What would a Mélenchon victory mean for Scotland?

image3-2Paul Malgrati writes on the Unsubmissive France project, and the prospects for Scotland and EU reform of a Mélenchon victory.

For the last few weeks, the British media have been discovering Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the French left-wing candidate currently surging in the polls, between 18 and 20%, just below Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Mélenchon could indeed be the surprise of this election. Calling for a new, more democratic constitution, proposing a Keynesian economy recovery together with an ecological energy transition, and advocating a more antagonistic approach against the EU’s neoliberal model, the rising to power of the “Unsubmissive France” (Mélenchon’s political movement) could lead Europe and the whole European left on a whole new track.
What would this mean for Scotland?

On the contrary to the other main presidential aspirants of the French election, Mélenchon has been a long standing and consistent advocate of Scotland’s cause. One week before the 2014 referendum, interviewed by the French radio RTL, he stated that he “obviously” supported independence according to Scotland’s status as “our oldest ally”. Moreover, he added that Scotland’s independence movement stressed the failure of monarchy to unite different peoples compared to the unifying and equalitarian qualities of the Republican regime. This position was reiterated in July 2016, after the Brexit vote, when Mélenchon wrote on his blog that “from a French perspective, and considering our long history, the Irish reunification and the Scottish independence are very comfortable thoughts”.

Since then, Mélenchon’s position has not changed. Yet it has deepened. Last month, on his Youtube channel, the left-wing candidate took several minutes to explain that the Scottish question, revived by Brexit, had to be thought together with the many frontier crises affecting the whole of Europe, from Belgium and Catalonia to Ukraine and Crimea. To avoid the many bilateral tensions entailed by these crises, Mélenchon then proposed — in the casual tone characterising his popular Youtube interventions — “to organise a great security conference from the Atlantic to the Oural mountains so that all these questions can be dealt with. […] Everybody’s got to discuss. Frontiers, in the west of Europe, are already being discussed, and we can’t tell people to piss off. You can’t do that for Scotland and Ireland. Sooner or later this question will have to be solved, and we will solve it all the easier as we solve it globally, making sure that no one is humiliated, neither though the negotiations nor through the referenda that will have to take place”. In other words, this “great security conference” would change the nature of the Scottish question from a bilateral dispute between the Scottish and British governments to a multilateral negotiation. This latter would likely result in a new referendum, legitimized by the common agreement of the international community. Needless to say that such a case would prevent anyone to call the legitimacy of the Scottish referendum into a question. Furthermore, the international integration of the independence process would certainly facilitate the subsequent incorporation of the Scottish State within European and worldwide community of nations.

On the side of the “great security conference”, Mélenchon’s grand plan for Europe would also enable the Scottish government to play its cards right. The position of the “Unsubmissive France” on Europe can be summarized by two plans. Plan A: France will propose its partner to pull out of the European budgetary treaties — enforcing austerity and preventing social and fiscal harmonization over Europe— and to modify the status of the European Central Bank so that member States of the Eurozone can borrow money directly from it, without resorting to private banks, and therefore plummeting the interest rates weighing upon their public deficit. If a satisfying agreement is reached, the French people would then have to ratify it by referendum. On the other hand, if the negotiations prove fruitless, Plan B would be triggered, that is to say a referendum on the EU membership. Mélenchon’s Frexit, however, would neither be Le Pen’s Frexit nor May’s Brexit but would immediately seek a new form of cooperation with the many European nations whose interests lie in the ending of austerity and the development of an international social law.

Whichever way the whole process follows, Scotland would always have an interesting part to play in it. Indeed, Plan A, whose negotiations would spread over several months, would enable the Scottish government to call for a fairer and more progressive EU, as it used to advocate it during the Greek crisis and before the Brexit vote. This move would overcome the rather simplistic division between “right-wing brexiters” and “progressive remainers” which has been prevailing since June 2016, likely to put off many “Yes-Leave” voters. Instead, Scotland’s support for France’s Plan A could unite the pro-EU side of the Scottish electorate with those who resent the neoliberal and antidemocratic sides of the EU—a popular coalition which, by the way, would be crucial to secure a “Yes” majority for the next referendum. Furthermore, Scotland’s advocating of a different, more social Europe, could assert her voice within the European debate, becoming a necessary ally to France, Greece, Portugal and the many other nations which have an interest in the EU’s reform. Similarly, in the case of a French Plan B, which would mean the collapse of the EU as we know it, Scotland could present herself as a central partner for the European nations willing to create a new and fairer union, at the opposite of the xenophobic and isolationist Brexit.

