As European Elections Approach: French Revolutionaries Run Joint Slate

PARIS-As we go to press, with two weeks to go to the June 13 European elections, the joint campaign waged by the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and Workers Struggle (LO) is in full swing. This is being marked by a large attendance at rallies in the various cities outside Paris.

The campaign was kicked off in Paris in February at a rally of 3000 people. That was followed by about 60 joint rallies in other cities, with attendances varying between 300 and 700 people.

The people attracted have come from the poor strata of the population, wage workers, unemployed, trade-union activists. There are also members of the Communist and Socialist parties who have been disoriented by the policies their parties are following in the government.

The press has been reporting the speeches made by the slate leaders, Alain Krivine and Arlette Laguiller. The possibility of a breakthough on June 13 cannot be excluded. The polls are giving the LCR-LO slate from 4 to 7 percent. If the slate tops the 5 percent barrier and gets seats in the European parliament, that would upset the political relationship of forces, especially on the left.

The campaign offers a way of clearly exposing the right and the bosses, while at the same time criticizing the policies of the left government.

The slate is fighting for basic political demands that give concrete expression to the Europe-wide fight of the workers, the unemployed, and the peoples-a 30 to 35 hour workweek, a Europe-wide minimum wage, women’s rights, the vote for foreign workers and legalization of the undocumented, defense and extension of public services, defense of the environment, abandonment of nuclear power, and exposing the undemocratic institutions of the European Union.

Both organizations supporting the slate have a common position on Europe. They oppose the capitalist system while at the same time maintaining a “pro-Europe” position, rejecting nationalist backsliding.

On the opposing side, the right, there is an increasing crisis. The National Front, the party of the far right, has split in two, and may decline after years of electoral advances. The classical right is more fragmented than ever. It is represented by three competing slates, and divided on Europe between “nationalists” and “Europeans.” It is going through a crisis the like of which it has not seen since Chirac dissolved the National Assembly and the left came back to power in the 1997 elections.

On the left, the Socialist Party has maintained a rather high vote level in face of the right’s crisis. But there is stirring among the ranks. Social Democrats and their allies govern 12 out of the 15 countries in the European Union.

Determined to respect the criteria set by the capitalist for imposing a single European currency, the Social Democrats have once again shown their inability to solve the difficulties afflicting the workers and unemployed.

The left parties in power-the Social Democrats, the Communists, and the Greens-are caving in to the financial markets. The government is continuing the privatizations of public services. It is considering raising the retirement age to 65. All these unpopular measures are sowing discontent in the left parties, especially in the Communist Party.

The Communists have been trying not to upset their popular base, while continuing to make a common cause with the government in which they remain. This is an impossible task.

A series of strikes have been developing, as the bosses have been taking advantage of the Socialist Party’s bad 35-hour workweek law to impose “flexible” working hours, temporary jobs, and to refuse to hire new workers.

For several months in Europe, big capitalist groups have been fusing in order to form giant trusts able to compete with the United States in chemicals, electronics, oil, automobiles, and banks and insurance. In every case, they have accrued mind-boggling profits that have gone hand in hand with layoffs.

The LCR-LO campaign has been fighting for radical measures against unemployment. And it has gotten a favorable response to its call for a ban on layoffs by companies with 12-figure profits and for auditing the books of the big enterprises and their big stockholders.

The Europe that is being built today, with more than 20 million unemployed and 60 million poor, is diseased with unemployment, inequality, poverty, and racism.

The LCR-LO slate is proposing a series of urgent measures on a Europe-wide scale to unite the struggle of the workers and unemployed, to offer a real left alternative to the Europe of the capitalists.

Both organizations agree on the war in Serbia and Kosovo. They adopted a common position on it, coming out against the NATO bombing and the involvement of imperialist France in this military intervention, against the Milosevic regime and its policy of ethnic cleansing, and for the right of self-determination of the Kosovars, which continues to be rejected by the great powers even after Milosevic has deported the Kosovars en masse.

The LCR and LO are the only political parties that support this position. On the left, the SP and the Greens are supporting the bombing, even if many of their members and voters doubt the effectiveness of the NATO intervention as a means of defending the Kosovars and really combating Milosevic’s policies.

As for the left that opposes NATO, the Communists have criticized Milosevic, but they reject the perspective of self-determination, of independence for Kosovo. They support the Rambouillet Treaty and favor a solution under UN auspices.

Over the last two months, the election campaign has been somewhat eclipsed by the war. But social questions are coming back to the forefront.

The LCR has been able to develop its own campaign for a Democratic Socialist United States of Europe. This joint campaign with LO has been an opportunity for the LCR and its members to relearn how to wage a mass political campaign directed at the poor masses and the workers. It has enabled the LCR to build new branches in many cities.

Whatever, the election results, and we hope that they will be as good as possible, we have already won a victory. We have raised the consciousness of the workers about the ravages of capitalism and shown that there is an alternative to the polices of the traditional parties in France and throughout Europe.

The future will tell whether a success of our slate will widen the contradictions in the left parties and advance a regroupment of all those who want to build a genuine workers’ party.

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