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Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Is the French Presidential Election Going Back to the 1930s?

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According to an opinion poll yesterday, one French person out of three supports the ideas of the Front National (Un Français sur trois en accord avec les idées du Front national). In survey after survey around 40% of workers who intend to vote back the FN. Amongst this “électorat populaire” 31% of those in council housing back the far-right, as do 30% of office employees. A majority of young people say they will vote for Marine le Pen (Here,there are many studies with roughly the same result).

With François Fillon clinging to his presidential ambitions, organising mass rallies of his remaining supporters, Le Monde has accused him of adopting a “populist” defence against all-comers, screaming about “political assassination” “lynching” and hinting at plots against him. He has talked of a “coup d’Etat des juges“.

Some are already drawing comparisons with the 1930s. The traditional political parties are discredited. As Laurent Joffrin writes in Libération, reviewing the book pictured above (“c’est le retour au terroir, aux traditions, à l’exaltation nationale qui l’emporte dans des opinions déboussolées.”) “with the loss of certainty,   it’s a return to the native soil, to tradition, to exalting the Nation…” that is carrying the day in public opinion.

It appears that there are parallels with the 1930s. Both are marked by nationalist propaganda, poverty and mass unemployment in the rich countries, doubts about values, intellectuals joining extreme parties, nostalgia for national grandeur, the simplistic slogans of populist agitators, and the phantom of a deathly spiral which is leading people to the abyss.

As Joffrin points out the comparison has its limits. France has experienced an unprecedented level of Jihadist violence. One only has to read Gilles Kepel’s La Fracture (2016) to see that  the brutal acts of Islamist terror   have reinforced  the far-right, from the Front National  to a host of linked “groupes identitaires.” But horrific as these atrocities are, from Charlie, the Hyper Cacher, Bataclan to Nice, passing by many other incidents, the degree of violence in Europe remains low. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.

Think about it.

Nevertheless some are so swept up in the mood that they are calling for a vote for Emmanuel Macron to block the route to Marine Le Pen, from the first round of the Presidential election onwards. 

While the right of the Parti Socialiste may need little encouragement to back Marcon against their own party’s candidate  Benoît Hamon (Bertrand Delanoë l’annonce de son ralliement à Emmanuel Macronthis call from a prominent figure on the radical left and President of the important territorial coordinating structure next to  Paris, Plaine Commune is more surprising:

Patrick Braouezec : « Je voterai pour Emmanuel Macron »

Braouezec bases his decision on the need to unite against the right and the extreme right. He nevertheless asks people to cast their ballots for the Parti Communiste Français and the Front de gauche – and notably not Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France Insoumise – in the 1th and 18th legislative elections.

The language used recalls the first paragraphs of this post. This alliance of  all “progressives” is the only rampart against Barbarism. “le seul rempart à la barbarie »(/ Braouezec choisit Macron)

Patrick Braouezec is a former Communist (PCF) and Mayor of the famous Communist district (a city in its own right), just next to Paris, Saint Denis, from 1991 to 2004. He was often in conflict with his party’s leadership. As one of the dissident “”refondateurs he backed the Green candidacy of José Bové against his own party’s   Marie-George Buffet  in 2007. From 2010  he has been a supporter of the Front de Gauche (FG) initially as a member of the network,  Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique.

Described in the past, by the unimpressed on his own side, as “incontrôlable” Braouezec is still well-regarded enough to maintain, as noted, an important elected position.

This is one possible result of the Pro-Macron moves:

Harris Interactive poll shows Macron one percentage point ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round.

Update: Socialist Party activists call for elected members of the party who back Macron to give up their membership.

Another issue is the predicted record abstention:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France Insoumise: From Universalist Nation to “Interplanetary Missions”.

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Wits Suggest Tintin, Captain Haddock and Milou Go Mélenchon.

L’avenir en Commun. Le programme de la France insoumise et son candidat, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  Seuil. December 2016.

A critical overview. 

This programme, for the 2017 French Presidential elections and for the legislative elections that follow them, addresses the state of France,  “note pays”; our country is call to action. Ecological issues, the land’s social disasters (unemployment, poverty and ethnic and religious divisions, ‘communautarismes’) are, writes Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Introduction, are three aspects of the same reality, “We are suffocating under the rule of Finance.” Finance governs the world. Its greed, and the free-market, are destroying human beings and the planet.