In any case, Mélenchon’s victory would certainly allow the Scottish left, to impose a progressive and anti-austerity narrative on the EU, a move which, so far, has been prevented by the xenophobic hijacking of euro-scepticism in the UK. In short, Plan A as well as Plan B would enable Scotland to show that her opposition to Brexit did not mean that she suddenly and gullibly fell in love with Brussels and that the radical hopes conveyed by the 2014 “Yes” campaign are more than ever needed to assert Scotland’s original place within the international community.

Of course, without independence Scotland’s room de manoeuvre in the European debate is still limited and it is impossible to tell how her own agenda would deal with France’s “great security conference”, Plan A and, possibly, Plan B. What is certain, however, is that Mélenchon’s election could open windows of opportunity which, if the Scottish government knew how to use them, could haste a progressive and forward-looking independence —together with the profound renewal of a seven hundred years Auld Alliance.

Comments (12)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hector says:

    “the failure of monarchy to unite different peoples compared to the unifying and equalitarian qualities of the Republican regime.”

    This is the France that has had five republics, two empires, two monarchies a commune and an État français under Pétain in a little over two hundred years, is it?

  2. Martin Thorpe says:

    Just you stick to the bard young Paul and leave the politics to the grown-ups. Easily the most trite rubbish I’ve read (anywhere) in 2017. Primea facie bring the first sentence of paragraph six. Utter twaddle, like the rest of it. This boy will have a long and lucrative career in academia alright.

    1. Mike17 says:

      That would be the grown-ups who have made themselves rich beyond the dreams of avarice at the expense of the environment and 99.9% of the global population would it?

      Unless you can provide some actual analysis of the article you are the political equivalent of a monkey in a zoo throwing lumps of excrement at those outside the cage.

      1. Martin Thorpe says:

        “In any case, Mélenchon’s victory would certainly allow the Scottish left, to impose a progressive and anti-austerity narrative on the EU”??????????????????????????

        Please explain to me – the shit throwing monkey, how this process works? Simian I may be, but not as moronic as the author. Again, I repeat, what is the relationship between Mélenchon – a man (& his message) that are utterly unknown to 99% of Scots & the ability of the Scottish ‘Left’ whatever & whoever they be, to impose anything, beyond making facile comments on websites that the aforementioned 99% are blissfully unaware of?

    2. Redgauntlet says:

      Who the fck are you, Martin Thorpe, to pour such scorn on Paul’s lively and interesting article? Why not just fck off back to your cave (of grown ups of course)?

  3. Henry Holland says:

    Melenchon’s decision, on numerous, documented recent occasions, to employ anti-immigrant rhetoric makes a travesty of his economic project involving attacking income inequality. Migrant workers “take bread away from local workers” as he said in the European Parliament in July 2016 (as documented in EU parliament records; as documented in the joint issue of the “Liberation” and “TAZ” newspaper on 22.04.2017: https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5398995&s=der+letzte+seiner+art&SuchRahmen=Print/). Far worse: he is on record of refusing a right to remain for all immigrants, including those who have a precarious legal base for their residency, and those who have no official legal basis. Moreover, Melenchon’s reductionist response that the European refugee crisis can be simply ended “by ending the war in Syria”, while failing to condemn Assad’s government for its continuing perpetration of war crimes – specifically the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack – represents a racist position. It utterly fails to demonstrate solidarity with the millions that have flown from and are still fleeing that war, and from the rape, carnage and chaos that accompanies that war.
    I am shocked that Bella’s editorial board has allowed the article to be published in this form. It must insist that Paul at least includes an analysis of Melenchon’s policy on immigrants / refugees. In this form it amounts to Bella allowing an uncritical article on an overtly racist candidate: i.e. for Bella implicity supporting racist positions. As such, it could do lasting damage to Bella’s reputation of unequivocal support for anti-racism. I do not request the article should be pulled. However, I do request the whole of Bella’s editorial board to look at the issue again, and to consider whether the article should be taken down before Paul has extended it with a substantial analysis of Melenchon’s policy and language on immigration.

