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French Presidential Election : Mélenchon and the Radical Left Prepare to Paralyze the Working Class Fightback against the Coming Government’s Attacks.

Finally, and as expected based on the polls from months ago as well as on the result of the first round of April 23rd, the “centrist” Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election. Marine Le Pen, the Front National extreme-right candidate, has been defeated by a large margin. Since the first round, we could bring out the main political significance of these elections for the proletariat and the revolutionaries: the rise of a radical Left around the person of Mélenchon and his movement La France Insoumise [Unbowed France] whose function will be to sabotage from “within”, alongside the unions, the inescapable working class reactions to the attacks that the new government is going to launch brutally and rapidly:

“The insurrectional spirit instilled by Mélenchon and hovering over the country can endure and even increase: an educated but precarious fraction of the youth could help the union movement when Emmanuel Macron, if he is elected, will start the announced reforms” [1] (Web site Slate.fr).

The new President wants to reinitiate as soon as possible the offensive against the working conditions of the workers which had begun in Spring 2016 with the “El Khomri Labour Law”: liberalization of the labour market with a stronger reform of the Labour Code, 150 000 public sector job cuts, new reform of the pensions, etc. The class war is thus going to be relaunched starting in the summer, if not before, by the French bourgeoisie. The brutality of the measures it wants to impose, and the political disrepute of the traditional Left, of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party descended from Stalinism (PCF), required it to adapt the configuration of its state political apparatus to face the inescapable working class reactions; above all after the mobilization and the massive and violent street demonstrations of 2016 against the “Labour Law” which is remembered by all. This electoral term gave it the opportunity [2]. The legislative elections of next June will clarify the exact outlines of this recomposition of the ensemble of bourgeois political forces, from the extreme right, through the old right and left traditional parties (Les Républicains and the Socialist Party), to the extreme left around Mélenchon.

In this situation, Mélenchon and his political movement France Insoumise have been the striking fact of these elections. Beyond the electoral success [3], he has been the main actor of this campaign and he is the advanced point of the political reconfiguration under way.

Mélenchon : Main Architect of the Success of the First Round

The radicalism of Mélenchon’s leftist language has enabled the success of the bourgeois political operation under way with these elections. He has been the main architect of the high level of participation (almost 80%) in the first round while, before his rise in the polls, it seemed it was going to be unusually weak – they feared 70%, even less. So he has succeeded in bringing back onto the electoral terrain one part of the proletariat, the very one which continues to identify with the 2016 struggle against the “Labour Law”.

Mélenchon : The Bourgeoisie Occupies the Ground of Abstention

Later, while waiting for the second round, Mélenchon refused to appeal for a vote for Macron. The media and the rest of the political apparatus screamed and pretended to be scandalized faced with the break of the “Republican Front”: “Mélenchon plays into the National Front’s hands”. This was the main topic between the two rounds. By refusing to support Macron, he positioned himself as the main opponent of the future government:

“In my opinion, France is going to get rid of Marine Le Pen in this election and, within one month, we will all together get rid of Mr Macron’s policy” he claimed April 30th as an explanation for his stance [4].

So, the campaign between the two rounds revolved around the question of abstention that Mélenchon took over. Behind him, the entire ruling class openly seized this question to distort any class character from it in front of the unprecedented increasing mistrust towards the electoral participation; at least in France. Thus, thanks to Mélenchon, today’s democratic mystification was not expressed through the false alternative Republican vote-Le Pen vote, Democracy-Extreme Right, but through the one, likely false since it is on the bourgeois ground, Vote-Abstention.

Mélenchon and the Radical Democratic Mystification Typical of “Nuit debout”

In a general manner and in the long term, we must notice – and warn – that Mélenchon does not call for setting up a party but a movement which would function a little like the unions, as he has said, which know how to regroup different positions while remaining united: the call for the members to state their views on a vote for Macron vote or not allows a “party” practice, which issues slogans and instructions, to be avoided. Thus he has put forward the mystifying theme of direct democracy, already largely promoted during the campaign by the two Trotskyist candidates who called for “the power to revoke the elected” such as during the Paris Commune they were saying. It means that, beyond the terrain of abstention, Mélenchon and France Insoumise already occupies the ground of “direct” democracy and the General Assemblies…, that is the ground of “self-organization”, to be capable in the given moment to void the workers assemblies and the strike and struggle committees of their class political content, that is the organization of the extension and the real unification of the working class struggles, exactly as was accomplished by the democratic ideology of Nuit Debout during the Spring of 2016.

Mélenchon : Assertiveness of a Radical Left in Europe

With France Insoumise and the political reconfiguration under way after the first round, the bourgeoisie has found the political formula corresponding to the countries of the historical centres of capitalism, to face the new situation into which it throws the world. While it remains to be seen what precisely will be the final political device given by the legislative elections next June, the formula is the same for the main European bourgeoisies, indeed at the international level as in North America: is not Mélenchon often presented as the French Bernie Sanders? The next European elections, in particular in Germany, will verify the degree of the international validity of this formula today which obviously has to adapt and be defined according to the national characteristics of each country.

Already, the main European so-called radical lefts, Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain, Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal, the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark, the Vansterpartied in Sweden, the Sinistra Italia and Altra Europa of Italy, members that split from Syriza in Greece, gathered late March 11th and 12th to “offer an alternative to the European peoples (…): to protect our people, our democracy and nature against the free trade zones and against a national market which only serves the profit of the banks and the multinationals and the oligarchies’ wealth. We must get rid of a European Union which is a war machine against Labour and at the service of the financial capital” [5]). Is it worth to underline the nationalist and pro-state, that is anti-working class and counter-revolutionary, character of the alternative which is presented here?

