I read the thumbsucker pieces about the Socialist Party in Le Monde’s Ideas section yesterday, including the manifesto by the 200 Hollande loyalists from the National Assembly. What did I get for my labors? It was like plowing through a swamp of earwax – it was like being gnawed by weasals while trying to escape from melting tundra. It was in other words a completely unenlightening and vaguely disgusting experience, with an avoidance of the issue at hand that would be frightening if it weren’t so yawn-worthily predictable.
Here’s the issue at hand. The PS is at a record level of unpopularity. Thus, the question at hand is what strategic sense it makes to be unpopular and at the same time utterly shed one’s principles, embracing their contradiction – neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, austerian economics and a very public palling around with the malefactors of great wealth. It is one thing to be unpopular because of one’s principles, and quite another to be unpopular and adopt the opposition’s principles. It is, in short, a cretinous strategy.
But it hasn’t been done by the PS alone. Time after time over the past seven years, since the depression began, leftist parties in Europe have abandoned everything they stood for and adopted austerianism. The results of this move are in. The results are: the leftist party is rolled at the general election by the standardbearer for the right, and are even rolled by the populist anti-immigrant anti-European parties, which, while strictly right on race and social matters, adopt a leftist economic stance.
If this were a simple footrace, what the PS is telling its militants is that it is better to run it with a fifty kilo weight tied around your neck.
These observations, which are extremely banal but at least relevant to the issue of the party, are never even touched on by the neo-liberal former Mitterand minister (and former payer of a half million dollar fine in the US for shady business practices), the haughty poli sci prof, and the 200. Instead, they serve up great gobs of rhetoric and re-heated third way malarky, signifying absolutely nothing.
Why would an elite become so braindead that it can’t even gain clarity about its own interests? This is a historical situation that pops up often: think of the 1940 French military strategy, or the 2003 American Iraq occupation strategy. Think of the crash of 2008. On this scale, the demise of the PS is a minor matter, but it is still gruesomely interesting to watch.