Editorial – Discontented workers choose the devil they know
The 2022 French presidential election took place against the backdrop of deep working-class dissatisfaction with the political status quo. As in 2017, the first round of results gave French workers the choice between Emmanuel Macron and the far-right nationalist, Marine Le Pen in the second round. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the left-wing reformer, came in a close third at 22 percent of the votes cast (Le Pen came in second at 23 percent and Macron on top at 28 percent). What is striking is how the established capitalist parties, Les Républicains and so-called Parti socialiste, were reduced to insignificance electorally, gaining between them about 6.5 percent of the vote less than the total cast for Eric Zemmour, the other far-right candidate at 7.1 percent. There were six other candidates.
Macron is no longer the new kid on the block. He has been the President for the last five years and has revealed himself as the faithful servant of French capitalism. In this time, he has introduced anti-working class austerity policies which provoked strikes and protests from the workers and also the Gilets jaunes protests which, although small-business led, had drawn in discontented workers. No wonder he is known as the ‘president of the rich’.
Le Pen continues in her attempt to make her party less toxic. She has changed its name to the Rassemblement National (National Rally) and has dropped her opposition to the EU and the Euro. She wants to reform it and reduce France’s contribution to the EU budget. French law would take precedence over EU law. For all her efforts to soften her party’s image, there are still her noxious xenophobic and racist policies – French nationals given priority over immigrants in jobs, housing and social services and tougher immigration policies and the banning of Muslim headscarves in public. She was helped by the fact that her rival on the far right, Zemmour, who is more obnoxious than she, is had helped her to appear more ‘moderate’. She poses as the workers’ friend by focussing on the cost-of-living crisis, with pledges like abolishing income tax for the under-thirties. However, she has had to play down her former close links with Putin by condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and faced taunts that her party had accepted loans from Russian banks.
It is not surprising that there is little enthusiasm for either of these candidates. Both Macron and Le Pen had gone after the votes that went to Mélenchon. Macron had sold himself to younger voters as a keen supporter of a pro-environment agenda.
After the second round of voting on 24 April, Emmanuel Macron was declared the final winner. Many French workers stayed with the devil they knew. Although profoundly dissatisfied with his political leadership, they reckoned that the alternative was far too unpalatable and decided to hold their noses and vote for him. There will be a sigh of relief among the world’s capitalists, especially those from the EU area, that the French workers had opted for a safe pair of hands. However for the French workers, there is little change, the same old drudgery and the struggle to make ends meet, which is the fate of workers all over the world.