Wednesday, May 9, 2007

French presidential election: now for round three?

From the SPGB blog, Socialism Or Your Money Back

When Francois Mitterrand was first elected President of France in 1981 there was dancing in the streets. Last Sunday when Nicolas Sarkozy was elected there was rioting in the streets. Perhaps there would have been dancing again if Segolene Royal had won. But, if so, it would have been as deluded as it was in 1981 - since within a year or so France had gone through three devaluations and the Mitterrand government imposed austerity on the working class.

As Socialists, who know from Marx's analysis how capitalism works, we know that what is decisive in determining what happens to the living standards and working conditions of wage and salary workers is not the political colour of the party or person in office but the workings of the production-for-profit system. It is not governments who determine how the economy works but the capitalist economy which determines how governments act. Sooner or later capitalism forces all governments to put profits before people and to attack the working class on behalf of the capitalist class.

The only choice in Sunday's French election was between somebody who said openly he was going to do this and somebody who'd be forced to it despite what she said. So our advice to workers in France was: it wasn't worth voting for either, but as always keep your powder dry for the struggle on the economic field over wages and conditions.

Sarkozy is unpopular because he has made no secret of the fact that he's going to impose austerity on the working class from the start. He has presented himself as a French Mrs Thatcher. Things, he argues, have been too comfortable for the French people; what they need, if France is to survive in the fiercely competitive arena of world capitalism, is not measures aimed to protect them from the effects of world capitalism (as Royal was promising, but wouldn't have been able to deliver any more than Uncle Mitterrand could) but measures to adapt to and go along with world market pressures. The working week must be lengthened, the welfare state cut back, employment protection weakened - and, in addiction, the suburbs where immigrants live must be cleared of yobbos with a pressure hose.

Sarkozy has got a mandate for this, but only from 53 percent of those who voted. This will surely prove insufficient to push through these measures without resistance from the other 47 percent (and from those who didn't vote). So, expect turbulent times in France over the next few years as the class war, initiated in this case by the capitalist class against the workers, hots up.
Adam Buick

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