The Socialist Unity Network

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 significantly more.

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.

April 2004

Other articles
Andy Newman
on this site

Raymond Debord
in Le Militant
(article in English)

  Andrew Coates
on the Movements for Socialism site
  Alex Callinicos
in Socialist Worker
  Peter Manson
in Weekly Worker