Neither Macron nor Le Pen!

Poisoned choice in French presidential election

23 April 2022

In a repeat of 2017, French voters go to the polls in the second round of the presidential election, where “président des riches” Emmanuel Macron of La République en marche faces Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement national (heir of the Front national, founded by the neo-Nazi Ordre nouveau in 1972). The runoff election takes place amidst the growth of the far-right and increasing social inequality, spiraling energy costs and rising inflation. Working people are also concerned about threats to healthcare, pensions and the environment, and they are fearful of the dangers of direct inter-imperialist war breaking out over Ukraine.

It is obvious that both candidates are sworn enemies of the working class. Marxists reject the “choice” on offer and call for a spoiled ballot.

Unsurprisingly, the openly reformist left are voting for Macron, though they find it politically expedient not to mention the name of the current occupant of the Élysée Palace. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, presidential candidate for the Parti socialiste, received a humiliating and historically low score of 1.7 percent in the first round and immediately pleaded with her supporters to “vote against Marine Le Pen’s far right on April 24.” The candidate of the Parti communiste français, Fabien Roussel (who received 2.4 percent of the vote), is making the “responsible choice” in calling to “beat the far right,” asserting: “I will never allow Madame Le Pen to take power.” And Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise (who placed third with 22 percent of the vote, including the support of some far-left groups) has declared that “there must not be one single vote for Le Pen in the second round.”

While some far-left organizations have correctly called for a spoiled ballot in the second round, other self-described revolutionaries have either explicitly lined up behind the preferred candidate of the ruling class or loudly denounced voting for Le Pen while deliberately refraining from rejecting a Macron vote. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA), whose candidate Philippe Poutou received 0.7 percent of the vote in the first round, has warned that “a Le Pen victory would be much worse than another five-year term for Macron,” explaining:

“That is why, among working people, not a single vote can go to Le Pen, so that she is beaten on Sunday 24 April. In this context, we know that some will use a ‘Macron’ ballot to get rid of her, while others will choose to boycott this biased second round. The most important thing is not to tear ourselves apart over the vote but to put our entire social camp into movement to stop the accession of the far right to the Élysée and prepare the necessary struggles ahead, whatever the election result.”
—nouveaupartianticapitaliste.org, 20 April 2022

Genuine revolutionaries are not afraid to lose adherents by advancing a position of principled opposition to both Macron and Le Pen. Those guided by the fear of alienating supporters who currently have a reformist and electoralist outlook (or, indeed, those who share that outlook) will never be able to offer revolutionary leadership. The NPA was established in a formal break even from the pretense of building a Leninist-Trotskyist party (see “NPA: France’s New Reformist Party,” 1917 No.32).

Instead of telling workers which poison to drink (or that drinking one of the poisons is as valid as drinking neither), Marxists seek to knock over both cups. We want to put the entire bourgeois order on trial. The jury, the working class, must be convinced that capitalism is guilty not only of offering them a “democracy” in which they are asked to choose between two forms of poison but also of generating severe and worsening economic, environmental and geo-political crises that threaten their lives. When the verdict is guilty, the sentence, as the revolutionary Communist International noted a century ago, will be clear: “the working class will come to realize that if it wants to live, capitalism will have to die.”