The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

A small victory in the municipal elections in France

Apr 2, 2001

In the middle of March, cities and towns throughout all of France held elections for city councils. The results showed some shifts, and indicated a real dissatisfaction with the policies of the present national government, currently led by a coalition of parties including those which traditionally were supported by workers. Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), a Trotskyist organization in France, presented candidates, getting a better score than it had gained before in such elections.

What follows is a translation of an article in which Lutte Ouvrière explains its result.

By presenting 129 slates in 109 cities in these municipal elections, Lutte Ouvrière was able to address five million electors. That represented only 13% of the electorate, and the results of our lists, in relation to the totality of the electorate, are in this way modest.

That being said, five million electors nonetheless represent a large poll. In almost all the cities where we were present, and in particular in the cities with a significant workers' population, our results have doubled, indeed tripled in relation to the preceding municipal elections, and there was an increase in relation to our vote in all the elections taken together.

In the majority of cities where we were present, the slates of Lutte Ouvrière got more than 5% of the votes and, in a certain number of cities, 10%. Our higher scores were obtained in the popular neighborhoods or in the public housing complexes where unemployment remains important and where people can't get out of poverty, even when they find an insecure and poorly paid job. Our results reflect the disappointment an important part of the working class feels toward the politics of the government which calls itself the left.

The voters who have voted for Lutte Ouvrière clearly voted against the lists of the right and the far-right. But, at the same time, they have refused to vote for the governmental left. They have wished to show by their votes that they don't recognize themselves in this left government which favors the richest layers of the population, while a part of the world of labor is maintained in poverty. This government pretends to be of the left, but it pours forth tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, tax abatements and reduced social security taxes for the companies, while it closes hospitals, cuts social security benefits and privatizes public services. This government pretends to be of the left, but it has done nothing during the three years it has been in power to aid workers confronting the big employers and their attacks. It allows the big companies to lay off, even when they make fabulous profits. It lets the bosses attack the system of retirement at age 60.

The candidates of Lutte Ouvrière made themselves the spokespersons for millions of workers at the bottom of the social scale, the principal victims of the government's policy in favor of the rich: those who, despite the government's boast that it lowered unemployment, find only short-term contracts or unwished-for temporary work. The bosses' offensive and the government's policy contribute to marginalizing them, to pushing them into ghettoes based on class and poverty.

Well, they are ones who expressed themselves by voting for our slates. And they will express themselves more and more in the future, for they will be more and more aware that this government has nothing to offer them.

The progress of the other lists of the far left confirms this rejection of the governmental policy.

Although we have multiplied by four the number of our city councillors, their number remains weak. But, in the cities where they have obtained the support of a significant part of the working population, with the aid of those who voted to elect them, they will lead a local policy in favor of the exploited, putting a real pressure on the city council majority, whatever be its political complexion.