by Ramin Mazaheri
Many in the West are finally starting to come around to the reality that their mainstream “left” party is actually quite right-wing.
What’s taking longer for Westerners to realize is: the left flank of their mainstream “left” party is actually not left-wing at all.
Starting with the United States: What real impact has Bernie Sanders had? As predicted – none.
Sanders’ preferred candidate for Democratic National Committee Chair did not win. The Democratic Party has not moved their policies to the left at all. They’ve embraced Russophobia – an effective distraction from the Democratic Party’s misdeeds/incompetence/betrayal/true nature, but which is inherently reactionary.
Sanders himself has moved to the right because he immediately fell in line with supporting the Deep State and demonizing Russia, recently asking why Trump, “…has nothing but nice things to say about Mr. Putin?”
Ugh…the worry over saying “nice things” exemplifies the timidity of the West’s center-leftists. Buncha nursery school teachers, I guess. Ending stereotypical discourse was revolutionary in the 1970s, but today such talk translates into sanctimonious hot air and no real action.
Because what else but saying “nice things” is the true legacy of Sanders? He claimed to want to take on the establishment, but when actually presented with a real chance he immediately deferred to Hillary, and the rest is history.
And now Benoit Hamon, the Socialist Party candidate in France’s presidential election, is walking the exact same path to irrelevance: Instead of boldly taking on a system he also claims to oppose in many respects, he is toeing a mainstream line which the French disapprove of just as much as Americans currently disapprove of the Democratic Party.
This column will not compare the politics of the two politicians: that’s been done before and they are both mediocre, anyway. Of course, both are not true leftists who oppose imperialism, the military-industrial complex, major economic redistribution or support the international fight against capitalism – they are leaders in Western mainstream parties, after all.
What is important is that Hamon still has less than 3 weeks to learn from Sanders’ failure.
Maybe Hamon was born at night, but was it last night?
France’s Socialist Party couldn’t illegally rig the election, as Democratic leadership did against Sanders, so they are simply defecting from Hamon.
Manuel Valls, Hollande’s longtime prime minister, announced that he will back center-right candidate Emmanuel Macron instead.
This is blatantly undemocratic: Valls lost the party primary on January 29 in a resounding 59%-41% fashion to Hamon, and he was obligated to respect the democratic decision of 2 million Socialist Party voters to support Hamon. He even pledged to do so, but anyone following French politics knows that Valls has proven to be anti-democratic time and again over the past 5 years.
At that time Valls made an interesting off-hand remark: He said he may have to “sit out an election cycle”. I was assumed he meant that he would have to accept that he had covered himself in disgrace as Hollande’s austerity strongman. True justice would be for him to sit out 3 or 4 cycles, at least, because austerity kills. More on Valls later.
I have written that Hamon, however, is “a rare Socialist Party politician who might actually have a soul,” and he seemed genuinely surprised at Valls’ betrayal.
Hamon needs to learn something here from Valls, and that is that you can either be loyal to your own political future, or you can be loyal to the idea of political change on behalf of the mases. For certain, only one choice makes you worthy of wielding power.
Sanders was either phony or gutless – is Hamon?
If Sanders truly had any guts, or any desire to truly change politics in the United States, he would have at least accepted the Green Party’s offer to run atop their presidential ballot.
Even if Sanders lost, he would have surely garnered the 5% of the popular vote necessary for the Greens to be recognized as an official national party. The means the Greens would have qualified for federal campaign funding for 2020, it would have ended the undemocratic ballot obstacles they face in so many states and it would also have established the Green Party as a true political force. America’s most-popular politician would have headed the first real third-party in the US in a century.
Instead, Sanders proved to be nothing but a middling, “man of the party”- loyal to the Democratic party elite and not ideals. This is even though the party personally betrayed him. That’s pathetic, but Sanders seems content.
After all, he is now back in his comfortable role: a rarely effective Senator from one of the smallest states. It proved to be the “Sanders safety valve”, and nothing more, as anyone paying attention should have predicted.
If Hamon truly has any guts, or any desire to truly change politics in France, he will immediately throw his support behind the most popular candidate of the left – Jean-Luc Melenchon. Combined they account for 25% of all voters, just 1% from not advancing/winning the first round and then enjoying an easy 2nd round victory versus the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.
