The Mélenchon Caucus

An economist garlanded with a Nobel celebrates the accession of a fellow traveler and implacable free market foe.

AP/Michel Euler
Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon delivers his speech at his election night headquarters, June 19, 2022. AP/Michel Euler

“Vive la France” is the exclamation from Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman after the strong showing of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s New Popular Front in France’s elections. We take that to connote celebration at the setback suffered by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally after a strong showing in the first round of voting. X was replete with celebrations of the sort indulged in by Mr. Krugman. The Le Pen dragon is stymied, they exult.

Mr. Krugman was not alone. The historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat reckons that “the world is healing. Beautiful, In France, the UK, Poland, Chile, Brazil, and so many other places the anti-authoritarian movement is gathering steam.” A political scientist at the University of Paris, Patrick Weill, calls Mr. Mélenchon the “rare French politician who speaks approvingly of immigration.” The leftist will not, though, condemn Hamas.  

Was Madame Le Pen, though, really the greater of two evils? We understand for what her father stood. We understand the party’s roots in Vichy France. And get that its founder was no free market conservative. Our Michel Gurfinkiel, though, tells us that “Marine Le Pen today is not what Jean-Marie Le Pen used to be.” Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld reckoned before the vote that Mme. Le Pen “is the head of a party which supports Israel and supports the Jews.”

As President Biden says — “don’t judge me against the Almighty. Judge me against the alternative.” The alternative, in this case Mr. Mélenchon, is a force to be given no quarter. He accuses Israel of genocide, calls antisemitism in France “residual,” and now promises immediate recognition of a Palestinian Arab state. Then there are his visions for what he calls a “regulated and supervised” economy and sympathy for Presidents Putin and Al-Assad. 

All of this is enough to give the French themselves pause. The New York Times reports that Mr. Mélenchon’s disapproval rating comes out at 73 percent, topping that of Mme. Le Pen. The New Popular Front, despite garnering less of the popular vote, secured the most seats in part by cooperating with Mr. Macron’s centrists. If the president plans to align with the leftists to keep his own grip on power, that could yet prove a strategic — and moral — mistake. 

A leftist like Mr. Mélenchon is hardly a reliable ally, and he has already sworn off cooperation. Even the Gray Lady quakes before what she calls “his  redistributionist, egalitarian, hostile-to-capitalism economic vision.” This explains why an Israeli minister reportedly tried to come in on the side of Mme. Le Pen ahead of the election. That purportedly earned a rebuke from Mr. Macron, who knows on what side his baguette is buttered.


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