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Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Luc Mélenchon

New Spat Between Admirers and Critics of Mélenchon on Labour List.

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Mr Virtual 6,3%.

Yesterday le Monde carried two pages around this article:  the fragmented Left Faced with the Challenged of Refoundation.

The principal article talked of the historic defeat of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s ‘lieu de rassemblement’ (rally) la France insoumise (LFI)  in this year’s European elections, where they got 6,3% of the vote (down from 19% in the 2017 French Presidential Election). It suggested that the undisputed leader of LFI was now concentrating on winning municipal positions off his rivals, the Communists, PCF, who were down even further at 2,49%. The impression given was that the French left was squabbling over crumbs (the literal meaning of emiettée is ‘in crumbs’).

In interview across the page in the daily of a loyal LFI cadre and MP  Alexis Corbière contained only staunch denial of any difficulties – the resignations that followed this collapse, and the accusations of autocratic inner rally running (LFI has no members, only affiliates; it is run as a Party-business) by the Little Caesar in charge. There was a defence of their “populist” strategy of assembling the ‘People’ against the ”Oligarchy’ above the old left right divisions ( Alexis Corbière : « L’alternative, c’est l’oligarchie ou le peuple »).

Le Monde, oddly, was concerned with the French Greens, Europe Écologie, who with Yannick Jadot won 13,48%.

Not a lot in fact but more than anybody else who might be considered on the left, something Jadot is very equivocal about himself – he does not rule our local alliances with  right-wing parties. who accept a Green programme.

While all this has been going on, a few days ago Labour List published the following article:

What Corbynism could learn from France’s Mélenchon

Mckevitt seems to base his knowledge of La France insoumise and its Leader largely on Chantal Mouffe’s book For a Left Populism (2018), and reports of his presence at last year’s The World Transformed.

“This dynamic populist demand, articulated by Mélenchon through a desire to completely remake the French state from “the people” up, exhibits itself in Corbynism through the relatively gradual, procedural and legalistic process of reforming reselection processes. Despite the shared values of democratisation and of a mass membership wrenching control from those with entrenched positions (and the strategic concern of Corbynism to transform the Parliamentary Labour Party), the party structure that Corbynism finds itself channelled through is ultimately limiting to the scope of this demand.

Mélenchon’s left-populism also finds itself in fundamental opposition to what he perceives as the global institutions of neoliberal capitalism.

He concluded, noting that even the Sun had spots – Mélenchon’s ‘Patriotism” and backing for “a radically patriotic interpretation of laïcité, ”  a term or a politics which is not explained.

Nonetheless, Mélenchon provides a template for us to understand the compatibility of a truly radical, anti-establishment structural analysis with a popular left-wing mass movement.

Today we have this reply: Why Labour should reject the politics of Mélenchon

“Beneath the veneer, Mélenchon is a profoundly divisive figure” writes Antony Tucker, “whose attitude to the press, failure to deal with racism on the left and rejection of internationalism should serve as warning, not an example, to our party.”

Tucker outlines Mélenchon’s indulgence of a “sovereigntist” view of the EU – criticisms of its workings based on the way it has undermined French sovereignty,, and promoted ‘German’ interests. he could have mentioned the LFI leader’s initial welcome for the Brexit vote, which still sticks in the craw – as a popular revolt against the EU ‘oligarchs’.

He continues into the murky depths of the Mélechonist milieu, “Mélenchon spends far too much time pandering to the conspiracy theorist fringe of politics.” It would be truer to say that his association with the Gilets Jaunes has created ambiguities of the “red-brown” kind known in the UK, when some of the protesters (notoriously Fly-Rider) have been active conspiracy mongers. This kind of over-claim obscures the problem of real red-brown cross-overs such as Étienne Chouard.

He treats himself to some moral outrage – again without explaining what the term laicite means or what politics it is based on – at the LFI chief’s “radical, authoritarian laïcité

Riding the crest of the this manufactured rage he manages something this writer would have thought impossible, soliciting sympathy for Méluche, ” Mélenchon has spread the sort of vicious conspiracy theories that these people feed off of, and frequently denies France’s role in the Holocaust. ” This conspi theory of its own tries to wash away the fact that all French republican politicians deny the responsibility of the French republic for the anti-republican Vichy regime.

Tucker concludes, in apoplexy, that the “nationalist and xenophobic beliefs that drive Mélenchon” are no model for the Labour Party.

Mr 6,3% might have been a better way of putting the would-be left Populist Federator of the People down.

Then there is the total, sordid, collapse of his admired template, the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela, and left-populism across South America.

A serious beginning of a critique of Mélenchon” and LFI and is available here: The Death of “Left Wing Populism”.

 

 

 

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“My role is consubstantial with the movement.” Mélenchon on Left Populism in Crisis.

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Mon rôle, il est consubstantiel au mouvement.” Mélenchon réaffirme son autorité devant ses militants

Note: consubstantiel sounds as odd in French normal speech as it does consubstantial in English. *

The leader of La France insoumise spoke over the weekend at the “assemblée représentative ” of La France insoumise, chosen by lot, and by special delegates selected by the ‘Movement’, by some inner process,  which some have compared  to Momentum on a bad day.

  • Trinity. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (from Latin trinitas) holds that God is three consubstantial persons, expressions, or hypostases: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“My role is consubstantial to the movement.” Mélenchon reaffirms his authority in front of LFI activists

After the defeat of France rebellious in the European elections of May 26, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was slow to speak. Strongly criticized in his ranks, he held this Sunday a speech at the party’s National Convention to respond to his critics and remobilise the troops.

Mélenchon announced that the next local elections in France will be stage in the self-organisation of the People.

But lo!

This morning.

Nouveau coup dur pour Mélenchon, qui perd une cadre de La France insoumise

The former candidate for the European elections and head of the  party training school Manon Le Bretton has announced she is to leave the La France insoumise this Monday, June 24.

Comrade le Bretton denounced the “virulence” of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  Sunday speech against critics of the internal workings of the movement.

So much for the predictions of left-populist admirers, the US Jacobin,

The movement’s most recognisable figure has proven adept at bridging internal divides and presenting La France Insoumise’s ideas to a mass audience. Following the European elections Mélenchon has said that he’s reflecting over his political future, fueling speculation that he could step back from the spotlight. “The question,” asks Guiraud, “is do we have someone else who’s able to do this?”

Rebuilding France Insoumise Cole Strangler.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

The Death of “Left Wing Populism”.

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Image result for la france insoumise tricolore

“Fashion dies young, ” (La mode meurt jeune) said Jean Cocteau (Le « populisme de gauche » est mort !)

It seems like another epoch.

‘Left wing populism”, the new strategy of the left, was going to sweep all before it.

In the “era of people” the old class divisions were eroded, politics was about moblising, giving a voice to, and joining together the victims of neo-liberal economics against the Oligarchy, the “elite”.

National symbols and a feeling of real  community needed to be retaken by the left.

In  France this reached the point of celebrating the “patriotic” revolutionary tradition of ‘the French’ with ‘left populists’ waving the Tricolore and singing the Marseillaise – as indeed their forebears in the French Communist Party were wont to do in times of popular unity and their own ‘National Fronts’ (1940s onwards).

We were lectured on how French nationalism – no doubt like so many other nationalisms in the eyes of their ‘left’ supporters – is uniquely revolutionary and ‘popular’.

It would not be hard to find the pages written on this, from Chantal Mouffe’s For a Left Populism (2018) to scores of articles on Mouffe, and the (deceased) Ernesto Laclau’s writings on populism.

It was recommended that the British Labour Party take note and develop its own “insurgent” style and politics.

In those distant days (31st of March 2019) the self-styled voice of the American radical left, Jacobin, was full of articles on the topic.

Anton Jäger and Arthur Borriello wrote,

Left populism is the new idiom of radical politics worldwide. It emerged as the answer to the problem of a weak and disorganized working class — but despite its electoral successes…

In contrast to a moribund old left, clinging to antiquated remedies when facing annihilation, left-populism has trimmed its sails to the wind.

Is Left Populism the Solution?

The previous year (2018, how distant it seems now! ) Jacobin’s European editor, Dave Broder boasted, of an event on the fringe at the Labour Party Conference.

Tonight Jacobin will host an event at The World Transformed featuring France’s most popular political leader, France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Winning seven million votes in last year’s presidential election, the radical left-winger is today at the forefront of the revolt against Emmanuel Macron’s crisis-wracked government.

He went onto to praise, Mélenchon and his movement’s

 ..success in uniting the oppressed…

The Left Should Welcome Mélenchon

Earlier this year Broder gave a reverential interview to the Leader of la France insoumise in the Jacobin supplement, the UK magazine Tribune.

‘Everyone should know — I am very dangerous’

This Blog has covered the growing crisis in his La France insoumise.

We have discussed this book, Le populisme : le grand ressentiment (2017) and interview (2018) Left-wing populism. A legacy of defeat: Interview with

Fassin had the foresight to say:

The problem with the populist strategy, for the left, is that it’s neither left nor a winning strategy. It was even less so during the latest presidential campaign in France: everyone played that same card at the same time, including Macron, with a rhetoric of ‘centre’ populism!

Today we read on a site of the French radical left close to the independent section of La France insoumise, Ensemble, though increasingly not close to Mélenchon himself, that the strategy of left-wing populism has unravelled right to down to reveal its bleached skeleton.