For the candidate of La France insoumise the priority is to give power to the people (“donner le pouvoir, tout le Pouvoir, au peuple’). Mélenchon calls for an assembly, made up of those who have never before been elected to Parliament, to write a new constitution that will replace the “monarchie présidentielle”.  With “ecological planning” a new model will be created. France will become a “universalist nation” (nation universaliste), conquering its “independence”, outside of NATO, acting to create a new alter-globalisation” alliance of the world’s peoples.  France will bring a special contribution to green maritime development, to space exploration, and information technology.

Down with the Oligarchy!

The programme begins by observing that citizens’ power is thwarted in the present French “oligarchy”, “collusion between politics and finance”, run by a “caste of the privileged”. It proposes a series of measures to stem corruption, to end the connivance between politicians and business, and the influence of lobbyists. The Universalist republic will defend an open approach to French nationality, oppose racism and all forms of discrimination, and abolish “state and social patriarchy”, including the abolition of prostitution (“abolir la prostitution”, this claim is made on Page 29).

The platform calls for new citizens’ initiatives, referenda, rights to recall of MPs, guarantees of media pluralism, he constitutional embodiment of the rights of people at work, protecting common property, “air, water, food, health, energy, the means of life, the currency (..) Lowering the voting age to 16, la France insoumise, an obligatory “ service citoyen” for the under 25s, paid at the minimum wage, for nine months.

Particular attention is paid to France’s overseas territories, whose equality will be established. They will become  “pilots” of the ecological planning and the “économie de mer” and development.

L’avenir en Commun promises to out an end to the economic  “pillaging” of the Nation (capital letter in original, Page 45). Not only are privatisations and ‘public-private’ partnerships targeted, but the effects of social dumping. In “défense de notre souveraineté industrielle”, “protectionnisme solidaire” is proposed. Trade agreements have to be revised and other measures taken to project social rights and employment, against multinationals and international finance. Production must be re-localised. To fight against unemployment there will be investment in green infrastructure projects…

Fiscal Revolution. 

The programme has drawn particular attention for its “révolution fiscale” and other ideas in the industrial/economic field (a more detailed account here) A rise in the minimum wage (16%) parallels a maximum salary for company bosses, on a ratio of 1 to 20 of the lowest wage, restrictions of redundancies, and a return to the contract protection pre-Loi Khomri are amongst measures proposed. There are plans to restore retirement at 60, a continued reduction of the working week and increased holidays, and a wish to ‘eliminate poverty’.

Critics focus on the cost, the slight of hand by which spending is transformed into a way cost-free boosting the economy (without major tax rises on the ordinary person or indeed much directly on most businesses). Others ask how the economy is going to be radically transformed by government legislation. There is no mention of independent working class or social movement initiatives outside of thee political framework of the new 6th Republic…..

Dead Europe.

Mélenchon prefaces the section on Europe by asserting that the “Europe of our dreams is dead”. The present European Union has become reduced to a single market in which people are submitted to the rule of the banks and finance. Our “indépendance d’action et la souveraineté de nos décisions” must not be subjected to the ideological obsessions of the Commission which have led to this anti-democratic impasse.

La France insoumise intends to renegotiate existing European Treaties. In Plan A it is proposed, amongst other measures, to end the independence of the Central European Bank, devaluation of the Euro, a halt to extending market mechanisms to public services (railways, energy and telecommunications), and a European conference to settle member states’ debts. If this fails, Plan B, a halt to French contributions to the EU budget, and for the Banque de France to take back monetary control and prepare the way for an alternative monetary system to the Euro.

What will happen if they try all of this, draw back to the Franc and there is a financial crisis of staggering proportions,  and fail is not explained.

French Independence.

Keen to assert the “indépendence” of France in the world, the platform, as cited, envisages leaving NATO, but also the IMF and the World Bank. Asylum will be offered to freedom fighters (“combattants de la liberté”) such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Page 89). In place of the existing military alliance, which drags European states behind the USA, France will be able to defend herself and act freely. In this sense a “coalition universelle”, under UN mandated, to eradicate Daesh in Syria, has a part to play in establishing peace in that land, with free elections and a negotiated end to the civil war. The programme wishes to continue to support the ‘two states’ solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict.

