Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s late surge in the French presidential election has invited comparison with the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary in the United States.
The comparison is not altogether off in the sense that Mélenchon’s rise is largely due to the unpopularity of technocratic socialism under the incumbent president, François Hollande. Sanders’ candidacy similarly reflected a disillusionment in the centrist incrementalism of Hillary Clinton.
But there is no comparing the policies of the French candidate, who is backed by the Communist Party, to those of the senator from Vermont, whose views would be mainstream in France.
Mélenchon’s economic program is less business-friendly than anything that could win mass support in America.
It calls for the renationalization of utilities and capping salaries in the private sector at twenty times the median income. Higher earnings would be taxed 100 percent.
Mélenchon campaigns to reverse the reforms Emmanuel Macron, now a presidential candidate himself, enacted as economy minister from 2014 to 2016. He allowed small companies to opt out of collective bargaining agreements and shops to open on Sundays.
Mélenchon also proposes to lower the retirement age to sixty, when it was already lowered from 65 to 62 under Hollande.
Mélenchon is a Putin apologist. He has yet to criticize Russia for either annexing the Crimea or bombing Syria. He calls for lifting sanctions and switching France’s NATO alliance with the United States for a special relationship with Moscow.
He is an admirer of former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, who wasted away his country’s oil wealth and undermined both democracy and the rule of law.
Perhaps most damagingly, Mélenchon wants France to leave the European Union, unless it can be overhauled completely.
He calls the EU a neoliberal project that advances the interests of German “imperialism”.
Mélenchon is no friend of Germany altogether. He once described the country’s reunification as an “annexation” of the formerly communist East by the democratic West — no matter that East Germans voted for it.
These are not the views of a democratic socialist. These are the opinions of a far-left fanatic who deserves no sympathy from progressives elsewhere.