Friday, June 1, 2007

"He would have had Matignon"

Ségolène Royal now says that if François Bayrou had agreed to throw his support to her between the first and second rounds, "he would have had Matignon." "I don't know how the Socialist Party would have reacted, but public opinion would have fallen into line, the French would have signed on, this was the renovation they wanted. ... When history happens, you have to seize the moment. He wasn't bold enough."

One doesn't know quite how to take this. Is this judgment supposed to be a reflection on events or a programmatic statement in service of her newly proclaimed ambition to found a "mass party?" And what precisely is a parti de masse in 2007? The vocabulary calls to mind an image: masses of workers in blue coveralls, fists in the air. But the missed fusion with Bayrou conjures up a very different image: a party of the center, un blairisme à la française, a republic of consumers, and Aristotelian moderation in all things.

SR seems to be suffering from what Gaston Bachelard called an "epistemological obstacle." She cannot quite conceive what her instincts tell her she needs to do. A midwife is needed to deliver the Socialist Party of the child it has borne within it for far too long.


Francisco said...

How are these remarks likely to go down with socialist activists (and the electorate at large) in the run-up to the legislative elections? Seems like pretty tone-deaf positioning. Or is it?

Gregory said...

The term "parti de masse" in the history of the French left means (or I should say meant) a party not based on the industrial working class; the more current term of art has often been an "American-style" left, that is not based upon a specific identification with socialism as a program. THis is of course what the PS has long become, so I too am baffled about what that means.

As for Royal's own positioning -- and I think you are being way too hard on her, in comparison with the intellectual and political lethargy of most of the other PS leaders -- I take her to be primarily campaigning for leadership of the party against DSK at the moment.

Gregory said...

Quick additional point -- the "parti de masse" in this context refers, I think its pretty clear, to the structure of the party.

She's advocating that the individuals who choose to become members elect the leadership directly (as was the case in the primary) rather than the current system whereby the federations (membership in which is not available just for the asking) send delegates to the national convention which in turn elects the party leader and the governing council.