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FRANCE
Are Nazis headed for election gains?

By Lee Sustar | June 7, 2002 | Page 5

FRENCH POLITICS could be headed for a second "earthquake" in this month's legislative elections, with both the fascist National Front and the revolutionary left expected to do well.

The first "earthquake"--the success of Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen in the recent presidential election--led to big antifascist demonstrations between the two rounds of voting, including massive union-led marches in cities across the country on May Day.

Incumbent French President Jacques Chirac won by a landslide in the May 5 runoff, taking 82 percent of the vote after the mainstream left and even far-left groups backed him against Le Pen.

Chirac has since tried to maintain his broad appeal by appointing the moderate-sounding Jean-Pierre Raffarin as temporary prime minister. But he's stepped up his tough talk on immigration and crime, openly pandering to National Front voters for their support in this week's elections.

At the same time, large numbers of people are looking for an alternative on the left. Former Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Lionel Jospin's loss to Le Pen in the first round of the presidential vote left France's main moderate left party in disarray.

Only five years before, Jospin and the Socialists had swept into government at the head of a coalition of left parties. But Jospin disappointed his supporters by not offering a real alternative to the status quo.

Now the Socialist Party is trying to recover its appeal by talking left. But the pro-business right wing of the party is dragging its heels. "They won't say they want a defeat, but they're afraid of victory," said Hassan Berber, co-editor of the revolutionary Marxist magazine Socialisme.

The discontent with Jospin led to an unprecedented showing for the two leading organizations of the revolutionary left, the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and Workers' Fight (LO), which together won just over 10 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. If the two groups had run a joint campaign for the coming legislative elections, they stood a chance of winning 10 to 15 seats in the National Assembly, Berber said.

LO took a sectarian position and refused such an alliance. But it's still possible for the far left to win a few seats. "Chirac got 82 percent of the vote, but that's only because most of the left capitulated and voted for him," Berber said.

"In reality, he's very weak. The prime minister Raffarin had an election meeting recently of just 700 people--the room was half empty. Meanwhile, around the country, you hear of 20, 30, 40 different meetings on different subjects with 200, 400 or 600 people in one week. At the same time, while there aren't big strikes, there are a lot of important small strikes."

The LCR has called for the formation of new anticapitalist party, as have several other organizations--a "sentiment that goes far beyond the existing left," Berber said. "The demonstrations on the first of May showed that the potential is very big."

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