Melenchon. Photo: melenchon-Mathieu-CC
Melenchon. Photo: melenchon-Mathieu-CC

France’s right-wing president, Emmanuel Macron, faces far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French election on 24 April. They won 27.8% and 23.2% respectively in the first round on 10 April.

The main left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, won 21.95%, surprising some mainstream commentators.

While Mélenchon’s vote shows the possibility of building a new mass party to fight for socialist policies, many others will be dejected by the prospect of yet another presidential election run-off between a right-wing establishment figure and a far-right candidate, as in 2017.

The failure of the left to support Mélenchon as a single and combative candidate, with a bold socialist programme, has allowed the rest of the election to be dominated by two anti-working-class right wing challengers.

Nevertheless, whoever wins on 24 April will find a big working-class opposition to their pro-big business policies, particularly regarding attacks on pension rights and over the high cost of living.

Below is a shortened, initial statement on the first round results from Gauche Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Left, CWI in France).

The very high vote for left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate for France Insoumise/Union Populaire (FI/UP) in the presidential election, is very encouraging. His 7.7 million votes was 650,000 more than in the last presidential election in 2017!

Mélenchon secured the highest vote among young people (over 32% among 18-34 year olds) and in the working-class suburbs of big cities (49% in the Seine-Saint-Denis department).

During the last two weeks of the campaign, thousands of young people turned out for his meetings, while the response to the door-to-door campaigning was increasingly enthusiastic.

The very militant aspect of the campaign made it possible to popularise the programme policies that echoed the concerns of large sections of the population: raising the minimum wage to 1,400 euros, rejecting increasing the retirement age to 65 and returning to retirement at 60, defending public services, rejecting racism, green planning of the economy, etc.

Even if many may feel a disappointment at not having made it to the second round and finding themselves stuck with the pseudo-duel between the right-wing incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the far-right populist Marine Le Pen, the score achieved must be taken as a real encouragement for the struggles to come.

Not one vote for Le Pen!

There was an increase in abstention votes (+4%) compared to 2017. This reflects feelings of disgust or of powerlessness, especially among sections of working-class voters. 

Macron, whom the capitalist media had announced as the big winner, secured 27.8% – 1.1 million more votes than in 2017.

He has captured a large part of the ‘traditional right’ electorate – mainly in the older strata of the population. But he is not sure that he will easily succeed in beating Le Pen in the second round run-off.

Le Pen, candidate for the Rassemblement National (National Rally), had been challenged for a while by the other far-right candidate, the former TV presenter Éric Zemmour. The latter finally scored 7% after a campaign that was both racist and in favour of neoliberal capitalism.

Le Pen achieved 23.15% (460,000 more votes than in 2017). She scored mainly in small towns (especially those that have suffered from deindustrialisation) and in rural areas, particularly in the north and east of the country. On the other hand, among 18-24 year olds Le Pen was far behind Mélenchon and Macron.

In reality, even though she uses populist language about people’s “purchasing power”, all her measures only take from the public finances, ie social security, public services. This is at the same as giving resources back to the bosses and to the rich by reducing the employers’ contributions. She is no longer in favour of retirement at 60 but at 62.

Her programme is in fact a huge scam. She is no better than Macron. Moreover, she is in favour of banning strikes in certain public services. She wants to intensify discrimination against foreigners, and to deprive migrant workers of social benefits (even though they contribute to the economy and pay taxes).

Her two main policies remain ‘strengthening security’ and denouncing immigrants, all to protect the billionaires and to try and divide workers.

So there must not be one more vote for Le Pen! Some will oppose her by abstaining, voting Macron, or voting blank.

The trade unions must prepare a day of warning strikes, as early as May, to show the strength of the workers’ movement against Macron, and even more so if it is Le Pen who gets in.

A new fighting party

The Communist Party (PCF), which fielded its own candidate in order to be able to make agreements with the capitalist ‘Socialist Party’ in the legislative elections, got a very low score of 2.28%. Its decline continues, and by standing, it meant that Mélenchon is not in the second round.

Millions of people can continue to regain confidence if Mélenchon’s FI/UP offers a real possibility to be a tool to change society. And among them, there are tens of thousands who want to go further – who want to discuss the situation in order to change it and to act.

Some leaders of France Insoumise talk about restructuring the movement to make it better.

This is what should have done in 2017, as Gauche Révolutionnaire proposed, as part of FI. We would then have been more effective in the presidential campaign and we could have achieved the few hundred thousand votes that we were short of on 10 April to go through to the second round.

The possibility of building a broad party of workers and youth, a mass party of struggle against capitalism, a democratic, militant party, is real. We will be able to discuss both the actions and the programme, and how to replace this society based on exploitation and submitting to the dictatorship of profit.

We need a party that fights against capitalism, to replace it with socialism, where the economy is publicly owned, under the democratic control of the workers, for the satisfaction of the needs of all.

Such a change will come about through a mass revolutionary movement, and by organising now to prepare for it. While continuing to support the FI/UP and campaigning for a new party, we continue to build our revolutionary party, which fights to overthrow capitalism and for workers taking power to build socialism.