I must digress: Perhaps the key fact in France’s election for everyone to know is that 40% of all voters still don’t know who they are voting for. This is probably because it’s been all corruption scandals, no policy discussion and just two debates. What it definitely means that every poll is inherently suspect because it excludes nearly half the electorate.
So don’t blame the pollsters, whatever transpires – blame the system. Or be like the Americans: blame the pollsters and Russia, and not the system (or even the Democratic Party.)
This uncertainty is why I can fairly speculate that a combined Left Coalition would be able to win the presidency by capitalizing on the widespread sense of a dream deferred: the 2012 betrayal of Francois Hollande to stop austerity, Brussels and the dictatorship of high finance. I promise you that optimism was extremely high back then – France was going to lead the fight against Germany (again) and their ineffective, neo-imperialist austerity.
For those disappointed, Hollande was another textbook lesson that a mainstream Western party is no revolutionary party, much as “Sandernistas” (a disgrace to the true leftists of Nicaragua) are currently learning. Hamon can break that pattern, however.
Hamon, you are not the one. Now join the club & get in line
But Hamon keeps telling Jean-Luc Melenchon to get in line behind him, when it should be vice-versa. Hamon did it again after Valls withdrew his support, and of course Melenchon refused.
Hamon is totally mistaken – his poll numbers are at 10% not because of Hamon himself, but because there are so many diehard Socialist Party supporters who will tick the Socialist Party box whoever their candidate is.
Melenchon, however, is at 15% due to the widespread belief in his vision of a 6th Republic, his excellent platform, his sterling debate performances and the fact that he is the only one of the 5 principal candidates whose party is scandal-free.
Perhaps Hamon is guilty of avarice, ambition and pride: Maybe he just really wants to be president?
If so, he has definitely made the wrong wager. He is down to 5th place and is hemorrhaging Socialist Party support. 53% of France even wants him to pull out of the race.
Can’t Hamon settle for a top cabinet post in return for throwing his support behind Melenchon? Isn’t Prime Minister powerful enough to satisfy his ambition? It would be a big step up from his being a junior minister in Hollande’s cabinet, and if a Left Coalition wins Hamon, 49, is positioned for scads of future success.
I don’t think Sanders truly wanted to president – he obviously rejected the responsibility when offered. What’s certain is that Sanders has no idea of what revolution is: “Revolution is sensing the historic moment,” according to Fidel Castro. While Sanders can brag about being the most popular politician in the US, he is also in a powerless opposition party and can generate no real changes for the common good…so, nice job Bern.
Hamon, however, still has a chance to make his mark in history on behalf of the common good.
And what good is it for him to remain loyal to a Socialist Party which hasn’t stayed loyal to him? Doesn’t he realize they are simply jockeying for their own re-election in June, and to be a part of Macron’s new party.
And that’s a big key: Macron has no party
His “En Marche” party was launched barely 1 year ago, so Macron has no real base of support, no history with the voting public and no party cadres who have any idea what to do because Macron himself has been purposefully vague on his platform.
And that’s why Valls backed Macron: Valls is positioning himself to remain in power. Socialist leaders are defecting because they know that Macron is going to have to rely on them not just to staff his cabinet, but to govern parliament in a coalition – Macron has no parliamentarians!
Macron will also court Francois Fillon’s conservatives for his pro-austerity coalition, but Macron will be Hollande, Jr.: a fake leftist hiding pure capitalism. Macron’s economic policy has been proven to be simply a continuation of Hollande’s – 60 billion euros in budget cuts instead of Hollande’s 50 billion euros.
Few politicians are as openly power-hungry as Valls, so his rapaciousness and lack of integrity should surprise nobody. The previous 5 years shows that the current Socialist Party leadership – who are actual people with actual human qualities, don’t abstract them – are loyal only to themselves and their own ambition because they horrifically backtracked on their campaign promises.
In a true democracy they should have been kicked out long ago for such a flagrant abuse of power. Adding mechanisms to increase the ability of citizens to recall such treacherous politicians was a prominent theme of the recent 2nd presidential debate for good reason.
Macon will be Hollande Redux, and history will blame Hamon if he doesn’t stop it, just as we can blame Sanders for not stopping Clinton, and thus not stopping Trump as well.
