Socialist Worker

France: 'When the left retreats, reaction advances'

Denis Godard looks at how making concessions to right wing arguments in France has only helped to boost them

Issue No. 2351

The conservative right and the fascists have mobilised strongly against same-sex marriage in France recently. 

On several occasions they have mobilised hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.

This has given more legitimacy to homophobes. 

Verbal attacks have opened the way to physical attacks in the streets and at LGBT venues. 

Nazi Front National leader Marine Le Pen announced that in the last few months an average of 40 people have joined the party each day. 

She claims that the Front National membership is now 65,000. 

Whatever the reality of these figures, the trend is undeniable.

None of this is inevitable. In a period of crisis and instability, the key issue is who takes the initiative.

The background is a social crisis—unemployment has reached record highs—and a political crisis.

The budget minister was recently fired for evading taxes, then lying to cover it up.

Socialist Party president Francois Hollande was elected a year ago and the Socialist Party controls the parliament. 

The party came to office on the basis of opposing the right wing. 

But the SP’s rule has been disastrous and continued with the policies of the right. 

The SP is introducing a law that gives more power to bosses, allowing more “flexibility”.

It has stigmatised the Roma and sought to deport undocumented migrants—the sans papiers. 

This aids the Nazis.

The SP has abandoned one of the rare promises made by Hollande—that of giving the right to vote to foreign nationals for the next local elections. 

It intends to bring in a law which will prohibit the wearing of the headscarf in even more workplaces. 

Not only will this increase bosses’ power to sack their workers, it will also open a new line of attack for racists.

The radical left has been very slow to move. 

The Front de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon won nearly four million votes a year ago.

But it has been preoccupied with an internal fight. 

Melenchon and his allies refused to support alliances with the SP for the 2014 municipal elections. 

But the Communist Party has traditionally made such deals.

Our mobilisation has been weak.

But we are still able to mobilise larger numbers than the right—if we try. 

A protest in support of LGBT equality on 21 April organised in just a few days by Act Up-Paris, saw 10,000 people take to the streets. 

It was an important step in wresting the initiative from the homophobes and the fascists. 

Despite its limits, the law on equal marriage has been passed. And the reactionaries did not win over most of society.

In the face of the multiplying attacks on our welfare state, resistance does exist, but it is fragmented. 

On May Day this week dozens of workers’ marches were planned across France. 

And on Sunday the Front de Gauche was to hold a major demonstration.

On these there needs to be an argument that the radical left must link workplace disputes with political fights against homophobia and racism. 

Finally, we must rediscover the real anti-fascist tradition.

There will be no victories for our side if we allow our class to be split by poisonous prejudices.

Denis Godard is a revolutionary socialist living in France. Translation by Ben Windsor


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 30 Apr 2013, 16:34 BST
Issue No. 2351
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.