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What Significance and Implications do the Parliamentary Elections in France have for the French and International Proletariat ?

(June 30th 2017)

The second round of the French Parliamentary Elections has ended an entire year of the electoral campaign during which few people could have imagined the outcome and the degree of transformation, of upheaval to tell the truth, of the political apparatus which has occurred. This “revolution”, the name of the new President Emmanuel Macron’s book presented as his program, is the latest electoral surprise that has taken place in the main imperialist powers since June 2016, with the British referendum for the Brexit and Trump’s election in November. Rather than believe in pure “chance”, these political shocks demand a reflection to determine the causes and the link which relates them and to draw the implications for the proletariat and its class fight. Evidently, the historical situation is not the same with the prolongation of the effects of the 2008 economic crisis and the sharpening of the imperialist rivalries and wars which ensue from the former, in Syria in particular, and of which the terrorist attacks in the core of Europe, particularly in France and Paris beginning in January 2015, are an essential component and mark.

The reflection we present here comes within the same framework of analysis of the situation that we had already put forwards with our communiqué French Presidential Election : Mélenchon and the Radical Left Prepare to Paralyze the Working Class Fightback against the Coming Government’s Attacks (http://www.igcl.org/French-Presidential-Election). One can also refer to the statement (in French) of the PCI-Programme communiste, Le Prolétaire #524 with which we share the rejection of the idea according to which the ruling class is tending to lose control of its political game with the increase in the vote for the so-called “populists” of the extreme right [1]. This thesis that the media have delivered during the French electoral campaign has also served, and continues to serve, as an explanation for the Brexit and Trump’s election. It is not only erroneous but also dangerous from the point of view of the proletariat because it fosters the belief in a political weakening of the bourgeoisie while the political changes under way within the ruling classes are on the contrary the expressions and moments of adaptation and reinforcement of their state political apparatus, in particular against the proletariat.

Mélenchon : A Radical Left to Control and Sabotage the Working Class Reactions to the Massive Attacks Announced by Macron’s Government

The election of 308 pro-Macron deputies and the disintegration of the opposition into a multitude of parliamentary groups in the French national assembly have definitively extinguished the traditional political apparatus of the French bourgeoisie which had prevailed since… 1958. This organization alternated to power the classical right party coming from Gaullism (called today Les Républicains) and the Socialist Party. But above all, that is from the working class point of view, the important aspect is the new president’s and his government’s intention to go further still in the attacks against the proletariat in France by pursuing the “liberalization of the labour market” that the 2016 El Khomri law had already started, and this as quickly as possible. To do so, the setting up of a parliamentary majority goes along with the emergence of a radical left opposition with the election of 17 deputies of the La France Insoumise, France Unbowed, (LFI) of Mélenchon – plus ten of the French Communist Party (PCF) – with which some deputies of the Socialist Party are likely to ally. In fact, what is being set up is a pincer manoeuvre meant to facilitate the attack on the living and working conditions of the proletariat. On one side a government striking hard and quick. And on the other a political left opposition with a radical discourse which aims to relay and complete at the political level the union control and sabotage of the inescapable working class reactions. The official dealings between the government and the unions have already begun. Besides this, the day after Macron’s victory, May 9th, but also June 19th after the second round of the Parliamentary election, the newly set up Social Front, which regroups mainly radical union sections of the CGT and the Sud-Solidaire union as well as some others, had already called for street demonstrations. For his part, Mélenchon did not wait more than one hour and a half the very night of the elections to play his part of main radical political opponent of the government. He claimed the 61.5% of the electorate [2] who either abstained or cast blank votes during the second round of the legislative election and “offered” a political outlet, the referendum, for the future mobilization:

