The cross : The polls give a score well below 5% to Anne Hidalgo, is this the announced end of the PS?
Remi Lefebvre : I am wary of prophecy about the end of political parties! It has been said for thirty years that the Communist Party is going to disappear… Political parties die for a long time. But it is clear that this campaign is one more step in the decline of the PS. There had been Benoît Hamon’s underperformance in 2017, but one could think that it was cyclical, linked to the victory of Emmanuel Macron. Now it’s over, the PS has lost its national roots. Anne Hidalgo’s campaign will probably not be reimbursed, the results of the legislative elections will also be decisive. We cannot exclude an explosion of the PS.
In your book, you are very hard on François Hollande.
R. L. : Yes, he bears an immense responsibility, he dislocated the left. The PS was a party with a governmental vocation, which united divergent visions. Holland broke this synthesis. He conducted a very liberal policy, he ideologically exploded the PS and pushed some voters towards Macron. And beyond the Socialist Party, François Hollande damaged the idea of left, in particular within the popular mediums. For the latter, the left today rhymes with denial, disillusionment, betrayal. This is the main problem of the progressive camp: the popular circles which should vote for it no longer do so, and reject the idea of the left.
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Is this the end of social democracy in France?
R. L. : It is difficult to say that the social-democratic idea is dead. In Europe, it is not doing so badly, look who governs in Spain, in Germany… The big difference in France is that part of the PS electorate has permanently moved to Macron. The LREM electorate still contains a third of Hollande’s voters in 2012. And I think that’s sustainable. These voters will not return. This moderate base, the PS no longer has. But he no longer has either the ecologists gone to Jadot and the radicals to Mélenchon.
Let’s talk about Jadot, precisely. Why does his campaign not take off when we have the feeling that the French have understood the ecological emergency?
R. L. : EELV’s problem is not that not everyone has grasped ecology, it’s that we don’t talk about it at all! The climate does appear in the concerns of the French, but without this manifesting itself in political debates and at the ballot box. This means that this issue must be formulated and politicized differently.
Ecology has indeed become an unavoidable paradigm on the left, LFI, the Greens and the PS have appropriated the ecological narrative. But there is a problem of acceptance of this discourse in the population. The message of sobriety comes up against consumerism. The French are not ready to accept the consequences. The left bears part of the responsibility, because it does not manage to give joyful and positive content to the environmental discourse. The parties must make an effort to combine social justice and the environment: this is the key.
Do the internal divisions at EELV not also explain the failure of the Jadot candidacy?
R. L. : Basically, Yannick Jadot would like to get out of the left-right divide. He dreams of reconfiguring the political world around a divide between “ecologists and others”. But it does not work. He had the temptation to recover Macron’s famous left-wing voters, and as a result the left considers him to be too little radical… An analysis shared even in his party, where some like Rousseau or Piolle think that we need to talk more to left.
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One of the surprises of the campaign is Fabien Roussel and his very “saucisson-pinard” campaign. Do you see it as a sign of the right-wing of society, as we have heard in certain left-wing circles?
R. L. : I’m not sure that’s a good analysis grid. On the economic level, there is no right-winging at all in French society. People remain very attached to the fight against inequalities, even if it is certain that there are tensions on the questions of immigration, for example. For his part, Roussel addresses an economic left with rather traditional ideas concerning the nation, it is a small electoral niche. But these are not essential divisions. He just recovered what Mélenchon gave up since 2017 to exist during this campaign.
Mélenchon remains the best positioned. What does it do better than the others?
R. L. : It is the effect of continuity, he has a base of 10% which is faithful to him, it is very important in politics. This base is attached to the solidity of its program, of its proposals worked on for years. The whole difficulty is to go beyond this vote. In 2017, he succeeded in siphoning off the green electorate and the left of the PS, and benefited from a phenomenon of “useful vote”. Will he repeat this operation? What La France insoumise has succeeded in better than the others is the integration of youth movements.
Today, the left is more in the street than at the polls. This feminist and anti-racist current, we must succeed in talking to it, and to accompany it to the polls. Mélenchon recovers part of it, but still too little. In fact, since 2017, he has neither succeeded in rallying the left behind him nor in mobilizing the popular classes. He should have carried out substantive work in popular circles. But LFI, like the rest of the left, has neglected local elections, field work, popular education and politicization. Elected officials like François Ruffin embody this tendency, but the deputy from the Somme is very isolated.
What is the future for a left that is historically weak today?
R. L. : The left is weak for reasons of electoral participation, it is the oldest who vote, and they vote for the right. But more radical dynamics of change run through the youth. In the immediate future, a second round with the rebellious candidate would be very good news for the left, it would put the left-right divide back at the center of the debate.