by Gerry Foley / June 2005 issue of Socialist Action
Although the French rulers pulled out all the stops to get a victory for the draft European constitution in the May 29 referendum, they suffered a stunning rebuff at the polls. With a turnout of over 70 percent, 55 percent of voters voted no.
Since the regime was so heavily invested in the campaign for a “yes,” the result touched off an immediate governmental crisis. The aggressive
anti-labor premier, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, resigned and was replaced by Dominique de Villepin, the former foreign minister.
Reverberations from the vote were felt throughout the European Union. Britain’s Tony Blair indicated that a referendum on the constitution in his country might be put off indefinitely. It is possible, in fact, that the French vote will kill the constitution, at least in its present form, since ratification must be
unanimous by all the EU countries.
Socialist Action’s sister organization in France, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, which campaigned for a “no” vote, hailed the result: “This is a magnificent victory for all those who have suffered for many years from the neoliberal policies that have been relentlessly pursued for more than 20 years. It is a victory for labor over a draft constitution that intended to wipe out all the gains made over the 20th century. It was a victory for the populations
subjected to market economics destroying public services and solidarity.
“With a strident campaign mobilizing all the media and elites in the service of a ‘yes’ vote, the government, the bosses, the parliamentary parties, organized a
campaign of fear, not hesitating to use every form of blackmail, or pressure. But the ‘no’ still won. What a defeat for the forces that exploited fear, insults,
and amalgams with the far right to mask the real stakes!”
The proposed European constitution, like the capitalist trade pacts of recent decades, tried to put the so-called iron laws of the market above any form
of democratic control. The economy is a sore issue for many working people in France today. The country has an official unemployment rate of 10 percent, and has seen jobs “exported” to Eastern European countries with lower wages and poorer working conditions. The LCR, therefore, saw the “no” vote as a rejection of neoliberal economics, despite the fact that the chauvinist far right also opposed the European constitution.