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Towards a new anti-capitalist party in France

By François Duval, LCR National Leadership -- February 28, 2008 -- In January, a vast majority of the delegates at the 17th national congress of the LCR [Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire; Revolutionary Communist League] approved a new political perspective: the building of a broad anti-capitalist party. This decision is intimately related to the analysis of the political situation since the election of [right-wing candidate] Nicolas Sarkozy as president. There are three main reasons:

  • the extremely aggressive attacks of French government and bosses against workers' rights;
  • the failure of the traditional left;
  • the new position occupied by the radical left as a whole and, more specifically, by [LCR presidential candidate] Olivier Besancenot and the LCR.
The electoral victory of Sarkozy can be mainly explained by his ability to convince people from the working class and lower middle class that he really cares about their problems and his ability to convince people with a far-right background that it was more efficient for them to vote for him rather than for the Front National [National Front, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen]. That's why during the presidential campaign his central slogan was ``work more, earn more''. It was a false claim but many people only heard ``earn more''!

The most astonishing thing was Sarkosy's success when he endorsed many of the themes that were usually those of the Front National, especially about immigration and ``law and order''. About a million of Jean-Marie Le Pen's former voters shifted in favour of Sarkozy. In return, repression against illegal immigrants has worsened and a lot of new drastic security laws have been passed. Promises addressed to racists and chauvinists have been kept. But promises addressed to the popular layers of society have been broken, while there have been a lot of very harsh attacks: no increases in wages while prices are increasing every month; fiscal gifts for the rich and corporations; as well as new measures against social security.

Sarkozy's problem was to change his electoral victory into a social victory. He found that it was not so easy. In November 2007, a new ``reform'' -– or more precisely, a counter reform -- of the retirement pension system for railway workers, and Metro and buses drivers, caused the most important strike of railway workers ever. Of course, the main items of the reforms have been implemented. But, in May 2007, nobody would have forecast such a struggle. Actually the government seems to be stronger than it really is. Its politics can only cause more and more anger and many people are still willing to put up a fight.

That is the first reason in favour of a new anti-capitalist party: people really need a party which stands up for their demands as faithfully as the right-wing parties are true to bosses. That's the second point -– the traditional left can't be that party.

The election of Sarkozy was less a victory of the right-wing parties than a defeat of [Socialist Party presidentail candidate] Segolene Royal and the Socialist Party (SP). Both the candidate and the SP (as well as its allies, the Communist Party and the Greens) have been unable to convince people that their election would change something in their day-to-day lives. After the election, the situation of the traditional left became even worse: challenged by the measures passed by the government, they have been unable to be a genuine opposition. During the strikes in November 2007, they have been unable to be a leadership for the movement. The reason for that is obvious: they criticised the form of the measures and reforms; but they agreed with their substance. This situation has two consequences: a deepening crisis of the SP and an increasing need and space for a new independent representative of the working class and social movements.

For the LCR, the perspective of a new party [of the left] is not completely new. The first debates about it started fifteen years ago, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of Stalinism and the intensification of the neoliberal offensive in the framework of capitalist and corporate globalisation. An additional step was overcome in 1995, with the increasing electoral results of the far left and its significant influence during the big strikes in November and December 1995.

What is now needed is a party able to help the convergence of resistance and struggle. It needs to be able to build a generalised movement to change the relationship of forces and force political power and the bosses to step back. Our understanding is that this kind of party must be a useful tool for organising the fight and preparing a radical and/or revolutionary change of society.

Will it be a ``revolutionary party'' according to the traditional meaning of the word? What we intend to build is a party for class struggle, an independent party of the working class, a party mainly focused on mobilisation rather than elections, a party for radical and/or revolutionary changes in society and for new politics committed to satisfy social needs rather than private profits, an anti-capitalist party. Most probably many issues related to strategy will remain open. One issue has to be clarified at the beginning of the process: the kind of relationship this party will have with the neoliberal so-called Socialist Party and its allies. The political basis of this party has to be an agreement about a program of social emergency measures and a clear break-up with all neoliberal parties, even those which define themselves as left-wing, socialist or social-democratic parties. The Brazilian and Italian experiences show how important it is to build on an open but clear basis.

