Vitrolles - the logic of the ballot box

Submitted by martinh on October 26, 2006

This article was translated and abridged from Le Monde Libertaire for Black Flag #211 in 1997. Vitrolles is a town in France whose council was won in elections a few months prior by the fascist Front National. It was the fourth city run by the FN at the time - the others were Toulon, Orange and Marignane.

(urnes in French means both ballot boxes and funeral vases)

The socialists were too gross. They preferred to safeguard the feeble chance of taking the Mayoralty of Vitrolles by playing the republican card and trying to impose an alliance on the right. Keeping the Socialist list meant the election of the Front National mayor. The local militants who made it up, and said as much, have since been expelled from the Party. Once again politics has taken priority over the antifascist struggle and the logic of favouring the FN to divide the right can be seen.

The rules of the Game
The failure in Vitrolles of this struggle, shows a fact many find hard to accept. It's a matter of democratic principle to delegate power. At the time of the FN successes at Toulon, Marignane and Orange, the revulsion of all those shocked or well meaning was focussed on the minority aspect of the victor. That a party could, with one third of the votes and even less of those registered to vote, win a municipal election and manage the life of all was unacceptable. But they forget that all elections function this way. And that most of those who run Town halls are a "minority". Their logic implies that all parties are equal except the FN. The latter have the right to play with the others only if they stay in the role of asserting or being a scarecrow, for the 'democratic spectacle'. But if they participate fully and win, like the others, then "democracy is in danger". It's completely true.

It is doubly true when the later election of Vitrolles isn't the result of a minority vote but that of a majority vote without a saucer of irregularity or fault of the electoral code. An anti-democratic party has the right to accede democratically to power to apply their programme. It has the right because all the parties have it and, as is thought, the FN is a party like all the others (This is not a compliment!). In the same way it can take the right to interfere in the purchases of the municipal libraries because everyone else, socialists included, have done this for a long time - in all democracy!

The democratic contradiction
Is the power of the people in danger? This depends on your definition of the people. If the citizen is spoken of, it must be admitted that they only exist as a brave few and are diminishing even now, except for the privileged citizens. If it's a matter of the nation, we are already in a totalitarian world yet risk knowing other totalitarianisms more restricting. The root of the problem is the principle of delegation of power to the dictatorship of a majority - or a minority - over all.

The principle of giving, and also of losing, one's voice in elections is the basis of the democratic illusion. Article 27 of the constitution, title IV on the Parliament, which says "all imperative mandate is null" shows well the role of politics. If the MP cannot impose a vote by his group, it is one part to safeguard his role as a free arbiter and the other part to divide parliament, but it is also to recall that the nomination doesn't give any control over him by his electors. He represents then those who voted (for or against) and those who didn't or couldn't vote. An elected MP represents the whole world, not the mandates of the population, nor even of his party. This infers that in Toulon, for example, the council represents all Toulonnais, the foreigners there included.

It is the system which is at fault, not the beneficiaries in the FN. To want to deny them yet appeal to the "democratic ideal" is to admit defeat. It is to continue to deny the freedom for all to take their destiny in their own hands.

We prefer the direct action and self organisation.

Claude Delattre - group Humeurs Noires, Lille