Date: Sun, 25 May 97 11:41:05 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
/** 394.0 **/
** Topic: Workers Party on French Elections **
** Written 8:43 AM May 24, 1997 by theorganizer in **

French government uses elections to widen assault on working class

The Organizer, May 1997

Editors' Note: The ongoing government assault against the French working class took a new turn in April when President Jacques Chirac dissolved the French National Assembly and called elections for May 25 and June 1, nearly one year earlier than scheduled.

The Organizer spoke with Daniel Gluckstein, national secretary of the Workers Party in France, about the meaning of these elections and their relation to France's efforts to meet the terms and conditions set forth by the Maastricht Treaty for a European Monetary Union (EMU) and a single currency. The May 10 interview was conducted by associate editor Scott Cooper.

The Organizer: The English magazine The Economist said last week that another victory for the center-right could speed up the sorely needed overhaul of France's economy. Is that what's behind Chirac's move?

Daniel Gluckstein: More than Chirac's move, one must speak of Chirac's coup. Its purpose is a government able to introduce shock therapy against the French people.

Over the past few years, the government has been able to deal some serious blows in the areas of social security, unemployment, and so on. But they have been unable to go all the way in imposing their agenda, because of the resistance of the working class.

So, they have created an opportunity to establish a national unity or cohabitation government, which would include the left and right wings in the same implementation of the Maastricht Treaty measures. The aim of this election is to make possible this war government against the working class.

It comes just before a European summit scheduled for Amsterdam in mid-June. Part of the agenda there is what they call the social component of the Maastricht Treaty, which in fact is the incorporation of the unions to all the anti-working class measures.

T.O.: What are the Maastricht convergence criteria, and what do they imply specifically for French workers as the government attempts to meet them?

D.G.: Very concretely, the yearly deficit of the national budget cannot exceed 3 percent of the gross national product. To reach this limit in France means cutting more than $100 billion francs from the national budget in one year. Over the next five years, it would mean destroying 300,000 to 400,000 public-service jobs and closing thousands of hospitals and schools, the complete privatization of the post office and telecom, and so on. This is more than they've ever tried to do.

It's a new situation. To reach the convergence criteria, the government must wage an open war against the working class and youth.

T.O.: What stance has been adopted by the other political parties? We read in the United States that the Socialist Party (SP) is demanding some kind of new approach to Maastricht that would have the EMU counterbalance American domination and favor growth and jobs. And the SP leader, Lionel Jospin, claims his party's policies offer less brutal, more protective change.

D.G.: This is a joke. Remember, the Maastricht Treaty was written by a prominent SP leader, Jacques Delors, and was adopted in 1992 by France's Socialist government under Franois Mitterand. The Maastricht Treaty is the child of both the Socialist and rightist parties. When Jospin says one should not look at the convergence criteria as dogma, he's saying exactly the same thing as the rightist parties.

Everybody knows now that it is totally impossible to reach the 3 percent limit, because the figure today is 4.2 percent. As I said, that would require cutting more than $100 billion francs. All the political leaders know that if they could cut $90 billion, it would be a great step forward. So they all say the criteria are not dogma, but we have to try.

Meanwhile, they all favor the renegotiation of the convergence criteria. This is the very purpose of the Amsterdam conference: to renegotiate.

All the main political parties in France on the right and left are more or less in favor of this renegotiation. Even the Communist Party (CP), which has a political agreement with the Socialists, says it favors renegotiation. And the far-right National Front of Le Pen, which claims to oppose the Treaty, is in favor of renegotiation.

This renegotiation has no other purpose than to make implementation possible.

T.O.: Newspapers here have reported that the election of Tony Blair as British prime minister has had quite an impact in France, and that political leaders are falling over themselves to claim they are Blair's best friend. What's that all about?

D.G.: All of them are children of Tony Blair. Why? Because what they would like to do in France is to have a national unity government with a common purpose: to implement the Maastricht Treaty and the convergence criteria. And all of them say Tony Blair is a good example.

T.O.: What strategy has the Workers Party adopted to build a fight against Maastricht?

D.G.: Even before the dissolution of the National Assembly, the Workers Party was helping to build the National Committee for the Abrogation of the Maastricht Treaty, which now has more than 40,000 members. The leadership of this committee includes top leaders of the left wing of the Communist Party, the Citizens Movement, trade unions from both the CGT and CGT-FO federations, and the Workers Party.

The national committee has called for a public demonstration in the streets on May 31, as part of the International Days Against Deregulation and Privatization.

T.O.: What position has the National Committee for the Abrogation of the Maastricht Treaty taken regarding these elections?

D.G.: None as a committee, because we must respect the committee's pluralism. While the national committee includes people who are running in the elections under different political banners, the committee itself decided not to be a part of the electoral dispute, but to extend all the propaganda against the Maastricht Treaty and to continue to prepare the demonstration.

There is a very large current within the working class that rejects this electoral process. Most of them understand that nothing will happen with this election. Whatever the political color of the next government Socialist, rightist, national unity it will implement the Maastricht Treaty. In response, many are open to this proposal for a demonstration, because it is something concrete.

T.O.: What stance has the Workers Party itself adopted?

D.G.: The Workers Party has said that the working class has nothing to win in this election, because it is a fake political debate, and because everything about it is preparation for a shock therapy government against the working class. We decided, then, that running candidates would be a tactical question: if we ran candidates, we would not ask people to vote in favor of the Workers Party which is not the main issue but would run to raise the issue of abrogating Maastricht before millions of people.

Coincidentally, we had our national convention scheduled for last weekend, just after Chirac's announcement. There was a full discussion of candidacies. Since it is a tactical issue, we decided it should be up to each party federation to decide for itself. Some 57 federations have chosen to run candidates in 121 constituencies. Another 30 decided not to 25 because they were not fiscally strong enough and five because they felt it was not politically appropriate to participate in this fake debate.

T.O.: So these candidates of the Workers Party will run on a single issue: for the abrogation of the Maastricht Treaty?

D.G.: Yes. In France, the state apparatus sends a leaflet prepared by each candidate to every citizen at home. The Workers Party leaflet, which will be sent to 9 million people, will have the following headline: We are running for the abrogation of the Maastricht Treaty. And that is the headline on our poster.