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Open Letter to Jacobin and Monthly Review: Stop Racist and Misogynist Attacks on the Emergent Indigenous, Eco-Feminist Left in Latin America, and Address the Crisis in Today’s Ecuador.

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Members of Indigenous communities and supporters of Ecuador's presidential candidate Yaku Perez march in Quito on February 23 [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

Members of Indigenous communities and supporters of Ecuador’s presidential candidate Yaku Perez march in Quito on February 23 [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

This is an important statement with wide implications. As the letter states, “We are concerned that a significant number of today’s left-wing actors, across the Americas and the world, align themselves with extractivism, agrobusiness, authoritarian statism, [10] and stand against Indigenous, anti-racist, and anti-patriarchal movements, ideas, and leaders. We worry that the former is acting to eject the latter from the conversation by labelling them as right-wingers and allies of imperialism. We should not be distracted from the wave of violent, ultra-racist “populism,” and military and parliamentary coups that have swept the region in the past years.”

In other words, this is not just about North American left wingers’ positions on central or southern America, or about Ecuador in particular. It is about a widespread confusion about the new forms of neoliberalism and national populisms now taking shape,. It raises issues about emerging social movements, that support green politics. It hardly needs underlining that left populism, the Bolivarian Revolution, has spectacularly failed.

Signalled on the Marx Mail list, and  (via DM) on Twitter, it is an important correction to the reports about Ecuador, in a wider range of left wing journals, and other places, such as the Morning Star. It is also a reminder that the left has not yet done with populism, a sign perhaps of special importance to signers such as Éric Fassin. (Populisme : le grand ressentiment. 2017).  Jacobin is widely read in the USA and has long identified with forms of populism, often pushing support for figures in Europe such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The longstanding Monthly Review is a much more respected left wing journal with in-depth articles in the broad Marxist tradition.

Stop Racist and Misogynist Attacks on the Emergent Indigenous, Eco-Feminist Left in Latin America, and Address the Crisis in Today’s Ecuador

We, the signatories of this letter, have to come together to demand the retraction or clarification of two recent articles that smear political movements and leaders in Ecuador. The gains of Yaku Pérez and the coalition around the Pachakutik party in the 7 February 2021 elections represent an exciting and emergent new left comprised of Indigenous organizations, eco-socialist politics, feminist and LGBTQ+ activists, anti-racist movements, and anti-extractivist causes. On 24 February 2021, these movements came together in the streets of Ecuador, to demand that every vote be counted. Silencing and discrediting Ecuadoran voices as well as new popular movements—while demanding fealty to state capitalist leaders associated with the extractivist “left” in Ecuador and across the region—must end. Ben Norton’s “How Ecuador’s US-backed, coup-supporting ‘ecosocialist’ candidate Yaku Pérez aids the right-wing,” (republished by the Monthly Review on 8 February 2021) [1] and Denis Rogatyuk’s “Ecuador’s Election Was a Massive Repudiation of Neoliberalism” (published in Jacobin Magazine on 18 February)[2] do not reflect the traditions of Monthly Review—the “longest continuously published socialist magazine in the United States.” [3] Both articles contradict Jacobin’s founders goal to develop a “product of a younger generation not quite as tied to the Cold War paradigms that sustained the old leftist intellectual milieu.” [4] The editors’ openness to new generations is at odds with the sustained offensive against a new Indigenous eco-socialist and feminist political left in Latin America.

Rogatyuk’s article in Jacobin condemns the eco-socialist candidate Pérez and his partner, Manuela Picq, pointing out they “have for years attempted to portray Correa as an anti-Indigenous, anti-environment leader that pursues an ‘extractivist’ model of development.” Yes, they have, as have most independent social scientists who have looked at the wreckage of the Correa legacy. [5] There is a vibrant, Indigenous, and youth-led coalition of leftists who have critiqued Correa’s misuse of “el buen vivir” principles in his policies. These policies nourished new extractive industries. Under Correa, the state criminalized Indigenous groups,[6] LGBTQ+ populations, and exploited new mining resources and areas such as Yasuní.[7] Rogatyuk mocks the new left in Ecuador as a “ragbag” and “surreal” group who “absurdly” make claims about the partiality of electoral commissions. Rogatyuk overlooks the extensive and historic struggles of Indigenous identity, genocide and sovereignty, as well as the multiple battles against extractivism and ecological devastation, gendered injustices, political/social misogyny, [8] and homophobia. The article wilfully ignores the organizational and social momentum and innovation that fuelled Pérez’s electoral success. It ignores these movements’ critiques of extractivist statism and monolithic personalism. Rogatyuk suggested that “Pérez’s political record suggests he is a Trojan horse for the left’s most bitter enemies.”

