Around 700 antifascists marched on a meeting of the fascist Front National in Rennes, north west France on 8 February. Their actions hit home: the next day, FN leader Marine Le Pen issued pleas for interior minister Manuel Valls to “dissolve” the antifascist groups.
To the anger of antifascists, the FN had been allowed to meet in Rennes’ city hall or “house of the people”, a building decorated with murals by artist Camille Godet portraying building and agricultural workers which is seen as a symbol of local social and labour history.
But just 100 people turned up to hear FN candidate Gerard Mellon. As the video shows, the fascists were defended by riot police.
The Rennes antifascist mobilisation was called by antiracist groups, trade unions and leftwing parties.
In an important move, the demonstrators clearly labelled Le Pen’s party as fascist and mobilised directly against its meeting. In the past, failure to make clear the real nature of the FN and to confront it has allowed the fascist party to grow.
Marine Le Pen is even more intent than her father Jean-Marie Le Pen – the FN’s founder and honorary president – on giving the FN a respectable appearance and is aiming to increase the party’s vote in the May European elections. This is a real danger: Le Pen took a record 17.9% in the 2012 presidential elections and the party has a clutch of MPs for the first time since the 1980s.
The Rennes antifascists have shown how to expose and outnumber the FN – and given Le Pen something to worry about.