Tuesday, 24 April 2007

LCR clear winners on hard left in French Presidental elections

Voix % Exprimés
M. Olivier BESANCENOT 1 498 835 4,08
Mme Marie-George BUFFET 707 327 1,93
M. Gérard SCHIVARDI 123 711 0,34
M. François BAYROU 6 820 914 18,57
M. José BOVÉ 483 076 1,32
Mme Dominique VOYNET 576 758 1,57
M. Philippe de VILLIERS 818 704 2,23
Mme Ségolène ROYAL 9 501 295 25,87
M. Frédéric NIHOUS 420 775 1,15
M. Jean-Marie LE PEN 3 835 029 10,44
Mme Arlette LAGUILLER 488 119 1,33
M. Nicolas SARKOZY 11 450 302 31,18

Besancenot won 1.5 million votes (4.11%), up from 1.2 million in 2002. http://www.lcr-rouge.org/

Arlette Laguiller, of Lutte Ouvrière, slipped back from 5.7% to just 1.3%, just under half a million votes.
The election was most notable for the relative failure of far-right candidate Jean-Marie le Pen, who surprisingly came second in the 2002 contest. He fell from nearly 17% last time out to just 10.4%.
Undoubtedly, an important blow to the far-left's score was dealt by the desire on the part of most French workers that the Parti Socialiste (social democrat) candidate should get into the second round, and thus avoid a repeat of 2002, when they were faced with a choice between conservative Jacques Chirac and le Pen. That crisis was widely blamed on the splitting of the left vote among numerous candidates. This time, the PS candidate Ségolène Royal (25.8%) did indeed qualify for the second round, where she will face right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy (31.4%).
The collective score of the groups to the left of the PS - if we also factor in the semi-Stalinist PCF (Communist Party), the "Lambertiste" (anti-EU and pseudo-Trotskyist) Gerard Schivardi and anti-globalisation peasant leader José Bové - was about 9%, down from 14% in 2002.
Given the circumstance of a resurgent Parti Socialiste and continuing disunity of Trotskyist forces, the LCR's performance was impressive. Not only did it win more votes than ever - the first occasion on which it had won more votes than Lutte Ouvrière - it ran a strong, visible campaign, its meetings with Besancenot apparently twice as large as in 2002.

Coverage of the elections has been dominated by the two leading candidates – right wing UMP candidate Nicholas Sarkozy and Socialist Party contester Ségolène Royal.

Sarkozy made a name for himself during the 2005 riots in French suburbs when, as interior minister, he launched a disgusting attack on the rioters, calling them “scum”.

He was also responsible for sending riot police into the Sorbonne and other universities to break up last year’s student occupations against the CPE employment law.

Sarkozy has continued this right wing agenda through the election campaign.

Last week he denounced “uncontrolled immigration” into France and argued that young people who commit suicide and paedophiles are genetically programmed to such behaviour.

Tellingly, the Financial Times reported this week that Gordon Brown had “clicked” with Sarkozy when they met in London earlier this year.

Ségolène Royal has pitched her campaign as a break with the old forms of elections – presenting herself as a new type of modern candidate appealing directly to the people.

In reality, Royal is committed to neoliberal policies. Last year she expressed her support for Tony Blair. She has zigzagged throughout the campaign, being forced to talk left at times and at others following Sarkozy’s agenda.


The real backdrop to the elections are the struggles that have shaken the political terrain in France over the last few years.

In May 2005, a referendum saw a majority vote against the EU constitution. The “no” committees united opposition to neoliberalism. Many members and supporters of the Socialist Party voted no, in opposition to their own party leadership.

In autumn 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris spread to many other cities. Hundreds of young people were involved, angry at years of poverty, police repression, racism and unemployment.

In March 2006 protests and strikes defeated the government’s proposed CPE employment law that would have reduced rights for young workers.

These struggles, along with fears that fascist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen could repeat his performance of 2002 and reach the second round of the election, have led significant numbers to register to vote for the first time.

