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Europe, France, Politics

French left goes Greek

France’s left is in a sorry state. It took a bashing in local elections in March and then European elections in May. The ruling socialists plunged to an all time low of less than 14%. The radical Front de Gauche, comprising the communists and other leftists like Jean Luc Melenchon, polled just 6.3%, down from the 11% for Jean Luc Melenchon in the Presidential elections in 2012, and no higher than its national elections results the same year. And meanwhile the nasty Marine le Pen and her far right Front National stole the no.1 spot vote with an historic 25% score.

Now the Front de Gauche and a growing group of dissident socialists want to turn the tide back in favour of left policies and are starting to talk seriously about binding together. Joining this left ‘coalition of the willing’ are the greens, former socialist coalition partners who quite the government after the recent reshuffle that saw the right-wing and eco-unfriendly Manuel Valls become PM.

The fear among socialists is of a total collapse of the socialist vote on par with the demise of Greece’s one great social democractic party Pasok that died on the alter of neo-liberal austerity. This was highlighted in a recent poll by OpinionWay for Le Figaro newspaper that showed that only 3% of French people wanted to see Hollande stand again in 2017. The causes are not difficult to identify. A government that pledged to turn its back on the right-wing pro-business Nicolas Sarkozy Presidency and the Europe of austerity imposed by German Cancellor Angela Merkel’s is instead slashing business taxes by tens of billions, cutting public spending by the same amount, all to meet those economically suicidal EU deficit goals and appease the financial markets it had promised to tame. The results are 5.9 million unemployed, 10 million people living on less than €900 per month, flatlining growth and a record debt of 91.8 of GDP.

Rebellion has been growing in the socialist ranks. In April, forty socialist lawmakers obstained from backing government plans for heavy budget cuts in coming years. This weekend one of the rebel socialist groups who call themselves the “afflicted socialists” led by former MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc and university professor and Guardian columnist Philippe Marliere took what was up to now an internal socialist party debate into the wider political arena – and threw down the gauntlet to all those who sought a left turn in France’s government to unite .

“The left is in danger,” said Marliere. “The collapse of the Socialist Party in the last election has not benefited other left parties but sparked a massive abstention and a strong rise of the extreme right.” Marliere said the Government had “utterly failed’ to tackle “structural issues such as employment, purchasing power, taxation, education … in short, the left in power is purusing a right wing policy.”

Among socialists who responded to the call from the “Afflicted Socialists” for a possible “red-rose-green” alliance was thirty-something Sylvain Mathieu, who stood on a united left ticket in the last election for the first secretary of the Socialists on April 15. Despite being a low profile figure in the party, he garnered a third of the vote in National Council, against the victor, Jean Christopher Cambadélis, a former close aid to Dominque Strauss Khan of 61 years.

“Everyone is confused or desperate,” Mathieu said. “Over the past year [internal] democracy in the socialist party has been a travesty, so has our policy on Europe “Worse,” he said, referring a President Hollande’s increasingly distant and arrogant style, “Every day is full of [policy] surprises.” The right-turn in Paris left Mathieu and others wondering if the socialists had completely lost their political compass. “Does the left-right divide still means something? We must respond, [the government] may not last another three years like this, it’s not possible.”

Another disillusioned socialist to heed Marliere and Liem Hoang Ngoc’s call was Caroline Haas, a feminist activist (former head of Oser le Feminism) who quit the socialist party earlier this year and stood on a feminist list (Féministes pour une Europe solidaire) for the European elections. She accuses the President and his government of “doing away with the fundamentals of the left” in coming up with their own brand of Margaret Thatcher’s “TINA” (There Is No Alternative). For Caroline de Haas there is no other solution than for Left leaders who are against this policy to start organising to “gain power”.

Pascal Durand, former national secretary of the greens (EEV) urged everyone to “go beyond the old references of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” that founded France’s existing parties.

Pierre Laurent, national secretary of the Communist Party said: “In France, there are forces prepared to rebuild a alternative left majority and the Front de Gauche is aware that it needs to change to take a leading role in this.” A task that must be carried out with all willing partners “without any preconditions.”

But the question of “how” remains an open one.

In breaking with the government, disgruntled socialists have no intention of throwing the Socialist Party, its activists or voters out with the bathwater. As a first objective they are planning a conference in October with the goal of retaking control of the parliamentary majority, and to put PM Manuel Valls “in the minority”, as Gérard Filoche, a socialist on the left wing of the party puts it.

