05/04/2022 by socialistfight
From Revolution French Section of the International Marxist Tendency, closely linked to Socialist Appeal in Britain and its main founder, Ted Grant
For three months, the militants of the Popular Union and France Insoumise plus a large number of old ex-militants from the PC and the extreme left have been campaigning for Mélenchon’s candidacy.
This candidacy has succeeded in generating a rising dynamic between the youth and the concious working-class because all the left-wing militants of this country are clinging like shipwrecked men to the salvation table to this candidacy to avoid the continuation of Macron’s policy or the arrival in power of the extreme right.
More and more in the last few days, intellectuals, scientists, small formations are joining this campaign but above all, public meetings in big cities are mobilising workers and youth by tens or even hundreds of thousands as in Paris.
Hier in Lyon a conservative city, there were more than 15000 to the meeting full of youth searching an alternative to Macron-Le Pen.
No other candidate of the left and by far, have done the tenth of this demos and they are focusing not on Macron and Le Pen but on Mélenchon. It’s disgusting.
The paper that follows, with few cuts, said better than me what is at stake.”
With six days to go before the first round of the presidential election, one thing is certain: Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the only left-wing candidate likely to reach the second round. In a few weeks, he has gone from 10 to 16% of voting intentions. However, the same polls place Marine Le Pen in second position (behind Macron), with a lead over Mélenchon that varies from 4 to 6 points.
Of course, these figures should be taken with a grain of salt, especially in the context of a deep economic, social and political crisis, which induces a very high volatility of opinion. For example, a higher than expected turnout could significantly shift the lines. However, a number of general trends are emerging. On the evening of 10 April, the composition of the leading trio will most probably be the one announced and Macron will probably come in first place). On the other hand, second place is not a given for Marine Le Pen. It is possible that Mélenchon will come in ahead of the far-right candidate.
Across the country, tens of thousands of activists and supporters of the France Insoumise (FI) are working day after day to win the votes of a maximum of voters. The “action groups” of the campaign are multiplying the sticking of posters, distribution of leaflets, door-to-door and public meetings. Each one tries to convince members of their professional, friends, and family circle.
During this time, the other “left-wing” candidates – the inverted commas here are essential – are doing everything they can to obtain… the defeat of Mélenchon. That’s not what they say, of course, but it’s what they do, because their campaign can have no other effect than to help Marine Le Pen qualify. And this is obviously a source of incomprehension, frustration and anger for many young people, workers, unemployed and pensioners who are hoping for a victory for the best-placed left-wing candidate.
Certainly, the delay that Mélenchon is experiencing, in the face of Le Pen and Macron, is not solely attributable to the competition of the other “left” candidates. Since 2017, the leaders of the FI have made a certain number of (right-wing) errors, which we have regularly underlined. These errors now carry a lot of weight. But they will not be corrected by 10 April. As a result, all attention is now focused on the factors in the final sprint that can tip the balance one way or the other. In this area, the responsibility of the other “left” candidates is enormous.
A serious obstacle
Not all these candidates are equally harmful. To reproach Jadot and Hidalgo with “dividing the left”, you first have to classify them as left-wing candidates, which is in itself highly debatable. Politically, Jadot and Hidalgo are clearly closer to Macron than to Mélenchon. These two champions of the capitalist “free market” are organically incapable of supporting the candidate of the FI.
That said, the pro-capitalist ideas and programme of Jadot and Hidalgo are one thing; another is the social and political composition of their respective electorates. In particular, a fraction of Jadot’s potential electorate is made up of young and working people who are hesitating between the Green and FI candidates.
In recent weeks, the polls have recorded an electoral movement from Jadot to Mélenchon. This movement could continue over the next few days, despite the wealth of demagogy that the Green candidate deploys to try to interrupt it. The higher Mélenchon rises in the polls, the more credible the hypothesis of his qualification becomes, the more the left wing of Jadot’s potential electorate will be drawn into the dynamic in favour of the FI candidate.
By violently attacking Mélenchon, Jadot and Hidalgo underline their unfailing loyalty to the established order. In this sense, they are clarifying.
What is more lamentable, from our point of view, is the role played by the candidacies of Roussel, Poutou and Arthaud, who claim to be radical on the left. By dividing the potential electorate of Mélenchon, they slow down the dynamics of his candidacy. To take the measure of this obstacle, we have to understand that it cannot be reduced to simple electoral arithmetic. The problem is not only the number of votes which, instead of going to Mélenchon, will be captured by the PCF, the NPA and Lutte Ouvrière. The problem is broader. This division undermines the FI’s electoral potential in other parts of the popular electorate.
Let’s put it positively. Let’s suppose that, tomorrow, Roussel, Poutou and Arthaud announce that they are withdrawing from the race and, without renouncing their ideas, call for a vote for the best-placed left-wing candidate. On the one hand, a significant fraction of their respective electorates would follow the movement and, on 10 April, vote for the FI.
But on the other hand, this withdrawal and this call would have very positive repercussions – for Mélenchon’s candidacy – in those layers of the popular electorate that observe the division of the left with a scepticism that is fraught with reproach. “These people are incapable of uniting because they are less interested in our fate than in that of their little shops”: that’s what millions of exploited and oppressed people think, in one way or another, especially among abstentionists and the working-class electorate of the RN.
It’s clear that this reproach is right on target: by maintaining their candidacies, the leaderships of the PCF, the NPA and LO are essentially seeking to defend the interests of their “shops” (or their owners). It’s all the more lamentable that these parties will emerge even more discredited than they already are, because of the counter-productive role they are playing in this campaign.
