Is there still a left culture in France?

The impression given by the current political and electoral left comes from the accumulation of various and sometimes conflicting struggles, rather than from the articulation of coherent struggles that are likely to lead to lasting policies. To say that there is, at all times and in all places, one and only one “left” culture is to lie, or to lie to oneself.

However, over the decades, through successive sedimentations or through the articulation of different or disparate elements, sometimes different without being different, a form of common left culture has developed. In the current environment, it appears that the marginalization of this part of the chessboard is not caused by “two irreconcilable lefts”, but a continuous disintegration of what is its culture. Fragmentation that will be the consequence of its previous marginalization, and now its vehicle.

The tenacious construction of left culture

As we know, at the political level, the left is not always present and installed in the country as something that cannot be changed. The labor movement has long distinguished itself, in fact and in thought. But it took the Dreyfus affair and the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State to affirm, with difficulty, what the “left” would be.

The left was ambiguous for the labor movement and, subsequently, not without debates or internal controversies that both sides experimented first with the Cartel des gauches (for the legislative elections of 1924 and 1932), then the Popular Front (1936). -1938). These electoral, parliamentary and governmental coalitions, with different perimeters, were an important aspect of the birth of the left, at this time. “trying”in the words of journalist Serge Halimi.

Throughout our history, we can count various branches of left culture. There is what was inherited from the French revolution, sometimes reinterpreted by the various families that make up the left, and the revolutions of the 18e and XIXe century gives him common references, whether personality, event or place. Literature is rich throughout the country.

The second half of XXe The century marked the apogee of a form of left culture that fed revolutionary socialism (Cuba) and its cinema, but also decolonization struggles. “Engaged” cinema has had a definite and lasting rise (Z by Costa-Gavras from 1969, after another film also noted, compartment killers), protest music is going global and social networks are no longer needed to see memorable collaborations taking place.

The memory of past revolutions, the rise of the labor movement, the establishment of the Republic therefore contributed to the formation of a common culture, certainly not homogeneous but strong in convergence.

Intellectual relevance, but chaotic execution

Today, the bunkering of the radical left coincides with the dislocation of ideological and audience offerings. The latter goes hand in hand with an surrounding spirit of doubt, be it the denunciation of anyone who issues a caveat or an objection to theses generally adopted by active fractions, it brings an acceleration of the decline of the left. Because the left – in the broadest sense – struggles to establish bridges and relationships between elements that, today, far from building a common building are too many justifications for all destruction.

The translation of works into a foreign language is usually expensive and adds to the high publishing costs, so the irrigation of the debates of the French left remains very imperfect. Thoughts from across the Atlantic are subject to partial translations and partial interpretations, which destroy the coherence as well as the excellence of each of them. The richest of the books of the radical left, translated or not, often published by La Fabrique, Agone or Les Liens qui liberantes, also struggle to go beyond the almost intimate framework of their distribution (except in the case of The Coming Revolt).

The variety and quality of the publications of these houses – often of medium size but not in terms of the talents published and placed in front of the stage – is a valuable mine of resources for anyone wishing to- think about a radical alternative to capitalism. The irony is due to the quality and relevance of the inquiry in the pure intellectual sphere of the left and the chaotic political practice of their partisan and electoral side.

General suspicion

The richest or best reviews – such as Contretemps – have also seen their themes and tone shift towards a more obvious self-withdrawal. Many media, built on the project of being leftist and independent, are both in the deadly spiral of internal struggles (made public on social networks) and of their closure to what is not considered ideologically pure. Over time, the radical nature of analysis fades before the dramatization of accusations and the hardening of expressions.

The generational effects between the “old guard”, particularly trained in the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), and the newcomers, often young thirty-year-olds, reflect the changing times and ethos. Between following ideological impulses from American campuses and commemorative monomania, we see every week, in their texts or in their declarations, a set of elements that avoid concreteness and embodiment, while borrowing from the repeated register of accusation and widespread suspicion. which precedes it.

Height is the need for a census work of the names of the country’s streets to remove them from references to “Nazi” and “collaborators” -the representative of Haute-Garonne Hadrien Clouet (LFI) therefore made this request to the Ministry of Culture, emphasizing the urgency of “dezanification of public space”.

From the Bastille-Republic-Nation
in a litany of stand-ups

The articulation, among others, of the Parti de gauche (PG) and La France insoumise (LFI) can make it possible to bring to life the most political and electoral part of left culture, by using the strategy known as “left populism”. But its members became an additional breeding ground for the society of the show.

Without really noticing at first, left-wing politicians succumbed to the personalization of the media, to the pleasures of the individual and selfish ventures, but it was well demonstrated. “We don’t” not on Twitter, not go to the Hanouna set, etc. For a decade, politics was disfigured and relegated to the background.

Because, in the last two decades, the texts are drawn in a spirit of honesty and loyalty more stimulated than before, and the process of dilution of the left-wing culture, at least in the usual political references, has caused the absence of trust of common texts. Then we move on to mistrust the texts, then the written word; towards agreements, the given word and, ultimately, politics.

A great irony

The disintegration of the left, thus the unfolding of its common culture, is also the result of the rise of individual interests, which often put personal motivations in the service of goals that can be described as selfish. The Arab-Israeli conflict today suggests for us to summarize the perspective of the balance of power in the forced accusation of the State of Israel and the meaning of the two camps according to this conflict that has become a matrix of interpretation of the world.

The ideological and cultural fragmentation of the left owes much to the capacities that social networks offer to extract themselves from the collective to exacerbate individual and spontaneous reactions, the corresponding hatred. If the reactions of followers replace the work of the collective intellectual, we enter an ultra-individual political existence.

The great irony is to note that after the end of the neoliberal or Reagan-Thatcherian cycle, despite the rejection of which it was the goal and, to make matters worse, despite the wealth of critical thinking and enormous intellectual work, the “left of the left.”, the radical left, manages every day to make citizens more inclined to reject it. The challenge was not easy but it was won handily.

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