By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2913

French election: fascists lose out in polls, but struggle must continue

Millions are relieved that the fascist RN didn’t top the poll, but it still doubled its number of seats
Issue 2913
a crowd shot of people cheering as they hear the exit poll result in the French election

Cheers as people in Paris hear the exit poll results in the French election

People in France who had gathered anxiously to hear the general election results reacted with relief and joy on Sunday evening.

The exit polls banished the fear that the fascist National Rally (RN) party might have a majority in parliament and its leader Jordan Bardella would be prime minister.

Instead, the exit polls showed the New Popular Front (NPF) bloc would win the most seats. The NPF brings together Jean Luc Melenchon’s LFI party, the Greens, the Communist Party and the Labour-type Socialist Party.

The polls predicted MPs associated with neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron would have the second largest bloc of seats. And the fascists, led by Marine Le Pen and Bardella, would be third.

The exit polls were right. When all the official counts ended, the NFP had won 180 seats, followed by the Macronites on 168. Le Pen’s party and its allies were pushed into third place with 143 seats. However, this was a significant increase on the 88 MPs it had in the previous assembly.

The mainstream conservative Les Republicains grabbed 60 seats.

Such results would be a blow to the RN which sniffed the chance to take office and harden still further the already authoritarian state apparatus. They would have made life hell for Muslims, migrants and all black people.

No wonder there were celebrations as the polls appeared. They showed that most people didn’t want the RN to run society. And the most potent factor in holding back the fascists was the 800,000 who took to the streets last month and then campaigned against them.

Such efforts also boosted the turnout to 67 percent compared to 46 percent for the parliamentary elections in 2022 and 43 percent in 2017.

The Financial Times newspaper reported. “There were gasps of horror and tears at the RN electoral party as the first results estimates came in. A stunned silence replaced the flag-waving and chants that came after last week’s first round.

“The champagne stand has turned into commiserations central for supporters of the RN in Paris.”

But these votes won’t stop fascist growth. This is a record number of MPs for the RN. And, by withdrawing its candidates to allow Macron’s supporters to win many seats, the NPF dismantled any opportunity to implement genuine left policies.

The NPF encouraged votes for appalling Macronites. They included interior minister Gerald Darmanin—architect of racist repression—and former prime minister Elisabeth Borne—pusher of the attacks on pensions. 

Darmanin and Borne won, but Philippe Poutou from the revolutionary NPA party that had joined the NPF, lost.

Darmanin immediately called for a national government without radicals. “Today, no one can say they have won these legislative elections. And especially not Mr Melenchon who showed a lot of pretension a few moments ago on television,” he said.

“There is a desire on the part of the voters for change. I note that the Republican right remains very strong. We should perhaps open up to this Republican right a little more.”

Darmanin’s “Republican” cops used tear gas and baton charges to attack thousands of people celebrating the defeat of the RN in Paris late on Sunday.

The NPF created another version of the “Republican Front” of mainstream parties that has proved so ineffective (see below).

The results are likely to see chaotic dealing to find a prime minister. At most there could be a soft left prime minister, but only one who  Macron and his accomplices accept. Within the NPF, the thoroughly mainstream Socialist Party won 59 seats, not far behind the LFI’s 74. The Greens took 28 seats and the Communists, nine.

The NPF has acted as an oxygen tent to resuscitate the PS which seemed dead and buried.

But it is precisely the politics of the Socialist Party and its supporters that have cleared the path for the relentless rise of the fascists.

And a government implementing pro-business policies will enable the fascists to say they stand up for ordinary people against the united elites. That’s why Le Pen said on Sunday that the RN’s victory had only been “delayed”. “The tide is rising. It did not rise high enough this time but it is continuing to rise,” she said.

For now the fascists are thwarted. But a change of strategy is needed on the left.

The Marche des Solidarites anti-racist group was right to say “It is in our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, in the streets that we are strongest, in our solidarity and our unity”. 

It’s pressing ahead with a mass demonstration against racism and colonialism next Sunday, Bastille Day.

Victory for Kanaky candidate 

For months people have been protesting, striking and rioting in France’s colonial possession of Kanaky (New Caledonia) in the Pacific.

In the elections this time a pro-independence Indigenous Kanak candidate won a seat in France’s parliament, defeating a pro-French candidate in the second round of voting.

Emmanuel Tjibaou is the first pro-independence candidate to win a seat in the National Assembly since 1986.

What’s behind the fascists’ rise? 

Four main factors have nourished the rise of the fascists in France. These are still the pressing issues.

  • The mainstream parties of the left and right in government responded to the fascists’ racism by pushing through racist, migrant and Islamophobic laws. Far from choking off the fascists’ rise, it encouraged them and seemed to legitimise their policies. 
  • The mainstream left argued the need to support right wing and neoliberal candidates against the fascists. Far from being a wall against fascism, the austerity policies that followed built support for the fascists.
  • The left and the union leaders did not create an effective united front against fascism when the FN was small. And many also refused to call the FN fascist.    
  • The absence of a large enough combative left did not create an alternative focus for workers and small business owners who are bitterly angry over hardship and inequality. As a result some of that anger drained off to the fascists.

A short history of the fascists in France 

1972: Jean-Marie Le Pen—former soldier and torturer of Algerian anti-colonial resistance fighters—founds the fascist Front National (National Front, FN). Veterans of the war in Algeria and Nazi World War II collaborators join Le Pen.

1986: The FN wins its first seats in the National Assembly, including Le Pen himself.

1987: Le Pen describes the Holocaust as a “mere detail of history”.

1988: Le Pen grabs 14.4 percent of votes in the presidential election. On top of its usual racist, anti-migrant, antisemitic and homophobic attacks, the FN targets Islam and Muslim immigrants.

2002: Le Pen runs for president and wins 17 percent of votes, enough to put him into a second-round run-off against right winger Jacques Chirac. Politicians from the right and left came together to support Chirac saying this would be an effective barrier against the rise of fascism. Chirac wins, the fascists grow.

2012: Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie, runs for president and takes 18 percent of the vote.

2014: The FN wins control of 11 councils and also first place in European Parliament elections with 25 percent of the vote

2017: Two years after expelling her father from the party, Marine Le Pen runs for the presidency again. She wins 21 percent in the first round but loses to Emmanuel Macron in the second round. Much of the left and right unite to back Macron saying he will be a barrier to fascist growth. Macron wins, the fascists grow.

2022: Marine Le Pen, who has changed the party name to Rassemblement National (National Rally), rises to 23.2 percent in the first round of the presidential election. Much of the left and right unite to back Macron saying he will be a barrier to fascist growth. Macron wins, the fascists grow.

2022: The RN wins 89 seats in parliament, a huge breakthrough.

2024: In the European elections the RN headed by Jordan Bardella is first on 31.4 percent. Macron calls a snap general election. He hopes to split the left and emerge as the “sensible” choice. But in the first round of the elections on 30 June the RN and its allies win 33 percent of the vote. They threaten to win a majority that would make Bardella prime minister.

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