“ The overwhelming abstention which was expressed today has an offensive political significance. Our people have entered into a kind of civic general strike in this election. In this abstention, I see an available energy if we know how to call on it to fight through the forms and the words which will suit the possibilities of everyone. It is La France Insoumise [the parliamentary group at the Assembly, editor’s note] which will call on the country in the given moment to a social resistance and I inform the new power that not a single metre of the terrain of social rights will be ceded without struggle. The bloated majority [of Emmanuel Macron’s majority] has not the legitimacy to commit the social coup d’état which is prepared, that is the destruction of the whole social public order by the abolition of the Labour Law. All the contrary, it is the most total resistance which is legitimate and that is why I say that if the new power believes it is really a necessity for the country and that it corresponds with its interest, then it should proceed through the most democratic path which is in its power, that is that the French people be consulted by referendum whether they want, yes or no, what this minority intends to impose on it " (Mélenchon’s declaration the night of the elections, La Tribune, Swiss newspaper, June 19th 2017 [3], translated by us. We did not find the interview text in The Guardian).

He appropriates the unheard level of abstention and turns it to his own utilization by declaring it as being a “civic strike”, raising the slogan and demand for a referendum. This already shows the obvious willingness to participate in the work of division and sabotage of the struggles that the unions are going to try provoke from next September with their “unions’ days of action”. It is precisely to derail the future class mobilization against the state and capitalism onto the democratic and state terrain through the slogan of a referendum, a genuine trap and guarantee of bitter defeat if the workers yield to it. By the way, it matters to point out that he succeeds in taking over the terms of “strike” and “abstention” to void them of their working class nature and meaning. Only the radical capitalist left can allow such a diversion of the language while the extreme right is totally incapable, or at least would not be credible on this ground. This is another reason why, in the present period, the danger for the proletariat does not lie in the so-called “populism” of the extreme right (even though numerous workers among the less conscious and less militant but more racist and chauvinist vote for it) but actually in the capacity of the so-called radical left to occupy the terrain and appropriate the language of the working class mobilizations where the active forces and most conscious fractions of the proletariat – the ones which will drag along the others – express themselves.

The bourgeoisie thus lays its cards on the table, without waiting until after the summer holidays, to mark out and lock, even quicker than the government decrees [ordonnances] [4], the political ground of the class confrontation and of the future possible working class mobilization. The proletariat and the genuine revolutionaries are warned.

Adaptation and Control by the French Bourgeoisie of its Political System

According to us, the parliamentary elections have thus confirmed and increased the political significance of the Presidential elections of May. The shake-up of the political apparatus of the French bourgeoisie responds to its needs faced with political personnel and parties which no longer correspond to the present time. This is true faced with the proletariat and the necessity to return to a competitiveness and a renewal of the productive apparatus of French capital which essentially requires greater exploitation and depreciation of the labour force.

It is also true at the international level. Before the German elections next September, the choice of the most pro-European of the presidential candidates actually opens the possibility of a restart of the German-French alliance [5] aiming to pull the European Union in its wake. Macron’s election is thus one of the first political responses of one of the main European ruling classes, following the results of the last national elections in the Netherlands and Austria, to the British Brexit and to the hostile anti-European and anti-German declarations of Trump. The exacerbation of the economic dead-end of capitalism and of its contradictions stirs economic and trade competition and, consequently, the imperialist rivalries: a growing polarization between the two sides of the Atlantic which is promises to become central on the international scene, is under way. The recent setting up by the EU of a Defence European Funds with 500 millions euros to enable “the Union to equip itself with the most modern weapons without depending on the United States nor anyone else. In the medium term, it is towards a common armament industry, on the Airbus model, that the Europeans are marching and the effects of this effort will be multiple” (Bernard Guetta, radio France Inter [6]) is just its last practical expression.

Faced with these objective historical necessities, the French bourgeoisie has "pulled it off" and shown great political management (which is not always the case). Thus it provided an example for all of the ruling classes, particularly the European ones. Therein lies the international impact of Macron’s coming to power. Far from the discourses before the elections of an uncontrolled danger of the so-called populism of the extreme right – as if an important percentage of “blue collar” workers voting for an authoritarian right was something new and irrational [7] and illustrated a “losing of grips” on the part of the bourgeoisie – the capitalist class (above all in the central countries of capitalism) knows very well how to build on the expressions of the contradictions of its system, economic crisis in particular, to use them and turn them against the proletariat at the economic as well as political level.

