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[UPDATED] Daniel Cohn-Bendit in Lyon

by eurogreen Wed May 25th, 2011 at 03:39:46 AM EST

Political ecology in France has often been a bitter and fractious affair. The Green Party (Les Verts) has always been its leading representative, but rarely the only party vying for the ecologist vote. The party itself is explicitly organized on factional lines, with frequent power struggles, based not on discernible policy differences, but on tactics and personal power-seeking. There is also a Jacobin (or Leninist) culture of centralized decision-making and control, which is in flat contradiction with the roots and formal structure of the party, which is a federation of regional groups.

Les Verts have a reputation, largely deserved, for squabbles and bust-ups, and there is not the slightest doubt that this has cost us considerable electoral support over the years. The flip side of this is that we are undoubtedly the most democratic party in France; but the exercise of this intra-party democracy absorbs all our energy, leaving us exhausted and ineffectual.

Enter Dany Cohn-Bendit.

DCB, having been expelled from France by De Gaulle in 1968, has spent almost all of his adult life, and political career, in Germany, with die Grünen. Since the late 90s, he has been making guest-star appearances in the French party. Over the past couple of years, he has been involved in a determined effort to shift the political culture of Les Verts, and this is what brought him to Lyon [last Thursday].

promoted by Jerome



"Europe Ecologie" was a catch-phrase, a slogan for the European elections of 2009 - and a hugely successful one, a high-water mark for the ecologist vote in France.

But it was more than that -- it was a genuine attempt to broaden both the appeal and the representativity of the movement, by building a coalition with leading figures from outside the Green party. This process has continued since then, with the creation of a formal structure, "Europe Ecologie", and a gradual convergence culminating in the fusion, a few months ago, into a single entity, "Europe Ecologie Les Verts" (strikingly original name!)

At Dany's instigation, a new organisation has been formed alongside the political party : the Europe Ecologie "co-operative". The role of this entity should be to form an interface between the political process, domain of the party, and the activists and environmental organisations which are sympathisers, but do not wish to carry the party card. This outreach organization should not be instrumentalised by the party, but on the contrary, provide a forum to anchor the party in society at large.

All this is pretty fine on paper, but continues to be marginalized by the party apparatus, which is stuck in the old political culture.

So here we are : the first congress of the "new" party, Europe Ecologie Les Verts, is in 10 days. The traditional factions are determined to hold on to power; so a broad coalition has emerged, composed of newcomers and of "historic" Verts who want to transform the political culture and open up a rather autistic party to the world. A motion has been submitted to the congress, and a list formed to take over the party apparatus... a faction to end all factions.

About 150 party members and/or co-operators turned up to a meeting with Dany in Lyon tonight, and a large part of the meeting was devoted to venting about grievances with the party apparatus and general ethos; myself included. After years of active service, I was disheartened to realize that most of my efforts were devoted to purely intra-party matters, with no effect whatever on the outside world. I had not paid up my membership dues these last couple of years, and only signed up a few months ago to the new organisation, hoping that it would be different this time.

Supported by such non-Party luminaries as José Bové and economist Pierre Larroturou, but also by fair numbers of Party heavyweights, we just need to mobilize party members to turn up and vote... Traditionally, leading motions will negotiate and merge at the congress to form a stable majority, but I feel an outright majority is within reach.

I want to emphasise that this is not a "political" faction : a very wide range of views is represented, which is sort of the whole point (Dany, for example, is to the right of most of us on a number of issues). Diversity and respect of opinions are the key uniting factor.

The factional site

[Update, Sunday 29th May] I spent the afternoon catching up with comrades, and voting, at the regional gathering, in Givors about 30 km south of Lyon. Easy enough for me, tougher from those who come from 200km away, for example Savoie or southern Ardèche. Here are the results of the factional vote :

