Election in France – Mélenchon's sprint

Image: Skylar Kang


Mélenchon is now a serious contender for the second round, a few strokes away from a position that would bring the social question back to the center of the presidential campaign

In the week of the first round of the presidential election in France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon appears with more than 15% of the intentions of votes in opinion polls. A few days ago, it brought together more than 100 demonstrators from Place de la Bastille to Place de la República, at the end of a symbolic itinerary in which the crowd happily walked from the site of the famous prison, overthrown on July 14, 1789, to the birthplace of a 6th Republic, decidedly ecological and social.

The curve of voting intentions for the Popular Union candidate thus recovers the breath and pace of his 2017 campaign, when, in this same final stretch, he took the former Left Front candidate to the threshold of 20%. Faced with an Emmanuel Macron who appears with 27,5%, and a Marine Le Pen with around 20%, who seems to have definitely assumed the ascendancy over Eric Zemmour, the “savvy turtle” is now a serious aspirant to the second round, the few strokes of a position that would bring the social issue back to the center of the presidential campaign.

“Mélenchon Spring” was the headline that the newspaper lyrically Libération appeared the morning after the rally in Place de la Bastille. “There was not a single interesting moment in candidate Emmanuel Macron's long programmatic presentation on Thursday; there was not a single dull moment in candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon's long speech this Sunday”, commented his editorialist. “More than 100 people packed the Place de la République in Paris, according to the organizers, and even the most cautious political analysts can agree that this was the biggest political rally since the beginning of this boring campaign. Greeting the immense crowd and the vernal equinox pleasantly and with equal lyricism, Mélenchon almost gave the impression that these two entities had arrived to support him”. Naturally, there was then some nonsense, blah blah blah blah Putin, saving the venom for last.

Everyone recognizes that Jean-Luc Mélenchon is today, by far, the best placed candidate in the field of the left. The only one who might make it to the second round. In 2017, he was just short of a few hundred thousand votes. What will happen in 2022? Between the 2017 and 2022 campaigns, the comparison does not make much sense. In 2017, JL Mélenchon was the common candidate of the Left Front, formed by his party alliance, Insubmissive France, with the French Communist Party. In 2022, the PCF has its own candidate, Fabien Roussel, who appears with less than 4% of the vote intentions. I doubt that in the end he will surpass the result of Robert Hue in 2002 (3%), but Roussel will have been able to exist in the media for the duration of an election campaign. Getting twice as many votes as the Socialist Party seems to be enough for his happiness – and justifies his optimism. slogan campaign: "Happy Days". Good for him.

In 2017, Mélenchon had a large “reservoir of votes” with Benoit Hamont, the then joint candidate of the PS and the Greens, from which he captured half of the voters in a fortnight, leaving his contender with less than 7%. In 2022, all its competitors on the left are already down there in the polls (Jadot, Hidalgo and Poutou). And apart from perhaps Roussel, who could still lose a point in the name of the “useful vote”, it will not be in these dry troughs that Insubmissive France will be able to fish the votes it lacks. Especially since, if the divorce with the PCF was quite “amicable”, and if relations with Poutou's NPA remain quite cordial (they crossed paths recently at the funeral of Alain Krivine, the founder of the Trotskyist LCR), relations with Anne Hidalgo and Yannick Jadot seem to have become openly obnoxious.

The points that Mélenchon lacks will be primarily among the abstentionists that the Popular Union will have to look for, spending the sole of its shoe, door to door, in the housing complexes of the popular neighborhoods and in the depths of impoverished rural areas.

Among those excluded and those entitled to benefits who are convinced that “politics”, after so much neglect and so many unfulfilled promises, only appears to deceive them. Among those who donned yellow vests to occupy the roundabouts, and whom Emmanuel Macron massively tried to silence, blind and hit. Among the working poor, whose accounts are always exhausted on the 12th of each month. Among workers on construction sites and in fields, for whom Macron wants to push retirement to age 65 – while a quarter of them will die before reaching 62. This sociological majority of artisans and salaried workers, which is the majority in all industrialized countries, but that it rarely finds a political party that sustains and defends its collective interests.

And that is why the program “O Futuro em Comum”, co-written with them and hundreds of grassroots activists, is such a precious collective asset for the Popular Union. And that's why, for more than two years, the France Insubmissive caravans have been traveling across France to call on the inhabitants of popular neighborhoods and abstentionists to register for the elections.


So that this invisible “sociological majority” finally becomes a political majority.

Deprived of the support of the PCF, and faced with the hostility of this “macron-compatible” institutional left, Insubmissive France deliberately bet on the “grassroots alliance”, creating a “Parliament of the Popular Union”, whose leadership and presidency it entrusted to Aurélie Trouvé, who was for a long time national spokesman for ATTAC-France [Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions to Aid Citizens], which is not affiliated with Insubmissive France.

