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Antifascism in France

lundi 7 juillet 2014, par Yves

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Far Left antifascist movement in France was heavily influenced by Maoism and Trotskyism, but hopefully today Maoist influence has disappeared, although one can say it has been recycled in ATTAC, Occupy, Indignados and other no global movements. Obviously what interests us here is how can we efficiently fight Far Right and fascist ideas and organizations among the working class. Unfortunately, the antifascist movement (whether influenced by Trotskyists or by anarchists/ « autonomous » groups) in France is very confused.

Let’s first analyse the flaws of the Far Left antifascist movement :

– it has never been working-class orientated and in the « good old days » (60s and 70s) it was only focused on high school and university students ;

– it has never drawn the lessons of the mistakes committed in the 1920s and 1930s when workers faced classic traditional fascist movements ;

– and it has always had an opportunistic attitude towards Stalinist-dominated Resistance movements during WW2 and its purely bourgeois, counter-revolutionary politics at the end of the second world war.

So in terms of actions and propaganda, French Far Left antifascist movement has been, at least since the birth of the National Front in 1972, more than 40 years ago, a permanent ally of social-democracy, Stalinism and bourgeois Republicans. Even if the Far Left has often tried to organize counter demonstrations against National Front meetings, its cooperation with the Reformist Left has only brought more political confusion and limited the « antifascist struggle » to legal aims : laws against racism, anti-Semitism and against holocaust denial ; banning of some very small fascist groups ; unitary demonstrations or meetings with a very moderate Republican, antiracist agenda ; press campaigns against the National Front presented as a « non Republican » party, etc. Obviously it was not 100% negative but it had no revolutionary or socialist colours.

Unfortunately, even on such a basic question as anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, this Radical Left antifascist movement has proved to be totally inefficient, especially since the creation of Internet and all sorts of reactionary social networks which hide behind the cause of “antizionism”. This ideological incapacity of the antifascist movement has been clearly demonstrated by the massive influence of people like Alain Soral, a fascist nationalist-revolutionary close to the National Front, animating an influent website and often invited on national TV ; and Dieudonné, an anti-Semitic stand-up comedian who also supports the National Front and has a massive audience for his videos on the Net and public shows.

The organized Radical Left as such, if we put aside its dubious political alliances with the Reformist Left and bourgeois democrats, has never waged a serious ideological battle inside the factories, offices, workplaces against the National Front. For many years, for example, a big Trotskyist group like Lutte ouvrière refused not only to participate to any street demonstration against the National Front (supposedly it was inefficient to counter the National Front presence in the streets and to make too much noise about its racist propaganda and also it was a loss of time for the building of the Leninist Party) but it refused to deal with National Front reactionary ideas (racism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, etc.) in its « factory bulletins ».

As regards the other Radical Left groups, the Trotskyist Ligue communiste (today called the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste), after a period of permanent street confrontation which led to its ban in 1972, privileged more mainstream alliances with Reformist intellectuals and Socialist and Communist parties.

There is also a second antifascist current, which could be broadly called anarchist and « autonomous ». But even if it is more radical in words and less compromised with the social-democratic/Stalinist manipulative form of antifascism, this current is also very confused.

Either it crudely reduces the National Front to the German Nazi or Italian fascist parties of the 20s ; or it enlarges so much its definition of fascism that it embraces all the parties of the Right and even the Left sometimes. And to top it all it often explains we are living under a « soft totalitarianism » in the West. Therefore such a regime does not need any more violent confrontation with the working class ; it does not need to crush trade unions and destroy « working class » parties ; it does not need to finance paramilitary groups or armed militias ; it can succeed through democratic elections, and specially through a social control implemented by the media, video surveillance installations and concentration of all computer files in the hands of the State.