However, it is not a question of believing in a meeting of the general staff in the governmental Palaces or belonging to any “think tank” which would govern and dictate its willingness in a Machiavellian plan, indeed a plot. The Marxist theory, that is the proletariat’s revolutionary theory, the method of historical materialism, enables us to understand how the objective necessity due to the worsening of capitalism’s contradictions constrains each national capital to take such or such decision to be able to survive on the imperialist scene and to impose upon the proletariat an ever greater level of exploitation. Still it is necessary that it can also find the political personnel that is capable of implementing the adaptation of the state policies and apparatus to the new situations; that is to the new contradictions of all kinds and importance that ensue from these. As any contradictory process, the choice of political staff or decisions can turn out not to be the best possible – we can discuss it in the case of Trump’s choice and the Brexit decision – but it is precisely peculiar to the most experienced and powerful bourgeoisies to tend to be able to “deal with it” and to turn the effects of weakness that some choices may present into a new strength.

Faced with Trump, the Restart of the European Union Goes Through the Confrontation with the Proletariat in France

To defend its place as power at the international, that is imperialist, level France can only do so in alliance with Germany and in the framework of the European Union – indeed around a “hard core” of it. The seriousness of the economic dead-end since the 2008 crisis and the imperialist imperatives which ensue from it (Trump, Brexit, etc.) compel it to do so. Whether it is totally conscious of it or not; whether fractions within its ranks are conscious or not of it. The needs of capital dictate their law and impose themselves. In order to assume the development of a solid and active alliance with Germany and Europe, the French ruling class cannot avoid a confrontation and “levelling” of the conditions of exploitation of its national proletariat to that required by the international trade competition [8].

As damaged as they are already in regards to the past, the drastic reduction of the living and working conditions of the proletarians in France – the so-called “liberalization of the labour market” – to the level of the European proletariat, German in particular, is today an imperative not only to face the economic crisis but also the imperialist necessities: that is for the rise of a European imperialist pole around Germany capable of competing on the imperialist scene, in particular at the military and diplomatic levels. For its part, the German bourgeoisie is conscious that a weakened France would accordingly diminish the expression of its imperialist interests, independently of the fact that French capitalism would better compete with it at the trade level, because it would limit the emergence and the dynamic of a European pole around it. This is why it attaches so much importance to the goal of the French ruling class to realize “the structural reforms” of its labour market. It is the European proletariat which will pay for the first 500 million euros for the European Defence Funds as well as the additional funds which will follow to develop the planned weapons industry. This is why it matters that the proletariat in France pays to the level of the rest of the European proletariat.

Today, economic crisis and imperialist war (as perspective and dynamic towards the generalized imperialist war) come directly to impact the living conditions of the international proletariat. The French political situation following the elections which were a success for the bourgeoisie, nevertheless is a concrete, practical illustration of the historical class contradiction between capital and labour, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, such as they express themselves in the present historical situation.

Trump and the Brexit Don’t Express a Crisis of the American and British Bourgeoisies

If it is clear today since Macron’s election that the French ruling class is not passing through a crisis of its political system, it apparently goes differently for the British and American cases. At least if we believe the media of all countries: the English bourgeoisie would be fully lost with the Brexit and the American one would not know how to get rid of the dangerous clown Trump. But whatever is the degree of division of the American ruling class faced with the election of Trump, his warlike and provocative discourse basically corresponds to the situation of historical weakening of the United States at the economic and imperialist levels which drives them straight forward to be the main actor of the march towards generalized imperialist war.

“Certainly, the political personnel and background can play a role within the strategic political framework of a government. They can take diverse decisions on questions of foreign and economic policies according to internal and external situations but also according to personal inclinations coming from previous political positioning. But it is the pressure of the economic conditions of the life of capital which dictates the basic choices, the strategies to follow, the better recipes to face its crisis and support at any cost the needs of valorization whether on the internal (…) or international front (…). It is also certain that one can make a mistake of interpretation of the necessities of capital and set up erroneous economic policies and counter-productive international strategies. But it nevertheless remains that nobody, not even a President or a government worth its name and responsible for the indispensable source of profit, cannot detach from the law of life and survival of capital. And to look at it, the difference between Obama and the new Trump administration, beyond the obvious differences of style and communication, is not so deep: in both cases, the two administrations serve American imperialism in regards to the two historical phases that, to simplify the discourse, we define as ’before and after the subprimes crisis’”( Guerra in Siria e riposizionamenti imperialistici, Prometeo #17, theoretical journal of the PCint-Battaglia Comunista, the Italian group of the Internationalist Communist Tendency [9], translated by us)

