Thursday, March 23, 2017

Le Parti Socialiste n'est plus

Defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has joined the Macron camp. But what really struck me in Le Monde's report was the following:

Ce ralliement était attendu. Depuis plusieurs semaines, les membres du cabinet de M. Le Drian travaillaient main dans la main avec ceux de M. Macron. Son programme en matière de défense, dévoilé le 18 mars devant un parterre de gradés de l’armée, avait été entièrement conçu par des proches de l’élu breton.
In other words, staff personnel of a regalian ministry are lending their expertise to a candidate whom the president must refrain, and has reportedly urged ministers to refrain, from publicly endorsing. Meanwhile, the Haute Autorité governing the Socialist primary has officially rebuked Manuel Valls for denying Hamon his parrainage after losing to him in the primary.

The French left is usually a contentious place, but this kind of open guerrilla warfare is something new (one saw it on a smaller scale when Ségolène Royal was the candidate and in a more covert form when Mitterrand was cutting the legs out from under Michel Rocard). But it is clear that les éléphants have decided to cut Hamon loose, are all in for Macron, and are no doubt already negotiating behind the scenes for a joint campaign with En Marche! in the legislative elections and for positions under the future President Macron.

The first post-debate poll has Hamon down a couple of points, moreover, so that the PS candidate could finish an unbelievable fifth after Macron, Le Pen, Fillon, and Mélenchon (in that order--Macron now leads Le Pen in round 1 in the same poll). In short, the party bearing the name "Socialist" seems to be dying, but a new center-left, or rather left-center-right, or perhaps more simply, "center" party is being born under the name En Marche!

The entire French Establishment (except for Fillon and his stubborn LR rump) is now all-in on Macron as the only alternative to Le Pen.

After the election, France could thus end up with an eco-socialist anti-European extragovernmental Left party, a Macronist Center Party, a traditionalist Right party, and a xenophobic Far Right Party. This would be a highly unstable mixture.

15 comments:

aaar_n said...

It's almost as if a large part of the PS have been and continue to be well-off, well-connected people trying to hold onto power and Macron represents their best opportunity to maintain their status, both economically and socially. Nothing more inspiring than the crushing hope of "realism." En Marche !

mpz13 said...

Taking advantage of the demise of the Socialist Party and since for Les Républicains too "le pronostic vital" is questionnable. I am wondering if we shouldn't try to let go of the old distinctions "left", "center", "right".
These categories belong to the past - be it our past, they became over simplistic and are now incomplete and misleading.
Everybody can come up with a different definition of what are "the left", " the center" and "the right".
We have to adapt to the complexity of the contemporary political scene and options. We need to use better concepts, integrate more dimensions, visualize different proxemy. The linear approach and scale from fossilized marxist-leninists to crypto national-fascists is a caricature of a long gone reality and prevents to understand new opportunities and new dangers.
I can't forget the H.L. Mencken quote : "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." (I'm sure Edgar Morin must have put that in almost the same terms). I am sure that the problem is complex and that our vision remains dangerously clear and simple...

brent said...

In this new configuration you convincingly describe, I struggle to see where the working class elements of the old Mitterandist PS/PCF might find a home.Hamon or Mélenchon? Perhaps, but the 'eco' in eco-socialist is not theirs, and the vision of both programs is a bit hypothetical. Macron, the enarchic millionaire banker who worked hard for those nice suits? I can't see it. Fillon? Certainly not. Which leaves you-know-who, whose program purports to be staunchly pro-worker and whose combative demeanor and social prejudices may be a match for many. Exotic? Well, something very similar has just produced earthquakes in the US and the UK's politics. In short--and this may be the "unstable" element you allude to--without a viable mass party of the social democratic left, the political establishment may be ceding a crucial bloc of voters to the FN--not in some future election but right now. This has been a strong part of Hamon's message, which the too-clever have been inclined to laugh off at their peril.

Art Goldhammer said...

Brent, Much of the working class has gone to Le Pen already, as you know. The way to win it back is not to pander to its worst instincts but to restore growth. No one is certain how to do that, but there is no reason to believe that the CGT, say, is anywhere closer to right than Macron. What is in the best interest of the working class is not necessarily what certain representatives of the working class think is in its best interest.

Lapinot said...

As a foreigner, one thing I'm positively surprised by is how little impact the Manif pour tous lot seem to have had. I know they're supposedly not party political but I thought they'd make their presence better felt.

Between Fillon's bumblings and Macron's staking out of a new middle ground contrary to their prejudices they don't seem to have much place to go.

Art Goldhammer said...

Lapinot, But they are largely responsible for Fillon's remaining in the race. It was the Sens Commun-Manif pour Tous people who turned out en masse at Trocadéro and allowed him to resist the pressure to drop out. Otherwise we might have had Juppé in the race, and the whole dynamic would be different.

Bernard said...

@Brent
I take good note that of the candidates and/or political forces, Macron is the only one that you feel necessary to insult. That is on one hand a very telling Freudian lapse and on the other hand typical of people I have described as imbeciles utiles of the SozNat MLP. Better the extreme right in office than someone whose working class credentials are dubious, unlike yours I am sure, is what your unconscious and, quite possibly, your conscious think.

brent said...

@ Bernard
Whatever its consequences, rest assured that my 'useful imbecility' (purely hypothetical since I have no vote in France) is not a tool I place consciously or deliberately in the pudgy hands of Mme. Le Pen. (Note insult) If pressed to choose between Macron and MLP in a 2nd round, I would have no trouble choosing the former.

