A Future That Works

A Future That Works
NO2aTory/Liberal coalition - Vote with your feet for an alternative to a neo-liberal economy and neo-conservative state Yes2aLeftFront and a Red/Green Left Alliance

Monday, 16 April 2012

Left Front on the march in France

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s message is clear neo-liberalism has failed, the French MEP also has a credible programme explaining that the economic crisis is systemic and due to flawed political choices and priorities. Society has never been as productive and wealthy as today, but the majority of the population are getting poorer despite working harder and harder. The problem is not a question of wealth production (as neoliberals and Blairite social democrats would have us believe), but of redistribution of wealth.


  1. Mélenchon calls for a 100% tax on earnings over £300,000; full pensions for all from the age of 60; reduction of work hours; a 20% increase in the minimum wage; and the European Central Bank should lend to European governments at 1%, as it does for the banks. Here are a few realistic measures to support impoverished populations.

  2. Fat cat bosses may leave France; they will be replaced by younger and more competent ones who will work for a fraction of their wages. "Humans First!" is more than a manifesto title, it is a democratic imperative: a sixth republic in place of the current republican autocracy; the nationalisation of energy companies (as energy sources are public goods) and, less often noticed, the ecological planning of the economy, the core of Mélenchon's political project.

  3. Mélenchon's campaign politicises the young. He appeals to the working class, which, contrary to some claims, has largely shunned Le Pen and which has been abstaining from the vote. For the first time in decades, Mélenchon is helping the left to reconnect with the popular classes. For Mélenchon, free market politics does not work and inflicts unnecessary suffering on the people. No other European politician is better placed than he is to convincingly argue that point.

  4. The rise of the Front de Gauche has nothing to do with 1970s-style politics and nostalgia, but is linked instead to his resolute take on the current capitalist crisis. In France and across Europe and Scandinavia workers have a left alternative to the social-democratic parties which like the British Labour Party have moved away from social-democracy and accepted the neo-liberal economic and neo-conservative political Washington Consensus. It could be that the British working classes, particularly the lower working class betrayed by new-labourism under Blair and Brown will want a Left Front like the one in France.

  5. Traditional Labour voters now see little difference between the ideology of the Tory, Liberal and Labour parties since 1979 the Thatcher, Major Tory, Blair, Brown Labour and now Cameron/Clegg’s Tory/Liberal coalition have all followed neo-liberal economic and neo-conservative political theory and practices, so maybe there is a need for a viable Left Front like the Front de Gauche affiliated to the European Left led by Pierre Laurent of the Parti Communiste Français and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group of MEP’s led by Gabi Zimmer of Die Linke.

  6. France's Left Front hopes to ‘reinvent’ left

    ‘‘Whereas on our side, our three million new voters are actually three million new voters for the left. So our rise is spectacular on the left.’’

    ‘‘We did our best, so that the working class that usually abstains, voted for us - or in any case, didn't go vote for the National Front. We did that containment job very well, I think. The Socialist Party doesn't do that. Even now, they are barely speaking about the National Front's high score.’’

    ‘‘Our strategy is to govern on our programme. That strategy needs one compulsory entry point, which is to defeat Sarkozy. That's way we will support the Hollande ballot against Sarkozy with no negotiation needed.’’

    ‘‘We certainly do not want to participate in any government whose objective would be to implement austerity plans, as Francois Hollande is planning to do.’’

    ‘‘Our intention is to replace the Social Democrats as leaders, across Europe. It will take time, but that's where we're going.’’

    (Raquel Garrido, Front de Gauche, 30/04/2012)


  7. The citizens' revolution

  8. The citizens' revolution

  9. We don’t get much reported on the political parties in Greece, all we really get are images of the protesters and information on the austerity programme being implemented by the IMF/ECB. Synaspismos (Coalition of Left Movements and Ecology) are part of the EL group and Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), Kommunistiko Komma Elladas (Communist Party of Greece) are part of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group of MEP’s at Strasburg. The KKE http://inter.kke.gr/ is the most visible and the one which I know most about from being in the CPB.

    Néa Dimokratía (economic-liberal/conservative) and Pasok (social-democrat/social-liberal) are expected to be the largest group (22% and 18%), they may form a coalition led by Antonis Samaras similar to our Tory/Liberal coalition government. The KKE and Syriza are predicted to get about 10% of the vote each and Independent Greeks (conservative/nationalist/populist) are expected to get around 11%.


  10. Political paralysis looms as voters vent their fury in Greece

  11. Voters have the chance to hit back at their politicians tomorrow after more than two years of financial crisis, international bailouts, a huge debt writedown and Europe's harshest austerity programme.

    An electorate fuming at income cuts, tax hikes and rising unemployment are expected to abandon old political loyalties and give no party an outright majority in parliamentary elections. But this could leave Greece without a government at the time when it needs it the most – and jeopardise the programme of international bailouts the country depends on to secure its place in Europe.

