The French Parti Socialiste (PS) has defeated President Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party in local elections. In the same poll, the revolutionary socialist LCR made small but significant and impressive gains.
Since his election last year, Sarkozy has been battered by waves of working-class action - by rail workers, civil servants, students and more recently strikers in the private sector too. Now the working class has delivered another blow at the ballot box (unfortunately using the soft, blunt weapon of the PS). Rouen, Amiens, Metz, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Reims, Caen, St-Etienne and numerous smaller municipalities fell to the PS. A number of government ministers were among the casualties, for instance Xavier Darcos, the education minister defeated as mayor of Périgueux in the South West.
Perhaps even more significant were the results for the LCR. The lists it stood or participated in with others did significantly better than in previous elections. (The only note of caution to be sounded here is that in some places the lists seem to have been a bit of a hodge podge politically; eg one involving Breton nationalists.) According to the LCR website, over half of the 200 lists it backed got 5% or more of the vote in the first round of the elections, while 34 got more than 10%. In the second round, seven lists got more than 10%. In the shipbuilding town of Saint-Nazaire in the North West, the LCR list got 17% of the vote. More than 50 LCR candidates have been elected.
France's other main far left group, Lutte Ouvriere, has not only refused to involve itself in the LCR's call for a new anti-capitalist party on the grounds that it would be insufficiently revolutionary; it also rejected the invitation to organise joint slates in the local elections, instead organising a number of joint lists with the PS and the Communist Party. Activists in LO's now-expelled minority faction explain this bizarre veering between sectarianism and opportunism as an attempt for the group to maintain itself now that it has lost the political initiative to the LCR. (In 1995, LO achieved won two million votes in the presidential elections, but has since then it has isolated itself by refusing to initiate or get involved in any attempt at working-class regroupment. In the last presidential it won 1.3% against 4.1% for the LCR, and unlike the LCR it is not growing significantly.)