The fascist Front National (FN) topped the polls in the first round of French regional elections last Sunday.
The FN is set to contest the second round in all
13 regions. It is in the lead in six of them. Even winning one would be an historic first.
FN leader Marine Le Pen in the north won almost as many votes as the main parties’ candidates put together.
So did her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen in the south east.
Nationally the party won 27.7 percent on a turnout of 50 percent, meaning around one in seven eligible voters voted for a fascist.
With a score of 9.7 percent in Paris, the FN made inroads into urban constituencies it previously found hardest to crack. And it consolidated its grip on its heartlands.
France’s regions have limited powers.
But Marechal-Le Pen aims to eliminate funding for family planning clinics and LGBT organisations.
Le Pen would slash funding for organisations that support migrants in Calais and create a regional transport police force answerable to her.
More importantly, the FN now has a bigger platform to spread its hate. And it has more space to build up its activist core of hardened fascists into a movement.
During the campaign Le Pen called for “eradicating bacterial immigration” by refugees with “non-European diseases”. Marechal-Le Pen argued that Muslims “could not have the same status” as Catholics in a “culturally Christian” country.
Their racism will set the tone for the 2017 presidential election.
Mainstream politicians’ persecution of Muslims has legitimised the fascists.
Now their parties are scrambling to unite with each other to “block” the FN in the second round this Sunday.
More left wing parties are under pressure to back those to their right.
The ruling Labour-type Socialist Party (PS) has ordered its candidates to stand down in regions where the Tory coalition is second to the FN.
That means leaving the anti-fascist fight to former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republican Party.
Its general secretary Laurent Wauquiez called last month for putting 4,000, mostly Muslim, suspected extremists in internment camps.
Sarkozy has firmly ruled out standing down for the PS anywhere.
In several regions the left wing Green Party and Front de Gauche merged their slates with that of the PS. The PS’ ban on protests could see protesters jailed if they try to march against the fascists.
And prime minister Manuel Valls is trying to build support for a “fusion” slate of all democratic parties against the FN in 2017.
Backing the right to beat the far right is a dead end strategy.
It was tested when Le Pen’s father Jean Marie Le Pen reached the second round of 2002’s presidential election. Even the revolutionary left called for votes for Tory Jacques Chirac.
This boosted a corrupt and viciously racist politician. And it did nothing to build the kind of movement that could beat the FN.