A left-wing coalition shocks French politics

By G. Dunkel
June 15, 2022

While details and final results in France will have to wait until June 19 — when the second and last round of voting takes place — the results of the first round were clear enough to shock the French political establishment.

Rachel Keke, Franco-Ivorian leader of the housekeepers union, speaks in Paris to striking supermarket workers, wearing the General Confederation of Labor’s red vest. Keke ran for a seat in the National Assembly under the banner of the new left-unity coalition, the Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, NUPES.

The socialist electoral coalition Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale (New Ecological and Social People’s Union, NUPES) appears to have come in first, or nearly so, by a margin too close to call in the June 12 parliamentary elections. The semifascist Rassemblement National (National Rally, RN) came in a distant and dismal third. NUPES was created partly in response to the continuing threat by RN, known until 2018 as the National Front, so that French workers and militants would have a progressive option at the polls.

NUPES consists of four parties: La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party), Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and Europe Écologie les Verts (EELV) — the Greens. While these four parties agreed to compete together in the elections and did put forth this common platform, they have still maintained their own political positions.

NUPES’ common political platform is fairly bold. It aims to raise the minimum wage and freeze the cost of basic necessities. It proposes to raise the wages of civil servants like teachers, increase pensions and lower the age of retirement. It pushes for a change in taxation to make the wealthy contribute more, and for a 65% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which would require major changes in goods production.

These priorities are such that, under these changes, certain European Union treaty rules would not be followed, if those are considered a hindrance to progressive change. The parties to the platform agree that a new, sixth French Republic would probably be required to make all the changes.

Mélenchon has stated his explanation of this program in a book, “L’avenir en commun” (“The future in common”), available from the French publisher Seuil and worldwide as a download from kobo.com.

New situation for French left

NUPES is not the first left alliance in France. There was the Popular Front in the 1930s, the Programme Commun in 1972 and the Gauche Plurielle (Plural Left) in 1997, which ran the government from 1997 to 2002.

But world politics have changed in the past 20 years, especially with the growing economic and political power of China.

Mélenchon — as a result of his role as leader of La France Insoumise group in the National Assembly from 2017 to 2021 — was able to bring the left-wing parties into this new coalition.

If the left coalition had been operating from the beginning of the presidential elections, it is very likely that Marine Le Pen, leader of Rassemblement National, would have finished third in the first round of the presidential vote and would not have had the opportunity to spread her hate at the highest levels of French politics.

The week until the June 19 vote should witness an uproar of red-baiting, both the sophisticated kind that the French media specializes in and the crude, blunt attacks that the RN and the cops use.

But French workers and French youth have made it clear that they will give their votes to political parties that defend their interests.