Massive abstention in the French regional elections 2021

22 June, 2021

Massive abstention in the French Regional elections 2021
Massive abstention in the French Regional elections 2021

French regional elections 2021: a massive abstention was expected of almost 60%… but in the end it seems that not even a third of the voters showed up to vote. The République is in danger! The minister of the interior, the editorials of the right and Mélenchon scream in unison. Libération says that the problem is a lack of supply, they would like an even wider panply of coourful parties, Le Figaro says that taking Le Pen to the second rounds in order to mobilize the vote under the guise of an electoral anti-fascism no longer works. Those of Le Pen, with their star Mariani at the head point out that they were the main victims of the massive abstention. But what does all of this really mean?

Table of Contents

What was expected and was then disproved by the huge abstention

Provisional results of the first round of the regional elections 2021. In blue, different alliances of Gaullism; in pink of the remnants of the Socialist party, in purple of Lepenism. In gray, nationalist lists. In all constituencies however the real winner was the massive abstention.
Provisional results of the first round of the French regional elections 2021. In blue, different alliances of Gaullism; in pink of the remnants of the Socialist party, in purple of Lepenism. In gray, nationalist lists. In all the constituencies however the real winner was the massive abstention.

From this election was expected – and the Elysée had been working arduously to achieve this – a remarkable rise of the Rassemblement National, the revamped Lepenite party in view of the presidential election. The prospect was to pave the way for a repeat of the scenario of four years ago, allowing Macron to rise as the only alternative and antithesis of the far right. That is what the massive abstention of these French regional elections 2021 has come to break up.

All the media remembered today the yellow vests in order to explain the massive abstention. With good reason. The yellow vests -along with the rise of racialism, the Islamist separatism and the nationalist upsurge in Corsica and some overseas regions-represented the high point of the revolt of the French petty bourgeoisie… so high that it threatened to serve as a trigger for an independent workers’ movement which eventually unfolded in various forms before the pandemic without overcoming atomization during it.

The strategy of the French bourgeoisie around Macron in order to defuse the situation was obviously different for each class. Faced with the workers, imposing the Macronite pension reform was not enough, but it did manage to reinstate the trade unions to a certain extent. Facing the petty bourgeoisie it included participatory innovations and a perspective of symbolic and economic gains at the expense of the workers. And despite everything… the old far-right expression of the angry petty bourgeoisie, Le Pen’s National Front, seemed to reap the electoral rewards more than any other formation. And certainly more than the governing party, which ended up bursting into a thousand pieces.

The petty bourgeoisie angry about Covid and yesterday’s massive abstention

The denialism on the right and left of the French petty bourgeoisie during the pandemic underlies the massive abstention in yesterday’s elections

The pandemic came to radicalize –from the US – part of that angry petty bourgeoisie towards denialism and the far right. And there the Lepenite ambitions of becoming a state party along with the antibodies of the République converged as they had previously done in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in the neighborhoods.

The state fears that the unhinged fringes of the petty bourgeoisie’s political expressions will manage to become entrenched and eventually lead broader sectors. But above all it wants to detach and decant the bannonite and denialist petty bourgeoisie from the neoliberal far right, which it can still integrate and which it aspires to absorb into the state parties.

The illegalization of AfD, GI or Casa Pound – if it comes to be considered – is the counterpoint of the integration attempts of Vox, RN, Lega or the Fratelli. The result, if they succeed, will be an institutional right wing rejuvenated by the petty-bourgeois revolt of these years. A right that in the PP, neo-Gaullism or the Italian right will be bellicose a la Kurz, grossly anti-communist a la Vox and legally xenophobic a la Lega, CSU or Austrian populists, but ready to take over from today’s keynesian governments and open the way for a new austerity campaign.

Will the far right be outlawed in Europe? 4/3/2021

But by no means was the Lepenite petty bourgeoisie the only one radicalized or flirting with denialism. There was a proliferation of flash mobs all over France, which since December were staged by the social base typical of Mélenchon’s France Insoumise. Not in vain was their anthem the Danser Encore of HK, the group that had performed the group’s electoral anthem in the previous elections. This time, their messages against the restrictions and their insubordination to the anti-contagion rules suggested that the phenomenon was not limited to the people framed by Lepenism.

And in the face of these leftist expressions of the same formless discontent, the French state and media bet heavily on the invention of environmentalism as a political alternative. It was among other things, a version of the domestication, attempted civilization even, of the far right but this time of a social layer less and less happy with what it saw when reflected in the Melenchonian mirror. Yesterday’s massive abstention reflects that it didn’t work in that segment either.

That is, what the massive abstention in these French regional elections 2021 reflects is the failure of the strategy of civilization and normalization of Lepenism, but also of the framing of the progressive wing of that revolt by the left republicanism of a Mélenchon or environmentalism. And let alone Macronism or the traditional left.

That is to say, the discontent of the French petty bourgeoisie no longer fits even within its own political expressions, neither on the right nor on the left. It is the curling of the curl of the crisis of the political apparatus. Not even their expressions of revolt manage to provide an institutional course to the revolt anymore.

Mass abstention and the workers

For the workers the crisis of the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie that the massive abstention in these French regional elections 2021 signals is a relevant datum... in the face of evaluating what our own struggle will find in front of us. Nothing without it.
For the workers the crisis of the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie that the massive abstention in these French regional elections 2021 signals is a relevant datum… in the face of evaluating what our own struggle will find in front of us. Nothing without it.

As in the past municipal elections, abstention has been overwhelming in the working class neighborhoods. For years anarchists have been telling us that once massive abstention was reached the system would go into collapse… without us needing to do anything. Evidently this is false. The political system is in crisis, that is true. The opinion industry has not been able to mobilize as many people as it used to. But this does not mean that the system is any more or less called into question than it was a month ago.

Neither every vote cast is a ballot in support of capitalism nor does every non-voting worker weaken the system. We workers say no to capitalism by fighting back and that is done collectively, because we are collectively exploited.

Voting isolated behind a curtain neither serves to change the conditions of exploitation nor reinforces them, not voting neither revokes them nor alters them. The system which exploits us and the state organizing the general conditions of that exploitation are not maintained because of more or less ballots. Its policies do not arise from the opinion created – with greater or lesser success – by media campaigns, nor from the result of the counting of the ballots that millions of individuals put in a box in the middle of a state ceremonial once in a while. The anarchist vision ultimately dovetails with the electoral dogma of the bourgeois religion, it is their abstentionist candidacy.

For us workers the crisis of the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie highlighted by the massive abstention in these French regional elections 2021 is a relevant fact… in order to evaluate what our own struggle is going to find in front of us. Nothing will change without our own struggle.