That clarification was precisely the one that was lacking in 2007 during the debates with the Communist Party and various anti-liberal ``collectives'' in order to discover if a common candidate was possible for the presidential election. After the success of Olivier Besancenot, both in elections and in the aftermath of the election, especially during the railway workers' strike, we had a major opportunity not only to strengthen the LCR but, also, to give a broader and more ambitious answer to the crisis of the left. So, in June 2007, the National Leadership of the LCR decided to raise the issue of a new party. In August, during the LCR Summer School, Olivier Besancenot invited everyone who was interested to join what will be a ``constituent process''.

During the autumn, in many towns across the country, public meetings were organised to discuss this project. Meanwhile members of the LCR were debating it as the main point on the agenda of the congress. The first balance sheet of these meetings is good. Many people seemed to be interested and found that a new radical left party is a ``good idea''. Some problems have still to be addressed and solved. Many people consider a new party favourably; but are they ready to be personally involved? Some others think that an honest party with genuine left ideas will be sufficient.

Our project is a little more than that: perhaps not a ``Marxist revolutionary'' party but, at least, a radical anti-capitalist one. Many people are interested at the moment, but no other national political movement or party backs our project. So, we have been led to the idea that the beginning of the process will not be a debate or a negotiation with national political ``partners'' -– which just don't exist –- but a process ``from below''. Of course, we hope that people or political currents, especially among trade-unionists or activists of the social movements and individuals or tendencies from communist, socialist or anti-liberal backgrounds, will be convinced by the first results achieved.

Another issue to be thought about is the kind of international relationship the new party will have.

However the main question is this -- some people are ready to ``build something'' with the LCR's activists but they want to build something really different, something that will be their own party, not just a new, enlarged LCR. So, we have to create mutual confidence, to raise the political issues that have to be raised, to propose our politics and, at the same time, to allow people with different political backgrounds -- or without any political background –- to get involved in the process and to control it.

By the way, one of the major consequences of a successful process will be the dissolution of the LCR, now a 40-year-old revolutionary organisation. The LCR national congress has now adopted an appeal. In some towns or workplaces –- and in some universities -- local appeals have been written and committees for a new party have been created, with LCR and non-LCR members. There are also many common united slates for the March [municipal] council elections. The next step will be a national assembly of these committees in June or September 2008 to check the progress of the process and decide the agenda, including the date of the congress for the foundation of the party.

Anyhow, everybody is conscious it's an ambitious but uncomfortable, difficult road!

But it’s a very exciting experience.

[This article first appeared at Mac Uaid, the web site of Liam Mac Uaid, one of the editors of of the British socialist newspaper Socialist Resistance. It is published here with permission.]

Comments

Modest left breakthrough in French municiplal election

From: http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/modest-left-breakthrough-in-france-sort-of/  Here is a report from the LCR’s
site on yesterday’s local elections.Thanks to comrade Babelfish for
the translation. I’ve tried to render some of the political terms as
best I can but I’m open to correction for phrases like “sans engagement
à une solidarité de gestion”. Anyway you get the idea. It’s worth
bearing in mind that France has a population roughly the same as
England’s and that the LCR has about 2000 members.

 Of 200 lists presented or supported
by the LCR, 109 of them got more than 5% of the vote and 29 more than
10%.  Among other examples:

  • 17,59% with Aureilhan (65),
  • 15% with Quimperlé (29),
  • Sotteville-the-Rouen (76) it is 14,8%,
  • 13,8% in Clermont-Ferrand (63),
  • 10,4% with Louviers (27),
  • 10,38% with Lormont (33).

71candidates were elected. Discussions
are in hand, in several cities, for a technical fusion, without
commitment for joint lists with the PS or PCF, in order to respect the
democratic choice of the voters in the first round. Thus, to the left’s
push is added a breakthrough of the lists supported by the LCR . They
translate as a rejection of the liberal policies at the local and
national level. Bad housing, the privatization of public services, the
scandal of the cost of water when management deals with private, the
wage rigour, the dismissals which fall into all the areas feed a will
of social resistance and policy which was translated on the electoral
level by a vote for the lists supported by the LCR. The rejection of
the liberal policy by the population is such as it has constrained N
Sarkozy to be held in-outside election campaign which saw the lists of
the parliamentary majority getting rid of the UMP initials, the best
example being the town of Bordeaux. These results are an encouragement
for the social fights which will continue to develop. Thus, concerning
the defense of the system of retirement, after the success of the
manifestations of March 6 organized by the confederal unions of
pensioners, the manifestations of March 29 will be an important
appointment to be opposed to lengthening duration of contributions.
March 10, 2008.

Sur 200 listes présentées ou
soutenues par la LCR, 109 d’entre elles dépassent 5% et 29 sont
au-dessus de 10%. Quelques exemples parmi d’autres : 17,59% à Aureilhan
(65), 15% à Quimperlé (29), à Sotteville-les-Rouen (76) c’est
14,8%,13,8% à Clermont-Ferrand (63), 10,4% à Louviers (27), 10,38% à
Lormont (33). D’ores et déjà, ces listes ont obtenu 71 élu-e-s. Des
discussions sont en cours, dans plusieurs villes, pour une fusion
technique, sans engagement à une solidarité de gestion, avec des listes
PS ou PCF, afin de respecter le choix démocratique des électeurs au 1er
tour. Ainsi, à la poussée de la gauche s’est ajoutée une percée des
listes soutenues par la LCR. Elles traduisent un rejet des politiques
libérales au niveau local et national. Le mal-logement, la
privatisation de services publics, le scandale du coût de l’eau quand
la gestion est dévolue au privé, la rigueur salariale, les
licenciements qui tombent dans toutes les régions alimentent une
volonté de résistance sociale et politique qui s’est traduite sur le
plan électoral par un vote pour les listes soutenues par la LCR. Le
rejet de la politique libérale par la population est tel qu’il a
contraint N. Sarkozy à se tenir en-dehors de la campagne électorale
laquelle a vu les listes de la majorité parlementaire se débarrasser du
sigle UMP, le meilleur exemple étant la ville de Bordeaux. Ces
résultats sont un encouragement pour les luttes sociales qui vont
continuer à se développer. Ainsi, concernant la défense du système de
retraite, après le succès des manifestations du 6 mars organisées par
les unions confédérales de retraités, les manifestations du 29 mars
seront un rendez-vous important pour s’opposer à l’allongement de la
durée de cotisations. Le 10 mars 2008.

LCR statement after French council elections

LCR statement after council elections
Strong rejection of Sarkozy

Breakthrough of the radical left

Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire
 
Preliminary
results indicate a strong rejection of the lists supported by the
government. This is a clear disavowal of the policy of reactionary
Sarkozy.

As part of that breakthrough of the
left, the lists supported by the LCR have recorded significant and
encouraging scores. These results reflect the aspiration of the people
in defence of pension schemes, higher minimum wages and against social
inequality and redundancies. It is encouraging for the struggles ahead.

