Our assessment of the first round of the French presidential 2022.
1. Non-participation recedes and the false myth of the "unity of the left" comes back
Turnout in the first round of presidential elections since 2002.
Compared to previous presidential elections turnout continues to erode. However, after the massive voter disaffection in the regional elections of 2021 and the municipal elections of 2020, the press and the state sigh with relief, the political apparatus, for better or worse, recovers credibility to a certain extent, according to them.
Read also: Massive voting abstention in the French 2021 regional elections, 21/6/2021
The same media and a legion of sociologists admit there is no new electoral passion in the working districts and even less to be found among young people. But they can only interpret the concentration of the left-wing candidates' vote around Mélenchon's "Pôle Populaire" as an expression of an "appetite for unity of the left-wing electorate".
Five years ago, Mélenchon's candidacy represented the expression of a part of the petty bourgeois revolt that swept the continent: that of the university petty bourgeoisie. In this weekend's elections it has proved that in these five years it has not only known how to keep itself alive but that it is capable of dragging along a part of the discontent of the working class neighborhoods.
This is the most alarming element of the results of the day before yesterday: it would indicate a tendency towards the revival of the old myth of the "unity of the left". It is worrying because it may play a containment role in the struggles to come, irremediably driven by the coming pension reform and the fall in real wages already underway.
It is true that this is not Mitterand's "unity", that is to say, the pure and simple framing under a big state party, but the pulling in by revolting sectors of the democratist petty bourgeoisie. This does not make it any better at all. It connects with what we are seeing in other latitudes: even where wildcat strikes challenge the state political apparatus, the difficulty to centralize them organizationally and programmatically as well as the illusion of the "transversal" revolt paralyze the workers and leave the political leadership in the hands of a petty bourgeoisie which cannot provide a leadership which is not reactionary.
2. The crisis of the French political apparatus is far from over
The revolt of the French petty bourgeoisie is far from dying out. These same elections have been preceded by a resurgence of territorial centrifugal forces in Corsica... and in the same Brittany which the day before yesterday voted massively for Macron, including members from the president's party. Quite a symptom.
The results confirm the crisis of the political apparatus that worked in the service of French capital for decades: the two big state parties of the Fifth Republic do not even reach 5% of the votes and their candidates - together with that of the Greens, a "new generation" challenger to become a state party - are now burdened with millionaire debts with no option of state bailout. Rome does not pay losers, especially when their incompetence to restore even a semblance of normality to the political apparatus leaves the party system increasingly fragmented and dysfunctional to its ends.
Of note is the emergence, with 7% of the vote, of Zemmour. A candidate manufactured in record time by a rebellious sector of the bourgeoisie and its media, who marked the pre-electoral agenda with an identitarian discourse tailored to the most furious lepenism and an ultra-precarcerating economic program.
The interesting thing about Zemmour is that he represents at the same time an expression of the electoral revolt of the petty bourgeoisie and the measure of the impatience of certain groups within the ruling class. Groups which do not want to wait any longer and which aspire, thanks to its result, to condition at least the "union of the right wing" to revive legal changes which, under liberal arguments, strengthen the monopolies and accelerate the transfer of income from wages to capital.
3. Le Pen alone cannot transform RN into a state party
Districts where Macron (yellow), Le Pen (blue) and Melenchon (pink) won.
In the end the second round remains between Macron and Le Pen. Macron exacerbated his "state profile" during the campaign, focusing on his role in the Ukrainian war and trying to dodge his peculiar position as a reconfigurator of the state and the correlations of forces within the ruling class hinted at by the consulting firms scandal.
Read also: Macron and the consulting firms scandal, 1/4/2022
Le Pen was even more explicit. Her slogan, "Woman of State", left no doubt about her pretensions: to turn RN into a new state party to replace Gaullism, capable of absorbing the whole spectrum of discontent from the yellow vests and the anti-vaccinationists to the conservative corporate middle managers, but also of guaranteeing the interests of the state and national capital in the face of the impetus of her own electoral base.
But if we look at the results map of this first round, what stands out is that she did not succeed in winning in a significant range of large urban and industrial concentrations, as is required of a state party. Whether it wants to or not, its vote is that of the agrarian petty bourgeoisie.
A class that has been depleted, aged and cornered by the inevitable acceleration of concentration during the long crisis opened more than a decade ago. 100,000 closed farms later, with almost 60% of farmers over 50 years old and with an average farm size that has grown by 25%, small farm owners are angrier than ever. They rightly fear that Green Deal is imposing itself on the countryside at their expense and are trying to turn the conditions imposed by the war into leverage for a resurgence of intensive farming.
4. The workers' perspective
Demonstration in Paris against pension reform in January 2018.
These 2022 presidential elections, like any electoral process, can hardly inform us about the correlations and trends at stake in society. The process itself is a distorting mirror reflecting a deformed category: the "opinion". But even so, we can draw some useful consequences.
- The bourgeoisie and the state bureaucracy do not succeed in recomposing the political apparatus around a game between state parties.
- Macron is the foothold of the French bourgeoisie as a whole and in that sense irreplaceable, even if he is still part of a very concrete faction (the corporate bourgeoisie) in tug of war with the state bureaucracy (consulting firms affair). A faction that on the other hand is already showing signs of internal fracture (or there would not even have been a Zemmour candidacy).
- The petty bourgeoisie is still in its rebellious phase. It does not fall for either environmentalism or Pécresse's renewed Gaullism. It is concentrated around Mélenchon and Le Pen who together account for more than 45% of the votes cast.
- The workers are showing new signs of weakness: perhaps the illusion of the "unity of the left" and the Melenchonite transversalities are taking hold stronger than five years ago and this should worry us.
Profound changes are now coming, linked to the development of the crisis and the war economy. The bourgeoisie will double down on its precarity-inducing program, its assault on pensions and its calls for the "sacred union" to impose the Green Deal, the costs associated with the development of militarism and to make profitable the breakdown of the global productive chains.
The revival of revolts like that of the yellow vests four years ago, among the most suffocated sectors of the petty bourgeoisie, is more than foreseeable. The danger of their subsuming or disbanding working class responses on key issues such as pensions, real wages or working conditions is greater than ever. That is to say, the offensive on living conditions will be preceded and accompanied by ever more aggressive and incisive ideological offensives. It is now more important than ever to fight at all levels for what favors the organization of workers.