    If, as expected, neither of the main parties secure enough votes to form a government, building a new coalition could prove a Herculean task. The conservative New Democracy, for example, is threatening to force repeated elections until it wins a governing majority. The party's leader, Antonis Samaras, is leading in opinion polls but is facing a strong challenge from rightist splinter parties and a fascist party that have campaigned heavily on illegal immigration. He has vowed to intensify a programme to expel illegal immigrants, telling supporters that illegal immigrants had become "tyrants of Greek society".

    The country has been governed by a coalition led by a caretaker Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, since November 2011, when the Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou was forced out by his own MPs. During that time, Greece managed to secure the second bailout and debt relief deal.

    Mr Papademos called the general election last month after pushing the cuts and reforms through parliament. But whoever wins in Athens must push through a new €14.5bn (£11.7bn) austerity package for 2013-14


  12. So whilst it looks hopeful that Hollande will win the presidency in France and that this is followed by the Front de Gauche doing well in the parliamentary elections that follow, the Greek elections don’t seem to be offering the same opportunity. I would think Germany will be the big test for the left if Die Linke can emulate the Front de Gauche and exert pressure on the SPD in the Bundestag after their elections then this could be a sign that the ‘‘citizens' revolution’’ started by Jean-LucMélenchon and Pierre Laurent is spreading.

  13. The citizens' revolution

    ''The Socialists are set to wrest back the Elysee Palace from the Right after a gap of 17 years in Sunday's presidential poll.

    Francois Hollande has maintained a consistent and comfortable lead over Nicolas Sarkozy in opinion polls and the incumbent's increasingly desperate swing to the far right appears to have failed to shore up sagging support. A poll on Thursday gave Hollande 53.5 per cent against 46.5 per cent for Sarkozy.

    In the first round of the presidential election on April 22, 1.8 million French voters who had backed Sarkozy last time turned their backs on him.

    They vented their anger at his embrace of austerity and the misery this has brought to the majority in a country hit by 9.8 per cent unemployment, spreading poverty and cuts to public services and welfare.

    They are also unforgiving of Sarkozy's love-in with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he dreamed up the Fiscal Compact, an austerity death grip that was agreed in March by EU governments.

    In contrast to Sarkozy, whose policies reflect his close ties with the country's rich and business elite, Hollande, who gained an additional 770,000 votes in the first round compared with the previous Socialist candidate Segolene Royale, would represent a big improvement.

    Hollande is less friendly to the rich, pledging a 75 per cent tax on incomes of over €1 million a year, and the banks, demanding a split between retail and investment businesses in a move that should curb speculation while protecting people's savings.

  14. And he's better on public services. Against Sarkozy's record of pay freezes and spending curbs, he's committed to hiring 60,000 teachers for the country's overstretched schools.

    Furthermore he advocates the issuing of euro bonds guaranteed by the 17 countries using the common currency to raise funding for debt-strapped countries, which Sarkozy, like Chancellor Merkel, opposes.

    And Hollande wants the "Merkozy" Fiscal Compact "renegotiated" and rejects the linked "golden rule" to balance budgets that Sarkozy has pledged to insert in the French constitution.

    This would reduce an economy that was once the proud champion of state-led "dirigisme" and planning into a Thatcher-style corner shop business.

    But at the same time the Socialist leader has pledged to balance the budget by 2017, one year after Sarkozy plans to.

  15. This means that while he's mounting an important defence of the sovereign right of France's parliament to set a budget and decide how much it taxes and spends in principle, in practice there's little difference between him and Sarkozy on austerity policies.

    By committing to impose such a deathly fiscal straitjacket, and with no serious plan to tackle the power of finance, he's tying his hands over any serious programme to kick-start the French economy and tackle deep-rooted problems of inequality of wealth and power.

    This will make the role of the Left Front on the Socialists' left flank crucial.

    In the first round this new force, formed in 2008 from the Communist Party and left radicals including former Socialists like presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, achieved a historically significant result with 11 per cent of the vote.

  16. It fell short of some polls predicting up to 17 per cent, that's true. But the final count was nevertheless impressive.

    In 2007 the collective vote for the radical left - comprising the New Anti Capitalist Party's Besancenot, the Workers' Struggle's Laguiller, the Workers' Party's Schivardi and the Communist Party's Buffet - was 3.3 million. This time it was 4.6 million, or a rise of 39 per cent.

    And the spread of votes was impressive.

    The party gained at least 7 per cent of the vote in all 96 French départements (the unit of government above communes but below regions) on the mainland (ie excluding the overseas territories) with more than 10 per cent in 76 of départements and over 13 per cent in 20 of them.

