Anti-German, soft on Putin- Melenchon is no rescuer of the left | Natalie Nougayrede

The veteran socialist has surged in the French presidential referendums. But his politics arrive heavy-laden with unsavoury baggage that cant easily be discarded

With Frances presidential election on Sunday being so completely unpredictable, the danger of being subjected to Marine Le Pen is jolly but so is the danger of another firebrand of polarising, radical and damaging populism. It is found on the far left, with the dominance of Jean-Luc Mlenchon.

Some liberals have taken to describing the 65 -year-old former senator and former juniors Socialist administrator as the brand-new personification of a restoration of the left. That Mlenchon has managed to gain in the polls to the point of perhaps being able to reach the presidential run-off is surely no tiny stunt. But be suggested that his expedition stands for an attractive, socially thoughts and more democratic or alternative Europe is delusional.

Mlenchon is virtually a nationalist, despite his internationalist credo. And his compassions for autocratic strongmen such as Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chvez cannot be readily swept aside, as if these were just missteps in an otherwise promising pulpit. If you believe that the European project must be salvaged and improved rather than destroyed, Mlenchon really cannot be your follower. Not if you ogle closely.

To be sure, hes having a good guide. Unfamiliarity facilitates. Many outside France and within it , notably among young people have only recently discovered him. Hes managed to capitalise on some of the rage that invigorates often of their constituencies: hes apparently even embezzling referendums from Le Pen. The French are depleted by decades of high unemployment, theyre deeply distrustful of the political class, and theyre worried about an erratic international environment.

Mlenchon is a talented orator. His fiery rhetoric in pronunciations and savvy, quickfire statements in recent television debates have helped his amounts surge. One of his mottoes is degagisme , who are capable of restate as kick them out targeting the remainder of the political class. He likes to quote Maximilien Robespierre and Victor Hugo. He casts himself as a hero of the people ( les gens ), a single, homogeneous entity, targeted against the establishment. His frequent references to the revolution of 1789, to French socialist hero Jean Jaurs and to three-times prime minister Lon Blum have buoyed voters wanting for lyricism, or a dose of nostalgia. And there is no doubt that Mlenchon requires Le Pen to be defeated.

Jean-Luc Mlenchon throws himself as a hero of the people, a single, homogeneous entity, targeted against the creation. But there is more to him than a crusade for social right. Photograph: Charles Platiau/ Reuters

But there is more to him than a crusade for social justice. Consider his anti-German narrative. In a tense country like todays France, old-time antagonisms are to be able to be reactivated. In his 2015 notebook Bismarcks Herring( The German Poison ), Mlenchon wrote that Germany is again a danger, its imperialism is returning, and the EU is its new empire.

Hes described Germans as grumbling Teutons who seek to extradite their old people to eastern Europe or Thailand. And hes written that German expansionism was at work in the countrys 1990 reunification an expropriation of East Germany, in his words. That in itself is no small-minded rewriting of record, and no tiny dismissal of a folks freely uttered will after the fall of communism.

His criticism of Angela Merkels eurozone programs goes far beyond the economic. It peddles nationalistic, if not bigoted, antagonisms. He may have tried to soften that intuition by saying he misses the peoples of the territories of Europe to revolt against their governments and not start to fight among themselves. But he has hardly backtracked on any of his earlier testimonies. Much of this repetitions and amplifies Le Pens rhetoric, rather than helping to combat it.

Mlenchons review of Angela Merkels eurozone policies echoes and amplifies the hyperbole of Marine Le Pen( left) rather than helping to combat it. Picture: Claude Paris/ AP

Which returns us back to Putin: a hero of Le Pens Front National and a constant focus of Merkels refers over the future of the continent. Mlenchon has no particular taste for Putins autocracy( although in 2015 he preferred to criticise Boris Nemtsov, an opposition figure assassinated that time in Moscow, rather than accuse Putin for anything ). But what is most impressing about the far-left chairman is how hes systematically forborne from ascribing any responsibility to Russia over the battle in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea , not to mention the killing fields of Syria. Simply the west is ever held guilty for anything. This hasnt changed, even after chemical weapons were used this month and Russia vetoed a UN-sponsored investigation into the crime.

Mlenchons rallying cry of peace on Earth clangs laudable, but his success would have severe consequences for Europe. Pulling France out of Nato and out of EU conventions, which he requires, would unravel Europes architecture. It would represent a leap into the unknown , not unlike that is in favour of Le Pen. His revolutionary financial policies would kill any the expectations of improving eurozone governance. Meanwhile, his perception of international relations in which Russias revisionism over European perimeters and the Syrian despots mass killing of his own citizens hardly get a mention, whereas western republics are perpetually critiqued savors of moral fluster, and often worse.

Nor is Mlenchon as refugee-friendly as some would like to think. Hes suggested that hed prefer to see 10,000 doctors settle in France rather than a motion of huddled masses. Ive never been in favour of freedom of arrival, hes added. Hes also on record alleging some foreign workers of stealing their eat from French employees. There is much more of Italys firebrand populist Beppe Grillo about him than Spains Podemos.

As the rightwing press dubs him Frances would-be Chvez, his charisma safeguards him. But charisma cannot address so many annoying idiosyncrasies. Hankering for ordinary citizens uprising and interrogating the institutions is one thing, but Mlenchons politics arrive heavy-laden with baggage that cant easily be discarded.

Victor Hugos observation that misery brings people to revolution, and change in turn wreaks them back to it, is well worth remembering as France prepares to vote. A choice between Le Pen and Mlenchon in the presidential run-off on 7 May would likely lead to record low turnout and unprecedented additions for the far right. Those who admire from afar should keep that in subconsciou. And those persuasion to follow Mlenchons route towards the crumbling of the old-fashioned guild need to be careful what they wish for.

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