Motion A (naïve utopian)      4%
Motion B (current politburo) 51%
Motion C (Dany etc)          26%
Motion D (left)              19%
A disappointment for me. This is seen as a personal victory for current National Secretary, Cécile Duflot, who is thus assured of a third mandate, which must be something of a record. She is certainly dynamic and charismatic, with a good media presence, and I have no problems with her, as long as she becomes better at respecting pluralism within the movement. According to the party statutes, the head of the majority list is candidate for the post of National Secretary, but requires a majority of 60%. So despite her list's outright majority (I don't recall that ever happening before) there will necessarily be negotiation and compromise. There was no question of Dany being up for the job anyway (it would not be practically compatible with his position in the Green group in the European parliament). Out of 15000 members of the Party, 6500 voted, either by being physically present at a regional gathering, or by proxy, with the restriction that each member present can carry a maximum of one proxy. Membership, although still pretty feeble, has increased a lot the past couple of years (I've never seen it over 10 000 before), so, understandably, the rate of non-participation is higher than usual. We have been pushing for correspondance or electronic voting, this being part of building a mass movement as opposed to an elitist, activist party. No success on this so far. I won't be going to next weekend's Congress, I have no stomach for it these days, but will be following it with interest. It rather looks like business as usual to me : a majority of hard-bitten activists, and a scattering of bewildered newcomers, who will either enter into the swing of things or turn away in disgust. Over the last couple of years, EELV has effectively swept the field of political ecology in France, absorbing various small parties and groups whose existence, though ineffectual on an electoral level, was proof of the sectarian nature of Green politics. If we fail to deliver in terms of effective outreach, then the fallow ground will, over the next couple of years, give rise to a new crop of micro-parties. This would be a major setback in terms of credibility and electoral efficacy. The Party, I think, will remain much as it ever was. In terms of outreach, I pin my hopes on the Co-Operative, which apparently works well in certain regions. Its existence in its own right, properly resourced and not instrumentalized by the Party, will be the thing to watch, because it's the key to the emergence of a mass movement of political ecology in France.

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the "ecologist primary" process is going to play out over the next few weeks, in order to select our candidate for the presidential election (presuming that we run one... which is the most interesting part of the whole process)

Nominations close on the 5th of June, voting by internet (by anyone who wants to give their name and pay 10 euros can vote) is from 10th to 23rd June, results the 29th, and a second round in July if no candidate gets over 50%.

The two leading candidates are Eva Joly, anti-corruption judge, and Nicolas Hulot, popular television presenter. Guess who's going to win?

My initial reaction to the idea of being represented by Hulot is one of revulsion. I can guarantee that most Green Party members feel the same. He's not One Of Us; his TV show is sponsored by polluting multinationals; he was widely tipped to be minister of ecology in Sarkozy's government (luckily for him, he missed out).

But what the hell. If diversity is what we're about with this new-look party, then he's pretty diverse... In any case, we are fundamentally opposed to the presidential mode of government. We present a candidate because we can't exist politically, on the national level, without one. And if he knows how to talk to ordinary decent citizens, and be listened to, then he has an immense advantage over most of us.

But who knows. We may well be blackmailed by the PS into not presenting a candidate at all.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:55:57 AM EST
DCB, having been expelled from France by De Gaulle in 1968, has spent almost all of his adult life, and political career, in Germany, with die Grünen.

Minor historical note: DCB spent only a decade of his political career as a Green in Germany. For the previous 16 years, he was part of the extra-parliamentarian opposition (the '68 movement if you want). Although he first ran for election in a precursor of the Greens in 1978, he joined the party only in 1984 (four years after it was established). A decade later, in 1994, he was elected MEP (then from Germany; he moved to France for his 1999 re-election).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 12:56:44 PM EST
A more on-point comment: overcoming factionalism, especially in an anti-hierarchic organisation, is difficult, but it was one major achievement of the German Greens, offering some lessons to comrades elsewhere. The present intra-party culture of armistice was in large part it was a result of past squabbles, with everyone recognising that 'divided we fall'. When it started to emerge (IIRC around 1998, after an intra-party tussle between Fundies and Realos over calling for 5-D-Mark per litre petrol prices that saw poll numbers plummet by 50%), it was poised to result in a de-facto total takeover by the power-conscious Realos via organisational change: the Realos wanted to create more centralised party structures. This parallels what happened to British Labour under Bliar: that party was hit by internal squabbles through and after the Thatcher years, so it was easy for Bliar to justify the construction of his authoritarian, top-down party structure. The German Greens, however, rejected the party structure reform, and that was when everyone truly accepted the need to get along.

(Then again, today not much is left of the original Realo-Fundie polarisation: all the Greens got more bourgeois.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:55:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Daniel Cohn-Bendit in Lyon
A motion has been submitted to the congress, and a list formed to take over the party apparatus... a faction to end all factions.

What are the key points of the program? Or to pose it another way, what safeguards are in place to make sure this does not just turn into a new power-faction?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:26:16 PM EST
Forgot to say: thanks for this presentation to the french green political scene, very interesting.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:27:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in the short term. But I will post an update on Sunday night, after the decentralized AGM. There, in a characteristically complicated (but scrupulously democratic) manner, we will vote to elect our region's  delegates to the party's Congress (which is to be held 3rd to 5th June in La Rochelle), and also elect delegates to the party's parliament.

