Workers Vanguard No. 1004
8 June 2012
The Euro Crisis and the French Elections
Socialist Party Takes Charge of Austerity
JUNE 1—The May 6 elections in Greece and France were the latest in which ruling parties in Europe have been voted out amid growing anger over the austerity dictates of the imperialist European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Led by Germany, the EU demands that working people, particularly in those countries most racked by the capitalist economic crisis, pay for the bailout of failing banks through mass unemployment, the sacrifice of pensions and other attacks on their lives and livelihoods.
As we reported last issue, the dominant EU powers are strong-arming weaker member states into adopting a “Fiscal Treaty” that would enshrine the conditions of the bailouts and permanent austerity in their constitutions (“Irish Rulers Push Attacks on Working People,” WV No. 1003, 25 May). Under heavy pressure from EU leaders, the Irish government rammed through approval of this treaty in a referendum yesterday, although only half of those eligible bothered going to the polls, and working-class districts in Dublin voted heavily against the measure.
The results of EU/IMF policies can be seen in outright starvation, in the suicides of older workers and ruined small businessmen and in exploding numbers of homeless people—from those sleeping in Athens’ subway stations to men living on the streets of Italian cities and towns because they cannot meet child support and alimony payments. And the imperialist bloodsuckers promise more of the same.
Germany under Angela Merkel is not budging in its demands that Greece continue to slash spending as a condition of remaining in the euro currency zone. Greece is heading into a second round of parliamentary elections on June 17 after none of the top vote-getters in the first round—New Democracy, Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) and PASOK—were able to cobble together a new governing coalition. The bourgeois parties that ran the previous government, New Democracy and PASOK, lost ground to Syriza, which benefited from mass anger over the economic crisis by promising to alleviate the austerity while retaining the euro and EU membership through which the EU powers subordinate Greece and other peripheral European states.
The Financial Times (23 May) reports that “tensions have begun to emerge among EU leaders over how hard a line to take with Greece as the prospect looms of parties opposed to the country’s harsh bailout terms winning next month’s elections.” These tensions are seen in a developing rift between Germany and France, the number two EU power, under its newly elected Socialist Party (PS) president, François Hollande. In arguing to soften the terms for pumping in more funds, Hollande wants to give the Greek rulers more time to implement cuts—i.e., prolong the torture. At home, as the article below explains, the “Socialist” Hollande promises to carry out the interests of the French capitalist rulers by continuing the austerity, appealing to the workers, in a way that the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy never could, to accept new sacrifices.
Hollande and others worry that German intransigence will force Greece out of the euro zone, with the “contagion” threatening to spread throughout Europe’s weaker economies. Spain is in the midst of an expanding banking crisis. The government takeover of Bankia, a giant mortgage lender, helped touch off a massive outflow of foreign capital, raising the potential for an increase in what is already the EU’s highest official unemployment rate at 25 percent. Any bailout of Spain, Europe’s fourth-largest economy, would come at a much higher price for the EU than those of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Coming on top of the uncertainty over Greece, the crisis in Spain has thrown the euro as well as European securities into a major tumble, adding to the distinct possibility of a deepening and more prolonged world recession.
Yesterday the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, told the European Parliament that the bank was reaching the limits of its powers, declaring that the structure of the euro zone had become “unsustainable unless further steps are undertaken.” Draghi has been desperately appealing to Europe’s leaders to make “a brave leap of political imagination” to effect greater “European integration.” This is to call for the impossible.
