The result of the first round of the French presidential elections was a political earthquake, which has shaken the country to its foundations. Within hours, in the best tradition of the French movement, there was a spontaneous explosion of popular protest. Anti-Le Pen demonstrators immediately poured onto the streets of Paris and other cities. The growth of votes for the radical right and left is more than a protest, it is a reflection of a growing polarisation between the classes. If the right wins in France because of the failure of reformism, a new and stormy chapter will open up in the the revolutionary process taking place all over Europe.
This is an eyewitness report of the May Day demonstrations in Paris, which witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations since the revolutionary movement of 1968 and the liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944.
Chirac has won the French presidential elections by 82.2% to Le Pen's 17.8%. This is more or less what the opinion polls were predicting. There was never any doubt that Chirac would win. As we said, many workers would vote for Chirac reluctantly. But the victory of Chirac has solved absolutely nothing. The task in the coming period is to defeat the right wing as a whole - Chirac and Le Pen. This can only done by mobilising all the forces of the labour movement around genuine socialist policies.
After the elections last week in the Netherlands, the attention of the world's media concentrated on the spectacular advance of the so-called Fortuyn's List - the ad hoc right-wing, anti-immigrant formation formed around the recently assassinated Pim Fortuyn. Coming hard on the heels of the electoral advance of Le Pen in France, many people are asking whether politics in Europe is headed for the right, and whether there is the threat of fascism once again in Europe.
On October 3, anything up to 100,000 workers demonstrated through the streets of Paris against the Raffarin government. The main focus of the demands put forward on the demonstration was opposition to the privatisation of EDF-GDF planned by the Raffarin government, the defence of the 35 hour week, defence of pensions, together with demands for higher wages and job security.
Tuesday November 26 saw the biggest mobilisation of workers since the victory of the right-wing in presidential and parliamentary elections six months ago. The main demonstration that took place in Paris saw 70-80,000 public sector workers on the streets following a call by the 3 main federations, CGT, CFDT and FO. This march took place in parallel to a number of similar strikes and rallies up and down the country. The movement was principally called in response to the government's plans to privatise and downsize large swathes of the public sector.