French elections, will leftist Mélenchon beat racist Le Pen, warmonger Macron?

This video from France says about itself:

12 April 2017

Left-wing French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon addressed a crowd of over 12,000 people in Lille on Wednesday evening at a rally just days ahead of the first round of the elections, as momentum around his campaign continues to build.

From daily L’Humanité in France:

Mélenchon, the Dynamic That Can Change Everything

Translated Thursday 13 April 2017, by Henry Crapo

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Mélenchon, la dynamique qui peut tout changer

by Grégory Marin and Aurélien Soucheyre

Feverishness is rising among the supporters of Fillon and Macron in the business sector and in the media, and supporters of Le Pen are no exception to this rule. The breakthrough of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the polls? “It does not interest me,” replied Marine Le Pen five days ago, on BFMTV.

Now tested in the polls for a second tour against Le Pen, and predicted to win against her, the candidate of “Insubmissive France”, supported by the PCF and Ensemble!, seizes his place at the center of the debate. He now becomes the principal target of his adversaries, who struggle to discredit his program.

In Marseille, and on the Place de la République in Paris, Jean-Luc Mélenchon makes a campaign of ideas and provides details about his proposed measures in the world of labor: abrogation of the El Khomri law, increase of social security payments, …

Up until now, the three favorites [1] in the polls were content to disparage the campaign of the candidate of insubmissive France [2], challenging only each other, directly or via the media. But the dynamics of the campaign of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, reinforced by polls that accredit the possibility of his being in third place, forced them to turn their glance far towards their left. Especially so since the candidate is now being tested for a second round duel against Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron. “Utopian”, “unrealistic”, announce the candidates of capital and their supporters. With just eleven days to go before the first round of the election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, now best placed on the left to disrupt the scenario written in advance by the liberals

‘Liberal’ in the European sense, pro-big business. Would be called ‘conservative’ in the USA.

, has them worried. Because he places at the center of public concerns those social issues to which the liberal trio is unable to respond?

The liberal scenario is perturbed by the advances of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the polls.

The dynamics of “that-there” adversary in particular “doesn’t interest” Marine Le Pen. Three days after the question posed on BFM, she nevertheless replies to Le Figaro, who asked “How can one stop” the progress of the candidate of “Insubmissive France”. The candidate of the far right responded with a shameless lie about the 100 billion euros that the candidate would spend (in reality, 100 billion is to be spent in public investments).

For all that, she is no more caricatural than some adversaries. François Fillon called him, in his Paris meeting at the Porte de Versailles, on Sunday, “the captain of the battleship Potemkin”. His aides were more explicit, in the wings. Bernard Debré, deputy in the party Les Républicains, said “Is it that you think that France wants to become communist?” And in Le Voix du Nord, yesterday Emmanuel Macron called upon the same relaxed anti-communism, Mélenchon using, according to him, “exactly the words the communists used in the 1950’s” to prepare “the world order of Mr. Putin”.

So here we are with the vision of “Russian tanks on the Place de la Concorde”, projected on the big screens by the stock markets and the bosses of industry. For the president of the Medef, Pierre Gattaz, in the Parisien, to vote for Mélenchon (or Le Pen, or Hamon, he adds) is “ruin, despair and desolation, generalized poverty”. And Les Echos goes on to qualify this apocalypse, yesterday: “Mélenchon, the new ’French risk’ ”.

“Millions of people recognize themselves in the values of the left”

The more that Jean-Luc Mélenchon climbs in the polls, the more his direct adversaries attack him, and themselves place him at the heart of the debate. While it’s always best to take the opinion polls with a grain of salt, their long-term convergence shows that the candidate of France Insoumise has without a question become a credible candidate, who is upsetting the campaign. Proof of the dynamics setting in, Mélenchon was tested for a second tour against Marine Le Pen and against Emmanuel Macron. This is a first!