FIRST RESULTS AT 2am

16 COUNCILLORS ELECTED SO FAR

 Paris 9ème arrondissement : Liste Gallot (LCR) : 2,39%
 Evry (Essonne) : Liste Couvidat (LCR) : 8,20% 1 elected
 Clichy (Hauts-de-Seine) : Liste Goudal (LCR) : 4,98%
 Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Sehili (LCR) : 4,71%
 Paris 14ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Lagoutte (LCR) : 2,79%
 Lyon 1er arrondissement (Rhône) : Liste Divry (EXG) : 13,13% 1 elected
 Paris 15ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Grimaldi (LCR) : 2,23%
 Pessac (Gironde) : Liste Ufferte (LCR) : 8,67% 2 elected
 Amiens : 6,43%
 Malakoff (Hauts-de-Seine) : Liste Havlicek (EXG) 3,41%
 Paris 11ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Silhouette (LCR) : 4,83%
 Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) : Liste Fourage (LCR) : 3,74%
 Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Aberdam (LCR) : 7,75% 1 elected
 Paris 10ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Pattieu (LCR) : 4,33%
 Montpellier : 5,84%
 Paris 5ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Bournazel (LCR) : 2,38%
 Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain) : Liste Guenard-Gerbaud (LCR) : 3,49%
 Saint-Brieuc (Côtes-d’Armor) : Liste Burlot (LCR) : 8,52%
 Rennes : LCR (4,99%)
 Le Blanc-Mesnil (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Bezzaouia (LCR) : 4,31%
 Rezé (Loire-Atlantique) : Liste Chauvin (LCR) : 9,99% 2 elected
 Fontenay-sous-Bois (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Alarcon (LCR) : 5,09% 1 elected
 Lille (Nord) : Liste Pauwels (LCR) : 3,95%
 Valenciennes (Nord) : Liste Wattel (LCR) : 4,75%
 Choisy-le-Roi (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Dameron (LCR) : 7,13%
 Bordeaux (Gironde) : Liste Bichindaritz (LCR) : 3,05%
 Henin-Beaumont : 4,25%
 Amiens (Somme) : Liste Dollé (LCR) : 6,43%
 Orléans (Loiret) : Liste Ruiz (LCR) : 3,72%
 Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) : Liste Charcosset (LCR) : 2,91%
 Beauvais (Oise) : Liste Souday (LCR) : 3,65%
 Reims : 3,33%
 Lyon 4ème arrondissement (Rhône) : Liste Teste (EXG) : 8,23%
 Poitiers (Vienne) : Liste Desbourdes (LCR) : 6,24% 1 elected
 Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine) : Liste Chapa (LCR) : 6,95%
 Avignon (Vaucluse) : Liste Fortin-Payen (LCR) : 3,36%
 Colomiers (Haute-Garonne) : Liste Marty (LCR) : 6,27% 1 elected
 Reims (Marne) : Liste Perret (LCR) : 3,33%
 Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône) : Liste Leclerc (LCR) : 3,05%
 Bar-le-Duc (Meuse) : Liste Bart (LCR) : 9,88%
 Maisons-Alfort (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Traoré (LCR) : 4,19%
 La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime) : Liste Vallée (LCR) : 3,21%
 Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales) : Liste Cufi (LCR) : 5,02%
 Blois (Loir-et-Cher) : Liste Clément (LCR) : 6,04%
 Rouen (Seine-Maritime) : Liste Saillard (LCR) : 4,20%
