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Massive Anti-Fascist Protests in France
ACCORDING TO the police about 1.3 million French people demonstrated on May Day against Le Pen and the Front National.
The real figure was a lot higher, which makes the protests the biggest in decades. Some commentators were talking about the biggest demonstrations since May 1968 or even since the liberation of France by allied troops in 1944.
Geert Cool, LSP/MAS Belgium.
Belgian CWI members (Committee for a Workers' International - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) went to Amiens to assist the comrades of Gauche Révolutionnaire (GR - French CWI section) during the local May Day demonstration.
Around 7,000 people were on the streets. An official of the CGT (Communist Party-led trade union federation) said that last year only 200 demonstrated!
GR also had a lively contingent, largely made up of young people and immigrants on the 13,000 strong May Day march in Rouen.
Massive turnout in Paris
ON THE afternoon of May Day it seemed as if Paris was one big demonstration in opposition to Le Pen. This was much different to the morning demonstration by Le Pen supporters.
The Front National announced it would mobilise 100,000 to commemorate Joan of Arc (who the FN symbolically link to their fight to expel 'foreigners' ie immigrants, from France). However, according to the police, there were only 10,000 Le Pen supporters.
Traditionally, many right-wing skinheads from all over Europe attend, including the neo-Nazi group, "Nation", from Brussels. As the people in the streets showed their opposition to the march the thuggish stewards of the FN had to protect these groups of skinheads.
The demo in the afternoon was a completely different picture. A lot of families showed up and there was a strong feeling of solidarity in opposition to Le Pen. For the first time in years all the main trade unions, the PCF (Communist Party), the youth organisation of the PS (the social-democratic Socialist Party), and the radical Left organisations, were united in one demonstration.
People had to wait several hours to be able to demonstrate. We arrived with four buses from Amiens at 3pm, when the demo was starting. When we got to the Place de la République it was filled with people and nobody could move. The demonstrators were mainly unorganised people who brought along homemade placards or banners. Everyone was waiting patiently, some until 6.30pm, to be able to demonstrate.
IN THE past few days there have been continuous protests, which were mainly carried out by youth. According to a report in Libération, 66% of those between 18 and 24 years old, say they have got more involved in politics since 21 April (first round of the presidential elections).
In most towns, the school students and students spontaneously took to the streets. On May Day, the trade unions tried to make a closer link between the mainly unorganised youth and the trade unions and political activists. From the massive youth protests a real strong opposition can be built.
The radical Left, which had a very good result in the first round of the presidential elections (the 'Trotskyist' candidates got nearly 10.5%), is intervening in the movement but they do not seem to say how the movement can be built in the coming days and weeks. Yet continued protests in the run-up to the June parliamentary elections, combined with a united radical Left list, could have a huge political impact.
Continuing the protests
GAUCHE RÉVOLUTIONNAIRE intervened in the demonstrations, calling for the struggle to continue after 5 May, as this is the only way to really fight Le Pen and Chirac's neo-liberal ie capitalist, politics.
However, the retreat of Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR) towards the position of PS and PCF by calling for a vote for Chirac ("vote against Le Pen") and the refusal of Lutte Ouvrière (LO) to discuss a proposal by the LCR to have joint lists in June (the LO claims the letter of the LCR on this issue must have got lost in the post!) show that these so-called 'Trotskyist' organisations do not offer a way forward in the present situation.
We call for a strong united anti-capitalist list, as a first step to win over to a socialist programme those who are in opposition to the capitalist politicians, including those downtrodden workers who mistakenly voted for the FN. This could offer a political instrument for the developing youth movement and assure that the fight against capitalist reaction will not stop after 5 May.
In the struggle against Le Pen workers and youth can only rely on their own strength, and as the demonstrations on May Day showed, there is huge potential power in the actions of the workers and youth. This can lay the basis to really beat Le Pen and Chirac.
As many young people chanted on the demonstrations: "Le Pen, t'es perdu, la jeunesse est dans la rue"! ("Le Pen, you're doomed, the youth are in the streets")
In The Socialist 10 May 2002: