Thursday 14 September 2017

Dany le Caméléon et L'Iconnu du PCF.

"On a cold day last fall [1977], Santiago Carrillo, the leader of the so-called Communist Party of Spain (PCE), crossed the picket lines of striking Yale University workers in New Haven, in order to give a speech on the campus. When asked how a 'communist' could scab on a workers' struggle in this way, he replied that his speech was more important than the strike of the custodial workers. Besides, he added, the American labor movement is 'reactionary anyway.'
"The incident sheds some light on the class character of Carrillo and his cohorts in other European countries, such as Berlinguer in Italy and Marchais in France. While they like to describe themselves as 'Eurocommunists,' they are really nothing more than scabs on the workers' movement." (here)

That's how Georges Marchais (secretary general of the French Communist Party for 22 years), Santiago Carrillo, and Enrico Berlinguer are remembered, that is, when they are remembered, because they are mostly forgotten. The so-called Eurocommunist movement which they led, itself largely a long-lost memory, attempted to adopt New Left ideas.


It's, however, as opponent of the May 1968 students movement that Marchais is more frequently remembered, largely thanks to Daniel Cohn-Bendit and his brother Gabriel, co-authors of the 1968 book "Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative". (Non-Marxist readers should note the double-entendre in that title: Cohn-Bendit saw his ideas as more radically left than those of the FCP). We have already seen how Dany le Rouge angrily denounced the FCP.

In 1965, first under the leadership of Waldeck Rochet and since 1972 under Marchais, the FCP, while maintaining their revolutionary rhetoric and uncritical support to the USSR, adopted a policy of rapprochement to François Mitterrand's Socialist Party and to all effects abandoned the revolutionary path, as increasingly demanded by European intellectuals. In a way, the FCP pioneered the "neoliberal" turn, but failed on that: voters preferred the SP.

They were legitimate game, Dany was shooting fish in a barrel.


Marchais is not a fond memory and for good reasons. It is then highly ironic that his prescient assessment of Cohn-Bendit and the New Left in general, which he delivered in "De Faux Révolutionnaires À Démasquer" (L'Humanité, May 3, 1968) has been regrettably forgotten:
"One of the leading thinkers of these leftists is the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse who lives in the United States. His theses are known. They can be summarized as follows: the communist parties 'went bankrupt', the bourgeoisie 'integrated the working class which is no longer revolutionary', youth, especially in universities, 'is a new force, full of revolutionary possibilities, it must organize itself for the violent struggle'. …
"The theses and activity of these 'revolutionaries' could be laughable. All the more so because they are, in general, the sons of the great bourgeoisie -- contemptuous of working-class students -- who quickly put their 'revolutionary flame' on hold to run the business of papa and to exploit the workers in the best traditions of capitalism." (Original French, Google translation)

Since those days Dany's colours changed from redder than red, to green to a très chic Emmanuel Macron liberal yellow before the last elections. He barely remembers the late Marchais, his whipping boy now is Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Everything has changed, what was up became down, what was right became left.

Well, on second thoughts, something did remain invariant: his rhetoric (original French, Google translation).

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16, KJV)


  1. Fillon took himself out of the running through personal scandals; LePen was not as strong as feared. Melanchon was excluded from the second round, which forces the electorate into a binary choice. In retrospect, too many voters in France were chasing ghosts. It appears your protagonist did what he could to make them large and scary.

    1. In retrospect, too many voters in France were chasing ghosts. It appears your protagonist did what he could to make them large and scary.

      That seems like a description of "lesser-evilism": one exaggerates the risks of the other side, so as to make one's side look relatively better.

      It has something to do with what they call "triangulation".


      A quibble.

      If I had to write the closing credits to that movie, I'd have written something like this:

      CAST (as themselves and in order of appearance):

      Santiago Carrillo
      Georges Marchais
      Enrico Berlinguer
      Daniel Cohn-Bendit
      Gabriel Cohn-Bendit
      Waldeck Rochet
      François Mitterrand
      Jean-Luc Mélenchon

      Judging by screen time, all but Georges Marchais and Daniel Cohn-Bendit are either supporting cast or make cameo appearances, as it were. After all, the movie is called "Dany le Caméléon et L'Iconnu du PCF". :-)

      So, is there only one protagonist?

    2. It was a collective effort to herd those cats who do not vote on principle, but on 'lesser evilism' or other strategy.

    3. Off-topic.

    4. Bob,

      Capitalism cannot exist without "free" workers, which doesn't mean some form of human society cannot subsist. Feudalism and slavery, for example, did not need "free" workers.

      With robots, however, I can't see either coming back.

      I'm not prepared to say more than that. But I've been thinking on this subject, on and off:

      "Krugman, Robots and Exchange Value."

      The other side of the coin:

      "What if Capitalists Disappeared?"

    5. Part 2 is up if you're interested:

    6. Sorry, wrong link posted above.

    7. Thanks. I'll have a look at that.