    1. Antoine123 says:

      A few things Henry:

      – Mélenchon’s quote about “taking the bread away from local workers” was not directed at “migrant workers” but “posted workers” who can work in France (or any other EU country) whilst following the Labour Laws, taxs and wages of another EU country. This was in no way a racist statement (10% of “posted workers” in France are French by the way), just a legitimate critique of social and fiscal dumpings going on in Europe and from which poor people are suffering. Moreover, Mélenchon said he was sorry for using the phrase “taking the bread”, that he would never do it again, and that he should have stressed the fact that the phrase was in quotation marks in his speech.

      – Saying that Mélenchon is racist is just outrageous when one knows his biography and the restless fight he has been leading against the National Front for decades. 10 days ago, in his Marseille rally, he made the crowd do one minute of silence for all the migrants sunk in the Mediterranean sea. With Benoit Hamon, he’s the only candidate to criticize facial discriminations by the French police. Also, he is in favour of letting Calais migrants move to Britain instead of retaining them in slums.

      – Concerning refugees, he said that all political and war refugees are welcome in France. Same thing for all immigrants who currently work in France and who would receive the French nationality if Mélenchon was elected. It is true that he is not for the open door policy and prefers using France’s international weigh to solve conflicts and neocolonial attitudes which result in people fleeing their countries. The same thing applies to Syria, where he certainly doesn’t support Bashar-Al-Assad (he said it a million times) yet doesn’t think that bombing Damas will be the right answer to make peace come as soon as possible. If reflecting upon the causes of immigration and try to address them is a racist thing then I don’t know what to say.

      – Last thing: I have just seen that Bellacaledonia released, last week, an interview of Danièle Obono, a national spokesperson of the Unsubmissive France. She calls herself a “panafricanist” and an “afrofeminist”, I suppose that she should know better than campaigning for a racist if what you said was even a little bit grounded.

      Sorry, but this had to be said. Calling Mélenchon a racist is an insult to the millions of French people who are going to vote for him tomorrow. Concentrate your fire on the real foe: the National Front.

      Sorry for my English by the way.

  4. Antoine123 says:

    A few things Henry:

    – Mélenchon’s quote about “taking the bread away from local workers” was not directed at “migrant workers” but “posted workers” who can work in France (or any other EU country) whilst following the Labour Laws, taxs and wages of another EU country. This was in no way a racist statement (10% of “posted workers” in France are French by the way), just a legitimate critique of social and fiscal dumpings going on in Europe and from which poor people are suffering. Moreover, Mélenchon said he was sorry for using the phrase “taking the bread”, that he would never do it again, and that he should have stressed the fact that the phrase was in quotation marks in his speech.

    – Saying that Mélenchon is racist is just outrageous when one knows his biography and the restless fight he has been leading against the National Front for decades. 10 days ago, in his Marseille rally, he made the crowd do one minute of silence for all the migrants sunk in the Mediterranean sea. With Benoit Hamon, he’s the only candidate to criticize facial discriminations by the French police. Also, he is in favour of letting Calais migrants move to Britain instead of retaining them in slums.

  5. Antoine123 says:

    A few things Henry:

    – Mélenchon’s quote about “taking the bread away from local workers” was not directed at “migrant workers” but “posted workers” who can work in France (or any other EU country) whilst following the Labour Laws, taxs and wages of another EU country. This was in no way a racist statement (10% of “posted workers” in France are French by the way), just a legitimate critique of social and fiscal dumpings going on in Europe and from which poor people are suffering. Moreover, Mélenchon said he was sorry for using the phrase “taking the bread”, that he would never do it again, and that he should have stressed the fact that the phrase was in quotation marks in his speech.
    – Saying that Mélenchon is racist is just outrageous when one knows his biography and the restless fight he has been leading against the National Front for decades. 10 days ago, in his Marseille rally, he made the crowd do one minute of silence for all the migrants sunk in the Mediterranean sea. With Benoit Hamon, he’s the only candidate to criticize facial discriminations by the French police. Also, he is in favour of letting Calais migrants move to Britain instead of retaining them in slums.
    – Concerning refugees, he said that all political and war refugees are welcome in France. Same thing for all immigrants who currently work in France and who would receive the French nationality if Mélenchon was elected. It is true that he is not for the open door policy and prefers using France’s international weigh to solve conflicts and neocolonial attitudes which result in people fleeing their countries. The same thing applies to Syria, where he certainly doesn’t support Bashar-Al-Assad (he said it a million times) yet doesn’t think that bombing Damas will be the right answer to make peace come as soon as possible. If reflecting upon the causes of immigration and try to address them is a racist thing then I don’t know what to say.
    – Last thing: I have just seen that Bellacaledonia released, last week, an interview of Danièle Obono, a national spokesperson of the Unsubmissive France. She calls herself a “panafricanist” and an “afrofeminist”, I suppose that she should know better than campaigning for a racist if what you said was even a little bit grounded.