Outside the bankruptcy of Sarkozy and Royal there is a different campaign taking place.

The presidential campaign by Olivier Besancenot, the candidate for the LCR (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire) is expressing the spirit of the resistance of the past few years.

Under the slogan “our lives are worth more than their profits”, Besancenot is drawing in new forces from across France.

Besancenot is a postal worker. He was the youngest ever French presidential candidate when he stood, aged 28, in the 2002 elections winning 1.3 million votes – 4.25 percent.

He is currently touring France speaking at large, young and enthusiastic public rallies, as well as meeting groups of workers in dispute and other campaigners.

Recent campaign meetings include 1,500 in Bordeaux, 500 in Valence – where the meeting was also addressed by workers from the Reynolds pen factory who are fighting redundancy – and 800 in Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

Besancenot also spoke in Corsica for the first time last week, addressing a meeting of 100 in the town of Calvi and 450 in Ajaccio.

It is clear that Besancenot’s campaign is capturing the mood of opposition to neoliberalism and the anger at racism and insecurity felt by many.

In the polls he has been at least two percentage points clear of other left candidates such as Marie-George Buffet of the Communist Party, Lutte Ouvriere’s candidate Arlette Laguiller and anti-globalisation activist José Bové, who is standing as an independent left candidate.

His lead over the Communist Party is significant as it was once the strongest party in France and has long dominated the left.

Statement from Olivier Besancenot

Nearly 1.5 million voters rallied around my candidacy. That's 280,000 more than in 2002.
Despite the pressure to cast a "useful vote" - which during recent weeks has proven to be Segolene Royal's sole programme - more than 4.5% of voters have voted for me. This is real encouragement for the struggles ahead. Thanks to those who have voted for me. Together, we have succeeded in this campaign, apart from our tally of votes, by offering an answer to social problems. For the right to employment, increasing purchasing power and, furthermore, the right to housing - the minimum wage up to 1500 euros a month, a 300 euro pay rise in all salaries [monthly], requisitioning all empty homes, prohibiting redundancies and mounting a struggle against discrimination - so many questions still existent in society and the world of work; so many mobilisations to come to make our voice heard.
Nicolas Sarkozy is ahead, and has qualified to face Segolene Royal in the second round. The right has for five years led a policy of systematic destruction of the social rights we have won, and Sarkozy now wants to inflict MEDEF [French CBI] shock-therapy to French society. That is to say, more inequality, more injustice and fewer rights. Le Pen has been kicked out of the race, which is great news. But Sarkozy has led an extremely reactionary campaign. Running on the terrain of the Front National [Le Pen's party], this man and his programme pose an immediate danger.
No candidate has ownership of the votes [he's won], and everyone is, evidently, free to make their choice on 6th May [the second round]. But for 5 years the LCR has fought the policies of Chirac and his prime ministers in the street and at the ballot box. It's in that vein that I call on you to demonstrate on May 1st in every town in France for the important social policy changes that I have fought for in this campaign, and against the anti-social project of Sarkozy. Against this confident right wing, the second round necessarily has the character of an anti-Sarkozy referendum for all of those who want to resist his politics. On the 6th of May we will be with those who want to stop Sarkozy becoming president. That doesn't mean supporting Segolene Royal, but voting against Nicolas Sarkozy.
Faced with this hard right, the Parti Socialiste and its candidate are not up to the task. Throughout this campaign I have fought for redistribution of wealth. That is not the plan of the PS, which puts itself on the same political territory as the right in accepting neo-liberalism and seeking profits for big business. Even on questions like nationalism and patriotism, the PS has sought to rival the right. That's why the LCR does not support Segolene Royal.
I call upon those who have sympathised with our propositions to work together so we can together creat a force able to fight for them in mobilisation. Whoever is president after the May 6th vote, we must continue to fight neo-liberal policies, and the LCR will continue to work for the greatest unity in the coming struggles. That, whether or not Sarkozy unfortunately wins on May 6th; but equally if Royal is elected, she must face opposition from the left and not only on the right.
We need a new anti-capitalist force. To help, as we have in the last five years, struggle and resistance, in supporting the new political generation which grew up in the mobilisation against the CPE, in the suburbs and in the workplace. The LCR calls on you [to help us] together construct this force, able to fight capitalism and offer the hope that another world is possible.

