French investigative news site Mediapart and weekly Marianne on Thursday published extracts of a report by the European anti-fraud body (OLAF) which claimed that Le Pen had admitted to falsely employing at least one of her staff as an EU parliamentary assistant.

According to the extracts of the report, Le Pen had defended the move, claiming the parliament owed her and her party money from unpaid salaries and expenses.

But according to Le Pen, this conversation with investigators never took place.

“I never even saw the sight of them [the investigators],” she said.

The persistent scandal, which erupted when the report was handed to French judges last year, is a needle in the eye for the 48-year-old whose bid for the French presidency had been picking up steam after it was revealed last month that her main rival, conservative presidential nominee François Fillon, paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros by employing her as his assistant in the French parliament – a job the weekly Le Canard Enchainé claims she did not actually do.

Who said what?

European anti-fraud investigators say that Le Pen used European Parliament funds to pay her bodyguard, Thierry Légier, a total of €41,554 between October and December in 2011 by falsely claiming he was an EU parliamentary assistant. In the report, they claim that Le Pen acknowledged that she did not employ Légier in that capacity during those three months.

Le Pen is also accused of having signed off on a similar contract for her France-based assistant Catherine Griset, to whom a total of nearly €298,500 was paid out between December 2010 and February 2016.

In the report, investigators allege that “Le Pen had the European Parliament employ Madame Catherine Griset as a parliamentary assistant accredited in Brussels whereas she has been serving as her personal assistant at her party headquarters in France since December 2010”.

To qualify as an EU parliamentary assistant, the person needs to work in one of the parliament’s three offices – in either Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg – and is required to reside in the vicinity of his or her workplace.

Refuses to repay

The EU parliament has sought to recover the funds – which amount to almost €340,000 in all – claiming the two employees worked as Le Pen’s own staff rather than parliamentary assistants, but Le Pen has so far refused to repay them, denying any wrong-doing.

“In order to reimburse, I’d have had to have received the funds, but my name isn’t François Fillon,” Le Pen was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying earlier this month.

“Moreover, I formally contest this unilateral and illegal decision,” Le Pen told AFP.

Her failure to repay the EU parliament means Le Pen faces a pay cut of some €7,000 a month as punishment.

French investigators have also opened a preliminary inquiry for fraud following the claims made in the OLAF report.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2017 at 5:06 pm

The Fake ‘Secularism’ of Marine Le Pen.

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Image result for front national gens de couleur bougnoules

The Front National Has Changed!

Last year Marine Le Pen announced that he would ban “all religious symbols” including kippas, headscarves, veils, burqas and burkinis from public spaces if she is elected president, explaining the move as a “sacrifice” to combat Islamic extremism.”

On Thursday evening Marine le Pen was interviewed on France 2.

A full critical account of her statements is given in le Monde,  Etrangers, décret anti-immigration… Les affirmations trompeuses de Marine Le Pen dans « L’Emission politique »

But this is of special interest.

She reiterated the above commitment, extending the 2010 French law, which prohibits the full-body veil, the Burqa in public to anybody with  such ‘ostentatious’religious symbols or dress.

As many commentators have noted enforcing such legislation would invite a veritable “hunt” for those wearing religious symbols, in the front line, Muslim women wearing a variety of head scarves, veils, not to mention one religious groups that has Kippas…..

But as Jonathan Bouchet-Petersen in today’s Libération observes, (La laïcité de Marine Le Pen s’arrête aux portes de l’école, on the central issue of French secularism, the education system, the école publique, obligatoire, gratuite et laïque, Marine Le Pen strongly backed confessional private schooling. 

That is,

l’enseignement libre hors contrat, qu’elle entend largement favoriser au détriment de l’école publique. Or de quoi s’agit-il ? En premier lieu de l’enseignement catholique tendance Manif pour tous, qui se porte déjà bien, mais aussi des écoles juives, plus ou moins orthodoxes, ou bien sûr des établissements musulmans, plus ou moins salafistes.

Private education without state contracts (and controls)  which she intends to favour to the detriment of public state education. What is this? In the first instance, Catholic schooling, in the (hard line) line of the anti-Gay Marriage movement Manif pour Tous, but equally Jewish schools, more or less orthodox, and, naturally, Muslim institutions, more or less Salafist.

Some ‘secularist’.

This also raised eyebrows today  (Washington Post),

PARIS — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has vowed to request all people with dual citizenship in France and other countries to choose only one nationality, except for Europeans and Russians.

She said this doesn’t mean foreigners would need to leave the country, explaining they can stay “as long as they respect French laws and values”.

Le Pen said she considers Russia to be part of the “Europe of nations.” In response to a specific question from a reporter on France 2 television Thursday night she said the measure would involve Israel, since it’s not a European country.

This is their Europe of Nations, give or take a degree of exaggeration:  France’s Nationalist Party Has a Plan to Break Up the Euro and Probably Start a New Financial Crisis  Jordan Weissmann (Slate),

Le Pen’s top economic adviser, Bernard Monot, outlined the plan to Bloomberg recently, and reportedly discussed it back in September with a governor from the Bank of France. The plot has three steps:

  1. Le Pen would call a meeting with the EU and ask it to replace the euro with brand-new national currencies. If it balked, France would go it alone.
  2. Le Pen would commandeer the French central bank, ending its independence.
  3. She would print “new French francs” to finance government spending.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the National Front is essentially threatening to suicide-bomb the whole EU monetary system.

At present  indications point to a Le Pen lead in the first round of the coming Presidential election, and a “Macron versus Le Pen” duel in the Second, with Macron the favourite, in the latest opinion polls, to win.

 

Les intentions de vote ne constituent pas une prévision du résultat du scrutin. Elles donnent une indication de l'état des rapports de force et des dynamiques au jour de la réalisation du sondage.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

French Presidential Election: Jean Luc Mélenchon and ‘left populism’.

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Image result for melenchon et son hologram

Virtual Mélenchon.

Reuters reports (Sunday),

Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon embraced technology during the launch of his presidential campaign at a rally in Lyon on Sunday, with a 3D hologram of him making his speech appearing at the same time at another rally in Paris.

Mélenchon, wearing a Nehru-style jacket, tried to use the hologram technology give a modern look to his launch, which coincided with that of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon opened his meeting, transmitted by hologram to Paris, with a rousing speech. But it was hard to hide that the selection of the radical green socialist, Benoît Hamon as Socialist Party candidate, has created profound difficulties for the leader of La France insoumise.

After Hamon’s victory the French left is divided. While many welcomed the Socialists’ change in direction, for the majority of Ensemble, an alliance of radical left currents and part of the (nearly defunct Front de gauche), Mélenchon remains central to the left’s prospects in France.

On the Ensemble site Roger Martelli writes of the left’s Presidential candidates, (Gauche : et maintenant ?)

Mélenchon:

Depuis une quinzaine d’années, il est de tous les combats majeurs visant à redonner au peuple sa souveraineté et à la gauche son dynamisme. Son programme, dans la continuité de celui de 2012, reprend la logique « antilibérale » et démocratique qui s’est déployée après le choc de la présidentielle de 2002.

For over 15 years he has been there in all the principal battles which have aimed to return to the people their soveriegnty and to the left its dynamism. His programme, consistent with the (Presidential election) of 2012 (when Mélenchon stood, backed by the Front de gauch left bloc), takes up again the « anti-liberal » and democratic logic used since the shock of the 2002 Presidential elections.

Of Hamon:

Au fond, Benoît Hamon incarne la continuité d’un Parti socialiste qui a accompagné les reculs successifs d’un socialisme devenu hégémonique au début des années 1980. Jean-Luc Mélenchon ouvre la voie d’une rupture dont toute la gauche pourrait bénéficier.

At root Benoît Hamon embodies continuity with a Parti Socialiste which has, since it became hegemonic since the start of the 1980s, has been marked by a succession of backward steps. Jean-Luc Mélenchon opens up the prospect of a radical break, from which all the left could benefit.

Martelli’s reference to “popular sovereignty” raises perhaps one of the most serious problems about Mélenchon’s campaign. The leader of La France Insoumise is not only concerned with “une majorité populaire à gauche”. Or a ” dose” of populism into the left, to re-occupy the field of social division, with a campaign that can express a radical protest vote.

Another Adieu au Prolétariat.

Mélenchon’s ambitions extend far and wide as he asserts the need to replace the traditional strategies of the left.

In a series of writings he has talked about L’Ère du peuple in (the grandly titled)  “époque de l’Anthropocène.” (the ‘new epoch’ in human political geography). In this perspective the old ‘hierarchy’ of struggles, centred on the primacy of the proletariat as a political subject, has been surpassed.

In a short history which takes him from the people as a ” multitude ” (without cohesion), the people/working class, as a demand-making category, we have come to the age of « networks » (réseaux). And, in France, more specifically, as he puts it himself, “réseau de soutien à ma candidature et à son programme”. (Réseaux et mouvements. 7th of January 2017)

The network launched as La France Insoumise is  at the core of the electoral and social strategy. Mélenchon is engaged in an explicit effort to capture (in his terms, form), the People, in opposition to the Oligarchy, financial and globalising. It is not shaped only by economic issues, but the with the wider effects of capitalism in society: marginalisation, social division, the long series of cultural contradictions and demands of the diverse oppressed groups. Above all it aims to “net” the concept of the People, and refound the left as a movement capable of structuring it politically as a force for progressive transformation (details of the programme on their site). Membership of what might be called a permanent “rally” does not require payment, only backing.

Supporters put this project in the same political sphere as Podemos, as a movement that aims to expand the field of democratic mobilisation against the political caste (la casta), more commonly called, in French and in English, the elites.

For this venture, which draws on the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, populism is a political logic. The objective is to unify, to create a radical democratic People, not as (it is asserted) through the forms of exclusion and division, between “us”, on ethnicity or nationality and others.

Citizen-Movement and the Leader.

But, as Pierre Khalfa has observed, the “citizen-movement”, La France Insoumise, charged with this objective, organised in hundreds of “groupes d’appui” (support groups) is not democratic in the sense that political parties are – in principle.  (Le peuple et le mouvement, est-ce vraiment si simple?). There are no organised confrontations between different currents of opinion; disagreements only arise over applying the ‘line’ in local conditions. There is, in fact,the worst form of Occupy style ‘consensus politics”, ruling out by fait real dissensus,  wedded to the decisions of the Chief. It is “JLM who decides”. Or, as Laclau put it, the, “..the “symbolic unification of a group around an individuality” is inherent to the formation of a ‘people’ (Page 100. On Populist Reason 2005. ) (1)

Critics point to the lack of coherence in the definition of the would-be “people” a vast category with many internal conflicts between social groups. They also state that it is also highly unlikely that the ambition to remould populist resentment, expressed and solidly articulated in the Front National’s nationalist attacks on globalisation and a whole range of groups, from Muslims to migrant workers, has struck deep into French political reality. Detaching the  ‘floating signifier’ of the People and putting it to a new use is a hard task. It more probable, and Mélenchon’s comments on Europe, migrant labour and the importance of the French ‘nation’, that it will end up more influenced by nationalism than become an alternative to it. Over everything lingers Pierre Khalfa put it the figure of “l’homme providentiel”, the Man of Destiny(Le populisme de gauche, un oxymore dangereux).

In these conditions it is little wonder that many of the French  left are not just wary of Mélenchon, but actively hostile to his entire project.

It is equally not surprising that elsewhere would-be People’s Leaders, like George Galloway in Britain, have warmed to La France Insoumise.

****

(1)Le peuple et le « mouvement. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (2.11.16. Blog).

“Il n’y a pas de carte. Il ne peut y avoir des cotisations mais seulement des participations financières à l’action c’est-à-dire des dons ou des versements réguliers pendant la durée de celle-ci. Il n’y a pas d’autre discipline que celle de l’action, c’est-à-dire celle que chacun s’impose dans l’action individuelle ou collective.” In other words, la France Insoumise is devoted to the “action” of getting votes.

French Right, from François Fillon to Marine le Pen, in Financial Scandals.

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Image result for dessins satirique penelope et fillon

François Fillon: as Devout as he is Avaricious

On French radio stations this morning the latest revelations about François Fillon’s ’employment’ of his family dominated the political reports.

There is the clear suggestion that Fillon – apparently a very proud (orgueilleux) person –  refuses to heed advice.

While he is sticking to the policy of “stout denial”, suggesting that the revelations about his corrupt use of public money to pay his family immense sums of money for services it’s hard to find evidence of, senior people in his party are said to be preparing his exit from the political stage.