The decision of the Brexit which the British bourgeoisie could easily come back on with, for instance, a new referendum, as France and the Netherlands did after the victory of the “No” to the 2005 referendum on the Rome treaty, is on the contrary taken in charge by the main political parties despite the immediate difficulties of all kinds. Fundamentally, from the point of view of the historical imperialist interests of the British capitalism, this corresponds to its long-time opposition to a continental European power and its long-time alliance since World War 1, and even more since the 2nd, with North-American imperialism. As such, the Brexit expresses the present exacerbation of the historical imperialist antagonism between Europe and North America reopened since the collapse of the USSR. And in its turn, contradictory process too, it comes to exacerbate even more this antagonism between the two sides of the Atlantic. In the final analysis, of course it is the inability of capitalism to overcome the 2008 crisis and its consequencies, the “stagnation” which still prevails and the ceaselessly growing generalized debt , as immediate expressions of the insuperable economic contradictions of capitalism, which indirectly impose its rule and exacerbate the class and imperialist contradictions.

Far from being politically weakened in front of the working class, the main world ruling classes all prepare to confront even more violently their own proletariat to, firstly, ensure their economic, political and military ranks internationally, that is at the level of imperialist rivalries; and in secondly to engage a fight to the death, massive and frontal, against the proletariat to inflict on it bloody defeats which would open the door to generalized imperialist war. To this end, they equip themselves more or less easily, because this puts into question particular interests of some economic and political fractions of the ruling class, with political tools and systems adapted as well as they can be.

For the proletariat and the revolutionaries, to believe that the most experienced and powerful bourgeoisies of the world are in political crisis represents a danger: to delude themselves about the potentialities of the proletariat and the easiness of the class fight, even the inevitably of its final victory. The historical experience, in particular in 1918-1919 in Germany, teaches us that this illusion can quickly turn into tragedy and catastrophe. The connected thread for the understanding of the evolution of the situations is not in the immediate following of the economic crisis, in its ups and downs, in the open recession or recovery for instance, but in the process leading to the evolution of the relation of forces between the classes which, in the last instance (and not directly or mechanically) is determined by the crisis. For instance, to believe that the inability of the bourgeoisie to overcome the effects of the 2008 crisis would provoke mechanically a crisis of the political systems of the main bourgeoisies of the world, in particular through the uncontrolled emergence of fascistic extreme right, seems to us erroneous and dangerous.

The stakes are clear, at least for the most militant and conscious proletarians and the revolutionaries. It is up to them to assume these inescapable confrontations through their own preparation starting today. The former by gathering in struggle or mobilization committees, in particular in the struggles, to be able to fight in a collective and organized manner against the unions’ sabotages and the political traps that the radical lefts, such as Mélenchon in France, will set for them. The latter, the revolutionaries, by looking to regroup, not formally in itself, but by assuming the debates and the political confrontations around the revolutionary groups in general, and communist in particular, and by participating in their interventions in the class struggles, including the struggle and mobilization committees. Both have to get closer in the struggles to be able to join and unite their efforts. Without regroupment and organization of the different minorities – minorities which constitute in fact the “political vanguard” – both to lead the immediate fights in the struggles and to lead the political and even theoretical fights for the preparation of the class political party which is indispensable for the historical united confrontation against the capitalist states, the international proletariat will let itself be dragged and deceived by “the Mélenchons” and others who are going to flourish almost everywhere with the universal development of massive confrontations between the classes.

Such is also the international significance of the result of the French elections.

