Saturday, January 24, 2015

Post by FrédéricLN

FrédéricLN, a regular reader, has posted remarks he made at a meeting in Argenteuil to discuss what can be done about the social rift in France today. They're worth reading.

Syriza and the French Left

Greece votes this weekend, and all signs are that Alexis Tsipras's Syriza party will lead the pack and perhaps even win an absolute majority of deputies. The prospect has kindled a mild euphoria in the left of the Left in other European countries, including France. Je dis bien "a mild euphoria"--milder, indeed, than the euphoria that greeted the election of François Hollande so many eons just over two and a half years ago. That comparison alone should already give one pause.

It's hard to remember now, but back then it was Hollande who was going to lead the beleaguered states of the south in an anti-austerity coalition. Now it is Tsipras--admittedly a more charismatic fellow than Hollande, but the would-be leader of a tiny state with a gigantic debt, whose banks are at the mercy of the ECB's liquidity spigot and whose public profligacy and consequent debt were always misleading symptoms as to the true nature of the European crisis. France was better suited to this role but failed to play it. Greece, on the other hand, is not suited at all. Tsipras is un jeune ingénu, not un premier rôle.

I will not attempt to handicap Syriza's chances. While electoral success seems likely, success in governing and in negotiating with the Troika may prove more difficult. A compromise is possible, but will the heterogeneous coalition of partners who make up Syriza stand for it? After reading an 18,000-word interview with Sttatis Kouvelakis in Jacobin, I'm even more dubious than I was before. But I don't know Greek politics, so I'll refrain from further comment.

I do know a bit about French politics, though, so I read an article like this one with a quite skeptical eye. Yes, indeed, Cécile Duflot, who is supposed to represent the Greens, is looking for a dance partner, and so is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is supposed to represent the far left. But in fact both Duflot and Mélenchon represent not actual political parties but fractious and amorphous segments of public opinion. For them, Tsipras is an ink blot onto which they project fond fantasies of what a better tomorrow might look like. "Another policy" is possible, headlines Le Monde, but what that other policy would look like remains a will-o'-the-wisp.

Meanwhile, even Marine Le Pen is applauding the likely Syriza victory. Of course, for her, Tsipras in power is expected to lead to precisely what Tsipras says he does not want to happen, namely, a Greek exit from the euro and perhaps from the EU. This prospect is butter on Le Pen's spinach: she hopes it will prove that exit from the EU is not equivalent to economic disaster. But more likely it will end in disaster for Greece if Grexit does occur, and Le Pen's wish, when fulfilled, will only invalidate the instinct from which it derives.

I would be the last person to deny the role of dreams and fantasies in politics, but this infatuation with Greek radicalism strikes me as an infantile disorder in the French left, no matter how comprehensible Tsipras's emergence is as a response to Europe's incorrigibly obtuse treatment of the exceptional Greek case.