Tens of thousands of people marched across France on Saturday against racism, the far right and the government's assaults on liberties.
Organisers said 140 demonstrations took place totalling 150,000 protesters. In Paris, they said, 70,000 took to the streets.
Yet the ministry of the interior claims there were 37,000 in all with just 9,000 in the capital.
In an important development, the protests were called by all the major union federations and all the parties of the left. As well as many anti-racist, environmental and LGBT+ groups.
A rise in support for the fascist Marine Le Pen, and president Emmanuel Macron’s government moving further right, are giving confidence to racists and fascists in France.
Martine, a teacher, told Socialist Worker, “It was good to be on the streets of Paris openly opposing the fascists. There is usually a fear about doing that.
“There were quite a lot of trade unionists and political groups. But we need to be bigger. It cannot be a single event.”
The statement launching the march said, “For months now, we have observed an alarming political and social climate.
“It’s no longer thought off-limits to ally with the extreme right or to take up its ideas. Racist and sexist words and acts in the workplace and in life are spreading.
“Attacks on social rights and freedoms are on the rise.
“Several freedom-killing laws point towards an authoritarian society of surveillance and control. Some of these laws stigmatize part of the population because of their religion, others target them because of their militant activity.”
Le Pen is neck and neck with Macron in polls for next year’s presidential election. Both are on 25-30 percent.
Macron is deeply unpopular with wide sections of people for his attacks on workers’ living standards, his arrogance and his handling of Covid-19 that put profits before lives.
The left has not, in general, harnessed this feeling. So Le Pen’s RN party grabs big portions of it—making it a real danger.
The government’s disastrous response is to adapt to the fascists. It has reeled out a string of brutal Islamophobic and anti-protest laws.
It has closed down the CCIF Muslim rights group, pushed through a separatism law that targets Muslims, wants to strengthen police powers and has connived with Le Pen’s racism.
The laws are so harsh that the Council of State, a very establishment body, last week said they had gone too far. It sent back measures to allow police “traps”—kettling—and to limit journalists’ right to report.
However, it only demanded more precise formulations for such powers.
Rather than diluting Le Pen’s appeal, the government’s moves suggest she is right. And Le Pen then demands even harsher measures.
It’s right to denounce and to fight Le Pen, state racism and the laws that destroy liberties.
Macron will never be a shield against fascism.
But there also needs to be a movement specifically targeting Le Pen that points to the dangers that the RN presents.
If it wins next year it would go beyond what Macron represents. It could encourage far right street movements against Muslims, migrants, black people and the left.
An anti-fascist united front is urgent.