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FRENCH ELECTIONS/ Searching for an alternative politics

SALVATORE ABBRUZZESE comments on the upcoming presidential elections in France, focusing on the surprise support of the intellectuals for leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. 

(Infophoto) (Infophoto)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the surprise of the French electoral campaign. He is a candidate of the extreme left, the leader of the Front de gauche, which, according to surveys conducted by Ipsos, ranks third, after Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, but before the candidate from the right, Marine Le Pen. Supported by the Communists, who have plastered Paris with the inscription "Prenez the pouvoir" (take power), Mélenchon’s platform calls for France's exit from NATO, the rejection of the European treaty on fiscal discipline, the return of the pension at 60 years of age and increasing the minimum wage from 1,400 to 1,700 euros gross. A thousand French intellectuals, teachers, researchers, writers and artists, have signed an appeal to openly support Mélenchon and to protest against the "signs of deterioration for which the most responsible is the President of the Republic". Ilsussidiario.net interviewed Salvatore Abbruzzese, a sociologist and member of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, asking him to comment on the phenomenon.

What is the political and cultural significance of this appeal by French intellectuals in favor of Mélenchon?
First, the appeal of French intellectuals in favor of Mélenchon is simply a form of expression. It has been clear from the outset that the candidate opposing Sarkozy is the Socialist Francois Hollande. Mélenchon does not have the slightest chance of being elected to the Élysée, and the appeal is therefore a real joke, or rather, a way for him to promote himself in terms of media representation. The French two-round electoral system allows any candidate to run in the first round. The real purpose of this preliminary phase is to be counted, so these intellectuals want to see how much support they can get. The more their victory is consistent, though limited, the greater the demands that they can put on the negotiating table with François Hollande.

Why is there a French intellectual world that continues to be attracted by the left, to the point of signing an appeal for Mélenchon?
To answer, one must take into account the fact that there is more than one left in France. Once the Communist left, the one following Stalin and the myths of the East, died, the libertarian, anti-bourgeois, anti-system in favor of individual freedom left remained. This last is centered in the libertarian tradition. The radical left has been able to survive every kind of torment because it has never had to govern, or take on an institutional role, and neither would it have been able to do so because they would have been met with bitter disappointment.

From where did this support of writers, researchers and artists for the candidate of the extreme left come?