The next French presidential election is set to take place next Sunday, with several major candidates who have very different characters from one another aiming to win. Because the leading candidates have similar amounts of support, a runoff election will most likely be required, which will take place on May 7. These big candidates are neo-fascist Marine Le Pen, “moderates” François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron and Benoît Hamon, and “socialist” Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Mélenchon represents the “Unsubmissive France” (La France insoumise) party, a “socialist” grouping with social democratic promises based around the interests of the First World workers, such as 32-hour workweeks, higher wages, green energy, and the repeal of the 2016 El Khomri law which had revoked certain workplace protections. Mélenchon has also called for withdrawal from NATO and reforming the European Union. The social democratic policies proposed will supposedly come from the millionaires and billionaires of France through imposing a 100-percent income tax on them. Considering that the capitalist system remains in place, however, even if these policies were enacted, the capitalists would have the means to circumvent them through capital flight, tax havens, or transferring their losses to Third World workers in the form of longer hours, pay cuts, layoffs or a combination of those. This is why social democracy is the weapon of the exploiters, it enables First World workers to gain through compromises with capital at the expense of the Third World masses. French workers, being in the First World, would have plenty to gain and nothing to lose under social democracy, while revolution would mean risking possessions, living standards and lives for little to no material gain for France, which is simply undesirable. It is easy to see why they cheer for Mélenchon, who currently has around 15 percent support and could come in second or third place in the elections but is very unlikely to be elected.
Although his campaign will most likely lose and offers nothing radically different from any of the other candidates, Mélenchon and his “Unsubmissive France” party have worked very hard to build up a revolutionary leftist image. The name of the party itself, “Unsubmissive France” is meant to invoke an image of oppressed French masses revolting against the capitalists and seizing state power. The party originated February last year and quickly swelled in membership to the point of holding a major rally a few months later in the Battle of Stalingrad Square (Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad) in Paris in thousands. Much of this following came from other social democratic groups like the French “Communist” Party (PCF) which has now endorsed Mélenchon’s campaign. In his speeches, Mélenchon often attacks other politicians as “servants of the money-king” or similar phrases. He has often made references to the revolutionary history of France, such as the Paris Commune and the French Revolution. He has claimed to support the current Chinese government, calling out Dalai Lama as a reactionary agent, as well as the revolutionary period of China under Mao. His pro-China statements have bought him recognition as a “Maoist” candidate by the paranoid sensationalist media and by leftists, who have made posters of Mélenchon next to the five heads – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao. He has also made gestures feigning support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. This week, in light of his campaign’s public support increasing, he stated, “They announce that my winning the election would bring nuclear winter, a plague of frogs, Red Army tanks and the landing of the Venezuelans. They are taking you for imbeciles.”
The revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist image that Mélenchon has built for himself, coupled with his willingness to engage diplomatically with the BRICS powers and calls for withdrawal from NATO, seem to have excited many into believing that Mélenchon is in fact a progressive and a revolutionary who will destroy the system from within. In doing so, they are in fact being taken for imbeciles, by Mélenchon. A social democrat who seeks to gain reputation by adopting a communist revolutionary image is not a communist, but an opportunist. If Mélenchon had revolutionary aims, he would not be running an electoral campaign and he would certainly not be doing so well as he is now. He may look like a revolutionary, but his plans in essence are in agreement with the present order, perhaps with some superficial reforms that will benefit French workers more. If he were hypothetically elected, considering the fact that he would preside over the existing French state without any changes to the current social relations, his presidency would look mostly like that of Hollande, who also claims to be a “socialist”. We have seen this game with SYRIZA in Greece, with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and with Bernie Sanders in the United States. The fact that Mélenchon has explicitly stated that he was “inspired” by Bernie Sanders, a social democrat opportunist who campaigned for a welfare state similar to the Scandinavian countries before endorsing Hillary Clinton, should wipe away any false illusions. There is nothing to expect from First World politicians. Only the global masses themselves can bring about radical change.