French presidential candidate Fillon got wife, kids jobs paying €1m, report claims. (France 24)

François Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid more than €900,000 for work she allegedly didn’t perform, according to investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which claims the embattled presidential candidate also hired two of his children.

The report by the satirical and investigative weekly, which first broke the story last week, almost doubles the amount Penelope Fillon is claimed to have earned from jobs her husband got her.

It claims that the conservative presidential candidate also employed two of his five children as parliamentary assistants while he was a senator, earning a further 84,000 euros.

Under French law it is not illegal for MPs to employ family members as assistants, provided they actually do the work.

The Canard, as it is known in France, claimed last week it could find no evidence that Mrs Fillon had been doing her job as parliamentary assistant for her husband and later another MP.

It said she had earned as much as €7,000 per month, in addition to money earned for her work at a literary review owned by a family friend, whose former editor said he had never seen her.

Tuesday’s new allegations come hours after investigators searched parliamentary offices as part of a preliminary inquiry into the case. They mark the latest twist in a suspected embezzlement scandal that has already damaged Fillon’s presidential bid.

Fillon, who served as France’s prime minister from 2007 to 2012 and has since served as a member of parliament, won the conservative Les Républicains party’s presidential nomination in November.

He has since been touted as the frontrunner in the election, but in recent days has struggled to respond to the allegations involving his wife.

French financial prosecutors launched a preliminary probe into embezzlement and abuse of public funds in the wake of the newspaper report.

MP Christian Jacob, the parliamentary leader of Les Républicains, on Tuesday confirmed that Parliamentary offices had been raided, but defended Fillon.

“François Fillon himself has asked for the investigation to proceed quickly, and the justice system must do its work,” Jacob told reporters at the National Assembly. “But what I can tell you as that all Républicains lawmakers support François Fillon and are standing behind our candidate.”

fThe former premier has said he would abandon his presidential bid if placed under formal criminal investigation. A formal enquiry by an investigating magistrate could take months to reach a conclusion.

Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière – a businessman and friend of Fillon – has also been questioned in connection to the allegations. He owns the literary review La Revue des Deux Mondes, which Le Canard Enchaîné said paid Penelope Fillon another 100,000 euros for very little work.

Fillon has defended his wife’s work as real. Declaring his love for her at a political rally in Paris on Sunday, he repeated that the allegations are nothing but a smear campaign against them.

This is not all.

Le Monde has just revealed suspicions about a Consultancy company owned – exclusively – by Fillon.

La florissante société de conseil de François Fillon

Le candidat de la droite à la présidentielle entretient l’opacité sur les clients et les contrats de sa société 2F Conseil, qui lui a rapporté plus de 750 000 euros entre juin 2012 et décembre 2015.

François Fillon’s  flourishing Consultancy.

The Candidate for the Right’s company 2F Conseil, which earned him more than 750,000 Euros between June 2012 and December 2015, ran its contracts in terms of complete obscurity.

The leading French Daily dryly notes that each day brings forward a new set of allegations about the “candidat de l’honnêteté”.

Meanwhile……

Le Pen spurns deadline, refuses to repay €300k of ‘misused’ EU funds, (France 24).

Marine Le Pen has refused to repay €298,000 to the European Parliament following allegations the French far-right leader misused funds, disregarding a deadline set by the body.

EU authorities have been seeking to recover a total of €340,000 from the far-right leader, who is a lawmaker in the European Parliament but also a leading presidential candidate in France’s upcoming presidential election.

The EU Parliament has sought to recover the funds after accusing two of Le Pen’s parliamentary assistants of in fact working for her National Front party back home.

Libération reports that other fraud investigations are in the pipeline:

Au Front national aussi, de coquettes sommes étrangement distribuées.

Apparently there are 20 other cases of Front National Euro Parliament assistants involved in the same racket. The French prosceution is invesigating them under the titles of the ominous sounding names of  “«abus de confiance», «recel d’abus de confiance» (both meaning, breach of trust), «escroquerie en bande organisée» (organised criminal fraud) , «faux et usage de faux» (falsification), et «travail dissimulé (hidden work, i.e. for the FN nationally and not for their  EU work.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Benoît Hamon, his Victory, and the Renewal of the European Left.

