Le Pen’s score in the first round of the presidential elections was an event of historic and international proportions. For the first time, the Front National is posing a threat to French ‘democracy’.
Under the slogan of ‘shame’, a huge anti-Le Pen campaign was unleashed not only throughout France, but internationally as well. Since the results were announced there have been enormous demonstrations, consisting especially of young people, school and college students, determined to ‘bar the way to fascism’. All the forces of the left - the Communist and Socialist parties, anti-racist groups, trade unions etc have been actively organising the protests: on May Day they brought a million people onto the streets. Meanwhile an even broader political spectrum has been calling on everyone to use their vote in the second round to vote for Chirac in order to keep out Le Pen. The slogan of the young demonstrators has been ‘vote for the crook, not the fascist’.
In a future issue of this paper we will look at some of the factors which led to this unexpected result. But even if Le Pen’s victory shows the difficulties the French bourgeoisie has in controlling its own electoral process, the ruling class has certainly succeeded in using this event to mount a new attack on working class consciousness. It has, in short, put all its energies into trying to convince us that democracy is our most precious gift, and that we have no choice but to mobilise massively to defend it.
All the factions of the bourgeoisie are trying to line up the workers behind the false alternative of democracy or fascism. They are trying to build a holy national union against Le Pen, and so prevent the working class from fighting for its own interests.
As soon as the result was announced, all the pundits were telling us that the FN owes its success in large part to the ‘abstentionists’. They are seeking to put the burden of ‘shame’ on the workers who have shown their disgust at the electoral process and the bourgeois parties who take part in it by staying away from the polling booths. These ‘bad citizens’ have put democracy in danger. The moral? We have to make up for this by going en masse to the polling booths in the second round, not to defend our interests as an exploited class, but to defend capitalist democracy, which is portrayed as a ‘lesser evil’ A very similar message, even if in a lower key, is being put across in Britain with reference to the local elections and the danger of the BNP (see ‘Capitalist democracy uses the fascist bugbear’, p.2).
But the cynicism of bourgeois propaganda doesn’t stop there. The ruling class and its media have also taken advantage of the rise of the FN in towns which have for years been dominated by the CP to unleash a campaign aimed at demoralising the workers, at making them feel guilty and at setting them against each other. Proof of this are the headlines of Le Monde on 25 April: “The workers who voted for Le Pen”, “The lost children of the working class”. By presenting the workers as ‘fachos’, reactionary xenophobes, bourgeois propaganda is trying to discredit the proletariat and sow the illusion that the future of society does not lie in the class struggle of the exploited against their exploiters but in the united front of the ‘people of Republican France’ against the fascist danger.
The working class must not be lured into this trap! It must reject the false alternative between fascism and democracy. It must never forget the lessons of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century: it was thanks to the mobilisation of tens of millions of workers behind the banners of anti-fascism in the 1930s that the parties of the left were able to dragoon the working class into the second imperialist world war. It was in the name of defending democracy against fascism that millions of workers laid down their lives for a cause which was not their own.
Today the historic situation is radically different. The working class has not suffered a massive defeat and is not ready to sacrifice itself for the national flag. But if the current threat is not that it will be drawn into another world war in the name of anti-fascism, there is still a considerable danger in the anti-fascist campaigns � the danger that these campaigns will serve to destroy its class identity and politically dissolve it into an inter-classist movement of ‘citizens’. And that could only prevent it from re-discovering its own revolutionary perspective: the destruction of the bourgeois state, whether ‘democratic’ or ‘totalitarian’.
Workers must never lose sight of the fact that democracy and fascism are two sides of the same coin, the two faces of the implacable dictatorship of capital. It is decadent capitalism which gave birth to fascism. It was the respectable democratic Weimar Republic which, thanks to the treason of social democracy, massacred the revolutionary workers after the first world war and paved the way for Nazism.
It is the same decaying capitalist system which is now creating the conditions for the rise of the FN and similar parties.
On the purely political level, it was Mitterand’s Socialist Party which quite deliberately provided the bases for the FN to develop as a party. It was the SP which originally brought in proportional representation and cynically used the danger of the FN to boost its own democratic credentials.
On a deeper level, however, it is the accelerating decomposition of this society which provides the nutrients for the growth of Le Pen and his kind: crime, mindless violence, terrorism, racism. It is the collapse of whole swathes of the capitalist peripheries under the blows of crisis and war that pushes millions of impoverished human beings to seek shelter in the central countries, creating a refugee problem which the system can only respond to with repression and xenophobic campaigns (which are by no means limited to the ‘fascist’ parties).
The only way out of the nightmare being produced by this dying order is the struggle of the world working class for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a new society, a society without exploitation, without national frontiers, without economic crisis and war. A true human community where people will no longer have any need to live in fear of neighbours or strangers. A society based not on the hunt for profit, but on the satisfaction of human needs. Only such a society can free humanity once and for all from all the scars of capitalist barbarism � of which the ideology of the far right is only one expression among many.
And it is certainly not in the polling booths that the working class can affirm its own perspective. Contrary to the excuses of counterfeit ‘revolutionaries’ like the Socialist Alliance or Lutte Ouvriere in France, the working class cannot give any expression to its needs and goals on the electoral terrain.
The only way to fight the extreme right and its national-capitalist programme is to develop the struggle against the capitalist system, against bourgeois democracy, against all the governments, whether of right or left. All of them have one programme to offer us: more exploitation, more unemployment, more barbarism.
Against all the lying campaigns of the bourgeoisie, the working class, which has no choice but to fight for its own interests and with its own methods, is not a reactionary class. On the contrary it is the only revolutionary class in this society, the only force that can take humanity out of the dead-end into which capitalism has led it. The historic alternative is not between fascism and democracy, but between the proletarian revolution and the destruction of the human species.
The democratic game is just a cover for the dictatorship of capital. This is why we do not call on workers to mobilise for Chirac or other crooks; nor do we encourage a purely apathetic attitude to elections. Our slogan is: Workers don’t vote, fight!