Wrong to Back Chirac

Issue section: 

I disagree with those who argue it was right for socialists to call for a vote for Chirac in the second round of the French presidential elections (July/August SR).

John Shemeld's analogy of the football match is misleading, because a football match is a self contained event, whereas the election took place in the wider context of political polarisation going on in France. That polarisation existed before the election, and continues after it. The most important aspect of this polarisation is the anti-capitalist movement.

In such a context, it was vital that socialists both built the movement on the streets against Le Pen, but also countered arguments within the movement which could potentially weaken it in the longer term, such as the one that the left should vote for Chirac.

When mainstream politicians argued that everyone should unite behind Chirac in the second round of the election, they did so not only to ensure that Chirac won with a huge vote. They did so also because they saw an opportunity to undermine the militancy of the anti-capitalist movement by arguing that in the face of a 'common enemy' all 'reasonable people' must put aside their differences and stand together. Chirac and his friends were only helped in their efforts when socialists, however temporarily, said essentially the same.

In addition, many of those who voted for Le Pen did so because of disillusionment with the mainstream politicians who have done nothing for ordinary people. In the wake of his victory, Chirac is attempting to shift the whole of French politics to the right, preparing the ground for further attacks on working class people. For socialists to fall in behind Chirac in the election was to undermine their ability to pose an alternative after the election.

Andy Jones