France: cwi candidates make gains in district elections

Last Sunday, France went to the ballot box for regional and district elections.

Leïla Messaoudi, who stood for Gauche révolutionnaire (CWI), polled 184 votes or 4.1% in the district of Rouen 5. In the poorer boroughs of the district, the polling stations of Les Sapins and Châtelet-Lombardie, Leïla polled between 5.1 and 10.2% of the votes. This was the first time Gauche révolutionnaire stood in elections in this district. The results were encouraging and confirm that a growing number of workers, youth, unemployed and pensioners have had enough of policies tailored to the needs of the rich and the bosses.

We ran an energetic campaign, holding several public meetings in the boroughs we stood in and conducted door to door canvassing. During the campaign we had the chance to talk to many people who were united by their anger against the right wing government and its ministers. Many agreed with our demand for a new workers’ party, as an instrument to organise the struggle, and agreed with our call for resistance against the policies of the Raffarin government.

In the most run-down neighbourhoods our comrades have been involved in campaigns against the closure of local schools and services. In the three polling stations in the heart of this borough we received 7%, 7.4% and 10.2% of the vote in the district elections.

For the regional elections we had two candidates on the LO/LCR list (the electoral alliance between Lutte Ouvrière and the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire). In the polling stations were we achieved our best results the LO/LCR list only polled 4.1%, 3.2% and 9.7%. The LO/LCR list achieved better results than we did in those boroughs that are not as badly hit by the anti-social policies of this and previous governments. In the polling station where we received 10.2% of the vote we came third, behind the candidate of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the party of Chirac and Raffarin), but beating the candidates of the Front National and the Greens. The PCF (French Communist Party) only polled 2.8% over the whole district of Rouen 5, down from the 8.4% they polled in 1998.

These results confirm that our campaign programme corresponded to what working class people needed and were waiting for. In our opinion, the LO/LCR list should have conducted the same type of campaign, starting from the needs and concrete demands of workers and their families. Taking up issues like housing, work and public services, instead of building a campaign around abstract slogans like the demand to vote “a law which makes redundancies illegal”. Then, even if they had obtained the same electoral result, they would have created a base in the local areas to continue political work. But what was that the goal of the LCR or LO in these elections? In refusing to put the demand, and necessity, to construct a new workers’ party at the heart of their campaign they have missed yet another occasion to progress with the construction of an alternative to the PS and its political allies.

We understand that, driven by the hatred against the Chirac-Raffarin-Sarkozy government, many people will be pushed to vote for the parties of the Gauche Plurielle (‘Plural Left’ – the social democrats in the Parti Socialiste, the French Communist Party and the Greens) in the second round of the elections. The programme defended by the PS is not going to turn back the clock on the measures taken by the right-wing in the last two years; neither is it proposing clear policies that favour workers and the unemployed. The balance sheet of the PS–led region Haute Normandie is not favourable to workers. The PS has given aid to bosses and factories without taking any real measures to defend workers or the unemployed. The proposals of the PS go in the same direction as the policies of decentralisation and casualisation that Raffarin defends. In these elections, the FN made progress in the countryside and in the small towns of France, while they suffered setbacks in the major cities, urban regions and the working class suburbs.

Looking beyond the second round of these elections we have to state that it is through unified struggle that we will be able to block the policies of Raffarin and Sarkozy. It is this that we want to prepare and we invite others to engage in this preparation with us. We have run our campaign around three main themes: real employment, quality housing and public services, for everyone. These are not electoral promises we are making but the issues around we struggle all year round. We invite those who have voted for us, or those who considered voting for us, to get in touch, and to join our struggle around these campaigns.

Before anything else, it will be struggle that will deliver these things to us. And to be successful we need a party that brings together youth, workers, unemployed – French or immigrant, men or women; for a party that fights for a society that is freed from exploitation, unemployment and exploitation. A party that fights for a real democratic alternative to capitalism: socialism.

This is the fight that we are taking on. An important date in this struggle is 3 April, when, at the initiative of the main European Trade Union confederations, there will be a day of protests against neo-liberal policies across Europe.

Against the closure of schools, against privatisations and redundancies, against the planned attacks on social security and healthcare…we have to build to make this a successful campaign. This can be a possible starting point to construct the movement that will stop Chirac-Raffarin-Sarkozy.

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March 2004