Emmanuel Macron, the youngest ever president of France, is a man who has never been elected and who does not at present have a party. He has been seen as an ‘outsider’, defeating both the ‘left’ (‘Socialist’ Party) and ‘right’ (Republicans) to get through to the second round on Sunday (May 7) and face Marine Le Pen of the Front National. But he is no innocent abroad without a clear anti-working class pedigree. (See previous articles on this site.)
While many will breathe a sigh of relief that the far right was defeated, and pro-EU politicians see a threat to the European Union and the euro itself receding, Macron’s election does not end the deep crisis and divisions in French society. Emmanuel Macron has a background in one of the biggest banking organisations in the world and, without even being a member of the PS, was brought in by Francois Hollande to pursue the harsh neo-liberal policies which have created such problems for France’s workers and youth.
President Macron can be faced with mass opposition on the streets as well as in the general election in June. As Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) explains in the statement below, the seven million votes in the first round of the election for Jean-Luc Mélenchon reflect a huge potential for the ideas of socialism.
Huge anger at election of big business and bankers’ representative
Organise resistance everywhere!
Leïla Messaoudi Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France)
The presidential election in France has demonstrated an historic rejection of ‘traditional’ parties. In the first round, the ruling ‘Socialist’ Party of president Hollande was wiped out and also the corrupt right-wing candidate, Fillon, of Sarkozy’s Les Republicains. And the strength of the social anger in society was clearly expressed in the seven million votes for Mélenchon and his programme of a complete break with austerity and the worsening conditions of life and work. But this vote was not enough to block the road to Le Pen and the Front National (FN) with its new look under Marine Le Pen; she was able to get into the second round and run against the clear nominee of the ruling classes, Emmanuel Macron.
In the end, Macron was elected with 65.8% of votes cast against 34.2% for Le Pen. It might be thought that the capitalists have now got their willing puppet in power and he will pursue and step up their policies of austerity and repression against workers, youth, the unemployed and foreigners. But this is by no means guaranteed!
Record level of ‘blank’ vote
Blank or invalid ballot papers made up 12% of all the votes in the second round – an historic record. It has forced the media to publicise the figures of blank votes cast which are traditionally not announced. If we add abstentions, which were at a huge 34% of voters, then 16 million out of the 47 million registered voters (out of the 52 million adults in France) did not “choose” between Le Pen and Macron.
This is a clear sign that Macron has a very weak base to govern from and that the months and years ahead will be very unstable. Behind the percentages, the reality is even less glorious. Macron received 20. 4 million votes and Le Pen 10.6 million. In fact, despite the threat of Le Pen coming to power, Macron collected only 43.6% from the total number of registered voters. And surveys at the polling stations on Sunday confirmed it: 43% of those who voted for Macron did so to block the road to Le Pen while only 16% of them voted because of support for his programme.
Macron: a policy against workers and young people
Macron has a mission: to pursue and intensify the policies carried out by Sarkozy and Hollande for 15 years against public services, to facilitate redundancies and to make the labour market more flexible. He already announced that he wants to eliminate 120,000 public service jobs over five years. And he will use the arsenal of anti-democratic procedures enshrined in the constitution of France’s Fifth Republic’s, just as Manuel Valls did in his time as Hollande’s right-hand man, to pass laws which are vital for the capitalists. He wants to govern by decree, that is to say, to side-step parliament and discussions on projected laws. The first one, for June or July, is already on its way – the one about more anti-worker changes to the country’s labour law. Then the ones on unemployment pay, social security etc.
Opposition to such policies is massive and was demonstrated during the election period. But this anger and opposition must find a social and political expression that champions the interests of workers, young people and the majority of the population. For there is a risk that the FN will seek to capitalise more on the opposition to the bosses and divert it into the wrong channels using racism and all kinds of discrimination.
Instability for the ruling classes is at a high level. It is now time to go onto the streets, to make it clear that we are rejecting these thoroughly antisocial policies. The leadership of the trade union federations cannot remain silent, when the ten-fold changes to the Labour Law are announced, when opposition to the El Khomri law brought millions of people onto the streets less than a year ago. We must organise and show our collective strength without waiting until the end of June.
Le Pen wants to be the opposition force against Macron. No way !
For Le Pen and the FN, the election campaign was not that simple. They hoped to surf the widespread discontent and were expected to be given the biggest vote from the first round but the campaign of Mélenchon ate deeply into her support. She succeeded in getting 10.6 million votes in the second round, or 3.5 million more votes between the two rounds, probably among the most reactionary right who had voted Fillon and for the chauvinist Dupont-Aignan (who got 1,7 Million votes in the first round). There were certainly also some votes among those who understandably wanted to defeat the banker Macron by voting (erroneously) for Le Pen who still remains a truly capitalist candidate and the worst enemy of the ordinary people.
