Socialist Worker

What's at stake as France heads for elections

Socialist Worker spoke to Nick Barrett, a member of the LCR far left organisation in France, about the regional council elections due on 21 and 28 March.

Issue No. 1891

'THESE ELECTIONS are assuming a national character. They are the first since the right wing UMP government won a landslide victory one and a half years ago. This came after the shock of the National Front's Le Pen getting into the run-off in the presidential election, and the huge protests that followed.

Then last year we had the mass strikes over pensions, the biggest since 1968. There is deep anger against the government on issues like pensions and the wave of redundancies and factory closures. Many of the firms shutting up got grants from regional councils.

The main opposition Socialist Party does not pose any real alternative. Its allies when it was in government, the Communist Party and the Greens, are not doing well in opinion polls. In the Communist Party there is a split between the majority of the leadership, who want to tie themselves to the Socialist Party, and much of the rank and file who look more to the radical left.

The National Front is doing well in opinion polls. Le Pen has been banned from running in the elections on a legal technicality, but is doing meetings around the country and his daughter heads the party's campaign in the Paris region. They combine racist demagogy with an economic programme that, if it is not challenged, can seem like a radical alternative.

The radical left is making an impact in the election. The two main far left organisations, the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and Workers' Struggle (LO) are running a joint campaign, and in the latest opinion polls are on around 7 percent.

Our election meetings get a good response. In Tours in the west we had 1,100 people, 600 in Montpellier in the south, and 800 in Amiens in the north. Issues in our campaign include the demand to outlaw all redundancies in firms making a profit, the right for immigrants to vote, repeal of the pension counter-reform, and free public transport for the unemployed.

The government's new law trying to ban the Islamic headscarf in schools is an issue. The Socialist Party has been terrible on the question. And the far left has been mixed. LO has been awful. And the LCR is having a real debate over the question. The far left will have to react better to a law which is clearly racist.'


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International
Sat 6 Mar 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1891
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