 Limoges (Haute-Vienne) : Liste Clérembeaux (LCR) 6,99% 2 elected
 Sotteville-lès-Rouen (Seine-Maritime) : Liste Poupin (LCR) : 14,62% - 2 elected
 Bourges (Cher) : Liste Julien (LCR) : 5,66% 1 elected
 Rouen (Seine-Maritime) : Liste Saillard (LCR) : 4,20%
 Laval (Mayenne) : Liste Masraf (LCR) : 1,74%
 Metz (Moselle) : Liste Vincent-Falquet (LCR) : 2,87%
 Angers (Maine-et-Loire) : Liste Nivault (LCR) : 4,91%
 Quimper (Finistère) : Liste Carrasco (LCR) : 6,53%
 Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) : Liste Larrieu (LCR) : 5,91%
 Evreux (Eure) : Liste Perez (LCR) : 4,81%
 Agen (Lot-et-Garonne) : Liste Bambaggi (LCR) : 7,66%
 Foix (Ariège) : Liste Seel (LCR) 10,85% Ballottage
 Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) : Liste Schatz (LCR) : 5,72%
 Caen (Calvados) : Liste Moisan (LCR) : 3,74%
 Le Havre (Seine-Maritime) : Liste Leroux (LCR) : 2,31%
 Bayonne (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) : Liste Mailfert (LCR) : 7,48%
 Angoulême (Charente) : Liste Deboeuf (LCR) : 3,43%
 Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées) : Liste Zueras (LCR) : 3,75%
 Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin) : Liste Ruch (LCR) : 3,01%
 Brest (Finistère) : Liste Mandon (EXG) : 8,99%
 Alençon (Orne) : Liste Coulon (LCR) : 7,27% 1 elected
 Le Mans (Sarthe) : Liste Madelin (LCR) : 4,69%
 Grenoble (Isère) : Liste Kafaï (LCR) : 4,66%
 Saint-Ouen (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Soulignac (LCR) : 7,61%
 Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine) : Liste Treppoz (LCR) : 3,80%
 Vitry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Galin (LCR) : 4,94%
 Paris 12ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Perez (LCR) : 2,84%
 Paris 19ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Guardiola (LCR) : 3,93%
 Toulon (Var) : Liste Laïdoudi (LCR) : 1,40%
 Tours (Indre-et-Loire) : Liste Puel (LCR) : 5,09%
 Paris 20ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Duggan (LCR) : 4,92%
 Saint-Herblain (Loire-Atlantique) : Liste Caillaud (LCR) : 7,73% 1 elected
 Paris 18ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Leclerc (LCR) : 5,23%
 Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Billard (LCR) : 6,51%
 Roubaix (Nord) : Liste Merlevède (LCR) : 5,37%
 Mérignac (Gironde) : Liste Minvielle (LCR) : 4,96%
 Montpellier (Hérault) : Liste Viguié (LCR) : 5,46%
 Créteil (Val-de-Marne) : Liste Bru (LCR) : 3,89%
 Chambéry (Savoie) : Liste Ripart (LCR) : 5,79% 1 elected
 Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) : Liste Martin (LCR) : 5,07 %
 Montreuil-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Mailloux (LCR) : 6,29%
 Paris 13ème arrondissement (Paris) : Liste Larchet (LCR) : 3,81%
 Calais (Pas-de-Calais) : Liste Roussel (LCR) : 4,79%
 Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis) : Liste Decker (LCR) : 4,55%
 Argenteuil (Val-d’Oise) : Liste Slaouti (LCR) : 3,84%
 Cergy (Val-d’Oise) : Liste Jacquin (LCR) : 4,87%

