Thousands of anti-racists took the streets of Marseille and many other cities in France earlier this month

The snap general election results from France demand a massive anti-racist response. And they are a terrible warning to the whole world of how the fascists can prosper at a time of crisis.

According to exit polls, the fascist Rassemblement National (National Rally, RN) grabbed 34 percent of the vote, the left wing New Popular Front alliance (NPF) won 28 percent while neoliberal president Emmnauel Macron’s coalition was humbled with just 20 percent.

These numbers won’t translate directly into the number of MPs. That will depend on the second round run-off vote next Sunday (see below).

But if this vote is repeated next Sunday then it’s possible that the RN’s Jordan Bardella could be prime minister.

This is a huge threat to the whole working class. It is the result of many years of mainstream Tory and Labour-type parties boosting racism and Islamophobia and squeezing workers for profit.

Even with the RN at the gates of political office, Macron and his allies have spent the last two weeks attacking the left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon rather than the fascists. Former Macron prime minister Edouard Phillipe said after the results that he would back only the most right wing parts of the left alliance in the next round.

There is no time to waste. It is trivialising the situation to say that the vote for the RN is solely a misguided reaction to social suffering and the lack of positive policies from other political forces. That’s part of the truth, but it is much more than that.

The fascists take the fury and emptiness that people feel and wrap it around and inside an agenda of racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.

If Bardella becomes prime minister it would not be like the Nazis coming to power in Germany in 1933. He does not yet have the street forces or the strength to destroy the left and the unions or democracy.

But it will be a qualitative shift. There will be laws to make the 3.5 million people with dual nationality into reviled and second-class citizens. There will be free rein for the police to be even more brutal towards Muslims, strikers, protesters, black and brown young people and anti-racists.

There will be a wave of “France for the French” sentiment. All but the most “loyal” Muslims will be suspects.

The RN will place its people at every level of the state, from the top cops to the local administration in health and education and councils.

And the fascist gangs who already have carried out attacks in Lyon, Montpelier and Paris will feel a new confidence that they have support from above. They will grow.

It doesn’t have to be like that. There are immense resources for anti-racists to draw on. On the weekend of 15 and 16 June around 800,000 took to the streets against the RN.

Mobilising those people, and the many more horrified by the latest RN vote, is crucial.

And it must involve fighting against racism, not just the RN’s pro-corporate policies.

The most militant union federation the CGT, rightly pointed out this week that the RN “voted against the increase in the minimum wage, against a rent freeze, against the taxation of dividends. It defends the bosses, not the workers. Its social programme is melting like snow in the sun.”

But it hardly mentions racism at all. There’s just one sub-clause about racism in a statement of nearly 1,000 words.

Unless you explode the myths about migrants and Muslims and refugees you leave the RN with its key ammunition. 

The Autonomie de Classe (A2C) revolutionary socialist group says, “Let’s build anti-fascist zones everywhere in our places of life, study or work. Let’s demonstrate against their meetings and campaign against their campaign.

“Let’s put anti-racism at the heart of the anti-fascist struggle.”

A2C calls to put the movements for Palestine and against racism, over women’s rights, climate change and transphobia centre stage—not relegate them behind the pressure for unity around the NPF.

Most anti-racists will back the NPF in the second round. The NPF brings together Melenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed, LFI), the Labour-type Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Greens.

One LFI activist told Socialist Worker. “We need to fight tooth and nail to mobilise as many people who abstained as possible ahead of the second round. I hate the RN but the size of the NPF vote is a real achievement.”.

Melenchon said the choice was now a majority for the NPF or a disastrous and divisive RN victory.

But the NPF has its own weaknesses. It includes some of the same figures—such as Francois Hollande—who cleared the path for the RN by legitimising racism and Islamophobia and attacking the working class.

As president from 2012 to 2017, Hollande pushed through a two-year state of emergency that gave the police brutally repressive powers. In 2016 he passed—by decree—a major law attacking workers’ and trade union rights. He refused to back down despite massive strikes and demonstrations.

He backed the Cazeneuve law in 2017 that gave the police a licence to kill. He repressed the demonstrations for Palestine in 2014.

You can’t build an alternative to the RN around such people, yet the NPF makes such concessions.

Whatever happens next Sunday turmoil is coming. Bardella could be prime minister. Or if no party has a majority, Macron might appoint a “technocrat”—European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde has been mentioned in some reports. The outrageous lack of democracy and the implementation of austerity will simply build the fascists.

There are even suggestions Macron might resort to Article 16 of the constitution which gives the president “exceptional powers” in a time of acute crisis. He could rule without parliament.

Whatever manoeuvres there are at the top, the mobilisation at the base will be the decisive issue to check the fascists and begin to hurl them back.

Last Saturday’s 70,000-strong demonstration in Essen, Germany, at the conference of the far right AFD, is a good sign of the potential for a fightback.

A final thought. Imagine next January at a world leaders’ summit. It’s possible that on to the stage could come US president Donald Trump, French prime minister Jordan Bardella, Italian fascist prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Argentinian far right president Javier Milei and several others from the same pigsty.

There must be an urgent response. We need specific anti-racist agitation and a socialist alternative that organises workers’ anger against the bosses and capitalism.

How the elections in France work

There will be a second round of voting next Sunday, 7 July. To be elected in the first round, a candidate had to win at least 50 percent of the votes cast—with a turnout of at least 25 percent of the registered voters. There will be very few of those, so in the large majority of the 577 constituencies there will be a second round.

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.

In the second round the candidate with the highest vote wins, with no other restrictions.

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