Similarly, Norton’s Monthly Review article disdainfully dismisses environmentalists, whose critiques of extractivism or racist policies of the statist left he portrayed as “opening up space for the right.” The author singles out “Extinction Rebellion” as a right-wing tool. He rages against the language of “decoloniality” and the eco-socialist left’s critique of statist leaders’ complicity with whiteness and colonial-economic and social legacies. In a typically authoritarian thrust, the article demonizes anyone who allies themselves with NGOs, branding them as supporters of imperialism.

Norton’s widely circulated Monthly Review article aimed at fracturing the left and eroding social movement support for Pérez as an alternative. The piece was published at a crucial moment in the Ecuadorian presidential election. Conventional media outlets have used it to discredit and damage a candidate of the eco-socialist/Indigenous/feminist left. Norton’s article wove together a series of Pérez’s tweets critiquing the statist and extractivist left. Of course, many members of the progressive left, including some of us writing this letter, disagreed with these proclamations as well as Pérez’s support of neoliberal candidates as a strategy to defeat authoritarian elements. But we contextualize these positions.

The Monthly Review article spotlights Manuela Picq, Pérez’s partner, in a misogynist and homophobic diatribe that mocks and attacks her feminist, queer studies, and eco-social politics. Generating absurd conspiracy narratives, this article designates her body as evidence of Pérez’s imperialist complicity. It stinks of rumor-mongering, noting that she took classes at Princeton in a building named after Ronald Reagan, as if this would prove that she was a stooge of the Reagan administration. At age 25, Picq was part of a civil society dialogue in the FTAA negotiation process where she organized critics of the FTAA. Instead of mentioning this history of radical praxis, she is accused of being a “CIA cutout” and an agent of “billionaire George Soros,” a familiar anti-Semitic accusation. She is also incriminated for teaching classes in queer studies and feminist theory. The author claims that because Picq teaches “Latinx Studies” and “Queering Notions of Modernity,” she is an enemy of global class struggle and complicit with imperialism. Norton does not acknowledge the long list of Picq’s other publications on queer theory, international relations, social movement struggles, or resistance to authoritarianism. Most tellingly, the author does not mention that Picq was arrested and deported from Ecuador by the Correa government for having participated in united Indigenous, feminist, and anti-extractivist protests.[9]

These two articles do not explore in detail the context of Pérez’s political momentum in the organization and revitalization of CONAIE—the Indigenous confederation that led the largest set of protests in Ecuadorian history in October 2019, uniting Indigenous groups, feminists, students, and workers movements to fight back against the imposition of a wrenching IMF accord and to demand the end to ecocidal plunder and land dispossession. This moment consolidated the leadership of a younger generation. CONAIE’s legacy, of uniting movements in October 2019, lent popular and movement support to Pérez’s candidacy and might bring him perhaps to second place in the polling. The article does not mention the historic October 2019 uprising or CONAIE and Pérez’s roles in it.

We are concerned that a significant number of today’s left-wing actors, across the Americas and the world, align themselves with extractivism, agrobusiness, authoritarian statism, [10] and stand against Indigenous, anti-racist, and anti-patriarchal movements, ideas, and leaders. We worry that the former is acting to eject the latter from the conversation by labelling them as right-wingers and allies of imperialism. We should not be distracted from the wave of violent, ultra-racist “populism,” and military and parliamentary coups that have swept the region in the past years. It is exactly these authoritarian developments that make it irresponsible and dangerous to brand those who critique the extractivist left as allies of Yankee imperialists or sympathetic to Bolsonaro-type populists who are encouraging genocide, femicide, racial exterminations, and homophobic assassinations. We stand against authoritarian statism focusing on individual male populist figures and armed, militarized “machocratic” patriarchy. Against this model, a new progressive alternative for the left has been emerging—led by Indigenous, Black, and feminist as well as class and worker-identified justice movements—to advocate redistribution of wealth, land, and autonomies to forge new modes of collective, bodily, and eco-social participation and rights.