Statement from Arlette Laguiller

Firstly, I must thank all those who have voted for and supported me for their conscience and their confidence in me. As had been obvious, it is Sarkozy and Royal who will compete in the second round. The fear of seeing Bayrou or Le Pan beating Royal was never seriously entertained, except to aggressively push from the first round the idea of a "useful vote" [for Royal].
As regards the past, I do not regret - far from it, I am proud of it - having been the only candidate to refuse in 2002 to call for a vote for one right-winger over another, and having refused to vote for Chirac; Chirac the ally of Sarkozy. Doing that to defeat Le Pen, who had hardly won many votes in the first round and got through to the second because Jospin [PS], thanks to his politics, had lost two and a half million of his supporters.
Chirac was largely elected with right-wing votes alone. Le Pen had no chance at all of being elected but, now, Sarkozy has plenty of chance to do so. Today Le Pen is still here, and moreover is so via the ideas of Sarkozy, which give Le Pen's a run for his money.
In this year's second round, there is no worthy candidate for the workers. After all, Sarkozy - of course - and Ségolène Royal, no more than him, would not raise their little finger to reslove the biggest problems facing the working class, which means unemployment, continual attacks on quality of life, and the serious crisis in housing. However, I hope with all my heart that Sarkozy is beaten, since his arrogance deserves nothing else, and his programme means nothing but goodies for the bosses, in particular the biggest businesses.
The measures he has proposed are the continuation of the policies of these last five years - the worst government we've had for a long time - that is to say, ramping up the pressure on the poor to give more and more to those who get rich at the expense of the rest of the population.
So I will be voting for Royal, and I call on all voters to do the same. But if I do this, it is simply in solidarity with all those among the masses who say they want "anyone but Sarkozy". I share their desire to defeat Sarkozy, but I however will say to them that Ségolène Royal will not improve the lot of the working class any more than Sarkozy.
Royal is just as much in the camp of capital, in the camp of the exploiters, financiers and those who lay off workers, as Sarkozy - they are good and loyal servants to them. One or the other will do nothing but serve the big bourgeoisie, as they have both done in all the governments they have ever served in. It is their common situation in the camp of the big bosses which makes it impossible that either will resolve the problems of the great mass of the population - as I said before, that means mass unemployment, a serious crisis in housing and a continual reduction of purchasing power.
The results of the first round - if you add up the left-wing and right-wing totals - would lead us to believe that Royal has only a small chance of winning in the second. But it is she who took on such risks! She chose a nothing campaign, looking towards the bosses just as much as towards the masses. Gifts drawn-up for the former, nothing but vague slogans for the latter. A campaign unable to raise enthusiasm among those not seeing social progress, a campaign which relies entirely on the anti-Sarkozy effect but which doesn't want to piss off the bosses.
But despair cannot be enough to raise hope.
So even if I unreservedly call for a vote for Ségolène Royal, I have no illusions in what her, the former ministers and the leaders of the Parti Socialiste will do if they get to power. I stand in absolute solidarity with all those who want to vote for Royal. But I will say to them that they will be quickly, and totally, disappointed, just as they were five years ago with Jospin's government. Ségolène Royal, if she is elected, will not be worse than Sarkozy, but neither will she be better! She may perhaps not take all the measures in favour of the élite that the right is doing at the moment - but under her rule, and even before the five year term is up, we will be seriously disillusioned, as we were with the last Socialist government.
We must impose our main demands upon her with sufficiently strong and united social movements, exactly as we should to Sarkozy. I have said all this in my campaign, but many voters thought that they had to use their vote in the first round for a cause they believed to be "useful". I say that they are fooling themselves. Their first round vote was not worthwhile. In the second round, I hope, it might serve some good to defeat Sarkozy, but it will not get rid of the pro-boss-class policies which either Sarkozy or Royal will apply.
It is however, for the sake of solidarity with the wishes of the - doubtless - majority of the camp of the working class, that which has always been and remains my camp, that I choose to vote for, and call for a vote for, Ségolène Royal.
But I am convinced that all workers must, whoever is elected, as quickly as possible get back onto the terrain of struggle.


