Not bad going;
but can we climb out of the ghetto?
John Mullen, editor of the quarterly "Socialisme International"
Five per cent is not bad - it's practically the same as the last
regional elections. But the last few years of slowly rising struggle and
the excellent results at the presidential elections led us to expect
Many voters preferred to vote Socialist or Communist directly in the
first round, rather than vote for the revolutionary LO-LCR list, for a
number of reasons, some of which are quite complex.
One of which is that even voters who think 'Right wing and left wing
governments are the same" on a national level, are not so sure when it
comes to regional and local councils. The Socialist Party regional
council gave lots of money to help set up the European Social Forum,
Social housing administration in Paris is far far less corrupt since the
Socialist Party mayor got in, etc.
Many voters want to have elected representatives as a result of their
vote, and votes for Socialist Communist or Green candidates gave them a
good chance of doing so. So the "useful vote" reaction did help the
parliamentary left and disadvantage the revolutionaries. The election
system had been changed since the previous elections, and under the new
system less that 5% means no elected representatives, and between five
and ten means no elected representatives unless you make a deal with a
bigger slate, which the revolutionaries had decided not to do.
The electoral campaign of LO-LCR was very successful in the sense that
the meetings were packed out and quite a number of meetings had more
than a thousand people at them. Older comrades say they have never seen
anything like this since 1968. Also television coverage was quite
impressive. On election night, there was a round table on each of the
three major TV channels, and a representative of our list was on each -
Olivier Besancenot on the first channel, Arlette Laguiller on the second
and Alain Krivine on the third - this was quite an experience for us
old revolutionaries used to plugging away to very small audiences.
It is very difficult to know how many votes were lost to the list
because of the position concerning the parliamentary left - i.e. the (in
my view mistaken) decision not to call for a left vote in the second
round. I think there were two main effects of this
1. After the first round, the revolutionary left were out of the picture
completely. The line "we're not calling for anything in particular"
meant that while all left wing workers held their breath to see if their
region would wing left or not, LO-LCR had nothing to say about it. Also,
now that the newly socialist regions are threatening very precisely
which right wing measures they are going to refuse to implement, the LO-LCR
position, which is generally interpreted as "Left-Right, same
difference" is looking rather silly.
2. The whole campaign from the beginning was run on the lines of "We are
the only opposition to the right", or "the only real opposition". The
result was that it was rather an abstract campaign, calling for the
banning of lay-offs etc. And because half the list's supporters believe
that the Left and the right are the same thing, the campaign did not
push slogans like "Raffarin out!" which could have been extremely
popular. It did also come over as rather economist, perhaps because of
the LO influence.
It is fairly clear that quite a number of LCR voters refused to vote LCR
this time because they disagreed with the alliance with Lutte Ouvrière.
Some of them did this for very bad reasons, some made this mistake for
good reasons. What I mean is that some LCR voters dislike LO because
they seem more close to ideas of class struggle than do the LCR a lot of
the time. Others dislike Lutte Ouvrière because of their total
disinterest in struggles of the oppressed which are not base din the
workplace, their almost complete absence in the antifascist movements of
the last couple of years, their complete absence, when it is not a
denunciation, concerning the European Social Forum.
But if the alliance LO-LCR drove away tens of thousands of left wing
people for some of these reasons, I'm convinced it attracted hundreds of
thousands of workers who understand the importance of unity.
In many ways the tens of thousands who came to meetings are as important
at least as the hundreds of thousands of voters. Will the revolutionary
left be able to crystallize this interest into determined and active
revolutionaries ? It's too early to tell - certainly, Lutte Ouvrière are
much too rigid to do this, in my view. The LCR may be able to do so, but
it has a long way to go before being sufficiently outward looking and
dynamic to make the most of the situation. Old bad habits of the far
left ghettoes die hard.