Workers Vanguard No. 1049

11 July 2014


French Trotskyists Protest Fascist Attacks in Rouen

We print below the translation of a leaflet issued by our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France.

ROUEN, June 3—Last Saturday, two members of the Communist Youth were beaten up by a dozen fascist thugs. These youth were distributing leaflets in favor of free public transport when they were attacked. A passerby who tried to intervene was also assaulted. The two youth had to be hospitalized, one of them for head trauma. The attack occurred right in the city center in the afternoon. The LTF strongly condemns this assault on leftists, which shows that the fascists today think that they can act with total impunity. It is urgent to stop this scum before it is too late through mobilizations centered on the power of the organized working class, especially the unions. An injury to one is an injury to all!

This attack took place almost exactly a year after fascist skinheads murdered Clément Méric, a 19-year-old anti-fascist activist, in Paris. The fascists’ violence is first directed against dark-skinned minorities, gays, Jews and anti-fascists, but their ultimate goal is the physical destruction of the workers movement.

After Clément Méric’s murder, President François Hollande’s interior minister Manuel Valls outlawed the fascist outfits Third Way and Nationalist Revolutionary Youth. We have insisted that fascists cannot be combated through government bans. As history shows, the ruling class in fact uses such laws against the workers movement. It is also futile to appeal to the préfet [regional government official], who is the local representative of Valls’ interior ministry. Not only are the fascists stronger today than last year, but they have been emboldened by their victories in recent municipal and European Union parliament elections; their attacks have become more and more frequent.

On the Rouen university campus, we have been raising the alarm to leftist groups about the presence of many notorious fascists there. In October 2011, fascists physically threatened a leftist concert. Chasing them away would not be difficult if union leaders and leftist groups on campus seriously sought to mobilize workers, teachers and students who are disgusted by these provocations. Fascist attacks against leftists and minorities are also increasing in other cities. On May 17, an LGBT Rainbow Flag was burnt during the night at the office of the AIDES Normandy organization in Rouen [which helps AIDS patients].

The rise of fascism in the country (as in Europe more generally) takes place in the context of all-sided attacks on the working class by the Hollande/Valls government. [Socialist Party leader] Hollande was elected president two years ago thanks especially to support from the French Communist Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Party, the New Anti-Capitalist Party and the leadership of the CGT union federation. Lutte Ouvrière left it up to voters whether or not to go for Hollande, while advising people to vote against [former president Nicolas] Sarkozy. In contrast, we were the only ones on the left who called for not voting for Hollande: a “left” capitalist government was put in place to push through anti-working-class measures that Sarkozy’s right-wing government was unable to carry out.

French capitalism is in crisis and must be “reformed” in order for it to stop losing market share to competitors like Germany. In other words, the capitalist rulers intend to make workers toil more for lower wages, while sowing racist terror to divide and rule and launching imperialist military interventions internationally. It is futile to pressure the government to secure real gains for working people or to call on the capitalist state to intervene on the side of the working class against the fascists. Such an approach only demoralizes and fuels cynicism among the workers who are under attack by this government every day. It also throws into the fascists’ arms a layer of politically backward workers who see them as the only opposition to the discredited “UMPS system” [a contraction of “UMP,” the right-wing party, and “PS,” the Socialist Party].

In the 1930s Trotsky, one of the leaders of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia that got rid of the bourgeoisie and other reactionaries, wrote extensively about fascism. In The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany he stated:

“At the moment that the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium—the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.”

So the question is how to get rid of the fascist scum. Last week in Rouen, there were two mobilizations of several hundred people, mainly high school students and other youth, against the ascendant fascists. This shows that there are layers in the population ready to fight against the fascist thugs of the National Front (FN) and its neo-Nazi auxiliaries. As such, there is a potential to spark wider mobilizations. But only the working class—those whose labor produces the capitalists’ profits—has real social power and can mobilize behind them the youth and all the oppressed who are directly targeted by the fascists. Unleashing this power is how we can send the fascists back into their rat holes—and ultimately eradicate them through a working-class socialist revolution.

On May 4, the FN’s Marine Le Pen tried to campaign at the market in Sotteville, a multiethnic working-class suburb of Rouen, where important railcar repair yards are located. It’s a good thing that she was chased away (under the protection of Valls’ cops). But if the unions had mobilized the workers of the Sotteville railway depot, the automobile plant in nearby Cléon, the harbor and the petrochemical plants, Le Pen would not even have dared to show up. The obstacle to such a mobilization is political: the reformist misleadership of the working class. The union tops keep bleating about unity of the working class and the left. However, their purpose is not to mobilize the working class in struggle for its own interests, but to pressure the government and divert the working class from what it should do.

We need a revolutionary vanguard party to fight against the reformists’ program and put forward a proletarian internationalist perspective. Capitalism cannot be reformed. Racist terror, fascism and oppression are inherent to this system. The only solution is to put an end to this rotten system by fighting for a socialist revolution like the Russian Revolution of 1917, which would lay the ground for a society based not on the interests of the capitalist sharks but on the real needs of the masses.