Hercule said...

Here's a slightly different pointof view:
29 avril 2007
The vote for radical left candidates in April 22nd’s first round of the French presidential election fell significantly in percentage terms, as left-wing voters rallied massively behind the Socialist Party’s Ségolène Royal – a “moderniser” often compared to Tony Blair – or even voted for François Bayrou, leader of the centrist UDF party. The Trotskyist parties’ combined vote of 5.4% plus the Communist Party’s 1.9% plus José Bové’s 1.3% add up to a little less than 9%. A significant score, certainly, representing nearly two and a half million voters, but well down on the results of 2002.

Bayrou’s surge (he tripled his score from 6% to 18%) was based on several factors. An advocate of free-market principles and a balanced budget, his liberal stance on social and ethical issues contrasts with Sarkozy’s neo-conservatism. He also positioned himself – despite a mediocre record as education minister in a right-wing government – as a born-again reformer with a mission to break the mould of established politics. Finally, many polls suggested that he, and not Royal, had the better chance of defeating Sarkozy if he qualified for the second round run-off. These arguments carried weight even with many previous or potential supporters of radical left or revolutionary candidates.

The wave of voter registration which took place in the wake of far right Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock qualification for the second round of the 2002 presidential election, and the near record turnout of 85 per cent, did not benefit radical candidates. The one positive effect – which all socialists should welcome – is that Le Pen’s share of the vote fell spectacularly (down from 19 % to 10.4%). Despite the increased size of the electorate, he actually received one million fewer votes this time round.

Le Pen’s bitter reaction to his defeat (he had earlier attacked Sarkozy, his main competitor on the right, as the ‘son of a Hungarian immigrant’) should not lull us into a sense of false security. The influence of his ideas has not decreased. On the contrary, as Le Pen himself was in a hurry to point out, they have been absorbed into the mainstream of French politics in the person of Nicolas Sarkozy, the man most French people associate with organising charters to expel undocumented immigrants and advocating a policy of selective immigration based on the needs of the French economy. Another right-wing candidate, Philippe de Villiers, won 2.2% on an anti-European and anti-Muslim platform, meaning that despite Sarkozy’s hard-line on immigration and law and order, 4.6 million French voters (one person in eight) still supported far right and ultra-conservative candidates.

The Socialist candidate Royal obtained 25.9% of the vote. This was higher than any previous socialist challenger since the founding of the Fifth Republic (Mitterand obtained 33% in 1988, but was running for re-election). Though many left-wing voters hesitated right up to the last moment, when it came to putting the voting paper in the urn, they opted for a ‘no-risk’ policy of supporting Royal in order to avoid a repeat of the humiliation of 2002. Royal had also been careful to distinguish herself from the old guard of the Socialist Party (the so-called “elephants”). Many did so with no illusions in her revamped version of reformist socialism, with its hints of (literally) flag-waving nationalism, idealisation of the family and talk of using the army to discipline young offenders. But there can be no doubt that her ideas on personal responsibility, discipline and reconciling workers and employers have had a considerable echo. This election therefore marks a step backward in terms of class consciousness.

