Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It is looking increasingly likely that the neoconservatives will see their preferred candidate, Nicholas Sarkozy, elected. It would, for them, be a surprising and satisfying turnaround in the heart of 'Old Europe' or 'social Europe', 'Gaullist' France. To say 'increasingly likely' is not necessarily to say 'very likely' since a few factors have emerged to complicate the picture, as we'll see. There has been a huge heap of horseshit spread around by disgusting hypocrites like pro-war 'leftists' Andre Glucksmann and Pierre Bruckner about Sarkozy's commitment to opposing 'totalitarianism'. Yet, Sarkozy recently met President Mubarak of Egypt, whose recent record on torturing dissidents is discussed here, and assured him that he looked forward to a "trustful and friendly relationship". Sarkozy isn't the only reactionary to get the support of left-renegades. Former communist Alain Soral has apparently signalled his conversion to the fascist Le Pen's camp following a stream of anti-gay and antisemitic comments in the national media. But Sarkozy is working hard to muscle in on Le Pen's rhetoric, while at the same time citing his 'left' supporters.
He is much admired by the American neoconservatives, who have reservations only about his occasional 'economic nationalism'. His most important asset for them is that he will suspend any effort at an independent foreign policy by one of the main European powers, while another potentially independent power, Germany, is largely playing ball under the leadership of Merkel.
The complicating factors are as follows. Firstly, 42% of French voters are undecided, and it is unclear in which direction they will go. Some reports suggest that about half of the industrial working class has not decided who to vote for, and this could well redound to Royal's benefit at the last moment. According to some polls, the centrist Bayrou could well end up opposing Sarkozy in the second round, and left voters would tactically back him. Secondly, there have been suggestions from senior PS figures of a coalition with Bayrou, on the grounds that there are no differences of substance between Royal's policies and those Bayrou. Royal doesn't favour it in public, since the effect would be to abandon her campaign, but it is such a fuck up to date that one can imagine her last-minute capitulation. Thirdly, one recent poll puts Sarkozy and Royal neck and neck, although other polls continue to give Sarkozy a 6% lead. Finally, the position of the radical left-of-left candidates is not strong. Olivier Besancenot of the LCR looks like he's the only far left candidate, including the charismatic Bove, who will make the 5% barrier. So, many of the left-of-left votes could well collapse into support for Royal.
It is hard to overstate what a complete and utter farce this whole thing is. On the one hand, the radical and revolutionary left had a fantastic chance, after its stunning wave of victories against the right-wing government, to unite around a good candidate and to pose a serious left-challenge to the neoliberal consensus. One can say with some certainty that if this effort had not been scuppered by the treacherous sectarianism of some elements, notably the PCF, there wouldn't be senior PS figures bragging that their programme is essentially the same as that of the UDF. On the other hand, the disgrace of nominally 'left' figures flocking to Sarkozy has given some fleeting credibility to his racist diatribes, reactionary rhetoric on crime, neoliberal policies, corruption, and his hawkish, pro-Israel foreign policy stance. Sarkozy offers the French ruling class the opportunity to pursue an aggressive, if difficult, war against the working class and its resistance to the attempts to remove labour protections and create a more casualised, insecure, and eventually lower-paid labour market. He offers the upwardly mobile middle class a policy of aggressive repression in the poor banlieues and tighter immigration controls, while allowing employers to benefit from the even more parlous condition of migrant labourers. He promises to reorient the French state more firmly toward Washington and its interests, in the hopes of gaining French capital a bigger share of the imperial spoils. He will maintain the imperialist mission force in Africa, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, and the French mercenaries operating in Iraq will not be discouraged.
I wish Besancenot well, and don't underestimate the impact a sizeable vote for him could have. Yet, the extent to which it has already been pissed up against the wall is remarkable, and this should really lead to a bashing together of heads after the whole fracas has played out, hopefully without the grotesque spectacle of a Sarkozy-Le Pen final round.