A day of atonement

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The European elections which took place around the week-end (on Sunday, May 25th, in France) show a true uprising against the policies carried out in Europe. It is evident in France, in Great Britain, but also in Italy where the M5S together with the Northern League and what is left of Berlusconism (Forza Italia), which turned ever more anti-EU make up more than the equivalent of the PD, the center-left party. The uprising is also evident in Greece, where Syriza carried off the elections with flying colours, as well as in Eastern Europe where parties that are at the very least eurosceptic are prevailing and where absenteeism was a large majority (from 87% in Slovakia to 65,8% in Romania and 77% in Poland). These elections also confirm the absence of a synchronicity between the political spaces represented by the various nations, as this uprising has taken very different forms and shapes inherited from historical frameworks and characteristics of political life in different countries. This just proves that democracy is strongly linked to a frame called “Nation.” This absence of synchronicity, which for the present will allow the conservatives of the PPE to retain a relative majority, marks the end of hopes of some to see an European « people » emerging. We still have French, British, Germans, Italians, and so on. If a global rejection did express itself, it did so within the national frameworks giving it its specificity.

In France, these same elections have been stated to have provoked, in the words of the Prime Minister, a « seism » or earthquake. Yet the meaning of it must be made clear. The seism is less evidenced by the score of the Front National, albeit historic (25% of the votes, first party in France), than by the symmetrical caving in of the block in power (23% for the PS+EELV i.e. Europe Ecologie Les Verts) and of the UMP, which garners hardly 20%. In reality, if one adds the votes which weighed in on the side of parties calling the EU in question (DLR, FdG and FN), one obtains 35% of the suffrage. One will note that the success of the National Front did not keep the small party of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan from scoring nicely at almost 4%.  One is allowed to think that if petty quarrels of political machinery had not made the project of common lists with the partisans of Jean-Pierre Chevènement (the MRC) run aground, those lists could have had considerably more weight in these elections. Conversely, if one regroups the votes of the two parties, which fully assumed European federalism, UDI and EELV, we obtain only 18.7% of the vote. This figure too must be remembered. It measures the true weight of the partisans of « federalism » in France, slightly more than 50% of hard-core euro-sceptics.

The speech given Sunday night by the Prime Minister revealed itself to be perfectly inadequate and demonstrates the incapacity of the government, and of the women and men who make it up, to adjust to the new situation. We are confronted with a case of political autism, which is truly pathological. Instead of acknowledging the fact that the voters had sent a message of defiance towards Europe, demanding more Nation and less of Brussels, Manuel Valls was content with repeating the old saw about “reforms” and “changing Europe.” This foreshadows sombre days for democracy, with a government now unvested of all legitimacy.  Facing this naked government, the Front National now represents the opposition, and this is what constitutes the « seism » in question. Another speech is to be noted, the one given by the French President on Monday night, the day after. A short one, and without much of content, it boasted nevertheless one fact to be remembered: the President made a huge lapsus when he alluded to the victory of “europeist” parties in place of the obvious “euro-sceptics” ones. This proves the extent of the psychological shock these elections were on François Hollande and his government.

Comparison between voting results of 2009 and 2014

Party

2009

2014

Difference

UMP

27,90%

20,3%

-7,6%

PS

16,48%

13,9%

-1,8%

Europe Ecologie

16,28%

8,7%

-7,6%

MoDem / UDI

8,46%

10,0%

+1,5%

Front de Gauche

6,48%

6,3%

+0,1%

Front National

6,34%

25,1%

+18,7%

Results by groupings on European matters

2009

2014

Difference

Federalists (EELV/UDI)

24,76%

18,7%

– 6,06 %

Euro-mainstream (PS/UMP)

44,38%

34,2%

– 10,18 %

Euro-sceptics (DLR/FdG/FN)

13,96%

35,3%

+ 21,34 %

Back in France, these results translate therefore both in a massive rejection of European institutions, radically contested by 35% of the voters, and in a particular crisis for several parties. The UMP takes a spectacular step backwards, far from compensated by the modest progress of UDI. This led to a “day of reckoning” for the former president of this party, Mr. Jean-François Copé, which surrendered to the weight of both a huge political defeat and the Bygmalion scandal. For the UMP, it is without doubt a crisis of internal governance coupled to a lack of legibility of its political line, which is the cause of the results. The same goes for the PS, directly affected by the foundering of its ecologist ally. As for the PS, it should be expected to pursue its march to self-destruction because of the policies it persists in carrying out. There is a suicidal obstinacy in Manuel Valls insistance on the themes of austerity. But two facts must catch our attention:

  1. The ecologist party EELV is paying very dearly both its europeism and its dilly-dallying which show to all that it is more a syndicate of incumbents than a true party. Its constituents have not understood the constant dirty horse-trading with the government.
  2. The Front de Gauche has showed itself incapable of capitalizing on the rejection of the PS and on the immense anger which is rising among the working classes. This is due to the total lack of legibility of its political line, as was courageously recognized by one of its two co-presidents, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. But it owes its defeat most of all to its deep misunderstanding of what the Nation stands for, in reality as well as in the imaginary of the French. Either it will go through a fundamental cultural rupture during the coming weeks, through a « Chevènement moment » as we faced in 2007-2008 a “Minsky moment” bringing it onto a new trajectory, or it is condemned to wither away. What is left of the left is to understand the relevance of the Nation or to die for once and ever.

Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s’est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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