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Image result for Hamon victoire

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And our time has come.” (France 24)

Benoît Hamon and the Renewal of the European Left.

With 58,88% of the ballot Benoît Hamon’s triumph  in the French Parti Socialiste led ‘Belle Alliance’ primary was decisive (Libération).  The election, whose second round attracted over  2 million voters, was not only a defeat for Manuel Valls – François Hollande’s Prime Minister up till this year.

In his victory speech Hamon announced, “Ce soir, la gauche relève la tête, elle se tourne vers le futur et elle veut gagner.” This evening the left has lifted his head high, looked towards the future, and wants to win.” (Nouvel Observateur)

This victory is first of all a disavowal of the Socialist President’s record in government. Valls lost for many reasons, not least his own record as an authoritarian (a prolonged state of emergency) an inflexible supporter of market economics (labour law ‘reform’).  His harsh words against opposition from an “irreconcilable” left earned him rebukes from the moderate social democratic current, led by Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille. She ended up backing Hamon. High levels of support for Hamon in the poll came from her region, many other working class areas, and in urban centres, both Paris and its banlieue. It was also strong amongst young people.

The balance-sheet of Valls’ years in power since 2014 is thin: some liberal social reforms (gay marriage, le marriage pour tous), budgetary ‘discipline’, an inability or unwillingness to reform the European Union, and to come to the aid of those, like Greece, who had to submit to austerity and privatisation imposed by the Troika.

Above all in 2016 Prime Minister Valls’ reform of labour laws, la Loi Khomri, which, under pressure from the employers’ federation, weakens employees’ rights (Code du Travail) and unions’ national bargaining power, marked a break with the left and the labour movement. It was opposed by strikes and mass demonstrations. Accompanying them the Nuit Debout movement, organised public occupations and debates on an alternative to “la souveraineté du capital” in the terms of the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon, briefly looked as if might parallel the 15 M protests that led to the formation of the Spanish Podemos.

The Loi Khomri was adopted. Active opposition drained away last summer. But one might note that Nuit Debout was not a replication of Occupy Wall Street protests against liberal globalisation. It raised wider issues about what the theorist and others have called the “tyrannie du salariat” – the tyranny of wage labour. Lordon advanced a politics of “affects” (attachment) to new collective sovereignty, “décider en commun” through a participative state. His attempt to illustrate how ‘belonging’ to such a community, that could ‘de-consitutionalise’ the EU and return issues of “political economy” to the national collectivity has been met with criticism from the left. It is equally hard to see what economic sense it makes. The growth of internationalised production and distribution networks, indicates the need for EU and transnational regulation, and, in the longer perspective, European, cross-country, social ownership and labour movements. It is hard to see what is new or, in view of the rise of the sovereigntist right, about promoting national sovereignty. This stand resembles the arguments of the British Brexit left, whose claims, in the age of Trump and new protectionism, are unravelling by the day.  (1)

Hamon views on the French state and the EU are much less abstract. They focus ion a new republic where Parliamentary power is asserted and on a Union in which an economic relaunch is undertaken. By contrast the questions the Nuit Debout radicals raised about the nature and the status of work, “repenser le travail”, have been at the centre of the contest between Hamon and Valls. (1)

Basic Income.

Hamon’s proposal for a Revenu Universal (Basic Income) – to which is added the 32-hour week has caught the most attention. Jean-Marc Ferry calls it “une utopie réaliste” in the sense that it a source of hope that is not beyond legislative possibility.  (Le Monde 25.1.17). But not only the financial realism of paying everybody 750 Euros a month (estimated to cost between 300 and 400 billion Euros), has been questioned. For some (including the union federation the CGT) it undermines the value of work. The satisfaction many feel they accomplish in their jobs and their achievements. Reducing the working week is, on the evidence of the 35-hour week, unlikely to share out employment. Hamon himself has compared the scheme to the French National Health Service, the principal part of La Sécurité Sociale. Everybody rich or poor is entitled to have his or her health protected, and to be treated when ill. A Basic income would protect people from poverty, without the bureaucracy (and local version of ‘sanctions’). It would enable people to explore new employment opportunities, to experiment on their own if they so wish, take risks, while offering a ‘safe home’ in case they don’t succeed.