But my larger point is that countries like France NEED a Left alternative (as the US desperately needed Sanders) precisely to fend off the appeal of the fascists and bring some hope to a disaffected, obsolete working class. I don't share Art's faith that Macron's managerial wizardry will do the trick. I would have hoped that the innovations proposed by Hamon or Mélenchon, which strike me as very interesting in themselves, would have broader appeal. They haven't. I think we're all going to reap a bitter harvest, whether this year or sometime soon.

Tim said...

I know this is a weird thing to bring up but I noticed that even when Macron was photographed on a beach he refused to take his shirt off despite the presence of other who shall we say we far more casually dressed.

https://static.mediapart.fr/etmagine/default/files/2016/08/17/macron-paris-match.png?width=661&height=462&width_format=pixel&height_format=pixel

This almost reminds of the famous line in the TV show the Sopranos when old school NY Mob Boss Carmine Lapertuzzi tells Tony Soprano that a "Don never wears shorts."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIC6yRjBGwM

I can't think of how many pictures of Sarkozy were taken shirtless with his famous Ray Ban sunglasses. Despite his youth I get the feeling Macron has a far better idea of how to act the part of being a President or a Don than Sarkozy and Hollande.

bert said...

I spent the last couple of days with Matt Taibbi's 'Insane Clown President'. It's kind of heartbreaking. Taibbi covered the campaign, and saw Trump's defeat as inevitable based on the campaign he ran. The pieces from the last half of 2016 are hard to read. He's such a good writer (he of the vampire squid, heir to the great Hunter S.), but he's calling it wrong. The final piece, written after the result, is anguished.

Brent's American.
I'm British.
Bernard, we both had world-historical fuckups hit us hard, after having shored ourselves up with the kind of confident reassurance that you've been sharing with the group. If there's psychology at work, it's pretty simple stuff. No need to get Lacanian on his ass.

I was worried that in the debates Macron's would be feeble and MLP would be fearsome. As it turned out they were both meh, and as a result I'm out of the panic room, and am wandering around the rest of the house.
Long may the brighter mood continue.

mpz13 said...

Regarding Macron on the beach photographs, yes he certainly can't take his shirt off without revealing several his secret tattoos. I have been able to see them under circumstances I can't reveal but he has the rare Rothschild inner circle red and blue tattoo above his heart : "Concordia, integritas, industria" with the three helmets and the two fists holding spears. Also he certainly needs to conceal the official Tambovskaya Prestupnaya Grupirovka tattoo that was made close to his neck by Vladimir Sergeevich Kumarin himself. These tattoos can't be removed, since this would be considered high treason and Macron would instantly loose the support of the bank and the gang.

Anonymous said...

Hollande never took off his shirt either. Peut-on imaginer Flanby sans chemise? Quelle horreur...

Americans have often elected mediocrities---if not worse--- to the presidency. The election of Trump didn't surprise me in the least. But the French? Could there really be 50% of the voting population who think that Le Pen would be better than Macron?

bert said...

Not convinced that all's for the best in the best of all possible worlds if she scores in the low 40s. But at least if she loses the popular vote, she loses - that's something.

There's a common thread in the Brexit and Trump stories that I don't see in France this year. The French establishment media are united in their revulsion for Le Pen.
By contrast, in the UK there was a large contingency of the printed press, from tabloids to broadsheets, who were wholeheartedly anti-Europe and who appealed to their readers as standard-bearers of Leave. The most important broadcast voice - the BBC - was required by statute to be impartial, so you got a lot of what Krugman calls ”opinions differ on shape of the planet”.
In the US, Trump's relationship with Fox wasn't as straightforward as Bush's was (what with Megyn Kelly, and Roger Ailes' disgrace), but once he had the nomination it was straightforward enough. And the old network news model of a shared body of facts had been eroding away for decades. New media and social media were massively important, in a way they've yet quite to become in France.

If you want pro-FN material you can find it of course, but despite all the effort at dediabolisation I don't get the impression that the Overton window has expanded to fit her.
Instead it looks like her lack of importantly placed media cheerleaders will cost her. Here's hoping, anyway.

Douglas said...

I don't quite see how Macron can pass himself off as a centrist. He's an out and out pro austerity neoliberal. His agenda is to reduce job protections, weaken unions, reduce unemployment compensation benefits, and reduce pensions. Add to that his intention to deregulate the financial industry and what you have is pretty much a US Republican Party economic agenda. If this is what the Socialist party is going to end up looking like, they are going to end up just like the other European left wing parties who have embraced austerity. See Greece and the UK for starters. Of course the French Socialist party can hardly go down the hill from where they are today.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Douglas in one important way you're wrong about the unemployment bennies. Macron actually proposes to make them available to independent workers like myself, who currently pay 8% of their income into URSSAF and have no right to claim its unemployment coverage. Do not forget the unbelievably large cleavage in France between salaried employees on CDI contracts and everyone else. There will be problems weakening protections for people with CDIs, but the growing body of artisans and small businesspeople and freelancers in France will be happy to see some evening out of the buffet table. His program feels knitted together to me, more than ideological. A gift here, a sacrifice there. "Centrist," as you likely know, simply means on the center of the political spectrum. It's a relative position. Looking at where France is today, the label seems quite apt.