The CGT union federation and other organisations have called for a national day of protests and strikes against the Front National (FN).
This action, planned for Wednesday 26 June, could be a turning point in the fight against fascism. It follows other major protests since the FN’s victory in the European elections last month, where it topped the poll with 25 percent of the vote.
Anti-fascists were set to rally across France this week, to mark a year since student Clement Meric was killed in Paris by members of a far right group.
And around 10,000 mainly young people joined marches on Thursday of last week. The demonstrations were called at short notice by a wide spectrum of youth organisations attached to parties of the left.
These range from the MJS youth wing of the ruling Labour-type Socialist Party (PS) to those of the Front de Gauche and the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA). They also include student unions and anti-fascist groups.
In Paris over 4,000 people marched, 1,500 in Toulouse, 1,000 in Lyon, 500 in Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille.
The protests rang out with slogans such as, “First, second or third generation—We are all the children of migrants” and “Le Pen, you are done for, the youth is in the street”.
Many were reminded of the mass demonstrations that erupted in April 2002. Then Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen got enough votes to go through to the second round of the presidential elections. He is the father of current FN leader Marine Le Pen.
The demonstrations also reminded people of the student protests against the government’s expulsion of foreign students last autumn.
These galvanised opposition to racism and fascism among students. And this helped put pressure on larger organisations, including those linked to the PS, to stand up to the FN.
Even though the FN managed to attract record votes, most people in France reject it and all it stands for.
The media have made much of the FN’s larger share of the vote among workers and young people. But these were the groups that abstained the most—taking this into account, they voted for the FN considerably less than other demographics.
Widely reported claims of growing FN support among trade union supporters were based on a small online poll which included only a tiny number of trade unionists.
Despite its relative success in shaking off its Nazi image, the FN remains a fascist party with holocaust deniers, admirers of Hitler and violent racists at its core.
As well as dragging mainstream parties further to the right, its electoral success has given confidence to various small fascist groups to carry out racist attacks and attacks on the left.
The real danger is that it can use its electoral successes to build a fascist movement that can take control of the streets.
The PS bears a lot of responsibility for allowing the FN to grow. It has made racist statements and pushed racist policies against Muslims, Roma people and asylum seekers. Just last week police expelled hundreds of immigrants from a camp near Calais.
The PS has faced a spectacular decline in popularity under current president Francois Hollande. But it still carries a lot of weight in the student and trade union movement.
These are forces that must be mobilised to block the FN.
A conference to coordinate local campaigns against the far right will take place in Paris at the end of this month.