After Ecuador’s 7 February 2021 election, civil society groups across Ecuador raised concerns that an effort was underway to “find votes” needed to bring Lasso’s totals above Pérez’s. This would serve both sides of what Chilean writer Andrés Kogan Valderrama has labelled the “binary” political equation [11] of extractivist left and neoliberal right. Both sides saw Pérez as the most threatening opponent, for he might win and, more than that, dismantle the binary political equation that has been making true redistribution and eco-social justice unimaginable. The Ecosocialist Feminist Network stated, “We reject the role that ‘Correismo’ [Rafael Correa’s regime] has played in this moment, exacerbating racism and delegitimizing social struggle through media campaigns…We know that the struggle continues and what will be the mobilization and unity of the popular field will permit us to sustain the gains accumulated in October [2019] and resistance against this system of death.” [12] We deplore the demonization of both Pérez and movements that brought him so close to the run-off election. A left-wing global community deserves better, and we call on the editors of Monthly Review and Jacobin to reject these simplistic and dangerous analyses which feed right wing structures of hate in Latin America.

Signed,

Paul Amar, Professor, Director of Orfalea Center, University of California, Santa Barbara
Sonia Correa, Co-Chair, Sexuality Policy Watch
Ghaitai Paul Males Castañeda, Comunidad Indígena de Compañía, Líder Espiritual Cristiano-Andino de Jóvenes
Macarena Gómez-Barris, Professor, Pratt Institute
Mara Viveros Vigoya, Profesora Titular, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, LASA President (2019-2020)
Lisa Duggan, Professor, New York University
Cristina Yépez Arroyo, McGill University
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Professor, Wesleyan University
William C. Smith, Professor Emeritus, University of Miami
Rita Laura Segato, Professor, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina
Pamela Martin, Professor, Coastal Carolina University
Mario Pecheny, Professor, University of Buenos Aires
Cruz Caridad Bueno, Assistant Professor of Black Studies, SUNY-New Paltz
Javiera Barandiaran, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Michelle Artieda, Florida International University
Mieke Verloo, Professor, Radboud University, The Netherlands
Lena Lavinas, Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Sherene R Seikaly, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Gita Sen, DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era), Fiji
Gloria Careaga, Facultad de Psicología, UNAM, Mexico
Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Hunter College &The Graduate Center, CUNY
Rina Pakari Marcillo, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
Steve Stein, Senior Professor, University of Miami
Markus Thiel, Associate Professor, Florida International University
Dominique Chiriboga, Activista Feminista y LGBT, Ecuador
Flavio Carrera V., Project Coordinator, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Daniela Cabascango, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Ecuador
Kiran Asher, UMass, Amherst
Carolina Benalcázar, Concordia University
Fernando Luz Brancoli, Associate Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Diana Coryat, Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, Ecuador
Bila Sorj, Professor, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Pablo Ospina Peralta, Docente de la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador
Antonia Carcelen-Estrada, Profesora investigadora, Universidad San Francisco de Quito/Northumbria University
Jennyfer Masaquiza, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Claudia Sofía Garriga-López, California State University, Chico
David Paternotte, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Carlos de la Torre, Director, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida
Miriam Lang, Professor, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador
Carmen Diana Deere, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Florida; LASA President (1992-1994)
Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Guilherme Leite Gonçalves, Professor, Rio de Janeiro State University
Johannes Waldmüller, Research Professor, Universidad de Las Américas, EPN
Sylvia Cifuentes, University of California, Santa Barbara
Larry Lohmann, The Corner House (Environmental and Social Justice), UK
Gareth Dale, Brunel University, UK
Alvaro Jarrin, Associate Professor, College of the Holy Cross
Alberto J. Olvera, Profesor Titular, Instituto de Investigaciones Histórico-Sociales, U Veracruzana, Mexico
Benjamin Arditi, Professor of Politics, UNAM, Mexico
Margarita López Maya, CENDES-UCV, Venezuela
Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Open University, UK
Javier Corrales, Professor, Amherst College
Patrick Bond, Professor, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Joan Martinez-Alier, ICTA, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain)
Zillah Eisenstein, writer, Prof. Emerita, Ithaca College
Iokiñe Rodriguez, Seniour Lecturer, University of East Anglia, UK
Rehad Desai, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Cristina Vega, Profesora Investigadora, FLACSO Ecuador
Muhammad Reza Sahib, KRuHA – people’s coalition for the right to water, Indonesia
Monroe Edwin Jeffrey, International Tribal Association, United States
Francesco Martone, Senatore della Repubblica, Italia
Barry Gills, University of Helsinki, Finland
Pedro Gutiérrez Guevara, Researcher, Kaleidos Center of Interdisciplinary Ethnography, Ecuador
Rosemary E. Galli, independent researcher, Observatório das Nacionalidades, UK
Elisa Van Waeyenberge, SOAS University of London, UK
Markus Kröger, Associate Professor, University of Helsinki, Finland
Gabriel Roldos, ROLPRO SAS Publishing House, Ecuador
Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Lisa Rofel, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Co-Director, Center for Emerging Worlds, UC Santa Cruz
Marcelo Coelho, Journalist, Folha de São Paulo, Brasil
Alejandro Bendaña, Activist, Nicaragua
John Francis Foran, Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Melissa Weiner, Associate Professor, College of the Holy Cross
Ashish Kothari, Global Tapestry of Alternatives, India
Elisabeth de Souza Lobo, Psychologue, Université Paris 7, France
Noah Zweig, Investigador Independiente, Ecuador
Devin Beaulieu, University of California, San Diego
Bárbara Sepúlveda Hales, Asociación de Abogadas Feministas, Chile
Eng-Beng Lim, Director of Dartmouth Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality; Assoc Professor WGSS, Dartmouth College
Pallav Das, Editor, Radical Ecological Democracy
Roxana Erazo, University of Toronto
Santiago Acosta, Lecturer of Spanish, University of California, Davis
Andrea Sempértegui, Lafayette College, USA
Najwa Mayer, Postdoctoral Fellow, Dartmouth
Judith Butler, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Marisol de la Cadena, Professor, University of California-Davis
Benjamin Arditi, Professor of Politics, UNAM, Mexico
Rosa Jijón Co-founder, A4C Arts for the Commons, Italy
Donald E.Pease, Professor, Dartmouth College, USA
Grace Delgado, Data Analyst, Dagan Inc., Estados Unidos
Tamra L. Gilbertson, Professor, University of Tennessee and Indigenous Environmental Network
Danid Barkin, Distinguished Professor, Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico
Jai Sen, Researcher and listserve curator
Catherine Szpunt, Occupational Therapist, BOE, USA
Fabio Luis Barbosa dos Santos, Professor, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brasil
Hugo Ceron-Anaya, Associate Professor, Lehigh University, United States
Salvador Schavelzon, Professor, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brasil
André Luiz de Oliveira Domingues, farm worker, DSA IC Americas, USA
Mia Yee, alumni, College of the Holy Cross
Juan Wahren, Investigador y Profesor, Universidad de Buenos Aires/ CONICET
Pablo Solón, Fundación Solón, Bolivia
