Sunday, November 16, 2008

Right vs. Left or North vs. South?

So it comes down to a battle between Aubry and Royal, with Hamon as spoiler. How best to describe the evolving contest? Is it going to be about an opening to the center or its refusal, as I discussed yesterday? This is of course the sort of red herring that often distorts primary battles. As Royal pointed out, Aubry already has an alliance with MoDem on her home turf, so her alignment with those who reject an opening to the center in the current battle seems like the most hypocritical of tactical maneuvers, and a "commitment" that can be jettisoned whenever necessary.

Is it a face-off between the party's right and its left? It's hard to read that way, since the left is really behind Hamon rather than either of the front-runners. Is it pro-Europe vs. anti-Europe? Not clearly so. North vs. South? More plausible, perhaps, since Aubry's big battalions are in the Nord, whereas Royal's primary strength is in the Bouches-du-Rhône and Lyon. But are there any deep reasons for that geographical divide, or is it simply a matter of the location of powerful party leaders: Aubry in the Nord, Collomb in Lyon, Guérini in Marseille? Or is it just TSS, Tout Sauf Ségo?

In any case, it's a mess, and no synthesis emerged from last night's negotiations, characterized by Marianne as la nuit des petits canifs (as opposed to la nuit des longs couteaux). Could this be the end of the Socialist Party? It seems unlikely, since a split would not resolve anything. No faction has a clear enough line or identity to form the nucleus of a new party, and there are plenty of ego rivalries within each camp, so nothing would be gained in that respect either. The story seems to be that les élus locaux are content enough to muddle on through at the local level as they have been doing, and whether or not their party wins the presidency doesn't terribly affect them in their bastions. So there isn't enough incentive to compromise in order to win the big prize. Each therefore clings to his or her preferences based on the likes and dislikes, the balms and bruises, of a generation of party infighting. Unlike Sarkozy, they don't want the presidency badly enough to impose discipline or swallow the compromises necessary to get it.


James said...

This is what I find so utterly perplexing about the intrasocialist squabbles, looking on from afar - there seems to be no identifiable policy cleavages. Obviously personal ambition plays a big part in all internal party politics, but often such rivalries form a superstructure upon genuinely consequential divisions. It's hard to understand how it could be possible for a party to be so entirely paralysed for so long by such seemingly insubstantial divisions.

The only explanation as to how the various leaders are able to get away with it may indeed be that the most importatn people in the party simply don't care anymore, at least about the national level.

bernard said...

I would say that it's also a face-off between new versus old.

The 20 euro member fee is symptomatic as it signifies the loss of control of the party apparat on the membership, whereas in the previous system where the majority of party members had some representative function, the apparat controlled everything through the web of interests. When the apparat loses control, the apparat is defunct. You can thus see that, apart from the fact that one women started hating another when they were both 25 years old - certainly for political reasons and not the usual ones -, there is something quite fundamental at stake here, as well as the careers of the current professionals through the loss of control of the apparat.

Mr Punch said...

What we see here, it seems to me, is the PS struggling with the impossibility of functioning as both a parliamentary party and a presidential party. The leadership fight is not so different from an American presidential nomination process, except that the idelogical blocs have more organizational reality.

To Royal's credit, she understands the problem and offers a solution.