Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Relieved. I was sick of the elections, I think the entire country was exhausted with the whole thing. I wasn’t afraid of a Le Pen victory as I had been earlier. The polls were unanimous that the gap was too big to cover for the far Right in a couple of weeks. However, this election has created huge divisions particularly on the Left and has revealed a very fragmented France. The Front National thankfully lost, but also scored a record vote in the sense that they doubled their vote.
The reasons are similar to those driving Brexit, Trump and other events. This is what you get after 40 years of neoliberalism. Inequality has increased dramatically, unemployment is stuck at about 10 percent and people feel excluded, and are justifiably worried that their children will be worse off than they are.
Le Pen’s votes came from de-industrialised regions of the North, from rural areas feeling left out of French concerns and from people who have low and falling incomes and poor education.
And it’s true that these groups have been pretty much neglected by all governments for the last 30 years. In terms of rural areas, for example, French and European policies have favoured the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA), representing the biggest rich farmers who receive nearly all the subsidies under EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, while small farmers get little or nothing.
It’s ironic that the big issues in these neglected parts of the country target immigrants and terrorists, who barely can be found in these communities let alone threaten them, but sometimes these simplistic answers are easier than analysing what’s really happening in society, which has been a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich or the rural to the urban.
Well, from the outside he may have been an unknown figure, but inside France he’s been a prominent figure for the past ten years. He was a Socialist Party member but left in 2008, fed up with its conservatism. He participated as a left candidate in the last election (2012) and got an equal hearing but came across as an accusatory, loud, ‘angry’ candidate. He learned his lessons or mellowed with age – he’s now 65 – because this time he came across as amiable, smart and eloquent.
He is solidly left and has some very good ideas – in my view he is one of the few political leaders to have completely absorbed the theoretical and practical implications of putting the environment at the forefront and our need for a green transition. He has been an impressive speaker, charming crowds, particularly of young people, at mass events where he has spoken eloquently without notes and with the backup of a great tech team (appearing physically in one city and simultaneously in hologram in five others for example) and backed up by a sophisticated social media strategy.
As a result he came very close in the first round, and was first in some big cities. If he had come first, it’s difficult and scary to imagine what the result could have been between him – considered deeply dangerous by market forces, routinely described as hard or far-left even though this isn’t true – and a truly far-right candidate.
I don’t see why everybody now seems to think they have to call a perfectly reasonable desire for change carried by millions of people as “populism”. But if inequality is left untouched and if the centrist and so-called ‘socialist’ parties continue to embrace neoliberal policies then No, “populism” hasn’t peaked and will continue on the left. So I assume probably on the right as well where people see the solution to their problems in completely different terms – rejection of the “Other”, racial purity, return to a mythical past and so on.
Ex-President François Hollande is the real culprit in our present situation. He won as the “Socialist” party candidate, but pushed it so far to the right that it’s now unrecognisable. He was literally down to a four percent approval rating when he decided not to run again! But he spent five years building a boulevard for the Far Right to drive down, breaking all his promises, giving huge amounts of money to employers’ unions and doing nothing to regulate the banks or finance. At the end of his term he tried to force through an anti-labour anti-union law leading to huge street demonstrations. I don’t usually hate politicians, but Hollande bears a historic responsibility of doing what he could to destroy our social model and make France a pale copy of the US.
So it’s not wholly surprising that people on the left looking at Macron and Le Pen preferred to abstain or vote blank in record numbers even when it looked as if it might risk a far-right victory. Not my choice – I voted for Macron – but I can understand if not sympathise with it.
He does seem to have decided on a “new broom” policy on personnel and on talking to all parts of civil society but as we speak very little has been revealed except that he will rule by decree if necessary, for example on labour issues. He says he understands the despair of many people but his class background may make that difficult. He’s a product of the bourgeoisie of Amiens in northern France, a Jesuit lycée and the elite National School of Administration which led him to work both as an advisor to and later minister of the economy for Hollande but also at the merchant bank Rothschilds. But he’s also young, smart enough to know we need a new approach and not a party product. The financial markets certainly seem delighted with his election, but if he doesn’t give people a sense of a fairer deal we are in for rude awakening in five years and a worse bout with the Front National.
Right now, to ensure that we have strong candidates for the legislative elections in June and uniting our strengths. If Mélenchon could come to an agreement with the Socialist Party’s Hamon and his followers and the Greens [he’s already refused to team up with the Communists], the progressives could win a lot of seats. But I fear that’s unlikely. The left is awfully good at displaying what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences”. So it often snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. I hope I can be more optimistic towards the end of next month!
Susan George is an American and French political and social scientist, activist and writer on global social justice, Third World poverty, underdevelopment and debt. She is a fellow and president of the board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe