One of largest anti-fascist marches in France was in Paris. The main placard reads, ‘No fascists in our streets or our ballot boxes’

Hundreds of thousands of anti-racists marched across France on Saturday, determined to halt the rise of the fascists and their allies.

The CGT union federation said 640,000 took part, including 250,000 in Paris. In most major cities and big towns people came out to show they won’t allow fascism to triumph. These mobilisations need to lead to a big united front against fascism.

Trade unions and others called over 200 demonstrations. It was an opening response to the rise of the Nazi National Rally (RN) led by Jordan Bardella and Marine Le Pen at the recent European election and its challenge at the snap general election set for 30 June and 7 July.

The stakes are very high. A major breakthrough for the French fascists would mean hell for migrants, Muslims—and for all working class people. It would nourish racists from the supporters of Donald Trump in the US to those who urge on Nigel Farage in Britain.   

Neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron called elections an hour after his party polled below 15 percent while the RN grabbed almost 31.5 percent in last weekend’s European vote.

“We need a democratic and social upsurge—if not the extreme right will take power,” French unions said in a statement. “Our Republic and our democracy are in danger.”

The fascist threat is real. Bardella has vowed to push through an immigration law enabling the expulsion of “delinquents and Islamists”, if he becomes prime minister. But the RN can be stopped if the unity in action and the energy of Saturday’s protests continues.

French politics has seen days of turmoil. Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal has been thrown out of a rival far right party for calling on voters to vote for the RN.

Eric Ciotti, leader of the mainstream conservative Les Republicains, announced a voting pact with the fascists. In an extraordinary  48 hours, he was excluded from the party leadership—which he responded to by barricading himself in his office in the party headquarters—twice. He then brought legal action against his colleagues, and won a halt to his removal. 

The conservatives are decomposing as the fascists rise. On the left a New Popular Front alliance has brought together the Labour-type Socialists, Greens, Communists and France Insoumise (France Unbowed), the party of Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The pressure for the deal came mainly from below. Young people, migrants and workers demanded their leaders come together to fight the RN.

Their agreement calls for opposition to racism and the RN. It also says it will repeal brutal attacks on unemployment benefit and reverse the increase in the pension age that saw mass strikes last year.

But the programme is dominated by the politics of the Socialist Party. Against Melenchon’s positions, it calls for the defence of “the sovereignty and freedom of the Ukrainian people as well as the integrity of its borders, through the delivery of necessary weapons”. That means backing Nato.

On Palestine, it demands “the release of hostages held since the Hamas terrorist massacres, whose theocratic project the New Popular Front rejects”.

This is a defeat for Melenchon, who has rightly supported the Palestinian resistance—and his enemies are celebrating.

“To finally be able to say that what happened on 7 October were terrorist massacres committed by a theocratic, therefore totalitarian, organisation is an intense satisfaction,” said Christian Picquet, a leader of the Communist Party. 

Among the Popular Front’s candidates is former Socialist president Francois Hollande. His attacks on workers and repressive laws smoothed the way for Macron—and the fascists.

Millions of people will feel it’s right to vote enthusiastically for the Popular Front. But the key mobilisation is not in the elections but at the base, to fight fascism whoever wins at the polls.

The compromises socialists have made with the right helped Le Pen. For example, calling for a vote for Macron at the presidential elections then tainted the left with his assaults.

He promised to be a wall against fascism. He has proved to be a pathway towards its rise.

The hardship and desperation caused by Macron’s policies accelerate the fascist growth. His Islamophobia and repeated hardening of the state repressive apparatus give credence to the fascists’ policies.

The latest opinion poll for Le Point website puts the RN on 29.5 percent of the vote and the left wing alliance on 28.5 percent, squeezing Macron’s alliance into third with 18 percent.

Another poll said the RN could win 195-245 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, with the New Popular Front on 190-235. The Macron centrist alliance would be reduced to fewer than 100 seats.

Workers need a broad united front in action against fascism. But there also has to be a wider movement. 

Although it’s good to see the unions calling protests, they have to openly confront the RN’s racism. At present almost all their propaganda is about the RN’s pro-boss policies. 

The Marche des Solidarites anti-racist group said on Saturday, “We need a response that goes beyond petitions and calls for votes. 

“What we need is unity against racism and fascism, unity between anti-racists, those who fight for Palestine and against French colonialism in New Caledonia, between those who rose up a year ago against police violence and the millions of workers who fought against the attack on pensions.

“To drive the fascists out of our neighbourhoods, do not let them prosper in this breeding ground of despair and atomisation created by the powerful. Let’s build what blocks the way to fascism, to Le Pen and Bardella. 

“The time is now and action has to be on the streets. Let’s close the detention centres, freedom for all! Repeal of the anti-migrant law, rights for all undocumented immigrants, citizenship for all.”

How the elections work

There will be two rounds of voting on 30 June and 7 July for the parliament.

To be elected in the first round, a candidate must obtain at least 50 percent of the votes cast—with a turnout of at least 25 percent of the registered voters. 

If no candidate is elected in the first round, any candidate who wins more than 12.5 percent of the registered voters can go forward into the second round.

What the fascist threat means

The fascists do not just threaten to dominate parliament. The increased confidence for the RN feeds through to the street thugs that seek to attack migrants, Muslims and the left.

These groups are still limited. But Bardella and Le Pen, even though they won’t do so openly, give them a massive boost.

In the city of Nancy in northern France, a violent fascist mob attacked an anti-racist march. Anti-fascists beat them back, and the cops then defended the Nazis.

In the city of Lyon on Friday fascists roved through the streets shouting, “We’re fucking Nazis,” and, “Islam out of Europe.” 

It’s possible to organise to stop the mobs. That means confrontation on the streets but also more long-term work.

In autumn 2023, fascists repeatedly attacked a local community centre called La Serre in the city of Saint-Brieuc in northern France.

Socialists Jalel and Manu write, “It is a place of solidarity, a space of support for struggles and a space used by many groups—gardening, choir, but also anti-fascists, queer organisations. On three occasions, its facade was daubed with neo-Nazi slogans. There have been several attempts to break in. 

“One evening in November, three individuals broke down the door of the premises with an iron bar and physically attacked the five people present. The action shocked people and led to significant media coverage. With a few people active at La Serre and in the local anti-fascist collective, we wanted to transform fear and anger into fuel for action.

“We contacted organisations who wanted to fight against the far right—unions, feminist collectives, queer collectives, ecologists, anti-fascists. The violent attacks had made the fascist danger palpable and promoted the idea of broad unity of action to counter it. Most of the organisations contacted to initiate this front accepted. 

“We found ourselves with around 20 people for a very encouraging first organising meeting. Our objectives were:

Regain strength, react collectively.
Make sure anti-fascism is no longer the exclusive mission of antifa collectives but is carried widely. Concretely, our appeal text did not set anti-capitalism as a condition for involvement but still insisted on the responsibility of social destruction policies in the progress of the extreme right. 

“In terms of organisations, we accepted everything that was to the left of Macron without wasting our time with people who prepare the ground for the fascists. 

Make the fascist danger known and make the link between the hooded far right and the far right in suits
Redemonise the RN to prevent it from expanding its social base.
Relegitimise the anti-fascist struggle.

“More than 100 people came to our first public meeting.”

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