Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Star (and Crescent) Is Born?

Has la diversité opened a new chapter in French politics?

Ilham Moussaïd became a cause célèbre a year ago when she appeared as an NPA candidate in the French regional elections wearing a head scarf. As I noted a few months ago ("Au Revoir, Ilham," 12/2/10), she and some colleagues eventually left the NPA when it appeared the party was in no hurry to resolve its position regarding women, head scarves, cultural identity, and their relationship to republican politics.

Now the social service organization she helped found to address issues in the immigrant quartiers of Avignon has declared its intention to form a political party, with Moussaïd as its candidate, in this spring's local or cantonale elections.
Does she have a chance? As self-acknowledged novices she and her co-workers are modest in their immediate goals. But she proved herself a formidable presence at the microphone, under fire, during all the controversy surrounding her previous candidacy. She has a clear understanding of her own values--solidarity, equality, opportunity, cultural diversity--and the insurmountable obstacle that is the capitalist system. Within the limitations of a new, modestly funded party she will be a credible candidate.

But the stakes could grow much higher. France's 2nd-generation immigrants, citizens all, are a numerous bunch, and unlike previous smaller cohorts, they may be a lot less eager to shed their particularist identities in order to amalgamate with the larger citizenry, as republican tradition would require. Ever since the 2005 riots across the immigrant districts (if not sooner) it has seemed possible, if not inevitable, that French political establishment would have to reconsider its relationship to the ethnic identity politics we take for granted in the US. No, not in France, many say from all sides of the political spectrum, or perhaps not yet. But Ilham Moussaïd is a determined young woman, not willing to be told "no," or "not yet." Others may follow her example. The winds of change that are blowing through Tunis and Cairo, and even Tripoli and Rabat, may reach Bobigny or Clichy-sous-bois or the quartiers of Avignon. If they do, Ilham Moussaïd and other young leaders like her will be there, ready .


At February 21, 2011 at 8:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm new here (via Art Goldhammer) but I will certainly be coming back
looks like interesting stuff.

What are your thoughts on the lefts candidiates for 2012 surely a joint far-left candidate is tactically essential if they are to have any collective clout?

At February 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM , Blogger brent said...

Welcome, politicsfrance. My sense is that Mélenchon has pretty well claimed the position of joint far-left candidate. At its Congress last week the NPA pretty well ruled out any overtures to the Front de Gauche (the sticking point remains an unwillingness to engage in any way whatsoever with the PS). Besancenot is thus positioned to run solo again, but the party has already lost some 40% of its original members, with another 20% probably heading for the door (27% voted for a unitaire strategy at the Congress). If you imagine a fair share of those former NPAs joining up with JLM, and if you further imagine a DSK candidacy driving more left-Socialists in that direction, I can imagine JLM not "being the left," as he grandiosely claims, but rising to 10% or so in the first round.


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