Le « populisme de gauche » est mort ! 

The economist Cédric Durand and the sociologist Razmig Keucheyan.

After tracing the origins of this strategy to the Latin America left, (an important inspiration for Ernesto Laclau inspiration), and the failures of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution” they state,

..the limits of the model are obvious, and even more so in Europe, where no current claiming “left-wing populism” has been able to gain power. The results of Podemos and La France insoumise in the European elections, accompanied in the Spanish case of very poor local elections scores, sound the death knell of experience.

It forced the left to think about what “people” means today. More complex and diverse, the ‘people’ are no longer those created during  the post-war economic success when the left bloc combined the salaried popular classes and certain fractions of the middle classes, especially intellectual ones. Globalisation, neoliberal Europe and the renunciation of social democracy have blown it up, creating a deadly cleavage between a supposedly protective nationalism and an all-market pseudo-internationalism. The populist strategy has been able to defy the hegemony of the neoliberalized left by jostling amongst the interstices of the historical formations.

But it failed to structure a new social alliance. How to explain the failure?

The summary of the answer to this is that,

The opposition between the 1% and the 99% has perhaps allowed to trigger a political movement and to incarnate it in a leader, but has  prevented it from developing long-term roots.

They argue that the backing for these parties, above all Podemos and La France insoumise,  has been based on too many differing social  constituencies. These are not just fragmented but lack  a consistently defined interest however much a political apparatus tries to “articulate to offer a stable political base.

To put it simply ‘federating’ a variety of ‘democratic’ struggles and social concerns together around a charismatic ‘Leader’ has not paid off.

No strategy based on Laclau’s picture of the rhetorical foundations of society and floating signifiers, or Mouffe’s agonism, and “effects” can hide the results of elections, and the failure to “capture” the – ambitious – Gilets Jaunes revolt to restore the “moral economy” that many very different social categories dream of  asserting faced with President Macron and his own simulacrum of a party, La République En Marche.

Perhaps the substantial part of LFI’s ecosocialism” and green planning (far from their personal property as Benoît Hamon and Génération.s, stand for une écologie humaniste qui prône l’humain au coeur de la réflexion écologisteindicates) can be saved from this wreck……

That is France, but the downward spiral of left populism has wider implications.

Above all Durand and Keucheyan ask,

Why do left-wing populisms prove incapable of dealing with disagreements and bringing pluralism to life? Podemos and La France insoumise are authoritarian structures. A clear-headed assessment obliges us to recognise this.

One party of the answer, which applies to French Left Populism,  is offered here.

In this article Après le départ de Charlotte Girard, «La France insoumise en difficulté»… et après? criticises above all La France insoumise for its “hégémoniste et exclusive ” political practice.

This is a striking observation.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon a été formé à l’école de Pierre Lambert: où qu’il soit passé (y compris comme premier secrétaire de la fédération PS de l’Essonne comme féal mitterrandien), il n’a jamais hésité devant les méthodes brutales, au nom des exigences de l’orientation politique du moment, cette orientation fût-elle éphémère.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon was trained at Pierre Lambert’s |(note, hard-line orthodox Trotskyist, with strongly patriotic/nationalist traits)  school: wherever he went (including as first secretary of the PS federation of Essonne as a loyal supporter of Mitterrand)  he never hesitated before brutal methods In the name of the political demands of the moment, however ephemeral they were.

It was often said that Left Populism was a strategy in a hurry.

It needed to build quickly to overtake and replace  the ‘old’ left, the compromised ‘neoliberals’  those unable to confront globalisation with a viable appeal to “the people”.

Internal democratic structures in such ‘start up’ parties, movement, best called in France’s case a rally, were not that important.

Fat chance….

When they lose votes in elections, when their strategy is in tatters, how else can their difficulties be discussed?

How can a return to alliances of the left bloc, the people of the left be made by charismatic leaders with a direct line of communication to the People?

The obituary of left populism may be premature.

The stakes are high:

Yet the “populist moment” today is the time of national populism of the right and the far-right, helped by political confusionism – the -red-brown ‘left’.

Let’s hope that the left stops listening to those who were so enthusiastic about  left populism only a few months ago reflect.

Beware ! to  anybody in the UK stumbling by chance on Jacobin, left-populist Dave Broder is now praising Jeremy Corbyn….

Update: this is in an interesting analysis of the “chain of equivalences” between La France insoumise and the Front National.

France Insoumise : Ces chauvin(e)s qui nous cassent les couilles.

«l’Insoumission »? C’ est un  « Front ». France ≡ National / Insoumise  ≡ Front.

C’est avec la naissance de la France Insoumise que Mélenchon (qui a passé la plus grande partie de sa vie dans le « socialisme ») et les siens ont abandonné le drapeau rouge au profit du sympathique et vibrant Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. Ils ont aussi abandonné cette vieillerie de l’International au profit de la très moderne Marseillaise. Mélenchon et les siens ne se réclamaient plus de la « gauche » mais du « peuple » en prétendant que le mot gauche est un attrape-tout, qu’il empêche de penser rigoureusement.

It was with the birth of France Insoumise that Mélenchon (who spent most of his life in “socialism”) and his family abandoned the red flag for the sympathetic and vibrant Blue, White, Red. They have also abandoned this old age banner of the International in favour of the very modern Marseillaise. Mélenchon and his people no longer claimed to be on the “left” but on the side of the “people” by claiming that the left word is a catch-all term, that prevents rigorous thought.

See also this (the fall-out continues on a daily basis):

 

Left Populism: La France Insoumise Faces Internal Challenge.

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Mr 6,3% and his European List.

A few days ago I, as a loyal supporter of la France insoumise (along with half a million others who signed up to their free online registration of support) received a notification of their latest ‘conference’ the Assemblée représentative de La France insoumise on the 23rd of June.

The E-Mail invited me to put my name into a hat for the “tirage au sort” (selection by lot) to attend. 160 of us would be chosen by this method, and 80 “representatives” from the “different spaces” (its sounds as odd in French) of the “point de ralliement” of JeanLuc  Mélenchon.

There are no “factions”; indeed no different currents of opinion on an organised basis. There are no bothersome competitive elections, different political platforms or indeed anything more than an opportunity to talk as individuals  about the programme for the upcoming Municipal elections.

One is invited to contribute to the debate with comments on the “Texte programmatique national pour les élections municipales” – as in the good old days when the Parti communiste français invited members, and cells, to express their views on the Central Committee’s documents before the Congrès. Before that is, the CC’s line was adopted unanimously.

Cette assemblée sera composée de 160 insoumis·es tiré·es au sort et 80 représentant·es des différents espaces de La France insoumise. Une première phase du tirage au sort est prévue le mercredi 5 juinVous pouvez vérifier que vous êtes inscrit⋅e aux tirages au sort ici.

This kind of ‘democracy’ may remind some people of how Momentum operates, except that this is a group with MPs, MEP and a whole raft of councillors.

It has long irked many people and been cited as an example of how E-democracy  with a “charismatic” populist leader is no democracy at all.

The idea of a lightening struggle for power, that has no need for long-term structures, has been proved wrong by election results.

Today we learn that leading activists in lFI are speaking out and calling for democratic change inside the movement.

The Huffington Post this Thursday  reports that after last week’s discussion on “left wing populism” dissatisfaction with la France insoumise has moved now onto its internal structures and lack of viable democratic channels.

Si le débat stratégique entre “ligne populiste” et “union de la gauche” a focalisé l’attention la semaine dernière, c’est désormais la gouvernance même de La France insoumise et son manque de démocratie qui sont aujourd’hui pointés du doigt.

Amongst the many reasons why a large section of the Left in France, and elsewhere in Europe, is sceptical about ‘left populism’, is this kind of simulacrum of democracy cobbled together around a “Webocracy”.

The stimulus for this is that today Le Monde published an internal document of LFI in which members of the movement criticise these structures and their poor results (6,3%) in the European elections.

Une note interne à La France insoumise dénonce « un fonctionnement dangereux pour l’avenir du mouvement »

Dans un document que « Le Monde » s’est procuré, plusieurs dirigeants « insoumis » demandent plus de démocratie interne et critiquent sévèrement le mauvais score du parti aux élections européennes.

In a document that le Monde has obtained many leading figures of LFI have asked for more internal democracy and have heavily criticised the poor results of the party in the European elections.

This report gives some details:

Crise ouverte à La France insoumise

This is not the end of the troubles of LFI.

One of their best known intellectual, Thomas Guénolé,  has fallen out with the rally, and has been embroiled in a sexual harassment case brought by a young woman LFI activist.

Today we read this: Thomas Guénolé poursuit La France insoumise en justice

The political scientist is the author of some decent books (Petit guide du mensonge en politique, 2014) and some, in many critics’ view,  less than decent books  – (Islamopsychose 2017).

Guénolé had been active in LFI. He was a candidate on their European list this year, before falling out, drastically with them. He has called hMélenchon an « autocrat », la France Insoumise a « dictatorship », and denounced their “stalinist methods of stifling critics.  Guénolé has been accused of sexual harassment by LFI.

Today he announced that he will see them in court…

 

To cap it all  in le Monde yesterday (print edition) an appeal was published calling to break with the existing structures of the French left (follow my gaze, La France insoumise), in a “big Bang” to create co-operative structures.

It’s launched by Mélenchon’s  nemesis: Clémentine Autain.

Image result for clementine autain

 

Perhaps the Charismatic Leader will now take a back-seat:

The Crisis of Left Populism in France.

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Left Wing Populism Faces French Crisis.

The End of “left-wing Populism”?

On the 11th of May Jean-Luc Mélenchon presided in Marseille over one of his many public rallies. This was one had a new angle. On the 11th of May he had invited the principal ‘left populist’ parties in Europe. An alliance, under the name of Maintenant le Peuple, claiming to be a European Citizens’ Revolution, was backed by his own “point de ralliement”, La France insoumise (LFI), Podemos, the Portuguese left bloc, the Bloco, and parties of the Swedish, Danish and Finish radical left. The immediate plan (while awaiting the “révolution citoyenne en Europe”), was to restructure the left in the European Parliament, inside the GUE/NGL. (See: Elections européennes : La France insoumise, chronique d’un désastre annoncé )

Last Sunday’s European elections saw the Continent’s radical left go from 52 MEPs to 41. Nowhere were the ambitions of the new alliance less answered than in France. Mélenchon’s list led (after considerable internal rumblings about its make-up) by Manon Aubry got 6,3% – below the objective of 11% and well short of Mélenchon’s Presidential score in 2017 of 19, 58 %. Just above the Parti Socialiste-Place Publique list led by 6,2% LFI was well behind the French Green EELV at 13,5%. LFI now has 5 MEPs, EELV 10. 

“No self criticism!” (Ne pas faire de auto-critique) was heard from the movement on the evening as these results came through. This was, predictably, not followed. LFI MP, Clémentine Autain, with an independent base in the bloc of left groupings, Ensemble, made a very public intervention in Le Nouvel Observateur (Clémentine Autain tire les leçons des Européennes).

She observed that La France insoumise was backed by 36% of its voters in 2017 while 57% of Macron’s supporters from that year chose his list and 78% of Marine Le Pen’s have voted for the Rassemblement National. Their “political capital” had been severely eroded.

There was no official response, although Manon Aubry  registered her movement’s activists’ hard work and disappointment, while stating that LFI had still shown that it anchored itself on the political scene. (Déclaration de Manon Aubry)

Clémentine Autain

How had this come about? Autain questioned the left populist strategy of dividing the people into an “us” and the “elites”, including intellectuals and the media. They had built walls rather than bridges. The deputy observed that Mélenchon had railed against those who’d supported a petition to support migrants, while he had let a sovereigntist wing, increasingly nationalist, best known for François Cocq et Djordje Kuzmanovic, off with mild rebukes. That is, until one of them, Andrea Kotarac, made an open appeal to vote for Marine le Pen. This did not show difficulties about the internal democracy of the LFI – a point few would ignore. It shied away from the need not the rebuild the old union of the left but to bring together “le peuple sur une base de gauche “, the people on a left-wing basis.

There are those who claim that LFI lost out by dropping the more forceful aspects of its ‘populism’, their journey from celebrating the Brexit vote (which did not go unnoticed amongst the internationalist anti-Brexit left in the UK), to an ever-increasingly watered down demand to ‘renegotiate’ EU treaties eroded support. Others point to his ill-judged ‘war’ with the media, the hysterical reaction to an investigation into their use of EU funds, his “command and control” approach to his movement (” le but du mouvement de la France insoumise n’est pas d’être démocratique mais collectif”), the feeble participation in its “on line” votes, and  Mélenchon’s irksome traits, above all his tendency to attack in all directions at once. LFI, some estimate looking at internal party consultation rates rather than the massive 500,000 click supporters, may be effectively total 20,000 activists, at most.

In Le Monde yesterday Manuel Cervera-Marcel listed the ‘left populist’ strategy, designed to replace the social democratic and neo-liberal left. Citing Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s approach, for the author it claims to replace the old left/right division by the “people versus the oligarchy”. These parties have a charismatic leader to incarnate the ‘people’ runs parties. They claim to give a voice (‘articulate’) popular demands against these ‘elites’, in LFI terms, “federate the people”). Finally it proposed taking over the ‘floating signifiers’ of the Nation, Security and Order, and giving them a democratic content. (Elections européennes 2019 : « Le recul de la gauche “radicale” ne s’explique-t-il pas par le tournant “populiste” de ces dernières années ? »)

Laclau and Mouffe’s strategy in question.

Cerbera-Marcel suggests that this approach can have immediate electoral benefits but that results, such as the European election defeat of LFI and the shrinking of Podemos in those and Spanish national elections, suggests that short-term popularity can easily be lost.  A much more extensive list of criticisms of the skeleton and the details of this strategy, from the abstractions of Laclau and Mouffe to the practice of left populist parties, above all, La France Insoumise and Podemos has already been made by people on the left. French contributions can be seen in, for example, La stratégie de Mélenchon se discute. Nous-le peuple, eux-les élites : un nouveau populisme de gauche and   Populisme de gauche, du nouveau ? Sur le dernier livre de Chantal Mouffe.

