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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 February 2017

French presidential election: crisis in the establishment parties

Left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon photo Remi Noyon/Creative Commons

Left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon photo Remi Noyon/Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge)

Possibilities for the left to make gains

The upcoming French presidential election is revealing big crises in the establishment parties. The conservative Republican candidate Francois Fillon, who just weeks ago appeared to have the Elysee Palace in his grasp, is now mired in a damaging criminal corruption scandal and may withdraw. The capitalist class is no doubt hoping that their 'substitute' independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron, will make it through to the second round.

The ruling Socialist Party (PS) of lame duck President Hollande looked certain to back the neoliberal former prime minister Manuel Valls, but he was humiliatingly pushed aside in the PS primaries in favour of left-leaning Benoit Hamon.

National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen has also been damaged over the resignation of large numbers of disillusioned FN councillors. And the mainstream media, in and outside France, largely ignores left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who enjoys over 11% support in the polls and attracts thousands to his rallies.

An article from Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI, France) explains what's at stake in the election.

The next few weeks will be crucial. The potential for a new political force to the left of the PS has actually strengthened with Hamon's victory in the primaries, even if Hamon does not go in this direction. Nevertheless the one that the people who voted for him have shown they want.

Mélenchon's candidacy and his campaign - 'France Insoumise' (FI, France Unbowed) - also represent this potential.

Mélenchon has said he is ready to meet Hamon, while recognising that positions adopted by the winner of the PS primaries are not all compatible with those of FI, notably on Europe. Hamon does not argue for a challenge to the bosses' European Union.

Mélenchon

But the tactic of Mélenchon also has its limits by confining itself only to the electoral field. Many young people and workers are preparing to abstain in the next elections because, understandably, they have had enough of the 'political circus'.

What is lacking in the face of the attacks of the bosses and the government against young people, workers and the majority of the population, is a force capable of organising tens of thousands of people to fight against capitalism.

It is this that FI will have to address in the next few weeks - even more so if those who voted for Hamon come to see that he does not have a genuine possibility of carrying out a real break with the disastrous policies of Hollande.

The scandal about the fictitious jobs of the Fillon family, where it's reported that his wife has been paid €900,000 for doing nothing, is certainly the knockout blow for a candidate who was already on his way down.

His plan to destroy social security, increase VAT by 2% (to finance the wiping out of taxes on large fortunes, in short, to take from the poorest to give to the richest) had met with the opposition of an overwhelming majority of the population. A section of the capitalist class is already looking instead towards the movement around Macron.

As for the Front National and Marine Le Pen, things are not going too easily either. Her declaration of support for Trump is turning against her. Although high in the polls, Le Pen remains around the 25% mark and is failing to make progress.

Among her latest statements she is not in favour of an increase in the minimum wage for example. This shows more and more that the so-called 'social' posture of the FN is only an electoral argument.

Moreover, 400 elected FN municipal councillors out of 1,500 - 28% - have resigned since 2014 citing internal dictatorial methods.

The situation is a reflection of what has been happening in society for more than two years. Social discontent at low wages and poor working conditions is being expressed every day by dozens of strikes and struggles.

In this context, the lack of a real central day of action to fight for better wages and conditions at work and to reject policies of social cuts weighs heavily.

Trade union leaders, rather than 'consulting' the candidates when they know what they say about these issues, should campaign and prepare a major day of strike action and protests. This would have a big impact on the campaign because it is through struggles that things will change.

And the election campaign could be a point of support for this, especially if a candidate like Mélenchon takes up and fights for the demands of workers on a large scale.

This would also enable all those who do not want to vote because they do not feel involved in the elections in their present form to have an effect on them. It is clear that a new political force fighting capitalism will come from both the millions of people who will vote for Mélenchon and other candidates to the left of the PS, but also of all those who participate in the struggles but are considering abstaining in the elections.

The situation is entirely open. All the candidates in the service of capitalism are weakened and without a base of really active and solid support.

A revolt is gradually bringing about a rejection of those who have been imposing an unjust, anti-democratic and pro-cuts policy on us for years. Everything becomes possible. The worries of the PS leaders, the right wing and the FN, should be seen as a real encouragement for young people and workers.

Capitalism

All those who are tired of capitalism and aspire to a society of social justice - tolerant and fraternal, giving everyone a job, housing and a decent future - can play a role if they come together.

This is why we call for a vote for Mélenchon, in spite of the fact that his programme remains too limited in dealing with the multinationals, the banks and the shareholders.

We argue, for example, that the entire financial sector, from banks to insurance companies, should be nationalised and put into public ownership under the democratic control of workers and the whole population. Unfortunately, Mélenchon only puts forward the idea of a public banking network alongside the private banks.

The majority of those who are prepared to vote for him are doing so to express their frustration with capitalism and its dictatorship of profit. But voting is only one aspect of the matter. We need a mass movement to overthrow capitalism. This is what the Gauche Révolutionnaire wants to build.

Faced with political and economic crisis, the only real alternative is for a truly democratic socialist society - where the economy is planned to satisfy the needs of all and not the profits of a few.

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