Manifs contre la loi du travail: is today the opening skirmish?

I think that it has begun. I read that there have been  many demonstrations against the labor law in Paris, Lille, Marseille, other cities throughout France.  Several of these protests have represented quite strong mobilizations.  More such demonstrations are apparently being planned.

Even though I agree with Art Goldhammer that these “reforms” are mostly insignificant. I am opposed to them because the burdens of these reforms, trivial though they might be, are being shouldered almost entirely by the workers and the bourgeois. I feel that the bosses should give up something equal to what is being asked of the workers and the middle class.

Nevertheless, I do not understand certain things.  As a practical matter, Macron has all the power. All the députés of En Marche! came to Paris to serve him, the new god, the new Jupiter, and apparently for no other reason. There was no agenda during the election, just Jupiter. Plus, he essentially controls the MoDems 42 députés and, of course, the left has collapsed and his agenda is largely acceptable to the right.  So, no one remains to oppose him and his pro-globalization “reforms”.

And yet, the so-called “Reforms” are trivial. I am surprised that labor unions are even bothering to demonstrate so forcefully against them.  This package of trivialities is hardly the audacious blow of man who refused to give the traditional interviews on the occasion of the fête nationale the media is incapable of understanding the god-like, complex thoughts of Macron.

Macron will, hopefully, never have more power than he has today.  As I’ve said before, there’s probably never been a time in the history of France when one man has enjoyed so much power with so little opposition.   We all know that Macron wants to make sweeping changes to France and to Europe on behalf of the Davos crowd, yet even after gathering the Congress at Versailles, as though the country were in the midst of a national crisis, what he has proposed is relatively trivial by anybody’s standards despite all of the pomp and circumstance.

Which brings me to some further thoughts about the election: I think that he was in the “sweet spot of time”.  All the stars were perfectly aligned for Macron; and he followed his star without the slightest hesitation.

The internal problems destroyed all the political parties. From the extreme right to the center left, nothing remained standing.  In particular, the Parti socialiste was nothing but a smoldering ruin.   Of course, Macron and his patron François Hollande were the ones who destroyed the PS, but, no matter how it was brought about, the collapse of the PS resulted in a massive vacuum of power which the new Jupiter saw was clearly intended for him.

The first to begin to recover will be most probably the FN, because unless the party’s internecine rivalries are deeper and wider than previously believed, it is being disrupted by little more than a family conflict that will be resolved when all of the members of the Le Pen family remember the source of the family’s wealth and why they get to live in a castle. The structure of the party as a national organization, built by Marine Le Pen, remains essentially intact.  Unlike the PS, there doesn’t seem to have been much structural damage.

Following the example of the PS, its failure results mainly from an internal collapse which made impossible to work during the elections and also because of certain extremely stupid tactical choices (i.e., MLP’s pointless effort at distancing herself from the extreme right by appointing an actual Nazi as the caretaker head of the FN or abandoning her most important political and economic as disastrous and unworkable only a few days before the election). But the structure and the base of the FN remain more or less intact and it will be relatively easy to them to regroup and begin to rebuild and perhaps even expand at the local level.

And, make no mistake, if Macron cannot fulfill  his extravagant promises, the FN will probably be in the best position to take advantage of his failures.

The center and the right, of course, belong to Macron and to the men of unlimited ambition who are clustered around him.  But these are ruthless men who would gleefully stab Macron in the back in an instant, just as he betrayed his own patron, Hollande. So, in that sense, even with all his power, Macron must move cautiously and this perhaps explains his tepid reforms.

But my thoughts are principally focused on whether the Parti socialiste can be rebuild by those who might be attracted to a revitalized party of center left.  I believe the PS can rebuild itself and once again be the party of center left which meets the needs of the workers and the middle class through the “socialism of the possible”.

We all know who will oppose this resurrection.  The question is whether the base of the party wishes to continue being led by the ageing elephants of the radical center who burned everything on the ground.  Surely it would be better for the Parti socialiste to respond to the emergence of Macron by embracing the extremely popular and beneficial politics of the center-left which will revitalize France.

