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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Des socialistes « affligés » par l’austérité

by Frédéric Durand

Some Socialists “Distressed” by Austerity

Translated Saturday 14 June 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

New voices are being raised within the Socialist Party against Hollande’s policy. On June 7, a debate will be held in Paris, organized by distressed Socialists.

François Hollande is almost asphyxiated, and the entire left is gasping for oxygen. Within the governing majority itself, they are now aspiring on all sides to splinter the granite certainties of an executive branch that is shut up in austerity.

The latest initiative to date is the founding of a club: the Distressed Socialists. The men behind it are Liêm Hoang-Ngoc, an economist, former European Parliament deputy and member of the national bureau of the Socialist Party, and Philippe Marlière, a political commentator and former member of the Socialist Party.

“The 1983 turn to austerity was to permit the advent of a progressive Europe. It resulted in an ordoliberal Europe, which France gave up trying to reorient in 2012, when she adopted a budget treaty which forbids any progressive policy,” they decided in a manifesto published on May 11. The two particularly critical professors give an uncompromising analysis of the government’s accomplishments and orientation: “The National Front’s breakthrough calls for something other than fearful cries. The breakthrough was logical from the moment that a Socialist government applied a neo-con policy that a number of UDI and UMP leaders would not reject.”

Others speak of the revolt as a settling of accounts with regard to the Socialist Party: Philippe Marlière left the party for a brief period as a member of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in 2009, and Liêm Hoang-Ngoc, then the outgoing deputy, was shouldered off the list for the European Parliament elections in May 2014 to make room for the former Florange trade union leader, Edouard Martin, in the Grand Est constituency.

A simpler analysis perhaps is that, freed of any elected position, the two men have now chosen to give their version of events, and to try to unite, inclusively, the growing number of opponents to the austerity policy. Hence the symposium organized on the afternoon of June 7 and entitled “Austerity in Europe is a mistake, for an alternative to supply-side policy.” A meeting place for the left. Among the invitees are Clémentine Autain, Pierre Laurent and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for the Left Front; Julien Bayou, Pascal Durand and Eva Joly, for the Green Party, and, in addition to the organizers, Socialists like Stéphane Delpeyrat and Gérard Filoche. A clear alternative proposal was to be announced at the meeting. “We don’t have any enemy on the left,” the manifesto stipulates, “and we collectively intend, in a spirit of unity, to conduct the political and ideological battle that the left has been losing over the last thirty years.”

Debates to renew confidence

The founders of the new club also reject the accusation that it is yet another stable for training up candidates for the French presidency, at a time when many are already predicting a “tri-polarization” of French political life, which would reduce the question to be asked in the future to this one: Who will oppose the National Front in the second round of the 2017 presidential elections?

“The executive branch’s choice is likely to lead our side inexorably, electoral defeat after electoral defeat, to a new April 21 (2002, in which Jacques Chirac ran against Jean-Marie Le Pen – editor’s note) which will threaten our party’s very existence in 2017” the authors note.

“Distressed Socialists or distressing Socialists, it’s hard for me to tell them apart,” an Internet user noted ironically on the rebels’ blog. The first challenge for the June 7 debates will certainly be to renew confidence.

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