In 2012, as candidate of the Front de gauche, Mélenchon climbed to between 14% and 17% by mid-April, in a springtime bubble in the polls, then finished with 11% once the ballot boxes were emptied. But the context today is quite different. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is henceforth given third place, ahead of Fillon. In 2012, he remained far from a place in the second tour, far from François Hollande and from Nicolas Sarkozy, both polled at 27% to 30% in intentions to vote in the first tour. Back then, public opinion saw in Hollande a candidate capable of bringing the left to victory, and of governing on the left. “Millions of people today, when they identify themselves with the values of the left, make Mélenchon their first choice”, remarks Olivier Dartigolles, spokesman for the PCF. “It is a novel situation in the sense that, while Benoît Hamon won his primary on an orientation of rupture with the presidency of Hollande, he never managed to maintain that clarity, to say the least.”

The only candidate to propose a political program of social justice

For more than a year already, the wager of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been “Force builds on Force”. His subject is “to federate the people”, all the while affirming that he is “a man of the left”. “Finally, no one makes a mistake”, he likes to remind us. Yesterday, at the microphone of RTL, he summed up the situation this way: “If I am actually ahead of Mr. Fillon, then the whole argument, according to which the “useful vote” would be a vote for Mr. Macron, to avoid a duel between Fillon and Le Pen, falls to pieces.” The match is open, in the end. And in an extraordinary way, again, because Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the only one among the four “major” candidates to propose a politcal program of democratic renewal, of ecological transition, of social justice and a rupture with austerity. “Macron is a centrist, a liberal. People know what to expect. What’s more, he gave them a sledge-hammer blow to the head by announcing he intends to change the entire Labor Code by executive order,” he charged on Tuesday. “He is giving content to the word ’left’. He doesn’t brandish it like a slogan, but gives it back some real meaning”, says Clémentine Autain, spokes-woman for Ensemble!, in appreciation.

And Mélenchon attracts voters well outside the ranks of those in 2012, on one hand being carried by a wave of sentiment “to get rid of” those formerly in government, also by his ecological and social program, and the increasing consciousness of the institutional crisis, which Hollande and Fillon exhibited, each in his own way and time, by their use of the 49-3 emergency procedures in the legislature, and in judicial affairs.

“In 2012, the people had had their full of Sarkozy. His rise in the polls during the final pre-election period gave credence to the ’useful vote’ for Hollande”, recalls Alexis Corbière, spokesman for Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “Studies show that 30% of Hollande’s electors had hesitated between him and Mélenchon. This time, I don’t think there is a candidate capable of capturing that sort of ’useful vote’.” And to insist, in a press interview in Marseille, on the fact that a vote for Mélenchon is not simply a vote capable of eliminating Le Pen, but “It is a vote of conviction, social, ecological, and democratic. It is a vote that can change the course of history”.

[1] Le Pen, Macron, and Fillon

[2] “Insoumise”, in the slogan (and name for his campaign organisation) France insoumise, could also be translated by the adjective “rebellious”

This French video, with English subtitles, says about itself:

14 February 2017

On February 5th 2017, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate to the 2017 French presidential election, held a double rally in Lyon and Paris, thanks to a hologram—a world premiere!

JLM was physically present in Lyon and virtually present in Paris thanks to a hologram that was broadcast live.

His speech dealt with the frontiers of humanity (space, oceans and the digital world).

The apparition of the hologram can be seen at 20:07.

Many thanks to Jhnapri and Callum for contributing to the translation of this video.

By Benoit Martin in France:

The citizens’ revolution is beginning in France

Friday 14th April 2017

Melenchon has the potential to unite all of France’s discontented, says BENOIT MARTIN

ON APRIL 18, Jean-Luc Melenchon, candidate of the France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party for the presidential election will address simultaneously seven meetings.

While in Dijon, he will speak to supporters in Nantes, Port (Reunion Island), Nancy, Montpellier, Clermont Ferrand and Grenoble via a remote link.

Third in the polls behind the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and the centrist candidate and ex-Socialist Party member Emmanuel Macron, Melenchon is now the only candidate whose share of the vote is currently increasing.

As nearly half of people polled have not yet decided whether — or for whom — they will vote, anything is possible.

The first round of the French election will be on April 23. The two candidates with the most votes will then be put to a second vote on May 7.

What distinguishes France Insoumise from the other political parties is the pledge to organise a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution to end “the monarchy of the presidential system and the political caste” and extend the “intervention of people” in decision making.

