France – the face of today’s politics and the end of the old nostrums

Kevin Ovenden is the author of Syriza Inside the Labyrinth and a longstanding socialist activist and writer in Britain. He has closely followed Greek politics, society and culture for over twenty-five years. He was for many years a member of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and then a leading figure in the Respect Party. He writes particularly on racism, the politics of the Middle East and the crisis of the Eurozone for a range of outlets. He is a national officer of both the Stop the War Coalition and of Unite Against Fascism. He lives in east London, but spends time in Greece and in the Middle East. Kevin was aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israeli commandos boarded it five years ago killing 10 Turkish aid workers. He led five blockade-busting aid convoys to Gaza and is on the executive committee of the International Campaign to Return to Palestine. Contact Kevin: e-mail me at: kevin.ovenden[at] On facebook here. On Twitter: @kevin_ovenden

Kevin Ovenden

With Francois Fillon as the centre-right candidate for the French presidential election all conventional and servile political reckoning reaches a dead end.

For what it says is

i) look at the opinion polls,

ii) they show that on current polling there will be a runoff between Fillon and Le Pen, so

either iii) the radical left must drop out and get the centre-left into the second round (it’s questionable whether that could even happen, leaving aside that no convention would say the centre-left should make way for the radical left),

or/and iv) prepare to campaign in the second round for the right wing social conservative and hardline Thatcherite against the fascist FN.

The only way to answer this is to break from the conventions of presidential elections and turn towards building an independent pole of struggle in the next six months.

That would also have, most likely, the effect of creating the conditions in which it is harder for Le Pen to make further advances.

Marine Le Pen (file:wiki)

It remains the case that the most likely outcome of a runoff between Fillon and Le Pen is a clear victory for him. Not at the level of the Chirac v Le Pen le pere contest of three to one. More like two to one or perhaps 60 to 40.

This presents an apparent paradox: collapsing behind the centre-right now or after the first round is the most likely thing to increase Le Pen’s chances.

Refusing to get behind the centre-right, but fighting for an independent left position, with methods of direct struggle where possible and looking beyond the election, is actually what is more likely to create the conditions in which Le Pen is defeated at the ballot box.

François Fillon (file:wiki)

It is certainly the only path to maximising the capacity of the working class movement to fight after the presidential election.

And in this, let’s not lose sight of the premier criminals. Francois Hollande and French social democracy had the level of support and the circumstances in 2012 to make a break with the old order.

They blew it. They spurned it. They have introduced the neoliberal labour law, a state of emergency and further austerity.

They are responsible for the disaster. Not the radical left. And they have to be replaced as the central political expression of the French working class.

We should not be blackmailed into providing fresh blood for the vampires.


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