We are from the French group Socialisme par en bas and we have read the letters (July/August SR) on the Chirac vote.
We think that the issue is taken on in a very abstract way. So we would like to share some of our experience in the struggle against Le Pen in France between the two rounds of the elections.
On the evening of the first round of the presidential election a lot of our comrades met at our office. Decisions were quickly taken. First we had to fight Le Pen and try to organise people around us. Secondly we said we would not call for a vote for Chirac. Then we were on the streets together with 30,000 people up until 5am next morning. There followed demonstrations every day. The youth were on strike, and on the streets. The argument that really dominated in the press was the call for a vote for Chirac, and the stigmatisation of abstentionists and of those who had voted for the radical left. There has been no real fight against the Le Pen vote organised by the dominant left parties. One Socialist Party former minister said, 'Vote Chirac but stay at home or you'll be playing Le Pen's game.'
In this situation we were able to be at the heart of the anti Le Pen mobilisation. We were able to argue why fascism exists, what it is, and how we fight it. We published a special issue of our monthly paper. The front page was 'No Vote for Le Pen, No Quarter for the Nazis, All on the Streets 1 May'. The back page was 'Le Pen to the Seine, Chirac in Jail'.
We had some difficult arguments with people on the demonstrations, but because we didn't put the issue of the vote as an obstacle to the common fight against Le Pen, we weren't cut off from the mass of those who wanted to fight.
One of the arguments was that we had no choice but to vote for Chirac, although most people were disgusted at doing so. There were good arguments about the limits of democracy. The fact is that the right has made alliances with the Front National in the past.
There was no risk of Le Pen being elected, but even if there had been, the question would not be to vote for Chirac but to begin to organise an insurrection and to prepare to take arms. The question was not only this election but also the next ones. The government has been elected with a very low level of real support. The balance of forces still favours the left in struggles. The attacks of the right have begun but they are hesitant about direct economic attacks. They try to begin with more ideological things such as immigration and repression of the youth. The battle has just begun.
Diane Adam and Sarah Benichou