Gina Vargas, Feminista, Peru
Sandra Macedo, Sociologa e artista visual, Brasil
Eduardo Erazo Acosta, Professor, University Nariño, Colombia
Judith Dellheim, Researcher, Zukunftskonvent Germany, Deutschland
Silvia Spitta, Dartmouth College, USA
Carolyn D’Cruz, La Trobe University, Australia
Dr MK Dorsey, Club of Rome, Spain
Didice Godinho Delgado, Activist, Germany
S A Hamed Hosseini, Alternative Futures Research Network, Common Alternatives, U Newcastle, Australia
Céline Veríssimo, Associate Professor, Federal University of Latin American Integration, Brazil
Nina Isabella Moeller, Associate Professor, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, England, UK
Kevin Bruyneel, Professor, Babson College, United States
JM Pedersen, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University
Julien-François Gerber, researcher & teacher, Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands
Mirella Pretell Gomero, Syracuse University
Pamela Calla, Profesor, New York University
A. Naomi Paik, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Carla Rodrigues, UFRJ, Brasil
Gayatri Gopinath, Professor, New York University
Teresa Armijos Burneo, Lecturer, University of East Anglia, UK
Trevor Hirsche, Instructor, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Bolivia
Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Professor, New York University
Stefania Barca, Zennström Professor of Climate Change Leadership, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
Éric Fassin, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Paris 8 University (Vincennes – Saint-Denis)
Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis
Cristina Rojas, Professor, Carleton University, Canada
Nadine Lefaucheur, CNRS Retraitée, Martinique France
Helena Hirata, Directrice de Recherche Emérito, CNRS, France
Angela Freitas, Coletivo Feminista 4D, Brasil
Dennis Altman Professor, LaTrobe University, Australia
Isabelle Stengers, Prof. emerita, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Emmanuelle Picard, Assistant Professor, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
Valentine Olivera, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
Picard Elodie, OpenEdition, France
Daniel Fischer, Food Not Bombs, USA
Margaret Wiener, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Ana María Goldani, Brazil LAB, Princeton University
Paola Minoia, University Lecturer, University of Helsinki, Finland
Lucas Savino, Associate Professor, Western University, Past-Chair of Ethnicity, Race and Indigenous Peoples Section (LASA)
Marco Aurelio Maximo Prado, Professor, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Breno Bringel, Professor, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tristan Partridge, Research Fellow, University of California, Santa Barbara
Geoff Goodwin, London School of Economics, UK
Aida Matilde Marcillo Perugachi, Concejala del Canton Otavalo, Ecuador
Stalin Herrera, Instituto de Estudios Ecuatorianos, Ecuador
George Yudice, Professor, University of Miami
Malvika Gupta, University of Oxford, UK
Aida Luz Lopez, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de Mexico
Enrique Leff, Senior Researcher/Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Giorgos Kallis, Professor, ICTA-UAB, Spain
Mariana Walter, Phd. Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain
Angus McNelly, Queen Mary University of London, UK
Dalena Tran, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA-UAB), Spain
Isabelle Darmon, Lecturer in Sociology and Sustainable Development, University of Edinburgh
Bárbara Sepúlveda Hales, Asociación de Abogadas Feministas, Chile
John Cavanagh, Director, Institute for Policy Studies, USA
Anna Storti, Dartmouth College, USA
Robin Broad, Professor, American University, USA
Alberto Acosta, Expresidente de la Asamblea Constituyente (2007-2008), Ecuador
Marinalva de Sousa Conserva/ Profa. Dra., Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brasil
Maria aparecida Ramos, Assembleia Legislativa da Paraíba, Brasil
Bryan Winston, Dartmouth College, USA

