France: Down with the decrees of the Macron/Philippe government!

An indefinite general strike against the Macron/Philippe government is the correct answer!


Article by Manfred Maier (RCIT Germany) on the situation in France after the presidential and parliamentary elections, 17.08.2017,




The elections in France have not only ended in a simple defeat for the workers' movement, they were a total disaster for the working class which has been hit hard in the parliamentary elections. Only a very small number of candidates from the Socialist Party (SP) and the CPF have been elected to the parliament, something comparable to a situation in which the Social Democrats (SPD) in Germany would receive fewer votes than the 10% threshold, something which is already close to the reality in Saxony and Baden-Württemberg.


The working class, the youth and the migrants either boycotted the elections or were prevented from voting. Macron's movement "En Marche" is far from having majority support in society at large, but wields its power as if it does in the institutional bodies of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.


SP in crisis and a new born star of the bourgeoisie: "En Marche"


The French party system has been thoroughly mixed up. However, though its outer form is ostensibly different, the new Macron government is actually a continuation of the policy of the government of Hollande, only with a stronger neo-liberal nucleus. Macron himself was formerly part of the Hollande government. Essentially, the Macron government remains one of the large corporations and financial capital.


It should be noted that the existence of the Socialist Party (SP) as a bourgeois workers’ party is now at stake. The SP only received just over 5% of the total votes cast, the number of their deputies shrank to one-tenth of that in the previous legislature. The SP is in the midst of a serious existential crisis: p part of their squad has defected to Macron; three are even now ministers in his cabinet.


Macron organized a personal movement with hand-picked candidates for the parliamentary elections. Increasingly we are witnessing such personal movements, like the 5-star movement in Italy or the Kurz movement in Austria. However these movements are also different when compared to “En Marche.”


In France, Macron directly implements politics for the benefit of corporations and financial capital, which is also seen in the makeup of his government team. The cabinet list of the Macron/Philippe government consists in part of experts from the French economic, financial and administrative branches and comes directly from the management of companies such as Areva, Danone and others.


Crazy electoral circus


Several politicians have also left the traditional bourgeois parties (LR, PRG) to join Macron's movement where the latter offered them leading positions, the most prominent, perhaps, being the case of his Prime Minister, Philippe.


In the elections, an all time record was set for the large number of blank and invalid ballots cast. Macron’s victory was based only on about a quarter of the eligible voters. The small parties like the Green Party, like LO and NPA, have lost a significant number of voters. Only Mélenchon's movement "France Insoumise" maintained a stable electoral base.


The PCF, the other bourgeois workers’ party now has only 10 parliamentary representatives and has lost ground against Mélenchon's movement.


On Macron and his imperialist agenda


Macron aspires for France to play a leading role in the EU, with him as the head of state, and in close collaboration with Germany. To meet this goal, Macron intends to rebuild France so that it completely serves the interests of monopoly capital by attacking labor rights, cutting wages and damaging the social system as much as possible.


To achieve this goal, Macron can use the same path that the former Holland government previously laid out.


However, Macron also wants to increase the military strength of France within the framework of the EU, which in particular means increased military interventions in Africa, including joint imperialist interventions. Significantly, the French Ministry of Defense has been renamed the Ministry of Armies. The military intervention in Mali is a central project of French and German imperialism. But also in countries like Libya, Central Africa and others, French imperialism is a giant beast. France supports Libya's "government," which is currently favored by the West. Macron wants to construct so-called “hotspots” (actually internment camps) for refugees in Libya and other African countries. France’s "Minister of the Armies" also maintains the closest of contacts with Egypt's dictator Al-Sisi and other African despots.


Despite a slight reduction this year, Macron wants 2% of France’s gross domestic product (GDP) to be invested in armaments by 2025. He also wants to rebuild the EU budgetary policy, which is still partly in contradiction with that of France’s German "partner".


In order to be able to undermine France’s current labor laws, Macron passed a so-called "law of competence" by 13 July of this year, which enables him to make changes to these laws by decree (ordonnance), which Parliament can only then confirm as a package, all or nothing. His first foray in this direction is his new labor reform, which represents a massive attack on the workers' movement.


Attack on the democratic rights in France


What has become a permanent “state of emergency” in France is being used against workers' strikes and demonstrations. Macron has seamlessly adopted the emergency measures of Hollande’s predecessor government that include restrictions on the right of workers to strikes and the right of assembly. What were still exceptional measures under Holland, have become the norm under the presidency of Macron. France’s state of emergency legislation grants the police very extensive powers, which has led to an increase of house searches and other undemocratic and repressive measures.


In light of the strengthened apparatus of repression, proletarian forces throughout France must organize by forming self-defense committees that will defend strikers and demonstrators and protect migrants, particularly Muslims, against the attacks by the state.


The French state of emergency legislation goes back to laws adopted at the time of the colonial war against Algeria. Accordingly, in exceptional circumstances, bourgeois authorities may prohibit assemblies that disrupt the "public order."


When demonstrations took place more recently during the current state of emergency, security forces have already "partially promoted undue hardship against individual demonstrators".


"Batons, rubber bullets and tear gas have been used against peaceful demonstrators who did not seem to endanger public order," a report said. Since the attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, 155 decrees have been issued against public assemblies. In 2016, 574 people were prevented from participating in demonstrations against a planned labor reform ("Law El Khomri").


