Debate & Discussion: Paris, 1973 - how not to beat the fascists

Submitted by Anon on 22 October, 2003 - 5:41

It wasn't a good idea to reproduce without comment in Solidarity (3/35) the article by François Duval that appeared in Rouge on the occasion of the anniversary of the anti-fascist demonstration of 21 June 1973. This demonstration was organised to stop a meeting of New Order, the principal fascist group then active in France. The demo has to be seen in context as a trap set for the Ligue Communiste (LC) by the Minister of the Interior Raymond Marcellin.
Marcellin knew that the LC, the forerunner of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), would do everything to stop this meeting taking place, "everything" to be understood here in a military not a political sense. So Marcellin gave orders that certain of the CRS units who were protecting the fascists and their racist meeting be placed in a vulnerable position. All night, the demonstrators shepherded by the LC stewards controlled the street. The Molotov cocktails worked wonders: several dozen police were sent to hospital. The fascists' office was ransacked… but several days later, the LC was banned by a decision of the council of ministers.

What we need to criticise here is not the recourse to violence as such but the recourse to violence alone without mobilising the whole workers' movement against the fascist danger. In these years after 1968, the far left could mobilise between 10-20,000 armed demonstrators (armed with iron bars, pickaxe handles, paving stones, Molotov cocktails) for such an operation, but the problem was to mobilise 100,000-200,000 demonstrators including the unions and the whole workers' movement to guarantee a mass self-defence and not a militaristic and substitutionist operation.

Thirty years after, one of the lessons of this episode throws light on the place of fascists in the French political scene. After May 1968, fascist groups like New Order physically attacked far-left militants. But their role was only one of auxiliary to the police and to the governments of the right, to limit the influence of this far left, who had to confront the brutalities of the CRS, the fascist thugs and… the Stalinist thugs. Electorally, the derisory scores of New Order were very very far from what the scores of the Front National (FN) represent today.

Today with Le Pen the problem is quite similar. During the 1980s, Mitterrand used Le Pen and the FN to keep power using the game of triangular elections left-right-extreme right. In 2002, Chirac used Le Pen to win the second round of the Presidential elections. Thanks to Le Pen, and to the rallying of the left to his candidature, Chirac went from 19% in the first round to 82% in the second round.

The FN and Le Pen are potential dangers for all workers, immigrants, women and young people. Every success for the FN is a danger, a mortal threat to the workers' movement. But only the victory of the workers' movement against the neo-liberal politics of the bosses and of Chirac's government will guarantee the disappearance of this threat.

On the events of 21 June 1973 I refer you to the film by Romain Goupil, "Half a Life" (available on video), which is about the life of one of the people in charge of stewarding for the LC, Michel Récanati, and to the book by Gérard Filoche "May '68-May '98, unfinished history" which gives a version of the facts by one of the leaders of the LC opposed to this ultra-leftist orientation.

An irony of history, among the then leaders of the LC, Henri Weber (in the majority on the Political Committee) and Gérard Filoche (in the minority on the Political Committee) are today in the Socialist Party (in different currents: Weber is a partisan of Fabius, the French version of Blair, and Filoche is in the SP "left"!).

Olivier Delbeke, Val-de-Marne, France

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