Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘French Politics

France, Greens and Left in Local Election Victories.

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Greens and Left Win as Macron’s March is Halted.

French local elections, left wins Marseille for the first time since 1995, the Socialists (PS) kept the Paris Town Hall under the banner of Paris en commun , with Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s stunning lead *over Macron’s candidate, and kept hold of (just) Lille (where the Greens, EELV stood against the PS list).

(* 48,7% des voix, devant Rachida Dati, la candidate du parti (right) Les Républicains (33,8%) et Agnès Buzyn, celle de La République en marche (13,3%) – Macron’s party)

The main news is the successes of the Green-led lists, which won Bordeaux,  Lyon, Strasbourg, Poitiers and Tours. Apart  from Grenoble, where the  their politics are not clearly left, Marine le Pen’s RN wins Perpignan, (this morning on France-Inter, the representative of the Rom community congratulated the Rassemblement National, RN Mayor). The Communists (PCF) failed to take back Le Havre (lost in the 1990s) from Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and were beaten in Saint-Denis by a Socialist headed list, and by the right in Aubervilliers,  but they took Bobiney and Villejuif from the Right while keeping hold of a long list of town halls.

Those running for President Macron’s Party,,La République En Marche ! (LREM) failed to win support on the back of his policies. One factor in failure of LREM to make an impact (most marked in Paris),  observed before the ballot by a number of commentators, was that their lack of deep rooted structures, beyond the shifting world of political personalities and enthusiastic new recruits. There were many people, close to the ground, who predicted that LREM lacked the local long-term support and activist base to do well in Municipal elections.

The national populists of the Rassemblement National (RN) has mixed success, winning Perpignan (below being puffed by their friends at RT):

Some suggest that the unity  against them, the ‘Front Republican’, from centre right to left, may not continue the right’s desire to beat Greens and the left.

The RN certainly think so:

 

Left commentators note the way united left and green lists have succeeded, as in Lyon:

Longer term alliances may be harder to make. Apart from Grenoble, where (most of ) the left and the greens have worked together for some time the French ecologist party, the EELV, took an explicit turn from any co-operation , political or organisational, with left parties in last year’s European Elections.

This, of course, represented the line of Euro-Deputy Yannick Jadot, and was not received well by all of his party (Jannick Jadot ou l’écologie « et de droite et de gauche » La volonté du député européen de dépasser les clivages traditionnels passe mal au sein d’une partie d’Europe Ecologie-Les Verts.)

The Greens though won  13.5% of the vote and came third in the poll, after LREM and the RN.

 

 

Apart from the Higadalo victory in Paris the Left win in Marseille, the first time since the Right won France’s Second City in 1995, was sweet:

It is not only fringe politicians like Jean-Luc Mélenchon who noted the record levels of abstention.

France 24 reports.

Low voter turnout in French local elections tell a tale of disillusionment

France’s green wave captured the headlines following Sunday’s vote, with the French environmentalist party, Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV), winning in major cities, like Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon and Strasbourg. But behind the green sweep in the second round of the municipal elections lies another story: low voter turnout.

“Abstentions are the major feature of this evening,” concluded Chloé Morin, head of the Opinion Observatory at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, on FRANCE 24’s election night special. It reached record highs in cities where the Socialist Party won, such as Nantes (71.42 percent), Rennes (68.32 percent) and Lille (60 percent). In Lyon, where the Greens won, abstentions were an estimated 62 percent.

The civic malaise was clearly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had already affected voter turnout in the March 15 first round, when only 55.4 percent of voters nationwide cast their ballots, obvservers said.

Zeev Sternhell (1935 – 2020): Historian of Fascism and Pioneer of ‘Red Brown’ Studies.

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La Droite Révolutionnaire - 1885-1914, Les Origines Françaises Du ...

General Boulanger and the original Red-Brown Front.

In Memory of a Great Voice, Zeev Sternhell, 10 April 1935 – 21 June 2020.

France 24,

Israeli historian and political scientist Zeev Sternhell, a peace activist and one of the leading thinkers of the country’s left, has died aged 85, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said Sunday.

