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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Front de gauche, un engouement qui se confirme

by Mina Kaci

French Presidential Campaign:The Left Front Meets with Increasingly Massive and Enthusiastic support

Translated Saturday 28 January 2012, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Last Tuesday’s meeting in Besançon was attended by 4,500 people, twice the number expected by local organizers. The Left Front’s campaign raises expectations among the salaried workers of Franche-Comté, a region especially rich in industrial flag-companies.

At that particular moment, neither Jean-Luc Mélanchon, the candidate, nor Pierre Laurent, the Communist Party’s secretary, attracted the reporters’ attention: all eyes were on that Alsthom CGT unionist who was making a vivid demonstration for their benefit. “I am sorry the management did not invite you to visit the section where blades and cooling fans are manufactured. For this stellar example of production by French industry, which is our own, is doomed.” Jacques Rambu spoke calmly, firmly, and proudly of the craftsmanship of the workers, real craftsmen he insisted, and of the waste that results from the relocation of this activity in Poland. “We are bound to become a mere assembly plant; we shan’t produce anything any more.”

The Motto: Resistance
In a few sentences the trade-unionist summed up the meaning of the working class’ anger in Franche-Comté. Several sites in this region, renowned for its industrial flag-companies, were visited by the Left Front’s leaders on January 24. In a few words Jacques Rambur made clear the reason why workers throng to Left Front meetings - as was the case last Tuesday in Besançon, where the Sports Hall vibrated several times with 4,500 voices chanting the now regular motto of the campaign: “Résistance!”

Indeed resistance was the theme all along that day’s meetings with workers and trade-unionists in the neighbouring départements of Doubs and the Territoire de Belfort, where the presidential candidate protested “people feel they are sentenced to a social death, even though their craftsmanship is excellent…” As for the all-too-eloquent figures about industrial decline and the planned stifling of public services, they were not discussed at great length: “the case is so clear to all of us,” argued Thierry Herbier, regional CFDT leader. [1]

Multinational companies are pointed to as being responsible for the workers and their families’ suffering. “Ours are industrial jobs that essentially depend on the orders passed by three principals that call the shots,” Sabine Verdant explained. She is the secretary of the CGT regional union for the Territoire de Belfort. She targets Alsthom, General Electric, and Peugeot. “They slash our jobs, impose competition and relocate production,” Pierre Laurent protested. “Today’s capitalism is all for capital, excessively high profits, and it wreaks havoc on the shop-floor whenever it can bring a bigger profit,” the PCF secretary insisted. “We must beat them back”, the candidate repeated firmly in his meetings with workers, where union members figured prominently in the crowds that his visits attracted. “If you do not resist, then you’ll be shorn skin-thin,” like the Greeks. “The vultures are now hovering above France; they are watching from high above,” he insisted, standing as he invariably did that day, the better to communicate with his very responsive audiences.

Closer ties with labour
In Belfort, Mandeure or Besançon, in every place that Pierre Laurent and Jean-Luc Mélanchon visited, they never failed to appeal to the Socialist candidate, while congratulating him for joining the “club” of political opponents to the world of finance. [2] “Then you must fight it for real,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon said defiantly from the platform in Besançon. In another place in Belfort he said “finance must be kicked out of companies.” War on finance capitalism cannot be waged simply with a wooden sabre when the enemy is at it with an axe,” Pierre Laurent insisted.

Both leaders are of the opinion that the Left Front dynamics is changing the political scene. “We are glad of the ‘ideological contagion’ that our front provokes,” the candidate said. And both were perfectly united in their invitation to François Hollande “to spell his measures and not be content with declarations of intent” in the war he means to wage against the world of finance,” to quote the communist leader’s words. The Left Front candidate says he is convinced that “the more François Hollande plays the anti-capitalist violin, the more he validates the words I use. So it enlarges our scope.”

In those successive campaign meetings and visits new bonds are formed between the Left Front and workers and unionists. Closer ties between a candidate and an audience in quest of an efficient spokesman. “He gives voice to our feelings. We are fed up with being exploited. We want to hold our heads up high,” Monique Krauss, a participant, says for short.

[1The French Labour Confederation was originally a reformist Christian organisation.

[2In his solemn speech in Le Bourget on Sunday 22nd François Hollande, the Socialist candidate, said his enemy was “finance”.

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