Sunday, August 24, 2008

The End Is Nigh

Olivier Besancenot has no need of new ideas for the Left (see previous post). The old ones are good enough for him: "There's a ruckus in store because French capitalism and capitalists are crumbling. What they need is a good old revolution." Once that small detail is out of the way, the LCR--er, make that the NPA--can get on with its rather less dramatic program "for another Europe: an ecological, feminist, humane Europe with a minimum wage for all. A Europe of public services, too, and an open Europe." This by way of resolving "the crisis of capitalism, which this time is serious, profound, grave. The most serious of the past 50 years. There's overaccumulation of capital, overproduction. Believe me, the bosses are in a serious panic. The proof? They no longer agree with one another."

What an astonishing amalgam! What mind-boggling syncretism! It's like the building of a Christian church atop a sacred paleolithic spring. The old runes--revolution! crisis of capitalism! overaccumulation of capital!--have been overlaid with new hymns: ecology! feminism! humanism! In the post-revolutionary paradise all goods are compatible, all evils have ceased to exist, and everyone rides the buses for free.

Anyone who cares about the Left should be concerned that this appears to be the only sign of life in its corner of the woods this summer. To be sure, there is talk of a unified Green front around Daniel Cohn-Bendit. But I for one would be hard put to describe a troika of Nicolas Hulot, José Bové, and DCB as a party of the Left. It would be sui generis, probably ineffective, and of dubious potency at the polls. The Left, as far as I can see, remains divided between Socialists still scrabbling like crabs in a basket (Delanoë up a point! Royal down a point! on s'en fout royalement!) and the NPA, still picking off the disaffected and expanding its media presence by way of Besancenot's cannily uncalculated blend of revolutionary gruel and politically correct pablum.


Fr. said...

Hello Arthur,

I believe it's a bit disingenuous to address the extreme-left as rebranding revolutionary themes with the contemporary preoccupations you cite. The themes you cite gain their thrust during the Silent Revolution and do not need tribunitian parties to move onto the agenda. I believe this is clear to everyone.

What the extreme-left stresses, rather, is the spectacular and widening gap between golden parachutes and unemployment benefits. It's an old tune: capitalism is unsustainable, capital accumulates in the hand of the superstructural few, and so on. It's not a useless tune: I believe it reflects a legitimate concern.

Why oppose the formation of a Linkspartei on this side of the border? I see many reasons why the extreme-left should play an important role in framing contemporary politics. I can offer two themes which they like to bring up and which I would like to hear governmental parties talk about: The evolution of financial exchanges and the evolution of fiscal heavens

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment. The reason to oppose a French Linkspartei is quite simple, in my view: in France, the possibility of meaningful reform depends on capturing the presidency. If the NPA splits the Left, the presidency will remain out of reach. There is no possibility of a Grand Coalition as in Germany. It is the logic of the system that would penalize a divided Left.

Critiques from the extreme Left are useful insofar as they contribute to real debate. The left of the Left has developed some themes worth debating, but to my mind Besancenot's way of framing issues is not helpful.

Fr. said...

I agree with you that the NPA represents a strategic disaster for the Left, just as I agree with you on the core criticism that can be addressed to extreme-left parties in Europe (also stated here by Eric Dupin: they simply ignore history, which is appalling for parties built on a materialist tradition of thought).

I still depart from your position that "Besancenot's way of framing issues is not helpful." The Left lacks a powerful voice on 21st century inequalities and the new arrangements between labour and capital in income distribution (themes that are appropriately considered in Chauvel's research, for instance). The LCR considers itself an adversary of wealth, which has naturally brought it to speak often of such themes. I believe that is a good thing, regardless of the paucity that characterises the solutions it advocates.

Again, you are right, "If the NPA splits the Left, the presidency will remain out of reach." The Left will then have three choices: Rewrite the Constitution, Replace the deficient PCF with the NPA in the quadrille bipolaire, or Find new allies. I do not think of option #3 as the less improbable: no Programme commun does not mean Gauche plurielle is unfeasible. My guess is that Step #1 should be greening the party.

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