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The crisis in France - Part Two

01 June 2019


Jean-Luc Mélenchon sits in a television studio ready to defend his presidential candidature of the French United Left La France Insoumise or “Untamed France”. He is listening to the latest onslaught from one of his many journocritics. The gist of which is: how will you succeed were SYRIZA failed? This was not a discussion. It was an attempt to humiliate and dismiss the Left and Mélenchon's politics as an irrelevance. However, France24 later reported on the surge in Mélenchon's polling numbers and when the election took place he and his party polled well for a new party of the radical left receiving close to 20%.

Like Corbyn-Momentum in Britain and the American Democratic Socialists Mélenchon's France Insoumise is a left social democrat movement that has continued to grow—first by a few percentage points then by episodic surges. This is what happened in Britain where a new Left Labour core, lead by Jeremy Corbyn was able to break through the onslaught of media opposition to win two leadership contests—and to increase the party's seats in the subsequent 2017 UK general election. Accepting that the Mélenchon's France Insoumise is in fact a new party grouping it was a major achievement to win support for a radical left programme.

The Task of Ending National Chauvinism

It is no accident that France Insoumise / Mélenchon has made the connection to Corbyn Momentum formation and their own. With international sponsorship from the US website Jacobin ( Mélenchon's meeting in Liverpool on the 24/09/2018 was introduced by Labour shadow cabinet member Jon Tricket:

Tricket's short but pointed introduction notes the political decline of social democratic promarket parties and the rise of national chauvinism of the right and far right. With some 320,000 registered
supporters and 54,000 activists the point of the Liverpool meeting as as Mélenchon says, connecting that two movements “marks a step forward for our political and ideological family.”

The EU—In It But Not of It

A socialist democratic programme such as that of Momentum/ Insoumise as Mélenchon points out—cannot be implemented under current EU treaties and law. This is why both these left movements are in the EU but not of it. Insoumise/Mélenchon, the Sanderites, the UK Corbynites and the Democratic Socialists of America have drawn their strength from revolutionary immediacy: the common sense policies that they insist on have been the basis to quickly build a mass movement— as the necessary funding needed to transform the economy and ecology cannot be had by taxing the already poor, but by ensuring that the tax system is functioning as it should do to assist in the survival of all and not just the ruling class. Unlike the Brexiters and the surviving fascist Frexiters these movements wish to put the working class and the oppressed in the driving seat. That job cannot be done by Brexit or Frexit which would force the working class movement to the European periphery.

That is why Insoumise/Mélenchon were opposed to the fascist policy of making France “great again” by leaving the EU. And the same goes for the idea that the working class movement can be made
more politically effective by supporting their own international isolation. It is thus an absurd idea that the best advice that can be given to combat national chauvinism is to politically counsel Insoumise/Mélenchon to support Frexit. Only by international solidarity can international capital and its billionaire class be challenged. It cannot be challenged by saying to the international working class movement that workers will be stronger by supporting an EU exit. No gain has been had by UK workers in supporting Brexit. Even those who advocate such a strategy have no effective plan to realize it. That was clear from the experience of the left platforms that took part in the SYRIZA experiment.

Faced with holding out against both Brussels and the central banks on its own, the Greek left/ SYRIZA simply collapsed and became the new austerity party that kept the bond holders in business.

The European Context of Resistance

When asked how can you succeed where SYRIZA failed? Mélenchon replied that the French economy’s productive capacity is several times larger than that of Greece.Unlike the Greek—SYRIZA experience, an effective change of political direction by one of the founders of the EU would be altogether on another level of significance andmagnitude. The more the pro-marketers, Macron and the national chauvinists are seen to fail the more Mélenchon and Insoumise will be able to build a political and industrial strategy that is now required to transform the European economy. After the Yellow Vests protest the battle over  the cost of living cannot be won if the French rail network is passed to the private sector with a dramatic increase in fares. Most of the public revenue that existed in government coffers is now in the hands of  bailed out banks and the bankers—who have suffered no political penalty for bringing ruin to those who paid for their bailout. But if resistance to this system is to win then it means taking more politically  effective action against the banks than breaking their office windows. It might feel good for half a day but tomorrow when the windows are replaced and the debris is cleared and the dust is wiped away public funds will still be in their hands.

Only by international solidarity can British workers teach the French and European working class about the political and meaning of British privatization disasters—how Britain’s rail fares became the
highest in Europe while public sector pay continues to be the lowest—is the only way to oppose EU/UK international privatization roll out. This is what is needed and not to construct an imaginary reality in which the left wins all its own arguments but none of the battles.

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