When I heard about the birth of this bazaar, this invented Parliament, I feared it was pure pyrotechnics, a somewhat formal “support committee”, where some media puppets would be displayed during the election campaign. Looks like I was mistaken. Because if the Popular Union brings together trade unionists, ecologists, communists, left-wing socialists, intellectuals, artists... it is with the desire to structure the thing in the medium-long term, more as a "movement" than as a "party", and to provide it with of true powers of political proposition. To defend and apply, from the villages to the Élysée Palace, the Futuro em Comum program. And to go beyond the current structure of Insubmissive France had gone beyond the small structure/clad of the Left Party.

In this Parliament we find people like Azzedine Taïbi (the mayor of Sens, who was close to Benoit Hamont), Thomas Portes (the former spokesperson for Sandrine Rousseau), Annie Ernaux (writer), Bruno Gaccio (comedian and producer), Huguette Bello (Governor of the Réunion Island region), Christophe Aguiton (activist), Ameyric Caron (animal rights activist), Susan Georges (ATTAC), Claire Lejeune (environmental activist), Ignacio Ramonet (journalist), Barbara Stiegler (philosopher) … and dozens of other trade unionists and grassroots activists.

This is what stands out from the point of view of sociology, the program and alliances. As for the tactical aspect, Mélenchon and the Popular Union have visibly chosen to turn these last few weeks of campaigning into a referendum “for or against” Emannuel Macron. They had good help from Macron himself, who, no doubt soaring from the top 30% of the voting intentions, felt entitled to present and defend a radically antisocial program.

While, during the first five-year term of the “president of the rich”, the 565,34 richest people in France had already more than doubled their assets, in the middle of the pandemic, he wants to impose a “compulsory job” (and free) on a part-time basis to the unfortunate people who “benefit” from RSA (XNUMX euros per month). Contempt and class violence in all its horror.

Mélenchon can therefore line up, point by point, his program against Macron's (which is, moreover, often, on the social level, the same as Le Pen's). Retirement at age 60… against retirement at age 65. The minimum wage of 1400 euros, starting in May, against… nothing. A subsistence income of 1063 euros for the students against… nothing. The free medical care at the ophthalmologist… against the systematic shots that blinded the yellow vests in series.

A fiscal revolution, in which, below 4 thousand euros, everyone will pay less taxes... but in which, above 12 million, the State will take everything! Indeed, is it “normal” that the five richest people in France today own more wealth than the 22 million poorest French people? A France proud of the ethnic-cultural mix of its universalist republic, against the systemic racism of a police force that often appears to be post-colonial. A 6th Republic, which will be able to refound democracy and the social contract through a Constituent Assembly… against the presidential monarchy of the 5th… And so many other things. Plan the exit from nuclear energy and organize the ecological transition. Ending animal suffering in factory farming. Ban glyphosate. Create 500 places in day care centers. Rebuild the thermal insulation of at least 700 homes per year. Inscribe the “green rule” in the Constitution: never take from nature more than it is able to reconstitute. There are 26 themed flyers like these!

All this would seem almost like a miracle fair, a festival of “tomorrow, free lunch”, if, as in 2017, France Insubmissa and the Popular Union had not, with the help of dozens of economists and senior civil servants, established the budget for the entire program. Mélenchon is, moreover, the only candidate to have carried out this type of exercise before the presidential elections. A program that would “cost” 250 billion euros in massive investments, but which would “return” 270 billion euros in activities, taxes and social contributions. The cards are therefore on the table. Because it is not a matter of “causing an impact to draw attention”, but of governing, of setting in motion a program that must actually be applied.

This is how things present themselves concretely today. The “only” thing the Popular Union has to do in the next three weeks is to withdraw three or four points from Marine Le Pen. It's not easy, because it too is growing slightly, benefiting mechanically from the failure of campaigns by Pécresse, who is really too stupid, and by Zemmour, who is too fascist.

For Mélenchon, therefore, it is not easy, but it is possible to qualify for the second round, with an entry ticket worth around 19%. And once that threshold is crossed, if Mélenchon is the one to cross it, another election begins. Because absolutely all the political references of these last 50 years will be quickly pulverized. You will see things that will seem unbelievable to you. I can perfectly imagine, for example, a Ségolène Royal supporting Mélenchon, and a François Hollande (or a Jadot) supporting Macron.

The extreme right itself would be completely without a compass, and its electorate divided between its immediate class interests and the ideological ghosts of its leaders. We would then find ourselves in a “true” “populist” situation in the Latin American way, with on the one hand a frankly “right-wing” program supported by the entire establishment, and on the other a frankly “leftist” program, politically minority, but able to rely on a broad sociological majority.

Everything will now depend on the mobilization, at the polls, of the popular classes and youth, and on the choice of society that all intermediate intellectual classes will make, between Macron and Mélenchon. To finally reach the end with “Mélenchon president!”, without a doubt, it will be necessary to go through a mouse hole, too narrow to let a turtle, even a “sagacious” one, pass through. But as Mark Twain wrote, "They didn't know it was impossible, so they did it!" And that is also how history is written, for no revolution in the world ever seemed possible until two hours before it broke out.

*Claude Semal is a writer, singer and actor. Author, among other books, of Ubu à l'Élysée (Aden).


Translation: Mauricio Ayer to the website Other words.

Originally published on Portal Mediapart.


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