FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République en Marche, has won a parliamentary majority, just weeks after his presidential victory. With nearly all the votes counted, his party alongside its MoDem allies, won more than 300 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.
It will however turn out to be a pyrrhic victory since the turnout for the election was at 42%, the lowest for many years – the biggest party was the one that stayed at home, while only a minority turned out for the allegedly new party and the new leader. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe acknowledged the low turnout, promising his party would act for France as a whole. Just how this could be done he did not indicate.
In fact Macron did not sweep the board as expected, but did manage to surpass the 289 seat threshold required to control the National Assembly. The conservative Republicans and their allies now form a large opposition block, with 131 seats, down from the 200 seats in the last parliament.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen won a seat for the first time, but her party performed very badly, with 8 seats while the Socialists, one of the pillars of the Fifth Republic were smashed with between 41 and 49 seats. Socialist leader Jean-Claude Cambadélis immediately announced his retirement. The leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his France Unbowed party did very well and won between 26 and 30 seats. Melenchon suggested that the result showed that France was in a state of ‘civil general strike’!
The pyrrhic nature of Macron’s victory can be seen by the ferocity of his anti-working class programme, and the massive class struggles that attempts to carry it out will summon up. He is pledged to impose budget savings of £51bn in the next five years, as well as cutting the number of public servants by 120,000, as well as bringing in anti-union laws to make sacking workers easier, as well as slashing pensions, as well as encouraging competition to undermine France’s nationalised industries, and introducing deregulation in France in a way that would have made Margaret Thatcher proud.
In fact, the French trade union position, has always been that it would rather see a revolution in France than allow a ‘Macron’ to do to France what Margaret Thatcher did in the UK. The huge stay away shows that the French workers did not fall for all of the propaganda that Macron was new, had a new programme and would bring in a new France. The reason for the 58% stay away is that Macron has a track record and is an ex-Socialist Party economic minister associated with attempts to steamroller through parliament ‘Macron’s Law’, a battery of anti-trade union and anti-working class measures.
As the Socialist Economy Minister he wanted to legislate for bus lines to be able to operate along routes that compete with state-owned railways. He wanted to abolish prison sentences for bosses who fail to respect rules governing negotiations with their employees. Other Macron changes to labour laws would streamline labour tribunals so that employers could sack many more workers easily through faster trials that would produce ‘less uncertainty’. Macron’s Law also simplified layoff procedures so that firms that cut jobs at struggling plants would no longer have to negotiate severance packages.
Such was the opposition in the Socialist Party that the French socialist government invoked Article 49 of the constitution, that allowed passing the bill as if it were adopted by the Chamber of Deputies. The measure, and the way that it was introduced produced massive street battles between trade unionists and the riot police. Article 49 however also allowed lawmakers to retaliate with a no-confidence motion that if successful, would have brought down the government.
Macron’s law was defeated, but the civil war that it created destroyed the Socialist Party, and almost brought down the Fifth Republic. Now reinvented as a dynamic new leader of a new style party filled with new people, Macron, supported by ex-President Hollande, leads a government that will attempt to bring in more Macron Laws.
However he sought a really massive majority in the parliamentary election, rather like May in the UK, but he did not get it. What he got was a 42% turn out and the prospect that the battle will be rapidly transferred from the ballot box and Mélenchon’s ‘civil general strike’, to the streets where the CRS will have the job of taking on the French trade unions in a series of revolutionary general strikes.
The Pyrrhic nature of his victory will soon become crystal clear, as the man with the ‘new’ politics backed up by the old leaders, and the French ruling class, but with minority support nationally, takes action to destroy all of the gains that the French workers have made.
It is more than obvious that in the battles ahead the French workers will have to build a new and revolutionary leadership to defeat Macron, bring down his government and go forward from the Fifth Republic to the French Socialist Republic. This will be done in an alliance with the workers of Europe in the great battle to replace the bankers and bosses EU with the Socialist United States of Europe!