While anticapitalist ideas are more widespread in France than in most countries, we should not underestimate the influence of arguments about the necessity for companies to make profits or the impossibility of adopting policies which would reduce the competitiveness of French companies in the world market-place. Left-wing opponents of the European Constitutional Treaty had a significant success in the single-issue referendum in 2005, but it was more difficult this time to convince voters on a whole range of issues from the national debt to pensions reform. Royal herself has moved the Socialist party to the right, dragging with her several ex-leaders of the party’s left-wing. But she was careful to add a very measured dose of radicalism, enabling her to enthuse audiences of up to 20,000 in the later stages of the campaign. The mixture was good enough to carry Royal into the second round and reduce the radical left – with the partial exception of Besancenot – to ineffectiveness.

With the first round in the bag, Royal’s strategists could take radical left-wing support for granted, and angle for the ‘moderate’ vote. The decline in the ‘left of the left’ vote has reinforced the idea that, as Paris newspaper Libération (which older readers will remember was once on the far left) headlined, “there is nothing to the left of the Socialist Party”.

So what of the radicalism which contributed to the victory of the ‘No’ vote in the 2005 referendum? In the housing estates which were the scene of the late 2005 riots and in the older working-class suburbs, there was little sign of resistance to the dominant trend. In Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the most left-wing areas in the country, it was Royal who benefited from the ‘stop Sarkozy’ movement (she doubled the Socialist share of the vote from that of 2002). Meanwhile, most of the white, anti-‘immigrant’ vote, as well as a minority of conservative North African and Black voters, was captured by Sarkozy. José Bové made brave efforts to link up with activists in the deprived areas, and received a warm welcome from local residents, but failed to make an impact, while Laguiller’s support slumped.

For both the CP’s Marie-George Buffet and the Greens’ Dominique Voynet, the election was a disaster. Both parties were part of the left-wing coalition government under François Mitterand, and have difficulty in creating political space for themselves to the left of the Socialist Party. The Greens were first marginalised by an apolitical but charismatic TV personality and environmental campaigner, Nicolas Hulot, who was at one time credited with 15% of the vote in opinion polls. When Hulot decided not to run after the mainstream candidates signed a vague environmental charter, the field should have been wide open for the Greens. Their lacklustre campaign and failure to address the electorate’s concerns over employment, housing and wage levels condemned them to a marginal role (down from 5.2% to 1.6%). They also faced a challenge to their left from José Bové, the well-known global justice, who was in fact supported by a number of leading left members of the Green party.

The Communist Party has been in long-term decline for many years. With 1.9% of the vote compared with 3.4% in 2002, it has now apparently touched bottom. It is no doubt a matter of time before its last remaining bastions in local government fall also, in the majority of cases to the Socialist Party. It can also expect to lose the majority of its deputies in June’s parliamentary elections, unless the Socialist Party comes to its aid – with important consequences for its ability to exist as an independent political force.

No longer a tightly-controlled monolith, the CP has shown a readiness to adapt to changes in the form and nature of the social movements. Its members often still form the backbone of union branches, and many play an important role in social protests. However, “the Party” has no coherent strategy. Neither revolutionary nor ‘social liberal’, its leading group is forced to slalom between competing factions, some calling for a return to go-it-alone party-building, others advocating a long-term alliance with the Socialist Party, with yet others calling for more openness, a greater involvement in the global justice and social movements and cooperation with the less sectarian elements on the revolutionary left. One group even defied violent recriminations from party loyalists and campaigned for José Bové. For many of its numerous elected officials (regional and local councillors, mayors and members of parliament), however, the main priority is getting re-elected, involving compromises and deals with the Socialist Party in particular as well as a heavy involvement in the details of local government. The failure of Buffet to stem the party’s decline will no doubt accelerate these centrifugal tendencies.

The presidential election is not the easiest for radical left candidates. Nevertheless, successful campaigns have been waged by Trotskyist candidates in the past, with both Arlette Laguiller of Lutte Ouvrière and Olivier Besancenot of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire having a considerable impact in recent times – most notably in 2002 when one voter in ten supported a revolutionary socialist candidate. In 2007, the figure was one in twenty.

