Communist Party of the Workers of France (PCOF)

Break with the neoliberal policies of Hollande and his government at the service of the oligarchy

François Hollande was elected President in 2012 because the majority of the voters mainly wanted to get rid of Sarkozy. Therefore this was not a vote in favor of Hollande’s program, since he never promised to fight against the neoliberal policies nor to confront the interests of the rich; he used an ambiguous discourse at the end of the campaign, in which he said that “the enemy was the finances,” in reality expressing a complete vagueness about what he intended to do to combat these so-called finances. His idea was that of someone who, at the beginning of his presidential five-year term, wanted to appear as a “normal president” to “reconcile the French” and overcome the divisions that Sarkozy had exacerbated in his years in office.

Preventing Sarkozy from being re-elected was a very strong issue among the popular sectors. Sarkozy’s years were marked by very aggressive neoliberal actions in the social and political sphere, which allowed a rise in reaction in the ideological sphere, making important approaches to the extreme right of the National Front led by Marine Le Pen. It was also under Sarkozy that French imperialism strengthened its ties with NATO, including a greater military commitment of the French army in the war in Afghanistan. It was under his presidency that French imperialism bombed Libya.

There were large social movements at the end of Sarkozy’s five-year term: hundreds of thousands of workers, future retirees, and others demonstrated against a supposed reform to the pension system that would increase the number of years of contributions needed to receive a full pension. Given the degree of unemployment, which affects both young and older workers, this reform was intended to dramatically reduce the level of pensions.

Other demonstrations were aimed at confronting the reactionary policies on immigration, the criminalization of trade union activity, the creation of a racist social environment, the stigmatization of marginalized communities, such as the Roma (“Gypsies”).

Many of the slogans of the candidate of the Left Front in the first round, J.L. Melenchon, were used by Hollande to beat Sarkozy. The figures show: without this support Sarkozy would have won the elections.

The Left Front, which our Party joined early in the presidential campaign, paused in the hope that Hollande would break with these neoliberal policies. It mobilized hundreds of thousands of people, including trade unionists, youth activists and young people, many of them alienated from the political parties that, at one time or another, supported the Government of the Socialist Party (PS).

The dynamic created by the Left Front, with large marches, rallies in streets and squares, was particularly inspired by the demonstrations that took place in Tunisia and Egypt during their revolutionary actions.

It was the Left Front that set the pace politically during the presidential campaign, forcing discussions on substantive issues regarding the type of society needed, the breaks with the status quo by putting forward immediate popular demands and satisfying them. The Front began to challenge the “consensus” imposed by the parties of the right and the PS on issues such as the nature of EU policy and the desirability of the French presence in NATO.

These points were synthesized under the program, “Human Beings First,” which was distributed in tens of thousands of leaflets.

This program was aimed against neoliberalism, but it did not have the aim of overthrowing the capitalist system; It could be described as radical reformism, with a Keynesian orientation. It proposed to repeal a series of European treaties and directives, it denounced the neoliberal policy orientation of the European Commission and the European Union, and it questioned the criteria inherent in the single currency (the Euro); it considered that leaving the EU was a negative solution that should be avoided and should not be set as one of the objectives of the Left Front.

Conscious of these limitations, our Party decided to participate in the Left Front. Why?

  1. Because the political basis that brought together the forces of the Left Front, namely, the questioning of and the will to fight against neoliberal politics and to distance itself from the social-liberal forces, such as the Socialist Party, was an acceptable basis for compromise, given the balance of power between the reformist forces and the revolutionary forces.
  2. Because the workers and popular movement was hoping for a political alternative that would unify the forces of the tendency to the greatest degree.
  3. Because our Party maintained its complete ideological, programmatic and organizational independence, its freedom of expression and initiatives within the framework of this political alliance. With its slogan of “For a Revolutionary Popular Front, now!” our Party joined the Left Front, in which it led the fight to break with neoliberal political positions, going as far as possible in all areas.

The commitment of our Party in the struggle of the Left Front was concrete and serious to the best of our abilities. The Party gained a lot of political experience, we were seen and heard at the national level and got the respect of the other political forces of the Left Front.

We can say that the Party contributed to the success of the presidential campaign, which was a real political advance, from the point of view of the content of the debates, the positions and proposals and, from the perspective of popular participation of many trade unions and workers.

This was clearly reflected in the huge “marches” and other mass actions organized by the Left Front throughout the whole campaign.

Social democracy “manages” the crisis of French imperialism in favor of the monopolies

In the EU countries, social democracy is implementing the counter-reforms that allow for the greater exploitation of labor power, greater flexibility in the labor market, a drastic reduction of unemployment benefits, pensions, etc. It is continuing and expanding the take back of social gains, such as the social protection, whose bases and principles date back to the post-war period, when the workers and popular movement, nationally and internationally, could impose these advances in all the capitalist countries. These take backs have accelerated and deepened with the neoliberal policies, an offensive carried out at the European level by the different governments, from the right or “socialist” or both, under the orders of the European institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Central Bank, etc.

