Sunday, June 20, 2010
The PCF has a new leader. Younger readers may wonder why I bother to mention this, but once upon a time, the Communists were a force to be reckoned with: "Between us [the Gaullists] and the Communists, there is nothing," said André Malraux. When I first started paying attention to French politics, back in the '60s, the party was still capable of drawing 16% of the vote, and alliance with the Communists was the stroke of tactical ingenuity that enabled Mitterrand to break the Gaullist lock on the Fifth Republic. So it's with some nostalgia that I report that the new PCF leader, Pierre Laurent, is an apparatchik whose roots can be traced to those halcyon days: his father was Paul Laurent, a collaborator of Georges Marchais's. Laurent has climbed the ranks of the organization, serving most recently as editor of L'Humanité. What does his elevation to the top job signify? Perhaps that the party apparatus remains as firmly in control of its dwindling rank-and-file as ever. Apparently young Laurent isn't too popular with the masses, who preferred someone else for the regionals until outgoing leader M.-G. Buffet put her foot down. Plus ça change ... Let's see how he fares with Mélenchon.
Dominique de Villepin is calling his new party République Solidaire, but its launch yesterday received less press than it might have because of the implosion of the French football team at the World Cup. Things have only gotten worse since. The team, widely criticized for not playing like one, has suddenly developed off the field the solidarity it could not manage on it: the sélection de France refused with a single voice to practice. This prompted an official representing the Federation to quit in disgust. Sarkozy yesterday pronounced the Anelka situation "unacceptable." This latest rebellion--or collective tantrum--has to be characterized as inqualifiable. I'm not sure that international sports has ever seen anything like it. The French sporting world would appear to have reached a nadir: the Tour de France has become an orgy of drug abuse, and now there are even accusations that one cyclist may be using an electric motor hidden in the frame of his bike. And soccer has become an almost unbelievable sitcom: overpaid players, underage girls, uncouth fans, an astrology-besotted coach, a rejection of one player by his teammates, allegedly because he is too good-looking, tearful officials--what next?
What is said to be the largest demonstration of Chinese ever organized in France took place in Belleville to protest violence against the Chinese community.