Steve Jefferys on the second round of the French presidential elections.
In France the whole trade union movement has finally showed 99% unanimity in calling workers to vote against Le Pen and the National Front on Sunday May 7. The CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires, the CFDT, FSU and even the Christian CFTC, which only once before, in 2002, have all called on their members to ‘stop the National Front’.
The bigger test is whether they will have the same unanimity in organising huge demonstrations on May 1, as they did in 2002. The CFDT is arguing its slogan should be to ‘call for a vote against the FN and so to vote for Emmanuel Macron’. The CGT and Solidaires reject that in favour of simply calling for a vote against the FN. They argue that Macron was the brains behind last year’s labour law reform and that any united demonstration should have broader demands.
Negotiations are still taking place to see whether there will be one or more trade union marches in Paris.
At the same time a handful of left sectarians are arguing the nonsense that ‘neo-liberalism is fascism’ and that voters should put a ‘blank vote’ in the ballot box to indicate their rejection of both candidates.
In France these are counted separately from spoilt ballot papers, making ‘active abstentionism’ an actual choice. Melenchon is actually calling for a vote of his 450,000 internet supporters before he advises the 7 million who voted for him what he thinks they should do.
What these abstentionists are forgetting, a little like the Lexiteers did in the UK, is that if Le Pen were to be elected there would be a huge shift to the right, and an upsurge of xenophobic racism, active opposition to which would then be targeted by an even more highly authoritarian French state. Le Pen is a fascist of the Italian corporatist-nationalist variety. ‘The State’, she argued a month ago, ‘is the backbone of the French people’. She seeks power to strengthen it against all opposition.
And now she already has 7.7m voters out of 37 million behind her (on a 76% turnout). Although she had hoped to come first in the first round (and many, including me, had thought that that –
or worse – was possible), this was still the largest vote the NF has ever achieved and it will get higher in the second round.
To get to 50% on May 7 she needs (a) A low turnout (30-35m) making the winning post between 15m and 17,5m (b) High numbers of blank votes (c) To pocket the 2.3m votes of the four other right nationalist candidates (d) To win over 70-75% of the Conservative Fillon voters (5m votes) and (e) To steal 25% of the whole 9.9m left vote (approx 2.5m votes). This last is unlikely, but not impossible, since Le Pen’s anti-EU and anti Hollande rhetoric is not significantly different from that of Melenchon and the two Trotskyist candidates. If ISIS also manifests its support for her by staging another budget ‘terrorist’ incident, that will also help.
The National Front will be marching itself on May 1 to the Jeanne d’Arc statue in the Rue de Rivoli.
On Tuesday night on French television Le Pen appealed directly to: Melenchon voters, to farmers, to the military and to Fillon supporters of the EU, while calling for the dissolution of the Union of French Islamic Organisations.
She attacked ‘untamed globalisation’ where ‘Money is king, deregulation total, the Macron project’. ‘Are you, (Melenchon voters) seriously going to consider voting for Macron who has announced he will head up a war on labour?’ On international policy she said ‘It’s completely wrong that there is the impression that the US decides and France follows’. And added: ‘I don’t see how those who voted for ‘France insoumise’ (Unruly/Rebellious France) can now vote for France to be ruled by Macron’.
Le Pen said she would keep agricultural subsidies, but that they would be distributed by France rather than by ‘Brussels technocrats’.
She promised to increase the military budget from 2% to 3% of GDP. And that she wanted ‘peaceful relations with all nations, such as the US, Great Britain and Russia.
She claimed ‘not to be an enemy of Europe… I feel European… I want to see a Europe emerge based on full agreements between nations, with France originating this wonderful project’ – which she would then put to a referendum.
‘People want to be respected in how their live their lives and their identities’, Le Pen argued. ‘Macron,’ she went on, ‘ is in the hands of the most dangerous community separatists (les communautaristes), like the UOIF, that should be dissolved’.
It’s very difficult to see how any socialist can seriously argue that the cause of the left will be improved by not voting against Le Pen. And that this does involve voting for Macron. Yes he is a neo-liberal. Yes he is an product of France’s competitive elite educational system (like Hollande etc etc etc). But he is not a fascist. His policies do not include strengthening the French state. And he is not a racist. He became one of the very few French politicians to admit publicly (in Algeria on February 14) that ‘French colonisation of the country was a crime against humanity’. He told the local television: ‘It is a crime. It is a crime against humanity. It is real barbarity, and it is a part of the past that we must look at directly in giving our apologies to those whom we treated in that way’.
If any leftists still have any doubt about voting for a Macron/Blair figure against Le Pen, just remember this poster that the anti-semitic Conservative Fillon campaign issued and then withdrew.
There always has been a huge xenophobic corporatist right in France. It stretches far beyond the FN. Now is not the time to give it still more oxygen.
These are still highly worrying times in France.
Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Saturday 22 September: 12 noon
Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital Demonstration
More details here
Sat 29 Sep, 11.00-15.00
Protest at the Conservative Party Conference
To call time on failed austerity and campaign for a new deal for working people.
Victoria Square, Birmingham. More info on Facebook.
European Forum of Progressive Forces, Bilbao
To debate, build and act to ward-off current threats.
Sun 17 Nov, 12.00
National Unity Demonstration Against Fascism and Racism
Central London. More info on Facebook
Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.
Get the latest Left Unity resources.