This programme, discussed since February 2016 “by thousands of people and organisations,” proposes radical reforms including a 16 per cent immediate increase in the minimum wage; grants for students; heavy taxation on high earners and tax evaders; a return to the 35-hour working week (32 in some sectors); pay equity for women; pensions at 60; an end to homelessness and poverty affecting nine million people; free healthcare and a disability benefit equivalent to the minimum wage.

To tackle the environmental crisis, it proposes to replace nuclear power with renewable energy, smaller-scale organic farming and to limit extraction to what nature can reconstitute.

The programme also aims to develop new industries from the sea, space and digital technologies.

It proposes to increase France’s independence by withdrawing from Nato, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and to radically change the current European Union treaties (including ending the privatisation of public services) or France will leave the EU.

It speaks of France developing a “solidarity protectionism” against globalisation which has meant “deindustrialisation and unemployment” in metropolitan countries and the “domination of multinationals and unequal trade, leading to more migration” in developing countries. It opposes wars and wants to give more power to the United Nations.

In Rennes, at one of the many meetings Melenchon addressed, he described the situation of women, who make up 80 per cent of minimum wage earners working mostly in the service sector while increasingly having to care for children and the elderly for free.

“Women are the ones who trigger revolutions,” he said.

They were the first to break down the system in the 1917 revolution and the ones who “carried the 1789 revolution through by marching to Versailles to get the king.”

For those of us in Payday Men’s Network who are supporting the Global Women’s Strike perspective to invest in caring not killing, and to pay a living wage to all workers, including mothers and other carers, this is a hopeful and exciting programme.

In Marseille, addressing 70,000 people at an open-air meeting, Melenchon asked people to hold a minute’s silence for the 30,000 refugees who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean.

Condemning the US attack on Syria, he concluded: “I will be the president for peace.”

Next June, separate elections will elect MPs, and France Insoumise will put forward candidates drawn from trade unionists, whistleblowers, community activists, radical scientists and intellectuals, feminists, ecologists and farmers chosen by popular assemblies.

These MPs “must serve mobilised people, enlighten them and express their voice within Parliament.”

Therefore they must not “act according to their own choices, without accountability or collective discipline.”

The power of France Insoumise, which is a movement and not a political party, is people’s participation. Almost 400,000 people so far have showed their support and over 3,000 support groups have mushroomed to publicise and organise this “citizens’ revolution.” France Insoumise claims to be now the “most important political force in France.”

In a global climate where austerity has increased distrust of traditional political parties, and where people are learning about the dangers of electing a Donald Trump like figure, France Insoumise has the potential to unite an unprecedented wave of discontent.

This could resonate in Britain, especially given the movement that (twice) elected Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, the rest of Europe and beyond.

Let’s not forget the Bernie Sanders movement in the US and the recent election of left-wing president Lenin Moreno in Ecuador.

This video says about itself:

9 April 2017

French election: Far-left candidate holds Marseilles rally.

Far-left French presidential candidate Jean Luc Melenchon has been wooing supporters at a rally in Marseilles.

The southern city is known for its strong support for the National Front and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

But Melenchon has gained momentum following a strong performance in last week’s TV debate and polls show that he is gaining popularity.

Al Jazeera’s David Chater reports from Marseilles.

By Kevin Ovenden:

What’s behind the French surge in support for Melenchon?

Thursday 13th April 2017

Alienation of millions from the mainstream political system has led to a changed political dynamic, says KEVIN OVENDEN

THE French presidential election moved further into uncharted territory last week following a televised debate between all 11 candidates.

A snap audience survey following the debate on Tuesday night found that the radical left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was already rising in the polls, was seen to be the big winner of the evening.

The far-left New Anti-Capitalist Party’s Philippe Poutou’s withering attacks on fascist Marine Le Pen and the candidate of the mainstream right, Francois Fillon, also won wide recognition.

The first opinion poll conducted in the two days following the debate showed a dramatic tightening of the race. It put Le Pen and the liberalcentrist Emmanuel Macron both down to 23 per cent.

In joint third were Melenchon and Fillon on 19 per cent. Benoit Hamon, the candidate of the centre-left Socialist Party, had fallen to 8.5 per cent. Other gainers included the two candidates of the smaller far left with 2.5 per cent between them.

It was one poll, but it confirmed the steady rise of Melenchon and his France Insoumise (France Unbowed) election front, which is backed by the French Communist Party.

