The results of the municipal elections in France, whilst marking a setback for the right-wing parties in Paris and Lyon, are nonetheless a very serious warning for socialist, communist and trade union activists. Greg Oxley, of the French Marxist paper La Riposte explains how the pro-capitalist policies of the Jospin government have failed to arouse any enthusiasm amongst the workers and youth.
On the evening of April 21, spontaneous demonstrations took place in almost all major towns and cities in France. For the first time since 1969, all the left candidates, including the socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, were eliminated in the first round, leaving Chirac and the extreme right-wing candidate Le Pen left in the race. This devastating defeat is the direct consequence of the policies carried out by Jospin, and also by the leadership of the Communist Party.
The result of the first round of the French presidential elections was a political earthquake, which has shaken the country to its foundations. Within hours, in the best tradition of the French movement, there was a spontaneous explosion of popular protest. Anti-Le Pen demonstrators immediately poured onto the streets of Paris and other cities. The growth of votes for the radical right and left is more than a protest, it is a reflection of a growing polarisation between the classes. If the right wins in France because of the failure of reformism, a new and stormy chapter will open up in the the revolutionary process taking place all over Europe.
This is an eyewitness report of the May Day demonstrations in Paris, which witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations since the revolutionary movement of 1968 and the liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944.
Chirac has won the French presidential elections by 82.2% to Le Pen's 17.8%. This is more or less what the opinion polls were predicting. There was never any doubt that Chirac would win. As we said, many workers would vote for Chirac reluctantly. But the victory of Chirac has solved absolutely nothing. The task in the coming period is to defeat the right wing as a whole - Chirac and Le Pen. This can only done by mobilising all the forces of the labour movement around genuine socialist policies.