The International Communist League has always opposed the EU, counterposing the program of proletarian revolution leading to a Socialist United States of Europe. As the current crisis graphically reveals, opposition to the EU and the euro is a necessary starting point for a class-struggle fight by the workers of Europe against their exploiters and oppressors. Originally established as an adjunct of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance against the Soviet degenerated workers state, from its inception the EU has been a mechanism by which the combined capitalist powers attack their own working classes and the dominant countries subordinate the weaker ones. Although the introduction of the euro furthered both those aims, it also embodied the contradictions that preclude “European integration” under capitalism. As the ICL stated in “For a Workers Europe—For Socialist Revolution!” (WV No. 670, 13 June 1997):
“Control over the quantity of money within its boundaries is a basic economic prerogative of a bourgeois state, one necessarily closely linked to other instruments of economic policy. A stable monetary system based on the ‘euro’ would require tight and permanent restrictions over taxation and government expenditure in all the EU member states…. But since capitalism is organised on the basis of particular national states, itself the cause of repeated imperialist wars to redivide the world, it is impossible to cohere a stable pan-European bourgeois state.”
The following article, translated from French and adapted for WV, is taken from Le Bolchévik No. 200 (June 2012), newspaper of our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France. It is based on a public forum by comrade Alexis Henri held in Paris four days after the French presidential elections.
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First of all, I would like to recall what Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’s collaborator, explained more than 100 years ago: The working class cannot take power through the ballot box; elections are merely an approximate barometer of the mood of the masses. He wrote:
“The possessing class rules directly through the medium of universal suffrage. As long as the oppressed class, in our case, therefore, the proletariat, is not yet ripe to emancipate itself, it will in its majority regard the existing order of society as the only one possible and, politically, will form the tail of the capitalist class, its extreme Left wing. To the extent, however, that this class matures for its self-emancipation, it constitutes itself as a party of its own and elects its own representatives, not those of the capitalists. Thus, universal suffrage is the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state; but that is sufficient. On the day the thermometer of universal suffrage registers boiling point among the workers, both they and the capitalists will know where they stand.”
—The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884)
Engels did not live to see it, but three decades later the Russian workers knew what they had to do. They had their own separate party, a revolutionary vanguard party led by Lenin, and in the October Revolution of 1917 they seized power, not through a parliamentary majority but through their own organs—workers councils, or soviets—organized by factory, barrack, etc. This is our model: A workers government was able to tackle poverty and inequality in a manner inconceivable under capitalism, despite the backwardness of an agrarian country ravaged by war, and then civil war, which Russia underwent after 1917.
In the French election campaign, the Socialist Party’s François Hollande announced an anti-working-class program. There will be no fight against poverty and inequality. Instead there will be “fair” and equal austerity for all the poor. He explained during his TV debate with Sarkozy on May 2 how he was going to restore the nation’s financial health. He intends to pour hundreds of billions into the banks to repay the debt quickly by making deep cuts in the budget (with the exception of hiring more cops and rescinding some of the job cuts made in education in the last few years). Hollande proved that, at bottom, he would carry out the same anti-immigrant policies as his predecessor by deporting tens of thousands of immigrants.
As for Sarkozy, what we could say about him as an epitaph is that he remarkably personified many essential features of the French bourgeoisie: racist prejudice, viciousness, pettiness, greed, arrogance, brutality, the profound lack of culture of French imperialism in its period of decay. This is why the French bourgeoisie chose him with such enthusiasm five years ago. And in the second round of the elections, he still won comfortable majorities in the richest neighborhoods, among retirees and in rural areas.
The bourgeoisie finally got rid of Sarkozy, not because of all these “qualities” which reflected its own, but because Sarkozy did not fulfill the promises he made them. He was not able to sufficiently restore either the rate of profit or the position of French imperialism vis-à-vis Germany. Being in a position of weakness, Sarkozy had to accept all the humiliations imposed by his American and German imperialist rivals. The French chauvinist Hollande publicly criticized him for these capitulations, showing his own determination to better defend French imperialism, particularly against Germany.
Hollande hopes to extort a bit of money from Germany, using the Greek crisis and relying on ultrareactionaries such as the Spanish conservatives, the heirs of Franco, who are currently in power in Madrid. In fact, in Europe the crisis is only worsening given the imminent bankruptcy of Greece. And this time, the Hollande government will not be able simply to devalue its currency as previous popular fronts did in autumn 1936 and autumn 1981. That would require reinstating the franc, which would shatter the euro zone and the entire EU. There is no solution under capitalism except austerity for the workers—which can only exacerbate the crisis—and war, as in 1914 and 1939.
