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Fall of the (French) house of socialism

Discussion in 'Europe & Russia' started by Vergennes, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. Vergennes

    Vergennes Strategist Staff Member MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    Once-mighty party is looking at deep staff cuts and at selling off its iconic HQ.

    [​IMG]
    Socialist supporters mark the 10th anniversary of Francois Mitterand's death at the party HQ in Paris in 2006 | Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

    PARIS — Sorry, Mr Mitterrand. We failed you.

    That might be the gist of an apology from France’s Socialists today to their founding father, as the party of Michel Rocard, Lionel Jospin and François Hollande faces a kind of doomsday in 48 hours.


    Expected to lose more than 200 seats to President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party in the runoff round of the parliamentary election Sunday, the Socialists are staring at a financial and political collapse that will be hard to shake off.

    The loss of parliamentary seats will automatically provoke a cliff-drop in public subsidies, with as much as €21 million set to go up in smoke. As much as half of the party’s 160-strong permanent staff face layoffs, with another 1,000 or so jobs that rely indirectly on party funding — parliamentary assistants, local aides — also threatened, according to four people with direct knowledge of the party’s financial position.

    In a party known for factionalism, the human drama is sure to be explosive. But nothing captures the desperation of French socialism as much as the fate of the party’s iconic headquarters on Paris’ Left Bank — now being considered for sale to shore up finances, according to people familiar with the situation.

    For more than 30 years, the 3,000-square meter hôtel particulier (a grand townhouse) on Rue de Solférino has stood as a glorious monument to the party’s contradictions. Opulent, ostentatious and located smack dab in the nexus of French power, it housed a party officially obsessed with equality. Screaming royal privilege, the building hosted dreams of socialist utopia.

    But now those internal contradictions — to borrow a phrase from Marx — are set to be resolved in brutal fashion.

    Party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, commenting on the rout to come Sunday, hinted this week that “Solférino” — as the building is known by metonymy — could be put up for sale. “Everything has to change,” he said when asked about a possible sale, which could bring in €53 million, to judge by surrounding property values.

    Rachid Temal, the Socialists’ number two, said the party was studying various options — including letting go of property.

    “The party is going to position itself to get moving again,” he said. “Public subsidies are one part of the equation; our property is another. Every option is possible.”

    End of an era

    For party bigwigs intent on surviving the cull, a possible sale of Solférino would be a step toward the future that recalibrates the party to make it leaner, fitter, and better able to take on Macron’s liberalizing agenda.

    But for activists like Alain Le Garrec, a neighborhood organizer, lifelong socialist and member of the party’s Paris federation, it would mean something else.

    “It would be the end of our era,” he said.

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    François Mitterand arrives at the Socialist party HQ after winning the French presidential election in 1981 | Michel Clement/AFP via Getty Images

    “I’m of the generation that grew up with Mitterrand. For us, it was the golden age of socialism … Seeing it be sold would be the end of that. Of course it’s sad to consider.”

    Garrec waxed nostalgic about the history of a building that came into Socialist hands back in 1981, when French politics was almost the reverse image of what it is today.

    At the time, a centrist president — the obsessively modernizing, somewhat remote Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who is frequently compared to Macron — was on his way out of power. The Socialists were on the rise, with Mitterrand having just won the presidency, in what many conservatives at the time feared was a disguised takeover by communist forces.

    The new president, as France would discover, loved monuments; and he wanted his Socialist Party housed in style. Modesty be damned: The HQ had to be big, showy and perfectly located.

    Solférino was an ideal candidate. But like many facets of Mitterrand’s history, the details of how he came to acquire such a fancy building are murky.

    Reports from court filings show a mutual fund linked to the Socialist Party bought Solférino in 1981 for 17 million francs, or about €2.6 million today — a cut-rate price far below market value. Five years on, the party bought Solférino from the fund for 53 million francs, or about €8 million, still about €20 million below surrounding property values. The deals prompted a legal investigation into possible use of political influence to lower the price, but no one was ever convicted.

