French crisis directly poses issue of the working class taking power!

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On Sunday, France went to the polls in the first round of parliamentary elections, with the far-right, neo-fascist National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen emerging as a clear winner with 33% of the vote.

The New Popular Front (NFP) polled second with 28% while the right-wing ‘centrist’ coalition of President Emmanuel Macron limped in a bad third.

The scene is now set for a second-round run off in a week’s time between RN and NFP, a newly-created left alliance ‘Popular Front’ consisting of French left-wing groups La France Insoumise (LFI), the French Communist Party and the French Socialist Party along with other groups of radicals on the left.

Although Macron still holds the presidency until 2027, his ‘business friendly’ coalition has been all but wiped out in an election he called to try to stem the rise of the far right after RN made major gains in the European elections.

But as Le Pen has made clear, an RN majority in the French Assembly would not be constrained by the despised and terminally weakened Macron, but would drive through the policies of brutally attacking the working class on behalf of a French capitalist system that is in the grip of a debt crisis, and a ruling class that is desperate to dump this crisis onto the backs of the working class.

Macron attempted to deal with this crisis through measures to cut wages, and to introduce laws to make firing workers easier while pushing up the retirement age. These are policies that millions of French workers went onto the streets to oppose. Now the ruling class is turning to the neo-fascists to do the job Macron has failed to do.

Le Pen has studiously avoided coming out into the open about her plans for making workers pay for the capitalist crisis during this election. Instead, she has been concentrating on a racist anti-immigration programme designed to appeal to the petty-bourgeois, along with a pledge of unfunded tax cuts for the rich.

She has also been frantically building contacts with leading French executives and bankers.

The Financial Times reported in June that four senior executives and bankers had told them, on condition of anonymity, that the ‘left’ would be worse for business than Le Pen’s unfunded tax cuts and anti-immigration policies, while one high profile entrepreneur told the FT: ‘The left’s economic programme is totally unacceptable and would amount to France leaving the capitalist system.’

The Popular Front’s programme includes scrapping Macron’s pension reforms, increasing public sector pay and welfare benefits, increasing the minimum wage by 14%, freezing the price of basic food and energy, and introducing a wealth tax.

Hardly policies amounting to France leaving the capitalist system and workers taking power, instead, just the reformist fantasy that the excesses of capitalism can be tamed for the benefit of workers.

A ‘peaceful improvement’ of the conditions of workers is not possible under conditions of a capitalist crisis that is gripping France and the entire capitalist world.

Under these conditions the battle lines are being drawn, with the bankers and bosses turning to the neo-fascists as the force necessary to violently suppress the revolutionary upsurge of workers who are refusing to submit to being driven into the gutter to keep capitalism alive.

For the French working class, the New Popular Front offers nothing but the counter-revolutionary policies of the old French Popular Front in the 1930s.

The situation, the Popular Front insists, is not revolutionary. Further, they insist that a confrontation between workers and the capitalist class can be averted, peaceful relations between the classes re-established, and the threat of a neo-fascist regime quelled by the election of a Popular Front government.

In 1934, Leon Trotsky answered the counter-revolutionary position of the Popular Front which insisted that there was no revolutionary situation. He stated that ‘more exactly the situation is pre-revolutionary. In order to bring the situation to its full maturity, there must be an immediate, vigorous, unremitting mobilisation of the masses, under the slogan of the conquest of power in the name of socialism.’ (Trotsky ‘Once Again Whither France?).

The situation in France, the UK, EU and indeed across the capitalist world, unmistakably fits Trotsky’s analysis of a pre-revolutionary situation that demands the building of revolutionary sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in France, and every country, to give the leadership required to mobilise workers in general strikes to seize the power and go forward to the victory of the world socialist revolution.