Presidential Election in France

This article was written by a French sympathiser of the communist left before the outcome of the second round of voting in the Presidential election but the eventual winner was already virtually known: François Hollande, the social democratic candidate.


For Workers – A Rotten Terrain!

For the Bourgeoisie – The Best Way to get their Agents to Power!

Elections are the bourgeoisie’s favourite terrain. Here they have delicately manoeuvred for 150 years in France as elsewhere in the big democratic powers. Elections are thus not the terrain where the working class can assert its right to life and a decent existence. The working class does not choose its exploiters!

Every five years the President of the French Republic is elected by universal suffrage. This election took place in a deafening media barrage. This year ten candidates were on the list with representatives from the extreme left of the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvriere (Workers’ Struggle) with Nathalie Artaud to the extreme right of the National Front of Marine Le Pen via Jean-Luc Mélanchon of the Left Front (a coalition of parties including the old Communist Party). There was also Nicholas Sarkozy, candidate of the tradition conservative right and François Hollande for the social democrats.

Whatever the result of the ballot the designated candidate will wisely settle down to the task of defending the interests of the bourgeoisie and capital. The ruling class knows that its economic and political system is in great difficulty with an unprecedented economic crisis that is far from over and the effects of which only reveal themselves more clearly with every day that passes: mass unemployment, hunger and growing poverty throughout the world. It knows especially that is has to strongly attack the working class in the months and years ahead.

In this framework the ruling class has already played its cards well in this election. How has it been able to do this?

The electoral barrage has been exceptional. It has been able to mobilise the energies of a great number of workers who abstain on principle because they no longer have confidence in democracy and its leaders who were seen as corrupt and because they did not defend their real interests.

For thirty years it (abstention) never failed to progress, At the last elections for parliament in 2007 (39.6% in the first round), local elections of 2008 35.5% in the first round), the European in 2009 (59.4% ), the regional of 2010 (53.6 in the first round) or the cantonal (56% in both rounds) the record was surpassed every time.

Only the Presidential election has escaped this tendency: where even here abstention had also increased in the course of the previous 20 years it fell again in 2007 to a level close to that registered in the first two decades of the Fifth Republic: 16.2%.

We have to go back to 1988 to find a rate of abstention lower than that of the first round this year, 2012 where it was 20.5%. In 1995 and 2002 it was 21% and 28.4% respectively. The bourgeoisie has thus succeeded in getting the workers to the ballot box even though they well know that the economic situation after the elections will prove to be catastrophic. They have gone to the ballot with no illusions but they have gone and that is already a victory for the ruling class.

These very good results for the ruling class don’t stop there. Very likely François Hollande will emerge the winner of the second round. Thus they will be able to benefit from the left in power to pass the inevitable austerity measures which will make them appear “rosy”[1] the better to make workers accept them. Traditionally it is the bourgeois left that has taken on the business of hitting the working class.

This manoeuvre is completed by the saving of the Communist Party through the creation of the Left Front which can thus check, at least for a bit. Its constant loss of popularity and voters since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. It has been well-known that in every country where there used to be strong Communist Parties their disappearance has been inescapable. In France its almost total disappearance from the political scene was a real source of weakness for bourgeois mystifications. In the next Assembly the Left Front will, in all logic, have some deputies following the parliamentary elections to be held in June. By using radical words they can take aim at the Socialist party in the factories and on council estates in order to make “left” austerity acceptable.

At the same time Lutte Ouvrière has adopted more “left” language. In the course of recent elections this group often adopted a trades union and moralist language against “naughty” capitalists. In 2012 it became more radical: it clearly appealed for class struggle and for a third “social” round which must take place in the factories.

And to complete the picture the National Front reinforced its appeal amongst certain sectors of the unemployed and casual part-time workers with the idea that it is foreigners who are taking their jobs. If democracy doesn’t work in the future or finds itself in difficulties the ruling class is ready to play with anti-fascist ideology.

What will remain of all this electoral noise once the lights on the electoral platforms have been extinguished? What will remain when on the combatants in this scene have once again returned to their anti-working class roles?

With its procession of unemployed and poor the economic crisis is going to continue to play havoc. In France, as in other European countries, not to speak of the undeveloped countries there are reductions in wages, pensions, less social security, less educational provision and public services and less care for a lot more which we will have to wait longer to get. That’s what’s in store for the working class.

Certain members of the ruling class have not been unmoved by what is happening internationally:

Yet, perhaps the most important point to have emerged is that the crisis is subject to growing political risks. The fall of the Dutch government and the victory of François Hollande in the first round of the French presidential election demonstrate this point. The street might overwhelm the establishment. The fear of just this might cause yet another self-fulfilling prophecy of crisis. Even France might be dragged in. Then the game might be up.

Martin Wolf – commentator of the Financial Times on April 25 in Le Monde 2 May 2012

[1] A pun on the symbol of the French Socialist Party, the red rose.

Sunday, May 20, 2012