Polish-born Sternhell, head of the university’s political science department, was an outspoken champion of Palestinian rights who strongly criticised Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hebrew University president Asher Cohen hailed Sternhell, a professor emeritus there who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for political science in 2008, as “among the most important researchers” to emerge from the institution.

“His innovative political science research, which was translated into many languages, brought a deep change in the academic perception of ideological movements, specifically radical movements,” Cohen said.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab-led Joint List in Israel’s parliament, wrote that “during his childhood in Poland, Sternhell experienced the terrible results of fascism, and throughout his life had the courage and strength to research and fight it.

“For decades he was a significant voice for Palestinian human rights and against the occupation in the territories.”

The article continues,

His academic work also delved into the “French roots of fascism” and stirred lively debate and controversy, according to former student Denis Charbit, now a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.

Sternhell was a “very demanding” professor, but also one “attentive” to his best students, Charbit told AFP.

In addition to academic writing and books, he regularly published opinion pieces in Israeli newspapers, most notably Haaretz, many of which were critical of settlers.

On one occasion Sternhell called the settlement movement a “cancer” in Israeli society, and in another instance said a settlement should be attacked with tanks

Sternhell continued his political combat,

After receiving the Israel Prize in 2008, he was wounded the same year by a bomb planted outside his house by a right-wing extremist.

Sternhell himself said the attack was testimony to the “fragility” of Israeli democracy.

In an interview with Haaretz later that year, he warned of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the condition of Israel “not respecting the national rights of others”.

In a 2014 interview with Haaretz, during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Sternhell warned that the Jewish state’s democracy was “facing collapse”.

“The Israeli democracy is eroding, and the signs (of emerging fascism) exist,” he said.Tamar Zandberg, of left-wing party Meretz, said Sternhell’s lasting legacy would be his work towards “a strong and not occupying Israeli democracy”.

Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel offered his condolences to the Sternhell family, noting that while he didn’t share many of Sternhell’s opinions, “prominent intellectuals like him, from right and left, are the foundation to our existence as the people of the book”.]

According to Haaretz, Sternhell died as a result of complications following surgery.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and several grandchildren

Zeev Sternhell was at the centre of not just of Israeli political debate, but amongst the left and anti-fascists, in Europe, above all in France. Awarded a Ph.D. in 1969 from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris,  for his thesis on The Social and Political Ideas of Maurice Barrès, a key figure in the culture and ideology of the nationalist right, he had a great influence had, far wider than academic circles and far beyond the hexagone.

I first came across his books during the mid-1980s in the Bibliothèque municipale  Place Jules Joffrin, 75018 Paris in  The study,  Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, 1983; transl. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, has an enduring impact. This was reached many people on the left, as has been testified on hearing of his passing.

Sternehell’s work has found new audiences with the rise of national populism, and the creation of ‘neither right nor left’ red-brown fronts across Europe, from the pro-Brexit alliances in the UK to the defection of many parts of the sovereigntist left in many countries to the nationalist ‘anti-metropolitan elite” right. His account of the literary and polemical figure of the nationalist Maurice Barrès and his appeal to La terre et les Morts (Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. 1972), the homeland heritage and the living memory of the dead, evokes ideas one can find amongst defenders of the ‘somewhere’ folk who criticise the ‘anywhere’ people.  

In La Droite Révolutionnaire, (First Edition, 1978) Sternhell proposed that late 19th century and pre-Great War France was the cradle of fascist ideology. France was, in Sternhell’s eyes, an ideal field for studying pre-fascism, and, full blown, “neither left nor right” fascist thought. His focus began on General Boulanger’s 1886 campaign, an anti-parliamentarian movement which, following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870 1871)  of  demanded ‘revenge’ against Germany, – the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France – and a clear out of the ‘cabals’ in the name of the People. His campaign was backed by Monarchists, Bonapartists, Maurice Barrès, some republicans and revolutionaries from the Blanquist tradition, and nationalists.

