The most chaotic presidential election of the Fifth Republic has resulted in the election of a new head of state. Millions of left-wing voters held their noses and reluctantly voted for Macron in order to defeat Marine Le Pen. The Rebellious France movement must now organise and mobilise to fight both Macron and Le Pen.
The most chaotic presidential election of the Fifth Republic has resulted in the election of a new head of state. At the end of the first round, the winner of the second was already known. Millions of left-wing voters held their noses and reluctantly voted for Macron in order to defeat Marine Le Pen, handing Macron a victory on the basis of a 66-34% split.
It must be said that none of the leaders of the Left or the trade unions offered a concrete alternative in terms of what to do faced with two right-wing candidates. Most of the Left leaders simply called on the electorate to vote for En Marche’s candidate, Macron.
A rejection of both right-wingers
But the new French President is not in a strong position, as his 20.7 million votes do not represent a strong bloc of support for his policies. His votes include those who voted for Fillon, Hamon, and Mélenchon in the first round – that is, a mix of left and right, devoid of clear class lines.
At the same time, these elections saw record levels of abstentions and spoilt ballots, with a quarter of voters abstaining and 10-12% of voters handing in a blank or void ballot. 4.6 million people who voted in the first round of the presidential election either didn’t vote or spoilt their ballot in the second round, rejecting both candidates. For example, in Le Havre – one of the centres of last year’s movement against the reactionary El Khomri labour law – the number of blank votes (13% of voters) and abstentions (32%) increased by 13,000 (12 percentage points) compared to the first round, where Melenchon was first with 22,000 votes (30%).
As Melenchon noted, Le Pen in fact came third after the votes of abstentionists and blank/void votes. Indeed, Melenchon’s active call for his supporters not to support either candidate will have contributed to these high rates of abstention and spoilt votes. And all of this in spite of enormous pressure from the mass media and liberal public opinion to vote for Macron as the “lesser evil”.
Preparing an attack on the working class
Macron is now preparing to launch an implacable offensive against the living standards and working conditions of the vast majority of the population. On 25th April, the president of MEDEF (the largest bosses’ organisation in France), Pierre Gattaz, expressed his support for Macron whilst added a warning: “France cannot afford five more years of half measures.”
In this respect, all the attacks against the working class carried out by the previous administration of François Hollande – including the labour law, the Macron laws, the budget cuts and the tens of billions of euros paid as subsidies to the big companies – were only “half measures” compared to what the ruling class is really demanding. No doubt the new President will obediently carry out their diktats.
Until the second round of the legislative elections, Macron will undoubtedly keep his public programme vague. Then, if he achieves a parliamentary majority, he will take off his mask and reveal much more severe counter-reforms than those outlined in his official programme. He will adopt, more or less, the same programme as that of conservative right-winger François Fillon – that is, the programme that the bourgeoisie needs to defend the “competitiveness” and the margins of profit of its companies, in these conditions of capitalist crisis. In short, Macron will declare war on the working class. The organisations of the workers’ movement must prepare for this without delay!
Legislative elections ahead
The matter does not here, however. The legislative elections of 11th and 18th June are not a foregone conclusion. The powerful dynamic created by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Rebellious France movement – which took him to close to 20% in the first round of the presidential election – can develop and grow. Rebellious France must now launch a bold, radical campaign, with a clear strategy for how to win. Its candidates have a good chance of reaching the second round of the legislative elections in a large number of constituencies.
The Socialist Party, on the other hand, will engage in all kinds of alliances and outrageous deals with Macron’s movement, which at the same time will be looking to its right for support. This unsavoury hotchpotch in the centre will open up a significant space on the Left for Melenchon and the Rebellious France movement to occupy.
Rebellious France can also continue to eat into the support base of the National Front (FN). A detailed analysis of the results of the first round show that Mélenchon’s radical campaign could attract a significant number of votes of workers and unemployed people who were appalled by the corruption and impotence of the “government parties” and who might normally vote for FN. This movement can and must continue.
The misery of the “Republican front”
Between the first and second round, the so-called “Republican front” made a lot of noise against the FN. The irony of this was not lost on much of the electorate, as this “front” was essentially made up of political leaders who are themselves personally and directly responsible for the rise of the FN over the past twenty years. Their hypocrisy and cynicism showed no limits as they expressed their “indignation” at Melenchon’s refusal to back Macron in the second round.
The leader of Rebellious France, however, was correct to resist these pressures and not to rally around the swamp of the “Republican front”. This same “front” played into the hands of the FN by giving it the opportunity to present itself as the “one and only enemy of the system”. Yesterday for instance, Marine Le Pen stated that, “The political formations that took the responsibility of electing Mr Macron have discredited themselves and have lost all legitimacy to represent an alternative or even a credible opposition”.
In yesterday’s election, Marine Le Pen won 10.6 million votes – 5.1 million more than her father in May 2002. Furthermore, in 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen only increased his vote by 700,000 in the second round of the presidential elections. This time, Marine Le Pen increased her first round vote by three million votes in the second round. A very successful “Republican front”, indeed!
The leadership of the Communist Party (PCF), which is always diligent to make every possible mistake, called for a vote for Macron on the evening of 23rd April. They explained that immediately after voting for Macron on 7th May they would fight against his policies. But this new “two-stage theory” does not hold up. In just one month’s time, the first round of the legislative elections will see a number of duels between the right-wing En Marche! or Republicans against the FN. If the leaders of the PCF stick to their position on the “Republican front”, then by their own logic they will have to call for a vote for the Right in those constituencies, in order “to block the FN”, once again. This was also the position of the party in the second round of the 2015 regional elections. Basically, the PCF leadership proposes to “fight” the Right…except when it is calling for a vote for the Right!
Fight the Right! Break with capitalism!
The result of last week’s internal consultation of Rebellious France supporters, when the ranks were asked what position the movement should adopt in the second round, showed that the farce of the “Republican front” is rejected by a growing number of young people and workers. The two-thirds of Rebellious France activists who refused to cast a vote for Macron in the second round sent out a strong signal: we do not fight the FN by calling for a vote for right-wing parties.
A serious struggle against the Le Pen and the FN involves mobilising the youth and the workers on the basis of a programme that breaks with capitalism, as it is precisely the crisis of this system that is fueling the FN vote; that, and also the inability of “left” governments in the last twenty years to solve the problems of the masses.
The Left and the labour movement must reconnect with the idea of a revolutionary transformation of society. We from Révolution, defend these ideas and this programme. And we call on all of those who want to assist us in this struggle to join us.
Top image by Michele Limina / World Economic Forum, CC by-NC-SA-2.0