French workers’ refusal to vote for austerity puts socialist revolution on immediate agenda

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IN A SHARP contrast to last week’s general election in the UK which saw a massive turnout of workers and young people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in order to deal a massive blow to the Tories and against austerity, the parliamentary elections in France over the weekend produced the lowest turnout since the end of the second world war.

The official figures for the first round of voting showed a record number of abstentions with only 49% of registered voters actually voting. The winner in this first round was the new right-centrist party Republic on the Move (LREM), of Emmanuel Macron who last month was elected as French president in a straight fight with the extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the neo-fascist National Front.

This mass abstention of workers and youth in this election was a reflection of the historically high abstention rate in this presidential election when 12 million refused to vote, 3 million left ballot papers blank and a further one million spoiled their papers. The weekend’s first round of elections to the French parliament produced an overwhelming majority for Macron’s LREM of 32.3% against 21.56% for the traditional party of the right, the Republican Party.

The National Front got 13.2% while the left-wing anti-austerity party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon received 11%. The Socialist Party, which along with the Republican Party has dominated French politics since the founding of the 5th Republic, got only 9.5%.

Projecting these figures onto the next and final round of voting it is predicted that Macron’s LREM will go from having no seats (the party was only formed last year after Macron jumped ship from the sinking Socialist Party) to as many as 430 seats in the 577 seat French national assembly – the biggest majority in over 65 years.

The Socialist Party is projected to have just 20 or 30 seats with the Republicans taking between 85 and 125 seats. The neo-fascist NF is projected to win between 3 and 11 seats while the new party of Mélenchon, France Unbowed, is on course to eclipse them and secure between 11 and 21 seats in the assembly.

Despite his huge paper victory the fact remains that Macron’s party only received a tiny percentage of the vote with the vast majority of workers and youth turning their backs on a political system that offers them nothing but continued austerity attacks. Faced with this mass abstention Macron must now try and impose on French workers a programme of savage austerity cuts and the destruction of their hard won rights.

Already Macron has announced that his first job will be to assume dictatorial powers to impose changes to France’s labour laws while at the same time smashing up government spending on welfare in order to reduce the massive French national debt. With absolutely no political legitimacy, Macron is set to carry out the diktats of the EU bankers to completely destroy all the gains of French workers and drive unemployment, which already stands at 25% for youth, up even further.

The mass abstentions represent the millions of French workers who are completely rejecting the old political certainties of capitalism and are rapidly advancing to a new stage, the stage of challenging the very right of a bankrupt capitalist system to exist. They have had enough of capitalist crisis and are demanding revolutionary change as the only way of securing a future.

We have seen the first stages of this with the eruption of youth and workers onto the streets of Paris and other cities following Macron’s victory in the Presidential elections.

When he attempts to drive through his class war policies these confrontations will become revolutionary and pose the immediate issue of the working class bringing down Macron and going forward to taking power through socialist revolution. These dramatic events in France represent the revolutionary wave that is sweeping Europe. The burning issue is that of building a revolutionary leadership to lead the struggle to overthrow capitalism and go forward to the United Socialist States of Europe to victory. This requires building sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country.