As France recently passed its marriage equality law, homophobic protestors took to the streets.
On May 18, French President François Hollande signed into law a bill that grants same-sex couples the right to marry and jointly adopt children. But over the past few months, while the bill was making its way through the legislative process, a number of massive right-wing demonstrations have been organized in protest.
In Paris, on January 13, three large marches converged for a rally against equal marriage—with a crowd estimated at half a million people or more. Since then there have been other similar but smaller demonstrations, with the most recent on May 26. There have also been counter-demonstrations in support of marriage equality but these have tended to generate significantly less support in the streets, with the largest demonstration gathering around a quarter of a million people on January 27.
The reason for this is not that twice as many French people are against equal marriage as are in favour of it—in fact, according to polls, a majority support it—but rather that various right wing groups are unifying around this issue in an attempt to galvanize their bases.
This coalition has been comprised of various organizations claiming to “defend traditional marriage” or to “protect children” as well as various religious groups. Also, political parties such as Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) has shown no qualms about marching and rallying with Marine Le Pen’s hard-right Front National (FN) and other openly fascist groups. This has resulted in violence erupting at these demonstrations as well as increasing attacks in neighbourhoods and establishments popular among LGBT people.
This rallying together and sustained attack by the broader right so far has not been effectively countered by a similar unifying of the broader left.
This is not surprising considering how Hollande’s Socialist Party (SP) government has continued the policies of the right—from increasing the ability of employers to fire workers, to scapegoating Roma people and undocumented migrant workers, to criminalizing Muslim women who wear niqab and hijab in public. The SP has already jettisoned its election promise to allow foreign nationals to vote in upcoming local elections. Social democratic parties can't deliver progress with isolated laws from above, while fueling austerity and bigotry on the ground. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Front de gauche (FG), a radical left coalition, has been preoccupied by infighting, but did organize a major demonstration in early May--providing a left-wing response to the goverment.
In light of the growing threat of reaction by the Front National and its fascist thugs in the streets, the left needs to build united working class resistance to bigotry and austerity.
If you like this article, come to Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a conference this weekend of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "The fight for trans liberation", "The origins of racism", and "Fighting fascism: an eyewitness account from Greece."