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France: defeat Sarkozy and build a mass movement for socialism

posted 2 May 2012, 04:35 by Admin uk   [ updated 2 May 2012, 04:38 ]

 by Erik Andersson, member of the Swedish Left Party

 The first round of the French presidential elections took place on Sunday, 22 April. Let us start with a comparison between the election results in 2002, 2007 and 2012:

Radical left:

2002: 13,7% (Biggest party Lutte Ouvriere 5,7%)

2007: ~9% (Biggest party LCR, 4%)

2012: 12,8% (Biggest party Front de Gauche, 11,1%)

Socialist Party:

2002: 16,18%

2007: 25,87%

2012: 28,63%

Radical Left+Socialist Party combined:

2002: ~32%

2007: ~34,8%

2012: ~41,43%

One can note that the Socialist Party´s share of the vote for the labour/left parties has risen since its catastrophical election in 2002. The election results in 2002 came after an impopular spate in power, during which the communist party also participated in the government.

The radical left are back at the levels of 2002, after a deep slump in support. But it is relevant to note that they have managed to reach that level in spite of the fact that the Socialist Party has grown by almost ten percentage points during that time period. It is also noteworthy that the two trotskyite parties have lost more than 80% of their votes since 2002. While the votes for the radical left was pretty evenly devided between three different formations in 2002, now 86% of the votes are concentrated to one alternative (Front de Gauche – The Left Front).

Since The Left Front is an alliance between mainly the communist party on the one hand and the newly formed Left Party (Parti de Gauche) on the other, corresponding comparisons are hard to make. However, the combination of the enthusiasm that comes from the feeling of uniting rather than splitting further, and Melenchóns radicalization of the message, has borne fruit. It is worth noting that Melecnhón just a few years ago was a government minister for the Socialist Party. That shows that in times of crisis, radicalization of the labour movement and society can come from unexpected directions.

The second round – break the Merkozy axis!

Ahead of the second round, Hollande has a clear yet shaky lead – according to the opinion polls he will beat Sarkozy by 7-10 percentage points. A lot is dependent upon how the voters of the other big candidates place their votes in the second round. A lot of people probably think that the voters of Marine Le Pens will automatically pass over to Sarkozy en masse, but it isn´t that simple. In fact, in an opinion poll published in Liberation after the first round, 31% of Le Pen´s voters say that they will vote for Hollande in the secound round, while 48% have decided to vote for Sarkozy.

Outside of France, we are mostly reached by the racist policies of the Front Nationals, but we need to dig deeper than that to understand the success of Le Pen, and why many of her voters will opt for the social democratic candidate in the second round. The daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen has tried to broaden the message of her party to include a protestionist economic policy and has demanded tougher demands on banks and big business, as well as presenting herself as a defender of public services.

At her election meetings, the mentioning of Sarkozy´s name has often been met with boos. To appeal to conservative workers with racist tendencies, Sarkozy needs to do more than stigmatize roma and muslims: he needs to deliver answers to the economical and social crisis of France. And because he has committed to an ideology of austerity, he has relatively few aces on hand with which to win over the worker voters of the Front National.

It is interesting to note that the voters of centre candidate Bayrou are almost evenly divided in the groups: 38% who said they will vote Sarkozy, 32% who support Hollande, and 30% who claim that they will abstain. Among the supporters of Melenchón, 83% say they will vote for Hollande in the second round (I suppose that the rest lean towards abstention). In his speech at the Stalingrad Square last sunday, the presidential candidate of the Front de Gauche called on his supporters to throw themselves with full force into the struggle to deliver a devastating blow to Sarkozy. He said that this is not about a single person or country, but a struggle on a european level for ”all those who live under the weight of the Merkel-Sarkozy axis”. A defeat for Sarkozy – one of the main props of the european right wing, would open the way for the left, Melenchón argued.

This resolution on the left to defeat the right can, contrasted to the ambivalence of the Le Pen voters, prove decisive. Melenchón has carried out a campaign with massive gatherings of tens of thousands in city after city. This force mobilized to defeat Sarkozy could become overwhelming.

From Sarkozy to socialism

If Sarkozy is defeated, it would be the curtain opening for a larger drama. The thoughts naturally drift towards the french left wing government in the early 80s, which adopted radical policies and was finally defeated. Today, Hollande is putting forward a much more modest programme than Mitterand, but the challenges the Socialist Party will meet in power will most likely open up a polarization within the french labour movement, when the strategical issues is boiled down to daily tactical decisions.

In the long run, the french labour movement needs to develop a coherent socialist programme for the 21st century. The Socialist Party has already steered a bit to the left with the election programme of Hollande, and the fiery rethoric of Melenchón has poured gasoline on a popular wrath. This paves the way to deepening class conflicts – without as well as within the french labour movement.

The people power that has shown its strenght during the election campaign of Melenchón needs to be organised permanently and mold a coherent political project, anchored in the senses and daily struggles of millions of people. All the hundreds of thousands of people that have participated in the election gatherings of the Left Front need to step into the arena as a permanent political force. Trade union mobilizations alone are not enough – the working class has to point the way out of the crisis of capitalism.

Erik Andersson, member of the swedish Left Party