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A “Green Wave” in the French municipal elections

29 June, 2020 · News> Europe> France

Grégory Ducet, the green candidate for mayor of Lyon, celebrates his victory yesterday.

The outcome of the French municipal elections is greeted as a “green wave” by the European press. And in fact the green party took over the mayor’s offices of Lyon and Strasbourg, Paris was left in the hands of the former PS, the old stalinist PCF lost emblematic cities of the suburbs such as Sant Denis and the ultra-right wing lost almost half of its town councillors and an important asset in Marseille , although it gained Perpignan. To sum up: the distribution of offices speaks of a recomposition and electoral rise of the left in which the Socialist Party leaves the leadership to the Greens. But this official story remains very lame and incomplete.

Macron rehearsing the climate change argument as a weapon against the US in the trade war.

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For two years now we have been seeing deliberate efforts, especially in France, Belgium and Germany, to turn the greens into a governing party to replace the socialist parties in disarray (France) or in disastrous decline (Germany). The synchrony in the strategy is not accidental. It was necessary to create an “emergency” in order to give meaning to the “sacred climate union” but also in order to be able to use non-tariff weapons in the trade war. The former has been a constant in European politics since the Paris Treaty, the latter was soon introduced as an ideological weapon against Trump but was also given direct economic use. And not only against the United States, as we saw when Macron used the Amazon fires as a tool against the Mercosur-EU treaty. Ireland and Finland immediately joined the French threat at the time. The agrarian petty bourgeoisie was discovering the steady, sound profits that green protectionism could mean for it, while the move to “bio” production was giving it a glimpse of access to a capital that historically had left agricultural production behind. Both experiences are important now when analyzing the electoral rise of “the green”.

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Because lockdown has exposed the reality of agriculture and food production: the historical stronghold of the petty bourgeoisie, its inability to incorporate capital at the speed of other sectors leads to state dependence, the destruction of productive capacities and miserable wages while forced to sustain profitable applications of capital at all costs, even if these are discovered to be harmful and dangerous, from chlorinated poultry to toxic pesticides. In food and agriculture, the decadent character of today’s capitalism, the inability of capital accumulation to create real human development can be seen in a stark way.

For the agrarian petty bourgeoisie, the “green deal” is the promise of transforming productive technology from top to bottom with state-guaranteed profitability. The “energy transition” also offers them, as was seen in Zapatero’s Spain with the proliferation of solar farms, the first opportunity for diversification capable of attracting large capital to barren lands. The agrarian petty bourgeoisie, until recently condemned by Brussels to be the “guardian of the landscape”, has discovered itself to be “green”. For the first time it is facing a game in which it intuits that it can win. Hence the rush, hence the votes in rural areas for the environmentalists.

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But there is one more and not insignificant element in this electoral recomposition of the left around environmentalism. The massive urban voter abstention, overwhelming in some working class districts. Melenchon even speaks of a “civic strike”, trying to lend the votes it did not receive a political depth and effectiveness missing in those he received. However, there will be no lack of anarchists who will follow him along this line and try to tell us that the state or capitalism has been weakened. This is not true. Not every vote cast is a ballot in support of capitalism, nor does every voter who does not go to the polling station weaken the system. We workers say no to capitalism through class struggle and that is done collectively, because as a class we are exploited collectively. Voting alone behind a curtain does not change the conditions of exploitation nor does it reinforce them, stopping voting does not revoke them nor does it alter them. The system that exploits us and the state that organizes the general conditions of that exploitation are not maintained because there are more or less ballots. Their policies do not arise from the “opinion” created by media campaigns, nor from the result of the counting of the ballots that millions of individuals put in a box in the middle of a state ceremony once in a while.

In any case, if voting abstention shows something particular about this election, it is that for many people, especially in the cities, going to vote has less value than the risk of contagion it implies. Which, reaching a bit too far, might lead us to think that it would indicate a certain disbelief in the official discourse. But once again, what matters, what can change something, is not the number of people from different classes who took a walk to a school on a Sunday to participate in a certain ceremony. What counts is the proliferation of strikes that we have been seeing over the last few weeks throughout France. And those have nothing to do with the election calls.

Pierre Hurmic, the green candidate for mayor of Bordeaux, celebrates his victory yesterday.

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Let’s connect the dots. Yesterday’s result occurs in a context. On the one hand, a global wave of struggles triggered by the conditions of the pandemic all over the world and which in France links with promising strikes but also with a resistance to the pension finally derailed by the unions. On the other hand, we have the “green deal” as the great “promise” of capital in Europe to resurrect a capital suffocated by the crisis, with its foreign markets increasingly eroded and with fewer and fewer profitable applications in which to place itself inside and outside.

The state, the bourgeoisie and sectors of the petty bourgeoisie such as farmers and significant parts of the corporate and professional petty bourgeoisie have a clear vision of their future: to bring the social debate to the “green deal” and to coordinate from there the roadmap of French capital under a falsely “universalist” banner: saving the planet. That roadmap continues to pass through pension reform and precarization, of course. And of course the impoverishment of millions of workers. But given the powerlessness of macronism and the trade unions to deliver on time, the ruling classes and the “opinion makers” who serve them see a much more fruitful path on the other hand. In short, we are already seeing this in Spain: it is less problematic to secure from the state investments in the electricity network for big capitals and to increase the price of electricity than to lower salaries and pensions. And in the medium term, which is already here…

The change in the energy, transport and agricultural production model implies a technological change. But it is important to understand that it is not technology that would magically allow for a boost in accumulation, but rather the transfer of income from labor to capital. Technology is purely instrumental and is developed not by the genius of lone researchers but by the demand and investment of interested capital. This is why new, supposedly more “sustainable” technologies are required to be, above all, more productive. This does not refer to physical productivity, to the amount of product obtained per hour of average work, but to productivity for capital: the amount of profit produced for each hour of work contracted. That is why global state regulation is central to the “ecological transition”: taxes and regulations do not change the physical production capacity but rather the expected profit per hour of exploited social work.

This is the logic of every “technological revolution” in capitalism. It is not that capitalism “adapts to new technologies”, it is that technologies are not considered viable if they do not increase productivity from the perspective of profit, that is, if they do not serve to increase the percentage of capital income over total production.

Capitalism is a system of exploitation of one class by another. Its aim is not to produce cars and even less to safeguard the climate. Its only objective is to produce and to increase exploitation at each cycle by increasing capital. Under the promise of green and utopian digitally modeled urban landscapes, of silent non-polluting electric cars, lies as always the sharp reality of the class struggle. All that global renewal of energy, transport and industrial production infrastructures that they imagine capable of “restarting” the global cycle of capital is nothing but the greatest transfer of income from labor to capital since World War II.

Against the sacred climate union“, Emancipation communiqué