France: from the voting strike to an abstentionist rebellion

A political earthquake took place this Sunday, June 21, 2021 on the occasion of the first round of regional and departmental elections. With 66.7%, never in the history of the Fifth Republic had the elections known such a level of abstention. The panic gripping the political leaders is on a par with the electoral slap in the face inflicted by the masses on the bourgeoisie, the employers, Macron, his government, his ministers and, more broadly, on the entire political class and the entire bureaucratic leadership of the workers’ movement. It is an expression of the collapse of the regime. The Fifth Republic, born of the coup d’état of 1958, Bonapartist regime par excellence, has failed. Thus, the irruption of the masses in the electoral field is the expression of the current relationship of political forces. Undoubtedly, the “voting strike” initiated after the economic crisis of 2008 is now turning into an abstentionist rebellion against the betrayals, lies and combinations of largely decayed apparatuses. The masses, as a whole, refuse to back increasingly anti-social, anti-youth, anti-immigrant and liberticidal politicians. We are not fortune tellers, but what is certain is that, without yet knowing the form and rhythm of it, the class struggle is going to intensify and the working class will strike new blows against this moribund regime to overthrow it, definitively.

From this first round we can draw four lessons:

1) Abstention, 2) The defeat of Macron and LaREM, 3) The collapse of RN/FN, 4) The total rejection of political parties.

1. Abstention, because what interests us here, is the mass movement that rises. It is the strikers of 2016 and 2017, it is the yellow vests movement of 2018, it is the strikers of December 2019 against the liquidation of pensions, it is all those who since the beginning of the health crisis have been laid off, made precarious, placed in partial unemployment, impoverished. They are the growing number who cannot make ends meet, who are hungry, who suffer from poverty. It is those who reject the politics of 49-3, ordinances, authoritarian and reactionary laws, gas and sticks. It is the victory of the striking cleaners of the Ibis Batignolles hotel; it is the workers of the Brittany Foundry, a subcontractor of Renault, who burn their voter’s card in front of the cameras; it is the suspension by the Council of State of the reform of unemployment insurance which threatens millions of workers with a reduction of their benefits.

  • The abstention is expressed through all those who fight against the harmful and lethal policies of the current and previous governments  daily, it is the slap in the face of Macron and the flouring of Mélenchon. Abstention is a wave. Abstention is ultra-majority in all regions: Grand Est 70.8%, Pays de la Loire 69.8%, Ile de France 67.5%, Centre-Val de Loire 67%, Normandy 67%, Hautes-de-France 67%, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur 66.3%, Burgundy-Franche-Comté 65.8%, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes 65.1%, Brittany. 64%, New Aquitaine 62.9%, Occitania 61.4%, Corsica 44.1%.
  • One figure in particular illustrates the power of this abstentionist revolt: during the previous regional ones in 2015, only 555 municipalities had an abstention rate of 60 to 70%, on June 20 it was 14,330, or 26 times more!
  • Abstention is even stronger in working class towns such as: Vaulx-en-Velin 88.3%, Clichy-sous-Bois 88%, Vénissieux 83.2%, Roubaix 83%, Longwy 81%, Manchas 81%, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges 81%, Vitry-sur-Seine 77.6%, Trampas 77%, Orly 76%, Le Havre 74.8%, Mantes-la-Jolie 74%, Saint-Nazaire 71.4%…
  • There is an overwhelming majority of abstentions in all age groups except those over 70 years old. 87% of 18 to 24 year olds abstained, 83% of 25 to 34 year olds, 71% of 35 to 49 year olds, 68% of 50 to 59 year olds, 56% of 60 to 69 year olds and 40% of those over 70. The 18 to 59 year old group abstained by 77.25%!
  • Abstention is an overwhelming majority in all professional categories. It is 75% among workers, 75% among employees, 69% among managers, 69% among intermediate professions, 47% among retirees.

Sunday’s abstentionists are Monday’s strikers!

This is what frightens the bourgeoisie and its servants. That is why, from the “institutional left” to the “republican right”, from the Stalinists to the bourgeois nationalists and the extreme right, ALL without exception are calling on the voters to vote this Sunday, June 27. They are running after their electorate, panic-stricken. Because contrary to what they say, it is not about “saving democracy” or “the right to vote”. Who is threatening them? Nobody! So, from blaming to threatening, anything goes to make the recalcitrant vote. Anything goes. Whether it is the implementation of remote electronic voting, the inclusion of blank votes or even the legislative definition of the obligation to vote, all “technical” solutions are envisaged. However, this is not a “technical” problem, but a deeply political issue. One must vote, no matter for whom, but one must vote to “save democracy”! Who can believe them? These “sincere democrats” quickly forget their betrayal of the popular vote of April 29, 2005 against the draft European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) which, although rejected by 55% of the votes, was implemented and never questioned by anyone. “Save democracy”? Not at all! These parasites are trying to save their place, their position, their privileges.

2.Macron and LaREM have been completely defeated. Thus, this first round of voting, organized less than a year before the presidential elections, starkly raises the widespread rejection of Macron and his policies. Incidentally, the most sympathetic commentators are quick to point out that LaREM is a new party, barely five years old. That is an understatement to explain the debacle. Although 15 ministers were candidates, LaREM and its allies obtained at the national level little more than 10% of the votes cast. Let us look at three regions:

  • In Ile-de-France, the most populous region (7.2 million of the roll) and the richest, the LaREM-MoDEM list led by Laurent Saint-Martin took 11.8% of the vote (256,136 votes), or 3.5% of the roll. Let us recall the cast: Marlène Schiappa, Minister in charge of Citizenship, head of the list in Paris, 14% of the votes; Amélie de Montchalin, Minister for Transformation and the Civil Service, head of the list in Essonne, 11.2% of the votes; Emmanuelle Wargon, Minister in charge of Housing, head of the list in Val-de-Marne, 11. 6% of the votes; Nathalie Elimas, Secretary of State for Priority Education, head of the list in Val-d’Oise, 10% of the votes; Gabriel Attal, government spokesperson, last on the list in Hauts-de-Seine, 13.6% of the votes. The LaREM list finishes fourth.
  • In Hauts-de-France (4.2 million registered voters), Laurent Pietraszewski, Secretary of State in charge of pensions and occupational health, head of the regional list, received 9.1% of the votes (121,565 votes), or 2.8% of the registered voters. For the record, the list to which Eric Dupond-Moretti, Minister of Justice, and Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate in charge of Industry, belong, took 8.7% of the votes in Pas-de-Calais; the list to which Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, and Alain Griset, Minister in charge of SMEs, belong, took 10.2% of the votes in the North. The LaREM list also finished fourth.
  • In Centre-Val de Loire (1.8 million registered voters), Marc Fesneau, minister delegate in charge of relations with Parliament, head of the regional list, received 16.6% of the votes (94,711 votes), or 5.2% of the registered voters. The LaREM list also finished fourth.

Thus, Macron and his party received a new electoral slap in the face after those of the European (2019), municipal and senatorial (2020) elections. Macron’s policy is punished without a second thought, rejected by the population.

3. The collapse of RN/FN is today a fact beyond dispute. For a long time it was useful for many to wave the ghost of the “rise of fascism” and the extreme right to hide their own lies and infamies. In short, “better us than the fascists”, the same argument that was made in the period between the 2002 presidential rounds when, with the notable exception of Lutte Ouvriere (LO), all parties called for a vote for Chirac: “better to vote a thief than a fascist”. The result, as we know, was that the first thing Chirac did was to appoint Sarkozy to the Interior Ministry. Sarkozy, a sincere democrat, a humanist, a notorious convict sentenced to two years in prison – including one effective year – in the wiretapping affair (the first conviction of a former head of state in the history of the Fifth Republic), tried in the Bygmalion case of illegal financing of his campaign and threatened again with six months in prison…The new development is the fact that Le Pen’s RN/FN receives the full blow of the tsunami of abstention. Like all the others, but stronger! Let’s judge it. In the 2015 regional elections, RN/FN pulled nationally just over 6 million votes in the first round and 6.8 million in the second round. On June 20, 2021 it pulled about 3 million votes. This is still too much, of course, but it nevertheless corresponds to a 50% drop in votes collected and even a drop of more than 70% if we consider that Marine Le Pen, in the second round of the 2017 presidential election, drew more than 10 million votes!

In Hauts-de-France, in 2015, Marine Le Pen finished first and took 909,000 votes in the first round of the regional elections, or 40.6% of the votes and 21% of the electoral roll (then one million votes in the second round, or 42.2%). On June 20, 2021, Sébastien Chenu finished second and received 324,277 votes, or 24.4% of the votes and 7.6% of the electoral roll. Between 2015 and 2021 RN/FN lost 600,000 votes, or almost 65% of its electorate.