This far from the liberal idea that Basic Income would replace all social allowances, in the shape of ‘negative income tax’. For social democrats it is, as above, a completion of social protection for some Marxists it would give works extra bargaining power, for supporters of “décroissance” (alternatives to growth), echoing the writings of André Gorz, it is a way of managing the “end of work” in its traditional form. (Anne Chemin. La Promesse d’une Révolution. Le Monde, Idées 28.1.17)

Hamon has offered, then, an innovative way of coming to terms with the spread of information technology and robotics, in which work in the traditional sense is changing and full employment (despite misleading UK figures) may well not be possible.  Philippe van Parijs talks of how Basic Income would help people cope with the increasing ‘fluidity’ of employment – in other words the rise in part-time, short-term, jobs. (Le Monde 25.1.17).  Valls’ alternative, a “decent income” (revenu décent), effectively some strengthening of the lower floor of social protection, struggled to win an audience. Basic Income may not perhaps answer those for whom work is a “form of citizenship”. Nor does it respond to the charge that it would create a form of ‘revenue-citizenships’ that would exclude migrants.

These proposals are only some of the best known of Hamon’s innovative and forward looking programme, which includes a raft of ideas from an  “ecological transition” to the legalisation of cannabis. Hamon’s views on reforming the European Union parallel those of Another Europe is Possible. He promotes an open Laïcité (Secularism) and is strongly anti-racist.  It hardly needs saying that he has promised to repeal the Loi Khomeri.

Socialism and Power.

Alain Bergounioux, the author with Gérard Greenberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir (2005), has complained that the French Socialists may emerge from the Primary incapable of becoming a “party of government” committed to the “exercise of power”. He warns of following either the path of Jean-Luc Mélenchon whose own rally, La France Insoumise, does not aspire to be in power, but to be a tribune of the people and the centrist Presidential candidate Philippe Macron, and his “parti-enterprise, that seeks power for, one might suggest, his own sake (Le Monde 27.1.17) What is at stake, Bergounioux point out, is the ability, of the Socialists, to form a viable electoral alternative, a role they have fulfilled since François Mitterrand’s victory in 1981. Faced with a tri-polarisation, between Right (François Fillon), far-right (Marine Le Pen), we have a left with its own tripolar divisions, Hamon and Mélenchon and former member of the Socialist Cabinet, Emmanuel Macron. That up to 50 Valls supporters in the National Assembly and Senate are reported to be switching to Macron is not a good sign.

 Yet Hamon comes from currents inside the French Socialist Party (Nouveau Parti Socialiste onwards), which have hotly contested the record of their party in government. Dubbed ‘frondeurs’ (trouble-makers) for their opposition to budget cuts in the first years of the Valls government (in which Hamon served as Education Minister, before being sacked in 2014 for his criticisms) they come from a side of the party which has not accepted the party leadership’s adaption to markets and liberal economics. To cite a distinction well-known to the author of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir they are concerned not just with what Léon Blum called the “exercice du Pouvoir” but with the “conquête du pouvoir”, that is the revolution in society’s make up, socialism. The conquest of power implies more than forming a cabinet after an electoral triumph, it requires a social movement and a strategy to change the world. (2)

Strategy.

Does Hamon offer such a strategy? The immediate dilemma of the French Socialists is how to make their voice heard in a coming Presidential election in which they figure as also-runs. Yet an opening and gathering of the left is taking place.   Inroads into the Green party, EELV, and their electorate, already divided about their candidate, Yannick Jadot, who struggles to appear in the opinion polls, can be expected.

Hamon’s victory has already had one result: at 15% of voting intentions he has at a stroke reduced Mélenchon to 10% (a loss of five points). Hamon was selected in a competition in which  2 million voters took part, the leader of La France Insoumise only responded to the Call of Destiny.

Hamon has proposed  that these wings of the left unite, offering  Mélenchon and Jadot places in a future cabinet.

Hamon faces a deeper underlying difficulty, another inheritance from Léon Blum. This is the belief that the French republic already contains the instruments for radical reform that a movement and a party can “capture” and use. In the process the distinction between occupying Ministerial posts and effecting genuine change is blurred. Hamon’s own background as a life-long professional politician, suggests that he will find this legacy harder to overcome. (3)

For the European left, not least the left in the Labour Party, Hamon’s candidacy is welcome news. An experienced politician, fiercely intelligent, whose team offers serious new thinking about socialism, ecology and social issues – often far more forward looking than any other mainstream European left, social democratic or labour, party – is now on the French political stage. He has a message of hope. It will help all us to listen to it.

