Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"Post-Messianic Depression"

Laurent Baumel, a Strauss-Kahnian Socialist and head of the party's study bureau, has published a scathing critique of the party's inability to reform itself over the past 2 decades. He blames a "Marxist superego" that has led many of his comrades to let the arrows launched by the extreme left penetrate straight to their heart of hearts, delivering a toxin that has induced a "post-messianic depression." In this state of stupor, the party "retreated to local bastions," enticed to do so by the brimming pots of gold made available by decentralizing reforms.


Anonymous said...

Baumel's critique of the Socialists sounds just about right: mired in a kind of impossible "socialisme de generosite" (it goes back to Jaures), plus a lack of economic culture combined with lack of political courage and determination, plus an old habit of intimidation by the PCF, today the LCR etc. If the Socialists forgot the gauche de la gauche, over a period of a few years they'd do better electorally, including siphoning votes. The left of the left is probably vulnerable to a decline in prestige, just as the prestige of union strikes, which I've mentioned before here, is waning because they're too disruptive and corporatist.

Baumel is also correct in pointing to a Socialist obsession with the presidential election - natural enough, even necessary, in a majority electoral system. But the presidential election requires convincing leaders. In my Mitterrand book I concluded with the judgment that he had left the Socialist party both ideologically (tne decline of the obsession with socialism) and pragmatically (a culture of government) prepared for the 21st century. I didn't take enough into account that this required a successor of real stature and authority. Thus I believe that the weakness of Lionel Jospin's leadership was to a great extent responsible for the party backsliding. Crucially, Mitterrand wasn't intimidated by either the Communists or the left of the left. Indeed, he turned the tables on them. Jospin as party leader let it all slip away. away.

Unknown said...

Could you say more about how you think Jospin squandered Mitterrand's legacy? "Economic culture" was certainly not Mitterrand's forte; Jospin as prime minister put together quite a competent team. Do you see his failure as one of governance or of communication? Unlike Mitterrand, he had the means to explain the economic rationale of his policies to those on his left, but didn't do so. The benefits expected from Europe post-Maastricht failed to materialize, and the costs of the 35-hr. week were easily exaggerated. Jospin was not too timid to experiment with incentives to employers, but nothing seemed to go his way. Couldn't you equally well argue that Jospin's greatest handicap was that the pall of Mitterrand's last years hung over his entire tenure, and, try as he might, he couldn't put enough distance between himself and the past?