New left coalition in France


By Rafael Duffleaux

France's two major far-left parties, Workers Struggle (LO) and the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), will probably present joint candidates in the next European elections.

LO spokeswoman Arlette Laguiller attracted 5.3% of the vote in the 1995 French presidential election, showing that there is a current of French society which is in revolt.

This tendency was confirmed in the regional elections earlier this year, in which the combined score of the two lists exceeded 5% in several departments, mostly industrial regions with a strong Communist Party tradition. In the south-western city of Toulouse, two LCR candidates were elected to the regional council.

For several years the LCR has been attempting to regroup the more radical, anti-capitalist, feminist and ecological part of the left. Earlier this year, the LCR proposed a common list in the European elections with the Communist Party, Greens and LO, based on opposition to the bosses' agenda in Europe, as reflected in the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties.

The LCR warned that defence of a European project which serves working people implied criticism of France's coalition government, which includes Communist and Greens ministers.

The Greens were not interested. They announced their own European candidates, headed by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a 1968 radical who now supports the Gulf War and the Maastricht convergence criteria.

In public, CP leader Robert Hue implied that he would welcome an agreement with the LCR. In reality, however, the CP leaders were scared that the LCR would come to an arrangement with other far-left groups. They realise that unless they can attract the left to a list which reinforces the Communists' participation in government, many traditional CP voters might shift to a more radical left list.

For a while, there was a little more CP criticism of the government's social policy, but the CP was caught in a contradiction. There was no way, said the CP press, that it might vote against the government's budget. This made any joint list impossible.

The LCR and LO, after a frank debate about past differences, reached agreement on the major questions of the coming European elections — resistance to capitalist Europe, the major axes of the "working people's Europe" we need and a critical evaluation of the coalition government.

The details of the common list are still being negotiated, but it will be composed on a 50-50 basis.

The LO leadership has already agreed in principle. The LCR will hold a national conference in January to formally confirm its participation.

The idea of a common list has provoked considerable media interest, as well as animated discussions across the French left. It is possible that more than 5% of voters will support the list, guaranteeing at least four deputies in the European parliament. This would be a tremendous shift in the topology of the French left, and a positive catalyst for social movements across Europe.

[Abridged from International Viewpoint.]

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