Striking workers at the Voltaire school in Paris in France. The banner says ‘No pupil is a foreigner at Voltaire or on the Earth. Our country is called solidarity’

A great wave of anti-racist anger and horror is breaking across France against a new anti-migrant law passed with the support of the fascists.

People poured onto the streets in Rennes, Chambéry, Montpellier and ten other cities on Thursday evening.

Demonstrations were planned for Friday afternoon and evening in Paris, Rennes, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Brest, Limoges, Bayonne, Pau and other cities and towns.

Students have blockaded several universities and grassroots workers’ groups are pushing for strikes.

This week the government of neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron forced through a new anti-migrant law piloted by interior minister Gerald Darmanin.

MPs had initially rejected the plans with both the left and large parts of the right— including Marine Le Pen’s fascist National Rally (RN)—voting against it. Macron then reached out even further to the right and won the backing of the traditional conservatives and the votes of the RN.

Denis Godard, a socialist and anti-racist in Paris, spoke to Charlie Kimber about the mobilisations now and why there is such outrage.

Why is there such a response?

We saw Macron’s group, and the conservatives and the fascists all voting together.

I spoke outside the parliament this week at a demonstration and I said Macron had won his election on the basis he was a barrage, a bulwark against the march of fascism. In fact the government has opened wide the road for fascist organisation in two ways.

The first way is that they made an alliance in parliament to be able to vote with the RN. This means they legitimised the fascist organisation on the highest level. 

The second is they have accepted “national preference”, where those people the state regards as French are treated differently to migrants—even those seen as legal migrants— and undocumented workers. It’s open and structural inequality 

This hierarchy has been a dream for decades of the fascist National Front and then the RN. Now they have it. That’s why Le Pen said it was an “ideological victory” for her party. 

It’s a qualitative shift, not just one more racist regulation in a string of racist laws.

It’s at such a point that even the prime minister on the day after the vote said on TV that there are points in the law that may not be constitutional and might have to go. 

Tell us about the resistance

Our slogan is that this is now emergency, emergency, emergency.

People demonstrated on Monday in 60 different cities in France. In Paris, the authorities said the march was forbidden, but people came out. Darmanin banned the demo…against Darmanin! It was an outrage and the movement would not have it.

There were 15,000 or more people in Paris on Monday. We are proud of what we have built.

But we said it was not enough. It was not enough to be able to prevent the law from going through when both the left and right opposed it.

Macron was always going to come back with a worse law.

As socialists and anti-racists we said the unions have the power to destroy the law. They had to call strikes.

Some union leaders speak out against the law. Good. But they have to mobilise. In a few workplaces that happened—not many, but I think it’s the first time workers have organised explicitly anti-racist strikes.

The left didn’t really mobilise either. But now the law, an even worse law, has gone through there is a new possibility because people are so dismayed. They can’t believe what happened.

Several universities are already on strike and blocked by the students. Some schools in Paris are blocked by the students. At the most well-known library in Paris, workers put up a banner saying that in this library there is no need for papers to enter.

There are spontaneous demonstrations. Sophie Binet, head of the CGT union federation, called for “civil disobedience and stepping up resistance actions”. OK, I wish that had come earlier, but it makes it easier to organise.

We need an alliance between the workers who demonstrated around the question of pensions earlier this year and the youth who demonstrated and revolted against racism and police brutality. That’s the kind of alliance we need now, right now. 

Something is happening. We can win, it’s not all over.

There are splits at the top too. Leaders of a third of regions in France said they would not comply with certain measures in the law.

It’s wrong to talk of a “left” in Macron’s party, but 27 of his group’s MPs voted against and 32 abstained—almost a quarter of pro-Macron MPs.

One cabinet minister resigned, and another offered her resignation.

We will have demonstrations, increase the pressure for strikes, and then a national day of protests on 6 January.

Solidarity with your struggles against racism in Britain. Across Europe, we are going to have to fight and not be divided.

What does the new law impose?

It has been in the pipeline for well over a year. The first version was already a very racist law, based on the idea that not only migrants but all foreigners are delinquents and criminals. Criminalisation was at the centre of this, and therefore repression.

From that followed the determination to allow the state to expel and deport people, even if they had the necessary citizenship status documents.

It said people could be expelled if, for example, they are on a demonstration called without permission or otherwise “threatening order”. Now it’s enough to be opposed to “Republican values”. 

This is a weapon used against Muslims. The law passed this week says children born in France to foreign parents will no longer automatically become French citizens.

Asylum seekers whose behaviour is regarded as “a threat to public order” can be placed in preventive detention.

Citizens from non-EU states working in France will have to prove they have been in the country for 30 months before they can receive welfare benefits such as child care. Foreigners in France who are not working will have to wait five years before they can get benefits.

Non-EU people who have no residency or work permit but who work in areas or industries that are struggling to recruit workers such as restaurants, construction and agriculture can apply for a residency and work permit.

But they must have lived in France for at least three years and have worked at least 12 months over the past two years.

The authorities will judge the degree of the applicant’s “integration in French society and his or her respect for Republican values”. No troublemakers need apply!

Send solidarity to Marche des Solidarites anti-racist group here (Twitter) and here (email)
Denis’ speech outside parliament on 19 December (in French) here

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