Dead Men Left

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


What to make of this?

Yesterday, left voters convinced that “Another Europe is possible” joined Le Pen and the far right to vote “no”. The French Communist Party, the Trots and Laurent Fabius – the Mitterrand-era Socialist prime minister who revived his political career by coming out against the treaty – are congratulating themselves on a grand victory. But who will benefit? Not Chirac, whose star is now definitely on the wane. But not the left either. The crass opportunism of the left “no” camp severely damages the chances that the left will be able to find a candidate at the next presidential election who commands widespread support. Idiots utiles.

1. If we're going down this path, it would be far more accurate to say that Le Pen and the far Right joined left voters. Unlike the 1992 Maastricht referendum, it was the Left that led the opposition to this constitution, providing an object lesson in how to marginalise the far Right. Opinion polls confirm that the major objections to the constitution centred on jobs and the welfare state, with concerns over immigration and "French identity" being well down the list. The sneer at the "Communist Party, the Trots and Laurent Fabius", designed to confine a 55% vote to the political margins, is absurd on any reading. The decisive votes in this election were those from Socialist supporters, breaking with their party leadership, whilst the French working class overwhelmingly voted "no".

2. "Crass opportunism"? Have a look, again, at Apostate Windbag's excellent summary of the critical points of the constitution. On what possible grounds could the Left vote for this rag-bag of corporate special pleading, hymns to the free market and militaristic swagger?

3. "Widespread support": the opposing side defeats you in a referendum, at which point you claim they cannot find "widespread support". Clever stuff. There is a more serious point here; what Anderson demands of the French Left is the same crass Blairite logic we have become too used to in Britain: appeal to the Right to win popular support, appeal to business for an easy ride once in power. The old strategy of triangulation has now been brutally slaughtered in France. Any future for the French Left will depend on it performing the old-fashioned tasks of political persuasion and political leadership - in opposition to the previous political settlement. Attempts to corrall the Left back into neoliberal line will fail; the "Third Way", in its many European variants, is demonstrably unpopular and now discredited, I hope, beyond repair. We must now move beyond the abject failures of the twenty years and start to propose serious alternatives for Europe.