Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"There are no more Communists in France"

So says François Hollande. This has riled up the rump of party faithful, but few would deny the truth of the observation. More interesting is Hollande's praise of Tony Blair, which The Guardian, somewhat excessively, describes as "lavish":
But Hollande's lavish praise of Tony Blair was revealing about his own political orientation and his potential style of running France. For years, Blair, New Labour and the third way were heresy to most French Socialists. Hollande said Blair was pleasant "and so intelligent he didn't need to be arrogant". He added: "The first lesson to take from Blair is how long he lasted ... Second, he was able, after a long period of Thatcherism, to reinstate education, health and the public sector ... Then he succumbed to the dominant idea that the markets could regulate themselves and the notion that the markets and [economic] liberalism in themselves could be a factor for growth ... We saw the consequences."

In fact, as you can see, his praise of Blair is mixed and demonstrates good political sense. It's important for a party to do what it takes to remain in power if it wants to accomplish anything, and he praises Blair mainly for his mastery of the power equation and for using his power in productive ways, to "reinstate education, health, and the public sector." But he also criticizes Blair for ... "Blairism," that is, the tolerance of too many neoliberal nostrums. To be sure, he has the benefit of hindisght, and he is no doubt underestimating the role of Blairism in maintaining Blair in power. But he is more lucid in his appreciation of Blair than The Guardian gives him credit for.

10 comments:

brent said...

"There are no more Communists in France," says candidate Hollande, just hours before calling for a "rassemblement de la gauche" to include those very Communists that don't exist. Has he taken on advisors from the Romney compaign?

Anonymous said...

I think he doesn't literally means there aren't any PC-voters in france, bur rather that they're no longer the massive political power they used to be - there are communist voters and "red" towns, but let's face it, they represented about 40% voters after WW2, in the 80s about 20%, and now, what, 2%?
Mélenchon's attracting a lot of interest but he'll never get to the 20% the PC used to be just 30 years ago.
It's a bit disdainful to say that and I think he's acting like he's won already, never a good attitude to have, but he's got good reasons to be serene. And I'm among those who thought it unpolitical to stay longer in Corsica the better to skip La Fête de l'Huma.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Brent, I'm old enough to remember when Communists were Communists, and there are no more Communists in France like there used to be Communists in France, if you catch my meaning. It's just lucidity to say so, and Hollande's problem in appealing to his left is not at all the same as Mitterrand's problem in trying to forge a coalition that might bring Communists into government in the midst of the Cold War. It's just a completely different political configuration.

brent said...

Bon. I understand that there AREN'T AS MANY Communists as there used to be, and so do Pierre Laurent and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and if that were what Hollande had said, there would be no problem. But it isn't. He's quoted as saying there aren't ANY any more, a hyperbole to be sure, but the force of the hyperbole is to assert that however many there might be, they don't matter. At all, not to Hollande, to the PS, not to anyone. So my point is, at a moment when the PCF candidate is polling almost 10% and attracting 5-10,000 people to his rallies, how smart is it to tell that almost-10% that they don't count? And so Hollande had to reverse direction and pretend he didn't say what he said (hence my Romney allusion), but I don't see how a rational observer can say that "Il n'y a plus de Communistes en France" translates as "The PCF is weaker that it used to be." Sorry--it was a gaffe, the sort of thing arrogant front-runners do if badly advised, and come May he may want those several million voters who will stay home because of his foolish remark.

Anonymous said...

Brent, I don't think the PC/FdG voters will stay at home in May but I do think it was ill-advised to word things this way. It sounds like he believes he's already won (she speaks as if he had) and it's never a good thing to be too confident.
Has he confirmed it's not a mistranslation?

Anonymous said...

Moscovici (who'd already put his foot in his mouth by saying there was no way Sarkozy could win - that was a month ago..) now says it was taken out of context, blablabla.
http://www.marianne2.fr/Buzz-du-Guardian-pour-Moscovici-les-propos-d-Hollande-ont-ete-sortis-de-leur-contexte_a215531.html

bernard said...

Allow me to be provocative. The PCF is not the PCF anymore, quite simply. From a party aimed at representing the "proletariat", and which had an internal mystique and deep "camaraderie" and was a binding social institution throughout the Ile de France amongst other places, it is now mostly a party of retirees that has lost most of its teeth. Some may regret it, others may applaud it, but in my view that is where it is now. Shadows on the Seine. Art is correct, I think.

brent said...

I'm of course at a distance geographically and in other ways and can't claim Bernard's familiarity. From the videos of Mélenchon's rallies, though, I'd say that far more young people are in attendance than retirees. Of course these young folks are very likely not carrying PCF cards, nor is JLM. So maybe the point is that 'communist' is starting to mean something else, without the Leninist discipline and proletarian camaraderie, but with the vigor of the anti-capitalist indignés and more institutional weight than the PdG by itself would have. This hybrid candidacy, forged over the objections of a certain number of old-style PCFers, maybe shouldn't be called 'communist' any longer--a semantic point--but I feel sure it consists of people who don't want to be told that that communism in France is dead.

Passerby said...

Of course, Hollande's statement isn't to be taken literally. It's not a surprising one either. During the PS primary, he showed that he believes future for the PS is in the center, not on the left of the left. His commented non-attendance to the Fête de l'Huma was a clear signal in this direction.

There are still, hard-core communists. I listened to a fine specimen this morning on the radio: Nathalie Arthaud, the "Lutte Ouvrière" candidate. She started by defining herself as "une Trotskyste". She went on to explain how part of her program is to "expropriate" bankers to merge the all funds in one public credit organization.
But at this stage, I was still asking myself how she could hope to reach out to voters by insisting on Trotskyism? Voters for whom such ideological definition matters are only a tiny fraction of the extreme left pool. No wonder that Mélenchon and his "tous pourris" tune had no issue to capture the extreme left...

Robert said...

@Bernard: And how exactly are your remarks provocative? It's just common sense. They have a few elderly voters left in the now-faded-to-pale-pink Ceinture Rouge and that's about it, really.