This soft totalitarianism ideology can lead to two contradictory conclusions :

First conclusion : Soft Totalitarianism dominates already in today’s Western capitalist societies. Or at least it’s technologically deeply rooted in our daily lives. This thesis rests on 3 foundations :

a) situationist and postsituationist arguments about supposed workers’ alienation as consumers and about « spectacular society »,

b) Foucault’s theories about our supposed « voluntary servitude » and influence of micropowers (i.e. personal interrelationships which reinforce social hierarchies in the family, at school, at work, etc.),

c) antitechnology ecology which predicts the end of capitalist democracy soon, when it does not say the job is already done.

This combination of elements borrowed to these three ideologies, mixed in various proportions according to the groups or individuals concerned, recalls the Maoist « fascization » theory, very popular in the 70s, but with updated, trendy arguments.

After this first pessimistic conclusion about present domination of soft totalitarianism, its defenders deliver us a more optimistic conclusion, but which stands in absolute contradiction with the first analysis :

Second conclusion : We can’t overturn or destroy by force soft totalitarian domination, with strong fascist tendencies, because it’s overwhelming us but we are able to « change the world without taking power » (Holloway, Negri) or we can build small liberated cooperatives, communes, zones, etc. !!! This proposal is absurd if one believes in the validity of the first conclusion... but apparently it works and is quite popular even in the no global movements.

Confused ideas about fascism or totalitarianism are widespread among young anarchists or recently politicized youth (and also among older militants who have renounced to any working class perspective) and they can lead to at least three main negative consequences :

– they can lead to unprincipled alliances with reformists and bourgeois democrats (in this case, anarchist or « autonomous » antifascists are no better than Trotskyist antifascists),

– they can lead, on the opposite, to a new Far Left « terrorism » (as it is apparently the case in Greece, but Theodora Polenta will certainly explain better than me what happened). Obviously, I’m not a pacifist and don’t refuse by principle to use counter-violence against fascists, especially when they start killing workers (in Greece migrant workers) without any significant reaction from the State or the workers movement. At the same time, one must be sure this kind of counter violence is understood by workers, at least by a significant minority of them. The revolutionary group involved in such a violent action must be perfectly conscious of its limits, given the political context. Because, at the end of the day, the use of armed violence by a tiny clandestine minority has no exemplary, magic, effect on workers’ will to fight for social revolution and smash fascism.

– they can encourage local, small scale experiments cut off both geographically (when they take place in villages or rural zones) and socially from working class daily life and struggles in towns and suburbs. Actually the model of exemplary, self-managed communities has always been popular among anarchists. In such a case, given today’s social occupation of the territory, it’s doubtful it could efficiently struggle against the National Front (or any xenophobic party) electoral propaganda in rural areas, unless these self-managed communities include a significant component of foreign African or Asian workers which could counterbalance their negative image built by the media and reinforced by the Far Right or fascist groups.

We have to come back to some basic old revolutionary ideas :

– elections should NOT be our main field of activity, contrary to the tradition of the French Far Left during the last 40 years ;

– we should always put forward internationalist or, better, anationalist principles and slogans instead of courting nationalist prejudices as the Far Left often does on national or international matters ; we should wage an ideological/cultural fight against the Far Right and the New Right, but also against all those who, in the Left or the working class movement, propagate, consciously or unconsciously, their ideas ;

– our class is not the « 99% » of humanity but the working class, which means a social revolution will imply some drastic choices and will not equally satisfy the immediate needs of everybody on this planet, from the former capitalist or executive to the former poorest farmer ;

– there are no shortcuts : elections campaigns, dubious political alliances with Reformists in the name of antiracism of antifascism will never replace our own socialist propaganda and patient local organizational work in working class districts, inside the workplaces, inside the schools and universities, supporting migrant workers struggles and self-organisation ;

– We will never « transform the world » if we don’t destroy the State. No nice workers’ cooperative, no friendly fair trade association, no radical liberated zone, will ever free us from the rule of capitalism.

Y.C., Ni patrie ni frontières, 3/07/2014