French elections: Anti-fascist victory and deep political crisis

July 9, 2024
crowd in the Place de la Republic on July 7
Celebrating the election results in the Place de la Republique in Paris on July 7. Photo: Braveheart/Wikimedia Commons(CC BY SA 4.0)

Many thousands of anti-fascists celebrated all night in rallies around the country on July 7, as the news came through of the second round election results in France.

It had been widely feared that the far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN), led by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, would be forming a government this week. Instead they were beaten back into third place, with 143 MPs (including their close allies). The left electoral alliance, New Popular Front (NFP), came first with 182 MPs (and they can count on the 13 "other Lefts" to vote with them). Macron’s group got 168. A parliamentary majority is 289.

Millions of people are feeling tremendous relief. It is not only the results that are important, but how they were won — through the most dynamic left campaign for many decades, involving tens of thousands of new activists, large sections of civil society, widespread door-to-door work, hundreds of rallies and marches and a dizzying variety of events, initiatives and appeals to vote for radical change and against fascism.

The whole country has heard the arguments about how it is possible to tax the rich, rebuild our hospitals and schools and fight against sexist violence and racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. 

And the radical section of the NFP — the France Insoumise (France in Revolt, FI) — obtained very high scores in multiethnic working-class areas, getting many fine MPs elected — class fighters who are light years away from some of the grey apparatchiks we are used to. These include Raphaël Arnault, co-founder of The Young Guard — a dynamic anti-fascist organisation set up a few years ago. There is also Sebastien Delogu, a taxi driver who led the campaign against the “Uberisation” of the profession, and Aly Diouara, originally from The Gambia, very active as a town councillor in the working-class suburbs of Paris and a local leader of the campaign against the genocide in Gaza. One could also cite Alma Dufour, known as a leader of direct action campaigns against Amazon.

Deep crisis 

France has plunged into a deep political crisis that will last for some time. The situation contains many dangers, but also many opportunities. Every political configuration is fragile and every tactic and strategy contested. There will be swings and turns and turncoats (motivated by panic or worse) and some will act better politically than we thought they would. We must concentrate on the key elements, not on details of tactics, in order to understand what is new and what is possible. 

The NFP, encouraged by huge pressure from below, has brilliantly succeeded in stopping a fascist government. This was done through the fact of unity, and through the inspiration provided by a radical program. This result justifies the alliance and the compromises it required, however fragile the NFP may be in the future.

The RN activists are demoralised and depressed this week, as they gained only half the MPs they were hoping for. But they still have 55 more than at the last parliamentary elections. The present relative setback for the far right must be used as a jumping off point to push the fascists back. The hundreds of thousands involved these last three weeks must remain mobilised.

What happens now?

No grouping has a majority in parliament, and the Constitution forbids new parliamentary elections for 12 months. There appear to be three possibilities: a minority left government, a right-left coalition or a government of appointed experts.

Left leaders have declared their desire to form a minority government. This might have difficulty passing laws, but some NFP policies, such as reigning in police violence, increasing the minimum wage or price freezes on basic necessities do not require new legislation. Of course, the pressure from bosses and the media will be unprecedented and the mobilisation of workers to ensure our interests are defended is essential. Many NFP supporters understand that a left government must not be given carte blanche. There are, this week, attempts to establish networks of local Popular Front committees to maintain radical engagement of large numbers of people.

Most of the right, aided by a strong media campaign, would prefer a coalition “national union” government, including parts of left and right: including everyone, indeed, except the FI and the RN. Fear of chaos and disorganisation is being used to try to persuade people that this is a reasonable project. 

Several leading Macronists are pushing this idea, and some leaders from the Socialist Party (SP), Communist Party (PCF) and Greens are saying it should be considered. They may be joined by a small number of FI MPs — led by François Ruffin — who are breaking away from the FI, looking for a more “moderate”, less left-wing option. “We need to calm things down,” said Ruffin. This group are pretending that the problem is Jean-Luc Mélenchon's personality and are joining in the vast smear campaigns against him.

A left-right coalition government would be a disaster for working people. Abandoning the radical measures that people need to reduce misery and improve our schools, hospitals and working conditions, such a government would bring rapid and deep disappointment, and practically guarantee a far-right government in a few years’ time. The FI has refused this option, and all honest sections of the left must do so, too. For the moment, Olivier Faure, leader of the SP has ruled out such a coalition. Marine Tondelier, head of the Greens, is less clear.

Other commentators are speaking of the nomination of a government of bourgeois “experts” (in Italy at one point they appointed the director of the national bank). This will be presented as a common-sense decision, justified since “foolish politicians” cannot reach a consensus, and because not having a government is “unimaginable”. But how can we imagine that such a government would be on the side of working people?

The crisis is only just beginning. We need to remain mobilised and create structures of vigilance to involve as many as possible of those very large numbers of activists who campaigned for the NPF. These structures must aim at pushing the far right back through mass education, and through mass harassment of all RN events and initiatives.

Do some people have illusions as to what an NFP government can quickly change? Of course they do, this is inevitable. But the way forward is to mobilise against neoliberalism, support a left government, if one is formed, every time it introduces reforms in our interests, but oppose it immediately it gives in to the pressure of the dictatorship of profit.

[John Mullen is a Marxist activist in the Paris region and a supporter of the France Insoumise. His website is]

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