Sunday, May 6, 2012

France: Jean-Luc Melenchon and the Left Front, a dynamic, but to where?

With the second round of French presidential elections occurring and much of the discussion of the elections by the Anglophone left focusing on the performance of Jean-Luc Melenchon and the Front de Gauche I thought it would be helpful to air the views of the French far-left most particularly the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste. Below is a rough translation of an article that appearred in the the NPA's Tout est à nous! in April in the wake of the first round of the presidential elections. I will be posting a translation of an article on the NPA's election campaign soon.

Jean-Luc Melenchon and the Left Front, a dynamic, but to where?
Manu Bichindaritz
Tout est à nous!
26 April 2012

With 11.11% of the votes, the candidate of the Front de Gauche registered a clearly improved result compared to the Parti Communiste Francais (PCF) results in previous presidential elections. It contributes to embodying the will for real change. However, the contradictions of the work of political regroupment have not disappeared and could even increase after a mixed result achieved by the militants of the FG.

Jean-Luc Melenchon final ballot result was below the result that had been predicted in polls for several weeks, between 12 to 15%. Moreover, the Left Front has failed to "put behind him" the far-right candidate, as its representatives had raised in the last weeks of campaigning. Yet the score is far from being a failure. Mélenchon surpassed by a factor of six the result achieved by Marie-George Buffet, the PCF candidate, in 2007. He managed to gather about his candidacy a large proportion of the votes of the radical left to occupy the space to the left of the Parti Socialiste (PS).  

With our bid and that of Nathalie Arthaud for Lutte Ouvrière (LO), this space results in 13, 23%. Roughly the same level as in 2002 but almost four points higher than in 2007. There is a little push to the left of the PS, but also a political shift towards anti-liberal forces of the FG. 

You can see clearly from the dynamics that they were able to embody the left of the PS, thus expressing a real distrust [in the politics of the PS ]if not a distrust of the socialist candidate. But we must also appreciate the programmatic limits, even in retrospect, of this transfer of votes from the extreme left to the PCF and the Parti de Gauche. Beyond an often radical discourse, Mélenchon was located in a permanent ambiguity with respect to institutions. In particular, references to the nation or the sovereignty of the Republic, its rejection of any denunciation of French imperialism have accompanied its advancement of proposals such as measures like increasing the after tax minimum wage to 1,700 euros. 

The Left Front has worked during the campaign to avoid the thorny question of the relationship with the Socialist Party, especially in view of a return of it to power. On this issue, the campaign needs to be judged both on the statements of the candidate "I will not go into a government that I don't chair myself ..." and the more direct statements of the PCF leadership, including most recently by Pierre Laurent, PCF National Secretary, setting the objective to mobilize the Left Front for legislative elections "to elect a leftist majority in the National Assembly, with the maximum of deputies of the Left Front." 

One thing is certain: more or less clearly stated, the candidate Mélenchon and various spokespersons, at the end of the presidential election campaign the Left Front is not positioned, in the way they wanted,  to have ministers in a future government. They had sought to force Francois Hollande to the left under the pressure of a high score of Mélenchon, and in the near future for a possible parliamentary majority including all or part of the FG. 

It is now quite possible that the lower election result,  the leaders and activists of the Left Front would have liked at least around 15%, will reopen the debate about the direction and strategy of political regroupment, particularly in relation to the Socialist Party and institutions. The NPA’s call to the FG, as to LO and all of the social left is that is time to build a united response to the austerity and prepare a left opposition to Hollande. Is the FG ready?


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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