France: The repealing of the Labour Code and the permanent State of Emergency1
25/06/2017 by socialistfight
A major assault on the workers’ movement by Marcon
And a who’s who of French politics
By Viriato Lusitania
After winning the presidential election in a country where the president is a sort of constitutional king, in the so-called Fifth Republic, Macron has won the Legislature, the Parliamentary elections, with a full majority.
But 60 %, mainly of the working class, distrust him and his program. Turnout was 48.70% in the first round and 42.64% in the second. These are record lows and the lowest-ever votes for the center-left and center-right in the legislative elections. In the worker’s constituencies, these abstention percentages went from 70% to 90% with 70% being a low average. If we add that to those who didn’t vote for his party “La République en Marche” we see that this is very far from an enthusiastic endorsement of his policies; his candidates got only 32% in the first round and 49%, in the second. The other parties, the conservatives or “La Droite” (LR, Les Republicains) or the France Insoumise FI, (Defiant France, Mélenchon) or the PCF (Parti Communiste Français) or the PS Socialist Party or the National Front (FN) has taken more than half of the actual vote but, with the present electoral system in France, they got just a tiny number of MPs. He was elected President by 66% but just over 49% of the registered electors and his MPs by a far lesser margin, just 21% of potential voters.
Marcronism; a reconstitution of French politics
This Macron government, backed by the Finance capital that is his base, the whole bourgeoisie in fact and a team of communicators, think-tanks and experienced advisors should answer a pressing need for beleaguered French capitalism. If they are to have a chance to keep themselves in the hotly contested search of markets and profits, they must pocket a bigger share of the worker’s direct and indirect wages. It is a pressing need that could not be delayed further out of fear of the working-class reaction, as it has been during some decades.
His first move when elected has been to form an election-oriented government to assemble some layers of the Conservatives and the right wing of the Socialists, the worst of Hollande’s supporters (for the British people these are the Labour’s Blairites); as El Kohmri (who authored the infamous anti-union law named after him), Touraine, Vals (who is so unpopular that he has been rejected by En Marche!). Le Drian that becomes minister of Foreign Affairs for Macron etc. But in the main, it is a conservative government; the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and the Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire are both hard conservatives coming just recently from “la droite”, Les Republicains to the Macron government.
In its public agenda today, which is not what is in their projected agenda which goes very much further, there are two big laws to be implemented. The ‘reform’ of the Labour Code (le Code du Travail) and making the State of Emergency Laws an integral and definitive part of the French legislation. Of course, both come together and the first needs the second.
The ‘reform’ of the Labour Code will chain the worker by hand and foot to the bosses, rendering even the law or the national union-bosses’ agreements ineffectual against the will of the bosses. This is to be accomplished by fake “negotiation” in every individual workplace under the threat of redundancies. Today in many workplaces workers are living in a regime of terror from their bosses’ who use the threat of redundancies against them. They have absolutely no possibility to resist the pressure for wage cuts, longer working hours, worsening conditions and so forth. The only, quite hypothetical, defence but a one that bosses fear yet and workers trust even if the practical results are minimal, is the Labour Code.
The bosses’ association has made an adamant requirement to finish with every measure that could in the least serve for a minimum defence of the workers and employees against the employers. The reform of the Labour Code has not only a worker-bosses’ importance but, as Mélenchon has said, it is the “cement for all French lifestyle” that is, is at the base of the compromise between the bourgeoisie and the best paid layers of the working class, the labour aristocracy. Anecdotally during the election campaign, you should hear some quite hard conservatives people with more foresight and political experience speaking against such an adventurous move by their class.
This could be an atomic bomb exploding in the face of everyone and there will be a reaction when people see the actual consequences of that very risky bourgeois move. In some way is a sign of the degree of adventurism of the French bourgeois class because they feel they face little political opposition and they expect, or more likely feel their own desperate need to go ahead…into the unknown.
The other measure that amounts to a reinforcement of the repression goes naturally with the first Labour’s Law and should try to kill in their infancy the massive demos that will follow the first Union’s call against this “loi scélerate”, the “shameful law”. We should expect then all the ‘tricks’ of the Prefectures, that is all sort of “provocations” coming from the power accompanied with all sort of arrests and repressive measures on behalf of the fight against terrorism… and of the State of Emergency. But the most conscious layers of the people know this and is ready to fight the reform of the Labour’s Code and the “Lois liberticides” liberticidal laws when the factual events “fall on their heads”.
