The Newest New Left: Fragments of a Fraction

Arthur Goldhammer
15 March 2019

Place Publique, the brainchild of essayist Raphaël Glucksmann, was originally intended to unify the fissiparous left. Having failed in that mission impossible, it will now take its place among the shards of the shattered vessel. Glucksmann will head the Place Publique list, which tomorrow, it is rumored, will be officially adopted by the Socialist Party under Olivier Faure as its standard bearer. Of course, this being the Socialist Party, there is no agreement about Faure’s decision to merge with Place Publique, so this latest unification will, as usual, probably leave more fragments littering the field than there were initially. It is an index of the misfortunes of the PS that it is now reduced to being une force d’appoint for a movement that could fit around a large café table.

Nevertheless, the ambitions of the new Place Publique-PS alliance are as large and laudable as they are vague and under-specified. The newest new thing on the left everywhere is of course some version of a Green New Deal. The left needs a suitably universal goal to replace the dream of the day when “l’Internationale sera le genre humain,” now relegated to the dustbin of history. Saving the planet from climate catastrophe fills the bill nicely. The program is particularly attractive to the young and educated who have lost faith in the establishment parties for which they used to vote, however reluctantly. Hence we find the Greens on the upswing in Germany, their ranks swelled by those disappointed with the SPD and unable to vote for the CDU. In the US we have the rockstar political newcomer Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge. The UK, alas, has Corbynism, its ecological credentials now rather tarnished by its bumbling approach to Brexit. And France has les déçus du Macroisme as well as the never-Macronistes. They must vie with Hamon and friends, who also define themselves as écologique, not to mention Jadot and the actual Greens. So everybody on the left, including Mélenchon on the far left, is on the climate bandwagon, but they’re also trying to make themselves Gilets Jaunes-compatible and must therefore water their anti-carbon wine with socially-adjusted carbon-tax policy. Squaring the circle will become more difficult as the various campaigns get down to brass tacks.

Happily for Macron, the continuing kaleidoscopic variability of the left has produced so many shades of green that a plurality of voters will likely stick with the lighter shade of pale that is Macronisme Mark II as it tacks its way through buffeting winds toward le juste milieu.

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1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    Dear Art:
    Lovely phrase-making in the last paragraph. The reference to “Macronisme Mark II” sounds like a reference to a car model –slick and designed to run fast.
    –Surely that was unintentional.

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