Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mélenchon Candidacy

I confess to a guilty pleasure: I enjoy French demagoguery. Perhaps it's because French isn't my mother tongue. There's a certain thrill in grasping the demotic register, and the virile bass tonality masks the monotony of the content. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has a style that combines a certain old-leftist grandiloquence with flashes of colicky anger. His hyperbole could fill textbooks:

Je redis que le FMI est une organisation internationale vouée à organiser la famine, le désordre et le démantèlement de l'Etat. Avec DSK, le PS s'enfonce dans l'impasse", insiste M. Mélenchon.
The IMF seems to be the designated whipping boy of this moment in French politics, no doubt because Dominique Strauss-Kahn became its head with Sarkozy's backing. In my youth, the role now assigned to the IMF was filled by the Trilateral Commission. For some, the ills of capitalism must be imputable to some identifiable central agency in order to achieve the requisite degree of monstrousness. The truth, that the vices as well as the virtues of capitalism can be attributed precisely to the fact that it is a body without a head, a marvel of coordination without central control, was known to Adam Smith as well as Marx. But this truth is of no use for the dramaturgy on which Mélenchon's rhetoric draws. For some reason I'm reminded of Fritz Lang's film, "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse." For those who want the longer version of Mélenchon's views, his blog is a good place to start. His written style is more in the grand manner, nourished by the great myths of revolution and national liberation. Here is a sample (on the revolution in Tunisia):

Nul n’est plus légitime au pouvoir, quelles que soient ses difficultés, qui a fait tirer l’armée contre le peuple. L’usage de l’armée contre le peuple marque la ligne de partage dont aucun pouvoir ne revient sans s’être transformé en autre chose. Ben Ali le savait. Et comme il était irréel de l’entendre parler de cesser les tirs « à balle réelle », façon d’avouer qu’ils étaient autorisés auparavant et donc froidement délibérés.

Thank You

If you check the little counter under "Site Statistics" in the right-hand column, you'll see that sometime today or tomorrow this blog will pass the milestone of half a million page views. I had no idea when I began that I would persist this long (nearly 3 1/2 years now) or reach this large an audience. I am grateful to all of you who read the blog, especially to the happy few who have been here since the beginning. I don't promise to continue forever, but I think you can count on my being here at least until the 2012 elections. After that, it will be time to reassess. Thanks for reading, and special thanks to those of you who have taken the time to comment, send leads, or point me toward sources of information.

Baby Doc vs. Ben Ali

France recently refused asylum to fleeing Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. Baby Doc Duvalier, who has now returned to Haiti ("just when you thought things couldn't get any worse," said one Haitian), was luckier: France sheltered him for twenty-five years, despite his being "un étranger en situation irregulière."

Mélenchon, Le Pen, and Plantu

Yet another mini-brouhaha (and thanks again to Bernard Girard).