    Sorry, but this had to be said. Calling Mélenchon a racist is an insult to the millions of French people who are going to vote for him tomorrow. Concentrate your fire on the real foe: the National Front.
    Sorry for my English by the way.

  6. Henry Holland says:

    Thanks a lot, Antoine, for your reply; and to Paul for the original article, which is in many ways informative and revealing. Perhaps I was mistaken in calling Mélenchon himself racist. I had no intention of insulting the millions of French people who are voting for him today in making that statement; I do maintain that much of the language he has used on migration — in the European parliament in July 2016, and elsewhere – is deeply problematic. @ Antoine: could you provide a direct quote of where Mélenchon apologises for the “taking the bread” statement, and if possible a short English translation? Finally, his rejection of what you call “the open door policy”, and his criticism of the decisions made by Merkel’s government from August 2015 to let hundreds of thousands (by now over a million) refugees into Germany have clear racist implications. What should Merkel’s government done in August 2015 and in the months that followed, when the Hungarian government were allowing thousands of refugees to board trains coming towards Austria and Germany? Have those people imprisoned in mass camps on the borders, before carrying out mass deportations? Have those people shot down at the borders? Would that have been in harmony with Mélenchon’s supposedly anti-racist credentials? His attacks in this context, primarily aimed at Merkel, provide easy populist fodder for Mélenchon’s leftist audience, with a script along the lines of “look what nasty, neoliberal heads-of-state do”, but do not deal with the fact that his “closed doors policy” would have led to hundreds of thousands of non-Europeans being excluded and treated abominably in autumn 2015. If Mélenchon is against European legislation that permits “posted workers”, why doesn’t he attack just that? — and not the workers who have every right to exploit for their means any employment law structure available.

    1. Antoine123 says:

      Thank you Henry for your questions. I understand them. You made me do a bit of research to answer 😉

      – First, I should have mentioned that it is very hard to speak positively of immigration in the French context. The conservatives, the far-right and, also, Hollande’s government have had a very violent discourse on migrants, toughened by terrorist attacks, and it is almost impossible to argue for something like the “open door” policy without plummeting in public opinion. Mélenchon has understood that. In 2012, he was for the “open door” policy, because this is what he truely believes, but several polls have shown that an important aspetc of his decrease in popularity in 2012 followed his Marseille rally of mid-april 2012 where he made a beautiful on the “open door” policy (which sadly put off many voters). Mélenchon has learnt from it and has become, we could say, a “reformist” instead of a “revlutionary” in immigration matters. I agree to say that this is debatable from an external point of view (I am personally in favour of the “open door” policy). But it is important to understand that Mélenchon’s moderate immigration programme already makes the right and the far-right howl to death against his “immigrationism”. That’s for the context.

      – For Mélenchon’s apologies. I think there were several occasions in which he did them. I just found one: 17 March 2017 on BFMTV. He was asked about it and said: “you know, in one second, the life of a man and his commitments can be destroyed by such things. I meant ‘posted workers which ”'(he does the quotation mark with his hands) steal the bread of french people”’. I should never have spoken like that, for quotation marks are a nuance, even orally, which seems beyond the understanding of the average trotskyist and ordinary journalists” (Mélenchon is not anti-trotskyist by the way, he was trotskyist in his youth and never dismissed it, he’s cordial relations with Poutou from the trotskyist party, yet he answered them a bit abruptly there).