This election was already unprecedented and is more unpredictable than ever, with just over a week to go before the first round, which will determine the two lead candidates to go head to head in a run-off a fortnight later.

The Socialist Party and the centre right represented by Fillon have been for 40 years the twin pillars of the French political system, itself an anchor of the EU, to which both parties are firmly committed.

At the start of this year the socially conservative Thatcherite Fillon was the frontrunner. But his candidacy has been sinking under a weight of corruption allegations.

Hamon was the surprise winner of the Socialist Party nomination in a US-style primaries process. He is from the left of the party, but is more akin to the late Michael Meacher than to Jeremy Corbyn.

His selection in a vote of two million people indicated a desire among many Socialist Party voters for some leftwards shift after the disaster of the presidency of Francois Hollande.

Much conventional commentary predicted that as a fresh candidate of the historic centre left, he would eclipse Melenchon and emerge as the standard bearer of the left as a whole.

But after a brief poll bounce, he came crashing down. There are two reasons why.

First, the neoliberal right of the Socialist Party refused to reconcile to the selection of a moderately leftwing candidate.

The defeated Manuel Valls has since led a string of right-wing grandees to endorse a rival candidate to their own party’s — the investment banker Macron. He says he is neither left nor right and combines a cosmopolitan social policy with a promise to introduce shock neoliberal reforms.

This is a pattern in social democratic parties elsewhere in Europe. In Spain, the party barons preferred to oust a centrist leader and support the formation of a government of the right rather than entertain some move towards the left anti-establishment Podemos party.

In Greece, Pasok preferred to go into government with the right rather than look to the left. The once mighty party is now about to be dissolved in favour of some new centrist confection.

Those in the British Labour Party fomenting civil war against the Corbyn leadership should look to Europe and behold where their counterparts have ended up.

The second reason for Melenchon’s rise is more positive. It is the radical left policies he is standing on combined with an insurgent political campaign that emphases a break with the old political orthodoxies.

He is drawing huge crowds to rallies and making inroads with innovative techniques. His campaign has launched an imitation of the Mortal Kombat video game. It’s called Fiscal Kombat.

It is not just that his policies are more left-wing than Hamon’s — a 100 per cent wealth tax, for example. It is also his appeal to working-class and popular France to rise up at the ballot box against a discredited system.

The disastrous experience of the Hollande presidency has deepened the alienation of millions from the mainstream political system.

He came in five years ago saying that his “only enemy is world finance” and promising some limited reforms in the wake of the post-2008 crash.

But despite controlling the National Assembly and most regions and large municipalities, Hollande’s government rapidly capitulated to the demands of the employers and of the EU.

With a popularity rating of just 4 per cent, Hollande was unable to stand for a second term. For those touting some centrist alternative to Corbyn — Hollande was it, the French Ed Miliband.

The backlash has been particularly strong among the young. Youth unemployment is at 24 per cent.

And it is among young voters that Le Pen’s Front National has made the greatest advances in the last three years.

Her message fuses a fake anti-elitism and economic radicalism with weaponising the racism and authoritarianism which the French state itself has turned to with its state of emergency and targeting of the Muslim community as a result of its participation in the war on terror.

Until two weeks ago mainstream commentary was united on what the consequences would be for this pivotal election for the future of European politics.

The choice was to be between Le Pen and “the populist tide” and Macron, enormously hyped in every liberal and business paper in Britain and Europe as the saviour of the liberal centrist order following the shock defeat of Hillary Clinton last November.

As for the left — it should simply get behind the neo-liberal investment banker as the only hope to stave of the fascist right.

Indeed, most foreign coverage of France ignored the Melenchon candidacy. Not now.

His advance has radically changed the picture. And it has not been simply that he has consolidated “the left vote.” His rise has come at the same time as Macron and Le Pen have both stalled.

It supports the case of the radical left across Europe that there is a strategic alternative to collapsing back behind the failing neo-liberal centre which has opened the door to the far-right in some countries.

It is that a radically insurgent campaign, based upon the interests of the working class and neglected majority and refusing the politics of racial division and scapegoating, can mobilise vast numbers of people for progressive change.

Can Melenchon’s rise take him into the second round of the election? It is still more likely that it will see Macron versus Le Pen. But no-one is in a position to rule anything out.

