What is to be thought? What
is to be done?
(Alain Badiou, Natasha Michel, Sylvain Lazarus)
and foremost, what we witnessed was a crushing electoral defeat
for Jospin and a very weak performance by Chirac. Thats the
point from which to begin, because Le Pens score is merely
might still be tempted to say that this was a shocking event (seismic
upheaval, shameful, etc.). Unexpected, yes. But
not that extraordinary. Le Pen has been an experienced participant
in major elections for twenty years, and did not get many more votes
ravaged by astonishment, by fears and tears, ought to consider this:
parliamentarianism involves a conception of politics in which a
quarter of the electorate consider a vote for Le Pen to be as legitimate
as a vote for any other candidate. Proof that Le Pen is perfectly
consistent with the others on any number of points, and not particularly
eccentric. The truth is that Le Pen is an important man in French
parliamentarianism. The only new development is that this time round
hes made it into the run-off vote for a presidential election.
It is this, and this alone, whose causes need to be examined.
of all, the parties. The RPR (Rassemblement Pour la Republique),
the PS (Parti Socialiste), the pluralist left . Chirac
and Jospin. Should they be absolved? Should we forget? Should we
be rallying behind their split ticket as though it had suddenly
been whitewashed by the success of Le Pen, the old collaborator,
the old racist, the old anti-Semite?
for us, faced with the debasement of minds, the suffocating effects
of fear, communitarianism, and cowardice, we know the only thing
to do in politics is to maintain a firm resolve on matters of principle.
do we mean by a political principle? That it is necessary
to hold to certain maxims concerning the fundamental points of the
situation being imposed on people; to hold to them come what may,
without faltering. That these maxims be turned into the strict rule
for organized thought and action. That one engage in a struggle
which means a collective process determined to change the
situationon behalf of what they stand for.
has to be said that we see no sign whatsoever of any kind of firm
resolve on matters of principles among any members of the pluralist
left, let alone the RPR.
weve seen over the past 15 years is that the absence of principles
paves the way for the debasement of minds, and that Le Pen is merely
harvesting, within the official framework of elections and parliamentarianism,
what has invariably been sown by successive governments.
give a few specific examples.
Mitterand, Mauroy (Prime Minister: 1981-1984), Fabius (PM: 1984-1986),
and with the complicity of the PCF (French Communist Party), any
political reference to the word worker has been deliberately
eradicated. It has been explicitly replaced by the word immigrant.
Le Pen is said to have addressed the right problems.
Any utterance coming from the working-classes, any consideration
of factories, has been rejected and the opinion of the modern
bourgeoisie has become the alpha and omega for every variety of
political discourse. Bérégovoy (PM: 1992-1993) did
more to liberalize the financial system than any of his rightwing
predecessors. Jospin has privatized more companies than Juppé
(PM: 1995-1997). They have all cut the public sector to pieces.
They have all engaged in relentless modernisation. None
have given one whit for peoples lives, and still less for
what those people might think about it all. So its pretty
silly to whimper about the populist backlash. When did
you ever care, dear downcast rulers, about the people and their
backbone, the worker? Lets oppose this bourgeois indifference,
this worship of finance masquerading as modernisation,
with this principle: there can be no modern progressive politics
without redefining and rethinking the reference to the figure of
the worker. Its as a result of having liquidated this principle
ever since May 1968 that the PCF has disappeared. Weve
got to buckle down to the practical reinvention of the figure of
are hundreds of thousands of people of foreign origin working and
living here in France, most of them working-class. Under Mitterand,
Mauroy, Fabius, Rocard (PM: 1988-1991), Bérégovoy,
Balladur (PM: 1993-1995), Chirac, Juppé, Jospin, and with
the consent of the entire pluralist left, the question
of the States legalization of these workers has been turned
into a question of security, a matter for the police.
Theyve been referred to as stowaways. Detention
camps have been set up. The right to asylum has been cancelled.
The re-uniting of families has been severely restricted. The Chevènement
law was passed: it demands official proof
obviously impossible to find of 10 years (ten years!) of
continual presence on French soil just to obtain a simple piece
of paper allowing you to come and go freely! And you moan about
the success of the National Front? Well lets start by not
imposing their policies, then! We must oppose all this with principles
which, for the last five years, have been those of the Organization
Politique and the Assembly of illegal immigrant workers collectives
living in hostels: anyone who lives and works here, belongs here.
Workers hostels are fine. But what we need
is an unconditional legalization of all illegal immigrant workers.
did Juppé fall in 1997? Who brought Jospin to power? On the
one hand, it was the major popular strike movement of December 1995;
on the other, the vigorous action by illegal immigrant workers at
the Saint Bernard Church sit-in combined with the decision by intellectuals
to take a stand (all too brief, alas) against the Pasqua laws. But
the idea that such movements can successfully gain access to parliament
remains fallacious. Jospin has no principles.
did not legalize the illegal immigrants workers. But neither did
he bear in mind the vague and powerful watchword all
together! that drew millions of people out onto the
streets in 1995. Did he protect the public sector? Did he reform
the education system? Did he give the city back to the mass of those
who are trying to live there, by re-industrializing and re-urbanizing
the so-called suburbs?
in the slightest. All he did was pass a law on the 35-hour working
week, which certainly improved the leisure time of white-collar
employees, but subjects workers to the flexible good-will
of bosses, wreaks havoc with their lives, and, on the whole, lowers
their actual wage. And Jospin also played the security
card, as did all the official candidates.
must oppose this with the following principles: the
city is for everyone. One child=one student. Fixed, explicitly stated
work hours. People should be able to earn enough to live with some
successive government since Mitterand has invariably supported the
Americans in their increasingly violent, imperialist and cruel ventures.
The war against Iraq, the war against Serbia, the war against Afghanistan...
We ask: what about the basic principle of national independence
and international justice? Were thrilled to see so many fiercely
devoted defenders of freedom rallying against the old collaborationist.
But wed like them to extend their concern to a slightly wider
horizon. How is it that the same people who cry out in indignation
against Le Pen see nothing wrong in approving the wars being waged
by Bush (who is in every respect just as reactionary as the National
Front), or Sharon (who is just as brutal in his colonialist war
as paratrooper Le Pen was in Algeria)?
we to understand that precious, delicate freedoms are fine here
(except for illegal immigrant workers, naturally), but that militarist
enslavement is to be the norm everywhere else? Lets oppose
all this by proclaiming the following principles: complete
independence with respect to American ventures. Dissolution of NATO.
Attentive sympathy for the political process currently underway
in Chiapas. A land and a state for the Palestinians.
no mystery. Without respecting these basic principles, without major
political struggles organized in complete independence and according
to these principles, political life is ominous and the decline will
continue. Abjection is never far away. Its only become a little
more noticeable today. And its ties to parliamentarianism and the
electoral system are becoming more and more obvious.
do not believe that the principles for a real democratic politics
can be consistently implemented by any party or parliamentary group.
democratic principles regulate our own action, which is completely
independent. This is a politics without parties. This is what we
mean by a politics that comes from people, rather than from positions
strengthen such a politics in the troubled times now dawning
times which Chirac and Jospin have brought about is the only
lasting and effective means of taking a stand against the worst.
Sobbing, crying out Im ashamed!, Le Pen,
youre fucked!, republican whimpers, are all useless.
What matters is to give a life, a life of thought, of action, of
organisation, to a completely different kind of politics.
it possible? No problem. Right now.