Needless to say the idea of France, a country a pillar of the international economic and military system, with a heavy colonial past, is an odd place to claim ‘independence’ for.

There are many other measures in L’avenir en commun, on international co-operation to resolve the underlying causes of the different migration crises, for durable development, employees’ rights, a re-affirmation of secularist principles  (laïcité), opening up education, and a ideas on health issues. The document includes a including a proposition to legalise within regulated structures, cannabis.

The People….

In contrast to traditional left wing programmes there are no proposals for large-scale nationalisations. Economic strategy, apart from its green and social inflection, is centred on affirming production in France. The ‘sovereignty’ of the People as translated into a Sixth Republic, with the “transition écologique, are at the core of L’avenir en commun, ideas which also stand out from past radical left platforms, which have affirmed the central importance of the labour movement, or the working class and oppressed.

In constructing the ‘figure of the People’, Mélenchon and his allies, appear to have much in common with the mid-19th century “internationalist republicans”. Their goal, of national independence and sovereignty, now stamped with green and social measures and mobilised to confront the rule of the “political caste” ‘finance’, EU Treaties, and the Commission (not capitalism as such), raises many questions. If La France insoumise ever swept the “oligarchy” from the Republic, how they could ever bridge the gap between their  ‘universal’ aspirations, those in France who oppose their plans for the People, and those of other Peoples.

Interplanetary Missions. 

In the final chapter, La France aux Frontières de l’Humanité a sketch of some of the features of a “nouvelle ère” of international co-operation is offered. It only increases the suspicion that this programme is marked by national messianism. Space-exploration, including a European-Russian Moon Base, support for a publicly owned Arianespace, and interplanetary missions, including to Mars, feature prominently. The development of France’s role as a “maritime power”, creating 300,000 jobs, in such areas a aquaculture and the French merchant navy, as well as the French role in robot and information technology, are some of the ideas for a people with a “special and passionate responsibility” (une responsabilité particulière et enthousiasmante!” (Page 119).

Tintin, Captain Haddock and Milou are raring to go….

The Posadist vote is guaranteed!

Mille sabords!

For France, for Mélenchon and Human Civilisation!

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English summary here.

Update: Polls (which are in a complete state of flux in France at the moment…..)>

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm

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

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Virtual Mélenchon.

Reuters reports (Sunday),

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

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

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

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

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

Mélenchon:

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

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

Of Hamon:

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

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

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

Another Adieu au Prolétariat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizen-Movement and the Leader.

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

Momentum for Left Unity with Benoît Hamon grows on French left.

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Hearts Beating on French  Left as New Hope Rises.

A few weeks ago commentators were seriously contemplating that  the French Parti Socialiste would reduced to near electoral oblivion in the April May Presidential elections.

Now Opinion Polls give newly elected candidate Benoît Hamon between 16 to 17 %.

From a position as the leading candidate of the Left Jean-Luc Mélenchon has gone from 15% to below 10% and looks like slipping further. (Les Echos)

The Parti Socialiste contender is still 6 points behind the pro-business centre-left Emmanuel Macron.

But with the mainstream right candidate, François Fillon flaying around in all directions in response to one of the biggest fraud scandals to have hit French Presidential candidates, Hamon is a mere 3 points lower than the champion of Les Républicains.

These polls, and the open minded forward looking left-green programme offered by Hamon, have had their effect.

First there is this call today from the Green (Europe Écologie – Les Verts, EELV ) candidate: Yannick Jadot.

Jadot has called  for a dialogue to create a “common project”

Présidentielle 2017 : Jadot veut construire un “projet commun” avec Hamon. Le candidat à la présidentielle a adressé une lettre à ses militants où il explique qu’un dialogue doit être entamé.

Second, the leader of the French Communist Party, Pierre Laurent, has declared that a “grand alliance” of the whole left, is “not impossible”.