Notes

[1] https://mronline.org/2021/02/10/how-ecuadors-u-s-backed-coup-supporting-ecosocialist-candidate-yaku-perez-aids-the-right-wing/
[2] https://jacobinmag.com/2021/02/ecuador-election-arauz-hervas-perez-neoliberalism
[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monthly_Review#:~:text=The%20Monthly%20Review%2C%20established%20in,magazine%20in%20the%20United%20States.
[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20190711101435/
http://idiommag.com/2011/03/no-short-cuts-interview-with-the-jacobin/
[5]There is extensive literature that examines how the period of Rafael Correa’s government as a time of impunity and human rights violations. See: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-8675.12117
[6] In 2017, CONAIE fought to get amnesty for all activists of the indigenous movement who had been prosecuted and sentenced for protesting Correa’s government and Chinese mining companies, and defending water resources. The government misused anti-terrorism laws dating from the 1970s military dictatorship to incarcerate indigenous leaders protesting extractivism. At that time, 98 individuals faced criminal prosecutions for resistance to authority, terrorism, sabotage, etc. See: https://www.planv.com.ec/historias/politica/conaie-la-lucha-la-amnistia
and https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-22656374
[7] See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2013/oct/15/ecuador-president-misleading-yasuni
[8] Correa’s sabatinas, weekly speeches televised in different locations around the country on Saturdays, were spaces which could last up to three hours. There he presented his visions and proposals, and attacked citizens, journalists, human rights activists, academics, and environmentalists. The Media Observatory of Ecuador (OME) has counted 95 grievances against women and for sexist language in the 152 Correa’s weekly speeches between 2013 and 2016.
See: https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/05/23/planeta_futuro/1495560980_079621.html
On Saturday December 28, 2013, one of the last during Correa’s first administration, the former president criticized “gender ideology.” On the same occasion, Correa affirmed “defending the traditional family” and declared opposition to abortion “has nothing to do with the left or the right,” but are simple “moral issues.” See full video here: https://youtu.be/ODXFdqtGsyo?t=6341
[9] See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-manuela-picq
[10] In 2013, Rafael Correa issued Executive Decree No. 16 to control NGOs and establish limitations on the independent and autonomous functioning of unions and social organizations. The decree was harshly criticized by local and international organizations. https://sobrevivientes.planv.com.ec/decreto-16-y-las-amenazas-a-las-ong/
Correa arbitrarily punished journalists who did not agree with him and actively attacked indigenous environmental activists who opposed oil and gas extraction or open-pit mining on their lands. https://rsf.org/en/news/what-future-free-speech-ecuador-after-presidential-election
https://amazonwatch.org/news/2018/0418-new-report-shines-light-on-dark-days-for-amazon-earth-defenders-in-ecuador
[11] https://oplas.org/sitio/2021/02/14/andres-kogan-valderrama-yaku-perez-y-el-fin-de-los-binarismos/
[12] https://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article7033

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Arnaud Montebourg Launches Presidential Bid: Sovereigntists and Political Confusionists.

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Arnaud Montebourg, créateur des miels Bleu Blanc Ruche, sur le marché de Louhans ce lundi 10 juin | Voix du Jura

Montebourg: a Hive of Actitity Behind Presidential Bid.

Arnaud Montebourg is a former member of the French Parti Socialist, a founder of a left-wing current Nouveau Parti Socialiste (NPS). He was  Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances and held other posts under François Holland’s Presidency until 2014 when he resigned. A lawyer by training he quit politics. After some academic teaching, he moved into business. At present he runs a company  Bleu Blanc Ruche, producing ice-cream,  honey and almonds.

Montebourg has developed his own ideas. He first talked of a ” capitalisme coopératif” and then advocated ‘de-mondialisation’ – de-globalisation.  Against globalised capitalism, and for green policies, one of the few explicit lines of thought he came up with were centred on the idea of ​​a strong state, controlling finance, and capable of taking measures vis-à-vis the financial and banking system.

On this basis he stood in 2017 (as head of his own micro-party, Le projet France) in the Parti Socialiste’s ‘Citizen’s Primary’. This vote, open to all who signed a declaration of support for left-wing values,  to choose their Presidential candidate. He came third, behind Manuel Valls and Benoît Hamon (who became the PS candidate) with 17.52% of the vote.

Montebourg has now launched a new bid to stand for French President in the 2022 election.

 

The ex-Socialist has been discussing the construction of a large front, from the French right to the republican, sovereigntist left,  to oppose Emmanuel Macron. “I am no longer attached to any party”. He has talked to figures on the hard-right Les Républicaines (LR) like the leader of their group in the  European Parliament, François-Xavier Bellamy. LR nationally is less than enthusiastic about a potential alliance, but that has not stopped him trying:

To promote his ideas and Presidential adventure Montebourg has formed a new micro-party,  L’Engagement (named after the book shown below).