In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), in 2015, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen finished first and took 719,716 votes, or 40.6% of the votes and 20.4% of the electoral roll (then 886,147 votes in the second round, or 45.2%). On June 20, 2021, Thierry Mariani finished first and took 420,602 votes (299,114 less votes), or 36.4% of the votes and 11.7% of the roll.

In Ile-de-France, in 2015, Wallerand de Saint-Just finished fifth and drew 580,467 votes, or 18.4% of the votes and 8.1% of the roll. On June 20, 2021, Jordan Bardella obtained 285,736 votes (294,731 less votes), or 13.1% of the votes and 3.9% of the electoral roll.

In the Grand Est region, in 2015, Florian Philippot finished first and took 641,234 votes, or 36.1% of the votes and 16.5% of the roll. On June 20, 2021, the list of RN/FN and allies of Laurent Jacobelli finished second and took 227,774 votes (413,460 votes less), or 31.1% of the votes and 5.9% of the roll.

Like all other political parties, the wave of abstention also hit RN/FN. Has it dissolved in the Fifth Republic? The scarecrow useful to the bourgeoisie is now naked. We can bet that despite the magnitude of the electoral, political and ideological defeat suffered by RN/FN on June 20, 2021, some will not hesitate to continue to stick “their nose up the ass of the extreme right” to justify and support all the authoritarian, nationalist, racist, Islamophobic and anti-social excesses of the governments.

4. There is a total rejection of political parties. The whole political “spectrum” has been sanctioned. The Right, the Left, the Center, the “people”, or the “extreme left”, from the vanguard to the rearguard of the Fifth Republic, all parties have taken a beating. Starting with the two political formations that have been the backbone of French political life since 1958: the LR and the PS.

  • Given the situation, LR and its allies seem to have limited the damage, only favored by an electoral collapse less violent than the competition. Retaining 8 regions since 2015, LR benefited from a sort of “exit bonus”, leaving its candidates in a good position for the second round or even re-election. Coming first at the national level on June 20, 2021, LR drew 28.4% of the votes cast, some 4 million votes, or 8% of the electoral roll. Its “victory” is therefore relative: François Fillon’s team took more than 7 million votes in the first round of the 2017 presidential election.
  • The PS and its allies (in particular the PC and the PRG) drew nationally 15.8% of the vote, just over 2.2 million votes, or 4.2% of the electoral roll. Leading 5 regions since 2015 (New Aquitaine, Center-Loire Valley, Occitania, Brittany, Burgundy-Franche-Comté), the PS also benefits from the “exit bonus” and from a significant drop in the turnout of the EELV (Greens) and FI (France Insoumise) electorate.
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s FI and Le Pen’s RN/FN are the two parties that suffered the biggest loss of their electorate. Mélenchon’s party and its allies draw nationally 5.2% of the vote, some 750,000 votes, or 1.5% of the electoral roll. Let’s remember that Mélenchon drew in the first round of the 2017 presidential election more than 7 million votes (or 14.9% of the electoral roll)!
  • EELV and its allies took 13.2% of the votes nationwide, 1.9 million votes, or 4% of the roll. Far from having confirmed their “victory” in the municipalities, the Greens exercise the leadership of the “left”, trying to compete with the PS in the field of social-democratic reformism.
  • The NPA, which forged agreements with the FI in New Aquitaine and Occitania, continues to sink into unprincipled electoralism, a symptom of the political decomposition which is hitting it. Philippe Poutou, on the LFI-NPA-PCF list, won 84,519 votes, or 5.7% of the votes and 1.9% of the electoral roll. In Occitania, the list (LFI-PG-E!-GDS-NPA) led by Myriam Martin of the FI, former NPA, received 76,380 votes, or 5.1% of the votes and 1.8% of the electoral roll. Always betting on the wrong horse, always looking for shortcuts, never independent and never leading a class struggle policy, the NPA is today a dead star. The departure of the CCR activists, who organize Permanent Revolution, comes to weaken the “left guarantee” of a party whose leadership has promised to adapt to reformism. Add to this the call of the Anticapitalism and Revolution current to vote for LO, “the only lists that present revolutionary candidates, that vindicate the struggle against capitalism”, and the circle is closed, as they would say….

May they all go, may not a single one of them remain!

June 23, 2021