April 12, 2007


The Revolutionary Postman (Stefan Simons, 4/12/07, Der Spiegel)

Charming, modest, eloquent: Olivier Besancenot is the presidential candidate that every French mother would love to have as a son-in-law. With his likeable appearance in jeans and a black t-shirt and his unaffected manner there is little to indicate that the lanky 33-year-old is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR).

Campaigning in the northern French town of Lille, Besancenot musters around 2,000 supporters -- mostly young people, many of them students wearing Palestinian scarves, but also a few gray-haired comrades who hope their youthful leader can free them from the fate of being just another factious fringe group. This may not be a false hope: Besancenot can mix up anti-capitalist slogans with bourgeois arguments. "Our purchasing power is sinking, while profits are exploding. When will there be a fair distribution of wealth?" Or: "The rulers of the world are bleeding the Third World to death. When will there be a world without war and poverty?"

It is ten days before the first round of voting and the leading candidates, Nicolas Sarkozy of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party (PS), are continuing with their predictable and hugely expensive campaigns, always in the firm grip of PR advisers and communications strategists. Meanwhile Besancenot is making an impression with his almost naïve seriousness. This is partly due to his role as political outsider and also because the Trotskyite's political convictions overlap with his own background.

The rebel leader is a postman by profession, who delivers letters and packages in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris. "He embodies all the best qualities that citizens would like to see in a revolutionary of the 21st century," writes the essayist Alain Duhamel. "Even his greatest foes from the bourgeois camp wouldn't hesitate to pick him up if he was hitchhiking."

So is he a postal worker or the Hitcher?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 12, 2007 12:16 PM
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