Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lionel Does Jospin


Lionel Jospin has been ubiquitous this week, plugging his new book and film. I've been snowed under with work (...and snow) and so failed to blog on his Le Monde interview, as an e-mail from Éloi Laurent reminds me. What struck me about the interview, apart from a certain sotto voce feistiness uncharacteristic of Jospin ("L'unité a fait défaut en 2002 et la crédibilité en 2007"--self-criticism tied to a knife in Ségo's back), was a certain contradiction at the heart of Jospin's analysis of the position of the PS. In what he characterizes as a "broader reflection" on the party's future, he observes that there are 3 types of socialist party in Europe: dominant parties like Labour in Britain or the Social Democrats in Sweden, parties of influence like the French PS, which cannot achieve a majority on their own, and supplemental parties. A party of influence cannot achieve power unaided and needs to form a coalition. This is what Mitterrand successfully achieved, but the PS has since failed to command a coalition. Jospin then says that he fears that the current temptation--to flirt with the center--is a "jeu de dupes" which will "destroy our credibility" and "reduce us to a supplemental force."

Well and good. But he has previously dismissed the "extreme left" as an element that has no wish to govern and cannot accept the compromises necessary to govern: "It is at ease only under the right." (Another brief flash of passion.) And he is also rather dismissive of ecological politics, which he says will ultimately discover that its aims can be achieved only when it recognizes that the real issue is about "relations among men, which is what socialist thought is about."

So if the flirtation with the center is a fool's game, if the extreme left has no wish to govern, and if the Greens will get nowhere until they wake up and recognize that they are really Socialists at heart, around what issues will the rassemblement that Jospin describes as necessary take place, and with whom? His retrospective analysis seems as deficient as his 2002 analysis, in which he himself recognizes, in this same interview, that he believed that his actions in government spoke for themselves and needed no defending. This was wrong, he now admits, but he still seems to have no sense that others need to be wooed, cajoled, persuaded, and inspired if they are to enlist in a cause, however righteous.