French Trotskyists Challenge the Socialist Party From the Left
By Amelia Gentleman
The French Socialist party responded with gloom yesterday to the news that the countrys two fringe Trotskyist parties were uniting to create a troublesome extreme left pact in time for next years regional and European elections.
The alliance between Workers Struggle (Lutte Ouvriére) and the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) threatens to worsen the deeply demoralized Socialists prospects.
It could attract the 10 percent of the vote needed to qualify for the second round of the regional elections in the spring. Although there is little chance of it achieving power, its potential to wreck the chance of a comeback by the mainstream left is considerable.
The Socialist party spokeswoman, Annick Lepetit, said yesterday that the extreme left alliance would hand victory to the right.
This isnt so much a problem for the Socialist party as for everyone who opposes the right.
The former president of the Communist party, Robert Hue, said the alliance was a media stunt, which could nevertheless prove extremely dangerous. It would ultimately neutralize the leftwing vote and could end up preventing the left going into the second round of the elections.
Many traditional leftwing politicians fear that if the extreme left can shed its historical revolutionary baggage and transform itself into a modern anti-capitalist force it may tap into the growing popularity of the anti-globalization movement.
Fronted by a young, photogenic and increasingly popular postman, Olivier Besancenot, the LCR is already taking pains to modernize its image and attract new supporters from the large pool of floating protest voters who are enraged by the social security changes being pushed through by Jean-Pierre Raffarins rightwing government but who remain uninspired by the mainstream leftwing parties.
Hoping to build on its success in doubling its membership in the past 18 months, the LCR ditched its commitment to a dictatorship of the proletariat at its congress this weekend, on the grounds that such language had become unintelligible to many of its members.
Its new slogan declares that the party is battling for a socialist revolution and for the workers empowerment.
Mr Besancenots party and the secretive, semi-underground Workers Struggle, led by the eccentric veteran Arlette Laguiller, have been at the forefront of many of this years noisy strikes and protests in response to Mr. Raffarins reforms.
Three million voters backed far left candidates in the first round of the presidential election in April, and an opinion poll published on Sunday showed that 9 percent were already prepared to support the new alliance, while 22 percent of those French people who had never previously voted for the extreme left said they would now consider doing so.
The mainstream socialists have not yet recovered from the crushing defeat of their presidential candidate, Lionel Jospin, in the election last spring by the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, nor from their disastrous performance in the parliamentary elections in June.
So far their new leader, Francois Hollande, has not demonstrated the charisma needed to resuscitate the party.
The Greens and the Communist party, which entered into an electoral pact with the Socialist party for the 2002 elections, are currently planning to stand independently, eating further into the Socialists chances of success.
The response from the right wing yesterday was gleeful; candidates are hopeful that the far-left alliance will cause as much trouble to the left as the National Front has caused to them in the past 20 years.
The Guardian, November 4, 2003
Note: Socialist Viewpoint will publish a Marxist analysis of this important development in a future issue.