The political scientist Marc Lazar said recently that the Communist party in France may be all but dead but that a communist culture still exists on the French left, and that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has achieved the singular feat in his presidential campaign of awakening this culture and giving it a unified political expression.I would take some issue with Lazar's formulation. Mélenchon revives one aspect of French Communist culture, but that culture was far more than Georges Marchais's sneering attitude toward journalists, which Mélenchon shares. Communist culture would never have survived as long as it did if it hadn't provided a structure of support, solidarity, and community for its adherents. Mélenchon has resurrected the cult of personality, the combative spirit, and a good deal of the nasty invective as well as the high-flown historical rhetoric of that earlier period, but one might speculate that a part of the enthusiasm he has aroused comes from a yearning for a restoration of that community on the part of a mostly older group of leftists who found in May 68 a solidarity that no "modern" political party--and certainly not the French Socialist Party--can supply.
To my mind, such solidarity, which grew naturally out of the experience of the shop floor when labor was regimented in battalions and treated like cannon fodder, is not a natural part of today's society. It can flare up briefly in specific settings: the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s bore some, though not all, of its earmarks. And since I was a part of that counterculture, I can attest to its attractions. But such fellow-feeling, however pleasurable, is not a sound basis for the kinds of political decisions that we face today. It leads almost invariably to a division of society into friends and enemies--a distinction that is the basis of the thought of Carl Schmitt more than that of Karl Marx. It is no longer possible to wish that "demain l'Internationale sera le genre humain." We have become too diverse to believe that any one class of society is called by its very nature and essence to become "the universal class." And for me that is the essence of Mélenchon's error and the illusion under which his supporters labor.
The rest I leave to Arun, along with the responsibility for his remarks.