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Mass protests in France: Neither the 'Fascist' nor the 'Crook'
ON 1 MAY demonstrations and protests in France against Le Pen reached a high point with hundreds of thousands of young people and workers taking to the streets in opposition to a demonstration by Le Pen's supporters.
As soon as it was announced that the far-right Le Pen was through to the second round in the French presidential elections, thousands poured on to the streets to protest. School students and students have been out in their thousands to say "Non" to Le Pen.
Last week as many as 300,000 held demonstrations, meetings and teach-ins in at least 80 towns and cities and a further 200,000 demonstrated over the weekend of 23 and 24 April. Universities and schools have closed all over France.
Alex Rouillard of Gauche Revolutionnaire, the French section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), to which the Socialist Party in England and Wales is also affiliated, spoke to The Socialist about these momentous events.
"THESE DEMONSTRATIONS are important because they give confidence to hundreds of thousands of people. They show that anti-fascist traditions and energy are intact and that working-class people and young people have the ability to take things into their own hands, to get organised and to struggle.
In most towns and cities, demonstrators are calling for a vote for Chirac. "Rather the crook than the fascist" is the slogan that many are chanting.
Gauche Revolutionnaire is mobilising around the slogan "neither the fascist nor the crook". We shouldn't underestimate what Chirac would do if he won with 70% or more of the vote and we have to prepare now for the struggles to come.
Chirac is undoubtedly preparing to govern 'a la Berlusconi', the right-wing, anti-working-class prime minister of Italy, but with the excuse that he is acting as a barrier to a victory of Le Pen and the Front National (FN).
The real reason for the vote for the FN is unemployment, poverty and the fact that the working class has been abandoned by arrogant and corrupt politicians. These problems have to be tackled, and neither the 'plural left' (socialists, communists, greens), with its five years of anti-working-class politics, nor the right can do that. Only our struggles can.
By calling for a vote for Chirac, the main trade unions and 'plural left' are not preparing workers for a future Chirac offensive against them. While understanding that many will vote for Chirac, it's clear that he is sure to win in the second round and we do not want to strengthen him but prepare for future struggles.
There is a tremendous desire to discuss political ideas, especially amongst young people and we have to point the way forward. We need to increase the size and scope of the demonstrations, extend the strikes, culminating in massive protests on 1 May. This is the international day of workers unity and we have to unite against common enemies - the bosses and big business.
The challenge now is to build a mass movement which can stop capitalist policies and win victories on issues such as unemployment, privatisation, equal rights for immigrants, wage increases and decent jobs for all.
The important vote for the far left, who achieved nearly 11%, shows that it is possible to create a new party which can organise together young people, workers, and the unemployed to defend their interests and to get rid of this capitalist system.
It will encourage all those who want to struggle against capitalism and injustice.
It is very positive that the two main far-left parties LO and LCR, are coming together to discuss what to do in the parliamentary elections. But it's important that they reach out to the thousands of workers and young people who are prepared to get involved in something, although not necessarily a party at this stage.
This opportunity must not be missed. What is needed now is a left alliance on an anti-capitalist and socialist programme to prepare for the elections and organise and maintain the struggle for the future."
A Shift To The Far Right In Europe?
In The Socialist 3 May 2002: