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French Legislative Elections: A Victory for Social Liberalism against Populism?

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Seats in the Assemblée Nationale.

Nuances de candidats Nombre de sièges
Extrême gauche 0
Parti communiste français 10
La France insoumise 17
Parti socialiste 29
Parti radical de gauche 3
Divers gauche 12
Ecologiste 1
Divers 3
Régionaliste 5
La République en marche 308
Modem 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 18
Les Républicains 113
Divers droite 6
Debout la France 1
Front National 8
Extrême droite 1

 

Percentages of the vote and abstention (57,36%)

Nuances de candidats Voix % inscrits % exprimés Nombre de sièges
Parti communiste français 217 833 0,46 1,20 10
La France insoumise 883 786 1,87 4,86 17
Parti socialiste 1 032 985 2,18 5,68 29
Parti radical de gauche 64 860 0,14 0,36 3
Divers gauche 263 619 0,56 1,45 11
Ecologiste 23 197 0,05 0,13 1
Divers 100 574 0,21 0,55 3
Régionaliste 137 453 0,29 0,76 5
La République en marche 7 826 432 16,55 43,06 306
Modem 1 100 790 2,33 6,06 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 551 760 1,17 3,04 17
Les Républicains 4 040 016 8,54 22,23 113
Divers droite 306 240 0,65 1,68 6
Debout la France 17 344 0,04 0,10 1
Front National 1 590 858 3,36 8,75 8
Extrême droite 19 030 0,04 0,10
Nombre % inscrits % votants
Inscrits 47 292 967
Abstentions 27 125 535 57,36
Votants 20 167 432 42,64
Blancs 1 397 496 2,95 6,93
Nuls 593 159 1,25 2,94
Exprimés 19 176 177 38,43 90,13
Ministère de l'Interieur

interieur.gouv.fr  MINISTÈRE DE L’INTÉRIEUR Second Round.

This morning on the French radio the expected news of the triumph Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche was immediately followed by an announcement that  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would tolerate no pot-shots at his government from his own quarter. The fresh-faced majority would not see its own deputies becoming “frondeurs” – critics that the right-wing of the Parti Socialiste  now blame for their own crushing defeat, from the Presidential elections to the legislatives.

To one admirer of the new President,  Will Hutton, “Macronism is the emergence of a fresh grounded economic and political philosophy – a landmark moment.” (Macron has led a brilliant coup – could the British now do the same? Observer). In the grip of enthusiasm he continues, “An ancien regime of tired and corrupt conservative and socialist politicians, indissolubly linked to the immobilisme that has plagued France, has been swept away.”

As in Macron Minister Richard Ferrand (accusation of dodgy property deals) Justice Minister and leader of Macron’s allied party, the Modems, François Bayrou (alleged misuse of European funding)…..

Hutton’s 1995, The State We’re In, proposed a ” radical social democratic ” programme for Tony Blair’s Labour Party, with a strong dose of constitutional reform – apparently the key condition for  transforming the UK’s dominance by financial interests – as the answer to British economic difficulties. It drew support from a constituency that emerged at the end-tail of the ‘New Times’ politics of the disintegrating Democratic Left, the largest Eurocommunist tendency of the former  Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), some within the Trade Union Congress, and the liberal left. He has since sifted  through a variety of ever more diluted versions of these themes, ending up with a plea for “fairness” in Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society (2010), and others whose contents I defy anybody to remember anything about.

In the latest of the columnist’s band-wagon efforts his embrace of the glimmer of a new ‘progressive’ movement – it seems that Macron is keen on “social investment” is on very wobbly ground indeed.

Hutton rushes overboard to back the very measure which will raise the hackles of the French trade union majority – apart from the ‘negotiating reformists of the CFDT – ‘reform of the labour market’. This “loosening” of the Code du travail met with mass protests and strikes in 2016.

Will Macron’s priority for legislation in this area, apparently based on a (vaguely sketched) ‘Nordic Model’ though perhaps the ability to sack at will does not figure there, run into a similar storm?

The subject is not mentioned.

A Defeat for Populism?

Macron has been described as populist, in the sense that his idea of ‘progressive’ is ‘beyond left and right’ and is, well, popular. But there is little else to tie him to the debate about populism. He does not support the incarnation of the People in France, or pit the Nation’s sovereignty against Europe and Globalisation. He is not anti-pluralist, En Marche! does not promote  an exclusive form of identity, aim at actual or potential ‘occupancy’ of the state, the suppression of civil society and pluralism, or use any form of demagogy.