LCR - Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Communist League) - French Section of the Fourth International

L'Humanite on French local elections and LCR vote

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE : Décryptage d’un scrutin sanction

By http://www.humanite.fr/2008-03-11_L-Evenement_Decryptage-d-un-scrutin-sa...
French Local Elections: A National Vote Decrypted

Translated Monday 17 March 2008, by Isabelle Metral
The on-going elections (9th and 16th March) concern town and “canton”(district) councillors. A few general lessons can be drawn from the first round countrywide.

Voters have issued a warning to Sarkozy

Though the president’s party, the union for the popular majority (UMP),° attempted to minimize the significance of the results at first, it is now clear that the blow has struck home. For all its protests that the setbacks it suffered in the first round of the municipal and canton (district) elections were no rejection of its national policy, its general secretary Patrick Devedjian conceded on the next day that his party had indeed suffered a setback and called for a massive mobilization of right-wing electors in the second round. Not only did the Right lose Rouen, Laval, Alençon, Dieppe, Rodez, Vierzon etc. in the first round, but it is set to lose Caen, Strasbourg, Quimper as well in the second. Besides, its position is precarious in large towns: Françoise de Panafieu got relatively few votes in Paris, Dominique Perben was disqualified in Lyon; the Right is paralyzed with the fear of losing Toulouse or even Marseilles (though the balance of the forces there is more uncertain). That is a stern warning to Sarkozy, especially as he himself issued a challenge at the beginning of the campaign, calling these elections “a national test”.In the hope of giving a salvaging jolt, Sarkozy went down to Marseilles on the 11th to work voters up on one of his favourite issues: immigration. The large towns that had given a majority to the Left in 2001 have confirmed their vote. Like Paris. In Lyon, the Socialist incumbent mayor’s team was re-elected in the first round, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on former Minister Dominique Perben. In the large cities run by the Right so far, suspense will come to an end on March 16th. Moreover the forty towns or so of 10,000 inhabitants and above that were lost to the Right in 2001 (ten of which had a communist mayor) look set to be regained by the Left.

The Right resists in its strongholds

Although the Right’s position is precarious in quite a few towns that it conquered in 2001, it resists in its strongholds despite competition from dissident candidates, some of whom did better in the election than the official ones, as was the case in Reims where Catherine Vautrin got ahead of Minister Renaud Dutreil, the UMP’s candidate. But as a rule, with the exception of Ministers Christine Albanel and Christine Lagarde, who lag far behind Delanoë’s lists in Paris, Rama Yade, who might be beaten next Sunday at Colombes (Hauts de Seine), and Education Minister Xavier Darcos, who is in a difficult position in his Dordogne fief of Périgueux, the ministers that are competing in the local elections are doing fairly well. Fourteen of them were elected or re-elected in the first round last Sunday, like Jean-Louis Borloo in Valenciennes or Xavier Bertrand in Saint-Quentin. The Right holds its ground in some of the towns that it conquered in 2001, as in Drancy where Jean-Christophe Lagarde was re-elected in the first round with 19.5% of the vote.

The Frontier between Right and Left Validated

Owing to voter dissatisfaction on social issues, the distinction between Left and Right has come back downstage in the public debate. That is indeed the most outstanding characteristic in the first round, which is why left-wing electors favoured the Socialist-Communist-Green lists of the united Left, which often included candidates from local associations and far left movements: the Trotskyite party Lutte ouvrière took the unprecedented step of joining the leftist lists in quite a few towns. The right-left polarization did not entail a loss of visibility for the Communist Party, for the PCF has conquered new positions. It did not wipe out the other component movements of the left or far left or the ecologists either: in several towns independent lists got modest, yet significant results.

Union against Sarkozy is a must

The lists where the Left stood united often got excellent results, whatever the political affiliation of their leaders. That was why it conquered new towns in the first round. In the départment of Seine-Maritime in Normandy, the towns of Dieppe and Rouen swung to the left with a clear majority (around 55%). In towns so far run by left-wing councils the united-left lists sometimes got massive support. In Lorient (a port in Brittany), the left who had won 58% of the vote in 2001 was elected in the first round with 64% of the vote. In Bagneux (Hauts de Seine) south of Paris, the communist mayor Marie-Hélène Amiable who headed the list for the first time (she succeeded former Mayor Janine Jambu in the middle of the term) got 56% of the votes with her team. In Sevran (Seine-Saint-Denis), north of Paris, Stéphane Gatignon (who was first elected mayor in 2001) and his team got 59% of the vote.

The French Communist Party is beginning to get back on its feet.

After its very low 1.9% at the presidential election and disappointing results at the legislative election, one of the issues at stake in this ballot was how the PCF would fare in this new electoral contest. On the whole, the picture after the first round of the municipal and canton elections affords some grounds for satisfaction. The communists that headed union lists rallied large swathes of voters. Wherever its militants and local councillors seemed likely to rally a majority of voters, the PCF gained votes. In the département of Seine-Saint-Denis, the Socialist party launched an “assault on communist municipalities” [1] which did not fail to spark off a lot of prognostication; yet the attempt ended in failure almost everywhere, as the PCF came first in all the primary contests but one. The loss of two canton seats in that département will however reverse the balance of forces within the leftist majority of the council. Yet this situation should not blind one to the gains in the number of seats elsewhere in several départements, or to their being promoted to the head of the list in quite a few municipalities.

