Monday, January 1, 2024

French Politics From New Left Review

From the former editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, Serge Halimi at New Left Review:

Condition of France

Going against the majority of French and international opinion, your editorials in Le Monde diplomatique have argued that the 2022 National Assembly elections demonstrated the strength of the ‘bourgeois bloc’ in France and the weakness of the left, even though Macron lost his parliamentary majority, dropping from 350 seats (out of 577) to 245 seats, while the Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale (Nupes), led by Mélenchon’s La France insoumise ( lfi ), saw a large swing in its favour, with lfi taking 75 seats for a total of 142 with its coalition partners. Many saw Macron’s position as having been decisively weakened since 2017, after a term marked by police brutality against the Gilets jaunes and a highly repressive pandemic lockdown. Despite the difference in the number of seats, both the Nupes and Macron’s parliamentary coalition, Ensemble, won 26 per cent of the popular vote. Could you explain why you saw this as a sign of the strength of the political establishment and of the right? Has anything happened to change your mind since?

Eighteen months after the re-election of Macron without a parliamentary majority, three major forces still define French politics: Macron’s centre right, the far right, and what used to be the Nupes. But while the first one is holding, and the second strengthening, the third is fragmenting. There used to be a traditional right, the parties backing Giscard d’Estaing in the 1970s, then Chirac until 2007, finally Sarkozy. Most of it has been eaten by Macron already, and what’s left of it—between 5 and 10 per cent of the vote—is increasingly tempted to rejoin either Macron and the bourgeois bloc, or Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (rn). The left, on the other hand, is not a magnet for anyone, all the more so because it is increasingly divided between its four constituent parts: La France insoumise, the Greens, the Communists, the Socialists. lfi is at once the largest—Mélenchon polled 22 per cent in 2022, whereas the Greens, Communists and Socialists received less, sometimes much less, than 5 per cent each—and the one most disliked by the other three. In other words, the outlook is quite grim for the left. Its four parties are going to compete against each other next June during the European election which the extreme right is very likely to win handily at this point. The war in Gaza has only strengthened the Rassemblement National and weakened the Nupes. The rn managed to be welcome in a demonstration against anti-Semitism, whereas lfi was stigmatized as anti-Semitic, including by some of its left-wing partners, because of its pro-Palestinian position.

In other words, the ‘cordon sanitaire’, the ‘republican arc’ which used to unite most of the traditional parties against the far right, explaining how in 2002 Jacques Chirac could receive 82 per cent of the vote against Jean-Marie Le Pen, is now starting to operate against the stronger party of the left. Meanwhile, when it comes to immigration, crime, Islam—issues which are increasingly merged in the dominant political discourse and gain importance with each terrorist attack in France—the differences between Macron, the right and the far right are fading away as the get-tough ideas of the Rassemblement National become hegemonic. One conservative paper summed it up this way: lfi is now easier to hate, the rn more difficult to fight....