There is no solution within the framework of the Hexagon (the territory of France). All Hollande proposed is to repackage the European super-austerity pact signed by Sarkozy and Merkel with some talk of “growth.” We say: Down with the capitalist European Union! We counterpose the Socialist United States of Europe, which means the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist classes everywhere in Europe and a rationally planned economy across the continent, under the rule of soviet governments.
Hollande pledged that French workers would make all necessary efforts to defend the position of the French bourgeoisie. He even announced how he would do it: by mobilizing the union bureaucrats to tame the working class. Throughout his campaign, Hollande kept repeating that he was going to “reconcile the French people,” meaning that he wanted to convince the workers to stand shoulder to shoulder with the bosses and accept new sacrifices, since the bosses themselves will supposedly also contribute a bit to the common national effort. Whereas Sarkozy divided the French people by waging a one-sided class struggle of the capitalists against the workers, Hollande proposes class collaboration, or in other words, that the workers should willingly submit to their exploiters. A difference of style, not of program. For all these reasons, we called for no vote to Hollande nor to his left water boys of the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party), the Left Front and Lutte Ouvrière (LO).
The Left Front of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the French Communist Party (PCF) bear particular responsibility. The Left Front was the heart and soul of Hollande’s electoral campaign. It remobilized many activists who had been discouraged by too many betrayals under the earlier Socialist-led governments of François Mitterrand and Lionel Jospin and who were initially determined to abstain. As Mélenchon quite rightly pointed out in the PCF newspaper l’Humanité (10 May): “Without our four million votes, Sarkozy would never have been defeated. Without our four million votes, Hollande would never have won!” For Mélenchon, this is what matters, even if his own result of 11.1 percent does not give him enough clout to be able to push the new capitalist government to the left.
We say that the workers must break with class collaboration, with those coalitions—known as “popular fronts”—between bourgeois formations like Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s Citizens Movement, the Greens, etc., and reformist workers parties, such as the PS and the PCF. The PS and PCF have links with the working class and claim to represent it in one way or another, even though their leaderships and programs are entirely bourgeois.
In France, these popular-front coalitions have been the fundamental form of class collaboration at the parliamentary level for the last century. Whether Hollande administers the capitalist state with or without the Greens or the Left Radicals, things would not change much for the workers, and we oppose the incoming Hollande government regardless. However, governing in a coalition with openly capitalist formations nonetheless remains a significant guarantee for the bourgeoisie.
The workers must break with political blocs with the bourgeois enemy and struggle in their own name, for their own class interests. The whole capitalist system rests on the profits created by the workers, who produce more wealth than what they receive in return in wages, both direct and indirect. This is why only the working class has a fundamental historic interest in overthrowing this system of exploitation. And it has the power to do so, provided it is led by a vanguard party with a revolutionary program, as was shown in the Russian Revolution. In its struggle to overthrow capitalism, the working class can and must place itself at the head of all those who are oppressed by this system, whether because of gender, sexual orientation, skin color or nationality.
Ominous Success of
Fascist National Front
One significant element in the election was the record score of the National Front (FN) candidate, Marine Le Pen, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the vote. She got around 6.5 million votes, which is one million more than those received by her father and the other fascist candidate, Bruno Mégret, in the 2002 elections. Bourgeois commentators have repeatedly emphasized that Le Pen improved her scores in the outlying suburbs among people seeking to own an individual house or being priced out of the city centers, strangled by the banks and by the drastic rise in gas prices. Meanwhile, the dismantling of the welfare state and social services is most obvious in rural and semirural towns, which no longer have a doctor nor sometimes even a school or post office.
It is important to remember not only that workers abstain from voting in greater numbers than the bourgeoisie, but also that a crucial part of the working class is simply excluded from suffrage, since the bourgeoisie denies millions of people deemed foreigners the right to vote. The social democrat François Hollande proposes to grant the right to vote to foreigners who have lived in France for a long time, but only for local elections. As for us, we are for full citizenship rights for all those who are here, including the right to vote and to be elected in all elections.
