French Socialists face dark night of the soul
The century-old party is in deep disarray amid recriminations over its failure to capitalize on the free market's current bad name.
Rather suddenly, the French Socialists appear to be deconstructing. The grand old party of France is in a dark night of the soul – one that goes past the usual internal squabbling.
Leading lights in the party are conducting a soul-searching in public – that is significant enough to include calls to rebrand the socialist name itself.
With large losses in the June European elections, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy slam-dunking their tactics, with a lack of vision about how the left should respond to the economic crisis and globalization, and with concern that socialist ideas have not kept pace with capitalist power in Europe – the current disarray among Socialists is not surprising, political analysts say.
Yet the depth of disagreement and angst between leaders and well-known figures in the century-old party is a surprise. The rhetoric has quickly become so pointed and tough that even hardened politicians wonder if the breaches can be repaired.
"The word 'socialist' is now meaningless," says Manuel Valls, the Socialist mayor of Evry, who played a role in starting what is now an exercise in sackcloth and ashes in the party.
"We can't sustain a party that now exists in formaldehyde," says former left- wing leader Arnaud Montebourg.