He has advocated  “a battle of amendments” to the National Assembly for a supplementary budget more friendly to lower income groups to be passed by the Cabinet later this week. If this option fails, that leaves the “SYRIZA scenario”, that is, emulating the Greek radical left coalition that emerged as the largest party in the European elections.

This is the goal of Philippe Marliere, who wants a new force that would “go beyond the Front de Gauche and the Socialist Party”

Into the mix for a new red–rose-green alliance could no doubt be thrown Nouvelle Donne (New Deal), a new party of mostly former socialists including figures like Stéphane Hessel,  the writer and inspiration behind the Indignados and Occupy movements. The six-month-old party stood in the European elections and gained 500,000 votes (2.9%).

Eva Joly, the Norwegian-born French magistrate who stood as Presidential candidate for the greens in 2012, cut to the chase, and proposed plans should immediately be laid for a primary election for a “single socialist candidate” representing the forces to the left of Hollande.

And around what common platform? “The fight against austerity, the establishment of a Sixth Republic, the defence of public services, the fight against transatlantic trade treaty, policies for nationalization or state participation in the capital of large industrial enterprises,” said Liem Hoang-Ngoc, who was optimistic that a genuinely progressive and politically powerful coalition could be forged. “When we want to unite, we can do it. “

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


3 thoughts on “French left goes Greek

  1. “Recent euro elections gave a clear historical win for the Left in Greece. The main Leftist party SYRIZA have won by a difference nearly 4 pc and this was an alarming fact for many inside and outside Greece.”


    Posted by failedevolution | June 11, 2014, 8:17 pm
  2. PASOK in Greece is not left wing. PASOK died because they betrayed the Greek people and brought the nation to its present and ever worsening pillaging by Europe. It was Papandreou (not a real Greek but American mother and grew up in America and never understood Athens let alone the rest of Greece) who ruined Greece.

    There may indeed be a referendum in France brewing to leave EU membership.

    SY.RIZ.A are the real socialist in Greece and so the left has not died but thrived in Greece in real terms. SY.RIZ.A also came top in the European Elections for Greece.

    Watched by me on holiday in Greece were two general elections either end of one month, where SY.RIZ.A went from 4 per cent of the vote to 30 per cent and became the official opposition.

    They could not win outright because Greece is a colony of Germany ruled Europe, and Merkel’s starvation politics.

    It would do the French socialists good to talk with Mr Tspiras on how he merged together all the little socialist parties together to form the very successful SY.RIZ.A.

    Once the French manage it, they can come to England and change the Labour party. This is my hope also.

    Requested please is Labour party members to inform people about my petition through their personal and Labour party social media, so as to change Ed Miliband and Ed Balls so that they may amend the electoral manifesto now and gain some of the 23 million voters who are over 50.

    Ed Balls wrongly believes that the state pension is a benefit.

    The state pension is fully funded from the ring fenced National Insurance Fund, that has been well in funds for decades, not needing a top up from tax, despite all the hype about people living longer.

    As the National Insurance Fund is not a tax, it cannot be emptied to pay off the national debt (as wrongly believed by even the Pensioners Convention) nor used for general expenditure by government.

    As no benefit means no access to vouchers to a food bank, it means the millions of poor, over 60, disabled, chronic, working poor and unemployed, men and women are suffering the starvation by design of the Coalition.

    As over 35 million did not vote Labour in the last two general elections, and there are 23 million people over 50 in UK today, then my petition is not only about the loss of 530,000 women voters to Labour, but of the millions more effected by the Flat Rate Pension, to nil food money altogether and forever in old age.

    This would give Labour a landslide victory in 2015 and not just a minority government as projected, because 2015 will have the lowest voter turnout in UK history.

    Not if Labour revoke the Pension Bill (all of them since 2010) and the Flat Rate Pension in 2015.

    Grant those 30,000 back-dated tax-free lump sum in lieu of lost monthly state pension payout from 2013 when they turned 60 and 500,000 same for those losing payout in 2014, and watch how their husband’s also vote Labour.

    Then grant the state pension at 60 to women from 2015 (with only a matter of months back-dated tax free lump sum to those born 1955).

    New Labour lost Labour the 2010 general election, because Labour voters just folded u their arms and voted for no party.

    No other party will gain the voters who are pensioners short of a pension.

    No benefit and no state pension – either in work – working poor – as get state pension payout even remain in work – all equal starvation. Because even if a small works pension, all that is taken up with keeping a roof over your head.

    Posted by Bring Back Immediately Women's State Pension at 60 | June 15, 2014, 3:00 pm


  1. Pingback: French ‘socialists’ go the way of PASOK | Left Futures - June 11, 2014

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