Hamon Sauvé des Eaux

Arthur Goldhammer
24 January 2018

It’s a year and a half before the European elections of May 2019, which will be the voters’ first turn to give a verdict on the Macron presidency at the ballot box, but already the parties are maneuvering for the occasion. Today comes the news that Benoît Hamon, late of the Socialist Party and now the leader of a barely audible movement known as Génération.s, has forged an alliance with Yanis Varoufakis, the flamboyant ex-finance minister of Greece and leader of another barely audible movment, this one transnational, known as DiEm, for Democracy in Europe Movement.

The image that first came to mind when I heard this news was of Renoir’s film, Boudu sauvé des eaux, in which the clochard Boudu is rescued from the Seine after a suicide attempt. His rescuer is an amiable bookseller, who will in due course discover reasons to regret his good Samaritanism. The analogy doesn’t really work, because in this case Hamon, the drowning man, is perhaps a more amiable personality than his rescuer, who in any case is also drowning.

Still, one has to wish their two floundering movements well. There is a crying need for a calm and rational voice on the left between the hectoring Mélenchon and the all-conquering République en Marche, which often seems in danger of forgetting that it was supposed to be et de droite et de gauche. The Génération.s-DiEM alliance may find it difficult to establish a foothold in the increasingly fragmented French political landscape, but it might just be capable of articulating a few good ideas.

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3 Comments

  • peter Alexis gourevitch says:

    great title evokes so well the content!!! great film! great metaphor

  • Robinson says:

    Well, I *like* Hamon, and I suppose that he represents the sort of left that I should support- not a Blair/Macron type convert to free markets, nor a Trot anachronism. I don’t like Varoufakis, but I suppose that the is the most conspicuous symbol of the correct left-wing position on Europe: stridently opposed to Eurozone enforced austerity, nevertheless pro European integration.

    I fear that Varoufakis unpopularity and his disastrous tenure in office also make him a symbol of why this sort of politics no longer works in the EU. The Euro has broken the traditional European center-left beyond repair.

  • Mal says:

    Art, I’d be very interested to hear more on your view of Varoufakis. I know many people find him insufferably arrogant, but I was impressed by his book on the Greek crisis and think it’s remarkable that he’s actually trying to do something to bring about change in the Europe that he describes there, rather than withdrawing into cynicism. The substantial document that constitutes the DiEm manifesto (i.e. the long version) could be something that deserves Tocqueville’s attention?

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