The FN’s electoral success comes in the context of an acute economic crisis, in which it has presented itself as the sole recourse against the popular front of Hollande-Mélenchon. The popular front serves to demobilize and then demoralize the workers, paving the way for a resurgence of reaction. Mitterrand’s 1981 popular front launched racist campaigns against North African workers in the auto plants, which led to an increase in racist murders in the banlieues (suburban ghettos) and to the emergence of the FN on the electoral level. The 1997 popular front of Jospin-Mélenchon and the PCF’s Marie-George Buffet ended in 2002 when it was knocked out of the first round of the presidential election by Le Pen senior, which was followed by ten years of a right-wing government.
Fascism feeds on the “war on terror,” which has primarily targeted people of North African descent. On May 4, Adlène Hicheur was sentenced to five years in prison. For what “crime”? For having exchanged e-mails with an alleged member of Al Qaeda in the Muslim Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). Hicheur was convicted for having opinions, without so much as a hint of a plan to carry out terrorist attacks. This is a sinister precedent that paves the way for the prosecution of anyone declaring on Facebook, for example, that they feel like strangling their boss, or of a trade unionist who threatens to seize the property of a struck company. The objective of the “war on terror” is to introduce legislation and case law worthy of a police state, a trend that has so far met with little protest from the workers movement. We demand: Free Adlène Hicheur now!
Fascism feeds off decades of anti-working-class austerity, speedup and layoffs implemented by right and left governments alike. For Marxists, fascism means armed extraparliamentary gangs—petty-bourgeois masses ruined and enraged by the crisis, mobilized by big capital to crush the organized workers movement—like Mussolini’s Blackshirts in 1922 and Hitler’s stormtroopers in 1933. It is necessary to insist that, for the moment, the situation has not reached this point, because the working class is far from posing a direct threat to bourgeois rule. The National Front is an essentially electoral phenomenon. Today, the vast majority of racist crimes in France are committed by cops on duty, not by fascists as such. Moreover, the end of the electoral campaign was marked by support from both Hollande and Sarkozy for the sinister reactionary mobilizations of cops demanding impunity after one of their own was accused of shooting 28-year-old Amine Bentounsi in the back.
But things could change if the economic and social crisis gets worse. Indeed, you don’t have to look very far to discover that the FN represents something much more sinister than simple electoral gesturing. The chairman of the FN for the Haute-Vienne department, a certain Vincent Gérard, got caught last month, along with other FN supporters, for attacking a bar known as a left hangout with knives and baseball bats. And two 70-year-old Muslims were recently beaten up in Amiens by skinhead supporters of Le Pen.
What is needed to counter murderous provocations by the fascists are labor/immigrant mobilizations. The proletariat must mobilize its own forces and take the leadership of all the minorities threatened by the fascists, to crush these scum in the egg before they can crush the workers movement itself. The workers movement must defend banlieue youth! The obstacles to such mobilizations are the chauvinist misleaders of the working class. They must be replaced by a new leadership, a Bolshevik vanguard party that acts as the tribune of all the oppressed in leading the struggle for socialist revolution.
The state serves the same capitalist masters as the fascists. The police, the army, the prison guards—these are the official armed bodies whose job it is to maintain bourgeois order, i.e., the system of capitalist exploitation. To call on the bourgeois state to ban the fascists, to prevent them from renting meeting rooms and so on, is to foster illusions in capitalism. Such bans are always turned against the workers movement. For example, in June 1968 the predecessors of LO and the NPA were both banned by the government using the “law against seditious groups,” which was adopted in 1936 supposedly to ban the fascists.
Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution
Mélenchon, who got more votes than all the left and “far left” candidates got in any presidential election in over 30 years, declared that he was the only one to campaign against the National Front. In fact, he spent his time advocating a democratic alliance against Le Pen. This boiled down to reducing the struggle against fascism to an alliance with the forces of the bourgeoisie, more precisely its so-called “democratic” wing. One could call this an “anti-fascist popular front.”
