‘We are learning French’

Revolutionary Marxists won seats in the European parliament for the first time in the recent Euro elections. The bloc of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire and Lutte Ouvrière got 5.2 percent of the French vote, representing almost a million voters. That entitled them to five seats, three of which went to LO and two the LCR.

The slate was headed by Alain Krivine for the LCR, and Arlette Laguiller for LO. Arlette won 5 percent of the vote in the French presidential elections in 1995. The 1995 vote already sent a shock through the French parliamentary left, indicating that a sizable section of the electorate was getting fed up with the opportunism of the traditional working-class parties.

In important working class centers, the vote for the LO-LCR bloc was larger than the general average-approaching 10 percent in some areas of the so-called “Red Belt,” the industrial suburbs of Paris. The vote for the revolutionary bloc came close to that of the Communist Party, which continued to decline, and surpassed it in some important areas.

In an interview in the LCR newspaper, Rouge, Alain Krivine summed up the results of the election campaign: “This is the first time that we have waged a campaign on such a scale and with such a response. This experience taught us a lot, notably how to talk to millions of people via TV and to tens of thousands of people at rallies. The campaign’s credibility was a tool for our activists in talking to their fellow workers.

“The whole Ligue mobilized, not only to organize joint rallies with Arlette, but also in canvassing. During these few months, many people discovered the Ligue, and a lot of new branches were formed in the provinces. The general impression created was that the Ligue can now be an actor in large-scale politics.”

Almost a million people voted for a revolutionary program that focused on defense of undocumented workers, equal rights for all, and the environment, as well as economic demands-such as a reduction in the workweek toward 30 hours with no cut in pay.

The vote the revolutionists received clearly reflects the major social struggles that have taken place in France in recent years, in particular the mass strikes of 1995, including the first strikes in the recent period that have been fought for increasing the benefits of workers instead of simply defending past gains from a general capitalist offensive.

In his interview in Rouge, Krivine stressed that the revolutionists would use the European parliament as a forum for these and other social struggles.

With this vote, France has become the example for a political counterattack against the capitalist offensive, just as in the past it became an example for a social counterattack.

After 1995, for example, when German workers went on strike, they raised the slogan, “We are learning French.” After these elections, hopefully, “learning French” will also mean voting for a revolutionary working-class program and building revolutionary socialist parties that can consistently fight for the interests of working people.

Clinton’s new Medicare fraud

President Clinton’s first foray into social policy came in 1992 with his highly touted pledge to provide health care coverage to all Americans. The 37 million Americans who were without it, Clinton promised, would receive quality care to rival any nation on earth.

Eight years later, over 42 million are without health care, and Clinton has to his credit the most massive cuts in Medicare coverage for the elderly in U.S. history. During the same period the cost of health care has risen 5 percent annually while the cost of prescription drugs has galloped at an 11 percent annual rate.

On June 27, the Clinton administration announced its intentions to introduce new cuts in Medicare while at the same time, and in apparent contradiction, spending an additional $795 billion over the next 15 years to provide partial payments for prescription drugs to Medicare recipients. Currently no such benefits exist.

Clinton’s still vaguely defined proposal begins by charging recipients a $24 monthly drug premium on top of the current standard monthly charge of $45. The $24 would rise to $44 over an estimated six years, while the standard premium is expected to rise to over $100.

The initial maximum government annual payment for prescription drugs (at retail prices!) would begin in the year 2002 at $1000 and rise to a maximum of $2400 over the same period.

Clinton’s specialists announced that the current $100 fixed annual deductible for medical payments would be automatically increased yearly based on increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Initially designed to avert a Medicare collapse, Clinton’s proposals were based on securing deep cost reductions for expensive procedures from HMOs. A few days later, however, the July 2 New York Times reported, “HMO’s will increase Medicare premiums or cut benefits for most of their six million elderly subscribers next year because they consider the federal payments they receive inadequate.”

The Times continued, “The decisions seem to undercut a crucial part of Mr. Clinton’s Medicare proposal, which depends on competition among HMO’s to make the whole program more efficient.”

Looting the taxpayer-financed Medicare system as well as Social Security in an attempt to buttress capitalist profit rates in the private industrial sector is the real reason for the Medicare “crisis.”

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