Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Post-DSK Left

"Inventer à gauche," a group of têtes pensantes of the PS, consider what direction the left ought to take after DSK. Their main points are:

1. It's a new world, in which the US + Europe are no longer the be all and end all.
2. Something really ought to be done about "financial capitalism."
3. High spending and high deficits are not ipso facto "progressive."
4. The EU is in trouble.
5. The French don't like inequality.
6. "Social ecology" is the new paradigm.
7. Both the Sarkozyste right and the extreme right have targeted immigration. The left should recognize the necessity and inevitability of "legal immigration."
8. The state is an essential instrument for constructing "a better society."

It would perhaps be too much and too hasty to dismiss this as a list of "pious wishes," but I frankly don't see much content here. There is nothing surprising about the list of problems and no actual policy proposals to combat them. As a statement of principles, the manifesto has a certain hollowness. Take the mention of "financial capitalism." This has become a sort of mantra: by attacking "financial capitalism," we signal that we are realists who do not reject "markets" ("We believe in a market economy but not a market society," said Jospin) but we do reject anything bad that markets happen to enable. Ditto for "social ecology." Absent any specification of what costs a social ecological agenda might entail, we are left guessing what this actually means. Since I posted earlier today about nuclear power, has anyone on the left who has hailed the German decision to exit from the nuclear begun to ask how this decision might affect Germany's earlier and equally splashy decision to reduce carbon emissions by a date certain? Clearly the effect will be enormous. But the same formulae continue to be intoned. In the end, they amount to saying, "We want what is good, we reject what is bad." Vaste programme, as de Gaulle would have said.


Anonymous said...

You ask, "how this decision might affect Germany's earlier and equally splashy decision to reduce carbon emissions"

This may help:
“What is going to sink the warmist ship, one suspects, is the fickleness of our EU colleagues, who might be talking the talk on greenery but are investing heavily in coal. The particular culprit here is Germany, and we have recently acquired a list of new coal projects in the pipeline – below:

- EVONIK, Walsum (Duisburg), 800 MW black coal (2010)
- RWE, Neurath (Cologne), 2 x 800 MW lignite (2009)
- RWE Westfalen (Dortmund-Hamm, 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- EON Datteln (Dortmund), 1 x 1100 MW (!) black coal (2011)
- ENBW Karlsruhe, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Trianel (municipality) Lünen, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Vattenfall Moorburg (Hamburg), 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Vattenfall Boxberg (close to Leipzig), 1 x 800 MW lignite (2011)”

Tom Holzman said...

I guess the question is why this is post-DSK. What did he represent exactly on the Left, other than competence and realism in the economic sphere? Did that make him the sort of candidate in which each voter could find whatever s/he wanted to see? I assume most of the goals stated were ones with which he would agree.

I have no problem with those goals. But, as Art points out, the devil is in the details. I hope that the next move of this group will be to give more content to some of this.

brent said...

Art, although this program isn't exactly my own,and it is just an outline, not a program, I have to say that your summary is particularly disingenuous, in that you leave out quite a few pertinent details and then accuse the plan of vapid generality. I find quite a few distinguishing features here, and offer in all humility my own counter-summary:
1. Emerging economies offer opportunities for French economic growth that belie the protectionist claims of the démondialistes.
2. The crisis in finance capital requires certain responses: a) reequilibration of currency exchange rates, esp. the undervalued yuan; b) increased consumer demand from countries in surplus; c) deficit reduction, esp in the US; d) fairer distribution of profits between shareholders and salaried workers; e) tighter regulation of financial institutions.
3. Properly Keynesian counter-cyclical fiscal policies, and a refusal of austerity budgeting in a recession.
4. Stabilization of the Euro through more economic integration and budgetary federalism among the Euro states.
5. Fiscal reforms à la Piketty, i.e. transparent taxation of all revenue at the source, in order to guarantee greater social equality, with particular attention to the integration of young adults.
6. “Social ecology,” which would mean progressive reduction of carbon fuels, reduction in hours of work, more attention to durable modes of production and quality of life.
7. Support for legal immigration (in direct opposition to the Right and Far-Right assault on same).
8. The state, particularly in its decentralized local and regional manifestations, (rather than the private sector favored by neo-liberals) is the principal motor for societal improvements, including small business and local social services.

It's not revolutionary, or terribly original, but I think it does define a political space more clearly than you allow. And to Tom Holzman's question, the authors make clear that this program is 'post-DSK' only chronologically, in view of his absence from the scene, not ideologically.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Brent, I'll accept your revision, for the most part, but I still find the program woefully underspecified. Take point 7: first of all, the Right, as opposed to the Extreme Right, does not reject legal immigration, although it has redefined its selective immigration targets several times. But the more serious shortcoming is that the Left, in embracing legal immigration, still refuses to say what can/should be done about illegal immigration, which it implicitly agrees would continue to be a "problem" because the state of the world makes it inevitable. I continue to see vagueness and flabbiness in all the other points, even as you elaborate them. Yes, lovely, revalue the yuan--but who opposes that, except the Chinese, on whose decisions it depends? I grant that my summary was inadequate, but my disappointment remains.

Cincinna said...

The l'affaire DSK is far from over. New scandals including the pedophile ex-Ministre scandal are not going away.
The Socialists, instead of denouncing it, are running for cover, protecting them, and devouring their own

With an almost assured victory against Sarko in 2012, they have dropped the ball, and, IMHO, cannot get back in the game.
Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

This article from the NYT is a good example of how not to deal with crisis, and how to damage your Party

The NYT is not behind s paywall. You just have to register.

French Socialists May Expel Member Speaking Out on Strauss-Kahn