A part of the early French socialist movement  saw in the movement a protest against (as Sternhell put it) ” les grands seigneurs de la finance.” Some saw in Boulangism a patriotic reaction against Parliamentary and social elites,  that they could turn towards the left. Anti-Jewish sentiment, organised anti-semitism, appeared, leading to the creation of the Ligue antisémitique de France in 1889. Others from the socialist movement considered that the left should stand firm behind republican democracy and reject Boulanger: Le Bilan Boulanger. 1888 (M. Lissagaray)

In Ni droite ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (First Edition, 1983), Sternhell  turned to the 20th century.  In the years preceding the Second World War these movements drew together calls to “workers of all classes” against banking “hyper” capitalism, drew on the romance of the nation, and opposition to the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the elites of the Third Republic. This, he argued,  indicated that fascism originated and continued to operate as a synthesis of socialist ideas and nationalism.

The book surveyed anti-parliamentarian nationalism (the ‘ligues’), “planiste” sections of French social democracy (Marcel Déat), the Monarchist and anti-Semite Action française, the mass parties of the later 1930s, the Parti Social français (PSF), the Parti Populaire français (PPF) of the renegade Communist Jacques Doriot, and a mixed bag of admirers of National Socialism and Mussolini. 

Last year Sternhell edited and contributed to an important study of pre-war French far right movements, L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. 2019.

In 2006 Sternhell published a study of anti-Enlightenment thought, Les anti-Lumières: Une tradition du XVIIIᵉ siècle à la guerre froide. Edmund Burke and Thomas Caryle took their place alongside Herder and Charles Maurras as those defend the “moral capital” of tradition against what Frank Feurdi, from the Red-Brown sie Spiked calls “the counter-culture establishment”. (The birth of the culture wars.  This century-long conflict is born of the Western elites’ loss of cultural and moral authority. Spiked 19.6.20).

Sternhell, by contrast, defended neither cultural nor moral authority nor tradition.

His work was offers us landmark historical studies and a brilliant exercise of the “critical tradition” of the Enlightenment.

As he wrote, “Aucun ordre établi  n’est légitime du seul fait qu’il existe. La justice et le bonheur sont des objectifs valables et légitimes…l’homme est capable d’aller en avant, a condition qu’il fasse appeal a la raison.” (Les anti-Lumières: Page 796).

“No established order is legitimate by the mere fact that it exists. Justice and happiness  valid and legitimate objectives …humanity  is able to progress, on condition that we use our capacity to reason.

Let that be Sternhell’s epitaph.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2020 at 11:22 am

Faced with the Pandemic French Left regroups and debates a better future.

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L'initiative commune – Au cœur de la crise, construisons l'avenir.

French Left Offers Ideas for a Better Future.

On the 14th of May an unprecedented array of political figures from the centre-left (some more centre than left), the French Green Party (EELV), the Communist Party and radical ‘other-globalisation’ organisations such as ATTAC, issued a declaration that appealed for a new direction in French politics.

Titled, “At the heart of the crisis, let’s build the future” it was backed by one hundred and fifty personalities close to the left or to the ecologists , including Olivier Faure (Parti Socialiste), Yannick Jadot (Europe Écologie Les Verts ) or Ian Brossat ( Parti communiste français), called in a long public statement published in Le Nouvel Obsevateur for a “convention for a common world”

France is facing an earthquake on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of nature has encouraged  a pandemic which has generated a major economic crisis, created a brutal social shock, especially for the most precarious, and a out the functioning of democracy into question. Public authorities have had that had to improvise in the face of this major crisis. The extraordinary commitment of carers, the courage of those who have worked tirelessly in the service of all and the civic spirit of millions of people confined in difficult conditions, call for the gratitude of everybody.

Right now, the issue  about avoiding the worst and preparing for the future. Repairing  the damage already in face of us, the defence of liberty the obligation to prepare a resilient society, these require a strong collective response. The crisis confirms the urgent need for large-scale changes. From this imperative necessity, let us give birth to hope. We are not doomed to suffer!

The statement called for a strengthening on an egalitarian basis of the French welfare state, notably in the areas of health and pensions, ‘ecological transition’ (the Green New Deal, which has been a demand of French centre, green and radical left politics for much longer than its recent UK appearance), expansive and flexible European Monetary policy, and the reintroduction of the previous Parti Socialiste government’s tax on the rich (Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune, ISF),

TRIBUNE. « Au cœur de la crise, construisons l’avenir »

Further :

Amongst the signatories were Thomas Piketty, the radical leftist, Christophe Aguiton (La gauche du 21 e siècleenquête sur une refondation. 2017) and the former (Left-wing) Green leader,  Cécile Duflot.

