Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Socialist Left

Jean-Luc Mélenchon sees the German Linkspartei as a model for the evolution of the French PS, or at any rate of its left wing. In a very interesting interview with Marianne, Pierre Cohen asks him how he can remain in the same party as Pierre Moscovici. Mélenchon's response gives a glimpse into the psyche of the PS left wing at this point in time. In essence, Mélenchon says that he has nothing in common politically with the center left represented by Moscovici. Implicitly, he recognizes that the left of the left cannot govern alone. But--and this is the interesting part of his analysis--he thinks that the virtue of a Linkspartei à la française would be to move the center left farther to the left. He cites the example of the German SPD's position on the minimum wage, which does not exist in Germany. The SPD opposed the idea of instituting a minimum wage until the Linkspartei, which favored it, began to gather electoral strength. The SPD changed its position.

Yet Mélenchon also reveals some of his reasons for hesitating to "divorce" from the PS. The first is emotional: a divorce is a wrenching experience (he compares political divorce, the shattering of a family, however conflictual, to the severing of marital ties and invokes his own personal experience). Second, he is wary of his potential new allies. He notes, for instance, that the LCR just dismissed a Besancenot opponent who was employed by the party. Such purges are alien to his conception of politics. Yet he is clearly contemplating a walkout: "I'm a courageous man," he says, "which means I'm scared to death" of what might happen if the party fissures. So he's weighing his options carefully.


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