Why President Hollande will need to embrace Melenchon’s spirit of rebellion

May 12th, 2012

Published on Revolting Europe, by staff, May 4, 2012.

… In 2007 the collective vote for the radical left – comprising the New Anti Capitalist Party’s Besancenot, the Workers’ Struggle’s Laguiller, the Workers’ Party’s Schivardi and the Communist Party’s Buffet – was 3.3 million. This time it was 4.6 million, or a rise of 39%.  

And the spread of votes was impressive – the party gained at least 7% of the vote in all 96 French départements on the mainland (ie excluding the overseas territories) with more than 10% in 76 of départements and over 13% in 20 of them. Furthermore, a number of large cities without any communist tradition, like Grenoble, Lille, Montpellier and Toulouse gave the Left Front a score of over 15%.

Most importantly, it was the Left Front’s electoral boost that projected the overall left score – including the Socialists – to 15.7 million votes, a rise of 17%. In short, it was the Left Front, with its call for a ‘citizen’s revolution’ that will, assuming all the polling is correct, have projected Hollande to head of state. As Melenchon puts it, the Left Front is the real ‘dynamic’ force on the Left.

The personal performance of the former Socialist minister, his language that fuses the best of French revolutionary and republican tradition, his brilliance both at large rallies and on TV, are all part of the success story. But clearly so is the Left Front’s programme.

For sure, it is not a revolutionary set of policies. But it fills the political space that social democrats have vacated long ago. ‘Radical reformism’, some have called it.

A 100% tax on earnings over £300,000; full pensions for all from the age of 60; reduction of work hours; a 20% increase in the minimum wage; the nationalisation of energy companies; the creation of a well resourced public investment bank; a demand for the European Central Bank to lend to European governments at 1%, as it does for the banks; a categorical non! to the Fiscal Compact and a referendum with recommendation to withdrawal from the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

And running through Melenchon’s bid to remake France is a determination to end the chaos and environmental and social destruction of uncontrolled free markets and replace it with what Melenchon calls ‘ecological planning’. Above all, as the “Humans First!” title of the programme says, it aims to restore people to the centre of a new Sixth French Republic.

The rise and rise of this new force on the Left is part of a wider radicalisation of the French electorate, however.

On the right, this produced a shocking 18% vote for the anti-immigrant, anti-EU Marine Le Pen. This beats the historic 17% score of Jean Marie Le Pen in 2002. This saw him overtake the Socialists and stand in the run-off election with traditional right-winger Jacques Chirac, who defeated the far right candidate.

Once a party for the petite bourgeoisie, the racist Front National is now solidly embedded in the working class. One extensive poll found Marine Le Pen was backed by 35% of workers.

In this election Le Pen junior maintained the Front National’s strong position in the Mediterranean coast, first conquered by her father in the 1980s, and did well in the north east of France, and other places, where industry has suffered a dramatic neglect and decline. She also picked up votes from working class people who have been forced out of the cities because of escalating urban rents and house prices, and whose physical displacement has clearly been matched by a political and cultural displacement taking them out of the orbit of traditional parties of the left and right.

There’s a danger in misreading Le Pen’s score. In 2007 the votes for Le Pen senior and another far right candidate, Bruno Megret (a former leading figure in the Front National) polled 19% between them. What’s happened is that former Sarkozy voters among the working class have migrated far right, thanks not only to their disillusionment with his five year reign, but his head long lurch to the far right himself, with attacks on immigrants and latterly the adoption of an even more corrosive language of Petain, the Nazi collaborationist war-time leader.

Melenchon’s own analysis is that this has been a ‘transfusion’ of right wing voters further right, with examples being Lyon, Lille, Marseille and the town of Florange in Lorraine in the north east where a steelworks is under threat.

If the Front National has made further inroads into the working class, there were places where the Left Front’s and the Front National head to head clashes ended up with the Left Front coming out the better. In Marseille, while Sakozy lost 30,000 votes, Le Pen won 28,000 and the Left Front, after delivering a strong anti-racist message, gained 42,000 votes (compared to a net gain of just 1,000 for the Socialists). The message for Melenchon and supporters is that without the Left Front and its progressive and unashamedly pro-working class message, the far right would have done much better.

Nevertheless, the National Front is a major threat. The result has emboldened Le Pen to make a bid for leadership of the Right, a move that was underlined by her call to supporters to not only reject Hollande on Sunday but Sarkozy too. If, as both Le Pen and many commentators predict, Sarkozy’s UMP party is heading for meltdown  – with the more moderate wing alienated by their chief’s embrace of her nasty politics of hate and the right opting for the real thing – she has a historic opportunity to revamp the reactionary political camp into an Italian-style -populist neo-fascist movement.

The defeat of Sarkozy is all but discounted now. But how this radicalisation of French politics will be tested again in June’s Parliamentary elections. The Left Front is hoping to maintain its momentum. And while asserting its clear independence from the Socialists, it is currently discussing with them a pact to back the most promising candidate in constituencies where there is a risk of the Left not making it through to the second round voting.

Historically, the odds are on trends in Presidential elections to follow through in parliamentary elections. So a Left President and a Left parliament beckons. But for it to make a real difference, both to the French people, and Europe as a whole, a new French administration will need to embrace the spirit of rebellion of Melenchon’s ‘citizen’s revolution’. (full text).

(My comment: a top-radical change to the actual running economy behavior is analog to this old russian joke during soviet times. It claimed:
to find out if any change will be better, we Russians make first a test. So, in traffic if we want change from right of way into left of way, we let run 10% of our traffic in left of way. If the result is ok, we change the 100%.
The same laws are running for our economy:
1): we have to inactivate the running power elites, resp. their tools … and: the shit they put into our brain.
2): we have to implement a socially correct economy – worldwide.
3): Meanwhile we may discuss any new economic formula, as most of our humans are NOT ready for a real change … sorry, still too many excuses in the head and – at least in our western cities – even small people have too less empathy for others’ suffering …
).

Links:

stupid … I cannot let these questions;

The Financial Crisis Was Entirely Foreseeable.

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