The political and ideological role of social- democracy is to disarm and divide the working class and the masses. It carries out maneuvers in the trade union movement that it controls to try to confuse the other organizations.

François Hollande has continued to follow this “road” without deviating, despite his electoral failures and the fact that his popularity curve has been declining.

If France keeps going along this “road” without deviations it is because French imperialism is in crisis, just like all the imperialist powers. But French imperialism is more complicated than its main rivals. This leads to an aggressive policy against the working class and popular sectors, to make the full weight of the effects of the crisis fall on them and an equally aggressive policy to defend the interests of the French monopolies, especially in the areas and regions where they are dominant.

This aggressiveness is manifested in a warmongering policy, in military interventions, especially in Africa, to try to preserve its hegemony in its neo-colonies and in the search for new markets, the search for a new access to raw materials and strategic areas, such as the Middle East.

With Hollande, this policy has increased under the guise of the fight against terrorism. The military presence of French imperialism has been strengthened in Africa and the Middle East; arms sales have increased: Hollande and his ministers are truly “street vendors” for the large arms manufacturers, nuclear weapons, through the sale of fighter aircraft, for example, of the private group Dassault. This policy is part of the bitter struggle and rivalry among the imperialist powers, which are increasingly leading to military interventions. French imperialism is one of the promoters of these wars: it leads them and nourishes them to the benefit of their arms monopolies. Under Hollande this trend is being reaffirmed, as is also the strengthening of the trend towards militarization of the economy and society, for which he has implemented a police state which carries out surveillance on a large scale, without control, with sophisticated and expensive means, under the pretext of the “fight against terrorism”.

Social democracy is the handmaiden of reaction

The right and the extreme right, meanwhile, have mobilized their social base against certain laws such as the one “of society,” such as the legalization of same-sex civil marriage. These mass demonstrations, with hundreds of thousands of protesters, have been fertile ground for the meeting up between a part of the right and sectors of the extreme right, from the National Front of M. Le Pen to violent groups of the extreme right.

The austerity policies imposed by Hollande and the different governments have created general discontent among widespread sectors of the population, and not only the popular sectors. Thus, the tax increase affects the so- called “middle class” professionals, the executives, etc., strata that have the opportunity of being heard through the media. For months, these have been the sectors that have been on the streets. In Brittany, a region particularly affected by the crisis in the pork industry, several companies in that sector employing local labor power closed their doors, condemning thousands of rural workers to unemployment, without prospects of rejoining the work force. It is the great Breton chiefs, playing the card of regionalism against the central power in Paris, who took up and diverted the old demand to “live and work in the country,” a demand made in the 1970s by the progressive movements that were at the head of protests and mass demonstrations against government policy.

It is in this context that the National Front led by M. Le Pen found fertile ground for the development of its positions and its political and electoral influence.

Under the leadership of Ms. Le Pen, the FN made a change in its political platform to give way, provide an “opening,” in her discourse on social problems. The normal discourse of blaming the immigrants, which had been dominant since the founding of this extreme-right party, has made some changes, extending its demands to social issues and not hesitating to take up the issues raised by the Left Front. The FN has also taken positions criticizing the EU and the euro, even greeting the victory of Syriza in Greece, presenting it as the way towards the withdrawal of Greece from the euro zone.

But its racist background, xenophobia and stigmatization of Islam (in the name of the so- called defense of secularism), indicate that the FN has not changed its origins.

What has changed is its discourse; it now has a “social” discourse, the discourse against the “impositions of the EU,” etc., which find an echo among sectors of the electorate.

Surveys were made of this electorate. These should be taken with caution, but there are also verifiable observations. On the one hand, the electorate is comprised of various “strata” of the fascist extreme right, of racists and fundamentalist Catholic circles, which form its militant base, to which must be added an important part of the “units” formed by the father of Marine Le Pen.

Then, sectors of the right, radicalized by the crisis, were brought together and they think that it is better to go with the FN instead of the parties of the traditional right, including the UMP [Union for a Popular Movement] (Sarkozy’s party), to advance their ideas. The electoral successes of the FN reaffirm that they are continuing in that direction.

Among the sectors that have traditionally voted with the right are the new actors, the farmers, who feel that they have been “abandoned” by the old parties of the right and those whom they accuse of not being firm enough towards the European Commission.

It is also clear that many voters who had previously voted for the left today voted for the FN. If the FN had won, in part it would have been because there was a transfer of votes from the parties of the right-wing, because the FN took up some of their themes.