Macron’s policies on the European Union (pro, with the promotion of reform) and globalisation (pro- but moderated)  are anti-populist.

So how do we begin to come to grips with his politics?

Since the Referendum Campaign and the victory of Brexit, and Trump’s election, many commentators have talked up the ‘populist wave’.  David Goodhart (The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. 2017) talked of “values tribes”. The somewhere people – those rooted in a specific place or community –  were contrasted with the anywhere people, urban, socially liberal and university educated.

Macron’s party, with its strong support (up to 90% in Paris) in cities and amongst those with degrees, open minded on social issues, liberal on equal rights and  equality of opportunity is  anywhere placed and given a location. These French anywheres  have been beaten off the somewheres, the ‘periurban. the inhabitants of France’s ‘rust belt’ who voted for the Front National.

The constituency of En Marche!, one suspects, is less ‘socially liberal’ on policies  that cost money and taxes, real equality, or is social in the sense of engaging with the social struggles waged by trade unions.

The ‘freedom’ of the market come first.

But this is only the beginning of efforts to come to terms with Macron, and his party-movement.

The Basis For French Political Realignment. 

Thibault Muzergues (Le réalignement politique n’est pas vraiment idéologique, il est d’abord sociologique) fleshed out the sociology behind the changing French political scene.  First of all Muzergues  talks of “millennials“, white I find this claim goes against the observable pattern) , educated, frustrated at not finding a job, and one could add, at the cost of higher education, above all at the continued fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, austerity. They tend to back the radical left, Corbyn in the UK, Podemos in Spain, and La France Insoumise in the Hexagogne.

Then there is a “white minority”, the left behind, the inhabitants of the ‘rust belts’ in Europe (and the USA). They are the ‘losers’ of globalisation. They tend to back the Front National, supported Brexit, and, obviously, Trump.

Next is the  the “creative class”, the winners of globalization, cosmopolitan Bobos (bohemian bourgeois), from high-flyers to right-wing smug Hipsters (I add this latter bit off my own back) who are Macron’s constituency.

Finally, Muzergues sketches as those attached to their ‘somewheres’, “terroir’ et tradition’, They are the polar opposite of the Bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who like Macron. The “boubours” (bourgeois-bourrin, which comrade Google translates, as “philistine nag” and I would say something approaching Essex Man) are as much a part of this cohort as the French equivalent of Home Counties pious Tories. Unlike their British counterparts  included in their conservative values are the existing system of social protection (in France, and no doubt the UK – the Welfare state, notably for the elderly). These lean towards the classical right, Les Républicains onwards.

The game of identifying the constituencies in the new French political landscape will no doubt continue, with the addition of exploration of the largest body in this second round: the abstentionists, who included 4,2% who voted, blank or spoiled ballot papers.

For one person at least, Mélenchon  not voting was a form of “civic strike” “forme de grève civique) , a protest whsope negry can be deployed in futrue against Macron (France Culture)

But if Muzergues tends to work backwards, from the choices on the ballot, voting patterns, to constituencies, it is a better framework than the somewhere/anywhere couple. It  has the merit of outlining one group which appears distinct from the sterile distinction between populist salt of the earth anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation somewheres and the urbane creatives. The constituency of the millennials is an interesting one and has can be seen to have parallels elsewhere, in the United Kingdom and the basis of much support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to start with. A lot more needs to be added on the Front National, which I will postpone until the slew of  post-election books arrives.

End of Left and Right?

There has  clearly a game-changing series of changes in this election. Some argue that these new voting blocs are overshadowed by a profound transformations in French political topography.   This year’s elections have undermined the traditional blocs of left and right, as organised and  institutionalised parties, bodies with histories dating to the early years of the 20th century – Socialists, to the foundation of the  Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO, in 1905 – with origins still further back to the tumult and aftermath of the French Revolution.

An emerging political system which centres on personalities and their ‘movements‘ , as it is emerging in France, sidelining decades of a (complex) left-right party system, is without direct counterparts elsewhere. Even Italy, after the break up of the Communist Party, continues to cling to a  stem of organised parties, and the 5 Star movement looks well  past its peak.  (Pierre Rosanvallon : « L’élection de Macron redéfinit le clivage droite-gauche ». 17.6.17)

That the Parti Socialiste has managed to get 29 seats with a pitiful 5,68% of the vote, masks its own split between those who consider that they are “Macron compatible” and those hostile to him. One of them  Myriam El Khomri, in whose name the previous labour ‘reform’ was carried out, lost to the traditional right in the second round on Sunday. The Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, was also eliminated in the first round. As a sign of their divisions, Hamon then called for a vote for La France insoumise  in the constituency where his  PS rival, Manuel Valls, was standing.