To elect our delegates, we vote for lists attached to the four motions in presence (proportional representation, of course). Our motion is up against that of the current politburo (Cécile Duflot and acolytes), and two others.

In addition, we elect our quota of delegates to the governing body of the Party; these will be elected on lists which are not necessarily attached to motions. These lists are generally constituted in an ad hoc manner on Sunday morning; there will definitely be one which refers explicitly to our motion.

Our region (Rhone Alpes) is generally fairly representative of what's happening nationally, so we should have some indication of how it shakes out by Sunday night. However, the final balance of power will not be known until the Congress, which elects the Bureau, on lists based on the four motions (which may merge in view of forming a majority)...

Well, that was tedious. I hope to have more interesting things to report on Sunday.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 08:35:05 AM EST
If things are going to turn-around it's going to start with exactly this "in the trenches" intra-party political activity.  Tedious?  I suppose.  But it's also necessary.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 12:29:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe Ecologie's huge success in the European election has been due to the fact that it was the only organisation/party campaigning on - guess what - European issues (as well as environmental ones). It was also due to their new image distantiating itself from the Greens' internal squabbles and to their capacity to bring together personalities kike Bové and Joly. They managed to maintain this image/narrative for the regional elections, with success.

Until recently, the Greens lacked a credible economic and social programme. Their economic narrative was limited to the promotion of social economy and their social narrative was more or less recycling old extreme-left slogans. Hopefully, this is changing, too.

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char

by Melanchthon on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 11:00:51 AM EST
I have been considering joining Europe Ecologie Les Verts, but seeing the comeback of the old habits, I am waiting to see what will come out of the congress. I hope your "non-faction"'s motion will win...

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char
by Melanchthon on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 11:42:25 AM EST
about trying to recruit people, for precisely that reason. I remember one "Green Festival" outreach event a few years ago, that I invited half a dozen friends to. It ended in bitter screaming arguments, between Greens. Pretty disastrous as a PR exercise. (I have also witnessed fisticuffs in party meetings. But that's another story, best left untold.)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 11:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's talk about it after the congress...

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char
by Melanchthon on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 11:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After giving local support for the EP elections, I too am adopting a wait-and-see attitude for the moment. Nicolas Hulot for candidate might pull in votes, but the resulting image confusion would be fatal. Just as the Greens' tendency to continue to be a party and therefore attempt to overpower what should be a broad coalition and run it as a party, can't go on or it will end up with, er, the Greens going back to being a party. Factional, squabbling, rump. (Organic rump, but rump).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 12:06:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I've voted for EELV in the European and regional elections, but I don't think I would vote for Hulot. I might however change my mind: I have seen him interviewed and it improved a lot my opinion about him.

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char
by Melanchthon on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 01:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Développer l'"économie verte" en empruntant auprès de la BCE, plaide FNH, Actualités
Développer l'"économie verte" en empruntant auprès de la BCE, plaide FNH

L'investissement massif permettant une transition vers une "économie verte", respectueuse des ressources et du climat, nécessite d'autoriser un Etat à emprunter directement auprès de la Banque centrale européenne, a plaidé mercredi la Fondation pour la Nature et l'Homme (FNH).
Cette pratique, en vigueur aux Etats-Unis ou au Japon mais "interdite dans la zone euro", a déjà été utilisée pour sauver le système bancaire en 2008, souligne l'ex-Fondation Nicolas Hulot dans un note détaillant sa proposition.

I have paid no attention to his foundation, but this is probably remiss of me...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 01:13:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand your hesitation, the New Mexico Greens were the largest collection of goof-balls I fervently hope never to meet again.

On the other hand, if everybody who wishes to end the pointless faction-fighting and "empire building" in the party sits out, waiting for the faction-fighting and "empire building" to end ... it won't end.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 12:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The goofball factor is fairly rare over here, in my experience.

I always feel completely at home in Green Party meetings in France. They are people like me; we agree implicitly on almost everything; we are filled with the arrogant certainty of being right, of being the enlightened vangard of the... middle... class.

The main problem is that the typical cadre has had previous political experience in one of any number of left-wing parties, mostly Bolshevik (I englobe here the highly respectable, mainstream French Communist Party, as well as the various Trotskyite sects, the now-defunct Maoist cults etc); a minority come from outfits of a more libertarian outlook. Oddly enough, the stalinists seem to gravitate to the organs of power. While paying lip service to green ethics.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 01:21:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IMNSHO Stalinists ARE goof-balls and are attracted to positions of power like fungus to rotting logs.  It's their natural ecological niche.

:-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 01:53:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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