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‘Confront Nazis on streets every day’

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'The start of a movement of resistance'
Issue 1797

SHOCK AT the election result in France has been quickly matched by a huge explosion of anger on the streets. The wave of demonstrations, hardly reported in British newspapers, shows how the Nazi Le Pen can be crushed. Established politicians were merely telling people to vote for the right wing Chirac.

But hundreds of thousands of people know that much more is needed. Within hours of the result on Sunday night tens of thousands of people spontaneously took to the streets. On Monday morning thousands of school and college students walked out of classes in towns across the country. In some towns the students staged sit-down protests in the streets.

On Monday evening over 100,000 people marched in militant anti-Nazi protests in dozens of towns and cities across France. As well as young people, older workers and trade unionists joined the protests. The Agence France Press agency reported, ‘The day began with spontaneous marches by high school and college students who demonstrated to cries of ‘Le Pen, you’re fucked! The youth are in the streets!’ and to ‘N for Nazi! F for Facsist! Smash the National Front!”

Others chanted ‘No pasaran’ (‘They shall not pass’), echoing the anti-fascist slogan made famous in the Spanish Civil War. In Paris over 10,000 people marched.

Olivier Besancenot was the presidential candidate of the LCR revolutionary socialist organisation who won over one million votes on Sunday. He and his comrades were at the heart of Monday’s protests. ‘Since this morning in hundreds of schools and colleges, there have been strikes, mass meetings and spontaneous anti National Front demonstrations,’ he explained.

‘Today marks the start of a movement of social resistance.’ Fabrice, a student on the Paris march, said, ‘After you heard the result you wanted to cry. But then you felt you had to do something about what had happened.’ In Tours local papers described ‘the biggest demonstration in the town since May 1968’.

Over 12,000 angry people, overwhelmingly young, protested against Le Pen. Among them was José Bové, the peasant who is a leading figure in the anti- capitalist movement. ‘We must say no to Le Pen in the streets every day,’ he urged protesters.

Over 100,000 join in protests

THERE WERE major protests in scores of towns in France on Monday, the day after the election. The police figures are almost certainly an underestimate, but they suggest that well over 100,000 were on the streets in all. Over 10,000 protested against Le Pen in Strasbourg, Nancy, Rouen and Lille. Over 6,000 marched in Marseilles, more than 5,000 in Poitiers, Besancon, Nantes, Dijon and Clermont Ferrand.

Over 4,000 demonstrated in Lyon, Caen and Rennes, 3,500 in Toulouse, and 3,000 in each of Amiens, St Etienne, Angers, La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Montpellier.

And there were protests over 1,000-strong in dozens of smaller towns from Carpentras in the south to Bethune in the north. Young people were at the forefront of the protests everywhere, as were groups such as the anti-Nazi Ras L’Front. In many areas the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Greens and trade unions also backed the protests. In towns such as Bethune and Clermont Ferrand, local Socialist Party mayors marched and backed the protests.

In Paris the demo was backed by the Communist Party and Greens, as well as the important Sud and CGT unions. Uniting all these forces in a militant mass movement on the streets is the key to beating Le Pen.

‘We’re all children of immigrants’

IN PARIS up to 30,000 people poured onto the streets in a spontaneous eruption of anger on Sunday night as the election results were being announced. People converged in different parts of the city centre and marched later into the night.

‘First, second, third generation-we are all the children of immigrants’ was one popular chant. Similar protests erupted across the country. Some 10,000 demonstrated in Toulouse, 4,000 in Rennes, 3,000 in Nantes, 2,000 in Poitiers and over 1,000 in Grenoble.

Who is Le Pen?

He wants to be Hitler

JEAN-MARIE Le Pen is more than a nasty right wing politician with some racist policies. He is a Nazi who wants to emulate Adolf Hitler. In 1987 Le Pen said the Holocaust was ‘a detail of history’. He has a conviction for producing and selling records of songs of Hitler’s Waffen SS.

No one should be fooled by his party’s attempts to appear respectable in recent years. Just a few weeks ago leading National Front members in the east of France were videoed at a meeting singing Nazi songs and making jokes about the gas chambers.

He feeds off despair

LE PEN’S National Front first emerged as a serious threat in France in the 1980s. He fed off disillusionment with the governments of the Socialist Party’s François Mitterrand.

In the 1990s the National Front won control of several local councils, and has had MPs and Euro MPs elected.

A huge wave of protests against the National Front in 1997 hit the Nazis hard. The National Frount split into rival factions as a result of the growing opposition, and was left a much weaker force. But it was not destroyed, and now hopes to seize the chance to rebuild.

He lies to win votes

LE PEN does not openly proclaim his Nazism. To win votes he, like the Nazi British National Party in Britain, tries to pretend he cares about the issues that matter to ordinary people. So in the election campaign in France Le Pen talked of the unemployment, rotten housing and insecurity that people face.

He did talk of race and immigration, but less so than he often has in the past. Le Pen made a big issue of the fear of crime. He was helped by Chirac and Jospin, who both made this a key issue. The National Front leader even joked that the two were helping in the ‘Le-Pen-isation’ of the election campaign.

Hitler hid the true nature of his Nazi party in exactly the same way as he sought to build up support.

Unity in action

PROTESTS against Le Pen were growing as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday. The Unef national students’ union had called for a major anti-Nazi mobilisation for this Saturday, with a march in Paris as well as other major cities. Other groups were lining up to back that call.

The powerful CGT trade union has also called for next week’s traditional 1 May march to be a ‘massive and united’ protest against Le Pen. Le Pen is trying to usurp May Day. Each year he holds a parade on the day in Paris.

After Sunday’s vote Le Pen’s key organiser Bruno Gollnisch called for National Front supporters to come to Paris on 1 May and join Le Pen’s parade. It is vital that the left, trade unions and other workers’ organisations come together and ensure a much more massive anti-Nazi mobilisation on 1 May. In the past the workers’ march has taken place later in the day and in a different part of Paris from where Le Pen stages his rally.

The best way to crush Le Pen would be for anti-Nazis to say that he will not march in Paris on May Day, and to sweep his Nazis off the streets.

School students waste no time

SCHOOL AND other students across France have taken the initiative to organise protests against the Nazis. In Orleans school students marched from school to school and pulled out 1,000 people behind a banner reading ‘Fuck Le Pen’.

In Strasbourg school students walked out and marched behind a banner reading ‘Mussolini 1922, Hitler 1933, Le Pen never!’ By the end of the day over 10,000 people were on the streets of a city where Le Pen scored one of his best votes.

In Lyon, on the first day back at college after the Easter break, students marched out of classes against Le Pen, their numbers growing from 1,500 to 4,000. As Nicolas, a 20 year old maths student in Lyon, said, ‘It is time to take to the streets.’

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