Since François Hollande came to power in May, unemployment figures have increased every single month. They have now gone over the 3 million mark. If we add those people who are surviving on a few hours work but who are registered as looking for a steady job, these official figures rise to 4.5 million. It is estimated that another 1 million people are out of work but, not being entitled to benefits, they are not registered at all.

The defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential elections opens a new phase of the class struggle in France. The socialist candidate, François Hollande, won 51.62 % of the vote. However, this overall score tends to conceal the social basis of the election result. Practically all the major towns and cities voted massively for Hollande – or, to be closer to the truth, to get rid of Sarkozy.

The results of the first round of the presidential elections in France mean that the second round will be fought out between Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Party candidate, François Hollande. Opinion polls consistently suggest that Hollande is most likely to win, although the very high score obtained by the Front National candidate in the first round, indicate that Sarkozy still has considerable reserves to draw upon for the second round. The main advantage Sarkozy has, apart from his own pugnacious and combative attitude, is the pro-capitalist character of the Socialist Party programme, which could lead to a demobilisation of left voters.

The most striking feature of the presidential election campaign in France is the massive support shown for the Front de Gauche (Left Front) under the leadership of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Long before the campaign was really underway, there were clear signs that the most conscious and active layer of the working class was mobilising around the Front de Gauche.

As in all other European countries, the Sarkozy government in France is applying a vicious policy of “austerity”. The workers – and also the middle classes – are to suffer further cuts in their standard of living in order to maintain and increase capitalist profits. In these years of crisis, French banks doubled their profits from 5.5 to 11 billion euros in 2009, and almost doubled them again to 21 billion in 2010.

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