    Furthermore, a number of large cities without any communist tradition, like Grenoble, Lille, Montpellier and Toulouse, gave the Left Front a score of over 15 per cent.

  17. Most importantly, it was the Left Front's electoral boost that lifted the overall left score - including the Socialists - to 15.7 million votes, a rise of 17 per cent.

    In short it was the Left Front with its call for a "citizen's revolution" that will, assuming all the polling is correct, have propelled Hollande to head of state.

    As Melenchon puts it, the Left Front is the real dynamic force on the left.

    The personal performance of the former Socialist minister, his language that fuses the best of French revolutionary and republican tradition, his brilliance both at large rallies and on TV, are all part of the success story. But clearly so is the Left Front's programme.

    For sure, it is not a revolutionary set of policies. But it fills the political space that social democrats vacated long ago. Some have called it "radical reformism."

  18. His programme calls for:

  19. A 100 per cent tax on earnings over €297,000 a year
    Full pensions for all from the age of 60
    Reduction of work hours
    A 20 per cent increase in the minimum wage
    The nationalisation of energy companies
    The creation of a well resourced public investment bank
    A demand for the European Central Bank to lend to European governments at 1 per cent, as it does for the banks
    A categorical "No!" to the Fiscal Compact
    A referendum with recommendation to withdraw from the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

    And running through Melenchon's bid to remake France is a determination to end the chaos and environmental and social destruction of uncontrolled free markets and replace it with what he calls "ecological planning."

    Above all, as the Humans First! title of the programme says, it aims to restore people to the centre of a new Sixth French Republic.

  20. The rise and rise of this new force on the left is part of a wider radicalisation of the French electorate, however.

    On the right this produced a shocking 18 per cent vote for the anti-immigrant, anti-EU Marine Le Pen.

    This beats her father's historic 16.9 per cent score of 2002. That saw him overtake the Socialists and stand in the run-off election with traditional right winger Jacques Chirac, who defeated the far-right candidate.

    Once a party for the petit-bourgeoisie, the racist Front National is now solidly embedded in the working class.

  21. One extensive poll found Marine Le Pen was backed by 35 per cent of workers, with a 29 per cent rating among the less educated workers.

    In this election Le Pen junior maintained the Front National's strong position in the Mediterranean coast, first conquered by her father in the 1980s, and did well in the north-east of France and other places, where industry has suffered dramatic neglect and decline.

    She also picked up votes from working-class people who have been forced out of the cities because of escalating urban rents and house prices, and whose physical displacement has clearly been matched by a political and cultural displacement taking them out of the orbit of traditional parties of the left and right.

  22. There's a danger in misreading Le Pen's score. In 2007 the votes for Le Pen senior and another far-right candidate - Bruno Megret, a former leading figure in the Front National - polled 19 per cent between them.

    What's happened is that former Sarkozy voters among the working class have migrated right, thanks not only to their disillusionment with his five-year reign but also to his headlong lurch to the far right himself, with attacks on immigrants and latterly the adoption of the even more corrosive language of Petain, the collaborationist war-time leader.

    Melenchon's own analysis is that this has been a "transfusion" of right-wing voters further right, with examples being Lyon, Lille, Marseille and the town of Florange in Lorraine where a steelworks is under threat.

  23. If the Front National has made further inroads into the working class, there were places where the Left Front's and the Front National's head-to-head clashes ended up with the Left Front coming out best. In Marseille, while Sakozy lost 30,000 votes, Le Pen won 28,000 and the Left Front, after delivering a strong anti-racist message, gained 42,000 votes (compared with a net gain of just 1,000 for the Socialists).

  24. The message for Melenchon and his supporters is that without the Left Front and its progressive and unashamedly pro-working class message, the far right would have done much better.

  25. Nevertheless the Front National is a major threat. The result has emboldened Le Pen to make a bid for leadership of the right, a move that was underlined by her call to supporters to not only reject Hollande on Sunday but Sarkozy too.

    If, as both Le Pen and many commentators predict, Sarkozy's UMP party is heading for meltdown - with the more moderate wing alienated by its chief's embrace of her nasty politics of hate and the right opting for the real thing - she has a historic opportunity to revamp the reactionary political camp into an Italian-style populist neo-fascist movement.

  26. The defeat of Sarkozy is all but inevitable now.

    But this radicalisation of French politics will be tested again in June's parliamentary elections.

    The Left Front is hoping to maintain its momentum. And while asserting its clear independence from the Socialists, it is currently discussing with them a pact to back the most promising candidate in constituencies where there is a risk of the left not making it through to the second round of voting.

    Historically the odds are on trends in presidential elections to follow through in parliamentary elections. So a left president and a left parliament beckon.

    But for it to make a real difference both to the French people and Europe as a whole it will need to embrace the spirit of rebellion of Melenchon's "citizen's revolution."



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.