Friday, November 14, 2008

PS: The Intellectuals Grumble


NPA: The Base Grumbles

Brent Whelan, a Bostonian who has become "un membre un peu provisoire" of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste, reports that Besancenot's rather curt dismissal of the possibility of an alliance with Mélenchon met with disapproval by local party members. Here is Brent's analysis:

This gesture was first gently, then roundly criticized by a clear majority of the 30 or so members of NPA 14e for two reasons: 1) they want a much more flexible and open system of alliances within the far-left, rather than the old sectarianism of the LCR, and 2) (most interestingly) they don't know on what authority Besancenot can make NPA policy on this sensitive issue: no one has elected him to any NPA office, there are no mechanisms to do so, and in short he seems to have spoken out of turn. A motion to this effect was deferred, for lack of time, to the next meeting, but in a week's time the NPA 14e will almost surely send what amounts to a motion of censure to the CAN (temporary central committee), enjoining Besancenot from making unilateral pronouncements.

I draw three conclusions from this:
1) the media perception that NPA is a vehicle for Besancenot and/or a continuation of the LCR's highly centralized structure are completely at variance with NPA 14e's view of its role;
2) the local or 'federal' basis of power in the NPA is already a fact for this local group; and
3) both of the preceding ideas will be put to the test if and when CAN responds to NPA 14e's motion.

Devedjian Reflects

Intellectuals who regret their lack of influence on the world may enjoy Patrick Devedjian's reflections on Braudel, Weber, and Marx. More surprising, perhaps, is that in the midst of a global economic crisis, Christine Lagarde has the time to sit at the feet of the great philosopher and absorb these pearls of wisdom. I can't quite see Henry Paulson in this forum.


A new issue of Histoire@Politique focuses on May '68.

Tout Sauf Ségo Gets Going?

Hamon, Aubry, and Delanoë are meeting in Paris today. Sure looks a lot like a Tout Sauf Ségo cabal, though of course nobody's saying so, least of all Delanoë, who protests that he is "in a constructive state of mind, clarity and coherence are what's needed." Right--clarity and coherence: that's why Delanoë, who made a splash earlier this year by asserting that socialism and liberalism are so compatible that they're practically the same thing, is sitting down with Hamon, who we can be fairly confident disagrees. "I only talk about substance, I only discuss ideas with everybody," says the mayor of Paris. "I am the only one who makes no claim for power, who asks for nothing for myself." Such charitable sentiments will no doubt help him to pass through the eye of the needle on the way to his eternal reward, but they won't get him the party leadership.


FP reader Dick Howard has two articles in Ouest France assessing Obama's campaign and the significance of his election, here and here. An interview with Dick will also appear in December's Esprit.

Times Profiles Lagarde

The New York Times profiles Christine Lagarde. The piece may not do her any good with her boss, since it not so subtly paints Lagarde as cool and competent and the president as something of a hothead whose half-baked idea of a European sovereign wealth fund the minister of finance can bring herself to defend only du bout des lèvres.

But ask her about Mr. Sarkozy’s proposal to establish a French “sovereign wealth fund” to protect companies in France from “foreign predators,” and she seems uncomfortable.

Governments have been protecting industry in other countries, she said, adding: “It’s been going on everywhere.”

There is also a memorable quote:

Ms. Lagarde prefers to make light of any attacks on her, reciting one of her favorite quotes, from Eleanor Roosevelt.

“A woman is like a tea bag: You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

Jouyet To AMF

As expected, Jean-Pierre Jouyet will leave his post as secretary of state for European affairs at the end of the year. The surprise, just announced in a bulletin from Le Monde, is that he will become head of the Autorité des Marchés financiers, the French equivalent of the American Securities and Exchange Commission. Earlier reports had indicated that Jouyet was seeking to withdraw from public life, but this new job will put him on the hot seat in the drive for reinforced regulation of the financial system -- definitely not a tranquil place of retirement.

Of course the move will coincide with the end of France's presidency of the EU council. Does this personnel change signify decreased French interest in the EU? Not that there aren't other EU experts in France, but Jouyet has been closely associated with EU policy for decades.

The Sarkozy Paradox

Eloi Laurent points to the paradoxical nature of Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to position himself as a global leader in the midst of financial crisis:

The president wants to impose a global budget plan when nothing has been done at the national level. Furthermore, he wants to coordinate budget policies globally, although he hasn't succeeded in coordinating them at the European level.

Laurent's criticism isn't reserved for Sarkozy. Elsewhere he chastises Jean-Claude Trichet for his tardiness in cutting interest rates. But he gives good marks to the IMF for "being one of the rare institutions to clearly recognize the gravity of the crisis as early as last spring."