Friday, December 7, 2007

Montebourg in Cambridge, Afterward

As promised, I attended the lecture by Arnaud Montebourg. I found him charming but unconvincing on a range of topics from globalization to the renovation of the Socialist Party. He believes that the party has lost contact with the people and proposes to reestablish that contact by "listening" more attentively (taking a leaf from Ségolène Royal's failed playbook). Concretely, he wants to organize a primary election two years from now in which anyone who subscribes to party membership for a fee of 2 euros will be allowed to vote. The party secretary would not be allowed to be a candidate in this primary, because he or she would be expected to be "the guarantor of objectivity," whatever that means.

When I suggested that "listening to the people" was hardly a formula for arriving at a coherent policy when the people in general, and the people of the left in particular, are confused about where they want to go and do not speak with a single voice, and that a primary would surely reveal deep divisions in the left rather than do anything to heal the gashes, he said that "first we must listen, then we must decide." But what elements or principles might guide that decision did not emerge clearly from his talk. He does not like "neo-liberalism" or "globalization" but seems unconcerned with defining alternatives, perhaps because he also thinks that globalization will soon come to an end, defeated by its internal contradictions. He seemed sanguine about this prospect, which others might regard as catastrophic. In short, he offered an amiable account of the Socialist Party's current confusion. Indeed, he seems confused about where he stands himself, since, after years of railing against the cumul des mandats, which he would ban under the constitution of the 6th Republic that he has proposed, he is contemplating a run for the position of conseiller général in addition to the seat of deputy that he already holds.