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French weekly magazines review 24 September 2017

__ DR
4 min

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is given the front-page honours by two of this week's magazines. The broad verdict seems to be that the hard-left leader is all bark and very little bite. President Emmanuel Macron is also mentioned in despatches, accused of copying his right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.


Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon was marching around Paris yesterday, promising to put an end to the "social coup" which has, according to Mélenchon, been engineered by President Emmanuel Macron. And which will ruin France.

He was accompanied by 150,000 people yesterday according to his own count; the police say there were 30,000 demonstrators.

Two of this week's magazine give the front-page honours to Jean-Luc, the man who finished fourth in the presidential race but who continues to feel he was robbed. While other defeated candidates have been growing beards or looking for work, Mélenchon has been snarling like a dog with a bone, refusing to talk to anyone who suggests that his revolutionary stance and rhetoric might be a tad out of date. It worked for Lenin back in 1917, you can hear the man thinking. What's 100 years between comrades?

The man of some of the people, some of the time

The headline in L'Express reads "How far will Mélenchon go?", which suggests that maybe they've seen the parallels with Lenin too.

In fact, the L'Express coverage paints a man who is far from organising a revolution. He wants to take power and will probably call for an early election so that he can have a second shot at getting the top job. But his strategy, says L'Express, is to divide, polarise, radicalise. Just like his South American heros Chavez, Maduro and Castro.

Mélenchon appears to want to replace the outmoded left-right political divide by a division between the people and the dominant élite, with himself representing the people.

Apart from the fact that Mélenchon still has to convince a sufficient number of the people that he's the man, L'Express says he's the victim of his own contradictions: by refusing to make any concessions to potential allies on the left, the rebel who won't submit to anybody may finally be left talking to himself.

Streetfighting man

L'Obs takes issue with Mélenchon's conviction that politics is a form of streetfighting.

Pointing out that the eternal problem of left-wing figures has been to convince the people that they, the leaders, know what's best for the rest of us and then to find an individual or an institution to attack.

Mélenchon has been very good at pointing out injustices and inequalities, says L'Obs but that's not the same thing as elaborating a policy to put things right.

The strange political paternity of President Macron

The main story in weekly magazine Marianne accuses President Macron of copying his right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

It's a strange turn of events. You may remember that during the election campaign Macron was accused by the right of being a clone of François Hollande. Now, says Marianne, when you look at the new man's style, his insistence on himself as the centre of power, his management-friendly labour reforms, his propsed changes to the tax regime, you realise that Macron is, in fact, son of Sarko.

Sarkozy, says Marianne, has become the main source of inspiration for the new president.

Sarko took on Socialist Bernard Kouchner as his foreign minister. Macron did even better, giving the job of prime minister to Edouard Philippe, a conservative supporter of Alain Juppé. And Macron has placed former Sarkozy lieutenants in key posts in the budget and finance ministries.

Macron has adopted the Sarkozy technique of launching so many reforms at the same time that the opposition does not know where to attack. Even if Sarko has since admitted that carpet-bombing, as the technique is called, can leave the man in the street feeling bemused and alienated.

The two men are seen as presidents of the rich, as being close to German Chancellor Merkel, as disliking railworkers, as mistreating the very poor. The list of "similarities" is endless.

Sarko himself is quoted by weekly satirical paper, Le Canard Enchaîné as saying, with touching modesty, "Macron is me, only better."

But we'll leave the last world to Karl Marx who pointed out that, if history does have a tendency to repeat itself, the first time is tragedy, the second time is farce.

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