Populism on the rise in Europe, the RN on the doorstep of power, the New Popular Front... The future belongs to the class struggle, not to the election circus!

Printer-friendly version

The party of Le Pen had not yet consummated its triumph in the European elections when President Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly and the calling of legislative elections in its wake. Rumours of a dissolution had been circulating for several weeks, but the news did not fail to worry European chancelleries against a backdrop of rising populism in Europe and around the world. After Orbán in Hungary and Meloni in Italy, with the far right at its height in Germany and the clown Farage poised to torpedo the Conservative Party in the UK, Macron, like a poker player, has thrown down his cards, offering the Rassemblement National (RN) an opportunity to come to power in France.

The Rassemblement National, a pure product of the crisis of capitalism

With the prospect of a populist government looming, the RN has been quick to shelve its "social" rhetoric and its most radical positions on Europe in an attempt to reassure the state apparatus, employers and "European partners". But Bardella's government will not waver in its attacks on our living conditions!

But that won't be enough to ward off the crass amateurism of the RN cadres, the racist and ultra-reactionary outrages of this party founded by the dregs of the far right, the risk of outbreaks of violence once the result is known[1], and the political instability that will take hold of the country for a long time to come. All the more so as the populist factions of the bourgeoisie have not only repeatedly proved themselves incapable of effectively defending national capital (like Trump in the United States or the Brexit supporters in Great Britain), but are also particularly unsuited to skilfully driving through "reforms" against the working class. For the bourgeoisie, the RN in power will represent a considerable acceleration of social chaos and a shock wave weakening France, and consequently Europe, in the global arena.

The surge in populism around the world is not therefore the product of well-orchestrated manoeuvres by the bourgeoisie against the working class,[2] even if the left-wing parties repeatedly claim that the "bourgeois bloc" would rather throw itself into the arms of the far right than allow the left to come to power. In reality, in the United States as in Europe, populism is above all a pure product of the profound decomposition of capitalist society.

The contradictions of the system have reached such an inextricable point that the bourgeoisie is now incapable of coping with the crisis and the growing chaos: widespread insecurity and mass unemployment, war on every continent, repeated environmental and industrial disasters, millions of migrants thrown onto the roads, the collapse of health and education systems, the continuing deterioration of working conditions, despair, fear of the future... In the eyes of everyone, the ruling class no longer has the slightest prospect to offer society, apart from trying to "save the furniture" from day to day. It is in this context of crisis and "save what you can” that populism has thrived, promoting its nauseating and irrational ideology, singling out scapegoats and encouraging a retreat into national and racial “identities”[3].

The 'radical' or 'moderate' left is still the bourgeoisie

So the question arises: should we go out and vote to block the way to the RN's shameless racism, its outspoken authoritarianism and its promises of all-out attacks on the working class, particularly proletarians from immigrant backgrounds? Whether Macron succeeds in his gamble, whether the RN or the "New Popular Front" (NFP) win the elections, or whether no majority emerges, the crisis of capitalism will not go away. Whichever bourgeois clique is in power, left or right, radical or moderate, it will only accentuate the attacks on our living conditions. The proletariat has nothing to defend and nothing to gain by taking part in the electoral circus!

The NFP claims to have a programme for a "break with the past", but this coalition will do what the left has always done for a century and in every country: defend the interests of national capital and make the exploited pay for the crisis. The left, even when it claims to be "radical", has always been the wing of the bourgeoisie whose role is to control and mystify the working class. In Greece, Tsípras and his “radical left” government pursued the worst austerity policies for over three years. The Spanish "radical" left, hand in hand with the PSOE, has relentlessly attacked the living conditions of workers, the unemployed, pensioners... Mélenchon, the former apparatchik of the Socialist Party, and his clique of repentant Stalinists, are no exception to the rule. What's more, the NFP has already promised to contribute to the massacre in Ukraine by sending billions of euros worth of arms and munitions. Like Macron or Léon Blum's Front Populaire, tomorrow they will be demanding "sacrifices" to finance the war and France's sordid imperialist interests!

There should also be no illusions about the fate of refugees with the left in power: they will mercilessly hunt down migrants and leave them to languish in detention camps or drown by the thousands in the Mediterranean, as they have always done! If the Greek navy is now at the cutting edge of ignominy, it owes it in particular to the work of the "radical" Tsípras (him again!), who did not hesitate to sign despicable migration agreements with Turkey and was a zealous architect of the veritable "death camp" that was Mória. Do we still need to document the anti-refugee hysteria of the Socialist Party in France or the thinly veiled xenophobia of the French Communist Party under Marchais or Roussel? Is it necessary to recall the abominable 'migration policy' of the left in Spain? Racism and xenophobia, anti-migrant barbed wire and detention camps are far from being the prerogative of the far right alone!

"Anti-fascism", a weapon of war against the working class

As in Germany with the recent demonstrations against the AfD, the French left and trade unions have tried to replay the democratic mobilisations of 2002, when the FN made it to the second round of the presidential election. Then we were also told that we had no choice but to mobilise, not as workers in struggle, but at the ballot box, as "citizens", to defend "democracy" and block the road to "fascism"[4].

The tearful evocation of the 1936 "Popular Front" is fully in line with this propaganda campaign. Because the Popular Front, today as in the past, is the very negation of the proletariat. After the defeat of the revolutionary wave that began in Russia in 1917, the proletariat as a whole was defeated. In Germany, the revolution of 1918-1919 was crushed in bloodshed. The Stalinist counter-revolution mowed down the revolutionaries and totally disorientated the working class. It was on the ashes of defeat that the French bourgeoisie pushed Léon Blum and his coalition to power with the aim of preparing for war. And it was in the name of defending democracy that the Popular Front (which was already locking up Spanish refugees in open-air concentration camps) chained millions of proletarians to the flag of anti-fascism, militarising factories and preparing minds for massacre. Its "work" led millions of workers to their graves during the Second World War for a cause - the defence of the nation - that was not their own[5].

The historical situation has changed a lot since then: the proletariat is not defeated and is not ready to get its skin punctured in defence of the national flag. Quite the contrary! Faced with the "sacrifices" demanded by the war economy and international competition, the proletariat is raising its head. For two years, massive struggles have been multiplying: in the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany, Canada, Finland... Everywhere, the proletariat is fighting back and beginning to rediscover its fighting spirit, its reflexes of solidarity, its class identity.

Today, the threat posed to the proletariat by anti-fascist propaganda is not mass recruitment into the war, but the loss of its reborn class identity, which is the precondition for its unity and its ability to rediscover the road to revolution, to the destruction of the bourgeois state, whether "democratic" or "authoritarian".

It's for this reason that the bourgeoisie has been quick to discredit "the workers", allegedly reactionary and xenophobic, who are supposed to vote massively for the RN[6]. This odious lie has no other objective than to divide the proletariat and hammer home the idea that the working class has no future.

But the bourgeoisie can also count on its new instrument of mystification, the New Popular Front, to sow illusions about "democracy" and elections, about the "redistribution of wealth", about a capitalism that is more "ecological", more "inclusive", more "just"... Under the windows of the offices where the bosses of the NFP were meeting to divide up the constituencies, demonstrators, still a little suspicious of these fine promises, chanted: "Don't betray us! The only thing that this so-called Popular Front will not betray is their class: the bourgeoisie!

The future of society will not be decided at the ballot box, but through the struggle of the proletariat. The only way to fight populism and the far right is to fight against capitalism, against the bourgeois state and its democracy, against all governments. Right or left, "authoritarian" or "democratic", "retrograde" or "humanist", the bourgeoisie has only one programme: ever more misery and insecurity, war and barbarism!

EG, 21 June 2024




[1] The intelligence services fear not only riots in the suburbs and outbursts at "anti-fascist" demonstrations, but also racist violence by ultra-right-wing groups that could feel their wings grow with Bardella's arrival in power.

[2] Even if parties on both the right and the left were able, for a time, to exploit the former Front National. It is worth remembering that it was the Socialist Party, a member of the "New Popular Front", that contributed to the emergence of the Front National in the 1980s. At the time, President Mitterrand orchestrated the media coverage of Jean-Marie Le Pen's party to put obstacles in the way of the Right (see "Au RN, un autre anniversaire : celui du coup de pouce de Mitterrand", Libération, 5 October 2022)

[3] On the roots of the rise of populism, see How the bourgeoisie organises itself, International Review 172

[4] The rise of populism is not the same as the rise of fascism: Hitler and Mussolini came to power because, faced with a defeated and crushed proletariat, they represented the best option for German and Italian capital to prepare for world war, the bourgeoisie's only "solution" to the crisis. Today, even if the illusions about the democratic state have been shattered, the bourgeoisie still needs this mystification to confront the working class.

[5] Here again, it's worth remembering that: 1. it was democracy which provided the breeding ground for fascism; 2. while Hitler's regime demonstrated appalling and unparalleled barbarity, the Allies were not to be outdone and, during the war, showed an indifference to the fate of the Jews which sometimes turned into outright complicity.

[6] Unsurprisingly, the learned analyses of the bourgeoisie are a gross lie. First of all, the working class cannot be reduced to the socio-professional category of industrial workers: unlike a "clerk" in a shop or a midwife ("intermediate profession"), a "team leader" on a production line is not part of the working class. What's more, even if we take only the "blue-collar" category into account, abstention still comes out well ahead!


Election circus