Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Times Looks at Mélenchon



Anonymous said...

Obviously, the New York Times (not "the Times", for us in this side of the Atlantic, it means the London Times) never heard of Victor Hugo saying "laissez la peur du rouge aux bêtes à cornes".


brent said...

Interesting article--the first time this season, I believe, the Paper of Record has printed Mélenchon's name. But I have two quibbles:
1) The authors claim the the Communists are the bedrock of the Front de Gauche, and the article features this angle, suggesting that 80% of (cardholding?) "members" of the FdG are Communists (a number I have never seen before). But how true is this? Surely a much smaller fraction of JLM's 15+%--maybe a fifth?--are PCF, a similar fraction coming from Trotskyist groups, but the core of the FdG is the Parti de Gauche, a bourgeois party of left socialists in the traditional sense of the term, closer to Hamon than to Georges Marchais. The authors thus reinforce a Cold War view of this phenomenon, which may play well for American readers, but do many French see it in these terms? I'd be curious to hear what people closer to it have to say.
2) Europe: the authors are flatly wrong to connect Mélenchon and LePen as anti-EU (though here many French commentators perpetuate the error). The FdG platform calls for full engagement with the Union, with the goal of creating a different EU, a 'social union', with EU-wide tariffs to protect all EU workers from social and environmental dumping. .JLM would also use the ECB as a source of direct lending to Greece and other indebted EU countries. By contrast, MLP's program calls for a return to the franc and construction of customs barriers (real ones?!) at France's European borders. Even the Times authors should be able to distinguish her protectionism from the left internationalism of Mélenchon.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Yes, in a sense I suppose it's correct to say that Mélenchon is not anti-EU, in that if the EU were transformed in ways of which he approves, he has nothing against international cooperation. He's not a sovereignist or a protectionist. Yet in the same sense one might say that Mélenchon is not anti-capitalist or anti-market either: if capitalism were transformed in ways of which he approves, he would see nothing wrong with it. These answers nevertheless seem disingenuous, because the reforms that he would want would so transform the spirit of these institutions that they would become unrecognizable. If a "social union" were all there was to it, JLM would be no different from every other candidate of the left for the past 30 years. They have all favored a more social union. "Social and economic dumping" is a nice phrase, but it doesn't begin to capture the complexity of the competitive universe in which European firms operate. ECB monetization of debt--another resonant phrase without any consideration of the negative consequences. If the essence of the EU is cooperation, then Mélenchon shows no grasp whatsoever of the reasons why others would oppose his program--reasons not just of interest but of principle. In my view, the Times characterizes his position correctly.