Still King Macron!

I have little to say of value about this speech. He’s still King Macron. In his speech to the Congress at the palace of Louis XIV – the ‘Sun King’ – in Versailles, he spoke as though the country were in the midst of a national crisis. Macron threatened to overrule lawmakers with a referendum if they try to frustrate the “reforms” he wishes to impose on France.  Such assemblies are usually reserved for times of national crisis and the tone of the speech was also very strange more; like a general telling the country how things would be after a military coup than a newly elected president of a republic speaking to an elected national assembly.

A strange thing, indeed. He told the deputies, the majority of whom came to Paris specially to serve him, that if they refuse to obey him, he will go to the country with referendums.  Here’s my question: Why bring up the subject at all? What is the aim, especially since, as I said, most of these members seem to be have no political or philosophical beliefs, except for their belief in Macron as their leader? Why insult them?  Is it possible that Macon knows something we do not?

But if the agenda of Macron is so toxic that it cannot be propelled even with using Article 49-3, what does this bode for the future? This would certainly be a test that would allow us to better gauge whether the landslide victory of Macron was linked to his personal charisma or something else entirely.

Macron has certainly been the beneficiary of a unique confluence of circumstances that saw the collapse of the entirely left of French politics.   I attribute the destruction of the PS to the rise of radical center under Hollande.  The destruction that Macron’s allies François Hollande and Manuel Valls inflicted on the Socialist Party has been total.  They quite simply burnt the most significant party of the center-left to the ground and then laughed as they walked away from the smoldering ruin.

Likewise, the National Front and the UMP/LR were destroyed by their respective leaders who were unable to control their inner demons and, of course, by their party rivals who were prepared to win or lose everything in a death match.  And the result was that both parties have also been reduced to ashes.  The result was a incoherent and immobilized far right and a vacuum in the political space from the right to the center-left; a vacuum which Macron rushed in to fill.

I have always maintained that there was no appetite for centrism in France. But there is a powerful argument that the rapid rise of Macron, a self-proclaimed centrist, to a position of unmatched power means that I am wrong.  There is much ambiguity about the result of the election given the incapacity of the parties of the left and right, combined with a well justified revulsion at the thought of a president Marine Le Pen.

But if  Macron is forced, for some reason that I can’t envision, to go to the people, then we’ll have something much closer to a true test of the popular appeal of radical centrism because such an “up or down” vote on actual policies would not depend on the health of political parties, but rather a direct judgment on the merits of centrism. This could get interesting!

 

King Macron?

I am shocked. I did not see this coming; not at all.  My thoughts are still disorganized and disrupted, but it seems to me that French politics is also disorganized right now. I’m still trying to make sense of it all.  The only that’s certain is that Marcon is surfing on an enormous wave of popular support. Beyond that, I can only offer a few random observations.

To begin with, there’s an equally large number of people who did not vote. Both main political parties (the LR and the PS) suffered crushing defeats.  But are they finished or will they come back when, or perhaps if, they are able to resolve their internal differences and challenge of Macron?  Who knows?

For the moment, the stars are perfectly aligned. The LR is destroying itself with an internal fight for the power between Sarkozy and “Honest” Fillion.  And, of course, the PS was destroyed from within by the militant centrists, of whom Macron was one.

The REM has swept everything. Macron has a total power. Certainly, more power than De Gaulle. Maybe, more than anybody ever in France.

And it is an important difference. These new députés are not committed to a cause, an idea, or a philosophy; instead, they are committed to a man. One man who holds all the power of the state in the hands, essentially as king. More than king, perhaps, because there is not a Cardinal Richelieu around to oppose this king. All of my political and philosophic differences with Macron aside, this extraordinary concentration of power is a very disturbing development for a republic.

