French workers reject the dictatorship of
the free market
John Mullen (LCR, Montreuil, France)
French workers won
a historic political victory last Sunday when the new European constitution was
rejected by 55% of voters. Well over 70% of manual workers and over 60% of
office workers voted against the constitution, despite all the major parties
pushing for a Yes vote.
would have guaranteed “free untramelled competition” as the centre of European
economic policy, as well as binding Europe more closely to NATO. Public
transport, street cleaning, education and health services would have been
constitutionally obliged to become “profitable” or risk being sold off to
The French ruling
class pulled out all the stops to get a “yes” vote. With the support of all the
main media, politicians of the socialist Left and the Right warned of
catastrophe if the “No” vote won. “France will become the Black sheep of Europe”
warned Jacques Chirac, the president.
forces of the radical Left run by far the largest and most united campaign of
the last twenty years. Badges showing a black sheep and even a Black sheep song
did the rounds.
In dozens of towns
where experienced activists were used to having meetings of a few dozen,
thousands attended meetings. Over a thousand united “committees for a No vote”
were set up, involving Communist party, Revolutionary Left and non-party
activists, as well as thousands of dissidents from the ranks of the Socialist
Party and of the Greens, both of whose parties officially supported a Yes vote.
For every “Yes” poster on the walls, a hundred “NO” posters from a dozen
Unity of action on
the radical Left became the new fashion, with combined groups of Communists,
anarchists, Left socialists, revolutionaries and others going out at night
putting up posters - all groups putting up the posters from all organizations!
The revolutionary Left of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire has been a
central element in the campaign, which has also impressively revived a declining
Left Reformist Communist party.
campaign really politicized people. Only nineteen percent, in a recent poll,
said they were not interested in debates on the constitution. So although
establishement politicians of the Left and Right paid thousands of hours of
overtime to their experts in political spin-doctoring, the “No” vote became ever
more solid. The far right, also calling for a No vote for nationalist reasons
were marginalized in the campaign which was run solidly on “defend public
services” and “for a social and democratic Europe” grounds.
In the last few
days of the campaign the ruling politicians to reverse became frankly laughable.
The Prime minister Raffarin called for people to abstain if they didn’t like the
constitution rather than voting no. Historic leader of the Right Giscard
declared that if the “No” vote won they would make the people vote again next
So on Monday
morning, the French ruling class awoke with one almighty hangover. The
Conservative prime minister resigned, replaced by Villepin, so distant from the
people that he has never even been elected. Leaders of the Socialist Party and
the Greens, who had recommended a “yes vote” but whose supporters had
overwhelmingly voted “No” have been thrown into a panic. But on the radical
Left, activists are all smiles. And people realize that it is only the first
step. The “No committees” are not planning to disband, but to continue as a
united force to defend public services and fight back against the dictatorship
It is a tremendous
political and ideological victory, as French workers show they reject ultra-free
market ideology, established parties are thrown into disarray, and the radical
Left is given an exciting new mass dynamic.
But it is only the
first step to bringing in concrete victories for people’s lives. In the last two
years mass strike waves failed to stop major government attacks on pension
rights and on education when union leaders put the brakes on the movement.
The non-party Left
has risen dramatically in the last ten years, but no organization has had enough
prestige and clarity to federate a new anticapitalist force. This new victory
could prepare the building of an organization capable of leading in battles to
conflicts are in store. The head of the French bosses’ organization, the Baron
Seillčres, called right after the referendum for an “acceleration” of the
free-market reforms in France. The government has several attacks ready which
they had put off because of the referendum. Banning all-out strikes in “key
public services” including transport is one of their plans.
This is our finest
victory in 25 years and a tremendous wave of hope is spreading among Left
activists in France, while the ringleaders of European capital are crying in