It’s good to see Sarkozy and his party losing support in France after his victory in last year’s Presidential elections. This “new man of France” has fallen sharply in opinion polls and the first round of municipal elections reflect that. What is not clear is how much of the vote is a rejection of him and how much is a rejection of his policies.
This blog ranks Sarkozy one or two notches below our own President and a little above former Australian PM John Howard in the asshole-as-politician category. This category includes those who became politicians because it was the most fortuitous place to be an asshole. Like another category, the politician-as-asshole which includes Gordon Brown and George HW Bush, these assholes were usually made fun of as children but, unlike the politician-as-asshole, they actually deserved it. Sometimes children are jerks too. And that says nothing about Sarkozy’s actual politics, which are Thatcher’s without the humor or common touch.
Hopefully these elections will limit his room to maneuver and help to weaken his assault on living standards and workers’ rights. His bloc is down about 13 percent from the Presidential elections; down from 53% to 40%. But don’t look to the “opposition” for the opposition. The neo-liberal Socialist Party along the with CP and the Greens received around 47% of the vote in the municipal elections, scoring almost exactly as they did during the 2007 election but coming top in several important mayoral races. One thing is sure; if the opposition to Sarkozy is confined to electoral machinations of or with the Socialists and Communists then that opposition is doomed to failure.
France has along history of militant workers mobilizations. The first mobilizations in opposition to Sarkozy’s reforms came in a series of public sector strikes in November. Still, the social and workers’ movements have largely failed to to find their own voice in opposition to the ruling right-wing and the failed formations of the past. Many are still wedded to the SP, CP and Greens; the very same parties whose policies set the stage for Sarkozy’s 2007 victory.
The Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) stood candidates or supported lists in 200 municipalities. The LCR has recently moved to fill the space abandoned by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party and announced their campaign to build a new, anti-capitalist party after their last convention. Almost all of the historic tendencies in the LCR agreed on the change in course, though still with some differences over the strategy and program of the new project.
What is not clear is whether this new formation can base itself on the organizations of the oppressed rather than their votes. Nor is what the new party’s relationship will be with the trade unions, many of which are the appendages of the failed parties of the “plural left”. There will continue to be debate on how to relate with the rest of the forces on the left, both revolutionary and reformist.
Also unclear is whether this new party’s program will embrace the “revolutionary realism” of Marxism in its attitude towards social transformation or will the issue of revolutionary change and therefore what kind of change be left unresolved, purposely or not. These questions are not quibbles; being an anti-capitalist asks the question, being a revolutionary socialist (or communist in French terms) answers it. It’s still early days yet for this project and while there are many dangers there are many more opportunities.
Building on the popularity of their 34 year old spokesperson, the postal worker Oliver Besancenot and the LCR’s role in the social movements, this vote was to be the first test of the possibility of such a formation. In 109 of those municipalities they received over 5% of the vote and in 29 they received over 10%. As of this morning they had elected 71 councilors. Quite a good start I think.
Addendum: I am unable to read anything but rudimentary Marxist speak (I was shocked to find out that the French sometimes still use bourgeoisie to mean “middle-class”; where have these people been for the last two hundred years!) in French. I am able to to get only an outline of the results and their implications from today’s news. If any reader has more information or thoughts on the French elections please send them in. Liam MacUaid has more.