Monday, June 30, 2008

Need(l)ing the Left

The M&M (Moscovici-Montebourg) faction of the Socialist Party, aka Socialisme et Démocratie or "les stauss-kahniens," submitted its position paper over the weekend. Reading these factional position papers is a special art. An innocent arriving from, say, the United States would probably have a hard time explaining, on the basis of these papers alone, why the various party factions disagree or even where on the political spectrum they stand. Are the Strauss-Kahnians on the right wing of the Socialist Party? Yes, but their paper attacks "financial speculation" with as much gusto as the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste and proposes an economic policy that smacks of the dirigisme of old, with nary even a nod to "the social market economy."

Speculation is of course today's antithesis of motherhood and apple pie, the Great Satan, and no one is for it, particularly since no one is required to define it or differentiate it from ordinary garden-variety capitalism, which "modern" socialists favor. Thus M&M insist that "we must respond to the challenge of growth and French competitiveness by rehabilitating economic voluntarism." They favor "sustainable development" while "resisting the primacy of the short term and the supremacy of the market." If this farrago of buzz words means anything, it suggests that M&M propose to invest scarce public money in new technology whose returns will be realized only in the long run.

To remark that such industrial policy ("economic voluntarism") is in fact tantamount to "speculation" even riskier than the speculation they denounce would perhaps be to expect more rigor of a position paper than is warranted--even if this is the paper of the faction of the PS reputed to embody the soundest economic thinking. Indeed, the purpose of the paper is not to propose an economic logic but to issue an emotional appeal to the left of the party, without whose support M&M have evidently concluded they are doomed: "In opposition to financial speculation, which diverts capital from indispensable investments, and in opposition to the politics of the Right, which in France promotes rent-seeking, the Left must encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking." It would be churlish, of course, to ask what "entrepreneurial risk-taking" in the absence of "financial speculation" amounts to: a sort of technological bungee-jumping, I imagine.

But if the economic side of M&M's program disappoints, we can always console ourselves with "the ecological revolution," which "necessitates planetary solidarity." Revolution, solidarity--the words hallowed by tradition are coupled with the new kid on the left-wing block, ecology.

Sigh. The Socialist Party might do well to forgo the position paper exercise and get on with the clash of éléphants that will decide this contest. Delanoë and Aubry seem to have concluded that neither is quite enough of a mastodon to tackle the nimble gazelle alone, so my guess is that they are in the process of working out a power-sharing arrangement. Aubry's Web site is still a bare-bones affair, however, and although Rue89 thinks she swiped it from Obama, they're mistaking the mere look-and-feel for the actual sophistication of the Obama Web operation, which gathers information, collects money, and links visitors in to a vast direct e-mail operation from which there is No Exit (as the dozens of daily missives from the Obama campaign in my inbox will attest). Not even Ségolène Royal, who has the most extensive Web presence of any Socialist contender, can compete. If the Socialist Party is indeed in the process of transforming itself into a flaccid umbrella party of the Left, akin to the American Democratic Party, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon alleges and fears, its marketing, polling, and image-shaping apparatus remains artisanal.

Besoin de gauche is the title of the M&M position paper. "Needing the Left" is perhaps an accurate characterization of France's position today, but the actual performance of the Left makes "needling the Left" almost irresistible.


Boz said...

The Obama site has been excellent in two major respects: getting donations and facilitating volunteering (whether calling from home or finding local events). But behind that is the huge and essential database of all registered voters, which records of every time a person interacted with the campaign in some fashion (since the primaries, the original one was integrated into the DNC one). This allows them to carry out the "micro-targeting" Mark Penn is so fond of.

Your right that Royal has the best online operation so far. sends out occasional emails with news, but there wasn't much synergy between that and With all the débats participatifs during the general campaign you would think she'd have a huge resource of supporter info for this contest, but it's not clear if it has led to any advantage.

MYOS said...

I find your reports about the socialists' projects both informative and amusing. On the other hand, so far, we've got a choice between regional empowerment, a bumper sticker/pompous combination, or a faction that takes itself as seriously as it is complacent. Did I get it right?

For democracy to work, France needs a strong party that can offer an alternative to Sarkozy.
I must admit I only tried reading through Aubry's paper, because she's hailed as the new star, but I found it poorly writen, squarely lost in the early 90s. I saw Mosco on TV tonight and even though he's grown a stubble he's not become more interesting.

There was also this event, which one reported to me (connected to the position paper?), and which I find all-around worrisome. Ramsacking an apartment and targeting especially a child in order to threaten her mother is mindboggling. I know (from studying history, not first-hand :D) that such events were frequent 40 years ago in France courtesy of the secret police (I can only think secret police or mafia - sorry, I may miss some other group!) Also I don't know who'd do that, what for,... it's hard to think it's non political though, while it's hard to think socialists would be targeted, especially nowadays when they're helpless.

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