French universities closed their doors yesterday and declared a day without classes as more than 100,000 students marched through the streets to show their opposition to ultra-nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen surprised the nation last Sunday by coming in second in the first round of presidential elections, booting current Prime Minister Lionel Jospin from the running. Le Pen says that if elected, he will move to cut France’s ties with the European Union, halt the flow of immigrants, and phase out income taxes. He opposes abortion, supports the death penalty and has been accused of being anti-Semitic. His victory has sent tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of France each day.
It has also sent Europe reeling. The wave of anti-Le Pen protests spilled into Belgium on Wednesday as Le Pen arrived to deliver an address before the European Union. Inside, people booed during his speech and waived signs saying “No”. Outside, activists wore “Stop the Nazis” stickers and held banners reading “Together against hatred.”
The rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen has tapped into fears that a new fascism is taking hold of Europe. Already, extremist parties have scored upsets in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and Belgium. Meanwhile, a wave of anti-Jewish violence has ripped through France. More than 300 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported in the last three weeks. Increases in attacks have also been reported in Britain, Russia and Belgium.
- Martin Lee, author, ??The Beast Reawakens, on the rise of fascism. Lee has written for the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, LA Times and SF Chronicle.
- Theo Klein, honorary president, Representative Council of Jewish Institutions.
- Mix Up, Mix Up–Bob Marley, Confrontation (Island records CD)