Le patron du PCF soutient toujours Mélenchon mais, après la victoire de Benoît Hamon, n’abandonne pas l’idée d’un nouveau contrat majoritaire à gauche.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the Rally, La France Insoumise, has so far demanded that Hamon chooses between supporting those Socialist party representatives that Mélenchon disagrees with, and….Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Jean-Luc Mélenchon demande à Benoît Hamon de choisir « entre eux et nous »)

French Communists and Mélenchon Tear Each Other Apart

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French Communists Called to Submit to the Insoumises.

This year will not only see a Presidential election in France.

Following the results in May there will be elections on the 11 and 18 June for the French legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies

Not only is the French Left divided between the Parti Socaliste and the rest (including Greens), but the radical left is itself split.

Last February Jean-Luc Mélenchon decided, with the backing of his political club, the Parti de Gauche, that he would stand for president. Nobody else was consulted.

He launched La France Insoumise last year. This organisation calls itself a “citizens’ movement”. It is not a party. Anybody can join, membership is free. At the grassroots, the “groupes d’appui” (in form similar to Podemos’ ‘circles’ but with no policy making power) can operate, that is to build support,  as they see fit. Its programme was voted on through the Internet with 77,038 people taking part.  What is not up for voting is the leadership and candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Being a member is to identify with the “démarche de Jean-Luc Mélenchon.”

He stands at present at around 14% in the polls. If he may get more support in the ballot box than the enfeebled Socialists, he has little chance of getting to the Second Round of the Presidential election.

This is the general framework for the programme of La France Insoumise.

They stand for a

Sixth Republic; re-distribution of wealth; environmental planning; withdrawal from European treaties; peace and independence; human progress; and “on the borders of humanity” (ocean, space and digital).

Ten leading measures were agreed on in the on-line consultation and a following convention,

Quelque 11 362 votants, signataires de la plateforme jlm2017, ont sélectionné dix propositions pour en faire les principaux axes de leur campagne. « Refuser les traités de libre-échange, Tafta, Ceta et Tisa » est arrivé en tête (48 %), suivi de l’« abrogation de la loi El Khomri » (43,5 %), de la « règle verte » (38,5 %), de la « refondation » de l’Europe et son « plan B » (38 %), de la transition énergétique et la sortie du nucléaire (36 %), de la révocation des élus (35,5 %), du référendum constituant (35 %),de la « protection des biens communs » comme l’air,l’eau, l’alimentation, le vivant, la santé, l’énergie, la monnaie (33,5 %), de la « séparation des banques d’affaires et de détail » et d’un « pôle public bancaire » (31,5 %), et du Smic à 1 300 euros net et la hausse des salaires des fonctionnaires (28 %).

Opposition to free-trade treaties, annulment of the recent labour law reforms (loi El Khomri), a green ‘rule’ (ecological guidelines) , “refounding Europe” (changing the basis of existing Treaties), opposition to Nuclear power and its phased withdrawal, laws to allow MPs to be recalled, legislation to allow popular referendums,  protection of common property, from air, water, life (a reference to ownership of genetic material) food, health, energy, to the currency (??? – give up on that one), break up of direct ties between banks and business, creation of a publicly owned leading bank, a rise of the minimum wage to 1,300 Euros, and a rise in public sector wages.

La France insoumise détaille son projet et son calendrier

This Rally, called by its supporters a ‘movement’, has effectively ended the previous united front of parties to the left of the Socialists.

Mélenchon is now pursing a ruthless strategy for the legislative elections.

As Libération reports today the Communists are not taking his behaviour without hitting back:  Législatives : le Parti communiste se rebiffe face aux injonctions de Mélenchon.

Parfois alliés, parfois opposés, les deux partis de gauche se déchirent sur les investitures des législatives pour lesquelles la France insoumise entend dicter ses conditions.

Sometimes allies, sometimes opponents, the two parties of the left are tearing each other apart over the legislative elections la France insoumise wishes to impose its will.

La France Insoumise has decided to present candidates in every constituency  without bothering to seek agreement with  left parties.

To summarise: France insoumise has decided to stand a candidate in each constituency. This means it is prepared to present candidates against the communists. The latter have voted (by a small majority it’s true) to support Mélenchon in the presidential election. No matter. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has asked the Communist candidates – and all those who wish to ally themselves with him – to sign his “charter”. And to give money to his rally. ANd to follow his group’s wishes on where they may or may not stand.

