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Left Front Campaigns to "Break and Remake Europe"

Translated Tuesday 29 April 2014, by Richard Pond

With a month to go until the European Parliament elections, which France is holding on Sunday 25th May, activists for the Left Front now have a prospectus that goes further than just reviewing the past record. It examines the possibilities for change on multiple levels at once: social, environmental and economic.

Fresh from the municipal election campaign, Left Front activists have now set out on the European campaign trail. Unlike French local and national elections, the European elections have a single round of voting (and proportional representation is required). In France voting takes place on Sunday 25th May - so it goes without saying that the campaign will be short. So far, apart from the names of four outgoing Members of the European Parliament (Jacky Hénin in the North region, Patrick Le Hyaric in Ile-de-France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the South West region, and Marie-Christine Vergiat in the South East), the names of these other Left Front candidates are known: Corinne Morel-Darleux (Centre), Gabriel Amard (East), and Myriam Martin (West).

The candidates, along with activists in their respective regions, now have in their hands a document called "Rompre et refonder l’Europe: le Front de gauche entre en campagne" ("Breaking and Remaking Europe: the Left Front Starts Its Campaign"). The first few sentences give something of its flavour: "The world crisis of finance capitalism torments the peoples of Europe. There is crisis in every direction, unemployment is soaring, there is an explosion of poverty, and the vast majority of EU states’ economies are in recession." The introduction adds: "In France, President Hollande has broken his promises, betraying those who placed their trust in him in 2012. Today he is the ally of Chancellor Merkel and the European right, MEDEF [the French employers’ federation] and the markets." Amid these gloomy conditions, the Left Front speaks of elections that could be "decisive in giving a say back to the citizens from whom it was snatched away, stopping austerity, and opening the way for social, economic and environmental reform in our country".

The document has a three-part structure. The first part says that "the European Union is in crisis, the crisis of a system that wears down its workers at the same time as exhausting natural resources and the biosphere, threatening the very survival of humanity." The analysis is hard-hitting, and the document adds: "The cumulative pressure on workers’ wages, needed to raise profits ever higher, saps the possibilities for growth based on productive output, so that as in the United States, the generation of household debt becomes the primary method of maintaining growth." And - denouncing austerity Europe - it notes that "faced with this impasse, the response of the Eurozone countries’ ruling classes has mainly been surrender in advance: giving ever more power to financial interests, reinforcing once more the policies of austerity, and engaging in even fiercer competition with the countries of the South [the developing world]..."

Next, the programme proposes "disregarding and breaking away from the Treaties" by pushing for "a citizens’ revolution based on popular sovereignty and popular mobilisation" - particularly since "in every country, the parties of the alternative left are playing a major role in resistance to the Europe of the neoliberals". And the text acknowledges the fact that "France is a large country, a driving force within Europe, and the second biggest European economy. Change (in this country) could set an example and encourage those in other European countries."

Although "the reduction of public-sector debt is today serving as a pretext for following drastic austerity policies", the document proposes some key policy points, such as "rejecting the European budgetary policy, challenging social dumping and deregulation, ending insecurity..." and it proposes that financial products should be "placed under the strict oversight of public authorities so that finance is put at the service of society and not the other way round".

From that, the final part, "Refounding Europe", follows logically: "Our critique of the EU, including our desire to break with its foundations, treaties and policies, does not condemn us to a withdrawal into nationalism. Paradoxically, we are today the sole bearers of a European idea that the peoples can support, because this idea carries with it human, social and environmental progress." After which there are several paragraphs demanding "respect for popular sovereignties, a Europe freed from grip of finance, a Europe of women’s rights and of freedom of sexual orientation, a secular Europe that guarantees freedom of conscience". Finally the document notes that "Europe will support the citizens’ revolutions that have brought down authoritarian regimes". Going beyond a list of (by definition) incomplete and simplified points, the Left Front is certainly proposing a new wind in Europe. The debate begins.

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