Both, the LR and the PS are facing annihilation in Paris if my guess about the upcoming legislative election is correct.  For the PS, one of its most popular and important figures, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, has lost in the first round.  And PS luminaries Benoît Harmon and Jean-Christophe Cambadélis were also beaten in the first round. Very strange. I see no reason people should abandon their party for the benefit of Macron.

Mélenchon and La France insoumise will support the frondeurs of the PS in the second tour.  Not Valls, naturally.  Harmon has also called for PS members to vote against Valls.  Although Valls’s politics are not mine, I’ve always admired and respected him personally; but there’s undeniably a sense of rough justice in this. If there is anybody running in this election who richly deserves to be drowned by this tidal wave, it is most assuredly Valls.

But, surprisingly, the FN did quite well in its strongholds. 122 candidates qualified for the second round. So, Mélenchon and La France insoumise also did strangely well, especially considering how badly the PS was treated.

All of which would seem to count against the conventional wisdom that this election reflected a wave of popular support for the centrism. And nevertheless, it is undeniable that Macron, the self-proclaimed centrist, has ridden to power on a wave of popular support like nothing else I’ve seen in French politics.  If that’s not a wave of support for centrism, then what is it?

And this is the second major election in which absenteeism and the null vote represented a huge proportion of eligible voters and that number has been growing – it’s now more than 40 % according to Le Monde.

My hope is that the PS can return to being a party of center left. The party of Jean-Jaurès.  A movement towards a socialism of the possible is something that would be very important for all the Western democracies.

Juppé crashes and burns in the Primaire de la droite !

 

Alain Juppé —the overwhelming favorite to win the Primaire de la droite —has been defeated by, of all people, François Fillon.  How could this have happened? Well, apparently, no one told Juppe that being elected president means running for election. You know, to have an organization, to reach out to the left and the center, on whose votes he will be dependent.  Being a politician is quite evidently something he feels is beneath him.  Apparently, he expected to simply be proclaimed as president; something like the return of Napoleon from Elba, the Hundred Days.  This was obviously a terrible mistake.

Juppe is clearly not a very good candidate, but the Left could have rallied around him in a republican front.  But, Fillon is a very different animal. How is he different from Marine Le Pen on issues of religious, immigration and civil society? Frankly, there is very little daylight between them, except that the FN’s economic policy is largely cribbed from Paul Krugman, while Fillion is the Wolfgang Schäuble of France. Why should France choose to revisit Vichy,  with perhaps a bit less goose-stepping, but even more austerity?

Goldhammer has a good analysis on his blog. He is edging closer to saying that perhaps the left will remain at home, which means that Le Pen can win. So, France is probably screwed. I fear that my beloved Paris is too dangerous to serve as a refuge from the ravages of Trump. All I can do is choose someplace else to hide from the world. Now, the choice is between Montreal and Vancouver.

French politics has entered the Twilight Zone.

I am so confused. A lot of news today; none of which makes much sense. Let’s begin with the Front National because that’s the big story of the day. What in the world is going on with these people?  Has MLP left the FN or not?  Does Marine’s announcement that she will be leaving the party mean that she won or lost the struggle for power inside the party?

Or could it mean that her father, JMLP, is the winner?  This morning, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, niece of Marine (and her main rival), will leave politics.  Why?

I do not understand what this means in the context of the ongoing struggle for power inside the Front National. Marion is allied with her grandfather.  Does her leaving mean that he lost the fight for the power and his granddaughter has been cast out of the party? Which would imply that Marine won. But then why would both Marine and Marion leave?  And if they both leave, who stays? Who is the winner? The vieil homme? But surely this would be a pyrrhic victory.

So, in other news, the Prime Minister of the Socialist Party, Manuel Valls, will be a candidate in the National Assembly under the banner of Macron. But he claims to have stayed a good socialist and wishes to remain in the PS just in case things go badly for him in his new situation?  Clearly, he’s a rat and needs to leave the PS right now and take his chances. Now, he’s proposing to serve the other rat who jumped ship from the PS.

