The first round of the French presidential elections have been won by a neoliberal and a far-right nationalist. Emmanuel Macron and Marline Le Pen will face each other in the final battle of the French presidency. Macron is a former right-wing member of the Socialist Party (PS), who broke with the social democrats. Le Pen is the leader of the far-right: National Front, a xenophobic nationalist party that plays on the fear of foreigners (Muslims). The final round will be between this right-wing ex-social democrat and the leader of French nationalism. Revolutionary socialists will not support either of them. We call for massive rejection of both Macron’s neoliberalism and Le Pen’s ethnic nationalism!
What makes this first round special is that the candidates of the big two failed to get into the second round. Traditionally a social democratic candidate from the Socialist Party (PS) faces a conservative candidate from the Republicans, the new name of the former Union for a Popular Movement since 2015. French conservatives have the tendency to change their name when they become too unpopular. Unlike the social democrats, there have been many parties that served as a vehicle for the French ruling class. It is true that both the Socialist Party and the current Republicans are seen as the parties of the bourgeoisie. That neither of their candidates made it into the final round, proofs the deep distrust voters have towards establishment politicians!
Emmanuel Macron maybe the next president of France. Why? Because the defeated social democrats will call for a vote on him. All anti-nationalist French parties will call for a vote on this former minister in the government of president Hollande. Macron openly says he supports the dictatorship of capitalism, the free trade deals with America and Canada and he loves the European Union. His victory can be explained by the fact that he is seen as a outsider and not part of the rotten political establishment, which is ironic because he supported the politics of the ruling class. The political left-wing in this election was deeply divided between three leftist candidates. Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Left Party is the most popular, but his ideas are not true socialist. Although progressive and classic social democratic, he does not call for a socialist republic in France. The other two leftist candidates are more revolutionary in nature. But the radical left has been marginalized because of their inability to unite in a party for working class people. Still the campaign of Mélenchon was powerful enough to give him more votes compared to the candidate of the PS!
Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) and Nathalie Arthaud of Workers Struggle (LO) are called the hard left. The NPA was born in 2009 in a attempt to unite the revolutionary left into a stronger force. This project unfortunate failed as no clear program was drafted. Many revolutionaries who joined the NPA started to leave in bitter disillusion over the inability of the leadership to build a socialist alternative. Poutou is a good working class politician and would have been a true socialist president. But there is no real working class party behind him. The NPA is in fact the old Revolutionary Communist League under a new name!
Nathalie Arthau of Workers Struggle (LO) is running for the second time. Her political party maybe revolutionary socialist, but it is rather small and sectarian in nature. Both the NPA and LO failed to address new layers of workers and young people for revolutionary socialism. Only Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s moderate socialist program was able to rally working class voters. But in the end it was not enough. This however does not mean that there is no potential for a socialist alternative. Mélenchon won 19,6% of the votes, the best result for a true leftist candidate in France. Had his program been more radical socialist and if the NPA and LO had called for a united vote on him, he could have entered the final round against Emmanuel Macron. With clear leftist rhetoric against the babarity that is capitalism, Jean-Luc Mélenchon would have defeated the former PS minister. Then France would have a true leftist president!
Marine Le Pen is the leader of the far-right National Front. She stands on ethnic nationalism, rejection of minorities (Muslims) and false populism. Like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands or Donald Trump in the USA, Le Pen plays on the fear of radical Islamism. Her solutions are simple, discrimination and limit democratic rights for Muslims. Her far-right party wants to attack workers with a Islamic background and their religion, all in the name of ”protecting French secularism”. Radical Islam grows because of racism towards working class Muslims. Many young people with parents from the middle east, feel that they are not wanted in their own country. Seeing the rejection of French society because they are Muslim, they are easy prey for radical Islamist forces. These forces work on the internet, spreading Jihad and hatred of the western world. Their propaganda works because of people like Marine Le Pen, who openly call for more discrimination against Muslims!
At the same time Le Pen wants to whitewash the crimes of France. She does not want to accept that her almighty French Republic was a brutal imperialist state. That it took African and Asian lands by force. No, Marine Le Pen loves the old French empires. She recently said that France was not to blame for the what happened on ”Vel d’Hiv”. This name stands for the date on which French police forces started with mass arrests of Jews in occupied Paris, code named: Opération Vent printanier. The police officers were working for the French government in Vichy, the collaborationist regime set up in 1940. Until the 1990’s, many political leaders refused to accept that France was to blame. It does not hide that the mass arrests were conducted by police and government officials of the French Republic!
In radical Islam, many Muslim youth are finding an identity. French society failed them and so they turn inward towards religious extremism. Islamism is a cancer that spreads because of racism by right-wing governments and populists like Trump, Wilders and Le Pen. It draws on young people who feel rejected by western societies because of their skin color and religion. Poverty is also a major reason why radical Islam is finding new prey. Many workers from Algeria and Tunisia are living in poor neighborhoods and are struggling against rising poverty. Revolutionary socialists have called for unity of all workers from both Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular backgrounds. This unity grows more difficult now that right-wing nationalism grows among ethnic white French. It is true that there is outright rejection of the Socialist Party and Republicans. But voting for people like Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen, will not improve the living-standards of working class families.
The next round will be a battle between hardcore nationalism and the none-nationalist capitalist establishment. Marine Le Pen will abuse the massive anger of poor white workers to distract them from her own pro-capitalist ideology. Yes, the National Front might oppose neoliberalism and international capitalism, but they love French capitalists and wish to protect French capitalism against ”foreign multinationals”. Also we must not forget that in the 1980’s, the nationalists were promoters of neoliberalism under Marine’s father. Jean Marie Le Pen called for privatizations and deregulation to fight what he called the ”communist danger” from both the Socialist Party and French Communist Party. Today the National Front is calling for protectionism!
Political leftist parties like the Left Party, French Communist Party (PCF), the New Anticapitalist Party and Workers Struggle have failed to rally working class people to their side. The Left Party and PCF are in fact too moderate and lack a clear revolutionary ideology. They even have called on workers to vote for PS candidates in the second round of the presidential elections. Will the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the communist party now rally behind Emmanuel Macron? Will they call for a vote on a right-wing neoliberal who openly expresses his love for capitalism and trade deals like TTIP and CETA? The National Front is not loved by the capitalist establishment for their protectionism and nationalism. So it become more and more clear that with the support from moderate socialists, social democrats, conservatives, neoliberals and establishment figures, Macron has a clear shot at the presidency. But Marline Le Pen can still defeat him if she is able to win working class voters!
Whatever president is elected, he or she will not serve the working class. Capitalism will not be limited or harmed. This is why the struggle against must not stop at the ballot. Protests and strikes against austerity and capitalist barbarism need to continue. In the end what truly matters is that French workers need a party for themselves that fights for a society in which political and economic power does not lay with a small minority of capitalists. Anti-capitalism used to be very strong in France. But because the radical left-wing failed to unite, they were easy defeated by social democracy and conservatism. The PS could play on its former status as a workers party. This is why social democracy remained strong in France. Had the French Communist Party not degenerated into this moderate socialist clubhouse, it could have out-rivaled the Socialist Party as it once did!