Of course, Roussel, Poutou and Arthaud are not saying: “vote for my shop”. No: they present their candidacy as a positive contribution to the struggle of the exploited and oppressed. No matter how much we point out to them that, from the point of view of this struggle, a second round opposing Macron to Le Pen is not the best scenario, the leaderships of the PCF, the NPA and LO do not give up.
Last February, we devoted an article to the pathetic campaign of Fabien Roussel. We don’t have much to add to it. Since then, the “Roussel dynamic” – carried for a time by the favourable winds of the bourgeois media – has fallen back to around 3% in the polls. It was predictable: hundreds of thousands of potential Roussel voters have taken note of Mélenchon’s rise and are rallying to him, in the hope of beating the right and the far right.
Like Jadot, Roussel reacted by redoubling his aggressiveness against Mélenchon and imploring his potential voters not to give in to the “useful vote”. The PCF candidate insists that a vote for his candidacy “is not a useless vote”. One wonders what his “usefulness” consists of. Roussel’s campaign is not only useless; it is positively harmful, in every respect, and particularly with regard to the objective of beating the right and the extreme right. Let’s bet, by the way, that if Mélenchon is eliminated in the first round, the PCF leadership will not hesitate for a second to call for a vote for Macron against Le Pen, after having favoured the latter’s qualification.
Misery of the “extreme left”
Let’s come to the two candidates of the “far left”: Poutou and Arthaud. As in 2017, the leaderships of the NPA and Lutte Ouvrière are incapable of rising above a sectarian, ultra-leftist and counter-productive position.
Take, for example, Philippe Poutou’s interview on Franceinfo on 28 March. To a journalist who asked him if he was going to withdraw in favour of Mélenchon, the NPA candidate replied that this hypothesis was “absurd”, before continuing: “They’re playing the useful vote trick again. (…) [But] the NPA vote has a purpose: it’s to say that we’re fed up with this capitalism. (…) We don’t believe at all in an institutional solution. Even if Mélenchon could get through his mouse hole (…), it’s going to be even more complicated in the second round: we don’t see how he could win, because the electoral balance of power is not on our side today. It’s not on the side of the left. So we might as well discuss plan B. If Macron wins, which is most likely, or if the far right wins (…), how do we defend ourselves right after the election? And that’s where the problem arises of rebuilding a political tool, a radical party, rebuilding the unions. (…) The solution is in the streets, in the strikes. (…) The only way out, for us, is not the revolution in the ballot box, as Mélenchon says. It’s the revolution in the streets.
These few lines are typical of sectarian reasoning. Thank God, NPA voters are not the only ones who are “fed up with capitalism”: this is also the case for Mélenchon voters in general. Their vote has an anti-capitalist meaning. Despite its reformist limitations, Mélenchon’s programme targets the power and privileges of the bourgeoisie. But the fact is that it brings together 15 to 20 times more “anti-capitalist” voters than Poutou’s program, so that it is Mélenchon, not Poutou, who is likely to qualify for the second round. If Mélenchon doesn’t make it, the second round will be between two declared enemies of our class, two solid supporters of capitalism: Macron and Le Pen. We don’t see how this would mark any progress in the struggle against this system!
But Poutou puts forward another argument: even if he qualifies for the second round, Mélenchon will not be able to win it, because “the electoral balance of power is not on our side today. It is not on the side of the left”. This pessimism is characteristic of ultra-leftists: they constantly claim to be workers, but they don’t trust them, basically. In reality, Mélenchon’s qualification would be a political earthquake whose shockwaves would spread to the depths of our class. It would awaken even the most inert workers, who would be faced with a fairly clear alternative, from a class point of view: Macron or Mélenchon. In the interval between the two rounds, political polarization would be intense, so that Mélenchon would have a chance of winning by capturing many abstentionists from the first round and a fraction of the RN’s popular electorate.
None of this is on the minds of Poutou and his comrades. Instead of seizing the opportunity to sweep away Macron and Le Pen, the leaders of the NPA are undermining the dynamic that is developing around Mélenchon, while proclaiming that this battle is lost in advance, that Macron has already won, that we all need to retreat 50 kilometres, dig deep trenches – and, from this comfortable position, “rebuild a political tool, a radical party” and prepare for “the revolution in the streets”!
This caricatured sectarianism will not advance the construction of a “radical party” one millimetre, let alone contribute to the victory of a revolution. Poutou’s candidacy will result in aggravating a little more the crisis in which the NPA has been mired for more than 10 years. But the most serious thing is that this candidacy constitutes – in the same way as those of Arthaud  and Roussel – a significant obstacle to the qualification of Mélenchon.
Revolution calls for turning our backs on the narrow-minded calculations of the leaderships of the PCF, the NPA and Lutte Ouvrière, for taking the measure of the possibility of beating Macron and Le Pen in the coming weeks, and for mobilizing massively to contribute to it. In doing so, no one needs to renounce their ideas. Revolution has not renounced them. While calling for a vote for the FI candidate, we insist on the need for a program to break with capitalism. From the point of view of revolutionary Marxism, this is the only constructive approach in the current context.
 Concerning Nathalie Arthaud, let’s just note what she wrote in her last editorial: “In the coming elections, nothing good can come out of the ballot box for the workers, nor for the immense majority of the population. The candidates who promise miracles or claim to have ‘solutions’ within the framework of this system are in reality nothing but hucksters.” Mélenchon’s candidacy is neither mentioned, nor a fortiori characterized. In the end, we have the equation: Mélenchon = Jadot = Hidalgo = Macron = Pécresse = etc. = “hucksters”.
This kind of hollow abstraction is the old brand mark of Lutte Ouvrière. As the philosopher Hegel said: “in the night of the Absolute, all cows are black”!