The Spark

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

French NO vote on European constitution:
A slap in the face, but much more is needed

Jun 6, 2005

(First in France and then in the Netherlands, voters rejected referendums for the European constitution. The following article is a translation from the June 3rd newspaper of the French Trotskyist organization Lutte Ouvrière, Workers Struggle. It explains a little more about what the vote in France means.)As was hoped and expected in working class neighborhoods throughout France, a large majority voted against the European constitution. In city after city, the working class areas voted not only against the European constitution, but in so doing against those who proposed and defended it, beginning with President Jacques Chirac.

Since the top government officials campaigned for a "YES" vote, the constitution and the government were really tied together. Over the last three years these same government officials carried out one attack after another against the working class. So it is only right that voters rejected the constitution that these officials sponsored.

As for the leadership of the Socialist Party, which is not in power, it too has been discredited by its total alignment with the policies of the right wing and the leaders of the right-wing parties. Part of the Socialist Party electorate had trouble swallowing a lot of that party's policies after it called for a vote for the right-wing Chirac during the 2002 elections. In supporting the referendum, the leaders of the Socialist Party tried to pull the wool over these voters' eyes yet again.

As soon as voters rejected the European constitution, politicians of various political stripes began fresh political in-fighting. On the right, it's Sarkozy versus Chirac; on the left, it's Fabius versus Hollande, without mentioning any others.

For workers, what is there in all this? Right after the vote results were announced, the top officials made fools of themselves on television trying to twist the truth and explain away the vote. Except for the Communist Party, all the leaders of the big parties had called for a "YES" vote. Thus, the big "NO" vote was a defeat not only of the right-wing officials now in power, but those of the left-wing Socialist Party who hope to return to power, after being out of power for the last three years.

Of course, the NO vote does not by itself change the social situation. The layoffs and closing of work places will continue as long as the capitalists believe this is a way to increase their profits. The buying power of wage earners will continue to be slashed, while employment becomes more and more insecure. Chirac may switch prime ministers. But a change in faces does not mean a change in the government's anti-worker policies. These politicians will no doubt look for ways to use the NO vote to justify imposing more austerity measures on working people in the future....

If the NO vote will lead to a change of the situation for workers, workers will have to find the means not just to fight against the words of a constitution, but against the big capitalists in the workplaces. The capitalists' drive for profits, which is what causes unemployment and low wages, doesn't come from a constitutional text but rather from the stranglehold the owners of capital exercise on the entire economy.

The political maneuvers of politicians from the right as well as the left do nothing but disarm the working class. It was a joyful evening when we found out that the constitution was defeated. But that moment is over. The future depends on the ability of the working class to go on the offensive against the bosses.