Sunday, April 3, 2011


Laurent Bouvet reviews Jean-Pierre Chevènement's La France est-elle finie? When I lived in France back in the 70s, I was quite interested in Chevènement's CERES, a movement then on the left of the Socialist Party. As Chevènement's politics took a more nationalistic turn, as I saw it, I became disenchanted, but I continued to admire him as a politician of a certain intellectual integrity. In 2002, appalled by the fragmentation of the Left to which Chevènement's formation of a splinter party contributed, I grew still more disenchanted with JPC's politics, though the man himself never forfeited my respect. To blame him for Jospin's defeat seemed excessive: he remained a politician of deep conviction, and although the consequences of conviction in politics are sometimes unfortunate, the quality itself is rare enough to be admired.

I look forward to reading his book, although I doubt I will be quite as appreciative as Laurent Bouvet is. I don't share the Euroskepticism that seems to motivate both the author and the reviewer, and I am dubious about the revival of "republican universalism" that is supposed to project the French nation into the globalized enivronment without compromise of the principle of republican solidarity. Proclaimed universalism has often served in the past as a mask for the kind of nationalism that figured in the syllogism that Chevènement attributes to Mitterrand: "nation=nationalism=war." For Chevènement, this understanding of history explains Mitterrand's commitment to the European project. If that is what it comes down to, I incline to Mitterrand's side: nationalism, even disguised as republicanism or humanitarianism, is a force of which it is always wise to remain deeply wary.

1 comment:

bert said...

Thanks for this, Arthur.

Funny how the French left split over Europe, while in Britain it was the chauvinist right. Each had their concerns about the erosion of sovereignty.

Chevènement tried to reach out a week or so ago (, to a reaction of almost complete indifference. Frankly, he'd do better with the Tory eurosceptics if he was a Latvian nazi.