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Interview with Trotskyist Candidate

Krivine Describes Election Strategy

(22 April 1974)

From Intercontinental Press, Vol. 12 No. 18, 13 May 1974, pp. 590–591.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following interview with Alain Krivine, Trotskyist candidate for president of France, was published in the first issue of Le Quotidien Rouge, dated April 22. The translation is by Intercontinental Press.

* * *

Question. Since you are supported by the Front Communiste Révolutionnaire [FCR] – Revolutionary Communist Front] which has just been founded, you seem to be running as the representative of an organization. In view of what was said around the proposal to run Piaget, do you think this is consistent with the tasks at hand!

Answer. After Pompidou’s death our first response, in fact, was to bring the far left and the vanguard workers together in a united campaign around Charles Piaget. Our reasoning was that this workers candidacy would be the best symbol and expression of the most advanced concrete experience in the class struggle since May 1968. We wanted to regroup all those forces that refuse to put their confidence in the Union of the Left and Mitterrand and that depend primarily on their own mobilization and organization to cut through obstacles and open the way to socialism. That was our first response, our first attempt. Inasmuch as the majority of the PSU [Parti Socialiste Unifié – United Socialist Party] rejected that candidacy, our attempt was not a successful one, and Comrade Piaget bowed to his party’s discipline.

In line with this thinking, we proposed to all the far-left groups, and especially to Lutte Ouvrière, which had already announced that it was running a candidate, that the far left run as its common candidate a worker militant who would not be part of the leadership of any organization.

Lutte Ouvrière categorically rejected this. We then decided to run me as a candidate, although we were aware that this campaign would not have the same impact or the same function.

It’s clear what this function is. Far-left militants who only yesterday were ferocious anti-electoralists, and sick of the Communist party, some of whom even rejected the trade unions, and all of whom accused us of being “moderates,” are now to be seen jumping over the fence and bumping into each other at the polling booths in their haste to vote for Mitterrand. In the face of this electoralist pressure, it is important that there be a candidate who can challenge the Common Program and the Presidential Charter [of Mitterrand], by expressing firm positions and a revolutionary program.

Then, too, it is necessary to combat all the demagogy that says that an “organization candidacy” is unfortunate because its base is too narrow.

There are enough candidates competing to become the president of all the French people. I claim only to be the spokesman for a program and an organization. And that’s already saying a lot; it’s the result, the synthesis, of the experience and militancy of several thousand workers and youth in their daily struggles. My candidacy is the expression of the way they have developed the rich lessons of their experiences.

Finally, since the election gives us a tribune, it is also an opportunity to use this valuable means to get a hearing to carry forward the struggle against the dissolution of the Ligue Communiste, which was banned by Marcellin for having fought fascism.

Q. But doesn’t calling for a vote for Mitterrand on the second round conflict with the revolutionists’ desire to organize the workers’ distrust of the reformists?

A. In the eyes of the majority, of the mass of workers, Mitterrand’s election would give them the means of getting rid of the regime that originated in the 1958 coup and although mortally wounded, survived the general strike of May ’68.

The Communist party and the Socialist party are striving to control this extended mobilization of the workers and the population to their own advantage.

And to a certain degree the election of Mitterrand would remove an obstacle. It would illustrate that a change has already taken place in the class relationship of forces, and it could be the point of departure for a new surge forward.

Finally, Mitterrand is the candidate of the unions, the CP, the SP, the PSU, in short, of the majority of the workers organizations. And that’s certainly how the bourgeoisie sees it when they tell Mitterrand: “You are a capable moderate man, but the danger lies in those who are following you.” For all these reasons, a vote for Mitterrand means a class vote for millions of workers. That is why we will call for voting for Mitterrand on the second round – after having explained on the first round the limitations and suicidal contradictions that burden the reformists’ plans.

Q. The weekly Rouge, the Front Communiste Révolutionnaire, and you yourself had already stated that you would vote for Mitterrand on the second round only if he did not in the meantime make any compromises with representative sectors of the bourgeoisie. But doesn’t the whole orientation of the Union of the Left already tend toward such alliances and such compromises?

A. Yes, it tends to, inevitably. This is its logic. We are convinced of it, we are aware of it, and we say so. And our task is to explain this. But it must be understood that this analysis of ours is not shared by millions of workers who still have confidence in the CP, the SP, and the leaders of their unions. That majority will only be convinced through experience, with first-hand proof. It will only be torn away from the reformists’ solutions by taking the measure of their failures, and then rallying to the revolutionary solutions,with the establishment of a workers’ government and the expropriation of the bosses.

That is why we will vote for Mit terrand despite his cowardly, compromising, and bankrupt policies. But we add: Only if he has not concluded in the meantime any pact with significant sectors of the bourgeoisie. That’s not just for the record. Take the example of Chile. There is a difference between the Chilean government without the military before October 1972 and the Chilean government with the participation of the military after October 1972.

The change concretized a capitulation of the Popular Unity that was visible and understandable to thousands and thousands of workers, who drew their own conclusions by beginning to organize themselves in the factories, the neighborhoods, and the famous cordones industriales. They began to outline the perspective of a people’s power, built by themselves, parallel to the national assembly and the government coalition with the military.

For us, the Union of the Left is heading toward the same compromises. Mitterrand is preparing the way for them. But few workers yet believe us when we say so. Mitterrand is maneuvering. And that is reason enough for us to ruthlessly denounce all his openings toward the right, his implicit promises to grant ministerial posts to right-wingers, and so on. That is also why we must respond to the large number of workers who will be convinced of our position only when Mitterrand has capitulated – once a coalition government has been set up, for example. Then it will be up to us to go into high gear by setting ourselves objectives that would otherwise be beyond our

Q. But then, after having campaigned, why not withdraw before the first round, as a symbol of our contempt for the electoral farce, without taking responsibility for dividing Mitterrand’s votes on the first round?

A. Our candidacy is aimed at explaining and illustrating everything I’ve just said, and popularizing Rouge’s action program, preparing for the struggles to come, whatever the election result. For it is not certain that Mitterrand will be elected and we must also explain what we will do if we find ourselves facing a Chaban or a Giscard who has just been elected for seven years!

Without feeding any illusions that elections are the road to socialism, it is not a matter of indifference to us that even a limited number of workers vote to show their agreement with our positions and our perspectives.

A vote for ideas and proposals has all the more meaning and significance when it is done without any illusions as to its immediate effectiveness. These are people who are telling Mitterrand: We will vote for you against the candidates of reaction, but be aware that we have drawn the lessons of May ’68, and of Chile, and that we are ready to fight against you if necessary rather than repeat the same tragic errors.

And when they point to rather dubious polls, and ask us, “Isn’t it unreasonable to hang tight on the first round if Mitterrand’s stock continues to rise, if there’s a chance he’ll win on the first round?” we reply: Mitterrand and the Union of the Left can’t win on all counts. By making bigger and bigger concessions to the right, out of deference for institutions and profits, in order to round up the ten or fifteen percent of the electorate that normally votes for the Réformateurs [bourgeois liberals], they are in creasing the distrust on the left of the one or two percent of workers who are in the vanguard. They shouldn’t come to us to complain. It is this legitimate distrust by the revolutionary workers that we want to express.

We do not invent it; it stems from the capitulations of the reformists. We have already seen enough of the Noskes, the Eberts, the Mochs, and of Mitterrand himself in France, repressing the working class! So, no carte blanche and no blank check! That’s what we are demonstrating on the first round.

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