Against the Macron government we have an array of parties:
The Conservatives (LR and UDI)
Amongst the opposition MPs, 136 out of 577 are the conservatives. Naturally, many of them are quite in agreement with the Macron program, its public and its disguised agenda (perhaps even worse with attacks against the pensions system, the people’s on the dole payments, the health service system, their international agenda make of following Merkel or Washington if it is question of fighting the Russians, etc.) and there is already a split in ranks of their MP, a fraction going to the Macron government so as not to miss this opening opportunity for personal profit…but the more farsighted ones are betting in the coming months on a quick fall in Macron’s popularity, which is wholly built on ‘communication tricks’ …and it is a good bet IMHO.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe
The Macronites; Pandora’s Box
The MPs of the Macron movement are quite a funny lot. This could give their boss some headaches. Some six months ago, before his election, Macron had not got a party or a movement or his own. All that he assembled as his headquarters was a lot of people recommended by his sponsors think tanks and advisors, with people mainly coming from the technocratic, elite, bureaucratic part of the right or rightist socialists but with little political experience apart from one or two of them. One of them has been appointed the chief of the new MPs to counsel them but mostly to control them and there is a need…
As the quasi-official paper “Le Monde” put it, “In general, the so-called “civil society” represented by “En Marche!” is composed of CEOs, doctors, lawyers, attorneys, private counsellors, and middle ranking political managers. The ‘République en Marche’ is the one of superior social categories and superior professions, dynamic managers and ‘notables’ (important people) in the provinces.” As Medaipart has written “La REM is a …world of people that is doing pretty well, even more than pretty well, as the main poll’s base of Emmanuel Macron”
Their social origins are also quite clear. As Le Monde writes almost 40% comes from the “grandes écoles” the big bourgeois scholarly establishments that form the political and administrative elite of the French state apparatus. These people furnish first class service personnel to the big French corporations, to the French state administration, to industry, to trade and finance and scientific research. This narrow sociological stratum is tied up to the big capitalist groups or the French state administration. It depends on them. It is fed by them and will, naturally, do the political will of the administrative councils of the big capitalist companies who are now sternly demanding an acceleration of the Sarkozy-Hollande politic of transfer of the public wealth to them.
But it may not turn out so well. Many of the new MPs, even if they have the aforementioned background, are politically quite naïve and it could be expected that some of them will find themselves totally out of sorts with what they think that it was all about. They want “a change” a “renouvellement” (a renewal) of political culture and of France itself as against the old culture of always “for the bosses” but in harder way now. There could be in for some surprises because these people also have a heart and a mind and may not be so easily manipulated as the “grosses têtes” (the “big egg heads”) think they will.
There is such a big change on the agenda that there could be some people who just do not accept what is coming in matters like public liberties and the whole stability of the French social fabric. There are amongst them also research and scientific people which are used to thinking and are not used to being treated as mere just pawns. The many illusions that exist in the lower ranks of the “En Marche!” will vanish for some when the shine comes off and the real Macron politics appears.
To put more hot sauce on the picture, today, when I was writing this paper, there were two important facts concerning the Macron government. Three of the most prominent ministers coming from the MODEM (center-right group that helped Macron to be elected) have resigned or declared they are not willing to participate in the new government. This is less than two months after the presidential election we have a ministerial and political crisis. The reasons are not clear at all, but for the press, they come from some minor legal problems concerning mismanagement of parliamentary money allocated for other reasons than the legal ones. It can be political grounds also but it is too soon to fully know.
The other fact is the constitution of a parliamentary group coming from the conservatives (LR and UDI) to support Macron, giving the government and his policy and its public opinion, a still more to the right spectrum perception of French politics. There is a frenetic run between this right and the right wing of the Socialists to win the favors of macronism and to support his politics. But there are more chances that the right wins this race.
The Socialists (PS)
(The French ‘Labour party’), the PS, has split itself in a quite bigger ‘Macronite’ fraction (all the right, almost as in GB) which will give a vote of confidence to the new government. Here we should put a question mark because if the Macron program who has deluded many well-intentioned people gets unmasked for the majority of the working classes (and it is beginning to happen), these same people will turn 180° to vote against. This is the profound nature of these people, save their jobs as politicians and delude the working class.
There is another side or fraction that, for the moment, vacillates because perhaps some are willing to go to the Mélenchon movement but not the majority, not even a fraction because the Mélechonite movement, La France Insoumise, (the Rebel France) has come too soon/ and is too young a movement to attract old bleached horses under the service of the bourgeois from the ‘left’. Perhaps there could be one or two good socialist MPs who are still attached to their worker’s root that could move to the left, pushed by the socialist base.
Les Insoumis, or La France Insoumise is the Mélenchon movement (FI)
It is difficult to define because it is a very loose movement composed mainly by petit bourgeois and workers layers with a habit of left voting. Most of them were ancient socialist and communist voters and even old leftists coming from the “Trotskyist” and “Maoists” movements. As they say here “des vieux soixant-huitards” (old sixty-eighters, a reference to the 1968 movement). There is also many youngsters that in both elections voted Mélenchon by a very large majority in some way similar to the Corbyn vote in the UK. They are young, enthusiast and taking up their very first arms in the political arena. They are the marching battalions and the future of the Mélenchonites…if they get the necessary communist political education.
Mélenchon comes from the French Trotskyist Lambertist group in his youth, he is now 65, but mainly he has made his political life in the PS. The Lambertists have infiltrated many of their best militants into high places; Jospin, the old Prime Minister of Chirac, Cambadelis recently first secretary of the PS, Mélenchon himself and others. To no use at all. Some of them have become outright rightists.
