France: neither one, nor the other!

The first round of the French presidential election has turned out as Macron had hoped, and as he had prepared for a long time. In 2017, Macron won 66% of the vote against Le Pen in the second round. Millions of voters who had voted for Mélenchon or Hamon at that time in the first round, mobilised to “block the far right” in the second round. For five years, the Head of State has been aiming for the repetition of this scenario.

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Now he can say to himself, “So far so good.” For two weeks, he will strive to embody the role of the moderate, tolerant, humanist etc. candidate – in the face of the reactionary, racist and nationalist demagoguery of Marine Le Pen. Macron will be helped in this task by the vast concert of ‘left’ leaders who – having soaped the rope for Mélenchon – now fly to the aid of the Republic, solemnly calling for a vote to “beat Le Pen”.

It is possible that this will work, but it is not at all certain. In fact, the polls have shown a much tighter result than in 2017. And for good reason: since 2017, the candidate of the “shield against the far right” has led an extremely reactionary, anti-social, pro-capitalist, extreme right-wing programme, including the use of racist demagoguery. His reputation as a “shield against the far right” has taken a big hit. Consequently, the number of left-wing voters who will abstain in the second round will be higher than in 2017. Furthermore, Le Pen will capture the vote of a large portion of those who voted for Pécresse and Zemmour. Finally, in an attempt to mobilise abstainers from the first round (and even left-wing voters), the leader of the RN (Rassemblement National, “National Rally”) will throw the catastrophic social consequences of Macron’s time in office back in his face. Given how reviled Macron is amongst the most exploited and oppressed layers of society, it is not out of the question that Le Pen could reach her goal.

Against the ‘Republican Front’!

The comrades of Révolution (the International Marxist Tendency in France) did not call for a vote for Chirac in 2002 (against Le Pen’s father); nor for Macron in 2017 (against Le Pen herself) – and we certainly do not call for a vote for Macron in two weeks time. The so-called ‘Republican Front’, to which we are summoned by many ‘left’ leaders, is a lamentable policy of class collaboration. Instead of mobilising youth and workers in a serious struggle against all reactionary forces (Macron’s La République En Marche! included), calls to vote for Macron confuse, blur class lines and demobilise our camp – in short, they strengthen our opponents.

Of course, Le Pen is an enemy of our class. Her party and its social base are made up of ultra-reactionary elements, who dream of “settling scores” with immigrants and left-wing activists. Behind the laughing mask of the “appeased” politician, Marine Le Pen’s mind is full of racist, sexist prejudices, and other semi-feudal rubbish. But the trash littering her mind – and the minds of her most faithful supporters – is one thing. The real balance of power between the classes is another thing entirely.

Marine Le Pen 8 mai 2021 Image FRANCOIS LO PRESTI Wikimedia CommonsOf course, Le Pen is an enemy of our class. But the trash littering her mind – and the minds of her most faithful supporters – is one thing, the real balance of power between the classes is another thing entirely / Image: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI, Wikimedia Commons

This balance of power completely rules out any possibility of a Bonapartist dictatorship in the short term, not to mention a fascist regime. To those who proclaim the imminence of fascism, let us remember that such a regime means the destruction of all organisations of the workers’ movement, pure and simple. One would have to be observing the political and social situation from a planet very far from our own to claim that such a danger exists in France.

Over the past five years, the ‘yellow vests’ movement and other mass mobilisations have given an indication of the collective power of our class once it begins to move. Moreover, this collective power would have manifested itself in a much clearer way had it not been systematically hampered by the passivity and betrayals of the official leaders of the labour movement, starting with the union leaders. Let us not forget the scandalous attitude of Laurent Berger (CFDT) – this conscious agent of employers within the trade union movement – in the face of the volcanic eruption of the ‘yellow vests’ in 2018. And let us not forget the attitude of Philippe Martinez (CGT) at that time either, which was hardly better. The ‘yellow vests’ movement was an explosive and spontaneous mobilisation of the deepest layers of our class. It opened up the possibility of overthrowing the Macron government, on one condition: that the leaders of the left and the trade union movement seize the moment. To say the very least: they did not seize it. In fact, they pushed it away with all their might.

If Marine Le Pen wins the election, she will have to try to make alliances with a section of the right in order to find a majority in the National Assembly. Assuming she succeeds, this will put the reactionary politics that the French bourgeoisie needs at the top of the agenda. This includes anti-social, anti-worker, pro-capitalist policies, a programme of drastic counter-reforms – in a word: a Macronist policy. Highlighting the extent of the racist demagoguery of the government, it would hardly be necessary to change the current Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin: he already does the job perfectly.

The election of Marine Le Pen would not mark the beginning of a Bonapartist dictatorship. On the other hand, it would complete her “normalisation” – her official transformation into a banal, bourgeois politician who, in defending the interests of big business, is obliged to take into account the balance of power between the classes. She would not throw union leaders in prison; she would invite them to the Elysée for a “Social Conference”, just as Macron did, and would even serve them petit fours, as is the custom when “negotiating” regressive social policies with the union leaders.

The defeat of Mélenchon

We will make a detailed analysis of the causes and consequences of the defeat of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whom Révolution gave critical support, at a later date. For now, we simply note that the causes of this defeat are not only to be sought in the role of the leadership of La France Insoumise and its policy over the past five years. We must also look at the role of the leaderships of the other left-wing parties. Each in their own way contributed to this defeat, including the candidatures of the PS, the Greens, the PCF, the NPA and Lutte Ouvrière. Finally, let us not forget the responsibility of the union leaders. In the name of “trade union independence” (this piece of notorious hypocrisy), they failed to lift a finger to mobilise the workers around the only candidate who could have beaten Macron and Le Pen, namely: Mélenchon.

If the right and the far right are very much in the majority at the polls today, it is not because the working class is eager for counter-reforms and reaction. It is because the official leaders of our class – all of them, without exception – have been unable to direct the growing anger and frustration of the masses towards an electoral victory of the left. The fundamental problem is located here, and nowhere else. It is this problem which must therefore be tackled, because it will arise again in the years to come – not only on the electoral plane, but also (and above all) on the plane of social struggles.

Whatever the composition of the next government – whether it is led by Le Pen or Macron – great struggles will be on the agenda. Young people and workers will not allow themselves to be robbed without saying a word. Whilst the professional sceptics and cynics lament the so-called “low level of consciousness” of the workers, the workers will respond, sooner or later, with powerful mobilisations. We don’t harbour the slightest doubt about this fact. But at the same time, we know that the working class cannot take power and put an end to the source of all its ills – the capitalist system – without having a revolutionary party, a party determined to initiate the socialist transformation of society. It is to the construction of such a party that the International Marxist Tendency is committed – in France and elsewhere. To help us in this urgent and essential task, join us!

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