France: At the Elections, Capitalism Always Wins!

The New Popular Front, a coalition of centre-left and left-wing parties, has won the largest number of seats in the French National Assembly. But, as this article published by our comrades in France in the run up to the election shows, there is nothing to celebrate.

Since President Macron launched his “grenade” following the defeat of his majority at the European elections, the media are filling their columns with electoral manœuvres. Politicians are cooking up all their old recipes, resulting in a particularly repugnant electoral stew for the workers.

The extreme right looks set to reap the fruits that the ruling parties have spent years helping to ripen in the very name of democracy and indeed of blocking fascism. As they advance ever closer to power, however, the National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN) has put a few of the social measures that fuelled its demagogic propaganda – such as their promise to repeal the latest pension reforms – on the back burner, in a bid to present themselves as a loyal managerial party of government. Economic rigour, competition, national sovereignty, persecution of foreigners… all of these issues are elements which make the RN the legitimate offspring of the previous majorities in power.

The coalition formed under duress by Macron, already in the process of unravelling since 2022, has now been dislodged. Their own best case scenario is only a divided majority, but the blow of its dissolution will not lead to any kind of political coherence for the bourgeoisie.

Now we see Macron hunting on the terrain of the far right, attempting to compete with them in anti-immigrant declarations. We do not forget for a second the veritable manhunt against refugees being conducted on the borders of Europe, transforming the Channel and the Mediterranean into mass graveyards, while in France undocumented people are tracked down and arrested. Some grim farce this dissolution has carried out in the name of the fight against the far right!

Let’s talk about the Popular Front

At the opposite pole of the political spectrum, a cartel of organisations has reformed on the bones of the Popular Front of 1936, its participants ranging from former president Hollande to the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail, CGT) and the New Anticapitalist Party (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA). The parties that make up this cartel, like the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) and the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF), have long and heavy histories that they are keen to hide behind the flag of the anti-fascist struggle that they wave in tandem. They are supported in their endeavour by the trade unions and various organisations that claim to be “anti-capitalist” and yet will prop up the democratic order through their presence. Their propaganda is based perfectly cynically on the idea of the urgence of blocking the RN, thus short-circuiting any consideration by the working class of the chequered pasts of these organisations, experienced as they are in all manner of manœuvres.

But let’s let the facts speak for themselves! History shows that before fascism rises to power, it experiences a period of defeat and demoralisation first that prepares it. The examples of Italy and Germany show that during this period of failure and retreat for the workers’ movement, the left reformist parties then moved to the camp of the bourgeoisie, where they played a leading role. In Italy, at the end of the First World War, the Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano, PSI) succeeded in paralysing the powerful strike wave of the Biennio rosso while suppressing initiatives of proletarian self-defense against the fascist gangs. In Germany, after the leaders of the Social Democracy had joined the Sacred Union during the war, they then took power upon the fall of the Empire. They brutally suppressed the workers’ uprising of 1919 and eliminated a large number of their militants who were committed to proletarian revolution and internationalism. To carry this out, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) relied on paramilitary units, from which the Nazi shock troops were then recruited.

During the 1930s, the struggles conducted on the terrain of anti-fascism were revealed to be incapable of opposing their designated enemy. “No pasaran”, they said; but pass they did all the same.

The anti-fascist struggle of the anarchists and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, POUM) in Spain from 1936 to 39, led under the banner of Catalan nationalism, produced similarly catastrophic results. The support that they lent to the Republicans and the Stalinists was followed swiftly by a volte face by the Popular Front which turned against them. The Stalinists, having sabotaged the armies on the front by refusing to send weapons to them and notably to the anarchists, then suppressed the struggles by crushing the Commune of Barcelona (May 1937).

We must draw lessons from these failures and not repeat them!

The role of Popular Fronts has always been to drag the proletariat into the maelstrom of global imperialist war. In France, after the first Popular government led by Blum harnessed the force of the powerful strike wave by granting paid leave and the 40 hour week, Daladier’s second government outlawed and suppressed strikes and established the war economy. And it was the very assembly that came out of the 1936 elections of the Popular Front that ultimately voted full powers to Marshall Pétain. In this way, the left parties fulfilled a crucial function by supporting the regime in the name of the immediate need to defend democracy, all while the conditions for the next world war were coming into focus. Following Stalin’s declaration of “support and approval” of the imperialist policy of France, the PCF became the most zealous party defending patriotism, thus obscuring the consciousness of the workers it influenced and hindering their combativity.

The revolutionaries who published Bilan, the bulletin of the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d'Italia, PCd'I), raised widespread alarm on the error of supporting one side of capitalism (that of democracy) against another (that of authoritarianism) in the name of anti-fascism. Their critique and foresight remain perfectly apt now given the leap forward in the march to global war in recent years:

The separation of fascism from capitalism inspires this policy which focuses on the imminent threat of fascism: those who support it generally substitute the struggle in defence of the bourgeois democratic republic for the struggle of the proletariat for its proletarian dictatorship; they transform the workers’ struggle against the capitalist State into calls for the disarmament of fascist organisations; they reject strikes for the defence of proletarian interests and create the general conditions for the defence of “all”; they substitute the anti-fascist bloc for the independent action of the proletariat; in a word, they accelerate the total dissolution of the proletariat into bourgeois society. And thus in the event, which seems very probable, that the situation in France develops such that the State is reformed into one which is able, without suppressing the parties or unions, to isolate the revolutionary proletariat and render it inoffensive, the separation of fascism from capitalism will have served, despite all the outcry about the threat of fascism, to make the proletariat embrace the cause of the bourgeoisie, and the terrain on which the masses will be brought together to fight the war of tomorrow.(1)

The experience of our class shows that the attacks of capitalism cannot be pushed back through the ballot. All governments, however absolute, are nothing but the executors of the needs of capitalism in the situation in which it finds itself, and of its economic needs in particular. “They may do this in various ways, good, bad and indifferent; they may accelerate or retard the economic development and its political and juridical consequences, but in the long run they must follow it.”(2) In the current epoch, this development is characterised by the exhaustion of the process of accumulation and the combination of multiple crises: economic, imperialist, environmental, social. All the parties which claim today to mitigate the effects of this multifaceted crisis will tomorrow be forced to become its instruments, as the examples of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have already shown. In so doing they will contribute to the polarisation of the attention of the working class towards an impasse, precisely when the situation requires them to regain confidence in their own strength in their struggle to defend their living conditions. Contrary to electoral agitation, revolutionaries must base their actions on the collective and historical interests of the working class. Workers remain the only class capable of halting the downward spiral of capitalist society and orienting their struggle towards calling into question the social relations underlying capitalism’s descent into barbarism.

The strength of this class is based firstly on its numbers, but secondly and moreover on its unity and its political and social consciousness. The latter can only advance through reflection on the working class’ own experiences. Its strength therefore depends on its collective reason, which of course does not advance a straight line nor without retreat, but nor can it ever under the influence of ultimata or by supporting this or that party taking part in the management of capitalism, however “critically” or otherwise. By turning up at the ballot boxes as individual citizens, proletarians will have already lost the class coherence which can only be experienced within the real movement to oppose capitalism, and in the revolutionary organisations which intervene to guide the struggle.

While the press has its field day spreading alarm about the social programme of the New Popular Front, there is nothing in it whatsoever that could alarm the bourgeoisie; quite the contrary. It has now been over 220 years that the bourgeoisie had held power in France; they have become masters of political shenanigans. This episode, which they portray as apocalyptic, will also be possible for them to manage. Let’s not forget how they signalled the end of the Revolution; the Directory sought the “Little Corporal”, hero of the Pont d’Arcole. The latter was not content to be their straw man, but it didn’t matter too much because business was able to resume!

It is not a question of history repeating itself, but of the past raising questions!

Proletarians, let’s reject all this, because we know that these elections will change nothing for us and will serve to revive their system! Let’s not vote for our enemies, whether on the left or the right, because they are all preparing our exploitation!

Proletarians, we know that after the elections, their vague promises, which change from one day to the next, will not be kept! On the contrary, we know that our standard of living will continue to be attacked because the crisis will continue to grow. It’s on this struggle that we must focus our forces!

We respond to electoral manœuvres not with indifference; quite the contrary! We call you, comrades and militants who sympathise with our positions, to regroup, get in touch and engage in the necessary and difficult task of building the revolutionary organisation.

Groupe révolutionnaire internationaliste
29 June 2024


Image: Braveheart (CC BY-SA 4.0),


(2) Engels to Danielson, June 18, 1892, in Marx and Engels Correspondence:

Monday, July 8, 2024