This is not the place to go into details about them. Yet one could usefully begin with Laclau’s efforts to designate forerunners of modern populism amongst the British Chartists. Drawing on the studies of Stedman Jones, Laclau talked of how the “us” and “them” was constructed between the “producers” and “idlers”, Old Corruption Jones, made this relevant point, “The self-identity of radicalism was not at of any specific group, but of the ‘people; or the ‘nation’ against the monopolisers of political representation and power and hence financial or economic power “. That is, it was not capitalism, a system of exploitation, injustice and oppressions, but those “monopolisers” who were at fault. Stedman Jones, Laclau notes, saw how this channelling was warded off by legislative reform. This channelling of democratic demands through political action, within the limited space of restricted, but gradually expanding franchise paralleled the High Victorian separation between the economy and politics. (1)

The People and its Parasitic Other.

One might speculate that the major fault of left populism is to divide the world into the “people” and this parasitic ‘elite’ concentrated in the ‘casta’ giving the impression that capitalist exploitation is created by politics. The ‘logic of populism’ is to unite against them, and to project the hatred talked about by Autain onto this “oligarchy, the source of their problems. One can only register that many Gilets Jaunes have this focus in their demands for a  “moral economy” to meet their needs without any vision of a real change to economic and social structures. (3)

An ever-expanding pile of pamphlets, of which the virulent diatribe against the Macronie (as his critics call the Macron ‘system’) by Juan Branco (Crépuscule. 2019) is by no means the worst, takes up against Corruption. It offers no way of uniting the popular electorate for a positive programme of emancipation. It is the seed-bed for the extreme right’s charges of “conspiracies” against the people, ‘betrayals’ by cosmopolitan elites, Globalism, People-Nations against International Elites. In short, it opens the way through an easy “chain of equivalences” to National Populism.

The principal French national populist party,. Marine le Pen’s Rassemblement National, is a  materialised bearer of Laclau’s abstract ‘rhetoric’ about the People versus the Elites. It is well funded, have hundreds elected figures:

Députés
6 / 577
Sénateurs
1 / 348
Députés européens
20 / 74
Conseillers régionaux
306 / 1 758
Conseillers départementaux
58 / 4 108
Maires
29 / 36 635
Conseillers municipaux
1 533 / 536 519

Anybody playing with the language of populism will run up against their simple, easy to understand, law and order, nationalist, political message. That’s without even looking at the strong “affects” and “libidinal ties” the far-right can draw on to spread its nationalist message to the ‘nationalised’ left populist people.

La France insoumise, far from freeing voters from their grip, may well have given their message an easier ride to first place in the French European elections, at 23,3%

The experience of the Brexit left in the UK confirms that anti-EU populism, even when only a small minority of them have openly endorsed the far-right Brexit Party, is another route to boost the national populists.

As an outside observer one can only commend Autain for her stand. Mélenchon’s strategy, his ‘rally’ (point de ralliement) run top down, a Net Corporation (though its media company failed) with “groupes d’appui’ (branches kept deliberately small to discourage organised disagreement) federating the people without respecting a vibrant internal democracy, his seductive rhetoric, with fewer and fewer listening, is part of a wider problem. As a less than outsider, not as a looker-on, but an active participant in the European left, it has been obvious that the ‘left-populist’ turn was not headed in the right direction. Those who praised Mélenchon, whether academics playing at politics in journals like Jacobin and its subsidiary in the UK, Tribune, or engaged in mass politics, have been misled. We can see in France how rancour is not only a bad starting point, but a way that leaves open national populists and business liberals of the stripe of Emmanuel Macron dominate the show – with of course some Greens who also deny the ‘left right’ division playing on the sidelines.

Autain’s intervention is a good and positive sign. A green socialism, a reformist and a radical socialist way forward, has, many would agree,  to be grounded on gathering together of the left, campaigns and the labour movement, with a generous and appealing vision of the future. 

There remain forces in La France insoumise who wish to contest any such refoundation of the left.

Image may contain: 2 people, crowd and outdoor

 

*****

  1. Pages 90 -91. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau. Verso. 2005.
  2. Page 104 Languages of Class. Studies in English Working Class History 1832 – 1982. Gareth Stedman Jones. Cambridge University Press. 1983.
  3. In L’économie morale et le pouvoir. Samuel Hayat makes an interesting compassion between E.P.Thompson’s The Moral Economy of the English crowd and the demands of the Gilers Jaunes. In   Le Fond de l’air est Jaune. Seuil. 2019.

From Jean-Luc  Mélenchon’s Left Populism, Andréa Kotarac Defects to far-Right Populism.

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Image result for Andréa Kotarac parti de gauche

From Populist Left to Populist Far-Right.

Many on the French left have long been wary of La France insoumise, the self-styled Left Populist Movement, “point de ralliement (rally) of Jean-Luc  Mélenchon.

One issue has been its ‘sovereigntism’.

That is, putting the demand of popular sovereignty – against the ‘oligarchy’, domestic and European – at the centre of its politics.

A couple of days ago this type, Andréa Kotarac, decided that the far-right rally of Marine Le Pen, the  Rassemblement national, was a better bet for this nation-centred strategy.

French far-left candidate slammed as ‘stink bomb’ for defecting to far right

France 24.

High drama in the French campaign as a far-left candidate calls for voters to back the far right – earning the would-be MEP some choice insults from French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Andréa Kotarac, a former regional adviser to Mélenchon’s far-left France Unbowed party (La France Insoumise), announced Tuesday that he was leaving the party and would instead back the far right in European Parliament elections in order “to block” President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move (La République en marche) party. Mélenchon responded by calling Kotarac a “stink bomb” and a “traitor”.

In fact there is already a legal process to stop Marine Le Pen’s Party using this support in their election publicity.

 

More:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2019 at 5:39 pm

For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Review: “Neither Left nor Successful”.

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Left Populism, “Neither Left nor Successful”.

For a Left  Populism. Chantal Mouffe.  Verso. 2018

Review: Andrew Coates.

(From the Latest Chartist Magazine.)

Chantal Mouffe and her partner Ernesto Laclau published Hegemony and Socialist Strategy in 1985 She begins For a Left Populism on the “challenge represented by the ‘populist moment’ by referring to the “incapacity of left politics” during the 1980s to grapple with post-68 movements, from the women’s movement to ecology. Anything that could not be thought of in class terms had been rejected. They offered, she states, an alternative, which became associated with the monthly, Marxism Today, against this “class essentialism”. It focused on bringing these new social forces into a left project, the “radicalisation of democracy”. There were angry debates on the left about these claims, focused around the authors’ ‘post-Marxism’ and the importance of class in left politics.

The world has changed. Today Mouffe argues that neoliberalism, austerity, and “oligarchisation”, has brought down living standards and eroded popular sovereignty. The political system is hollowed out. It is “post-democracy”, a term she takes from Colin Crouch and Jacques Rancière (La Mésentente. 1997). A paradigm of ‘consensus’ around the value of the free-market marks Western societies. There is little more detail about what is ‘post’ democratic in the new millennium’s elections, political competition for government and the possibilities for public debate opened up by social media.

How this differs from the previous consensus around the Keynesian welfare state, known in Britain during the 1950s as ‘Butskellism’, is not explored. The thrust is that social democratic and Labour Parties, notably during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s premierships, accepted the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. As part of this ‘hegemonic’ package they put concern for the Taxpayer over generous public spending. New Labour agreed that privatisation of state functions and industries were “what works”. They aimed at competing on the global market. .

After the 2007 financial crisis people across Europe began to question the belief that these policies brought them any benefit. Those “left behind” by austerity in the wake of the baking crisis and globalised economies, demanded “democratic recognition”. Many Mouffe says, have turned to anti-establishment populist parties of the right, or have expressed their unhappiness through backing the Hard-Right project of Brexit in the UK European Referendum.

The message of For a Left Populism is, “To stop the rise of right-wing populist parties, it is necessary to design a properly political answer through a left populist movement that will federate all the democratic struggles against post-democracy.” She commends the Spanish Podemos, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI) and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, for “left populist strategies.” 

For a Left Populism draws on many, often very abstract, ideas that Mouffe has developed since the 1980s. This include her writings on Carl Schmitt, Claude Lefort, Jürgen Habermas (amongst many others) and  ‘agonistic democracy”. This is a concept which puts conflict and dissensus at the heart of democratic debate. Conflict, she argues, are the keynotes of pluralist democracy. This is an idea familiar from less elevated works. Bernard Crick’s In Defence of Politics (1964, and later editions) made a vibrant democratic socialist case for the importance of open disagreement and debate for the democratic left. Crick also wrote on how Machiavelli saw “liberty arising from conflicts.” (Introduction to The Discourses. Niccolò Machiavelli. 1970)

For a Left Populism talks about constructing a “collective will”. Left populism, she asserts, draws into its orbit by a “chain of equivalences” a variety of progressive demands, open citizenship. This is the ‘construction of the People”, a collective political agency, “ opposing the ‘people’ against the ‘oligarchy’. For this to work Mouffe follows the late Ernesto Laclau. There has to be “some form of crystallisation of common affects, and affective bonds with a charismatic leader… “ One can see the attraction for Jean-Luc Mélenchon who has made sure that there is no “so-called” democratic opposition in his Web-Platform based movement. It is a “lieu de Rassemblement” (rallying point) not a political party. (1)

Mouffe’s left populism also, centrally, draws on the “libidinal investment at work in national – or regional – forms of identification”…” National identities should be left to the right.  Instead of leaving the field to national populists there should be another outlet, “mobilising…. around a patriotic identification with the more egalitarian aspects of the national tradition.”