The centrist Modem party is courted by the UMP to defeat the Left

The party’s founder, François Bayrou, former presidential candidate in the 2007 election, saw his hopes to win the election in his fief of Pau in the Pyrenees frustrated: he came second behind the leftist team. Modem lists countrywide have captured a heterogeneous electorate ranging from those that were dissatisfied with the Socialist party to right-wing voters that were put off by Nicolas Sarkozy’s toughness. Despite this, the results they got were far below those of the Modem’s candidate at the presidential election. In Paris, where the party got 9% of the vote, its leader’s repeated call for “partnership” with Bertrand Delanoë (the incumbent mayor) have so far remained unanswered. True, the centrist movement got above 10% [2] in quite a few towns, but the confusion between right and left that François Bayrou has deliberately cultivated makes his “variable strategy” incomprehensible. Last Monday Prime Minister François Fillon called on the Modem to pass reciprocal agreements with the UMP for the second round, as he thought that they must be “exchanges” between the two parties. “What I mean is that if Modem leaders are willing to back UMP lists, then as a matter of course we will back the Modem candidates when they are in a position to compete in the second round and to be backed by our majority.”

The Trotskyite LCR (revolutionary communist league) congratulates itself on its “modest breakthrough”

Satisfied with the “modest breakthrough” achieved by the LCR at the municipal elections, Olivier Besancenot, its candidate in the 2007 presidential election, means to take advantage of the results of his lists to speed up the foundation of his “anti-capitalist party”. The far-left movement, who opted in favour of independent lists, sometimes did far better than it had hoped. It got above 10% of the vote [3] in Clermont-ferrand (13,81%), Foix (10.85%), or again in Sotteville-lès-Rouen (14.62%). Olivier Besancenot’s party benefited from votes that had gone to Lutte Ouvrière in 2001. But it enlarged the far-left constituency in some towns, rallying voters that were critical of the local PCF-PS alliance in the first round. The far-left vote was however far more limited in towns with a communist mayor. Whereas it had got in many places the minimum 5% needed to merge with other lists in the second round, the league said it would not join leftist majorities anywhere, but would concede at the most “technical fusions” if the Right could be beaten.

The UMP is still gobbling up the far-right vote

The time when the National Front (FN) succeeded in putting up candidates in the second round in 103 towns of 30,000 inhabitants and more, and carried Orange, Toulon and Marignane – as it did in 1995 - seems to be over. Hénin-Beaumont (Pas de Calais), which Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s leader’s daughter wanted to make the far-right party’s showcase, will not wind up in the party’s net. For all that, the FN branch of the département is hoping to be present in the second round, beside the UMP, against Jacky Hénin, the communist mayor of Calais. He proposes merging the two lists. The fusion was officially rejected by the UMP. But that might well be a signal sent to right and far-right voters. Have we come back to the time when the Right and the National Front were allies in their attempt to conquer regional majorities? Even though it has been marginalized, the National Front is still above the 10% threshold in some towns. In Fréjus, for instance, or Vénissieux, Calais, Perpignan, Mulhouse, or again in two key-sectors in Marseilles. The far-right still has a solid base in Orange besides, where Jacques Bombard, formerly a prominent member of the front, was re-elected in the first round with 60.97% of the vote. In Marignane, however, Daniel Simompieri, another former member of the front, now UMP candidate, was defeated by the right-wing dissident candidate by a wide margin.

[1] "Rouge banlieue" as the latest slogan goes

[2] The minimum required for a list to merge with another previous to the second round

[3] The minimum required for a list to be allowed to stay through to the second round

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