Re-founding the Left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  La France insoumise (LFI) now has a parliamentary group. Apart from those primarily devoted to his own person it includes, François Ruffin, the author of the film Merci patron!, credited with inspiring the Nuit Debout movement, and Clémentine Autain, the independent minded spokesperson for the left alliance Ensemble (Législatives 2017 : La France insoumise de Mélenchon aura un groupe à l’Assemblée nationale.

How far they will fit in with the Left Populist leader’s plans to lead the People against the Oligarchy, and whether agreements can be reached with the 10 Communist deputies, pleased not to have erased from the electoral map, as once seemed possible (Législatives : le PCF retrouve quelques sièges historiquesremains to be seen.

Their priority will obviously be to defeat Macron’s plans to liberalise the labour market by weakening employees’ rights.

In the longer term many have called for a profound re-thinking of the basis on which the left has stood, and the future of all forms of socialism. (1)

Their debates will be of great interest to the whole European and international left.

As the ‘incarnation of the programme’ Mélenchon may not have to face people who might disagree with him inside his rally, La France Insoumise that Pablo Iglesias has found in  Podemos, or opponents of the statue of Íñigo Errejón.  But it may well be that he’ll find that he meets his equals in the new National Assembly, people who are more interested in this re-foundation of the left than in an individual’s plans for the French People.

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(1) The Parti Socialiste General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis in his resignation speech called for thoroughgoing change “La gauche doit tout changer, la forme comme le fond, ses idées comme ses organisations. La gauche doit ouvrir un nouveau cycle. Il s’agit de repenser les racines du progressisme, car ses deux piliers – l’État providence et l’extension continue des libertés – sont remis en cause. Il s’agit donc de repenser l’action publique, en mêlant principe d’efficacité et demande citoyenne. C’est le socle indispensable d’une nouvelle offre politique à gauche pour contrer à la fois le néolibéralisme et le nationalisme.”

More Information: France 24.

Record abstention

While Macron’s triumph paves the way for the sweeping reforms he has promised, it also comes with a number of important caveats, starting with the massive level of abstention that made it possible. For the first time in history, turnout in a legislative election has slumped to below 50%, in both rounds. On Sunday, a mere 43% of voters bothered to cast their ballots. This means the 42% of votes won by LREM candidates account for less than 20% of registered voters.

The record level of abstention underscored the widespread election fatigue accumulated over more than 12 months of non-stop campaigning, successive primaries, and a two-round presidential election. It also highlighted the imbalance inherent to France’s electoral system, in which legislative polls tend to be seen as a sideshow to the all-important presidential bout. With his hyper-personalisation of politics, Macron has dramatically increased this discrepancy.

Above all, the measly turnout reflected voters’ widespread disgust with the mainstream parties of right and left that have dominated French politics for decades. A few weeks ago, the conservative Les Républicains were still hoping to win a majority of seats. As results trickled in on Sunday, they were projected to win just 126, their lowest-ever tally. Reflecting on the debacle, their campaign leader François Baroin had little to offer, besides wishing Macron “good luck”.

Socialist wipe-out

As for the former ruling Socialists, they slumped to an all-time low of 29 seats. Last week saw the first-round exits of party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadélis and presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. More heavyweights fell on Sunday, including former education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who was seen as one of the party’s rising stars. As the scale of the defeat became obvious, Cambadélis announced his resignation, adding that “Macron’s triumph is uncontestable”.

Among the survivors from left and right, several have already pledged to support the “presidential majority”. They include former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, who saved his seat in the Essonne, south of Paris, by a mere 139 votes – and only because LREM chose not to field a candidate against him. His far-left opponent has challenged the result alleging voter fraud, and a recount is on the cards.

Indicative of the extraordinary realignment of French politics was a flashpoint contest in northern Paris, in which centrist Socialist candidate Myriam El Khomri enjoyed Macron’s support, while her conservative challenger Pierre-Yves Bournazel was backed by Macron’s prime minister. Victory went to the latter, marking a huge upset in a constituency that was once solidly left-wing.

