MASS PROTEST against the Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen is sweeping France. Every single day for over a week, hundreds of thousands of people, millions in all, have taken to the streets-and the movement is growing. Le Pen, the leader of the fascist National Front, got 17 percent of votes in the first round of the country's presidential election. He faces a run-off on Sunday against the French president, the Tory and crook Jacques Chirac.
Le Pen's vote was a terrible warning, though similar to what he won in the last election in 1995. He got into the run-off ballot because of a collapse in support for the government coalition led by France's Socialist Party, equivalent to Britain's Labour Party.
The collapse came from bitterness at what that government has done to people in its five years in office. Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday, as people were preparing for what looked set to be the biggest protest against Le Pen yet on Wednesday, May Day. On Saturday of last week I marched with 100,000 others through the streets of Paris. We heard later that provincial towns had had huge marches. In many towns, the TV reported, protests were the biggest for over 30 years, since the great revolt which shook France in 1968.
Even the police had to admit that 48 hours earlier, on Thursday, well over 300,000 people had been on the streets on some 253 marches. Then on Monday schools in the Paris region returned from their Easter break, and young students marched out of classes in their tens of thousands. Universities across the country have seen shutdowns and teach-ins against the Nazis.
Most people are likely to vote for Chirac on Sunday, though most are at pains to point out that they will do so as a vote against Le Pen, not because they support the Tory. The spirit of the marches is sharply left wing and goes way beyond what happens on Sunday's election run-off. 'We have to protest now and show we are the majority. We must crush Le Pen, and also fight Chirac after Sunday,' explained Anne Sophie, an 18 year old high school student on Saturday's march.
The protests have the same spirit as the anti-capitalist events seen around the world. 'We have to fight misery and poverty, challenge globalisation and change society if we want to deal with problems here in France. The political system, the whole system, has failed,' argued Nirine, a young worker on Saturday's Paris march.
There will be a report from the May Day march in Paris in next week's Socialist Worker.