In the meantime, the so-called exceptional state of emergency has been extended five times since it was introduced in November of 2015. Macron has authorized a further extension active until 1 November 2017. The state of emergency provides security authorities with special powers: prohibiting assemblies, declaring curfews, searching houses without judicial authorization, and placing people under house arrest, who -- according to the police – may constitute a danger for “security and the public order."


Who can lead the resistance against Macron's policy?


This situation in France today is very dangerous for the proletariat, the youth, and anyone from an immigrant background. These sectors of society, with whom the workers' movement is bound, are all in bad shape. Some of them may not recover from the disaster of the 2017 elections. Macron profited from the fact that many voters didn't want Marine Le Pen and the Front National to win the election. Many refused to vote or cast an invalid ballot, and the absence of a revolutionary party resulted in a dangerous vacuum.


Representatives of the trade unions have met individually with the Minister of Labor during the last few months. During such meetings behind closed doors, Macron's new labor reform was presented to the “labor leaders.” An official and final version of these reforms is still not available for public scrutiny. While the CGT and SUD/Solidaires are organizing a day of general strike for 12 September, the CFDT, FO and other trade unions are not mobilizing for it. One of Macron’s weapons is to divide the trade union movement, along with other organizations of the workers' movement, in order to undermine it systematically. Macron has partially neutralized the FO. He gives the union bureaucrats what they love: lucrative political posts, especially in the Ministry of Labor.


What is about Mélenchon and France Insoumise?


In the presidential elections Mélenchon was not so far behind Marine LePen. The agenda of France Insoumise is to create a new French republic, the so-called 6e Republique, with Mélenchon as its president (something which he greatly desires). Such a new French republic would create constitutional reform more or less based on the program of France Insoumise.


Aside from the very progressive, general demands against cuts in the health and education systems, the rejection of CETA, TISA and CO trade agreements, concrete progressive demands like the increase of the minimum wage to €1,326 and a minimum monthly pension of at least €1,000, the manifesto of France Insoumise is nothing more than a bourgeois fantasy construct. The "fair" tax system that it requires is based, among other things, on an additional taxation for people with an income greater than €33,000 per month (!). The EU is envisioned as being transformed into a more social and ecological project. And if this algebraic concoction cannot be implemented, a Plan B, consisting of controls of capital and commodities at the national borders, shall come into force.


All of the above doesn’t include, of course, the openly pro-imperialist agenda, which demands inter alia the formation of a joint “peacekeeping” force in Syria and Iraq. Populism and the popularity of Mélenchon, in combination with radical changes in the established parties -- which also found expression in the meteoric coming to power of En Marche -  have led to an unbelievable and probably not repeatable 2017 electoral success for France Insoumise, despite its crude program.


Just as new: Front Social


Shortly after the presidential elections, activists from the initiatives against the “Al Koudri Law,” CGT trade unionists such as Goodyear and other trade union groups of the CGT, the SUD/Solidaires, as well as NPA-related groups formed a Front Social. They were able to carry out a series of demonstrations and have held meetings around the country to discuss formation of the "Front Social" as a permanent political force, but their mobilization was weak: in Paris, for example, only between 1,000 and 3,000 activists rallied together. These numbers will clearly not be enough to stop Macron's attacks against the labor movement for the benefit of the French corporations and financial capital.


What about the "radical left"?


France has an historic Trotskyist movement, but in the elections this year the Trotskyists of LO and NPA received only 1-2 percent of the vote. In the past, they have receiveed around 10 percent. One can watch the decline of these forces as they intensify their already existing rejection of revolutionary Marxism. The same is true of POID, which can be attributed to the tradition of Lambertism.


The NPA is only partly within Mélenchons' orbit; partly it is involved in the "Front Socia.l" There is also an anarcho-syndicalist left in France, which will play a definite role in any resistance movement, but is far too sectarian for the formation of a revolutionary party, i.e., it opposes the formation of a revolutionary party.


The "Social Front" acts fast and is action-orientated, but is not fulfilling the task of building a vital united front against the Macron government. French revolutionaries have to prepare for the creation of a new workers’ party based on a revolutionary program and a successful strategy. Some small groups are already raising revolutionary demands, but they are currently quite isolated.


Solidarity with the workers, the youth, the women and the migrants in France


As already mentioned, the CGT, together with SUD / Solidaires is mobilizing for a nationwide day of general strike on 12 September. Mélenchon and France Insoumise are organizing their own day of protest for 23 September. We currently don’t know whether these different dates in fact will remain as planned, which surely would be unfortunate for honest activists at the base of the France Insoumise. Instead, they should fight within their party for close collaboration with the more radical trade unions and other organs of the labor movement, instead of separating themselves from these forces. It is in no way surprising that a party like France Insoumise, which tends towards petty-bourgeois-populism, does not focus on a common day of action with a combative CGT.


A bitter defeat of the French workers, of the trade unionists in their struggle against the new labor reform, may have a serious impact on all workers and trade unionists throughout Europe. This is to say nothing of what this would mean for future proletarian struggles. The international workers' movement should therefore organize a solidarity campaign in Germany and in other European countries. Ultimately, the French working class must answer the attacks with an indefinite general strike. Such a general strike must be protected by self-defense units which will have to fight against attacks by the repressive state apparatus and right wing activists.


At the same time, the indefinite general strike also poses the question of power: Which class is embodied in the government? The only answer in favor of the workers and oppressed is a revolutionary workers' government which has to be won by a proletarian revolution. Ultimately, the path leads to a socialist government if the workers and oppressed want to end the rule of profit, the oppression and exploitation by the capitalist class, once and for all.