But what are the implications for Valls if Macron turns even more to the right and significantly past the centrists who are his base? Will Valls follow him from the center to the right? This seems to be irrevocable and a little bit dangerous choice. There is no possible return for Valls. He will have made his bed and will need to sleep in it.

The big question for today:  who will be Macron’s prime minister? Right, centrist, or left? Certainly, not the  left!  There is a good overview of the possibilities today in Le Parisian today.

If Macron can obtain a majority or at least something close enough for him to form a government with the Modems and some renegades from the LR and the PS (such as Valls), who will he chose as prime minister?  Fillion is damaged goods. I think Macron will chose Juppé or Bayrou, with an outside chance of Jean-Louis Borloo, an opportunist the same as Macron. Probably Bayrou.

Some preliminary reflections on the French Election

I saw nothing during the election to convince me that Macron is more than the sum of his ambitions.  I hope that I’m wrong but I do not think that he will be a good president.

Nevertheless, it was an important victory. After Trump, Brexit and the advance of the extreme right in the Scandinavian countries, it was France which defeated the monsters and the trolls of the extreme-right, faced down Putin and Russia, and made a powerful statement against fascism. And the French knew the risks involved in electing Macron. The risks for their Social Security and their health insurance. The risks of galloping globalization.

The French can be proud and especially my tribe on the left can be proud. I saw the figures in Le Monde and Le Parisian yesterday morning. The entire left voted massively for Macron. Including the voters of the FdG, which means that those who insulted Mélenchon owe him an apology.

Unsurprisingly, the major desertions were the followers of the grifter, “Honest Fillion”.  According to my analyses, by electing Macron, the people of the left have probably sacrificed a big part of their financial well-being to stop fascism.  But will they be rewarded for their sacrifices?  Of course not!

Naturally, the rewards will go to the friends and associates of “Honest Fillion”. Art Goldhammer thinks Macron is going to choose his PM from the right and that Bruno Le Maire’s departure from the LR augurs an opening to Macron. He believes that this will somehow “split” the right.

I agree that Macron will go to the right in choosing his ministers. What I do not understand is how it is going to divide the right. It seems to me that giving them all ministries and “plum jobs” and patronage will enrich and strengthen the right.  Of course, such a betrayal of his former friends in the PS by Macron is to be expected.  It is only natural that having betrayed his friends in the PS, who overwhelmingly voted for him in the general election, the former socialist will choose Prime Minister from the LR because, naturally, a rat builds a party of rats.

 

Bernard Cazeneuve is apparently living on a different planet.

Cazeneuve’s statement urging the base of the PS to support Hollande’s “bilan” is more than a little bit peculiar. His cautionary message might make some sense if Hollande had lead the PS to an overwhelming level of political dominance, the continuance of which Hamon’s “fluke” victory might jeopardize. Cazeneuve might want to remember that on the day Hollande took over, the PS was riding high—a big victory, optimistic and proud celebrations in the Place de la Bastille, and a PS that possessed the most powerful and vibrant party structure in much of France.

What is Hollande’s “bilan”? In a word: disastrous. Hollande has run France into a ditch; the regional and local power base of the PS is decimated; the “bilan” of Hollande is so widely despised that the party of the sitting president is not expected to make the final round of the next presidential election. The “bilan” of Hollande’s government has been rejected by his party and (if the last three years of polling is any indication) it will be overwhelmingly rejected by the French electorate.

So what exactly is Cazeneuve saying? If he’s saying that Hollande was on the right path and the PS needs to stay the course; pay any price and bear any burden to do what’s right, I think he should explain why because he sounds unhinged in light of the negative results Hollande has achieved. If he’s saying that the center-right is the only viable place to be politically, I think he’s dead wrong.

Not to be beating the same dead horse that I’ve been regularly flogging but, outside of the chattering classes, there really isn’t much appetite in France for centrism and if you don’t believe me, just ask President François Bayrou.