      – For the refugee crisis, sorry, I was maybe not clear enough. Mélenchon is in favour of hosting all of those who are fleeing wars, that means all the Syrians who want to come to France, without quotas. He criticized Merkel for two reasons: 1) she hosted people without trying to solve the crisis in the middle-term. 2) This was a way for her to have better international reputation in the wake of her crushing of the Greek people in July 2015. So, obviously, Mélenchon is not the AfD nor Victor Orban. Under Mélenchon, France would be the main home for refugees, and this is precisely why the far-right and the conservatives hate him so much.

      – To sum up, Mélenchon is neither “open” nor “close” door. Refugees are welcome, however everything can be done so that they can come back to their homes an families asap. Undocumented workers who are exploited by French companies in France should be given French IDs. On the other hand, the “posted workers” EU legislation, which enables at once to exploit people and to ignore French labour laws and social security taxes, should be abolished and replaced (if possible, that’s the Plan A mentioned in the article) by fiscal and social harmonization all over the EU (same wages and taxes everywhere to prevent nasty competition between member State – that’s what a true “union” should be).

      Hope this is clearer. I don’t mean that Mélenchon is perfect. Like many of his activists I was more comfortable with his 2012 stance. However the context has badly changed, and considering it I think Mélenchon’s programme is still well decent, and if ever he was elected, this would be the beginning of the end for a racism that has so poisoned French society for years. I don’t know how it is in Scotland, I believe you guys are a mostly generous people —but France has been through hard times and the left had to adjust and do its best.

  7. Henry Holland says:

    Thank you Antoine for the reply, and Paul, again, for the original article. It’s sad to wake today to find that the last round of the French election will be a two-way fight between the neoliberalism-as-usual candidate (Macron) and the blame-the-immigrants-as-usual candidate (Le Pen). I agree with Paul’s original analysis: how people vote in larger European states impacts directly on how people in Scotland can and will relate politically to Europe. If Mélenchon had got into the final round in France, it would have made it easier for people in Scotland to fight for an agenda critical of the EU’s legally binding austerity politics. These politics will continue to influence Scotland massively, whether it ultimately remains in the EU or not. We need to engage more strongly in pan-European movements that are as radically reformist in their attitude to the EU as the Mélenchon campaign has been: this is too big a question for a campaign anchored in a single nation-state to manage. One such pan-European reformist movement is of course the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (https://diem25.org/) with its slogan: “The EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!” While DiEM2025 did not, ultimately, decide to support Mélenchon unconditionally in the French primary election, they did manage a substantial, internal democratic process while debating the question, and there was more DiEM2025 support for Mélenchon than for any other candidate (https://diem25.org/diem25-an-example-of-internal-democracy-in-action/). As the Mélenchon campaign was criticized by several external commentators for its lack of internal democracy, it is worth looking at how DiEM2025 do things differently. @ Antoine, Paul and all others who are passionately engaged with real democracy and justice in Europe: I’m not saying DiEM2025 can be the only, or even the main movement in fighting for a radically reformed Europe. I am saying they may be a part of the answer. There has to be much more “horizontal communication and activity” between critical Europeans at the base of European politics, which forces its own agenda from below, and is not continually subverted or nullified by party leaderships, who are normally far more cautious about unrestricted networking. This horizontal activity could include people belonging to any of the following movements and parties, and many more besides: the Mélenchon campaign; Scottish independence supporters, outwith the SNP; SNP members themselves; supporters of a united Ireland within a reformed EU, outwith Sinn Fein; Sinn Fein members themselves; Plaid Cymru members and others who support an independent Wales inside the EU; members of die LINKE (Germany); Podemos; and many, many, many more. I appreciate this list is very one-sided, and biased towards western Europe. Perhaps that reflects the very point I’m trying to make: we don’t yet know nearly enough about left-wing political struggles in all parts of Europe. Much more horizontal activity and communication could be one part of rectifying that. What is definitely NOT the answer is the new, uncritical, “Pulse of Europe movement”, which looks for all the world like a sponsored, EU marketing exercise. (It’s not; at least not on paper.) This group refuses to develop a coherent political program, but nevertheless feels justified in its uncritical, pro-EU as institution stance. At one of its regular rallies yesterday in Berlin, the crowd booed when one of the speakers mentioned Mélenchon’s name: http://www.taz.de/!5399472/

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia