Tuesday, May 17, 2011

While Olivier Besancenot* has advanced his media persona by romanticizing the workers' struggle, Dominique Strauss-Kahn gets romantic when the workers are struggling against his sexual advances, and, as WKMA readers may be aware of my ongoing interest in how the political class finesses its disagreements with the public over major issues, I'm interested in how their removal from the 2012 Presidential field could have ramifications on the debate over the European Union and neoliberalism. Besancenot was potentially the most high-profile left of center first round candidate to oppose the European Constitution, aside from Laurent Fabius, who is likely to run for the Socialist Party (PS) nomination. Right of center, Jean-Marie Le Pen played himself against globalization to make it to the 2002 runoff, and his daughter, Marine, is currently showing strength in the polls. While centrist politicians talk about the "presumption of innocence" surrounding Strauss-Kahn's incarceration, Marine has come out swinging, and can turn conservative voters against Sarkozy utilizing the "Exit les 'candidats bling-bling'" argument, a lifestyle argument that can also help centrist Jean-Louis Burloo squeeze Sarkozy's declining support further. Any candidate in a run-off with Le Pen has essentially won and can employ Chirac's 2002 script: don't debate her as the protestors in Paris brandish signs saying "Vote for the crook, not the Nazi."

When Laurent Fabius was tapped by Mitterand to be France's youngest prime minister in 1984, it symbolized Mitterand's rightward shift following the victory of Reagan in the US, ushering in a political age of triangulation in the West. Fabius, though, led both the coalition within the PS in 2004 to reject the European Constitution and the successful campaign against the EC referendum in 2005. Despite the success of the 2005 "no" campaign, Fabius only placed third in the PS primary of 2006, behind the pro-EC Ségolène Royal and DSK. Royal, who attempted a half-hearted leftward drift during the 2007 runoff, has announced but is polling poorly, but her ex-partner, François Hollande, is widely expected to run and has established himself as the post-DSK PS frontrunner, and if that's not insular enough for you, Fabius once dated Sarkozy's wife.

If Fabius doesn't beat out Hollande in October's primary, past history suggests he won't form his own party, which would benefit Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former PS who once supported the EC but has broken from the party and that position to co-found the Left Party. The time he's spent bickering with Besancenot's New Anticapitalist Party will present a challenge to winning over their rank and file. The then-Trotskyist Besancenot's ascension in 2002, along with a high water mark that year for Arlette Laguiller and her Lutte Ouvrière, a more purist, underground Trotskyist line, dealt a historic blow to the old-guard PCF, formerly Moscow-aligned, as well as helping to deny the PS's Lionel Jospin a berth in the runoff. In 2007, Besancenot retained his level of support but the LO lost theirs while the PCF continued to lose support. It will be interesting to see who wins the "Marxist primary" between candidates without former PS participation, but the vacuum provides Mélenchon with a potentially greater opportunity to mount a long shot bid for the run-off. If Hollande wins in October, any combination of him, Le Pen, Sarkozy, Burloo, or Mélenchon could advance to the runoff, if Fabius wins, he would likely face off against one of the first three. The presence of Sarkozy and Burloo in the race could help get Le Pen into the runoff, but Burloo appears to be the main threat to a PS victory.

While DSK has battled the more austere hardliners in the IMF, he has smoothed over global capital's tense relationship with public opinion. His absence, and the particularly scandalous and symbolic circumstances of his arrest, could lead to a backlash against the current course of the European Union which would benefit Le Pen, Fabius, Mélenchon, or some other candidate.

*..who has perhaps my favorite recent author's blurb: "Olivier Besancenot lives in France, where he works as a postal carrier. He received 1,498,581 votes in the first round of the French presidential elections in 2007."

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