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Krivine’s Assessment:

The ‘Allende of France’

(May 1974)

From Intercontinental Press, Vol. 12 No. 19, 20 May 1974, pp. 633–634.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“The revolutionists will support the candidate of the Common Program the way a rope supports a hanged man,” Alain Krivine, presidential candidate of the Front Communiste Révolutionnaire (FCR – Revolutionary Communist Front), told an election rally in Caen on April 25.

Krivine had been nominated by sup porters of Rouge, the Trotskyist weekly.

The FCR’s approach to the election campaign was marked by complete rejection of the program of Mitterrand and his backers in the Union of the Left, from the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism. Every issue of Rouge, which began publishing as a daily during the campaign, and every speech by Krivine at meetings and in radio and television appearances, voiced sharp criticisms of the total inadequacy of the Socialist party candidate’s proposed “alternative” to the present government.

But more than that the Trotskyists attempted to concretize the anti-capitalist alternative to the reformist candidacy. They initiated the proposal, taken up by other far-left organizations, to present a united candidate of the forces to the left of the Union of the Left. The proposal to run Charles Piaget of the Lip workers, the April 12 issue of Rouge explained, was designed to express “a vast anti-capitalist current ... a current that is also the framework for a massive outflanking of the capitulationist solutions of the reformist parties.”

When Piaget declined to run without the support of his own party, the PSU, Rouge named Krivine as its candidate and devoted its columns to championing the demands of labor militants, the women’s liberation movement, and the student movement, with in the framework of the Trotskyist program. Krivine and his supporters repeated over and over that Mitterrand could in no way be considered an ally of the working class. Mitterrand is leaning on the workers to get elected, Krivine told a rally in Lyon on April 22, but already “he is winking at the bosses and the right wing.”

Mitterrand can’t base himself on both the bosses and the working class at the same time, Krivine told a mass rally of more than 5,000 at the Palais des Sports in Paris, April 29. “Any one who tries to do so will only be using the support of the bosses against the workers. The existing institutions always serve the right wing and any socialist who accepts them is making himself a candidate for suicide and massacre. He is placing his own head on the block.”

The Trotskyist candidate elaborated a theme that ran through all his stat ments during the campaign: The workers can rely only on themselves, on their own organizations, and not on the institutions of the state or on “saviors” like Mitterrand who promise to work within the bourgeois institutions. “He called on the workers to organize themselves,” the Paris daily Le Monde reported, “by building rank-and-file committees in the neighborhoods and factories, and ‘if the class struggle sharpens,’ to prepare their self-defense by creating workers' militias in the factories, as the first steps toward the formation of a people’s army.”

The Trotskyists frequently invoked the lessons of Chile in their propaganda. Mitterrand “wants to try Allende’s experiment in France,” Krivine told a rally in Nancy April 23. He “represents a dead end for the workers.”

In a nationwide television address April 25, Krivine recalled Mitterrand’s statement that he “didn’t consider the capitalists as enemies”; he commented: “We, accordingly, will place no confidence either in the bosses or in Mister Mitterrand.”

Many persons in the left were swayed to support Mitterrand because of the broad support his candidacy received from labor unions and the Socialist and Communist parties, the mass workers parties adhering to the Union of the Left. The Trotskyists emphasized the other side of Mitterrand’s operation. The presence of the Left Radicals in the Union of the Left, the April 12 issue of Rouge explained, “is already an indication of the compromises that the reformist leaders are prepared to make.”

The FCR explained that if it called for a vote for Mitterrand on the second round, after its own candidate had been eliminated from the ballot, it would only be because the Socialist party leader’s candidacy could be considered that of a working-class formation. Krivine was quoted in the April 22 issue of Le Quotidien Rouge (the Daily Rouge) as saying that the FCR would vote for Mitterrand on the second round “only if he has not concluded in the meantime any pact with significant sectors of the bourgeoisie.”

These criticisms of the reformists’ projects had an effect on many militants in the labor movement. On May 3 the leadership of the second-biggest labor federation, the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), responded in a statement attacking “the campaign of denigration and calumny by the far-left groupings.” In line with their own claim that Mitterrand’s victory would advance the workers’ interests, the CFDT bureaucrats charged that Krivine and the Lutte Ouvrière candidate, Arlette Laguiller, were “objectively contributing, by their behavior and their words, to keeping the right in power and thereby maintaining the present exploitation of the workers.”

The FCR replied:

“Our blows are directed against the right, and we are calling for a vote for François Mitterrand on the second round. But must we silence the debates within the workers' movement about how to fight the bourgeoisie, and about the road to socialism, and the kind of socialism we are fighting for – all in the name of unity against the right? In the name of what principle must we muzzle our criticisms of Mr. Mitterrand when he says he will respect profits, develop competition, remain in the Common Market and the Atlantic Alliance, and keep the Gaullist Constitution of 1958?”

The results of the May 5 vote gave Krivine 93,990 votes, or 0.36 percent of the total. That was considerably less than the quarter of a million votes for Krivine in 1969, and the difference may in part reflect the unpopularity of the FCR’s harsh criticism of Mitterrand. In a post-election analysis of the results, Le Quotidien Rouge attributed the disparity of the votes for Krivine and Laguiller (she received 595,247) to the impact of her appeal as a working woman, and to the fact that her campaign had tended to play down her organizational affiliation.

After the first-round results had left only Mitterrand and Giscard d’Estaing on the second-round ballot. Rouge stated:

“We will mobilize to beat Giscard, candidate of the Versaillais [the Versaillais were the forces mobilized to crush the Paris Commune in 1871] on the basis of the campaign conducted by the Front Communiste Révolutionnaire.

“But the class character of the electoral campaign must be emphasized if it is to be successful. The workers must be made to feel they are involved in a worthwhile mobilization. They must weigh the stakes, and their determination must be stimulated by aiming their sights high.”

Krivine explained in an interview in the April 22 issue of Le Quotidien Rouge that the FCR was calling for a vote for Mitterrand on the second round primarily because the workers saw such a vote as a “class vote.”

In addition, he said, the election of Mitterrand “would indicate that a change has already taken place in the class relationship of forces.” He also said that the bourgeoisie itself saw the vote for Mitterrand as a reflection of class alignments.

“Mitterrand’s election is not sufficient,” Le Quotidien Rouge wrote on the eve of the first round of voting, May 4. “It guarantees nothing. He has said that institutions are as good as the man in charge of them. He has said that he will retain the Constitution of 1958, that he alone will name his ministers the way de Gaulle and Pompidou did before him. He wants to cast himself in the mold of [de Gaulle’s] Fifth Republic. An election victory can therefore result in the over throw of the present reactionary regime only if the workers begin now to organize and prepare to force Mitterrand to go further, and if need be to turn him out when he resists!”

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