Recent political developments in France have mainly concerned the presidential election that will take place in May 2007.
That seems a long time off, especially when, already in power, there is a right-wing government hell-bent on making the French economy more competitive by making it more flexible — undermining workers’ rights and cutting wages, looking for ways to boost private business at the expense of public services.
President Chirac and many of his government’s measures are unpopular. But what is the alternative? Debating the options for the presidential election, and the legislative election that takes place a month later, are part and parcel of the discussion about what to do right now. Hopefully they are not becoming a distraction from it.
The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) held its 16th congress on 19-22 January, and took a number of decisions relative to the presidential elections.
They decided to start the preparations now to stand Olivier Besancenot again — he was the LCR’s candidate in 2002, winning 1.2 million votes (4.25%) — by seeking sponsors (candidates must be sponsored by 500 elected officials from at least 30 different departments or overseas territories).
They rejected, once again, the idea of collaborating with a future Socialist Party (PS) government, whereas the Communist Party (PCF) is again gearing itself to do just that, although its deal with the PS is not yet struck. The PS is likely to guarantee seats in parliament to the Communist Party and the Greens, in return for them not standing candidates in the first round of the presidential election and supporting the PS candidate instead.
The LCR kept open the exact question of a candidacy of the left – many of them would still like to find a candidate to represent the “united, anti-capitalist left” — and declared that who they would vote for would be a tactical question to decide nearer the time. They will hold a conference in June to make a final decision, and choose their political platform.
They reaffirmed their “permanent tradition” of voting for candidates of the left — such as PS candidates wedded to capitalism — in the second round of the presidential election where those candidates face a candidate of the extreme right. Such a motion appears to be completely redundant, given that they showed themselves, in 2002, ready to vote for any bourgeois Tom, Dick or even Jacques Chirac in the second round when he faced Le Pen.
The LCR decided not to attend the “meeting of the left” convened for 8 February by the Socialist Party, PCF, Greens and smaller left-wing parties. This meeting, which the PCF wanted to keep open to the far-left, is envisaged by the PS as a meeting for the traditional “plural left”, the “governmental left”, to agree a programme for government.
Commenting on the LCR’s decision not to attend the meeting, the PCF said it wants all parties left of “the right” — meaning Chirac’s UMP and Le Pen’s Front National — to build “an anti [neo] liberal project that really changes lives, as large a gathering of the left as possible to construct a political majority”. It accuses the LCR of standing on the sidelines.
What is happening in the PS? The shock waves felt from its division over the proposed European constitution (the party’s official position was to vote “yes” in the referendum on 29 May 2005, but a substantial minority campaigned for a “no”) have all calmed down.
At a conference in November 2005, called to examine the experience, leader François Hollande was firmly back in the saddle, and with most of the mavericks back at his side. These included Laurent Fabius, the most high-profile politician of the socialist “no”, a right-hand man in François Mitterand’s government of 1982 that took the Socialist Party down the path of neo-liberalism.
A minority at the conference, commanding about 7% support, although much more reflective of feeling among the SP’s members, and certainly among its electorate, refused to endorse the leadership, and stuck to the political lines sketched out during the “no” campaign: for working-class opposition to neo-liberalism.
The main figures in this minority are Marc Dolez, Forces Militantes faction, and Gérard Filoche, Démocratie et Socialisme faction. These two decided at a meeting in December to collaborate – although not to merge – as “Forces Militantes, pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme”.
Among themselves, the rest of the newly reunited Socialist Party, can now scrap for several months over which of them is to be the presidential candidate. There are about a dozen names in the hat, and, according to recent opinion polls, any one of them will have a job to persuade the French electorate that the Socialist Party can win the election.
• Programme of “Forces Militantes, pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme”: http://www.democratie-socialisme.org/article.php3?id_article=693