“Libéralisme” and BHL in French politics today

Pamela Sacks and Etienne Roop are two of my more erudite students. Pam is learning French by supplementing grammar with translating from French to English. Etienne is progressing by reading and writing French. Below is Pam’s translation of Roop’s recent post on French politics, its take on “liberalism” and “antiliberalism,” and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Lévy is a political, cultural, inetellectual writer and philosopher in France today.

Briefly, in my view, the key word here is “antiliberal.” “Liberal” is commonly used among French intellectuals who do not mean the same thing as in the United States. “Liberal” is an allusion to economic politics, in particular the presumed preference of America (and of Great Britain – therefore the common epithet used among leftist socialists and other leftists, “Blairites”) for free exchange and free markets.

BHL is liberal, or, rather, liberal for a French citizen. He is on the left, but not far left. He admires the suppleness of the American economy and American society. Jose Bove, in contrast, is a more extreme leftist who has been fighting for a long time against the forces of the “American hegemony.” (He destroyed a McDonald’s under construction, and as a result, was incarcerated briefly) but also against the forces of world economics (like OGM, organizations backing genetic modification) that threaten the traditional French agricult ural order. (dairy) For BHL, JB is a dangerous puppet who obstructs the necessary changes in society and in the French economy to make them fair and productive for everyone. As a result, he fears that the alliance between DCB and JB might mean a retreat from the logic of an open market – a logic of competition that is able to help change stagnant French institutions. BHL admires, in general, European institutions and the economic and social forces that they put in motion. DCB is a “good European” – this is why BHL considered voting for him. But for BHL, DCB and JB are like oil and water: they do not mix well.

BHL’s view, does it make sense? Who is using whom? DCB is a very intelligent man and at the same time rather calculating. Does he want to demolish Europe or the common market or his successes on the part of human rights? I don’t think so. DCB/JB was a political alliance on a political trail. DCB succeeded because of his telegenic personality, the new base of political participation, several other carefully calculated alliances, and – according to several observers – a small word of encouragement at the last minute by the UMP, which was interested in a weakened socialist party, still the principal political rival of the UMP. Bove was the spice in the soup, not the soup itself. To be=2 0sure, many things for which JB has fought for a long time – generous subsidies for agriculture, strict regulation of the OGM – are the local political policies. In the event of a dispute, there is no question that DCB would win.

But what would DCB win? The European community is not a government elected like the one in France. The bureaucratic institutions are oriented to the governments of the states of Europe, rather than to individual citizens or their political parties. Everyone knows that. Therefore the European election itself has a bit of a strange air about it; the political parties threw a celebration, but for the most part the voters decided to stay at home. In that situation, what’s the importance of the election or of BHL’s choice? Is this choice more noise than an actual sign, or perhaps the overture but not the opera.

The thing that is the most important continues: The socialist party is stumbling yet another time and remains in crisis.  Apart from the alliance of DCB and JB, BHL would abandon the party that he voted for in the presidential elections. BHL said it is a cadaver.  Is it, for BHL, a Europe without ill usions and without tears? In the world that counts, where he is going? To Sarkozy? Or elsewhere? Is there an elsewhere? It is opera, no, but it is for BHL.

Translated by Pam Sacks

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