    What followed was a long and heady experiment in radical chic at 10 Rue de Solférino.

    Students from nearby Sciences Po, an elite political science university, made the HQ a second home. Election parties, debates and countless soirées were held, with talks on social justice made all the more vivifying by the proximity of so much bourgeois wealth.

    Sinking ship

    Alas, the good times could not last. A warning shot was fired when Prime Minister Lionel Jospin crashed out of the 2002 presidential election in the first round, slicing off a chunk of subsidies.

    Plans to sell Solférino were raised during bouts of ritual self-criticism, then forgotten.

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    The HQ is opulent, ostentatious and located smack dab in the nexus of French power in Solférino | Flickr via Creative Commons

    But this time, the threat is real. The party faces what is known, in corporate terms, as an orderly liquidation.

    It’s already received its final outlay of subsidies linked to the previous legislature. Depending on how many MPs get elected this time (projections based on scores from the election’s first round last Sunday suggest the number will be less than 30), funding will drop by between €18 million and €21 million, for a total wage budget of more than €22 million.

    Temal pointed out that the party still has 108 senators, worth about €4 million in subsidies. But there is no reason why an election in September will not see them decimated too, just like their colleagues in the lower house of parliament.

    When the hammer drops, there will be layoffs. The question for staffers is who — and on what terms.

    “They will be looking to sacrifice the left fringe of the party,” said a top member of Socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon’s campaign, asking not to be named. “Cambadélis is going to take care of people close to him. The others will pay.”

    She added: “There is zero sense of collective interest. Since the castle is collapsing, everyone is trying to save themselves. It’s sad, because it was an admirable project.”

    Indeed, the cuts are a chance for Cambadélis to exact revenge against internal rivals of Hollande, the former party chief whose extremely unpopular term as French president came to an end last month. Hamon backers, rebel backbenchers who fought the government for five years, participants at the Nuit Debout round-the-clock sit-in movement — they all stand to pay.

    But getting rid of them won’t be cheap or painless. There is talk of in-house unions, unwilling to go quietly into the night, launching a strike against Cambadélis, who lost his own parliamentary seat in Paris to a centrist rival.

    The threat of a nasty labor battle in — irony of ironies — the party of workers’ rights, may compel Cambadélis to move quickly with a sale of Solférino.

    Christian Paul, one leader of the rebel backbencher faction, suggested converting it into social housing.

    An online joker who advertised a “building needing renovation” on the classified site leboncoin had a more cutting proposal: Make it a museum.

    http://www.politico.eu/article/french-socialists-fall-financial-political-collapse/
     
    BMD and Wolfpack like this.
  2. BMD

    BMD Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    You know, it did actually kind of work in France, but it sure as hell didn't work here.
     
  3. Sam_

    Sam_ 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    Pure socialism is a failed idea. I think mix of everything is better than monopoly of one idea.
     
  4. Vergennes

    Vergennes Strategist Staff Member MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    The French Socialist Party recorded its worst result ever,even worse than the disaster of the 1993 election.

    The Socialist Party is down from 280 constituencies won in 2012 to only 29 in 2017.

    vg2.gif

    The parliamentary left (Socialist Party,Greens,Miscallenaous left,Radical Party of the Left....) is down from 331 seats to only 44.
     
  5. BMD

    BMD Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    But over the years French socialism has protected French industries, particularly in the automotive sector, energy and rail.
     
  6. halloweene

    halloweene Major MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    The word "socialism" has a very different meaning depending on country. I guess an nenglish would call them tories
     
  7. BMD

    BMD Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Tories are capitalists, Labour are socialists.

    Only 42% turnout for recent French parliamentary elections. Indication of apathy?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...mentary-elections-emmanuel-macron-low-turnout

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-turnout-idUSKBN1990Q4?il=0

     

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