In some ways as significant is the impact of the campaign already in shaping the politics of the election and beyond.

Speculative head-to-head polls put Macron beating Le Pen by about 59 per cent to 41 per cent in a second round election. That is a wide margin for a French presidential election, but a worryingly large number of people who would cast a vote for a fascist candidate.

With those polling figures what it would take for Le Pen to win would be 90 per cent of those who say they would vote for her actually to go and do so, as against just 65 per cent for Macron.

There’s the rub. Le Pen’s support is much more solid than Macron’s is. Strangely, large numbers of people are not too keen to vote for an investment banker as the default candidate.

Many French voters have yet to make up their minds. The abstention rate could be close to 30 per cent, historically high.

So even on the sole measure of stopping the far-right, the Melenchon campaign, which is exciting wide layers, makes an impact. It is likely to bring more people out into political action and to stop Le Pen. And it can lay the basis for the left to play a role in the social and political struggles to come.

For whatever the result of this election — France is set to become the latest site of the breakdown of the European political system and of growing social turmoil.

13 thoughts on “French elections, will leftist Mélenchon beat racist Le Pen, warmonger Macron?

  1. Friday, 14 April 2017

    French elections ‘shaken’ by surge in working class support for socialist policies

    THIS WEEK has seen a dramatic upsurge of support amongst workers and youth in France for the outsider left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in the Presidential election.

    This election had until now been reduced by most political commentators to a two-horse race between the extreme far-right National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, and the independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

    Both stand at around 23% in the opinion polls and were expected to go forward to the eventual run-off round. The candidate from the Socialist Party (PS) of the President, Francois Hollande, has along with his party been almost wiped out politically in this election as Hollande’s austerity programme for French workers has met with massive opposition, earning them the hatred of workers and youth.

    With the traditional French parties effectively broken in this election, the choice was assumed to be between the liberal centrist Macron and the right-wing extremist Le Pen. Macron, an ex-banker, is a fervent supporter of the EU and of the hated ‘free-trade’ deal between the EU and Canada, of NATO and of austerity and labour market ‘reforms’.

    According to the perceived wisdom of the bourgeois press, the French working class in breaking with the traditional Socialist Party and rising up against the vicious austerity plans of Hollande were on the verge of embracing the right-wing extremism of Le Pen with her supposedly ‘populist’ anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.

    It has clearly come as a shock for them that Mélenchon has suddenly shot up by seven points in opinion polls with many placing him third with the prospect of overtaking Macron. Mélenchon, a left centrist, who resigned from PS in 2008 in protest at its lurch to the right, leads a movement called La France Insoumise (Untamed France).

    His socialist policies have won massive support from workers and young people, to the horror of the ruling class. These policies include cutting the working week from 35 to 32 hours, lowering the retirement age to 60 and increasing the minimum wage to £1,125 a month and increases to social security benefits.

    In addition, he is calling for a 100% tax on all earnings over 33,000 euros a month, withdrawal from the ‘neo-liberal’ EU along with pulling France out of NATO. His movement opposes all immigration quotas, with Mélenchon insisting ‘immigration is not a problem’ and calling for the need ‘to combat the causes of migration’, namely war.

    This surge in support for Mélenchon and his openly socialist policies as opposed to the policies of the SP and the centrist Macron, which offer only more austerity within the collapsing EU, reflects the revolutionary mood amongst French workers and youth. After five years of vicious austerity attacks by a ‘socialist’ president who has unleashed riot police against workers’ demonstrations, the working class are turning, not, as the bourgeois press would have us believe, to the racist right but throwing their support behind socialist policies of nationalisation, wage increases and breaking from the capitalist EU and the imperialist war machine NATO.

    The preference of the capitalist class has been made clear. They are reeling from the prospect that Mélenchon will emerge as the run-off candidate against Le Pen with one business leader saying it would be a ‘catastrophe’ for France with the money markets reacting very badly to the news. They showed no such panic when it looked like a contest between the centrist Macron and Le Pen.

    It is the emergence of a working class looking for a revolutionary lead in the fight against a bankrupt capitalist system that can only survive by dumping its crisis on the backs of workers that is terrifying the bankers and bosses.


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