The LCR’s Olivier Besancenot emerged from the election with his reputation intact, and a strong base from which to build a ‘new anticapitalist force’ – the LCR’s avowed objective. The LCR is now the principal force to the left of the Socialist Party, and Besancenot a favourite of the media (he is a talented and popular public speaker and debater). We should not, however, allow this ‘success’ to obscure the general pattern. The LCR’s main, and not inconsiderable, achievement was to maintain its share of the vote, attracting new voters along the way as a result of the high turnout.

With 4.1% of the vote (slightly down, it should be said, on that of 2002), a mere handful of local councillors and an estimated membership in the region of 3,000, the LCR is a tiny force with an experienced leadership and a young, talented and media-friendly candidate. To improvise on an image invented by a French blogger, Besancenot is the king of the garden gnomes, compared with the juggernaut of the Socialist Party and even the Communist Party, with its thousands of local councillors and mayors and network of experienced trade union militants.

The danger in the present situation is that the leadership of the LCR will conclude from its (very relative) success that its policy of shunning the left-wing ‘unitary committees’ (collectifs unitaires) which sprang up during and following the 2005 referendum campaign was the right one. It is therefore correct for Alex Callinicos of the SWP (GB) to write in Socialist Worker (28th April 2007) that “A heavy responsibility rests on the LCR to overcome the political fragmentation to the left of the Socialist Party and to create a powerful and united radical left” – a remark probably intended as a diplomatically-worded criticism of the failure of the LCR leadership to assume such a responsibility in the recent past. Callinicos’ off-hand remark “But that is a task for the future” rather lets the LCR leadership off the hook, however.

Officially, the LCR, with the exception of an ultra-sectarian minority, has been committed to building a new anticapitalist force for some time, and Besancenot repeated the commitment in his first post-election statement – a rather cheeky proposal given his organisation’s catastrophic role in the collapse of discussions to find a common candidate of the radical left.

The Ligue, however, with its members divided several ways on the question, has always been vague about what form such a ‘new anticapitalist force’ could take. For some, the only possibility of unity is that between revolutionary organisations like the LCR and Lutte Ouvrière. For others, the way forward is simply to continue building the Ligue in order to impose its hegemony on the rest of the left (the leadership group around Alain Krivine is particularly obsessed with outdoing the Communist Party). For this to work, however, it would require breaking numerous habits such as failing to take recruitment seriously, making inordinate demands on members’ time and money, preferring endless internal debates (often leading nowhere) to holding open meetings, not selling or even reading the party’s weekly paper, dodging ‘sensitive’ issues etc.

If past practice is anything to go by, the prospects of the Ligue breaking with its well-established routine are not good. In the short term, Besancenot’s 4.1% score, personal popularity and high media profile will certainly encourage sectarian tendencies within the leadership and the majority of members. Although most Ligue militants would be surprised by the idea, the word ‘conservative’ springs into mind to describe typical party members’ reactions to suggestions that what is needed is a radical change in methods and a daring strategy to unify the radical left. Making a real political breakthrough, comrades, means taking risks.

Over the last eighteen months, the LCR majority has rejected all concrete initiatives to build the new anticapitalist force, on the grounds that more political ‘clarification’ is needed or that ‘conditions are not ready’. The ‘unitary’ minority fought strongly and publicly against this line, only to cave in in the last weeks before the election – with a handful of exceptions who either boycotted Besancenot’s campaign or actively worked for José Bové.

Of course, it is always possible to find reasons why revolutionaries should not collaborate with people who in various degrees have reformist illusions. (Ironically, the Ligue itself has contributed to blurring the issues by distancing itself from Marxist ideas on the State and the revolutionary party.)

