Special Reports / The 21st Century. A World Without The Left?

The left is distorted

Krzysztof Pomian · 20 August 2013
After five years of Hollande’s presidency, France is to be confronted with the situation that Front National will become one of the main actors on the French political scene and its chairwoman, Marine Le Pen, will qualify for the second round of presidential elections, scoring better than her father.

What is the French left like? What will it be like? Before I give an answer, I will refer to the fact that it was radically transformed in the 70s of the 20th century: up to that time the communist party had been its main power, since then that power was in the hands of socialists and they will be the main topic here.

Jacques Julliard who wrote the history of the French left starting from XVIII to this day, concludes that along with the collapse of the communism and sexual liberation, the left ceased to be of working class and collective, and became individualistic – at contemporary times it more focuses on human rights than class struggle. Julliard’s statement at its best embraces only one dimension of change so profound that it puts under question the left attitude of the French socialists itself.

It is for the first time in the history that the party, which calls itself social, is a party of the socially and culturally privileged: personnel of the public administration with job security, citizens of big and small cities, groups having education and income higher than average, of which the members endowed with mental capacity and professional qualifications are prepared to compete on the market, if not world market, then on the market which is to a large extent open to the whole world. Physical workers and those employed in private enterprises, dwellers of city suburbs housing estates, low income persons are of interest to socialists only as a topic for rhetorical discourse show. The life issues which matter for those groups, such as security and immigration considered to be politically incorrect, are left to the right and the extreme right. This world is going backwards.

The French socialists share different views on those issues as it also is the case for other issues. But the dominant tendency is such. It is characterised by: state control preserved from socialism and prevailing distrust towards any private initiative, laicism understood as anti-christianity, internationalism reflected in friendly attitude towards “anti-imperialistic movements” and strive for creating a “new man” through forcing social changes even if it is against the opinion shared by majority. It can entail dramatic consequences – not only for France. After four years of ruling by Jospin, Jean-Marie Le Pen was a candidate in the second round of presidential elections. After five years of Hollande’s presidency, France is to be confronted with the situation that Front National will become one of the main actors on the French political scene and its chairwoman, Marine Le Pen, will be qualified for the second round of presidential elections, but scoring better than her father.

As I have already said, the French left is divided. In particular, the productive orientation of the socialist party stays in conflict with the “ecological” orientation. When uttering this word speaking about France, this word should always be put in inverted commas since the party which names itself like this and which is in alliance with the socialist party is more involved in fighting capitalism than fighting for environmental protection. This is of interest to it as long as it serves the superior goal. It is attempting to crash capitalism and in the same time not start any revolution nor expropriate capitalists, through stopping the industry expansion, and first of all, curbing the energy production.

Hence, it is not a conservative party as some may think. It is simply a reactive party with a programme which, if implemented, would lead to further escalation of unemployment and widespread poverty. The socialists need alliance with it to win elections in the cities where ecological party is favoured by majority of electors. In the same time, it puts both parties in a difficult situation, which is already noticeable in nuclear power industry and shale gas.