Le Pen enters parliament

While LREM capitalised on the anti-establishment sentiment, other parties that had been hoping to ride the same wave fell way short of their objectives. It was notably the case of the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in last month’s presidential contest, which failed to translate its strong showing in presidential polls into a large parliamentary contingent.

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

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Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be ‘Savages’, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the ‘left’ La France Insoumise ‘calms down’ black children…

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‘Savages’, that is a word used by  Mélenchon, the hero of the left on Facebook and the subject of various fan articles in various anglophone ‘left’ journals like the oddly named Jacobin. He employed it to to ‘calm down’ a group of young ethnic minority children in Paris.

“Calm down, you look like barbarians. Once filmed you will look like savages. Your parents will not be happy with your behaviour . Back home now.

Calmez-vous, vous passez pour des barbares. On vous filme et après, vous passez pour des sauvages. Vos parents, ils ne seraient pas contents de vous voir faire ça. Tout le monde à la maison, maintenant.”

There are serious questions about the sanity and political judgement of the sovereigntist.

More here.

I need hardly emphasise what using the words ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’ mean about young black people ‘. They mean exactly the same in French as they do in English.

I pass by his following loony bins comments about Joan of Arc.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2017 at 11:46 am

Efforts by ‘left-wing’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon to Destroy French Communist Party.

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Image result for le front populaire

Mélenchon: Refuses Left Unity of the Front Populaire. 

Breaking news: la France insoumise refuses an electoral agreement with the French Communist Party.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon a écarté hier tout accord aux législatives. 

Entre la France insoumise et le PCF rien ne va plus. Même si les deux formations, qui ont appelé à voter Jean-Luc Mélenchon le 23 avril, affichent un même objectif pour la nouvelle campagne qui s’annonce : envoyer dans l’Hémicycle des députés capables de battre en brèche les projets du nouveau président. En 48 heures, les échanges en cours ont été interrompus. Après un communiqué de son directeur de campagne, la veille, annonçant la fin des discussions avec les communistes, Jean-Luc Mélenchon a confirmé, hier sur le plateau de BFMTV, deux faits marquants : sa propre candidature aux législatives à Marseille, et cette rupture des négociations avec le PCF. « Il n’y aura pas d’alliance avec le PS et le PCF. J’ai fait les gestes pour les rencontrer », a-t-il déclaré, renvoyant la responsabilité de cette décision aux communistes et à leur secrétaire national qui, selon le candidat, « ment » sur les raisons du blocage. Ce dernier, pour le coup, dément avoir rompu ces échanges et a appelé, hier, par médias interposés, à ce que « les négociations reprennent au plus vite. Pour une simple raison, a-t-il ajouté, c’est que l’enjeu des élections législatives, comme le dit lui-même Jean-Luc Mélenchon, c’est d’aller disputer une majorité qui n’est pas acquise aujourd’hui à Emmanuel Macron ».

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

Anti-Fascism Betrayed? The Left and the French Presidential Elections.

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Image result for front uni contre le fascisme

The End of the United Front Against Fascism?

The French Presidential Elections: Anti-Fascism Betrayed?

“qui’il n’y pas de hiérarchie dans l’inacceptable entre le Pen at Macron. Entre la xénophobie et la soumission aux banques.”

There is no difference of degree between the unacceptability of le Pen and Macron, between xenophobia and surrender to the banks.

Emmanuel Todd.

“Last year I wrote in the struggle against fascism the Communists were duty-bound to come to a practical agreement not only with the devil and his grandmother, but even with Grzesinski.”

Leon Trotsky. 1932. The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany.

The 2/3rds majority of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise who support abstention, or a blank vote, in the second round of the French Presidential elections is echoing across the hexagon’s already divided left. In Wednesday’s Le Monde Jean Birnbaum wrote of the burial of the “united front” spirit of anti-fascism (le 4 août de Mélenchon, ou l’antifascisme trahi). There are those who argue that not only is Macron beyond the pale, a banker, a globaliser with a sorry Ministerial record as a hard-liner pushing liberal labour reform, but that his election would prepare the way for a future Front National triumph. Hence ballot spoiling, blank votes, for abstention are the only possible choice in an election where there is no choice. Birnbaum argues that this, amid smaller (indeed, very small) leftist groups and some public intellectuals refusing to “takes sides”, shows that the  unity of the left against fascism, which has been a cornerstone of its politics since the mid-1930s, is breaking up.

This is not, then,  a debate about abstention as such. This position, a very old one on the French left, going back to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809 – 1865),  which argues for self-organising outside of Parliamentary institutions, is not at the centre of the debate. Alain Badiou early intervened in favour of a re-establishing a “communist vision” outside the “depoliticising” ceremony of the ballot box. Badiou’s recommendation not to vote because it only encourages them has not caught many people’s attention. (Alain Badiou. Voter renforce le conservatisme).

The Le Pen versus Macron duel has raised more serious issues. For Birnbaum, who has written on the blindness, if not indulgence, of a section of the left faced with Islamism (Un Silence Religieux. 2016 Review), some on the French left, many formed, like Mélenchon, from the Trotskyist tradition, have forgotten the need, which Trotsky (for all his acerbic attacks, and his loathing of the German Social Democrats, summed up in the figure of the Prussian Interior Minister, Grzesinski, demanded, faced with the prospect of Hitler’s rise, to defend democratic institutions.

No New Hitler.

It would be indecent to have to say that France today is far from the Weimar Republic. A new Hitler in power is not in prospect. There are no street battles between the Front National and the left. The FN does not offer a genocidal programme. Birnbaum’s argument that those who propose the view that Macron and Le Pen are politically twin-evils does not flag up the posthumous victory of the worst years of Stalinism, the Third Period. But, as many convincingly demonstrate the French far right is the vehicle for illiberal democracy. From leaving the Euro, Frexit, clamping down on immigration, including the expulsion of ‘suspect’ individuals, “national preference” (jobs first of all for French citizens), and tightening the borders, economically and socially, requires authority beyond normal Parliamentary democracy. The not-so-secret ambition of the extra-parliamentary wing of the far right, which would be emboldened by a FN victory, remains to fight the left violently, from the city pavements, civil society, education, and the workplace. (on this see the excellent: The Front National and fascism. Martin Thomas).

Yet Marine Le Pen’s party is, apparently, ‘normalised’. It is a refuge, Pierre-André Taguieff describes it, for those excluded by globalisation, a “pathological form of self-defence”, confronted with the erosion of nation states and the rule of elites. National-populism, he argues, reflects a “need” for identity and belonging. (La revanche du nationalisme. 2015)

There are doctors who claim to be treating this disorder. On the same page of le Monde, Henri Pena-Ruiz, Jean-Paul Scot and Bruno Streiff defend La France insoumise and refuse to be blackmailed into supporting Macron (Insoumis, osons penser librement!). They claim that their movement is at the forefront of the battle against the FN. On the one hand they have waged the “battle of ideas”, defending the role of immigrants n producing French national wealth, and the duty of “universal hospitality” to strangers advanced by Kant, a refusal to divide the world into “us” and “them”. On the other hand their “révolution citoyenne”, a 6th social, ecological and economic Republic, offers a message beyond short-term election battles. Federating the people, it can equally capture the best traditions of the left and those marginalised by globalisation.

Henri Pena-Ruiz has himself helped avoid faults that Birnbaum’s Un silence religieux attacked. That is the incapacity, mixed with an opportunistic eye to new recruits against ‘globalisation’ and ‘imperialism’, of some of the left confronted with Islamism. His Qu’est-ce que la laïcité? (2003) stands as a significant defence of secularism, and a rebuke to groups like the British Respect, and the Socialist Workers Party, who allied with the Islamic far-right.

Yet it does not help Mélenchon’s supporters that they choose to deny the accusation that they mirror 1930s sectarianism to cite the role of the German SPD in preparing the way for Hitler by, between 1924 and 1929, accepting a policy of austerity through their alliance with the centre (Catholic) party. This transparent attack on the Parti Socialiste, by Macron interposed, and its (mild) fiscal austerity indicates that in some way it holds  responsibility for the le Pen, and the far right. This is can easily be interpreted as indicating that the Macron ‘finance’ class are not only an enemy, but the real foe, beside which the Front National is a ‘diversion’.

Some readers may also consider that one could have done without the text’s references to their movement’s remarkable “intelligence collective”. Their is a feel of the courtier when they talk of the “honneur” of “non-guru” Mélenchon for organising a “consultation” of his supporters to know their views on voting in the second round. Others might wonder why there is no reference to the 15-16% of voters for this candidate in the first ballot that, polls indicate, who are ready to vote Le Pen on Sunday.

Populism and Sovereignty.

One problem remains. If those who refuse to ‘choose’ between Macron and Le Pen reflect a French debate, the underlying issues affect the left across the world. In Europe particularly ‘populism’ is not the preserve of the far right. Mélenchon’s intellectually ambitious advisers may look to Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s efforts to theorise contradictions between the “power bloc” and the “people”, and as the a handbook for constructing a force, filling the “empty signifier” of the People with a voice that articulates the needs and feelings of a broad constituency, against the ‘oligarchs’. In doing so their own demands for ‘national independence” to “produce French”, not to mention lyrical rhetoric about the French revolutionary tradition, or references to Kant’s universal principles of right, have been criticised as nationalist. Their ‘movement’, La France insoumise, which lacks any serious democratic structure, has claimed to be “beyond” traditional political divisions, while falling back into one of the most traditional oppositions of all: the Nation against the other Nations. If Macron represents economic liberal policies, for them he embodies something more: the Cosmopolitan European project. They have, in short, entered the orbit of Sovereigntism.

La France insoumise at an impasse.

After pursuing this path, Mélenchon and la France insoumise won a strong vote but a position as Number Four in the poll. They look less like a force that has abandoned the anti-fascist front, than a movement unable to offer anything more than continued protest. Instead of attempting, as Birnbaum and many others argue, to mobilise against Le Pen, for the unity of democrats against illiberalism, with the prospect of future social conflicts against Macron in mind, they are marching in disorder, a third abstaining a third voting blank and a third for the representative of ‘globalisation’, and their own “excluded” voters still set to back le Pen. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to gather together enough strength to gather together with those they now pour scorn upon to reach agreements on the left for the June legislative elections.

La France insoumise: 2/3rds of Mélenchon’s Supporters Will Abstain or Vote Blank in Choice between Far-Right and Macron.

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Charlie Hebdo on the “prats” who will Abstain or Vote Blank Faced with Le Pen. 

Two-thirds of far-left ‘Unsubmissive France’ movement to abstain or cast blank ballot in presidential run-off France 24.

This “consulatitve vote” – since La France insoumise is a rally, not a democratic party, is apparently intended only as an “Indication” of what activists think.

S’abstenir ou voter Macron ? Les militants de La France insoumise de Mélenchon optent aux deux tiers pour le vote blanc ou l’abstention

Nouvel Obs.

La France insoumise a dévoilé ce mardi après-midi le résultat de la consultation de ses militants sur la conduite à tenir au second tour, entre vote pour Emmanuel Macron, qui refuse toute concession à Jean-Luc Mélenchon, et abstention.

Seuls 243.128 militants sur les 430.000 inscrits de la plateforme internet La France insoumise se sont prononcés. La consultation s’est close mardi midi et leurs votes se répartissent ainsi : 36,12% appellent à voter blanc ou nul, 34,83% à voter Emmanuel Macron et 29,05% se disent favorables à une abstention. Le communiqué précise : “Il ne s’agissait pas de déterminer une consigne de vote mais d’organiser la prise de parole des insoumis.es au sujet de leurs choix de second tour.”

Only 243,128 activists out of the 430,000 who belong to the Web Network of the La France insoumise voted. The consultation closed on Tuesday at mid-day. The voting was as follows: 36,12% for a blank-spoiled ballot, 34,83% for Emmanuel Macron, and 28,05% said they backed abstention. The communique added, “It is not a question of deciding how we should vote, but to give a voice to the choices that the ‘insoumis’ will make in voting during the second round.

The choice of voting Marine Le Pen was not available during the consultation, although over 15-16% of voters for  Mélenchon in the first round may vote for the far-right in the second (BFMTV).

Libération comments that Mélenchon did not have the courage to take a clear stand because he knew how divided his ‘movement’ was, “On comprend mieux la distance de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, qui a refusé de se prononcer publiquement, de peur de perdre des militants en route.” ( la France insoumise est divisée.)

From the French Communists, the PCF, the reaction was not favourable.

Alors que Marine Le Pen est aux portes du pouvoir le résultat de la consultation de la France Insoumise n’est peut être qu’une photographie mais c’est une mauvaise nouvelle », a réagi sur Facebook Igor Zamichiei, secrétaire départemental du PCF à Paris et membre de l’exécutif national.

When Marine Le Pen is at the gates of Power the result of the consultation of la France insoumise is only a photo-shot, but it’s bad news, remarked on Facebook  Igor Zamichiei, the regional secretary of the PCF at Paris, and a member of the party’s National Executive.

Le Monde. 

More comment unfolding: that the vote indicates a state of mind in some circles on the French left (se Charlie cartoon above….)

This  contrasts with those more directly affected by Le Pen:

 

 

See also: 

Why we support Macron in the second round – op-ed in Le Monde (English original) and DiEM25 France in Mediapart YANIS VAROUFAKIS.

In today’s Le Monde I call upon French progressives to vote for Macron in the second round of France’s Presidential election. The article explains my recommendation to French voters and finishes off with the following promise to Emmanuel:

“I shall mobilise fully to help you beat Le Pen with the same strength that I shall be joining the next Nuit Debout to oppose your government when, and if, you, as President, attempt to continue with your dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism.”

For the full article, in the original English, can be read below. (See also DiEM25 France’s collective position published earlier in Mediapart.)

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Will not Vote Marine Le Pen, but Refuses to Say How he Will Vote.

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Image result for la france insoumise marseillaise

Marine Le Pen Launches Appeal to Patriotic Mélenchon supporters and their bleu-blanc-rouge flags. 

As the far-right gains support, the  sovereigntist, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Debout la France (4,7% of the vote in the first round),  announced his backing,

Dupont-Aignan, who garnered 4.7 percent of votes in the first round, said he would vote for Le Pen in the second-round ballot on May 7 and would immediately join her campaign.

“I will vote Marine Le Pen and I will support her;” he said in a prime-time interview on French television, denying she was a far-right politician.

He said he had signed an agreement on the future government with Le Pen, who would incorporate some of his policy proposals into her election platform.

Earlier in the day, Le Pen’s National Front announced it was removing Jean-François Jalkh as interim party chief.

He allegedly made questionable remarks about Nazi gas chambers during World War Two. He has denied the allegations.

France 24.

This is the latest, if elected she will nominate Dupont-Aignan as Prime Minister.

Si elle est élue présidente, Le Pen nommera Dupont-Aignan premier ministre.

Dupont-Aignan is a Sovereigntist, anti-immigrant, law and order fanatic who is anti-EU, anti-globalisation, anti-feminist,  pro-Assad, anti-Israel,  homophobic (see more: Wikipedia).

Some polls show Le Pen rising at  41 % to Macron’s 59 %.

41 % of voters for  Jean-Luc Mélenchon  will vote for Macron’s En Marche !, while 18% have said they will vote for Marine Le Pen. (Sondage. Marine Le Pen réduit l’écart avec Emmanuel Macron).

The  Man of Destiny Jean-Luc Mélenchon hath – finally – spoken.  In a Youtube his – hours late – broadcast the Number 4 candidate in the first round stated that will vote, but will not say for whom, “though one not need to be a great scholar (and a gentleman – I just added that bit) to guess what I will do.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon “Moi j’irai voter. (…) Ce que je vais voter, je ne vais pas le dire. Mais il n’y a pas besoin d’être grand clerc pour deviner ce que je vais faire.”

Nevertheless the high number of his voters (18%) who will cast their ballots for Marine le Pen lends force to the argument now gaining an audience that once he had adapted to nationalism – “sovereigntism” – it is easier for them to transfer their allegiance to the far right.

Marine Le Pen is appealing to his voters to support her against the ‘banker’ Macron and his free market policies (Marine Le Pen lance un appel aux électeurs de la France insoumise)She noted of his meetings that she was touched to see that red flags had been replaced by the French national flag and that the ‘beautiful’ Marseillaise has been sung by supporters of La France insoumise.

J’ai été comme vous sensible au fait que les drapeaux rouges aient été remplacés par les drapeaux bleu-blanc-rouge et que de belles marseillaise aient été entonnées par les partisans de la France insoumise», débute la candidate frontiste.

Further emboldened by his ambiguities she remarked today,

Marine Le Pen : “Comme Jean-Luc Mélenchon, je suis une Insoumise.

“Comme lui, je suis une Insoumise. Comme lui, je ne veux pas que Monsieur Macron soit élu président de la République car il porte une vision que je ne partage pas, et qui est rejetée par notre électorat. À savoir : transformer la France en une salle de marché.”

Like him I am an Insoumise. Like him I do not want Mr Macron to be elected as President of the Republic because he bears a vision that I do not share, that is rejected by our voters. That is, he wishes to make France into a marketplace.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 29, 2017 at 11:25 am