Does the NUPES have a future?

17 January 2023

The evolving French Left has reached a curious juncture. Olivier Faure, who staked his and the Socialist Party’s future on a risky alliance with the mercurial Jean-Luc Mélenchon, appears to be close to surviving an attempt by the Socialist Old Guard to unseat him. (Can les éléphants–Hollande, Cazeneuvre, Le Foll et cie. have a stalking horse? If so, they have found their man in Faure’s opponent, Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol.) In the first round of intraparty voting Faure obtained a near majority of 49.15% of the votes cast, to Mayer-Rossignol’s 30.51. He appears almost certain to win re-election as party leader in the second-round vote this Thursday.

But, irony of ironies, the voting will coincide with the first round of major strikes and demonstrations against Macron’s pension reform. And meanwhile, the internal revolt against Mélenchon’s autocratic domination of his own party is intensifying. Furthermore, the Socialist vote mobilized a scant 22,000 militants, confirming that while Faure may still (barely) hold his party, there isn’t much left of it.

Of course, if Mélenchon’s attempt to exclude his best-known rivals from any share of leadership in LFI succeeds, LFI will become a mere microcosm of the still-fractured left rather than the spearhead of a coherent effort to field a unified left front in opposition to Macron. And Faure will be left as but one of any number of individuals vying to push Mélenchon out of the limelight, with probably fewer followers than a François Ruffin or Clémentine Autain. Meanwhile, the Greens, the third component of the NUPES along with LFI and PS, are as usual focused inward, although at the moment this hardly distinguishes them from their two partner parties.

The mobilization against pension reform ought to have provided the Left with an opportunity to redefine itself, but Mélenchon’s maximalism–he wants to roll back the legal age of retirement to 60–means that there will be no realistic debate and a great deal of posturing and pseudo-revolutionary theater. The anti-reform movement will speak with a cacophony of voices, while the government judges that its best course is to say little while sewing up the votes of Les Républicains necessary to secure passage of the bill.

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