During the 1930s economic crisis, the last one comparable to the current crisis, Leon Trotsky wrote hundreds of pages about the rise of fascism and how to fight it. He explained that the financially ruined petty bourgeoisie is above all realistic. While the petty bourgeoisie can accommodate the trappings of democracy, it is more than ready to dispense with them when the democratic parties, bourgeois and social-democratic, have proven that they are incapable of resolving the petty bourgeoisie’s problems and have brought about its ruin. To the extent that the leaders of the working class tie the workers to the discredited bourgeois parties, they can only push the petty bourgeoisie enraged by the crisis into the arms of fascist reaction. The fascists appear to be the only ones addressing their problems, promising openly and clearly to restore their position…by organizing pogroms against immigrants, homosexuals, Jews or pedophiles.
The cherry on the cake was the TV debate between Hollande and Sarkozy, in which the two competed for the votes of FN supporters in the second round of the elections. Backward workers who had voted for Le Pen in the first round voted in large part for Hollande in the second. Hollande made hardly any promises during this campaign, but we can mention one: he proposes to build more detention camps to pursue the deportation of whole families of undocumented immigrants under “good conditions.” It’s clear that Sarkozy legitimized Le Pen’s ideas, but Hollande did exactly the same while presenting them in a more “politically correct” fashion.
Mélenchon’s campaign was also completely imbued with French nationalism. We warned six months ago that Mélenchon’s protectionist appeals lent legitimacy to Le Pen’s protectionism. His refusal to oppose the capitalist European Union and the euro left this terrain to the fascists, who could thus demagogically blame the EU for the crimes committed in fact by the French bourgeoisie.
The only way for the working class to neutralize the fascist scum and hope to rally behind it part of the frightened petty bourgeoisie is to show that it is determined to sweep away the whole rotten capitalist system through workers revolution. It is necessary to put an end to the dismantling of the welfare state by right-wing and left-wing governments alike. This process has accelerated since the capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union 20 years ago. What is needed is a program to shore up social services, reopen hospitals, abortion clinics and schools closed by former Gaullist president Jacques Chirac, Jospin and Sarkozy. This requires vast public works programs and construction of public housing, and massive programs to train qualified personnel in education, transport and health care. The working class must set up its own committees of struggle to take charge of these programs.
To fight against the unemployment that is ravaging the working class, it is necessary to divide up the available work among all workers at no loss in pay. For 30 hours work for 40 hours pay! Equal pay for equal work! The division between permanent, temporary and agency workers and subcontractors must be overcome through a struggle for the hiring of all workers at the same, highest status. The perspective of pressuring the capitalist government, be it right-wing or left-wing, to carry out these demands, or to “ban layoffs,” which LO calls for, means sowing illusions that capitalism can satisfy the basic needs of the working class. On the contrary, the workers must themselves take charge of hiring and dividing the work, through their unions and other proletarian organizations. This requires a struggle for a revolutionary leadership in the unions, replacing the bureaucrats who are today in the pay of the bosses.
The revolutionary party must tirelessly show the workers that to elect Hollande, and then elect members of the PS or Left Front to parliament, is to vote for the attacks waged against the working class for the past 20 years to continue. The only way to realize the demands that are essential for the very survival of the working class is for the proletariat to take power through socialist revolution. The extension of the revolution throughout Europe and beyond is the only way to organize the economy, once it is collectivized, on a rational international basis, in the interest of all the workers and oppressed.
