Emmanuel Macron has beaten the fascist Marine Le Pen to take the French presidency. But Le Pen’s vote of 41.5 per cent was a significant increase on her total in the last run-off election.
As president for the past five years, Macron has provided no protection against the far right. Instead his policies have helped them grow.
His racist “separatism” law in 2021 forced dozens of mosques to close and shut down the Collective Against Islamophobia as well as several Muslim charities.
Macron’s attacks on pensions and workers’ living standards, his repression of the Yellow Vest movement and his backing for killer cops all helped Le Pen.
The fascist vote in elections has continually increased due to the failures of the mainstream parties.
From 15 per cent in the first round in 1995, it reached 18 per cent in 2012, 21 per cent in 2017 and 23 per cent this time. Combined with the vote of the even more virulently Islamophobic Eric Zemmour, the far right vote was 32 per cent.
The election result shows the deep and ongoing political crisis in France. What were until recently the two major parties on the right and the left have both collapsed.
The Republicans on the right received less than 5 per cent of the vote, while the Socialist Party, the equivalent of the Labor Party here, less than 2 per cent.
Left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon received 22 per cent of the vote, coming third overall and topping the poll in many major cities including Paris.
Racism and far right ideas have become shockingly mainstream.
Le Pen supported a complete ban on Muslims wearing the hijab in public, wanted to erode abortion rights, block criminal prosecutions against killer cops by giving them a “presumption of self-defence” and try to break trade union power.
She would also have unleashed her thug supporters, who have already attacked student occupations, to impose her authoritarian fascist project.
Le Pen claimed to be on the side of workers facing a cost of living crisis, winning support by opposing some of Macron’s attacks such as raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
But Le Pen blamed immigrants for the crisis and wanted to deny them healthcare and housing subsidies, and remove citizenship rights. Her main slogan was “Give the French their country back”.
There has been a consistent failure to recognise the threat that Le Pen’s fascist party poses, and that it is not just another right-wing party.
The mainstream parties have continually sought to win over Le Pen’s voters through embracing her racist policies. This has served only to legitimise her.
Falling behind Macron
Many on the left called for a vote for Macron in the second round, as they did at the 2017 election, in a mistaken effort to stop Le Pen.
This only plays into the fascists’ hands, allowing them to pose as outsiders. It makes it easier for Le Pen to pose as standing up for workers’ living standards when the left is supporting Macron, who is widely seen as ruling for the rich.
In practice the call for a vote for Macron is a political alternative to building a movement on the streets. It demobilises the movement against both Le Pen and Macron.
It is a repeat of the Popular Front strategy of the 1930s that saw the left unite electorally with “moderate” right forces and fail to stop the fascists in Spain.
The past five years have seen powerful strikes and big protests for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality in France.
Students recently organised a surge of university occupations to express their fury at the right-wing presidential election run off.
Anti-racists have protested meetings of Le Pen’s supporters and, on 16 April, nearly 40,000 took part in anti-racist protests in Paris and 150,000 across the country.
Special police units set up by Macron fired tear gas at the anti-racist protesters.
Speaking from the Sorbonne university in Paris, history student Marie told the UK’s Socialist Worker, “We know Le Pen is a fascist. We do not want her as president. But Macron opened the road to her and has assaulted our Muslim sisters and brothers.
“It is a really rotten choice. Democracy is more than the twisted system we are offered. We say neither Macon nor Le Pen and we will protest for our futures.”
Le Pen and her fascist street thugs have had a setback at the ballot box but that won’t stop their bid for power. Building an anti-racist and anti-fascist movement in the streets and workplaces is an urgent task.
By Chris Breen