The elections in France

Yossi Schwartz, ISL the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 26.04.2022

In the presidential elections in France, both Macron and Le Pen counted on far-left votes. Jean-Luc Mélenchon had a strong support in the first round, winning 22% of the vote.

To win, Macron must secure the support of a large chunk of the 7.7 million who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Most of those voters detest Macron’s policies and most of them abhor his persona. The latest figures on the eve of the second round showed that 42% may vote for him, but 25% may choose Le Pen and 33% may abstain. In the words of some Mélenchon voters, it is a case of “choosing between plague and cholera” [i]

Hours after he fell short of making it into the final phase of France’s presidential election, Mélenchon had a message for his supporters: they should not give “a single vote” to far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round. While he did not call directly to vote for Macron, his call implied it.

Indeed, Macron won the second round with the voters for Mélenchon in the first round. Nationalist Marine Le Pen lost the second round to Macron by 58.5 to 41.5 percent – but reduced his lead by half compared to their previous face-off in 2017. More than one in three voters did not vote for either candidate. Turnout was just under 72%, the lowest in a presidential run-off since 1969, and more than three million people cast blank votes. The cost-of-living crisis facing millions of French people became the number one issue of the election campaign, and the president’s opponents accused him of arrogance and acting as a president of the rich France, voters complained of being arm-twisted into choosing “the lesser of two evils”, while students took to occupying university campuses in protest at the choice of finalists. Macron’s government had alienated many young voters with its rants against “woke” ideas and “Islamo-leftism” in academia. Brutal police clampdowns on protesters also blurred the line between the far right and mainstream, encouraging the spread of the slogan, “Neither Le Pen, nor Macron”. [ii]

Macron’s critics argue also that his policy shift to the right and style of government are partly to blame for the rise of the far right. He has given free rein to members of the government who have used far-right rhetoric, and he has supported the adoption of repressive policies on Islam, immigration and law and order. [iii]

“Mélenchon for one has explicitly pitched himself as a candidate for Macron’s prime minister if he can somehow gain a parliamentary majority. This would mark a return to “cohabitation”, the system which kicks in when the president lacks majority support in the National Assembly and so picks a prime minister from the winning party, creating a program based on compromise between the two” [iv]

To say it in other words Mélenchon’s politics is the old reformist Popular front which began in France in 1882 with the split of the French Workers Party (POF), that Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, formed two years before. This was the Paul Brousse’s Possibilities split. A controversy arose in the French socialist movement and in the Second International concerning “socialist participation in a bourgeois government“, a debate which was triggered by independent socialist Alexandre Millerand’s participation in the Radical-Socialist Waldeck-Rousseau’s cabinet, which also included the marquis de Galliffet, best known for his role as repressor of the 1871 Commune. While Jules Guesde opposed this participation, Jean Jaurès defended it.

This reformist politics of the class collaboration return in 1936 with the government of Leon Blum with the support of the Stalinist Party (SFIC, also known as the French Communist Party) and the Radical Progressive Republican Party –a bourgeois party This government blocked the class struggle and led to demoralization of the working class and to the rule of the pro- Nazi Marshal Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Pétain in 1940 as the head of the Vichy regime.

In 2017, Jean-Luc Mélenchon called not to vote Le Pen without explicitly calling on his supporters to vote for Macron against Le Pen in the final.  He did the same for the 2022 run-off. This popular front policy can only demoralize the workers and youth that voted for him in the first round.

For a policy of class war!

For a workers’ government in France!






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