Thursday, April 28, 2005

Protest politics and responsibility towards the citizens and the future

Lorenzo wrote about the very interesting position of the ex-French Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who invited the French people to vote for the European Constitution and accused parts of the politically affiliated and non-affiliated left who propagate the “no” vote. As far as they are concerned he said, "Nous ne pouvons dépendre ni doctrinalement, ni stratégiquement de ceux qui refusent le pouvoir".

In English, “We cannot depend nor strategically nor doctrinally on those who renounce power”.

This is the essence of the very credible critique of the radical left civil society movements and their way of doing politics. Especially those that do not pretend to take power but participate in politics only to, so to speak, deconstruct, not to construct. This is largely because their political platform rests on maximalist aims completely unaware of political realities (this is completely besides the point that we might find the underlying ideas of that platform morally credible: e.g. solidarity, economic equality argument, pacifism etc.). The political position of these movements rests on a definition of politics as art of the impossible rather than art of the possible.

I am not necessarily condemning making politics as art of the impossible neither suggesting that the only way to do politics in a kind of Metternich’s, Kissinger’s Realpolitik, however, I think that they are times when it is responsible to do so and times when it is not. Or better, that the only time when the politics of deconstruction is ‘allowed’, so to speak, is when it clearly ,and with no doubt, simultaneously constructs. What do I mean? Let me explain this through an example.

A couple of years ago the French rap band called Zebda (excellent band by the way, Raphael recommended that I should listen to them in 2001, and I do ever since then) participated in the local elections in the South-West town of Toulouse as a clear beneficiary of the left wing protest vote, they managed to gather 12.38% of the vote in the first round of the lections. The Socialist candidate got less than the right wing candidate, and in order to win, the Socialists badly needed the votes of the Greens, Politically Affiliated extreme left, but more than them of the “Zebda List” . Without the Zebda votes the right wing candidate for Mayor would have won. Most of the people who voted for Zebda, voted for them as a form of protest, to express their disappointment with the main stream Socialist politics, but also with the political message of radical-left wing parties.

Before the second round of the elections Zebda guys invited their voters to vote Socialist, but more importantly they admitted that they would not be able anyways to run a municipality, this announcement was accompanied by humorous scenes such as dancing of the gray-haired socialist politicians at the Zebda music. The Socialist Candidate, at the end of the day won. Thanks to Zebda voters.

What is my point. Fair enough, Zebda’s direct participation in the elections can be branded as politically irresponsible because they had no clear agenda of what they want to do if they come to power (my word! they even admitted that they are completely incapable of running a municipality), but I do not think that what they did was irresponsible. Their participation made a clear signal to the Socialist mayor, to put it bluntly, to keep to the left when managing the city. The protest vote for them was indeed deconstructive, but a form of deconstruction that constructs.

In the case of the Referendum voting for the EU Constitution we can only vote “yes” or “no”, like in the case of Zebda, we send a strong and clear message, an electroshock, that we do not want such Constitution. Yet, there is a clear difference between the two cases. In the case of the EU Constitution the next chance is not in 14 days, like in the case of French municipal elections (between the first and the second round), but God knows when. And as Lorenzo points out, “But the Constitution may look worse than it was in the first place.” And, I would add, it will certainly not look better (meeting the interests fo the French “no” voters). The new version of the Constitution, thought by the lesson of the French electroschock, will certainly not include clauses that would appease the French left wing supporters of the “no”, but more probably, if the new version of the constitution is ever presented to the EU Member State voters, it would look to moderatly appease the right wing that votes “no”, thus possibly, include Christian values in the Preamble of the EU Constitution etc.

(next week I will contemplate on the possible outcomes of the French “no” vote)

1 comment:

Raphaël Paour said...

"The new version of the Constitution, thought by the lesson of the French electroschock, will certainly not include clauses that would appease the French left wing supporters of the “no”, but more probably, if the new version of the constitution is ever presented to the EU Member State voters, it would look to moderatly appease the right wing that votes “no”, thus possibly, include Christian values in the Preamble of the EU Constitution etc."

I would be interested in knowing on what information you make such hypothesis. The constitution if it is adopted by all States will not be promulgated for a number of years (4 I think...) is not impossible to renegotiate during that time ? On the national level, constitutions are often rejected and an other proposal is elaborated. Given that a rejection of the constitution would not be in any way a catastrophy - maybe a new proposal would look worse, maybe it would look better, we don't know - it isn't a good argument to say that it isn't responsible to vote No.

The main reason why the Yes is not stronger in France is because its promoters spend all their time talking about how bad a refusal would be and how childish the radical left wing voters are. That will convince no one because we know that we are not irresponsible and that those are intimidation tactics. Promoters of the project have to say why the constitution is a good project if they want to convince people.

Finally, I like Jospin but this sentence “We cannot depend nor strategically nor doctrinally on those who renounce power” is particularly comical given the fact that throughout the eighties he was a mole for the Organisation communiste internationaliste inside the socialist party.

http://www.wsws.org/francais/News/2001/novembre01/13nov01_lambert.shtml