SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Socialism Today No 80 - February 2004

French far-left electoral list opens up big possibilities

WHILE THE right-wing Raffarin government increases its attacks against the social gains of the past, there is a continued radicalisation amongst workers and youth underway in France.

In this situation, the announcement late last year by Lutte Ouvrière (LO) and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) that they will stand a joint list in the forthcoming regional and European elections (in March and June), has been welcomed by many workers. The two parties between them won almost 10% (2.84m votes) in the 2002 presidential elections.

According to the latest opinion polls, 9% of voters have decided to support the LO-LCR list. Also, 22% of respondents who said they had never voted for the far left before, say they might do so in March and June this year. Never before have organisations claiming to be Trotskyist reached such an electoral potential. However, a different poll also reported that 24% said they agreed with the ideas of the Front National (FN), which continues to direct its racist and right-wing demagogic rhetoric towards the poorest people.

Many workers and youth are prepared to vote for the far left as a result of their hatred towards pro-capitalist parties, both of the right and ‘left’. The attacks of the Raffarin administration (against pensions, working conditions, and public services, etc) did not lead to serious opposition from the Parti Socialiste (PS) and only to very weak opposition from the Greens and the Communist Party.

The leadership of the unions, who are completely linked to the official left parties, have blocked the development of struggles. While a large majority of the workers of Electricité de France (EDF, the public electricity company) are opposed to privatisations, the union leadership will not organise a fight-back and are participating in preparing the way for privatisation. Many workers will use the coming elections to vote LO-LCR to show their opposition to the present policies of the government, and to those who block the development of struggles.

The anti-capitalist propaganda of both far-left organisations is shared by many workers. A recent poll in Le Monde showed that 30% of people think that the far left ‘brings new ideas’. Sixty per cent of Communist Party supporters say they are close to these ideas (compared to 23% of all those questioned), and 37% of 18-24 year-olds also find themselves in agreement. The far left is clearly seen as an opposition force to the present policies of the government and the official opposition.

But what will the LO-LCR alliance do after its likely electoral success? So far, the election plans of the LO-LCR have not meant a proper joint campaign, with support committees that could link up with workers’ struggles. The correspondence between LO and LCR makes it clear that they see the exercise as an electoral alliance and that they have no perspective beyond this.

The two parties also make clear they wish to dominate the far left’s electoral campaign. The alliance will be open for groups or militants to participate in, if they "accept the framework decided by the agreement, the name of the list, and the joint declaration under the condition that they do not demand a change" – and this will be decided nationally by both organisations.

A good electoral result will encourage workers but, under the LO-LCR’s plans, it will not offer a political instrument for the millions of people who will vote for the list: a new mass workers’ party.

At the same time, as the LO-LCR list faces potential electoral success, the two parties are watering down their criticism of capitalism and avoiding any mention of a socialist alternative. All they say is, "by voting for our list, you can make a political statement, which is an encouragement for the struggles and for all those who want to act for workers’ rights, to put an end to the tyranny of the big shareholders and the stock markets".

La Gauche Révolutionnaire (French CWI affiliate) will campaign to get a maximum vote for the LO-LCR list. In this campaign we will defend the necessity of a new workers’ party that organises struggles of workers and youth today and which popularises the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism. A good result for the LO-LCR list will be additional proof that the conditions for the creation of such a party exist.

Alex Rouillard,

Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI France)


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