 

****************

  • Pages 332 – 225. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.
  • Page 133. Alain Bergounioux, Gérard Grunberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir. Fayard. 2005.
  • Page 125. Léon Blum. Un Portrait. Pierre Birnbaum. 2016.

Left Candidate Benoît Hamon Tops French Socialist ‘Primary’.

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Image result for benoit hamon faire battre le coeur de la france

Benoît Hamon: Tops Socialist ‘Primary’. 

On Saturday a a joint member of the Labour Party and the French Parti Socialiste, who had been a supporter of President François Hollande, told me that she’d voted for the left candidate Benoît Hamon.

I was surprised, but, in retrospect, this support helped prepare my mind for the news that on the Sunday ‘Primary‘ Hamon beat the recent Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a dedicated ‘social liberal’ and admirer of Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way.

This is the result of the election to decide who will be their Presidential candidate this April in which 1,6 million people took part.

Principal candidates: Benoît Hamon (36,35 %) Manuel Valls (31,11 %). Arnaud Montebourg, 17,52 %.

The others scored much smaller: 6,85 % Vincent Peillon, 3,88 % pour François de Rugy, 1,97 % pour Sylvia Pinel (the only woman, a member of the Parti Radical de gauche) et 1,01 % pour Jean-Luc Bennahmias (the small Green party, the Front démocrate) (le Monde)

This ‘primary’ of the “Belle Alliance populaire”, was originally intended to be open to the whole French left. But as can be seen apart from the Socialists, only two tiny parties of the centre left took part.

Montebourg who is strongly  on the left, has now called for support for Hamon in the Second Round, on the 29th of January.

49 years old Benoît Hamon served under Prime Minister Ayrault government as ministre délégué chargé de l’économie sociale et solidaire. His best known post was as Education Minister under Manuel Valls in 2014, where his efforts to change the organisation of the school year led to opositon from teachers.

Opposed to many of the policies of Prime Minister Valls and calling for a change in his economic strategies (le changement de politique économique) he, and Montebourg, were ejected from the Cabinet in 2014 (Quand Valls raconte comment il a viré Montebourg et Hamon du gouvernement). He then became one of the prominent “frondeurs” who opposed Valls, from his budget plans to the reform of labour laws, in the National Assembly.

Hamon’s key policy is a ‘revenu universal’, Basic Income, paid to all (see: Pro Basic Income candidate set to win Socialist Primary election).

Other proposals include institutional reforms (bring back Parliamentary control over laws, and limiting the power of the executive  to override this), an ecological ‘tax’, a reduction in the use of nuclear power,  a ‘police’ to fight against discrimination, and the legalisation of cannabis.

Above all Hamon has promised to annul the labour reforms introduced by Manuel Valls (abroger la loi travail, dernière grande réforme du mandat).

Hamon, in short has some ideas, clearly on the left, which inspire hope for a better future amongst Socialist supporters.

It is hard not to suspect that Manuel Valls lost ground not only because he promised “more of the same”, that is to continue the policies of his highly unpopular government, but because he has shown himself intensely hostile to the left of his own party. By announcing that there was no room for compromise he went against the grain of PS member accustomed a spirit of compromise, or “synthesis” between different currents in the party. In the run up to the Primary his own backers were prominent in throwing the blame for their disastrous showing in opinion polls on ‘frondeurs’ like Hamon and Montebourg.

Valls meanwhile has declared war on those with illusions in Hamon’s unrealistic programme (Libération Valls le «combattant» part en campagne contre «l’illusion et l’irréalisme»)

If Hamon wins he faces an uphill battle.

Polls give any Socialist candidate less than 10% of the vote in the Presidential contest.

To the left Jean-Luc Mélenchon is polling at between 14 and 15 %

The centre-left , Emmanuel Macron with 24% stands at the threshold of winning enough votes to be able to get to the second round.

Already some ‘social liberal’ socialists are moving towards open support for Macron.

For many on the European left Hamon’s potential candidature is, by contrast, a  welcome sign of ideological renewal.

Official Campaign site.

Le projet

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2017 at 12:29 pm