Without going further into the details there are violent rows about particular constituencies, where Mélenchon is prepared to let the right win if the Communists do not agree to his diktat.

Mélenchon is in fact to the right of the French Communist Party on many issues, notably his approval of Russian intervention in Syria (Comment M. Mélenchon nie le peuple de Syrie et ses droits. le Monde)

He is noted for his intemperate comments (Décidément, Mélenchon est incorrigible! 26 November 2016).

The Candidate of La France Insoumise models himself on the ‘populist’ aspect of Podemos. But he has gone further in the populist direction by making nationalist appeals against the European Union in general, and Germany in particular not to mention talk about “les anglo-saxons”.

One can understand why the French Communists are wary of him.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Fillon, Le Pen: Right wing Plague or Right-wing Cholera.

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French Far-Right Hesitates between Marine le Pen and François Fillon.

France 24 reports,

By overwhelmingly backing former prime minister François Fillon, voters in the primary held by France’s centre-right on Sunday opted for an economically liberal, socially conservative candidate whose vision for France leaves little ambiguity.

Any hope rival primary candidate Alain Juppé had of springing a surprise in the Les Républicains party run-off vote failed to come to fruition, with Fillon taking some 66.5 percent of the vote. If Fillon’s strong performance in the first round of voting could be in part attributed to voters merely wanting to shut out Nicolas Sarkozy, his landslide victory over Juppé on Sunday left little room for doubt: Fillon’s firmly right-wing platform had won the firm backing of the conservative electorate.

The “fight between one project and another”, as the more moderate, centrist Juppé had called his showdown with Fillon, had been decided. Despite attacks by Juppé between the two rounds of voting that had depicted him as both “ultra conservative” and “ultra liberal” economically, Fillon had clearly prevailed.

The Guardian columnist    comments,

The Front National leader has reason to fear the Republican candidate, whose views overlap with some of her key ideas.

..

The Front National has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and “the Christian roots of France”, his emphasis on French national identity, “sovereignty” and “patriotism”, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as a pro-Putin foreign agenda against “American imperialism” all overlap with some of Le Pen’s key ideas.

This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Le Pen’s most socially conservative voters, particularly rightwing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain sceptical about the Front National.

“Fillon presents us with a strategy problem, he’s the most dangerous [candidate] for the Front National,” Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the Catholic and socially conservative Front National MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, told journalists this week.

..

Despite Fillon’s hardline rightwing stances, he is not a populist. “He’s closer to [the former British prime minister] David Cameron than [the Ukip leader] Nigel Farage,” said Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the French far right.

This leaves Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon’s jugular as she fights a campaign centred on “the people versus the elite”. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as a snobbish, political has-been. It argues thatFillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalised elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.

The battle will largely focus on economic policy. Fillon has promised a “radical shock” for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the “forgotten” French underclass and has an economic line that is essentially leftwing: she is anti-globalisation and favours protectionism and state intervention. Le Pen’s campaign director, David Rachline, has called Fillon’s programme “economically insane” for wanting to slash 500,000 public sector jobs.

Le Pen’s advisers believe Fillon will struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs. The Front National has slammed Fillon as a symbol of lawless, ultra-free market, globalised capitalism. Fillon, in return, says Le Pen’s economic project is simply “a cut and paste of the extreme left”.

Some on the French far-right are already moving towards backing Fillon (Le conservatisme affiché de François Fillon séduit à l’extrême droite).

Has the French left any chance?

The Socialists continue to hover between indecision and hesitancy.

This weekend the French Communist Party (PCF)  voted to back Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential bid (Finalement, les communistes soutiennent… Mélenchon. Libération). They supported his candidacy under the banner of la France insoumise  by a slim, at 53,6% for, majority. It is obvious that there was little chance of a the Communists being able to launch their own Presidential challenge. The Party announced its intention of launching their own campaign in support his proposals against austerity. They do not intend to give him ‘carte blanche’ (un blanc-seing).

