Fighting fascism

Comrades gathered in Middlesbrough on April 29 to discuss how workers should approach the shock success of far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen in the French presidential elections. Lawrie Coombs of the CPGB began the discussion by giving an opening on fascism, socialists' response and the current situation in France. Noting that the far right is very much on the offensive across Europe, from Le Pen's National Front to Austria's Freedom Party, which has recently enjoyed increased support, comrade Coombs asserted that the left must also be on the offensive. Especially in situations such as France, where extreme right candidates are able to attract swathes of disaffected workers and the unemployed to the ballot box (38% of the unemployed supported Le Pen, opinion polls indicate), it is imperative that the left argues for independent working class politics - not support for bourgeois politicians with whom the workers are already disaffected. As Le Pen himself has noted, his success is due to the failure of Chirac and Jospin, and therefore to advise workers to support the failed mainstream parties against the far right would clearly be inadequate and deeply flawed. He considered it likely that many NF voters would previously have been supporters of the Stalinist French Communist Party. Giving a sober account of the result in France, comrade Coombs noted that, although Le Pen's victory is indeed perturbing, his success in gaining second place is more the product of apathy and general disaffection than with a pool of reaction which has built up over recent months. Indeed, Le Pen only increased his actual vote by around 200,000. The results, he said, actually represent a significant boost for the left - both Lutte Ouvrière and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire - and signify a break from the Stalinist tradition of the Communist Party. It seems a shame, however, that in the absence of a true working class revolutionary party, their vote was split, allowing the right to falsely claim triumph over the left. The discussion which followed noted the changing face of fascism on a European scale. Comrade Steve Cooke commented on an openly gay Dutch fascist leader who in fact stands on a 'libertarian' platform. Comrade Coombs suggested that even groups such as the Countryside Alliance and the UK Independence Party could develop fascistic characteristics in the right conditions, and may be seen by workers as an alternative to the 'mainstream' parties in times of deep crisis. Comrades asserted that, whatever spectral form fascism takes, it must be recognised as fascism and fought as fascism, a diametric opposite of the workers' movement, dedicated to the smashing of workers' organisations. Both a physical and political response is needed if we are to protect workers and groups which fall foul of the fascists. As for the situation in France, comrades agreed we must oppose and fight Le Pen in every way possible, not through boosting the support of bourgeois sell-outs who envisage a similar plan of union-bashing and conservative policy-making as the French far-right, but through independent working class action. For a Sixth Republic! For a workers' parliament! For an end to the presidency! We must combat their politics with ours. David Hunnam