Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste

Mouvements has published a series of articles on the possibility of launching a Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste. This is the proposed name of the party that is to unify the "left of the Left," the nebula of parties, groupuscules, social movements, affinity groups, and others who have given up hope that a Socialist will again unite the Left sufficiently to win a presidential election as Mitterrand did in 1981 and 1988. Olivier Besancenot's breakthrough into the front ranks of leftist politicians has aroused hope in some quarters that such a party is indeed viable. The Trotskyite postman has evidently hit on a successful formula for representing the revolutionary in a media age: affable, unflappable, and as indefatigably voluble as a sidewalk salesman on the rue de Rivoli, he now polls as well as or better than the Socialist heavyweights (43% "approve" of Besancenot and "would like to see him play an important role in the future," compared with 41% for Ségolène Royal and 45% for Dominique Strauss-Kahn).

One might question precisely what the words "important role" conceal, however. The revulsion from the Socialist présidentiables suggests a resignation, in a broad segment of the Left, to non-governing status. An "anticapitalist" party is a party unable to conceive of itself in compromise with the world as it is. It is a party that believes the most useful role it can play is extragovernmental. It is a party that sees itself as a "tribune of the people" rather than a manager of the economy or vanguard in some constructive project. It is a party that believes that politics in the present means temporizing until some fundamental change occurs to open a new way forward. It is, in short, a party of populist protest, with any number of predecessors in the recent French past.

But how strong is such a party? How much of the population does it represent? Is the 4.08% that Besancenot polled in the last presidential election more representative of its actual support than the 43% he received in the beauty contest poll cited above? I suspect so. To signal approval of Besancenot to a pollster is protest on the cheap; actually to vote for him is another matter. Still, the surveys should stand as a warning to leftists of all stripes: many on the left are still looking for a home, despite all the promises of "renovated" quarters ready to move into any day now. Leave them out in the cold much longer and they may well build a ramshackle shelter of their own.


Anonymous said...

If you combine Besancenot's vote total with Laguiller and Bové's (and a portion of the Communist and Green vote, too), you get to much more than 4%.

David in Setouchi said...

The future of this party is quite unclear, but:
-If the PS keeps on doing what it's been doing for years now (and it certainly will),
-If the government keeps on doing what it's been doing since elected (and it certainly will),
-If the state of the world and of France keeps on going in the same direction that it's been going (and it certainly will),

I predict that a lot of people will vote for this new party (me included).

Do sympathizers and potential voters for the party think it can overthrow capitalism? Of course not (at least I hope that they don't, some French people get pretty delusional when it's election time), but voting for this party is as close as most French people will go in the direction of getting up and actually start a Revolution.

Unknown said...

You exemplify my point. Your vote will be a protest vote, a vote of exasperation. I understand the sentiment but regard it as a symptom of malaise.

David in Setouchi said...

Yes, it will be a protest vote in a sense (even though my vote isn't set in stone, the next Presidential election is in 4 years, things can and will happen in the meantime).

But I don't know, I guess I never really believed in the electoral system, which is nowadays (or maybe always was?) more about putting the most popular guy in power rather than the most fit to govern. And all of my votes were in general more against somebody than for somebody (I also believe that it's kinda unhealthy to support somebody to access power, it makes me think of the whole cult of personality and all).

So basically, it's the whole electoral process that I question, so I'm not sure how to define my vote (when I do vote that is... because most of the times I don't vote, not because I don't care, but because I don't believe in that system to choose a ruler, but on the other hand, I don't believe in any other existing system).

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Anonymous said...

The NPA is a joke, some French may appreciate Besancenot as someone who puts into relief some interesting issues, yet voting for him is - as you rightly pointed out - quite another matter. I have not much esteem for those who really feel like they could vote for such a man, rather of a populist and nonsensical ilk than a serious leader. Anticapitalism is ludicrous in such an age, but French usually lack the economic background to understand the ongoing situation, which they basically associate with capitalism without further ado. I would not be surprised if Besancenot happened to pick up some desperate, uneducated French, so that he could increase his odds to stand a chance, but I definitely think he will eventually lose; it is only the strongest and the fittest of the species who survive, communism has been musty for quite a long time, it is unappropriate in our fast moving world, I relish the idea I will witness its death, if I am lucky enough.