Who, in 2022, does not claim ecological awareness? On the left as on the right, among the liberals as among the communists, the hour is with the greening of the spirits as much as of the speeches. However, the environmental candidate, Yannick Jadot, only collected a small 4.63 percent in the presidential election. There is a new French paradox: the ecologists are unable to transform this cultural victory into a political victory at the ballot box.
Height of this failure, the liberal Emmanuel Macron can even afford the luxury of laughing green the facade of his new five-year term without the slightest need to integrate environmentalists into his government. Worse still for Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV), Jean-Luc Mélenchon has stolen the limelight from them in terms of ecology. So, speaking of green planning throughout the presidential campaign, he came across as just as green as Jadot, if not more so. And on April 10, the Mélenchon copy was preferred to the original EELV. A drama.
The French Greens pay a double error. Their lack of realism and modernity, first. In Finland, environmentalists have placed at the heart of their manifesto that nuclear power is a “sustainable energy” and are calling for easier legislation in favor of SMRs, these small modular nuclear reactors. A decision, historic, voted by an overwhelming majority of the national council of Vihreät De Gröna, the Finnish green party. In post-Merkel Germany, ecologists participate in a government coalition alongside the socialists and the liberals, abandoning their doctrinaire postures inherited from their long protesting past to now present themselves as a government party.
So many steps against the speeches and dogmatic positions of elected officials and activists of EELV, chaining caricatures and, in fact, stunting their electoral base. The examples are legion: there was the controversy of the Tour de France described as “macho and polluting” by the mayor of Lyon Grégory Doucet, the “dead” Christmas tree of the mayor of Bordeaux Pierre Hurmic or the plane which did not has more to be “a childhood dream”, says the mayor of Poitiers Léonore Moncond’huy. “I despair of this ecology of the permanent controversy … The Tour de France, the Christmas tree, all of this has done us a disservice and that drives away public opinion”, confided the ecologist deputy, ex-LREM, Matthieu Orphelin to L’ Express.
Have French ecologists lost sight of their struggles? For forty years, they have not succeeded in proposing a global social project on the sole basis of ecology, unlike socialism or liberalism before them. “The sharing of wealth? Tax? Work? What is our added value on these subjects? How do we differ from a socialist or a Mélenchon?” Asks a strategist. “We dispersed. We did not invent anything, we peck and we adapt over the elections”, we admit at EELV. As for the ever-increasing impregnation of the climate emergency within public opinion – some would say that it is already a cultural victory -, it has only been made possible thanks to multiple IPCC reports, ever-increasing climate disasters, but also hundreds of climate marches that brought together thousands of people.
The heavy defeats, the blows of the club, sometimes cause painful but salutary awakenings. The blue-white-red ecologists seem to have forgotten this political precept. By deciding to line up behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his line of the radical left, the ecologists are once again dodging their great aggiornamento, their green “Bad Godesberg”.
However, the latter have long believed in and defended the need to go it alone. Since the European elections, however, they had constantly proclaimed their autonomy on the left. In the municipal elections, the case had succeeded rather well for them. Exit the agreements with the socialists, exit this time when they lined up behind the roses. The hour of ecologists had come. The national secretary Julien Bayou said it in these words: “I was elected at the head of EELV with a mandate: that of organizing primaries so that there is an environmentalist candidate for the presidential election. There will therefore be a green newsletter in 2022. Ecology will not fade.”
But with a debt that threatened its existence and a Jean-Luc Mélenchon having captured a very large part of his electorate, EELV can no longer afford the luxury of independence. “We cannot afford five more years without deputies”, justified Bayou during the Nupes negotiations. Peak of the dispersion, those who swept away the union on the left since September 2021 quickly put their destiny in the hands of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The same ones who described as “capitulation” the non-alignment of the rebels on the war in Ukraine in April; the same ones who reprimanded his severe criticism of Europe and his will, assumed, to disobey the rules common to the Union.
Basically, and apart from the verticality of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the alliance has everything to please environmentalists. “We are not uncomfortable either, confides a gray eminence of the party. There are lines of convergence, ecological of course, but also on the societal. And the same to add, full of irony: “We are all happy Islamo-leftists!” It is clear that within the Nupes, the differentiating factor between the forces that make it up is less on the question of universalism than on the nuclear issue (between communists and ecologists), Europe (between ecologists, socialists and rebellious) or security.
Sociologically, the rapprochement seems just as logical. The environmentalist electorate in recent years, even if it was able to vote Emmanuel Macron in 2017, differs less and less from that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “There are two profiles of environmental sympathizers: the old ones, very militant, attached to the autonomy of the apparatus and therefore rather opposed to the Nupes; and younger ones, who voted Mélenchon rather than Jadot without doubt, at the intersectional logic and favorable to Nupes”, explains an environmentalist.
For a long time, the French political ecology integrated within it multiple identities which had other struggles pegged to the body than that against global warming. In the 1990s, there were a large number of defenders of the Palestinian cause. Thirty years later, it is Alice Coffin who brandishes contemporary feminism, not affirming sufficiently strongly in the eyes of some at EELV that she is an ecologist. “She came to bring this subject because there was light with us”, stings one of her critics. EELV was a fertile ground for various and varied struggles for many years but, in 2022, La France insoumise surpasses it in this area.
This coupling of circumstances between ecologists and rebellious, which supposes the erasure of the first, can it hold in the long term? The electorate of the left bloc is counting on it, but, according to an unsubmissive person, “no one is fooled”. Because environmentalists have a plan in mind, unmentionable in the midst of the legislative campaign. Rather than fracture, some green oils prefer to speak of “distinction” which should take place at the dawn of the European elections of 2024. One is convinced of this: “It will be difficult to have a common list bringing together sovereignists and Europeans. It works today because we don’t talk about Europe during the legislative elections, but these are two alternative narratives that will confront each other in two years.” Contacted on the future of French political ecology within a Nupes and in the wake of Mélenchon, Julien Bayou is content with a sibylline message: “It’s fluid, it’s campaign time and we then sees. We must not make too many plans on the comet, neither in one direction nor in another.”