Les luttes continuent!
By Vicki Morris
The French far-left suffered a knock in the recent elections for the European parliament. The joint list of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR)-Lutte Ouvriere (LO) received 432,000 votes, 2.58% of the total. They lost their five MEPs (although because of European enlargement they were always going to struggle to get an MEP this time).
The LCR's website reports glumly: "From one constituency to the next, if not from one département to the next, there is no big variation, all the departmental votes were under 3.6%. Let us recall that at the regional elections in March we received more than a million votes and five years ago, at the previous European elections, we obtained more than 900,000 votes (and 5.23% of all votes cast). Between one election and the next, our result has thus been cut in half."
One explanation for this setback the LCR gives is low turnout (57% abstention rate), especially among young people and in poorer areas, whence the far-left draws most of its electoral support.
But the LCR also acknowledges that this is a symptom of political reasons: "These sociological explanations are not enough to explain the loss of more than 460,000 votes in five years. On the larger scale, it didn't seem useful to vote for the LCR-LO lists and again to send revolutionary deputies to the European parliament. The defeat of the mobilisation on the pensions question last year, the attacks on the health service today have without doubt produced a bigger demoralisation than we had realised."
LO on their website echo this view of the significance of low turnout, election fatigue, political disenchantment generally, and working-class political demoralisation in particular. They also say: "In the European elections, the Socialist Party was a long way from gaining new electors. The whole of the left got nearly two million fewer votes than in the regional elections. On the contrary, the electorate of the right, including the extreme right, is still the majority. The Socialist Party appears among poorer voters as the most credible party to embody the opposition to the Chirac-Raffarin government."
LO says that the far-left cannot expect to do well in elections if it isn't prepared to embed itself in the communities it expects to support it.
The Socialist Party (PS) took 33 of France's 78 seats (before EU enlargement France had 97 seats), beating president Jacques Chirac's UMP government. The far-right National Front came fourth with 9.81%, up from 5.7% in 1999, and now has seven MEPs where previously it had five.
LO says that the right-wing government is unlikely to respond to losing the election by lessening its attacks on workers' rights, welfare benefits, etc. The government is not embarked on a fight for their careers - they do very nicely in or out of government - but on changing the social landscape. They will do as much damage as they can in the time they have.
Most far-left commentators on these elections insist on this point, and that the working class and socialists cannot afford at all to wait on 2007 [legislative and presidential elections] or let concerns about who people should vote for in 2007 distract them from the urgent task of resisting the government now.
In its editorial in Rouge 2069 (17 June), the LCR writes: "We will not wait for 2007. The whole working class must prepare itself to inflict new blows against the government and create the conditions to drive them out. In these battles, the revolutionary left has a major responsibility, organising struggles, advancing politics that break with capitalism, and in pursuing a policy independent of the parties of the governmental left."
The LCR national committee was due to meet on 19-20 June to discuss the election results. Coverage - perhaps mischievous, perhaps misinformed - in the mainstream left-wing paper Liberation on 19 June suggested that the LCR might be about to say "we've had enough!" of the electoral lash-up with Lutte Ouvriere, and that leading LCR members might be looking to work more closely with the "plural left" - pro-capitalist in government - parties: the PS, the Communist Party and the Greens. Liberation hints at a Brazilian scenario for the LCR: the LCR's Brazilian sister party is participating in Lula's pro-capitalist government. But they also have the LCR's Francois Sabado insisting that the LCR will not participate in "a class government".