While the right wing Raffarin government in France increases its attacks against the social gains of the past, there is a continued radicalisation amongst workers and youth.
The announcement by Lutte ouvrière (LO) and Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR) that they will stand a joint list in the forthcoming regional and European elections (in March and June), is welcomed by many workers. The two parties won almost 10% of the vote in the 2002 presidential elections, standing on a joint platform.
According to the last opinion polls, 9% of the voters have decided to vote for the LO/LCR list. Also, 22% of respondents who said they had never voted for the far left, say they might do so in March and June this year.
Never before have organisations claiming to be Trotskyist reached such an electoral potential. However, a different poll showed that 24% said they agree with the ideas of the Front National (FN), which continues to direct its racist and right wing demagogic rhetoric towards the poorest people.
Many workers and youth are prepared to vote for the far left as a result of their hatred towards pro-capitalist parties, both of the right and ‘left’. The attacks of the Raffarin administration (against pensions, working conditions, and public services etc) did not lead to serious opposition from the PS (Socialist Party) and only to very weak opposition from the Greens and the Communist Party.
The leadership of the unions, who are completely linked to the left parties, have blocked the development of struggles. While a large majority of the workers of Electricité de France (EDF, the public electricity company) are opposed to privatisations, the union leadership will not organise a fight-back and participates in preparing the way for privatisation.
Many workers will use the coming elections to vote LO-LCR to show their opposition to the present policies of the government and to oppose those who block the development of struggles.
The anti-capitalist rhetoric of both far left organisations is shared by many workers. A recent poll in Le Monde showed that 30% of people think that the far left brings new ideas. 60% of Communist Party supporters say they are close to these ideas, compared to 23% of all those questioned, and 37% of youth (18-24 years) also find themselves in agreement. The far left is clearly seen as an opposition force to the present policies of the government and the official opposition.
Building on electoral success
But what will the LO-LCR alliance do after its likely electoral success?
So far, the election plans of the LO/LCR have not meant a proper joint campaign, with support committees that could link up with workers’ struggles. The correspondence between LO and LCR makes it clear that they see the exercise as an electoral alliance and that they have no perspective beyond this.
The two parties also make clear they wish to dominate the far left’s electoral campaign. The alliance will be open for groups or militants to participate in if they “accept the framework decided by the agreement, the name of the list, and the joint declaration under the condition that they do not demand a change” – and this will be decided nationally by both organisations.
A good electoral result will encourage workers, but, under the LO/LCR’s plans, it will not offer a political instrument for the millions of people who will vote for the list: a new mass workers’ party.
As the LO/LCR list faces potential electoral success, the two parties are watering down their criticism of capitalism and avoiding any mentioning of a socialist alternative. All they say is, “By voting for our list, you can make a political statement, which is an encouragement for the struggles and for all those who want to act for workers’ rights, to put an end to the tyranny of the big shareholders and the stock markets”.
La Gauche révolutionnaire (French CWI affiliate) will campaign to get a maximum vote for the LO/LCR list. In this campaign we will defend the necessity of a new workers’ party that organises struggles of workers and youth today and which popularises the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism. A good result for the LO/LCR list will prove that the conditions for the creation of such a party exist.