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France: Le Pen for President?

The big surprise of the first round of the French presidential elections on 21 April was that the two candidates to go through to the second round on 5 May were not Chirac, the outgoing President, and Jospin, the Prime Minister but Chirac and Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, which really is the equivalent of the the British party of the same name, an anti-immigrant “send-them-back” party.

There is, however, no danger that France is about to go fascist. The real winner of the first round were the abstentionists who came first with 28 percent of the electorate, way ahead of Chirac (just under 20 percent of those who voted, but only 14 percent of the electorate). Le Pen's 17 percent of those who voted translates into only 12 percent of the electorate. In other words, nearly 9 out of every 10 people in France do not support Le Pen and his policies, either because they support some other party or because they couldn't care which politicians are elected to preside over the operation of capitalism. In the face of such a statistic there is no chance that Le Pen will be elected President of France on 5 May.

Although Le Pen increased his vote since the last time, the main reason for this result was the dispersal of the votes of the Left, two rival Trotskyist candidates together getting over 10 percent of the vote. These were Leftwing voters who were protesting at the record of the “plural Left” government in France, led by Jospin of the “Socialist” Party, with ministers from the “Communist” Party and the Greens, and its running of capitalism in France in the interests of the French capitalist class (as it had no alternative but to do). The “Communist” Party in fact paid very heavily for its participation in power, its candidate picking up a mere 3 percent of the vote, behind both Trotskyist candidates, Arlette Laguillier of “Lutte Ouvrière” who got just under 6 percent and Olivier Besancenot of the “Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire” who got about 4.5 percent.

The abstentionists had a point: experience has shown that it doesn't matter which gang of professional politicians are in power. Capitalism continues, and so do the problems it brings for wage and salary workers because these problems are caused by the nature of the economic system not by the political colour of those elected to administer it. In fact, parties equivalent to Le Pen's already share power in Italy, Austria and Denmark and there's no appreciable difference between things in these countries and in countries where such parties don't share power, France for instance. It's the same old story of profits before needs, of cuts in benefits, speed-up at work, unemployment, rising street crime, etc, etc.

No doubt there will be big demonstrations, reflecting the views of most people in France, saying “Fascism will not pass” but these miss the real point. First, Le Pen is not going to be elected anyway. Second, even if he were it wouldn't make much difference since he too would have to govern capitalism in the same way as any other politician. And, last but not least, it is capitalism that breeds divisive ideologies that set worker against worker, so that the only way to end this threat once and for all is to unite for socialism, not unite behind some pro-capitalist but “anti-fascist” candidate.