The Franco-Italian play : a preview of the european election campaign

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
February 11, 2019

The French and Italian governments aren’t playing nice! The Italian deputy prime minister met the yellow vests while he was in France so Macron recalled his ambassador from Rome, something that hadn’t been done since the end of WW2.

This testosterone high fits into the long line of verbal jousting between the two governments. Macron called the Italian government “nationalist lepers”. Salvini, the provocative leader of Italy’s Northern League, said of Macron that he was “a very bad president who governs against the French”. So, as spokesperson for the French government, Benjamin Griveaux said the government has “rung the bell for the end of playtime”.

Playtime may be over, but the play hasn’t ended. As we get closer to the European elections, it’s in the interest of every actor to keep the play running. Macron wants to be seen as a humanist open to the world and as a champion of European idealism and liberalism. On the other side of the stage are Italy’s Salvini and France’s Le Pen whose stock-in-trade is “sovereignism” and the fight against immigration. They use each other to make what they propose look good.

Both of them use the same strategy: they replace the left-right divide with an anti- and pro-Europe divide.

For nearly a century, France’s socialist and communist parties have upheld the notion that class struggle was to be expressed in the elections on a left-right scale while simultaneously claiming to represent the interests of the workers. They have made it a popular belief that, when you belong to the working class, you have to eliminate the right and always vote left.

This is how the working classes came to help Mitterrand-Hollande get elected for years only to realize in the end that there were no fundamental differences between their policies and those of Chirac-Sarkozy. Well Macron and Le Pen, behind supposedly irreconcilable differences on Europe or immigration, are setting the same kind of trap for workers.

Some support Europe, others say that they support sovereignty but they are all bourgeois parties. They defend capitalist private property and exploitation. Their reasoning is bourgeois business reasoning and, when in power, they always defend the prosperity of this stinking rich minority over the basic interests of workers and the population.

The nationalist governments admired by Le Pen, the Italian one and Orban’s government in Hungary, pursue anti-working-class policies that are not much different from Macron’s.

Recently, Orban authorized bosses to cumulate up to 400 hours overtime per employee with the possibility of not having to pay for them for up to three years! As for the Salvini-Di Maio team, it’s doing what it can to make the labor market as flexible as possible and, just like Macron, is rolling out the red carpet for big bosses

Even where immigration is concerned, any differences between the two sides is purely cosmetic. Salvini has distinguished himself by his abject behavior: the ships that rescue migrants were prohibited from docking in Italy. Macron was quick to lecture him. But despite calling himself a humanist, he only allows a trickle of immigrants to enter the country and has closed off the borders to economic migrants.

Macron has refused to show solidarity to Italy to help them accommodate the 750,000 people who have arrived there these last few years. Even worse, he has re-established the border in Vintimille (close to the border with Italy), obliging migrants who have already risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean to risk them again by crossing the Alps on foot. Suffice it to say that his policy is just as criminal as Salvini’s.

Macron’s play-acting with the Italian government is a rehearsal for his role against Le Pen in the European elections. All and any problems will be blamed on Europe and the migrants in order to mask the bourgeoisie’s responsibility in the current crisis.

The working class is crushed by big business. The right to live in dignity, to work, to eat and to have decent lodgings can only be imposed by attacking the capitalist class and its power. These are the aims and perspectives of Lutte ouvrière’s list “On the workers’ side against big business”, which will be led by Nathalie Arthaud.