This follows the decision of the other component of the (now effectively  defunct) Front de gauche, Ensemble, to back Mélenchon, Communiqué du Collectif National d’Ensemble des 19 et 20 novembre 2016)

 That Mélenchon  looks potentially capable of beating a Socialist candidate into fourth place no doubt counts in his favour – although no poll gives him a chance of getting to the run-off.

The reasons for the PCF’s reservations – shared no doubt by many in Ensemble, are not hard to find. Beginning with the personality of the Man of Destiny.

We nevertheless cite a major source of difference which, given the importance of the issue of immigration in the coming contest,  will no doubt grow in importance

 has noted (Guardian),

Despite a steady increase in Euroscepticism in France, the underlying principle of free movement of people across the EU remains broadly undisputed. Apart from in one telling area. There is growing evidence of opposition towards EU migrants and the notion of freedom in what has become known as “social dumping”. This relates to “posted workers”, employees sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. Those EU workers do not integrate in the labour market in which they work.

 Hence, “social dumping”, where foreign service providers undercut local service providers because their labour standards are lower (in terms of pay and social protection). Interestingly, the most staggering attack against posted workers has come not from the far right, as one would expect, but from the radical left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an MEP, a presidential candidate in 2012 and running again in 2017, has singled out posted workers in a speech at the European parliament last July. He declared that “posted workers took the bread out of French workers’ mouths”. Part of the French left was stunned by words that could have easily been uttered by Marine Le Pen.

Meanwhile Jean-Luc Mélenchon  has insulted yet another section of the left. He has attacked the journalist and Latin American specialist  Paulo Paranagua with a series of allegations about his political past in Argentina.  The journalist, the Presidential hopeful  raved, had been objectively Muse of the CIA – no doubt the reason he was captured and tortured for his association with armed resistance to  the 1970s military regimes of the time. Paranagua was only released from an Argentinian gaol and deported to France after an international campaign in his defence.

A protest at these slanders has been launched: “Nous n’acceptons pas de voir notre passé commun insulté par J.L. Mélenchon“. Signatures  include Alain Krivine..

Update, Post Primary Opinion Poll:

None of the left gets more than 13% in opinion polls, Fillon, 26% Marine Le Pen (24%) Emmanuel Macron – Centre (14%) et Jean-Luc Mélenchon (13%), t François Hollande9%, François Bayrou, Centre, à 6%. Ecologists Yannick Jadot and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 3% Far-left Nathalie Arthaud et Philippe Poutou 1% – poll today l’Express.

French Communist Party ‘Cadres’ Say “Non” to Backing Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential Candidacy.

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The Era of the People: Without the PCF? 

Le Parti communiste dit non à Jean-Luc Mélenchon reports Libération.

The hard choice before the assembled ‘cadres’ of the French Communist Party, (PCF) at their National Conference, was between Jean- Luc Mélenchon or a Communist . Pierre Laurent, PCF National Secretary voted for the first option. André Chassaigne, MP and potential presidential candidate, backed the second. The 535 delegates, mandated by their PCF federations, cast their ballots 55, 7% for the ‘internal candidate”. The final decision will be put to the whole membership at the end of November.

The defeat of the PCF leadership’s recommendation is extremely unusual.

But hostility to the leader of the Parti de gauche and owner of his supporters’ ‘movement’, La France Insoumise, ran high. ” Some present declared, “je ne soutiendrai jamais Mélenchon»«je n’aime pas la France Insoumise».”, I will never support Mélenchon” or “I don’t like La France Insoumise”. Those who backed voting for him argued that it was “political choice” (that is, there being no other candidate to the left of the Socialists who is visible in opinion polls). To which one delegate replied, “Le refus de soutenir de Jean-Luc est dû à son glissement au niveau des idées, pas sur sa personne. Le cœur du parti n’est pas d’accord avec son positionnement politique.” Refusing to support Jean-Luc is due to his shift in his ideas, not about the individual. The heart of the Party is not in agreement with his political position.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who refuses to meet Pierre Laurent, has made a show of ignoring this decision.

The same story lead the morning news bulletin on France-Inter this morning (Le PCF ne soutiendra pas Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

From the outside one can observe that there are plenty of people around who certainly do not like the Man of Destiny, as an individual, a politician, as well as heartily disagreeing with his present politics.

