Monday, August 26, 2013

The "Left Front" Cracks

The Front de Gauche is no longer a front, to judge by the frosty exchanges between former FG presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Communist party chief Pierre Laurent over the weekend. The cause of the rift is not far to seek. Mélenchon, the classic cavalier seul in politics, will be content to lose in a splashy way, as he did in the presidential elections. The logic of office-holding, patronage, dues collection, and party maintenance is not for him. So he can indulge his penchant for "heightening contradictions" and eschew any hint of "republican solidarity" with the Socialists, whom he accuses of kowtowing to the Germans, buying into austerity, and plotting to tear the social safety net. Laurent, on the other hand, has a party to run, a party headquarters to staff, and bills to pay. For him it isn't enough to keep his face in the TV news by making stinging attacks on the center-left. He needs the support of the PS to win the occasional town or city in the upcoming municipals, and he knows there is a price to pay for that support. So he is not happy with Mélenchon.

Of course Mélenchon might well respond that the PCF has been following Laurent's line for decades, and look where it has gotten them. On the other hand, Laurent could respond that Mélenchon revival of classe-contre-classe-style politics hasn't improve matters much, even if it allowed Mélenchon briefly to kindle a cult of personality around himself in the presidential campaign season. And so it goes.

Meanwhile, the wheeling and dealing over retirement reform has begun, with the CGT calling for a demonstration on Sept. 10.


brent said...

Of course it's not so clear what the future holds for the PCF's "logic of office-holding": with their 2% share, attached to the wildly unpopular Socialists and their incoherent platform, the Communists may not have a lot to gain from all their strategic maneuvers. Mélenchon on the other hand may be "splashy," may even inspire a "cult of personality"--to borrow the terminology of a superficial press that can only think in terms of personality. His increasing advocacy of ecosocialism, however, i.e. the conversion to a new and sustainable energy program, economy, and social order (a wholly different thing from the same old classe-contre-classe politics you allude to) has already shown a much broader appeal than the PCF's compromised policies, and may offer a genuine alternative to the downward spiral offered by the centrists on both sides.

How about some real discussion of JLM's ideas for a change, rather than endlessly revisiting his rancorous personality?

Mitch Guthman said...

I agree entirely with brent.

As a practical matter, settling for whatever crumbs the PS sweeps off the table for them obviously isn’t working to grow the left or the Communists in France. They aren’t building a party, merely featherbedding for themselves. They are willing to watch and do nothing as France drowns just so they can hold on to their precious offices a bit longer. And they wonder why they are declining in popular support?

The left in France is moribund because it is strangely unwilling to defend its achievements of the past and (as brent points out) equally unwilling to embrace excellent new ideas for the future, such as those Mélenchon has been advocating. Inasmuch as it now seems likely that the downward spiral that is the Hollande presidency will probably wipe out the handful of Communist office holders in the next election anyway, it seems to me that the Communists can only profit by getting behind Mélenchon and putting as much distance between Hollande and themselves as humanly possible.

As I’ve said many times before, I understand that Hollande believes that France is constrained by the institutions and regulations of the EU. From my perspective, the problem is that both Hollande and the French left (Mélenchon excepted) generally seem strangely unwilling even to try freeing France from those constraints. I would echo brent’s point that when you can’t bring yourself to engage against any interest group or to even consider any new ideas, what you end up with is political entropy, followed by oblivion at the next election.