Is There Still a Socialist Party?

9 January 2018

Today, sans surprise, we learned that Stéphane Le Foll will be a candidate for the post of First Secretary. A grand thing, by the sound of it, First Secretary, with a long line of illustrious forebears extending back to Jaurès and Blum by way of Jospin and Mitterrand … and, hélas, François Hollande.

But is there a party left to head? Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, much touted for the post, declined the honor, no doubt having concluded that there must be a better way to further whatever political ambitions she has.

A party that fared so badly in the presidential and legislative elections that it had to sell its headquarters to stay afloat is a party in deep trouble. All three primary contenders for the presidential nomination have more or less vanished from the scene, even if Hamon maintains his First of July Movement (a name that suggests Fidel Castro’s ragtag band of guerrillas taking to the mountains in the hope of an eventual return to glory–rather a long shot in Hamon’s case, I would say, although it didn’t look good for Castro either; it has now been rebaptized Mouvement Génération.s.). Valls has been swallowed up by a phalanx of Marcheurs, and Arnaud Montebourg–Where is Montebourg anyway? Since being dumped by Aurélie Filippetti, he is off the radar. And where, by the way, is Fillippetti? One might have expected her to be in the leadership contest, but she’s keeping a low profile lately.

Le Foll was perhaps the loyalest of Hollande’s foot soldiers, but back in the day, when the Socialists controlled the lion’s share of départements, did anyone think of Le Foll as a potential leader or présidentiable? I think not. So the fact that he is now the leading contender for the top post tells you something about the party’s fortunes. The rump seems torn between throwing in its lot with Macron and throwing itself as a human sacrifice on the altar of Mélenchonism. Le Foll would then represent the resistance to the latter tendency. No one ever accused him of eloquence, but standing by admiringly while the Demosthenes des Insoumis declaims holographically in Paris and Lyon is not in his nature.

My best guess is that the PS is dead for now and will be reborn only if and when Macron falters sufficiently to create an opening between the Mélenchonistes and the Marcheurs. And that day may never come. Politics abhors a vacuum, and five years is a long time to wait for one’s identity to emerge.




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