The Spark

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

The French election

Apr 29, 2002

The recent French election produced an apparent surprise, because one of the two front runners, Lionel Jospin, the Socialist Party candidate and current Prime Minister, did not make it into the second round, having been replaced Jean-Marie LePen, a candidate of the extreme right, who campaigned against immigrants. The Communist Party, which is also in the current government, had a big drop in its vote to 3.37%. The other party in the government, the Greens, received 5.25%.

The very high rate of abstentions, 28%, reflected the real disgust with the traditional politicians.

On the other hand, Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), with whom we are in political solidarity, received 5.72%, and the Revolutionary Communist League, also on the extreme left, received 4.25%, adding up to just under 10% of the vote, expressing the disgust of many workers and young people with the government of the Plural Left, which has carried out a pro-boss policy.

The following is a translation of an editorial appearing in the workplace newsletters put out by Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle) on April 22, 2002 immediately after the first round.

The choice between cholera and the plague

Never has this popular expression corresponded more to reality!

LePen is a confirmed enemy of the workers and, moreover, he carries a reactionary ideology of the worst sort which it’s absolutely necessary to combat.

Chirac is a man of the right, openly in the camp of the big bosses. But, depending on the circumstances, he is capable of behaving exactly like LePen and Mégret [the other candidate of the far right].

The result of the first round of the presidential elections means that they are going to ask us to choose between the two.

All the press and all the political parties present the ousting of Jospin from the second round as a political earthquake, an unspeakable catastrophe, indeed a situation never seen before.

The presence of LePen on the second round isn’t due to a real rise of the extreme right, contrary to what all the press seems to say. In fact, it isn’t necessary to be demoralized because of this result.

In the presidential election of 1995, which resulted in Chirac’s election, the extreme right was constituted by LePen and DeVilliers. Between the two, they obtained 19.74% of the vote. Today, on this first round, LePen and Mégret together obtained 19.45%, that is to say, a lower score for the far right today than in 1995.

Moreover, Chirac alone did better than LePen. And LePen beat Jospin by only one% of the vote.

In fact, the entire problem is that the parties of the plural left who together governed for five years, were too confident in themselves and their popular support, and so they presented themselves separately in this election.

If the French Communist Party and the Greens had been in solidarity with their boss Jospin, they wouldn’t have presented themselves against him and Jospin would have easily beat LePen by more than 6%. But they wanted to cast too wide a net by presenting separate candidates and that came down on their heads.

Today they dare to accuse the far left – Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle) and Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire (Revolutionary Communist League) – of causing Jospin to fall. But it wasn’t the far left. The far left hasn’t been in the government. It owes Jospin no solidarity. Those who cry today should have thought sooner about the risks they created for his candidacy.

Not one worker’s vote should go to LePen. Even those workers who voted for him on the first round must become aware that they are braiding the rope, not only to hang themselves, but to hang all the workers, if they vote for him again on the second round.

It would be surprising if Chirac doesn’t beat LePen. Chirac will very certainly be elected with an enormous majority, to such an extent that it will pass for a true mandate for him personally. It will let him appear as the savior of democracy against fascism, as the savior of republican values and as the man who has protected the republic. He will even pass for the man who has protected the workers, the unions, the militants.

In fact – and this is the worst of all – this will give him an entirely free hand. He will make use of his score, which perhaps will recall the best scores of DeGaulle, to pose as the man of the hour – letting him push through all the reactionary measures he intends to take.

The workers mustn’t vote for LePen, but on the other hand, the fewer votes of the workers that Chirac can boast of, the better that will be for the world of labor.

Of course, everyone should choose what he or she feels most justified, but everyone must think about what this choice could lead to in the future.

Arlette Laguiller, Lutte Ouvrière presidential candidate