Now she wants to try out transforming her party completely. On Sunday Marine Le Pen clearly announced her project: the creation of a new party for the months to come which would bring together the people who oppose Macron’s policy. But this has already created opposition within the FN itself, especially among the supporters of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who look unfavourably on a rapprochement with certain sectors of the classic right. The challenge for the FN is to capitalise on the anger that has built up but also to allow its leaders to build their own careers. The tensions will be multiplied, especially when the real opposition to Macron, that of workers and young people, will be based on demands which contradict those of the Front National (by whatever name it becomes known).
The 2017 legislative elections
The next national elections are in a month’s time on 11 and 18 June 2017, to choose the members of the national assembly. It is clear that they will in fact be the 3rd and 4th rounds, during which this anger and the will to fight back will express themselves.
More than ever, it is necessary for workers, young people and those who live in the poorer areas of France to have an independent political expression to confront the parties which are running capitalism: Macron’s movement ‘En Marche!’, the disintegrating ‘Socialist’ Party and the EELV (Ecologists) (who are already seeking an alliance with Macron’s party),the Republicans and the FN.
In relation to Mélenchon’s campaign, candidates are needed who stand for a break with austerity policies, and we can no longer accept agreements with parties that carry them out, such as the PS or some of E.E.L.V. Candidates are needed who fight against redundancies such as those at Whirlpool or Tati, who fight against the dismantling of public services, against the destruction of the environment, for increases in wages and pensions, reductions of working time and increases in jobs. Candidates who are totally different from the corrupt and careerist ones of ‘En Marche’, the Republicans, the PS or FN, would show it by accepting only the average salary of a skilled worker.
We are in favour of having just one candidate per constituency around this programme. It should be possible to campaign for the same candidate, whether from Melenchon’s ‘France Unbowed’ (FI) or from the French ‘Communist’ Party (PCF), while maintaining their own freedom of expression if so desired. An agreement should be reached, if not for a joint campaign, at least for the distribution of constituencies. This is crucial. But if the PCF is demanding, as seems to be the case, to have the main candidates in an overwhelming majority of constituencies and to leave to the FI only those places where Mélenchon’s score was weaker in the presidential election, then unfortunately no agreement will be possible other than that which the FI has already proposed – to work out 26 constituencies that are winnable for the PCF and 26 for the FI in which there will be no confrontation between the two movements.
Time to create a fighting left!
Faced with the policies being pursued on behalf of the bosses, the real left has a great responsibility and cannot relinquish the territory the FN. We must follow up on the momentum triggered by the campaign around Mélenchon in the first round of the presidential election. The Mélenchon vote brought hope to ordinary people and a progressive programme that takes on those who are really responsible for the crisis: the super-rich, the banks, the share-holders.
Mélenchon was little short of overtaking Le Pen on April 23 April to the great alarm of the media in the service of capitalism (9 billionaires now own 90% of the media in France). The unbridled offensive of the journalists and the ruling classes against Mélenchon, even going so far as to liken him to Stalin, betrayed their fear that the masses would seize on his economic and social programme and seek to put it into practice. And last night after the results, some were rejoicing at having avoided a second round of Mélenchon/ Le Pen or Mélenchon/ Macron that would have been very close!
We have to create a new mass political force capable of organising anger and resistance around an economic and social programme that identifies those who are really to blame: the capitalists and their representatives. Hundreds of thousands of Mélenchon voters want to carry on fighting on his programme. What was lacking in the last two weeks of the campaign was having a more structured FI organisation, more capable of taking root as a militant and combative movement against the pro-capitalist candidates.
It is urgent to move in this direction, because the legislative elections will demand organisation and, above all, the electoral campaign will already be an opportunity to prevent Macron from getting a majority in the National Assembly. It is a means of building mass struggle against his policy, which will involve demonstrations and days of strike action.
We are in favour of such a mass political force of struggle, a new, really democratic, party which brings together workers, young people and all those who have had enough of capitalism. For this there is not an endless number of solutions, only one! We must fight to put an end to the capitalist dictatorship by removing the means of production from the capitalists and by placing the major sectors of the economy in public ownership under the control and management of elected representatives of the people. A new force can be built with mass mobilisations and discussion of an anti-austerity programme, but also by defending the democratic socialism against capitalism and its dictatorship of profit.
With Mélenchon’s score and the ‘France Insoumise’ campaign, a big step has been taken in this direction and we can say that from now on, the capitalists have a real opposition to face and that it will grow and build its strength.
This is how Gauche Révolutionnaire will continue to fight in the period to come! Join us!