Socialist party is dead, says thinker Bernard-Henri Lévy

One of the biggest names of the French left yesterday turned his back

on decades of political loyalty when he declared

the Socialist party to be "dead" and called for its rapid dissolution.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, France's most media-friendly philosopher and

left-leaning intellectual, said the party had been taken over

by a "reactionary ideology" that had led ultimately to its failure.

What remained of the strong and popular centre-left movement

that made its name as a protector of ordinary people, he said,

was a "dead body" and an organisation

"in the process of losing whatever remained of its soul".

"Is the PS [Parti Socialiste] going to die?

No. It is dead.

No one, or almost no one, dares say it. But everyone,

or almost everyone, knows it's true,"

he said in an interview with the Journal

du Dimanche newspaper published yesterday.

The flamboyant writer and commentator, as well-known

in France for his billowing white shirts as for his politics,

said the party should be dissolved and renamed

"as quickly as possible".

Infighting among France's socialists, one of the most

common features of the country's political landscape,

has ratcheted up a gear since their dismal performance

in June's European elections,

in which Nicolas Sarkozy became the first sitting

French president since 1979 to top the poll.

The PS was also humiliated by the unexpected success

of Daniel Cohn-Bendit's Europe Ecologie party,

which benefited from disillusionment with

the traditional left to beat it into an embarrassing

third place in Paris.

"We're talking here about the alternative to Nicolas Sarkozy,

about people's hope," said Lévy. "And yet this PS

does not embody any kind of hope.

It provokes merely anger and exasperation."

Lévy's virulent attack on the party led by Martine Aubry,

the straight-talking but uncharismatic mayor of Lille,

came after weeks of backstabbing and open criticism

of the general secretary, who was elected with

a wafer-thin majority over

her great rival Ségolène Royal last autumn.

Now, however, it is not just Royal's telegenic appeal

with which an embattled Aubry must contend.

Yesterday, Lévy's criticisms were echoed by

Julien Dray, a socialist MP facing charges

for embezzlement, who launched an all-out attack

denouncing her "powerlessness, amateurism and

above all a surprising lack of ability

to listen to what is happening in her party and in society".

In recent weeks the future of the party has also been called

into question by younger members of

the party with their own ambitions for leadership

              J-L K.
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