French elections ‘shaken’ by surge in working class support for socialist policies


THIS WEEK has seen a dramatic upsurge of support amongst workers and youth in France for the outsider left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in the Presidential election.

This election had until now been reduced by most political commentators to a two-horse race between the extreme far-right National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, and the independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Both stand at around 23% in the opinion polls and were expected to go forward to the eventual run-off round. The candidate from the Socialist Party (PS) of the President, Francois Hollande, has along with his party been almost wiped out politically in this election as Hollande’s austerity programme for French workers has met with massive opposition, earning them the hatred of workers and youth.

With the traditional French parties effectively broken in this election, the choice was assumed to be between the liberal centrist Macron and the right-wing extremist Le Pen. Macron, an ex-banker, is a fervent supporter of the EU and of the hated ‘free-trade’ deal between the EU and Canada, of NATO and of austerity and labour market ‘reforms’.

According to the perceived wisdom of the bourgeois press, the French working class in breaking with the traditional Socialist Party and rising up against the vicious austerity plans of Hollande were on the verge of embracing the right-wing extremism of Le Pen with her supposedly ‘populist’ anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.

It has clearly come as a shock for them that Mélenchon has suddenly shot up by seven points in opinion polls with many placing him third with the prospect of overtaking Macron. Mélenchon, a left centrist, who resigned from PS in 2008 in protest at its lurch to the right, leads a movement called La France Insoumise (Untamed France).

His socialist policies have won massive support from workers and young people, to the horror of the ruling class. These policies include cutting the working week from 35 to 32 hours, lowering the retirement age to 60 and increasing the minimum wage to £1,125 a month and increases to social security benefits.

In addition, he is calling for a 100% tax on all earnings over 33,000 euros a month, withdrawal from the ‘neo-liberal’ EU along with pulling France out of NATO. His movement opposes all immigration quotas, with Mélenchon insisting ‘immigration is not a problem’ and calling for the need ‘to combat the causes of migration’, namely war.

This surge in support for Mélenchon and his openly socialist policies as opposed to the policies of the SP and the centrist Macron, which offer only more austerity within the collapsing EU, reflects the revolutionary mood amongst French workers and youth. After five years of vicious austerity attacks by a ‘socialist’ president who has unleashed riot police against workers’ demonstrations, the working class are turning, not, as the bourgeois press would have us believe, to the racist right but throwing their support behind socialist policies of nationalisation, wage increases and breaking from the capitalist EU and the imperialist war machine NATO.

The preference of the capitalist class has been made clear. They are reeling from the prospect that Mélenchon will emerge as the run-off candidate against Le Pen with one business leader saying it would be a ‘catastrophe’ for France with the money markets reacting very badly to the news. They showed no such panic when it looked like a contest between the centrist Macron and Le Pen.

It is the emergence of a working class looking for a revolutionary lead in the fight against a bankrupt capitalist system that can only survive by dumping its crisis on the backs of workers that is terrifying the bankers and bosses.

This latest development is in line with the mass movement of workers across Europe and in Britain, a movement that is revolutionary in its content as the working class breaks with the traditional parties and advances towards the socialist overthrow of capitalism.

What this movement requires above all else is the building of revolutionary parties of the Fourth International in every country to lead this movement to the seizure of power and the victory of the European Socialist Revolution.