Statement on the French Elections: An Alternative to the Governmental Left

by the Political Bureau of the LCR


[The following statement was issued April 22 by the Political Bureau of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR), French Section of the Fourth International. For more on this, click here.]

  1. For the first time since 1974, the LCR presented a candidate for the presidential election, Olivier Besancenot; 4.3% of those voting, or 1,200,000 people, voted for him. Despite the difficulties of the first round of these elections, the balance sheet of the LCR’s campaign is that it expresses promising changes which prepare the ground for the emergence of an alternative politics to that practiced by the parties of the governmental left.

  2. The results of the first round of the presidential elections constitute a political earthquake. It is a trauma for millions of people, for whom Le Pen recalls the worst times in the history of our country, those of the Vichy government and fascism. Le Pen’s “populism” cannot conceal his real politics in the service of the rich and powerful. He approves of privatization, anti-social legislation, givebacks to the employers, and abusive procedures for the dismissal of employees. The new breakthrough of Le Pen’s Front National constitutes a defeat for the entire workers’ and democratic movement. After Italy, Portugal, and Denmark, it is France’s turn. In all these countries, the consequences of the neo-liberal policies of “left” governments have led to the breakthrough of real neo-liberals and the far right.

  3. Le Pen’s score results first from the campaign waged by Chirac and the right around “security,” an issue accepted by Lionel Jospin and taken up also by Chévènement. But more substantially, the rejection of the policies followed by successive governments for 20 years leads today to an unprecedented crisis of political representation. Abstention, which increased by nearly 6% between the presidential election of 1995 and that of 2002, is the most obvious sign of this crisis. Finally, this first round of the presidential election confirms that the excessive personalization of the election of the president, in the framework of the institutions of the Fifth Republic, opens the road to the worst kind of demagogue.

  4. Despite presenting himself as a democrat, Chirac is above all somebody whose moral integrity is tainted by scandal. More than that, having received less than 20% of the votes in the first round, he will lead the country as an electorally discredited president. Chirac is in fact the representative of the neo-liberal right, which is inspired directly by the program of the MEDEF [the French employers’ federation]. His neo-liberal counter-reforms are intended to worsen the living and working conditions of millions of wage earners. The choice of a campaign centered on insecurity indicates new attacks against democratic rights. The election of the candidate of the right will lead to a government bent on head on confrontation with the world of labor.

  5. But the political earthquake that the country has undergone is also the result of the policies of the government of the “plural left.” Since 1997, this government has adapted itself to neo-liberalism and has surrendered to the dictates of the financial markets. It has now been punished [electorally] by the mass of the people, who no longer feel represented by this governmental left. The main consequence of the policies of the “governmental left” has been the stinging defeat of the Socialist Party. It is also one of the explanations for the dramatic plunge in the vote for the PCF [the French Communist Party], which has seen a brutal acceleration of its historic decline. The nationalist project of Chévènement has also been rejected. As for the Greens, while they have resisted the pressure to make “security” the main issue, they have confirmed their support for the policies of the governmental left.

  6. At the same time, these elections have registered a change in the relationship of forces on the left, with the far left scoring more than 11%. These elections bring into broad daylight the existence in this country of [on the one hand] a governmental left, which has accepted the rules of capitalist globalization, a left which has been punished by the voters, and [on the other hand] a popular left of millions of youth and wage earners who reject neo-liberal policies. In the political earthquake the country has undergone we must now refound hope on the left, breaking with the record of the “plural left” government. The question of a new anti-capitalist political force, of a new party of workers and youth, is sharply posed. First, by building on the forces of renewal which were expressed in the candidatures of Olivier Besancenot and Arlette Laguiller. Lutte Ouvrière and the LCR have special responsibilities in this regard. The LCR has already proposed to LO a discussion around the new political situation and the tasks of revolutionaries.

Hope is also represented by the youth who are massively resisting capitalist globalization and fascism, as well as by trade union and community activists and those in the social movements. It is ultimately the activists, Communists, environmentalists, Socialists who are asking questions and finding the way to an alternative politics.

For a Massive May Day Against Le Pen

Immediately, demonstrations by protesting youth have reflected the resistance of society to the rise of the far right. The first priority now is to build a demonstration of force against Le Pen and the bosses’ politics on May 1st, in every town in the country.

We must bar the road to Le Pen, the worst enemy of the workers, in the street as in the elections.

The LCR will mobilize so that Le Pen scores the lowest possible vote on Sunday May 5.

We understand those electors who will vote for Chirac to oppose Le Pen, but we do not think that Chirac is a rampart against the new rise of the far right.

On the contrary, he is among those responsible for it, and there is no doubt that following his election he will take measures against wage earners, youth, and immigrants.

It is a time for a mobilization against the far right and the bosses, a united mobilization of the workers’ movement and youth around social demands for putting an end to unemployment and inequality and mobilizations for the defense of immigrants without documents.

[The following table shows the voting results in the April 2002 election:]

Chirac (RPR) 19.88% 5.5 million votes
Le Pen (FN) 16.86% 4.7 million
Jospin (PS) 16.18% 4.5 million
Bayrou (UDF) 6.84% 1.9 million
Laguiller (LO) 5.72% 1.6 million
Chévènement (MDC) 5.33% 1.5 million
Mamère (Greens) 5.25% 1.4 million
Besancenot (LCR) 4.25% 1.2 million
St Josse (hunting and shooting party) 4.23% 1.2 million
Madelin (DL — rightwing) 3.91% 1.1 million
Hue (PCF) 3.37% 0.9 million
Taubira (Left Radical Party) 2.32% 0.6 million
Lepage (rightwing ecologist) 1.88% 0.5 million
Boutin (rightwing pro-family) 1.19% 0.3 million
Gluckstein (Parti des Travailleurs) 0.47% 0.1 million