As brutal and massive as it will be, the repression alone won’t be able to control the revolts in the streets and workplaces that capitalism is going to provoke in all countries. Each ruling class is compelled to set up and develop “new” political forces which can sabotage “from within”, on “behalf of the people”, and if necessary “on behalf of the working class”, the inescapable struggles and the process of taking consciousness that can go with them amongst the workers. The unions won’t be enough. To derail and sabotage the proletarian fight, the ruling class must also be able to “offer” political bourgeois pseudo-alternatives of a “radical left” variety, above all when “the questioning of his [Macron’s] social-liberal policy (flexibility of the labour market, continuation of the competitiveness efforts, acceptance of the European budget constraints…) in the street looks likely” [6] (the Swiss newspaper Le Temps). This is the role that Mélenchon and France Insoumise are preparing to play.

Macron : Assertiveness of the French “Pro-European” Imperialist Orientations

Admittedly, the French elections have not been limited to preparation of the political conditions for the class confrontation that the French bourgeoisie is looking for. There is another dimension of the electoral process to underline: French capitalism’s ability to select the most “pro-European” candidate to power, Emmanuel Macron. As he has strongly pointed out in various occasions, he won’t stand against Merkel but with Merkel. Macron’s victory is the first response from Europe, in terms of adaptation of the European political apparatus, to the Brexit and Trump’s election – both meaning the anglo-saxon imperialist polarization against the European Union. The accession to power of the “pro-European” Macron is already, in itself, a reaffirmation of the European imperialist pole which induces a reinforcement of the political, economic and military alliances around Germany that are its basis. And this in the perspective of the inevitable worsening of the world imperialist antagonisms which are exacerbated by the open crisis which started in 2008.

Only the world proletariat can oppose the dynamic of these imperialist antagonisms which lead towards generalized war. Besides the pressures of the crisis and the wars which require an increasingly brutal exploitation of the labour force, the main and first stake for the whole of world capitalism is not only to impose economic sacrifices upon the working classes of the different countries but, still more, to inflict on them political and even bloody physical defeats to be able to definitively free the path towards generalized war, as in the 1930s, from the proletarian obstacle.

The French Bourgeoisie Prepares to Massively Confront the Proletariat

Faced with these historical stakes, namely the massive confrontations between the classes provoked by the ruling classes, the French bourgeoisie’s capacity to prepare itself for them, including for the months to come, is an example for the all of the national ruling classes, particularly the European ones.

That is why the striking point of these elections from the proletariat’s point of view is the confirmation and a greater political preparation of a radical capitalist Left around Mélenchon. As it has already been the case during the 2016 Spring mobilization against the Labour Law, the France Insoumise around its leader and all the political and unions forces in its orbit, Nuit Debout, the Trotskyist, Stalinist, Anarchist groups, are getting ready to sabotage the coming working class struggles, by adopting the most radical language and by occupying all the domains of the class fight to distort them.

That is why the proletarians who are the most conscious of these traps and dead ends, and who wish to engage themselves in the extension and the unification of the class struggles against capitalism and its state, have to aim to regroup and organize to lead the political struggle against these forces and their sabotage all the more since these political forces already adopt, and will increasingly adopt, a radical, working class, and anti-capitalist image.

The IGCL, May 7th 2017.

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Notes:

[1. Slate.fr, May 5th 2017, Comment Mélenchon a ravi le vote de la jeunesse (http://www.slate.fr/story/145035/melenchon-ravi-le-vote-de-la-jeunesse) : « L’esprit insurrectionnel insufflé par Mélenchon et planant sur le pays peut perdurer ou même s’accentuer : une fraction éduquée mais précarisée de la jeunesse pourrait porter mains fortes au mouvement syndical lorsqu’Emmanuel Macron, s’il est élu, entamera les réformes annoncées. »

[2. In the first round, Macron got 24% of the votes, Le Pen 21%, Fillon the “classical” right candidate 20%, Mélenchon 19.6%, and Hamon from the Socialist Party… 6%! On the day of writing, Sunday May 7th, date of the second round, the first projections of the polls for the National Assembly deputies election seems to confirm this political reconfiguration, in particular the end of the bipartisanism, which had prevailed since the 1970s, and the collapse of the Socialist Party.

[3. While he was at less than 10% in January according to the polls, he has got 20% of the votes in the first round (the Socialist Party collapsing to 6%). Thirty percent of his electors are less than 30 years old (he is the one who received the greatest number of votes among the young, keeping in mind that many of them don’t vote). He has also received around 20% of the so-called “workers’” votes, that is the “non-qualified workers” (blue collar, in the North American vernacular) and even “regained” some of them from Le Pen. He came in first place in the great cities famous for their combativity such as Marseille and Toulouse and in many important cities of the Paris working class surburbs; in Lille and Montpellier too. He was second in Nantes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux. He got the greatest part of the “public”, “technicians”, employees.., proletarians’ votes. In brief, he has been successful in reproducing a “fighting working class vote” by gathering a great part of the sympathy of the most militant fractions of the working class, the very ones which mobilized and were radicalized during the 2016 Spring street demonstrations against the El Khomri Labour Law.

[6. Journal suisse Le Temps, 7 mai 2017, https://www.letemps.ch/monde/2017/05/07/un-president-transformer-france : « offrir aux peuples européens une alternative (...) : protéger notre peuple, notre démocratie et la nature contre des zones de libre-échange et un marché intérieur servant uniquement le profit des banques et des multinationales et la richesse des oligarchies. Nous devons nous débarrasser d’une Union européenne qui est une machine de guerre contre le travail et au seul service du capital financier.»