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French elections - Le Pen's far-right FN surges
Governing 'Socialist' Party punished for failings
Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)
The massive vote for the far-right National Front (FN) in the first round of regional elections in France on 6 December saw them coming top in nearly half of the regions. The party's leader, Marine Le Pen, got 40% in the poorest of France's regions - Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.
Over 28% for the FN in this election is more than double the 13.6% they achieved in the last parliamentary election in 2012.
This does not come as a surprise. But nor is it due to the public mood that exists after the atrocities of the 13 November Paris attacks. Support for the FN has been growing under the leadership of Marine Le Pen since 2011. She has taken it onto a more populist tack than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was an outright defender of the heinous policies and crimes of fascism.
After the second round of voting on 13 December, the FN is likely to take control in at least two regions - the run-down industrial region in the north and in the rich southern Cote d'Azur region, where the more extreme Marion Marechal-Le Pen heads the FN list.
The FN which is patently racist and xenophobic, constantly blames immigrants for the nation's problems. It is in favour of creating homes and jobs... but only for the French.
The FN has been able to make gains against both the ruling PS (Socialist Party) and the traditional right of Sarkozy's Party - the UMP, now known as the Republican Party (PR).
In spite of a rise in the personal popularity of President Hollande, Sunday's vote indicates a collapse of his PS.
The PS has withdrawn from the second round in the two regions most threatened with FN success. It is proposing a 'grand coalition' with the 'traditional' right PR to try and block the FN from taking power in any region.
The same proposal will no doubt arise when it comes to the presidential election in 2017, in which it is feared the FN will score another high vote.
The PR has declared opposition to such a deal, fearing further loss of support by any association with the crisis-ridden PS government of Hollande and Prime Minister Valls.
The vote for these two parties might have fallen even further relative to the FN, if they had not taken on board much of its repressive and nationalistic policies after the Paris atrocities.
The big vote for the far-right party is partially a protest vote, in the absence of forces on the left with a coherent alternative to the cuts and job losses of the incumbent parties. The main danger is that the FN can consolidate its support.
Abstention among those who say they are close to the left was in the region of 47%. The involvement of the 'Communists' of the PCF in government decisions means it has not been able to put up a serious opposition on behalf of workers and young people.
Marine Le Pen has voiced support for the problems of workers and, for her own nationalistic reasons, for retaining industries like transport in the hands of the French state. However, she has also attacked trade union struggles, such as in Air France, where the FN called the workers 'hooligans'.
The major trade union federation - CGT - linked with the 'Communist' Party of France, was pressed from below not to accept the prolongation of the state of emergency and the ban on demonstrations after the horrific killings in Paris. (The PCF deputies had supported the measure in the Assembly.)
The CGT membership saw it as a one-sided declaration of a truce in the struggle with the bosses and government that continue with their attacks. The federation leaders felt compelled to call a national day of action on 2 December, against the sackings at Air France and attacks on trade union rights and conditions in workplaces.
There is considerable anger building up among workers and young people on a number of important issues which can explode at any time. There could be outbursts of protest in the schools against the National Front's successes and in the factories against the arrogance of the bosses.
The level of abstentions among workers (62%) and young people (62%) is a condemnation of the failure of the 'traditional' parties to offer any solution to the problems which anger them.
The Left Front - consisting of Melenchon's Parti de Gauche, the PCF, some ecologists and others - has all but collapsed.
Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France) has consistently argued that the only way to defeat the right and prevent the rise of the FN is with a mass campaign against austerity, job cuts and racism.
The FN has stolen the clothes of the left as well as the right and prospered. The workers' movement must reclaim and revive the 'traditional' programme of struggle and socialism in France.
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