Anger at rising prices, record profits for French multinationals and shareholders, the destruction of public services, the reduction of the rights of the unemployed, and isolated strikes on wages ongoing for several months. As in the rest of the world, instability is the rule in France.
President Emmanuel Macron’s five years are synonymous with heightened social tensions: the Yellow Vests movement, a year and a half after his election, movements for more social justice, mobilisations against the pension reform in 2019… The Covid crisis has, for a time, anaesthetised the struggles. Using the pandemic and unable to protect the population, Macron preferred to impose a very repressive state of health emergency during the first lockdown.
Struggles did not lead to a decisive victory against Macron and the capitalists, even though the government was forced to back down temporarily on the pensions attack. And on the political front, no party or political force has mobilised a coordinated opposition of workers and the general population against these policies.
Only France Insoumise, with its 17 deputies in the national assembly and its leader, Mélenchon, has represented a constant opposition to Macron, as well as a rupture with the PS (Socialist Party) of Hollande, which is very often “Macron friendly”.
What does Macron want?
Macron officially announced his candidacy for the presidency at the end of February, just six weeks before the first round of the election, which will be on 10 April. The war in Ukraine serves as a justification for not campaigning and for saying his re-election is a foregone conclusion.
On 18 March, Macron announced his fighting programme for the interests of the bosses – retirement at 65, compulsory work for those receiving minimum social benefits, dismantling the national education system by attacking the status of teachers and then others, a refocusing on leading sectors of energy supply (nuclear) … The same programme as the traditional right!
The capitalists thus have in Macron the political representative of their class and intend to keep him for another five years. The bourgeois parties, initially of the classical right, like Sarkozy’s Les Républicains or the ‘bourgeoisified’ PS of Hollande and Hidalgo, have collapsed for the moment. They have a problem with political personnel and credibility even among their classic electorate. Indeed, little or nothing in their programme distinguishes them from Macron and his policies.
From the point of view of the election itself, Macron is hoping for a second round with Le Pen, which would see him elected hands down. There is little chance that Marine Le Pen’s RN can win the election. Their profile has not been able to develop over the last five years. The nationalist right and the far-right have dominated the beginning of the election campaign on the issues of immigration issues and unabashed. But rising prices and the cost of living came back to the centre of the debate. The social issues remain central. The right and the far-right are in crisis and are regrouping themselves around Zemmour, the racist, sexist, ultra-free-market politician. Le Pen is on the other wing, along with the Republicans.
How to raise our heads and fight for the working class?
In a fortnight’s time, the workers and the youth who can vote will have a chance to sanction these policies in the elections through the vote to elect the president of the republic. The challenge is for the workers and young people who are most aware of the issues to be able to express their own views as clearly as possible. We must have a vote against Macron and the capitalists, the right and the far-right, but also a vote that breaks with all the policies carried out on behalf of the capitalists by the PS and the Greens in government and in the local regions and departments.
Once again, as in 2017, with 18% on the left, the candidacy of Jean Luc Mélenchon of France Insoumise-Union Populaire is the only one capable of playing a central role in reaching those among the working classes who want to fight Macron, but also the growing number of abstainers.
On the basis of his programme called the ‘Common Future’, Mélenchon has succeeded in bringing together activists from social movements, organisations and parties in a grouping called ‘The Popular Union’ [Gauche révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Left – CWI France) is part of the Parliament of the People’s Union and has been building France Insoumise since 2017].
At between 13% and 15% in the polls, Mélenchon is third, just behind Le Pen, and Macron is in the lead. He is now ahead of Zemmour, who is losing points, and Pécresse of the right-wing Republicans. He leaves the Green and PS candidates far behind. The PCF (French communist party), unfortunately, has chosen to go it alone this time, essentially to continue to exist, and its candidate is estimated to be at around 4% to 5%. This is not insignificant and shows the potential of a single FI – PCF candidate. The PS, on the other hand, is hitting an all-time low of only 2% -3%, at the same level as the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party) of Poutou and Besancenot, who are also running, as well as Lutte Ouvrière.
Mobilising on a programme to fight against Macron and the capitalists
Mélenchon’s programme calls for freezing prices, expanding public services, creating real jobs and raising wages. These are the crucial pillars of the programme. And taken one by one, many of the measures in the ‘Common Future’ programme effectively challenge the capitalist system.
The only force capable of carrying out these measures is the working class through the establishment of a workers’ government. Mélenchon likes to say, we want a transitional programme. But the ‘Common Future’ only goes halfway. It fails to deal with how we can change society and end capitalism, and why we have to fight for a socialist society. All this is not in the ‘Common Future’. It evokes a society of harmony and implies that mobilising people would impose on the capitalists the right way of running the world.
For all these reasons, in Gauche révolutionnaire’s (Revolutionary Left) campaign to support the candidacy of J-L Mélenchon, in France Insoumise, and also with our own material, we seek to go further on certain demands by fighting for the state monopoly of public health services, renationalisation under the control of the workers; for decent jobs for all; for an increase in the minimum wage; pensions and wages; for retirement at the age of 60; for an increase in resources for public services; for the re-nationalisation of Energie de France and Engie; and of the railways.
We also have disagreements, such as on international issues, and the illusions that Mélenchon has in international institutions and on a supposedly historic role for France abroad.
In the streets, in the door-to-door campaigns, and in the workplaces, campaigning for Mélenchon largely facilitates political discussion around the ways of combating the capitalists. These also provide the basis for discussion about the role that a genuine mass workers’ party for socialism could have in the next period. As Mélenchon’s latest poster says, ‘another world is possible!’ We say yes, a socialist world is necessary!
- Leïla Messaoudi is General Secretary of Gauche révolutionnaire (GR – Revolutionary Left) and member of the ‘Parliament of the People’s Union’. GR takes part in the ‘Parliament of the People’s Union’ and has been involved in building France Insoumise since 2017.