Critical Mass spoke to Jeremy Wilcox, an activist in l’Union Populaire, in the aftermath of the second round of the French elections. These results left the right defeated, but will result in chaos as the left and centre negotiate who will be the next Prime Minister.

We asked what the mood was like among ordinary activists.

I expect there will be a lot of stuff published about France and the political machinations, but it will be sound and fury. The people of France and the actual administration will get on with things quite happily together without government interference.

How did things go in your own area?

We won with a Parti Socialiste candidate in my circonscription. It was a very close thing. In the end only 63 votes separated the New Popular Front {NFP} and the National Rally (RN) here (where the RN was well ahead in the first round). Our candidate got second place in the first round, but only a few more votes than the sitting Macronist representative. The agreement that third place candidates should withdraw for the sake of La République was invoked, and I have to say that the Macronist graciously stood down to give us a clear run at the second round. The socialist candidate was well known and popular, so picked up some centrist support – such as that of the Mayor of Saintes. On Friday the local trade unions (who do not usually get involved directly in electoral politics) called a rally in the centre of the town which turned into a bit of a party with the candidate and the trade unions – all the groups turning up, the Socialists’ Party (PS,) EELV (The Greens) The Human Rights League (LDH,) The General Confederation of Labour ( CGT,) and the PCF (the communists). It was evident that there was a lot of support for us in the town.  When the early results leaked out – from little country communes – it looked bad. The RN led in the circonscription all evening, by quite a margin – until the last three communes posted – which included Saintes. The militant activity in support of the NFP from the LFI was significant. We had used the European Elections (where we knew we would not do well) as an exercise in getting the campaign machinery in place for the legislatives we expected after the Olympics. When I first heard that Macron had called a snap election, I thought it was a joke ! We sent a delegate straight away to Paris to take part in the discussions at the Ecologists’ offices, and set up a public meeting for him to address in the evening when he got back, exhausted. There was a huge turnout, loads of young people, huge excitement and fear – and commitment to resistance.

The first round must have been hugely disappointing, how did you react?

I missed the action of the first round in the circo because I was away in the Vendée with my wife – and we had to vote by procuration. I heard that some of our people (always the women) had suffered a lot of aggression from the fascists out in the sticks – to an extent that they abandoned some places as too hostile, to concentrate on the larger towns.

Things changed a week later though..

The exit poll for the second round came at 20:00 hrs on Sunday night, and it was unbelievable! Although, I had heard how many of Macron’s centrists had stood down (as they did in my area). Also I had heard there was respect for those of the left who had stood down in favour of the centrists in almost every case where the vote against the fascists was going to split.

All round it was an impressive example of French political organisation!

So, what happens next?

I expect the PM, Gabriel Attal (poor soul) will be kept in place by Macron through the Olympics, although it is going to be one hell of a mess in 15 days when the assembly is due to sit. The media is in a rabid frenzy to divide the Popular Front by  attacking La France Insoumise and Jean Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left coalition. But there is no hope of them undermining the grip that LFI has on the inclusive peoples left which is solid and is only consolidated by their attacks. The Union Populaire / LFI has picked up tens of thousands of new adherents and is growing faster and faster (You could sign up if you like, and organise a local militant group – there are already many active in the UK ) Since the programme of the Union Populaire is about winning power to bring in the 6th Republic – to give POWER TO THE PEOPLE – all the people – inclusively – there is not going to be any compromise about this. There is a misunderstanding that the Union Populaire / LFI does not consider itself a political party of government, but is an association of representatives, with a programme for a different anti-neoliberal organisation of society – collectivist and solidaire. – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. This is on the 1793 line of Les Montagnards rather than Marxist – (but also inspired by the Trotskyist idea of a militant revolutionary vanguard).

Are you involved with the movement and what is the mood?

I have not had much contact with the movement outside the CGT for the moment. Everyone needs a holiday. The mood is to sit back and watch the fallout, take the flak from the backers of the billionaires who fear the LFI because it represents the people, and wait for the chance to help push Macron out of the presidency – with as much of a mess as possible. Vive la  Sixième République !

The centrists and right still won a significant number of votes. Will L’Union Populaire be attempting to win those people to your programme?

The L’Union Populaire/LFI does not ever consider attracting votes from other groups as a priority. This might seem strange, but it is about solidarity and inclusion. The reserve of votes the LFI seeks are those people who do not currently vote because they are excluded by the system due to their background, community or situation. This is a huge reserve of votes especially in the big cities. But – it is difficult to access. They are not going to be persuaded by economic arguments, nor old fashioned class war rhetoric. LFI concentrates on social issues, cost of living, public services, peace, education, housing. Although the media condemns it as – Islamogauchiste – (it has huge Muslim support) and they smear the movement as antisemitic – (as they did to Corbyn) – despite the affiliation of the anti-Zionist left wing Jewish groups in solidarity with everyone else! The group is the only one in all Europe which stood up for peace in Gaza immediately on October the 7th, refused to use the word terrorist indiscriminately, and called out war crimes for what they were.

Any lessons here for the British left?

If you consider how much billionaires fear Corbyn, then you can appreciate how the French billionaires who exploit Africa for resources or otherwise encourage divisions by funding fascism are prepared to attack a movement that challenges neoliberalism with such care and organisation as does the LFI.


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