It is also undeniable that a politically backward sector of the popular classes also voted for the FN. Its “simple” discourse on social issues, its denunciation of the corruption and the contempt of the elites for the masses, etc., found an echo among these sectors.

The popular resistance of the workers to this reactionary policy

There were not many illusions about François Hollande and the parliamentary hegemonic majority of the PS. That having been said, after the “Sarkozy era” the dominant idea among the popular sectors and the workers was that “it could not be worse,” and that the new majority would at least get rid of some of the most unpopular measures.

But François Hollande soon showed that instead he aligned himself with the main lines of the previous policy. First was the ratification of the Sarkozy-Merkel Treaty, without any changes, which confirmed the shrinking of the State budgets and therefore of production.

Then came the various counter-reforms, drawn up in conjunction with the employers.

While indignation was increasing among the ranks of the workers, among the union activists and more generally among the popular sectors, which was expressed through demonstrations of the workers who fought against the closure of enterprises, against anti-union repression, these mobilizations remained well isolated from each other, or were limited to merely passive actions.

The reason for the latter was the attitude of the trade union leaders, who tried systematically to have a “dialogue” with a government that always relied on the most collaborationist unions.

From the political point of view, we see vacillation by the major forces of the left regarding taking a clear position against the general policy of the government, on the one hand calling on them to directly combat it and on the other working on those issues that hindered the development of the workers and popular mobilization.

However, the Left Front maintained its capacity for mobilization, as evidenced by the success of the various “marches” which it organized, whether against the Merkel-Sarkozy treaty (which Hollande joined), or to denounce the austerity policies, etc.

But each time the election date approached, the lack of clarity and consistency in the position towards the Socialist Party undermined the Left Front, since some of its elements wanted an alliance with the PS, while others, such as our party, rejected this.

Obviously, there are other causes and difficulties in the Left Front that did not let it appear as a credible alternative in the eyes of the masses. The fact that the Front is above all basically an electoral group makes it questionable as a political alternative. This, in a context in which the great masses of workers and popular sectors no longer believe in elections and are beginning to move away from them, since they find that regardless of the outcome it is the same policy that continues.

Generating outrage among the workers, mobilization and radicalization among the youth and the women workers

The enormous repression by the employers, to which must be added the anti-working class policy of the Government, is getting broad sectors, especially of the working class, involved in specific actions. Among their main demands are wage increases, reductions in work hours because of austerity and the subsequent freezing of wages, both in the private sector and in the lower categories of public servants and of sectional agencies.

The mobilization of last April 9 had about 300,000 working people in the streets, a majority of whom were workers.

The employees in health care, education and social services are fighting against hospital closures, the degradation of public services, of education, the cutting of social welfare; all this is due to the cuts imposed by the government, which is applying drastic budget cuts in social spending.

Among companies engaged in large-scale trade, such as the large supermarket chains, where there is job insecurity, employing mainly women at very low wages, etc., actions of struggle are developing, although the rate of unionization is small. These struggles are often not only over basic questions of wages, but also over working conditions.

Large sections of youth are mobilized against the big luxury projects, which are useless, expensive and destructive, also towards the environment. This is a phenomenon that we see in various European countries, where large infrastructure projects, particularly in the field of transport, are imposed by the governments at the service of the monopolies, which are the ones that benefit from their construction.

The huge profits of the shareholders of these monopolies were brought to light, showing how they are gobbling up millions of dollars with the approval of the EU, to the detriment of great social needs.

When these actions are based on the mobilization of the workers and peoples, they can in fact create a dynamic of the popular front. It is the policy and practice developed by our Party in these circumstances, where it is necessary, on the one hand, to support not only the fronts of struggle, but also to strengthen and work for the broadest support. It is a policy that pushes as far as possible the rupture with the capitalist-imperialist system and at the same time works for the unity of the working class and the masses.

Develop solidarity with the workers and peoples who are struggling against this policy

It is also necessary to take into account the development of the class struggle internationally, which is also taking place in each country, especially in the political sphere. We can now observe it in the situation unfolding in Greece after the victory of SYRIZA and the confrontation that is taking place between the Government headed by Tsipras, the Greek workers and people, on the one hand, and the troika of the EU, the leaders of the great powers that dominate the EU, German and French imperialism, etc., and the financial oligarchy, on the other hand. The challenge of this confrontation is mainly political: the financial oligarchy, the governments and the agencies at their service do not want a people who are confronting their impositions and rejecting the austerity policies that have brought a large part of the population to misery. The way out of this confrontation is not resolved. But what is already clear is that in this confrontation the EU, the supporters of the euro, of the austerity policies imposed on all the workers and peoples are becoming increasingly isolated. However, it is very important to note that the resistance to this policy is today led by a Government that claims to be of the radical left, which is not allied with social-democracy and is fighting against the extreme right.

We are interested in helping them to move forward!

March 2015

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