These supporters did not prevent the web commentator Usul, close to La France insoumise, from claiming that this was an attempt to create a post-Macron “bourgeois bloc” of the centre-left. It was, he ironically put it, a kind of pot potpourri of nice green and liberal social democratic ideas that would appeal to the metropolitan elites, and continue the centre-left project, excluding the “classes populaires”. This is the return of the ‘gauche bourgeoise.”

Usul remarked that the bloc of forces excluded Jean-Luc Mélenchon

 

Usul. Le grand retour de la gauche bourgeoise

Here is his, witty, Video version.

The comparison with previous efforts to create a “bloc bourgeois”, allegedly the project of the Parti Socialiste (in power, be it remembered until 2017), runs up against a number of problems.

The book from which the expression is taken, L’illusion du Bloc Bourgeois (Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini. 2018) refers to attempts to go beyond traditional alliances, to bring together right and left. Emmanuel Macron has rather monopolised this strategy. The alternative ‘sovereigntist’ attempt to create a political expression that can capture the ‘popular’ classes in a left populist project, that is, La France insoumise (LFI), has failed to take off.

The demand to maintain social protection that is the weakest point of the ‘bloc bourgeois’ of the French centre-left, shown by many of the PS’s labour and welfare ‘reforms’ (see Pages 114 – 146 of the L’illusion). However in another context these rights are linked to EU standards. During the UK Brexit referendum, as promoted  by Another Europe is Possible, and other internationalist left forces, a pro-European strategy made inroads into the labour movement and some (urban) layers of the working class in ‘precarious’ employment by demanding that “une autre Europe possible”. The sovereigntist British left failed to defend these advances, and encouraged not just a hard right Brexit, but the victory of Boris Johnson.

A further sign of the importance of the above unity initiative can be seen on the site of the radical and democratic wing of the left, which forms an independent ally of La France insoumise, Ensemble. This appeared at the end of April and could be said to introduce the terrain on which the Nouvel Observateur declaration was made.

Signed by Clémentine Autain députée (groupe LFI) , Guillaume Balas coordinateur du mouvement Génération·s , Elsa Faucillon députée (groupe communiste) , Alain Coulombel membre d’EE-LV

Many initiatives, public or not, forums and petitions have been circulating since the start of the health crisis. They carry the will to bring about a new world.

It is even harder to dismiss this appeal, (issued this week) signed by the CGT (radical left Union Federation), Greenpeace, Attac, Confédération paysanne, Youth for Climate France and many other groups),

Plus Jamais ça : 34 mesures pour un plan de sortie de crise

(see Le Monde« Face à la crise, il faut sortir du système néolibéral et productiviste »)

In the meantime La France insoumise ploughs its own furrow, competing, it is said, with the Rassemblement national (ex-Front National): Coronavirus : La France insoumise et le Rassemblement national veulent profiter de la colère

The left sovereigntists – or “republicans” (including LFI, some of the PCF, and others, continue their own attempts to recover a political voice.

La gauche républicaine veut se réarmer idéologiquement

La France insoumise (LFI), le Parti communiste français ou la Gauche républicaine et socialiste (GRS), la petite structure de l’ancien socialiste Emmanuel Maurel ; des think tanks, comme Intérêt général ou l’Institut Rousseau ; un site, comme Le Vent se lève ; ou encore des politiques, comme Arnaud Montebourg ou Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The overarching themes these debates raise is brilliantly discussed by New Left Review hate figure Pierre Rosenvallon France Culture: Le coronavirus a-t-il déconfiné la gauche ?

One of the main themes emerging is a return to idea of planning, and the  merits of the commissariat général du Plan (CGP) that existed from 1946 to 2006,

The radio links to these articles (I do not repeat the one this Post began with):

Pour un projet social et écologiste, éditorial de Denis Sieffert, de la revue Politis.

Le monde d’après sera un champ de bataille, éditorial d’Hervé Kempf, du site Reporterre.

Un mal sanitaire pour un bien politique ? Editorial de Laurent Joffrin de Libération.

Better than own factionalists in fact…