Rejoignez le mouvement l’Engagement

Nous voulons le retour d’un État au service de l’intérêt général, libéré de l’emprise d’une minorité. L’Engagement affirme que les préoccupations des Françaises et des Français doivent être les priorités de l’Etat : la réponse à l’urgence climatique, la protection de nos emplois existants et à venir, de nos libertés, l’entraide et le dialogue entre tous.

We want the return of a State at the service of the general interest, free from the grip of a minority. L’Engagement affirms that the concerns of French women and men must be the priorities of the State: the response to the climate emergency, the protection of our existing and future jobs, our freedoms, mutual aid and dialogue between us all.

Who could possibly be against that!

Mediapart has a long article on this venture:

Montebourg, ou l’aventureux pari du souverainisme des deux rives

  ET 

L’engagement has garnered 2,000 rather heterogeneous supporters: socialists, but also voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2017, disappointed Bayrou, radicals, executives and entrepreneurs,”

Tomorrow he was due to attend a Conference on the Republic organised by one of the factions that has emerged from the nationalist left, « Nation souveraine ». Cancelled because of the pandemic (perhaps there will be a mass Zoom?) the event featured this characters,

Jean-Pierre Chevènement (former left socialist,  authoritarian Minister in  the Jospin government of the late 1990s a founder of modern French sovereigntist politics), LR MP Julien Aubert (hard traditional right party see above) Henri Guaino, (also LR), the economist David Cayla (blames neoliberalism for populism), Céline Pina, at one point close to the secularist, but nationalist Printemps républicain before joining the red-brown group bringing together far right figures and left nationalists, a kind of heavyweight Spiked.  la galaxie Onfray

One of them would have been this chap,

….former aide to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Djordje Kuzmanovic – who posed with a ’Union Jack to fête le Brexit, en février 2020, avec François Asselineau (has his own Frexit party, L’Union populaire républicaine (UPR)), Florian Philippot (former Front National) et Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (has his own national populist party Debout la France (DLF)…

What a meeting!

It is said that Mélenchon is concerned about this initiative eating into his support.

At least one person thinks he can get into the second round of the contest, the above red-browner Kuzmanovic.

The authors of the Mediapart article helpfully point out , however, that with 2,000 backers Montebourg faces 200 000 parrainages citoyens already pledged for a Mélenchon candidacy.

There are also potential left candidacies from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Christiane Marie Taubira  as well as presence of the (Green) Yannick Jadot. Amongst others…

There is a precedent for Montebourg’s bid..

Jean-Pierre Chevènement led the left socialist current, CERES in the 1970s (a founding force in the French Socialist Party, was the most famous French political figures who moved from any form of leftist politics to sovereigntism. In 2002 he stood for President as a republican nationalist. Declaring his candidacy was neither right nor left,  « ni de droite, ni de gauche » he won over royalists, former supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen or sovereignists), socialists, as well as those close to the far left. He was backed by Régis Debray. Chevènement got  5% of the vote.

Of wider interest is the way in which figures of the left have become involved figures clearly on the national populist right. As a comparison Spiked springs to mind, although in France Montebourg has more serious connections,  intentions and ambitions.

Is this a response to the blow against Populism inflicted by the defeat of Donald Trump?

French sovereigntism looks to many like a form of national populism.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Trump, Fascism and Democratic Socialism.

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Trump’s New Residence? 

There is debate on the left, across the world, on Donald Trump’s national populism and its relation to fascism. Many are now talking of David Renton’s study on the way in which different factions on the right have converged. (The New Authoritarians: Convergence on the Right. 2019).

One theme of the last twelve months has been the convergence of people and groups emanating from a conservative or a fascist starting point which, despite their different origins, have been working together since Brexit.

Convergence on the right

Nick Cohen writes in the Observer today,

If Trump looks like a fascist and acts like a fascist, then maybe he is one

I can see three objections to calling a large section of the Republican party pre-fascist. The first can be dismissed with a flick of the fingers as it comes from a self-interested right that has to pretend it is not in the grip of a deep sickness – and not only in the United States. The second is the old soothing “it can’t happen here” exceptionalism of the Anglo-Saxon west, which has yet to learn that the US and UK are exceptional in the 21st century for all the wrong reasons. The third sounds intelligent but is the dumbest of all. You should not call Trump or any other leader a pre- or neo-fascist or any kind of fascist until he has gone the whole hog and transformed his society into a totalitarian war machine.

