After failing to make the second round of the French presidential elections, Jean Luc Melenchon unlike other losing candidates, decided not to directly support Emmanuel Macron in the second round. Instead, he launched a ballot vote amongst his supporters from the Rebellious France (La France insoumise) movement, to decide whether to cast a blank vote, abstain altogether from the elections, or vote for Macron in the second round.
The fact that there were two options on the ballot for not supporting either of the candidates in the second round could easily have led to a split in the “left” vote amongst Melenchon supporters, and thereby a victory to the sections who wanted to vote for Macron. But, in spite of this advantage, the proposal to vote for Macron, did not prevail. The results published yesterday, showed that only 34.8% of Melenchon supporters preferred a vote for Emmanuel Macron, while 36.1% preferred casting a blank vote and another 29.1% were in favour of total abstention. That means that over 65% of the Melenchon voters directly oppose choosing the ‘lesser evil’ in the next round on Sunday 7 May.
The outcome of the Rebellious France ballot is yet another example of the radicalisation taking place in France, with large layers of workers and youth understanding that solving the problems of French society requires a deeper struggle. It also reveals the collapse of the legitimacy of the bourgeoisie and its parties.
The fact is that both of the candidates in the next round represent the interests of the French capitalist class. The idea that supporting one capitalist candidate against another would solve any of the problems of the workers and youth misses the point that both of them represent interests which are directly opposed to those of the masses. In fact, the rise of people like Marine Le Pen and her nationalist party reflects, in a distorted form, the anti-establishment feelings of a layer of people who are tired of the anti-worker policies that right and “left” governments have carried out for years.
May Day in France was another example of this growing mood of radicalisation in society. Of course, mainstream media didn’t hesitate to point out that there was a low turnout to the demonstrations. But, in spite of the fact that the trade unions could not agree on a mutual political line, resulting in there being no general call or mobilisation, 80,000 people still came out in Paris and similar decent numbers in the rest of the country. In fact, despite everything, a large number of people, especially students, used May Day as an opportunity to protest against the ruling classes.
In Paris a large group of protesters marched from the Place de la Republique shouting slogans against Le Pen as well as exclaiming: “Against the employers' offensive, The labour unions will fight back”. In some places however, the police, as seen at other demonstrations around France in the past weeks, reacted brutally to the protests. This led to at least 168 injured protesters, along with 6 police officers. It is clear that anger and frustration is growing by the day amongst the masses. The mood in the working class and the youth has begun to turn as we can see in the series of demonstrations over the past weeks.
This atmosphere will only get more intense when either Macron or Le Pen wins the election. The result of the Melenchon ballot shows the potential and need for a movement fighting on a clear working class platform. In such conditions a clear programme of ending capitalism and the expropriation the of ruling class could gain an echo amongst the masses. The political landscape of France is being constantly shaken up by crises, scandals, elections as well as protests and demonstrations.
Regardless of whether Macron or Le Pen takes the victory on 7 May the conditions for the working class will continue to worsen. The problems facing the French and European working class can not be solved within the limits of capitalism. Wider and wider layers of the workers and the youth will have no other option, than to enter the arena of the class struggle. What we are witnessing these days are mere early anticipations of what awaits in the next period.