By Vicki Morris
What is the French left saying and doing about the war, and about Jacques Chirac, the right-wing president who appeared for a while to be leading global opposition to the US and UK's war drive?
Most big mobilisations against the war have been organised by the Coordination de l'appel 'Non a la guerre contre l'Irak', that includes the Greens, Communist Party (PCF), Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), and many single-issue campaigns. Lutte Ouvriere (LO) has not joined the Coordination, but associates itself with the demonstrations.
Numbers on the Paris demonstrations are respectable: 20 March, 100,000; 22 March, 60-80,000; 29 March, 60,000. But critics say they could be higher. The demands are too restrained to get the youth going, especially youth from immigrant communities. The collapse of the PCF has meant as well the withering of its peace organisation, the Mouvement pour la Paix (imagine no CND on the anti-war demos in Britain).
The slogan of the Coordination is: "No to war against Iraq, yes to a world of justice, peace and democracy". Its demands now are:
- "Immediate end to hostilities and pullout of the occupying troops from Iraq;
- international law to be used against the aggressors;
- prohibition of French airspace, ports or military bases to the armies of the US and its allies."
The demands are made on the French government.
The Coordination condemns the "bloody dictatorship of Saddam Hussein". It says that Iraqi people should determine their fate, and supports self-determination for the Kurds, and for the Palestinians, "side by side with the state of Israel, in accordance with UN resolutions".
Organisations within the Coordination have their own politics on the war. The PCF is excited at the millions in the streets worldwide, while hoping that "le pouvoir" resides in the General Assembly of the UN, or the EU, or anywhere but the US. Their leaflet for 29 March says "Ceasefire in Iraq! The UN must take back the initiative!"
The day war broke out, the PCF "rejected a unipolar world and desired a strong and respected UN. Now as never before have we needed a peaceful Europe, independent of the US". Its politics has a nationalistic edge. It talks of "France" as if France were not composed of classes with different interests. "France must take all the necessary steps to isolate the US and Britain". "No to American bombers in French skies."
About Jacques Chirac, the PCF says little. For its participation in the Jospin government, the PCF lost much credibility. Without becoming more radical on the front of the class struggle, the PCF's role in the anti-war movement might give it a new and undeserved lease of life.
LO and LCR, at the same time as they oppose the war, argue against illusions in Jacques Chirac. Chirac held out against the US, not from love of justice, peace and democracy, but for his own bad reasons (French interests in the Middle East; desire to lead a European superpower almost as vile as the US; hypocrisy: France embarks on its
own imperial adventures).
The job of LO and LCR, as socialists, is to promote the French labour movement within the anti-war movement, and they are rising to the
challenge. Sometimes they are doing it in concert, as recently, putting out a statement that argues against government attacks on pensions and against "consensus" between the government and the trade unions in negotiations, in spite of their near unanimity on international questions.
In an editorial of its paper Rouge on 13 March, LCR says: "While at the UN Chirac is opposed to the war being prepared by Bush and his allies, in France, with his government, he is carrying on a veritable war against working people. Profiting from the strong anti-war feeling widespread among the whole population, he is trying to make
us forget what he is, whose interests he serves. He seeks to profit from the climate thus created to pass his social counter-revolution.
Goodbye super-menteur, hello super pacifist!"