Mélenchon has been a senator, a minister and other high posts in the state apparatus. But some years ago, he broke with the PS and with Hollande because of “its rightists trend” and look to constitute a “new left” a new Labour party, (“Le Parti de gauche” the Left Party). Mélenchon worked out some agreements with the PCF that backfired because de PCF preferred the PS and were looking to maintain their local and national elected members. In this presidential campaign, with a program mainly just left social democratic, Mélenchon won almost 20% of the polls and, better than this, he has built a sort of movement, La France Insoumise, that unites very loosely, left voters and union militants that want to go for more.
This was the only, with some chances to win, a channel for workers to express their rejection from the left of the Hollande government. Needless to say, that with so loose a movement, it could be subject to the same “instability” problems as Macron with its “En Marche!” rank and file MPs.
Recently, Monday the 19th June, there was a call to demonstrate by the Front Social, a makeshift ‘organization’ made of ultra-lefts and some unions (here in Lyon the most militants). After the Sunday’s political defeat of the second turn of Legislative, I was expecting a very small attendance, but there were 600 people mostly very young, manly defiant Insoumis, the hard-core militants of the region also. This is very good news if this young Insoumis enthusiasm remains.
Because of the political situation here, the measures this new government have in mind, are in nature to maintain and reinforce this tendency. I should confess, on my electoral experience with the people of my constituency (that were not in the ‘demo’) that I was thinking that the Insoumis will remain just an electoral movement, but because of its very loose nature and of the multivariate political influences in the movement, you can find a youth that is yearning for a political issue (and of course a political education).
Mélenchon, because of his own agenda, but also pushed by the grass root movement, has been and will be pushed to the left. The bourgeoisie sees in him, the “extreme-left” of the country. I have seen this in Chile. Allende, a quite right-wing socialist became a worker’s hero on the same dynamics. Mélenchon, perhaps against its own will, sees the dangers, but also the possibilities of the whole situation. He is and will be pushed by the need (against the liberticidal laws and against the capitalist agenda of Macron) but mainly by the masses, to the left. Sunday, the day after the second round of the MPs election, he made a quite good speech calling to Resist (Résistance!) the capitalist government and denying any legitimacy for Macron to “casser le Code du Travail” (‘break’ the Labour Law) and against the legalization of the Emergency State (Exceptional laws against ‘terrorism’ in fact against the worker’s movement) and calling, with some grounds, his movement has won 17 MPs and can form a “group” in the new Parliament which with some speaking and financial rights, to be the only legitimate Left of the country.
French Communist Party (PCF) general secretary Pierre Laurent
The Communist Party, (PCF, Parti Communiste Français)
The Communist Party led by Pierre Laurent has roamed from the France Insoumise to what remains today of the Socialist Party. They boast that they have 10 MPs against 8 in the last Parliament. They don’t say that 5 of them come from the support of the Mélenchonites. His problem, as always, will be with whom to join his forces. He glances to the socialist, or little formations because Mélenchon is too much a big figure to impose on him. Laurent knows that the PS is imploding and will split in a Macronite group, quite a lot of them, and…it is difficult to say what, perhaps a ‘left’ wing that is not as left as Mélenchon or perhaps there will be someone who will finally go to France Insoumise. It is hard to say, but their political space between PCF and FI or between Macron and FI is a very narrow one. We’ll see, but the main figure of the left is Mélenchon of whom we have spoken above.
Lutte Ouvriere is a sectarian caricature of “Trotskyism” and the NPA seems like a fish out of the water struggling for some air and doomed to die or go into a profound coma. They have no national policy at all despite firing their feeble arrows against…Mélenchon. It is hardly of some use to speak of them. I got the impression they do not understand the minimum of politics. The practice of the LO is a sort of anarcho-syndicalism sui generis preaching “Trotskyist” or “Marxist” generalities, the exact contrary of Marxism and in the international arena supporting indirectly the imperialists’ aggression.
As for New Anti-Capitalist Party NPA I know not what to say. They presented a tenth of their previous candidates for the Legislative, they lack militant work and money and it is very difficult to understand their policy if they have one, albeit to comment on political life, say everywhere, as LO do also, they are just a tiny minority…pitiful also as they miserably presented themselves. Of course, and from the beginning they are totally wrong in international questions, shamefully leading the right wing in these matters.
The times that come will be hard fighting ones, because the fight that comes, with a bourgeoisie fully prepared and determined to win, could only, and necessarily could be faced by the resistance of masses of workers in the streets and in the works fighting for a general strike for socialism as a good program. Shall we see it? That is a question that lodged in the leadership of the working class and is, as it has been stated before, the main question of the moment.
[…]  See, France: The repealing of the Labour Code and the permanent State of Emergency, https://socialistfight.com/2017/06/25/france-the-repealing-of-the-labour-code-and-the-permanent-stat… […]