France: Let’s All Be Ungovernable!

June 20, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French.

[President] Macron sure has a hangover on this day after the second round of the legislative elections! He doesn’t have an absolute majority in Parliament, with only 234 deputies when he needs 289. Across the aisle, there is an opposition that claims to be fierce: on one side there are some 140 deputies of the Nupes [the left-wing coalition, led by Mélenchon], on the other some 90 deputies of the National Rally [far-right political party] that has gained not only more seats, but more votes. This leaves some 75 deputies from the traditional right, whom Macron will try to win over, but at what price? The media is dramatizing the situation by speaking of an “earthquake,” a “state of siege on the French Parliament,” and an “ungovernable France.”

Voter Absentees Are Not Always Wrong

There was a very high rate of voter abstention in this election: once again, 54% of the electorate didn’t bother to go to the ballot box. We are still wondering whether this is because of anger against a system that is supposedly democratic but that never changes anything for the working class, or if it’s just a case of not giving a damn. For example, in certain working-class neighborhoods between the surge of votes for Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the presidential elections and the election of the Nupes candidates in the legislative elections, half the votes were lost. Voters who had voted for Mélenchon obviously abstained. Perhaps because their illusions are gone.

Let’s Talk About the Nupes

We are not indifferent to the fact that the Nupes has done well in its number of parliamentary deputies. A housekeeper was elected to the National Assembly, and she will certainly be the first one to  enter the French House of Parliament (Palais Bourbon) not to do the cleaning. This tells us plenty about their democracy! This revamped left coalition unites various political parties (the French Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Green Party behind France Insoumise). However, the coalition didn’t win many more votes than their cumulative scores during the elections of 2017. And as for its radicalism, it is limited.

Its spokespeople have complained bitterly about how Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has demonized them. “It’s not true,” cried out Clementine Autain on l France 2 TV, “I am not part of the extreme left!” If the Nupes deputies were revolutionaries, they certainly wouldn’t present themselves as a strictly parliamentary opposition, or only as a force for institutional obstruction. Instead, they would call on the workers to fight in the workplaces and in the streets. However, this is not the case.

Let’s Talk About the Extreme Right

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (far-right political party) has gone from 8 to 90 members of the National Assembly (Parliament). In addition, the far-right has gained nearly two million additional votes in the legislative branch, including the votes brought in by Éric Zemmour (the far-right politician and outspoken racist). Of course, people detest Macron, and this has played a role in this growth. However, Marine Le Pen, beyond her demagogy around social issues, reminded us of the anti-worker fundamentals of the National Rally. It is a party of social order (that defends the private property of employers), a party that wants to reinforce the police state, and a racist party that stirs up hatred of immigrants, which is used as a weapon against workers to divide the working class based on their origins.

Settle Scores inside the Palais Bourbon or by General Strike?

What about us? Our pensions? Our mass hiring in public services, starting with hospitals and schools where the conditions are a horror show? What about our jobs and working conditions? Our salaries that aren’t keeping up with this crazy inflation? Macron seems to fear our reactions to his plan to move the retirement age to 65: even the CFDT union [one of France’s five major trade unions; not very combative] is against it! So, Macron announced he will propose a bill on purchasing power to Parliament in July. But how can we improve our standard of living without a general, significant wage increase? Will the bosses or the members of the National Assembly get us this raise? Will these wages be won through small parliamentary fights, or by a general strike? To ask the question is to answer it.

Only through struggle will we make the France (of the rich) ungovernable. These struggles will give us the means to govern ourselves.