Much of this approach to nationalism is drawn out from the tangled thickets of Frédéric Lordon. The French theorist developed from some of  Spinoza’s ideas a picture of the importance of ‘affects’, which he illustrated as attachments of people to national identities, and, above all, nation states. La Société des affects (2013). Lordon, a supporter of Mélenchon has faced charges of nationalism himself. Chantal Mouffe’s French critics have not been slow to point out to the emotional ‘affects’ of voters motivated by anti-immigrant feeling. These are neither legitimate concerns nor are those who have them likely to drop their views to join a left-wing Collective Will. (2)

Since For a Left Populism was published Mélenchon’s Movement has stagnated and declined in polls, down below 10% of voting intentions for the coming European Elections. It has faced a series of internal crises, centring on the lack of democratic decision-making. Marine le Pen appears to have had more of an impact in the Gilets Jaunes uprising than the leader of La France insoumise. After poor regional election results in Andalusia and declining support Podemos, has suffered a serious split. Her interlocutor, Iñigo Errejón (Podemos, In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón. Chantal Mouffe. 2016) is now aligned with Más Madrid, a catch-all progressive alliance. Pablo Iglesias is said to project a long-term alliance with the Spanish socialists, the PSOE. The radical left “Anticapitalista” current is in outright opposition.

The problem with left populism is, as Éric Fassin has remarked, is that, “it’s neither left nor a winning strategy.”  Perhaps we should follow his advice and concentrate on creating broad and effective democratic socialist parties and not on ‘federating’ the “people”. (Populisme: le grand ressentiment. 2017) (3)

 

*****

  1. À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\My Documents\À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon.htm
  2. Populisme de gauche, du nouveau ? Pierre Khalfa
  3. See also: Left-wing populism.A legacy of defeat: Interview with Éric Fassin Radical Philosophy. 2018. For an overview of Mouffe and Fassin see Jacobin, Can There Be a Left Populism?Jacob Hamburger. There is much to say on the intellectual structure of the ‘affects’ argument, and the abstract account by Mouffe construction of the ‘people’ in a counter-hegemonic direction through relations of equivalence which he does not. Hamburger however makes the valdi points that ‘left populism’ is hard to pin down as one thing (the gulf between Sanders and Corbyn alone is immense, and Podemos and La France insoumise) but fails to deal with anything like the different party structures. One can also see that the “degree of porosity between left and right” is politically fraught with dangers, as, even if minority, Gilets Jaunes red-brown cross-overs indicate. One would also prefer an account which focuses on sovereigntism, national independence as a rampart against neoliberalism, something Jacobin writers have themselves embroidered into a ‘left populism’.

 

As the attraction of ‘left populism’, which is still influential in publications such as New Left Review, and the American Jacobin, and other pro-Brexit groups, wanes,  this important article also in the latest Chartist, continues the argument:

THE DANGER OF LEFT NATIONALISM IN THE UK AND EUROPE

Extract:

A recent book on Corbynism by Frederick Harry Pitts and Matt Bolton argues that its key components lie in “seeing the world as constituted essentially of nations” and “posing the nation against global and international capital”. But, the authors point out, the search for sovereignty is destined to fail, not least because “we live in a world structured by capital, a social relation which exists as a world market, from which single states cannot abdicate, no matter how hard they try”. Not only is this emerging aspect of Corbynism pitting itself against the tide of history, but it also produces political rhetoric that shares territory with the nativist Brexiteer right wing. In casting the ‘national community’ as the primary community for whom the left speaks, and in describing not only global flows of capital but also of people as threat to this primary community, the left has clearly contributed to racist othering of migrant workers. Which is why some of Corbyn’s speeches on Europe have drawn praise from the likes of Nigel Farage.

Corbynism’s emerging left nationalism is treading the same path as parts of the French and German left. As far back as 2016 Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke challenged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to accept more than one million refugees, calling for limits on entry. In an environment where the far right is stoking fears about ‘violent’ immigrants with fake news and conspiracy theories, Wagenknecht has called for the deportation of any refugees who ‘abuse’ German hospitality: a call in complete contravention of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, and one that drew praise from the far right Alternative für Deutschland.

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