By Jamie Rankin
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Rather the Gangster Than the Fascist?

This article is over 19 years, 6 months old
I don't agree with Chris Harman (June SR) that the French left should not have voted for Chirac to keep Le Pen out of power.
Issue 265

People on the streets don’t get counted towards a vote. History does not repeat itself, although there may be echoes from a similar period in the past. We most certainly don’t want our hands to be tied by what other generations decided. Implicit in Chris’s argument is that if Hindenburg, when president of Germany, could make Hitler prime minister, then Chirac in his turn could make Le Pen prime minister.

This is a dubious and unlikely scenario, as the ‘Brownshirts’ are not in the ascendancy, the French don’t take their salaries home in wheelbarrows, and France isn’t paying off war reparations to anyone. We have fought long and hard to get the vote–should this tiny bit of leverage granted to us be thrown away so that the ‘right’ can get the credit for blocking Le Pen from power, and the ‘left’ is seen to sit on its hands?

Chris is being wise after the event in suggesting that the right wing had Le Pen beaten two to one. The intention the ‘left’ had in voting for Chirac was to throw the largest bucket of cold water on the Front National possible. They went into the polling booths backwards holding their noses, saying, ‘Rather the gangster than the fascist’, making it quite clear they were not giving him a mandate.

Everyone knew that voting for Chirac was just an act of expediency, in effect just to buy time to prepare a response to the far right. Crucially, I hope the SWP would realise in similar circumstances that Lutte Ouvrière made a huge mistake in arguing for not voting for Chirac, because it cut them off from the mass of the workers, making them look even more of a sect than they already are.

Jamie Rankin

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