Being a fake leftist comes with a huge hidden price to pay! That’s why I advise going full left….
It is not too late for Hamon to do the right thing
Sanders failed to push out Hillary, as the Democratic Party rank-and-file wanted but not the elite.
Hamon has to come to his senses and realize that he needs to force the Socialist Party to either back Melenchon or split the Socialist Party for good.
Hamon has two options: Go down weakly in the first round in 5th place, which would make him just a puppet who can add “Presidential Candidate” on his resume. Or he can truly fight for the soul of his party and let the chips fall where they may.
Hamon has one little thing on his side that Sanders did not, due to the likely vote-rigging and certainly the foul play by the DNC leadership: democratic legitimacy.
Hamon won the primary vote and that gives him the democratic right to make such a power play. Winning a large majority of 2 million voters gives him the right to make the decision on which route the Socialist Party should take. Party bigwigs and the mainstream media will oppose it, but Hamon could announce (finally) that he has decided to play 2nd fiddle to Melenchon in order to win the election.
Would it work, ideologically?
Well, Hamon is pro-EU and pro-imperialism, but even though the left is usually painted with the brush of “they are all one brand of crazy/immature children/phonies,” the reality is that the political left has a spectrum of its own. The “left” includes its own flanks of the far-right to the far-left. Hamon is a right-wing leftist, but the larger point is that all flanks of the left must be reconciled in times of crisis, and France is certainly in an austerity-produced crisis.
If Hamon refuses to do ride shotgun, then he should at least use his primary victory as a mandate to wrest control of the Socialist Party and boot out the careerists like Valls for “undemocratically” defecting, as Hamon has accurately accused.
There should be blood
The purging of so-called Socialists like Valls and many other fake leftists is simply justice after 5 years of betrayal.
People in France want blood from the Socialist Party, and they deserve it: Hollande is so unpopular that he couldn’t even run for re-election! When’s the last time that happened in the West? At least the never-elected Gerald Ford ran for re-election!
France’s Socialist Party needs to have a bloody period of internecine warfare if they ever want to regain credibility; if they ever want to make the term “socialism” not a dirty word associated with betrayal, lies, the state of emergency, 2,000+ arrests of anti-government protesters, the 49-3 constitutional clause which undemocratically bypassed parliament to ram through the right-wing labor code roll back known as the “Macron Law”, the support of Syrian militants, wars in Mali and the C.A.R. and a host of other crimes against socialism.
Heck, they need it just to survive: there are countless articles being pumped out about the “death” of the Socialist Party.
The sad fact is, just like in the US, the Socialist Party establishment is too powerful. Hamon was never a heavyweight who had their support – so Hamon will probably lose.
What’s sure is that Hamon has thus far deluded himself that he would be able to pull the party to the left: they left him, instead. He needs to wake up and fight.
If Hamon wins the purge…well, the Socialists are still a mainstream party, but at least they are less right-wing than before. This is good for the left.
If Hamon loses the purge…he can still make history and progress – where Sanders did not – by defecting to Melenchon’s party and giving it a boost of mainstream credibility.
Sanders failed with the Greens, will Hamon fail with the Communists?
They are the main group backing Melenchon, as France has far more real leftists than America, of course. You can call Green Party supporters leftists all you want, but ultimately they put dirt ahead of suffering people, LOL.
However, the left needs to put aside their usual Achilles heel – the narcissism of small differences – and join forces behind Melenchon, because then they have an excellent chance of putting a genuine left in office.
That is progress.
Or Hamon could just withdraw and get out of the way, preferably (but doubtfully) citing what I wrote: that Hollande was the ultimate patsy, so why should Hamon take a 2nd fall for austerity? Especially now that the Socialist Party has deserted him – pulling another Sanders would be just too pathetic….
Hamon may not win power, but he should quit while he’s still ahead – nobody thought he would even make this far. By making a bold choice with the democratic mandate he won, he could win more than just the long-lasting respect of France – he might even end austerity for all us 99%-ers in France. That should be the main goal for any selfless politician of France’s left.
But If Hamon continues on his current path he will wind up just like Bernie Sanders: failing everyone, achieving nothing and helping the right (or far-right) take even more power.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.