Perhaps we can learn something about how to react from the history of other “pre-fascist’ movements.

For the specialist in the history of French fascism, Zeev Sternhell, the European far-right was born out of a will to break with “l’ordre libérale” in the late 19th century. One of the first stirrings was “Boulangism”  1885-1889 (named after General Boulanger). Boulanger was seen by many French people  as the man destined to avenge France’s defeat in the Franco-German War. This movement was,, Sternhell argued, a synthesis between nationalism and certain forms of ultra-republican socialism (Blanquisme).  anti-liberalism, nationalism (Bonapartists), with an anti-Semitic overtow, (La droite révolutionnaire, 1885–1914. Les origines françaises du fascisme.1978).

A kind of Make France Great Again movement, Boulangism was an electoral event, a coalition of candidates around a figure who would carry the “will of the people” to power against corrupt elites. They were seen to be behind Revanche (Revenge on Germany), Révision (Revision of the Constitution), and, for at least one section of their supporters, Restauration (the return to monarchy). Despite the success of Boulangist candidates never came near to winning a majority in the French election of 1889, 72 deputies against 366 for the Republican side .

Efforts to pin Boulangist ideas down in one ‘populist’ nationalist direction, nostalgia for Bonaparte’s First Empire, run up against the fact that Boulanger had not just the votes but the financial backing of wealthy Monarchists (exposed by a former supporter in  Les Coulisses du boulangisme).

Despite this, some on the left, like Paul Lafarge, considered that the demands of the ‘people’ against the “les gros bourgeois” and their impatience with republican ‘réformisme’  could be turned  in a socialist direction. An important section of the left opposed Boulanger, accusing him of Césarisme, the wish to override democratic procedures.  For Jean Jaurès popular support for Boulanger was not just socialist aspirations gone astray, it was not socialist in any sense.

After initial electoral appearance, with support from working class districts, Boulanger himself took the stage and  was urged to take power by a coup d’état.

In January 1889 Boulanger was returned as deputy for Paris by an overwhelming majority. When the election results were announced, wildly shouting masses of his supporters urged him to take over the government immediately. Boulanger declined and spent the evening with his mistress instead. His failure to seize control at the crucial moment was a severe blow to his following.

A new government under Pierre Tirard, with Ernest Constans as minister of the interior, decided to prosecute Boulanger, and within two months the Chamber was requested to waive the General’s parliamentary immunity. To his friends’ astonishment, Boulanger fled from Paris on April 1, going first to Brussels and then to London. He was tried in absentia for treason by the Senate as high court and condemned on Aug. 14, 1889, to deportation. In the elections of 1889 and 1890 his supporters received setbacks, and public enthusiasm for his cause dwindled away. In 1891 Boulanger committed suicide in Brussels at the cemetery of Ixelles, over the grave of his mistress.

Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Frederick Engels set out some reflections that stand up well today,

Although the Boulangist movement appeared to be ephemeral in retrospect, Frederick Engels paid close attention to it. Engels saw the threat of a Boulanger dictatorship, warning socialists in France:

 

The finest thing of it all is that three months after these two congresses Boulanger will be in all probability dictator of France, do away with parliamentarism, expurgate the judges under pretext of corruption, have a gouvernement à poigne and a chambre pour rire (trans. mock chamber), and crush Marxists, Blanquists and Possibilists all together. And then, ma belle France—tu l’as voulu! (trans. my beautiful France – that’s what you wanted!)

Engels recognized the danger of a Boulangist dictatorship as spelling the end not only to the socialist movement in France, but the Third Republic itself. For him, the question was not just how to analyse Boulangism, but how to fight it.

Engels, Boulanger and the Fight Against Fascism

That could stand for the position democratic socialists should take towards Trump’s supporters and their assault on the Capitol.

See:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2021 at 12:33 pm