A review by Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières of Mélenchon’s newly published le Choix de l’insoumission in Le Monde (31. 10.16)  is a useful introduction to how many on the left feel about the self-proclaimed Presidential candidate.

Desmoulières describes Mélenchon’s background in the ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyist Organisation communiste internationaliste – a big black mark to start with. The leader of La France Insoumise expressed adulation of Francois Mitterrand, described as a “guide” and Le Vieux’ (a term normally used in these circles for….Trotsky) , and his uncritical enthusiasm for Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. It mentions that Mélenchon remains a Freemason (the lambertist leader Pierre Boussel, generally known by his ‘party name’  Pierre Lambert was staunch Freemason)

These aspects of  Mélenchon are not universally admired.

This is La France Insoumise’s ‘Projet’ which gives further reasons not to admire him.

It begins with the words, ” l’ère du peuple” “doit commencer ” – the era of the people must begin. This “citizens’ revolution” must overthrow the ” l’oligarchie financière et de la caste” – the financial oligarchy and the elite (caste, directly borrowed from Podemos, has as little resonance in French as it does in English).

It  promises to share the wealth of the country, to  transform the taxation system, and “Protégeons de la finance les salariés et la production en France. ” Protect wage-earners and production in France (my emphasis)  from Finance”.

It proposes “ecological planning”.

The ‘project’ proposes to leave European Treaties that impose on us ( nous) austerity, and the affirmation of “la souveraineté” against the decisions of the EU Commission.

We (nous) must be freed from following “des folies impériales des États-Unis et de leur outil de tutelle militaire : l’OTAN” the imperialist follies of the USA and their tool of military subordination, NATO. Our (Notre) anchor must be with the Mediterranean peoples and the Francophone countries of Africa. 

There are words about “progrès humains” (human progress) and “autres modèles de vie ” (other models for living).

Anybody who has got this far is in for a treat: the conclusion,

Je connais aussi la force d’entrainement des grands enthousiasmes collectifs. La France est le deuxième territoire maritime du monde, et la deuxième nation pour la cotisation individuelle à la conquête de l’espace ! Voilà qui fait de nous un peuple qui a une responsabilité particulière, enthousiasmante, aux frontières de l’humanité ! Ici se trouvent deux immenses gisements d’emplois, d’inventions et de progrès écologiques pour la France et la civilisation humaine.

I also know the power that great collective enthusiasm can bring in its wake. France is the second largest maritime territory in the world, the second nation, per individual contribution, in the conquest of space! This has made of us a people with a special responsibility,  enthusiastic, at the  cutting edge of  humanity (1). Here one can find two massive sources of employment, inventions, and ecological progress, for France and for human civilisation.

(1) I justify this somewhat free, though equally lyrical,  translation by reference to the text linked to, “Comment porter la France aux avant-postes de l’Humanité ?

The programme of La France Insoumise is clearly ‘populist’. Whether it is ‘left’ is up for the ‘people’ to judge.

Le Projet focuses on an ‘elite’, a fusion between finance, politicians – in  short, ‘them’. It has no reference to class struggle arising in production and distribution. It rests on a picture of a world in which exploitation and bad social conditions are the result of malevolent decisions by this upper crust, and foreigners, beginning with the EU, and extending, O so extending, to the US. Once rid of that lot, and “we”, the “special” people of France, will no doubt colonise the Moon…

A more comprehensive demolition of this approach, which begins with the basis of a new movement to answer the crisis of the “party-form”, extends to the dropping of the working class as a reference and its replacement by the ‘people’ and ends with the personalisation of the France Insoumise project around the Leader (“la nécessité d’une incarnation personnelle du processus) si given by   Samy Johsua in « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?

All I can say after that is, yuk!

In Le Monde today Election présidentielle : la Conférence nationale du PCF refuse de se rallier à Jean-Luc Mélenchon continues the saga.

After outlining the above vote, Desmoulières speculates that the PCF may support the Socialist candidacy of Arnaud Montebourg, a contender in the PS’s ‘primary’ selection process to designate their own candidate. Above all he notes that this decision marks a definitive divorce between the PCF and  Mélenchon.

Some might say, echoing the PCF delegates, from the outside, about time!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm