By CJ Korp and Carlos Petroni
France is undergoing a series of social and economic earthquakes that have created continuous turmoil and division. This article aims to shed light on the situation from a Marxist perspective, specifically from a Trotskyist viewpoint, to inform the world about the impending transformation of France from an imperialist power to a minor European country resembling Spain.
One of the significant challenges faced by France is the persistent threat of terrorist attacks. The country has been a target for groups affiliated with ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others due to its collaboration with the United States in military actions. According to official data from Europol, France has experienced more jihadist attacks than any other European Union member since establishing the Islamic State’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The country’s large Muslim, Jewish, and Christian populations make it an ideal target for extremist groups seeking to exploit religious and social tensions. France’s commitment to secularism, which jihadists vehemently oppose, further exacerbates the situation.
Furthermore, France is grappling with multiple crises, including the Yellow Vest movement, the challenges of fossil fuel dependence, and the agricultural sector’s need for reconversion. The Yellow Vest protests highlighted the deep-seated social and economic inequalities within French society and the growing discontent among the working class. Meanwhile, the country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in agro-industries, hampers efforts to address climate change and transition to sustainable energy sources. The Yellow Vest movement failed to address the question of reconversion of industries limiting itself to demand the restoration of subsidies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also left its mark on France, affecting its economy and social fabric. The devastating pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and exposed the country’s healthcare system and labor market vulnerabilities. The economic fallout and social disruptions caused by the pandemic have fueled the fire of discontent and instability and economic downturn.
The thousands of deaths caused by heat waves and other climate capitalist-made catastrophes are further announcing the end of society as it existed and the fact that those oppressed no longer accept the domination of its bourgeois class and the impotence of the ruling class to impose its dominance over all sectors of society is preannouncing the end of “social contract” of oppression and industrial slavery forced upon the working class. The ruling class has no mitigating strategies and is letting workers and youth bear the climate crisis on its own, with little or no resources.
The French economy is a rollercoaster. The last decade experienced two recessions, two weak recoveries, and a pronounced downturn with inflation and a high unemployment rate among young people. The War in Ukraine, the losses in the tourist and defense industries, and a financial sector increasingly colonized by other imperialist powers have weakened France’s financial capital autonomy, one of the symptoms of imperial decay.
In addition to these challenges, France’s involvement in the inter-imperialist Ukrainian War has come at a significant cost. The country has allocated substantial resources, both in terms of financial support and weaponry, to Ukrainian de facto NATO troops fighting against Russian imperialists. This investment has resulted in the loss of billions of dollars, increased inflation, and disrupted trade relations with the East. Key industries such as metal, transportation, auto manufacturing, and finance have experienced setbacks, leading to significant financial losses. France is now acquiring oil and gas from the US and other sources in the West at higher prices than they used to pay to their traditional supplier: Russia. This helps explain Macron’s zigzagging on war issues one day, the king of peaceful alternatives to the hawk that is now.
Another major issue contributing to the unraveling of France’s imperialist status was the mass labor dispute over proposed pension reforms which made evident the financial constraints of the imperial state. While some labor union leaders have attempted to compromise with the government, inter-union conflicts are possible if a more radical, class-based leadership emerges. The discontent among workers and the potential for widespread labor unrest pose significant challenges to the ruling class, and the French bourgeoisie has little room for concessions to appease workers.
France is also facing a rebellion among immigrants and the youth against a police force accused of criminal behavior and systemic racism. This uprising reflects the deep-seated frustration and anger among marginalized communities, who have borne the brunt of police violence and discrimination. Moreover, the rise of far-right and fascist movements, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, seriously threatens the established order. While Le Pen’s coalition ranks second to President Macron’s party, their homogeneity and active presence in the streets, unions, and communities give them considerably more influence and power than its numbers may indicate.
While each crisis mentioned above may not individually suffice to eliminate France’s imperialist character, their collective impact poses a severe challenge to the country’s continued dominance. These crises raise questions about France’s ability to maintain its status as a global power. They may become a third-rate power, heavily dependent on countries such as the United States, Germany (undergoing its own critical juncture), or Great Britain. President Macron finds himself in a crisis and wavering between various positions.
His opposition consists primarily of the Social Democrats and Stalinists in the La France Insoumise movement. While the France Insoumise movement initially supported the Yellow Vest movement, they maintained a soft pacifist stance on the War. Macron’s close allies in prominent industries, on the other hand, are divided between supporting NATO or favoring closer ties with Russia. The France Insoumise could become a fragile replacement for the present government. Still, it won’t last months, especially if confronted by a fascist rebellion reinforced by a fragmented right-wing today in power.
Within the Trotskyist movement, there is fragmentation and internal crises. Some factions within the United Secretariat – New Anti-Capitalist Party support NATO and President Zelensky, calling for increased military support against Russia. Conversely, Lutte Ouvriere has adopted a subtle pro-Russian position and has yet to mobilize against the War. These internal divisions and conflicts have further diminished the strength and influence of Trotskyist forces in France.
In summary, a growing sentiment is emerging within the mass movement in France that rejects the current status quo. There is an asymmetrical political polarization between right-wing, fascist, and populist forces and a weaker social-democratic and Communist Party opposition on the other. This dynamic may precipitate a clash of enormous proportions. The ruling bourgeoisie also recognizes the unsustainability of continued rule amidst a series of crises. Consequently, they may lean towards favoring the ultra-right wing.
Given these circumstances, there is an urgent need for an anti-extinction revolutionary Marxist program and organization. This program should encompass the fight for industrial reconversion, starting with the agricultural sector, to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and transition to alternative energy sources. The key to success lies in uniting the most dedicated labor fighters, students, youth, immigrants, and Black communities under a revolutionary organization that empowers them through democratic institutions such as coordinating fighting committees (or Soviets). Multiracial working-class self-defense committees should be established in workplaces and communities to counter oppressive forces and build solidarity. Moreover, an anti-war mass movement must be mobilized to oppose both imperialist blocks in Ukraine. Demands for reduced working hours, higher wages, and improved social benefits should be prioritized.
We are for dismantling the imperialist French state, abolishing its institutions, and reorganizing society along the lines of a socialist perspective. The French working class, youth, immigrants, and people of color must take this road or witness the destruction, War, and repression the decaying imperialist state will bring about on its road to the cemetery.
France stands at a crossroads, and its chosen path will determine its future. Only through a unified and militant struggle can the working class and marginalized communities create a society that addresses their needs and challenges the prevailing capitalist order. Establishing an Anti-extinctionist Revolutionary Marxist International is imperative to spearhead this movement on a global scale.