Benoît Hamon: pirate or apparatchik?

EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Benoit Hamon delivers a speech during the Socialist party Presidential Investiture Convention in Paris, France, 05 February 2017.

Benoît Hamon: pirate or apparatchik?


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As Fillon crumbles, Hamon rises. Nobody expected him to win the French Socialist preliminary election.

The one and only Socialist candidate is now fourth in the presidential race, with 16.5% voter intentions in the first round, behind Marine Le Pen (26.5%), the independent Emmanuel Macron (22.5%), and the conservative Francois Fillon (19.5%), who keeps falling and who will certainly be eliminated in the first round.

Since no-one really thinks the far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen will win, although she could make it to the second round, the next French president will either be Macron, or… Benoît Hamon, both coming from the left. Enemy brothers.

François Hollande received Benoît Hamon last Thursday at the Élysée palace (the site of the French presidency), but that was not yet an official endorsement. Hollande didn’t even accompany him on the way out, to avoid giving the impression that he would back him (that could even be a liability for Hamon, given Hollande’s dismal rating nowadays).

With his eternal appearance of a student, Benoît Hamon (born 26 June 1967) is actually a tough and determined party man. He worked for 25 years to arrive at the position where he is now. He is actually what one would call an “apparatchik”, a fonctionnaire, a solid and permanent party member.

“Little Ben“, as he is called, hails from Brest, in the Finistère département in Brittany, a traditional French pirates’ nest.

He studied in a catholic institute in Dakar,  Sénégal, where he learned about cultural diversity. A protégé of the Socialist (and Protestant) prime minister Michel Rocard, he became in 1992 the leader of the Young Socialists’ wing of the party.

Martine Aubry, Jacques Delors’s daughter also protected him, although she never believed in Hamon’s permanent obsession with the “universal income”.

He was also a Member of the European Parliament for the East of France from 2004 to 2009, attached to the PES Group.

Elected in the French parliament in 2012, he campaigns for the legalisation of the use of cannabis, for Palestine, and for giving voting rights to foreigners.

On 16 May 2012, Hamon was appointed as Junior Minister for the Social Economy at the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance, and External Trade by President François Hollande. Hamon was Minister of National Education from 2 April 2014 until 25 August 2014, resigning as a result of President Hollande’s abandonment of a socialist agenda. He was national secretary for Europe and spokesperson for the Socialist Party.

His idols are Bernie Sanders, the UK Labour boss Corbyn, and the Spanish Podemos freebooters. Critical of the social-liberal politics conducted by Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Hamon represented the left-wing and green side of the Socialist Party during this primary.

He wants to rethink society and its relation to work by giving a basic income to all French citizens, believing that the availability of work will decrease due to automation.

He supports a 35 hour workweek, and less if a worker chooses in exchange for state compensation, and supports the legalisation of cannabis and euthanasia. He also argues for huge investments in renewable energy, aiming for renewable sources to provide 50% of French energy by 2025, and wants to protect the “common goods” (water, air, biodiversity) in the Constitution. Hamon is also very critical of the neoliberal “myth of infinite economic growth”, which he blames for “destroying the planet“ and argues is a “quasi-religion” among politicians.

“There is an urgency to change now our way to produce and consume. […] We can negotiate with bankers, but we cant negotiate with the planet.”

Pirate or apparatchik? He, for sure, brought colour to French politics. No  no holds are barred from now on.

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