ANTI-CAPITALIST forces moved to the centre stage of French politics last weekend. The country's two main far left organisations announced their united electoral challenge in important regional and European elections due next June-the same time as similar elections in Britain.
The agreement between the LCR (Revolutionary Communist League) and Lutte Ouvriere (Workers' Fight) won huge media coverage. 'The Far Left Launches An Electoral Challenge' was the front page headline in Saturday's Le Monde-France's equivalent of the Guardian. An opinion poll last weekend showed that almost one in ten people were already prepared to support the new alliance.
The poll also showed that 22 percent of people, those who said they had never previously voted for any far left candidate, would consider backing the alliance. This mass audience for a clear socialist stance reflects the deep radicalisation that has swept France this year.
The summer's strike wave against the Tory government's assault on welfare provision was the biggest workers' revolt in France since the upsurge in May 1968. The Socialist Party, France's equivalent of New Labour, has reacted with fury to the far left challenge, out of fear that its own support could be eaten away.
Socialist Party leaders claimed voting for the far left could help the Tories to win. They even raised the spectre of Le Pen's Nazi National Front gaining as a result. This is utter hypocrisy.
France's Tory government and Tory president is down to the failure of the Socialist Party government, which ran France from 1997 until last year. In France's presidential election last year Le Pen caused a huge shock by coming second.
This was not because his vote had risen that much-though it was worryingly high. The Socialist Party candidate, and prime minister, Lionel Jospin was eliminated after his vote collapsed.
His government had presided over rising unemployment and mass sackings. These have devastated towns and working class communities across France. Jospin also carried through a wave of privatisation. this was more privatisation than all tory governments of the previous decade put together. Quite rightly millions of people would not vote for more of this.
The far left challenge is saying that there is an alternative in next year's elections for those who will not vote for the Socialist Party and their damaging policies.