Constantly warning members of the Collectifs unitaires against the dangers of ‘opportunism’ – often in an insensitive way – while pursuing an electoral agenda of its own did not in practice encourage political clarification. Rather, it led to justified accusations of duplicity and encouraged many rank-and-file activists to reject revolutionary politics as ‘sectarian’. If that is the attitude members of a revolutionary party take, it was said, then there must be something wrong with the very nature of a revolutionary party – or indeed with political parties in general. In this sense, the Ligue’s policy has, so far at least, been a hindrance rather than a help to building a radical left alternative. And that is putting it mildly.

The attitude of the LCR majority has been theorised by saying that there is a fundamental dividing line between ‘antiliberals’ and ‘anticapitalists’ which makes it impossible to work out a common political strategy other than in exceptional circumstances.

Here it is necessary to explain the terminology associated with political differences on the French left. ‘Antiliberal’ in France refers to opponents of the free market, i.e. economic liberalism, who do not consider that it is necessary or possible (or in some cases) desirable to totally transform the capitalist system. Although ‘antiliberals’ are often more interested in reforms than in a total transformation of capitalism, they are usually active in grassroots movements rather than being political reformists-from-above of the British Labour Party or French Socialist Party type. Many ‘antiliberals’ are members of, or influenced by, such groups as ATTAC or the Fondation Copernic, the radical think-tank. Although ‘reformist’ in a Marxist sense, they are generally suspicious of the Socialist Party, especially its ‘social liberal’ (i.e. pro-market) right wing. There are also, of course, ‘antiliberals’ in the Socialist Party, such as the left group around Jean-Luc Mélenchon which campaigned for a ‘No’ vote in the European referendum. The term ‘anticapitalist’ obviously refers to people who wish to abolish capitalism, without necessarily having a fully-rounded socialist point of view.

My point here is that the distinction between ‘antiliberals’ and ‘anticapitalists’, while real, is not helpful in terms of building an alternative to reformist (or ex-reformist) parties like the Socialist Party. Not only are the lines between the two groups not fixed, but many militant ‘antiliberals’ are in practice more radical and more activist than ‘anticapitalists’ with a more developed theoretical understanding of the system. Better ‘antiliberalism from below’, as it were, than ‘armchair anticapitalism’.

For the LCR, then, unity of the ‘antiliberal’ and ‘anticapitalist’ Left was desirable and indeed possible during the European referendum campaign, in the fight against Sarkozy and naturally in day-to-day struggles. Building a new political movement of the radical left, however, will have to wait until, presumably, the rest of the movement accepts the superiority of the LCR’s ideas. Or at least until ‘antiliberals’ have been converted into authentic ‘anticapitalists’. The method is similar, even if the dividing line is different, to that of Lutte Ouvrière, for whom revolutionaries should not participate in ‘anticapitalist’ movements if the latter do not base themselves on consistently ‘revolutionary’ positions. It is a fundamentally negative and counter-productive strategy.

There are basic flaws in the LCR’s position, of course – in particular the failure to recognise that political consciousness is not static. Not to mention the awkward fact that the LCR’s electoral propaganda is (correctly) based on radical reformist demands, not on distinguishing ‘antiliberalism’ from ‘anticapitalism’. For most voters the difference between Besancenot and Royal or the CP’s Buffet is not that he wants to overthrow the capitalist system (something which most TV viewers are probably not aware of) but that he is a more consistent fighter for workers’ rights and is not afraid to tell uncomfortable truths about the Socialists’ record in government. There was and is no fundamental reason why anticapitalist campaigners, activists from the social movements or from ATTAC, trade unionists, revolutionaries, left Socialists, left Greens, dissident Communists, gay and feminist militants, anti-racists, immigrants’ and community groups and others cannot agree at least on a common electoral strategy. This is what the Bové campaign, hurriedly improvised and seriously flawed as it was, at least tried to demonstrate.

Saint-Denis, France
April 28th 2007

John Mullen said...

The main problem for the Left is that the radical Left as a whole lost two million votes compared to 2002, though there were three million more voters. Though Besancenot did better than the others, the news is pretty bad.

For a different marxist view, you may see my piece at

John Mullen
Agen France