The End of Anti-Fascism’? the Role of the Labour Movement in France

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:10
Oral Presentation
Stefan KIPFER, York University, Canada
The problematic of fascism is back with a vengeance. From Hungary to India, Germany to the U.S.A., it threatens to outgrow what Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism, either because explicit fascist elements have risen from margin to centre within the populist right, or because forces with direct links to fascist or neo-fascist histories have outflanked their radicalized counterparts in the bourgeois right. The latter case applies to France. There, the resurgence of the Front National (which appeared moribund for a second time a mere ten years ago) has put the problem of ‘antifascism’ back on the agenda with a vengeance. Yet, during the 2017 Presidential election, which saw the FN garner a record number of votes in the second round, some commentators announced the death of antifascism; they noticed the disintegration of the electoral ‘republican front’ that had led to the massive defeat of the FN’s presidential candidate in 2002. Taking issue with this hasty conclusion, I begin with an overview of a current constellation of left and anti-racist forces in France that one may call anti-fascist in name or practice. In this broader context, I will pay particular attention to a national anti-fascist network sustained by labour unions. Vigilance et initiatives syndicales antifascistes (VISA) represents a bridge between today and the most broad-based anti-fascist formation between the early 1990s and the mid-2000s: Ras l’front (Enough with the FN). As other forces, VISA now faces not only recurrent challenges of antifascist politics since the time of the Popular Front, the (neo-)colonial question included; it also confronts a normalization of the far right that has reached new levels since the 2000s. Due to forces that far exceed the FN itself, this normalization can be observed also in a range of municipalities run by the far right.