De quoi le Parti Socialiste est-il le nom?

24 November 2020

What’s in a name? Not much, or perhaps all too much, in the opinion of Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure. In an appearance this morning on France Inter, he announced that he would push for the party to change its name, because the adjective “socialist” no longer conveyed what it stood for. “What is that?” inquired the interviewers. Well, that remained to be seen, responded Faure, with characteristic decisiveness. There would first need to be a debate among “socialists,” and then a consultation with the broader left (including, apparently, the Greens, but not Mélenchon), and then perhaps with the country at large. And Anne Hidalgo would of course have to be part of it, even though she is currently feuding with the Greens over the meaning of another word, “republic.” On that quarrel the ever-cautious Faure was almost willing to express an opinion, going so far as to say that, while the Greens were certainly not “part of the anti-France,” it wasn’t entirely clear to him that they were full-throated “republicans” either–“republican” lately having become synonymous with demagoguery on the question of “Islamism.”

The socialist identity crisis has been a long time coming. What began as a quarrel of “currents” stirred up by the torrent that was the Common Program has petered out in a trickle of inaudible verbiage in the vacuum left by the demise of the Hollande presidency. Faure, a party leader in the Hollande mold, seeking always to smooth over troubled waters, has not been able to do much in a term of office that has coincided with the Macronist roiling of the French political seas. All the action is now on the right, between the extreme, the center, and the republican rump–save for Mélenchon, who can conjure up a tempest wherever he goes, but the effects of his abundant wind remain localized. Meanwhile, the Greens and M. Jadot have le vent en poupe and hope to replace the PS, whatever it decides to call itself, as the party of those who may have voted for Macron when he was the bright new thing but can no longer stomach the increasingly authoritarian leader he has become.

A propos of which, I should close with a word on the so-called “global security law,” which the Assembly approved today on first reading. This law is even more in need of a name change than the PS. There is nothing global about it. It is a most parochial law, whose most notorious provision, Article 24, is intended to placate one parish in particular: the police. To be sure, policemen have been harassed by Internet “doxxing,” that is, publication of their images, personal details, home addresses, etc. But so have politicians, protest leaders, journalists, lawyers, and others. There is no need for special protection of the police, and the broad language of the law would appear to prevent the publication of images of acts of police brutality and illegality. Major news organizations have stated that they will not comply with requirements to obtain prior permission to cover demonstrations. Yet Macron has allowed his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, to pander to the police he nominally supervises, who have grown understandably restive under the burden of policing Gilets Jaunes, curfew and quarantine violators, terrorists, migrant camps, and other manifestations of the fact that France has not been swift enough to answer Macron’s call that it reinvent itself as a “startup society.”

Indeed, since the advent of Covid, there has been little opportunity for the “structural reforms” that Macron had hoped would carry him to re-election. With so many cauldrons bubbling all at once, the last thing the government can afford is une grève de zèle by police exhausted by the effort of keeping the lid on all of them. Hence the “global security” or, more precisely, police  protection law, which will allow Darmanin to tell his troops that he’s done their bidding while accomplishing little else.

The Conseil Constitutionnel may yet put an end to this charade, now that PM Castex himself has asked it to affix its seal of approval, but that is by no means certain. What is certain is that Macron can now present himself as the law-and-order candidate, and as someone once said–perhaps it was Adolphe Theirs–il n’y que deux partis politiques en France, le Parti de l’ordre et l’autre.

And there perhaps is a solution to Olivier Faure’s quandary: he can rename the Socialist Party le Parti du désordre.


Photo Credit: *AMS*, Dried Up Dream, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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