Samuel Earle at the London Review of Books:
His radical, fearless economic programme has resonated with the public – and left the markets in a panic. He has promised to tax incomes above €400,000 at 100 per cent, increase public spending by €250 billion a year, drop the retirement age, and cut the working week from 35 hours to 32 (Macron wants to increase it to 37). ‘The rich are living beyond our means,’ he says. If they want to leave, ‘let them.’
Investors have sold off French bonds and the euro has dropped against the dollar. The ‘nightmare scenario’ for the finance sector – a second round that sees Le Pen pitted against Mélenchon – is possible. Pierre Gattaz, the head of France’s biggest pro-business organisation (MEDEF), says it would be a ‘catastrophe’: a choice ‘between economic disaster and economic chaos’. The Economist called the choice ‘unpalatable’. Le Figarocompared Mélenchon to Chávez, Castro and Robespierre, ‘en passant par Lenin’. Slate recently released a ‘survival guide’ for Le Pen v. Mélenchon: leaving France is apparently the most ‘rational’ option.
Parts of the left are uneasy, too. It’s possible Mélenchon would take France out of the EU – or at least hold a referendum on the question – and he is committed to leaving Nato. His hostility towards supranational institutions has led to comparisons with Le Pen, but there is a complete absence of xenophobia in Mélenchon’s campaign, and he has refused to join in with her migrant-bashing. Towards the beginning of his rally in Marseille, he held a moment’s silence for all those who have died in the ‘mass grave’ behind him, the Mediterranean Sea.