Tricolor “Far Leftist”
The Left Front’s Mélenchon geared his entire campaign toward assuming a presidential stature, albeit somewhat radical. He wants to administer French imperialism himself. Now, let’s leave aside for a moment Mélenchon’s protectionism, his plans to reform the European Central Bank so that it really “serves the people,” his habit of singing the Marseillaise at all his meetings. Let’s take the moments when, on the contrary, he raises the question of racism against North Africans, as he did in Marseille in a speech on the beach, looking toward the Mediterranean. I quote what l’Humanité (2 May) reported:
“France cannot be the Republic and the nation it is unless it is a universalist nation that gives every one of its children what it believes is good for the entire world…. We must remember that the peoples of the Maghreb are our brothers and sisters. We must repeat that there is no future for France without the Arabs and the Berbers of the Maghreb.”
In any case, he prefers assimilated Arabs and Berbers who don’t wear the Muslim headscarf. Like Hollande and LO’s Arlette Laguiller, Mélenchon supported the racist law prohibiting the headscarf in high schools. He declared in Le Figaro (22 November 2003): “Starting with the banning of the veil in schools, we will seize on a surge of secularism, to come back to a categorical refusal to divide French people among each other according to their origins. In short, this is the concept of a nation defined by its republican principles.”
In all religions, the veil is both a symbol and an instrument of women’s oppression. But we have consistently opposed these racist laws, which only increase the oppression of women who wear the headscarf. Secularism was historically synonymous with the struggle against the influence of the Catholic church over the French state. Now it is coded language for hunting down not so much Muslims as people who “look Muslim,” as Sarkozy admitted quite openly (which Hollande criticized him for). In reality, this amounts to racial profiling of persons suspected of being of North African or West African background. In fact, Mélenchon is interested in a less openly racist policy for French imperialism in order to secure its international influence, and in particular to ensure the support of African and North African states for France’s dealings at the United Nations.
Mélenchon seeks to sell the myth of 1789 France, when the rising and revolutionary bourgeoisie placed itself at the head of the classes oppressed by feudalism. It carried the revolutionary abolition of feudalism throughout the European continent, declaring itself universalist and welcoming into the nation all those who wanted to struggle for liberation. Indeed, the bourgeoisie, once in power, forced open the doors of the ghettos where Jews were confined in the rest of Europe; it began to abolish slavery in the colonies in 1794. But eight years later it restored slavery. Shortly thereafter, it launched the colonial conquest of Algeria, followed by other parts of Africa and other territories, slaughtering native populations and dispossessing the survivors in the process. Forced labor was officially abolished in the colonies of “French” West Africa only after World War II. The bourgeois “republic” that Mélenchon praises was in fact definitively established on the ashes of the Paris Commune in 1871, when tens of thousands of revolutionary workers were slaughtered by Adolphe Thiers’ troops.
It was over 100 years ago that capitalism passed over to the era of imperialism. The dividing up of the world was concluded in this period, opening up a period of redivision, with the imperialists who felt aggrieved in carving up the spoils calling it into question. That was the cause of both world wars in the 20th century, and it will be the cause of the third if the working class does not succeed in overthrowing the capitalists before then. In the imperialist era, the bourgeoisie has become totally reactionary. Productive forces stagnate, with capitalism increasingly being a brake on their development, as we can see in the current prolonged systemic crisis. The bourgeoisie is today totally incapable of abiding by the universalist values of its own past.
Socialist Party’s Left Flank
In its electoral campaign, the NPA—whose forerunner was the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) of Alain Krivine and Olivier Besancenot—faintly claimed to distinguish itself from Mélenchon, who was supposedly too subservient to the PS and Hollande. In fact, throughout the campaign the NPA itself was just as adamant as Mélenchon that it was necessary to “beat Sarkozy,” meaning vote Hollande in the second round. So the NPA bears its own small share of responsibility for the coming five years of anti-working-class attacks.
The NPA claimed that what sets it apart is its refusal to join the government under any circumstances, saying that it isn’t clear whether or not Mélenchon and the PCF can be trusted on that score. In response, we note first that one of the founding pillars of the NPA was that it would not rule out taking its share of responsibility in a capitalist government (as long as this government pays lip service to “anti-capitalism”). Secondly, Mélenchon himself declared that he wouldn’t enter the government, and there is no reason to believe he would want to compromise himself in a government as openly right-wing and anti-working-class as Hollande’s will be. He will do what the PCF did in 1936, which was to stay outside the Leon Blum government, which placed the PCF in a better position to break the June ’36 strike.
It is so difficult for anyone to distinguish between the faction-ridden NPA and the Left Front that a significant number of NPA members, including prominent leaders, have joined Mélenchon’s front, including in the middle of the election campaign. This question has taken on really sordid dimensions in recent weeks. When the LCR of Krivine-Besancenot dissolved in 2009 to form the NPA, it maintained a legal structure in the name of the LCR in order to continue receiving subsidies granted by the government based on the LCR’s results in the 2007 parliamentary elections. The sums are quite significant: almost a million euros a year.
However, the entity handling this money came under the control of some NPA cadre who subsequently went over to the Left Front in March—no doubt hoping for a parliamentary or ministerial reward in exchange for their defection—taking the cash box with them. This represents a substantial dowry, which probably played a role in their courting of Mélenchon. But Besancenot and Krivine weren’t about to give up their cash (or more precisely, the government’s cash). They rushed to the bourgeois courts to get their hands back on the loot. Consequently, the banks cancelled the checks that the NPA defectors tried to cash, and the latest word is that Krivine and Besancenot have withdrawn their formal complaint.
As Marxists, we are opposed to taking money from the capitalist state on principle: “He who pays the piper calls the tune!” And we are equally opposed to the workers movement resorting to the capitalist state to wash its dirty linen. This truly obscene affair reveals the extent of the NPA’s social-democratic rot, complete with appeals to the capitalist courts to decide which of the two factions will get the subsidies of the capitalist state. The very concept of a class line separating the workers from the capitalists and their institutions has no meaning for these social democrats.
As for Lutte Ouvrière, Nathalie Arthaud’s election campaign ended in the worst result in LO’s history. But at least, unlike Philippe Poutou’s NPA, she did not explicitly reject the Russian Revolution. Arthaud even conceded to defending the dictatorship of the proletariat. But this only underlines LO’s contradictions. Throughout the campaign, both before and after the first round of the elections, LO refused to call on workers not to support Hollande. In reducing the question of whether to abstain or to vote for Hollande to a “personal choice,” LO implicitly encouraged workers to believe that having Hollande as president would constitute a lesser evil compared to keeping Sarkozy.
This is typical of LO’s conception of a rearguard, anti-Leninist party, tailing the workers who might yield to the pressure to support Hollande’s bourgeois popular front. For LO, whether or not to give political support to a bourgeois coalition is by no means a matter of principle. They have demonstrated this on a daily basis for the last four years by participating in capitalist municipal governments, in which they have joined the municipal majority led by mayors of the PCF or Chevènement’s Citizens Movement in managing capitalism at the citywide level.
For years, we have denounced LO for voting for the budget in these municipal governments. LO’s members are involved in the daily management of capitalism, whether as union bureaucrats in large companies or as “responsible municipal councillors.” LO justifies this by saying: “By definition, municipal activity, just like union activity, cannot be revolutionary, but only reformist” (Lutte de Classe, February 2008). This increasingly open opportunism is itself an expression of the retrogression of consciousness of the workers following the overwhelming defeat of the working class 20 years ago with the capitalist counterrevolutions in the Soviet Union and East Europe. In the task of reforging a genuine communist party in this country, LO, far from being the solution, as it claims to be on occasion, is part of the problem.
To conclude, it must be emphasized that workers voted not so much for Hollande as against Sarkozy. There are few illusions that Hollande’s policies will be less anti-labor than Sarkozy’s. Does this mean there will be significant social struggles in the coming period against a rising wave of attacks? There is no way to know. But sooner or later the working class will fight against these attacks. The key is to maintain the independence of the working class, and to maintain the revolutionary program. This is the precondition for revolutionary Marxists to win the confidence of the working class in the coming struggles, and to one day lead it to a socialist revolution that puts an end to this decadent capitalist system once and for all. For the rebirth of the Fourth International!