by Andrew Kliman
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a supposed far-left anti-neoliberal politician, came in fourth in yesterday’s first-round voting for the French presidency. He then announced that he won’t call on supporters to defeat neo-fascist Marine Le Pen of the National Front by voting for centrist Emmanuel Macron in the runoff election. Meanwhile, former Trotskyist and present left-media star Tariq Ali is calling for a mass abstention from voting in the second round.
Some months ago, it might just barely have been possible to think that such people were well-meaning but misguided––that they had illusions that Donald Trump wouldn’t be so bad once he took office, that his candidacy represented a repudiation of politics (“anti-politics”) rather than proto-fascist politics, etc. But Le Pen heads a political party, and that party has been plying its neo-fascist politics for 45 straight years. What part of “National Front” don’t they understand?
Le Pen recently said that “I don’t think that France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” the stadium in which French police of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime held Jews rounded up throughout France before they were sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. She also said, “our children are taught that they have every reason to criticize [France], to see only the darkest historical aspects. … I want them to be proud to be French again.”
Actually, the anti-neoliberal “left” understands this all too well. Its problem is that it doesn’t care.
Fascism isn’t its enemy. Neoliberalism, “identity politics,” Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, Black Lives Matter, liberal feminism, … are its enemies. As Hugo Drochon noted in The New Statesman,
Mélenchon … fell back on a demagogic position of saying he would follow the wishes of his supporters after having consulted them. But as a spokesperson for the FN [National Front] pointed out, there are remarkable congruities between their respective platforms, which can be categorised as a populism of the left and a populism of the right. [emphasis added]
All this stands in marked contrast to 2002, when all French democrats, including the whole left, supported defeat of Le Pen’s Daddy, Jean-Marie, by casting a vote for Jacques Chirac––who was certainly no better than Macron!––in the second round voting
against Le Pen’s Daddy. “Vote for the crook, not the fascist,” they urged. As a result, Le Pen, who had received 17% of the vote in the first round, only got 18% in the second round; and France remained a bourgeois democracy.
Today, however, Mélenchon and Tariq Ali refuse to accept that fascism is a far greater threat than the status quo. They cannot bring themselves to say “Vote for the neoliberal non-crook, not the fascist.”
Although the name Le Pen should be added alongside Trump, what Marxist-Humanist Initiative said in the conclusion of its August editorial on the extraordinary dangers of Trump and Trumpism is even truer now than it was then:
The special role of Marxist-Humanists in this struggle is to oppose the leftists who are pro-Trump, soft-on-Trump, or understanding of Trumpism. They need to be driven out of the left. As we said above, the left needs to stand for freedom and human rights for all once again.
Once Trump was elected, and especially once he took office, the Resistance rose up. By condemning and struggling against all attempts to collaborate with Trumpism, it is dealing a body blow to the collaborationists who portray themselves as people of the left. Let us hope that French democrats likewise recall the lesson of 2002 and repudiate the implicit collaboration with the National Front that Mélenchon, Ali, and their ilk are urging.