The IGCL, June 30st 2017

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Notes:

[1. « The electoral rise then the victory of Macron cannot be attributed to the media as if it were a fashion of the day, a kind of temporary passion towards a young man. Beyond the contingencies and the diverse events, they are explained by the wear, the lost of efficiency, in a word the growing inability of the “old politics”, as the Macronists say, to respond to the general needs of French capitalism” (Bilan des élections présidentielles : recomposition du théâtre politique bourgeois pour mieux défendre le capitalisme - Balance-sheet of the presidential elections: reorganization of the bourgeois political theater to better defend capitalism, Le Prolétaire #524, www.pcint.org).

[2. By the way, we can point out that Macron’s parliamentary majority of 308 deputies of 577, that is 53% of them, has been elected with 16.5% of the electorate (and without taking into account the estimated 10% of the French “citizens” who are not registered to vote and thus are not part of this electorate).

[4. To avoid a parliamentary debate which would last months and thus allow time for working class mobilization, Macron has decided to decree the new law by “ordonnances” which means that the Parliament “allows” the government to change the labour law by decree which can be applied rapidly [ndt].

[5. “On trade, as well as on defence, the Union is developing. It is due to the international uncertainties created by Donald Trump, the Middle East and Vladimir Putin as well as the national leaders’ willingness to bridge the gap which has widened between the Europeans and Europe. Yes, the Union is on a new start and this is so clear that Ms Merkel has just said she was open to the French ideas of reinforcement of the Euro zone with the setting up of a Finance Minister and a common budget which will enable it to oversee structural investments. She has not explained further but she will have to after the German election next September” (Bernard Guetta, radio France Inter, https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/geopolitique/geopolitique-21-juin-2017). Even if this journalist, famous in the French media, former trotskyist of the LCR (4th International), is for long one of the most fervent supporters of the European Union, his analysis reflects quite faithfully the debates and reflections within the bourgeoisie.

[7. In the years 1960 and the following decades, there was around 30% of the workers who voted for De Gaulle and the nationalist and authoritarian right that he represented. From this point of view, the “blue collars” vote to Marine Le Pen is less important than the De Gaulle’s in the 1960… just before and after the massive strike of May 1968. In the United States, « In the 1980 and 1984 elections, Reagan averaged 61 percent support among the white working class, compared to an average of 35 percent support for his Democratic opponents, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale » (The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of a Mass Upper Middle Class, Ruy Teixeira, Brookings Working Paper, April 2008, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/04_demographics_teixeira.pdf). Nothing new thus, nor qualitatively different, in the “blue collar” vote pro-Trump contrary to the media campaigns on this topic.

[8. “France won’t have any motive capacity if it does not have a clear discourse and a lucid look at the world. But it won’t have it neither if it does not reinforce its economy and its society. That is why I have asked the government to engage the fundamental reforms which are indispensable for France. Our credibility , our efficiency, our strength are at stake. But the strength of some cannot be nourished by the weaknesses of the others for long. Germany which made its reforms fifteen years ago, notes today that this situation is not viable. My wish is thus that we can build a common force. My method for the German-French couple is the one of a trustful alliance. (…) But Germany is lucid on the limits of an action which is not fully European, in particular regarding military intervention. It knows that our fate has become again tragic. It requires France to protect itself, to protect Europe and ensure our common security”(Emmanuel Macron’s interview to many European newspaper of June 21st, we underline and translate from the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, https://www.letemps.ch/monde/2017/06/21/emmanuel-macron-leurope-nest-un-supermarche-leurope-un-destin-commun, since we could find the whole interview in English).

[9. We call on our readers to read this article, unfortunately only in Italian at the time being, which rejects the idea according to which the clown Trump’s election would represent a loss of control, indeed a crisis, of the American bourgeoisie, but would rather correspond to an adaptation to the situation opened up “before and after the 2008 crisis”. Even if this article does not utilize exactly the same arguments as us, in particular it emphasizes more on a direct link between the economic necessities and the political decisions, the method of analysis is close to our own. Both seek to apply historical materialism for the analysis and the following of the situations: http://www.leftcom.org/it/articles/2017-05-30/guerra-in-siria-e-riposizionamenti-imperialistici.