After many long months the American elections are finally over. In France the presidential campaigns have started to ramp up.
Marine Le Pen from the far right is trying to position herself as the candidate for the working class. François Fillon is representing the far right of France’s conservative Les Republicans (LR), after resoundingly defeating Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy in a primary. The current “socialist” president, François Hollande, will not be running.
The French Communist Party has decided by a very narrow margin to support Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of a party he created, “France Insoumise” (Rebellious France). And Emmanuel Macron, the former Minister of the Economy under Hollande, has also started his own party, En Marche, and is representing the liberal centre. On the far left: Nathalie Arthaud from Lutte Ouvriere and Philippe Poutou from the NPA will stand. Here I will write about what is happening on the right: from the far right to the Socialist Party. In a subsequent article I will lay out what is going on with the far left.
“In the name of the people” is Marine Le Pen’s, the head of the Front National (FN), slogan. Her politics, however, are in the name of a certain segment of the population. When speaking about her economic position she highlights that she is talking directly to “industrial workers who have had their jobs stolen… by an organised economic pillage”. However, she is quick to remind us that this is due to “an economy that is under control of foreigners”.
This stance is totally ridiculous. It is clear she represents the bourgeoisie and will defend the interests of bosses, in the name of “economic patriotism”. The solutions she presents are the same as the Republicans or the Socialist Party. By blaming the economic woes on the European Union, foreigners and migrants, she is only dividing our class in the interest of the bourgeoisie. She hopes to turn our gaze away from the ones who are truly responsible for the terrible situation the working class finds themselves in: capitalists of any nationality. The anger against the current government is being used by the FN to position themselves as the “anti-system” choice; nonetheless, their politics are defined by implementing austerity measures, xenophobia, islamophobia, misogyny, and various reactionary politics.
LR has just voted in the second-round of their primary, choosing François Fillon. His resume: Minister of Education, Minister of Labour, and Prime Minister in Sarkozy’s government from 2007-2012. His plan: try to convince us he has solutions for the country. Fillon promises to realise several essential things within the first several weeks of his presidency and has no qualms about using the clause in the French constitution enabling him to bypass the National Assembly. Several key proposals are: bringing the work week up to 48 hours, retirement at 65 years old, diminishing unemployment benefits, decreasing taxes on corporations, increasing the VAT by 2%, stopping the tax on wealth, and cutting 500,000 public servant jobs. As if his politics couldn’t get any worse, Fillon wants to fix quotas for incoming migrants based on where they are from. He believes that France has an “Islam problem”, and wants to row back on homosexual couples right to adoption. He also supports Putin and Assad.
Such attacks on the working class will be the worst seen in the last 30 years. His economic and political example is someone well-known to Solidarity readers: Thatcher. Fillon claims that unions don’t have the power to block the country anymore, thus he will encounter no resistance. If he is elected in May 2017, as seems likely, the working class must be ready to organise and fight his government every step of the way.
François Hollande announced on 1 December that he wouldn’t be seeking a second term as president. This is the first time in the Fifth Republic a president will not seek reelection. Five years of his government has seen attacks on workers, a state of emergency, expulsion of migrants, and billions of dollars given to bosses. After three presidents from the right, people believed Hollande would be a breath of fresh air and would bring back good old “socialist” politics. However, after five years of his government this fantasy has been has firmly shattered. The discontent and anger against the government has forced Hollande to not seek a second term. Most likely his prime minister, Manuel Valls, will take up his mantel and continue pushing the PS further right. Hollande’s successor will be decided on 22 and 29 January.
The establishment and bourgeois political parties, whether on the left, the right or the far right, cannot provide any solutions for the working class. Their politics are centred on implementing programmes that are violently hostile to the working class, immigrants, woman, youth, and LGBT people. How should the far left respond to this? Do we fall in line behind Mélenchon? Do we independently organise the class of the exploited and the oppressed, to defend its interests against all these attacks? To find out my answer to this, read my next letter…