SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine
 

In this issue:

Turbulent times

LE PEN A contender for the French presidency! The fact that an ultra-right, racist leader associated with the Nazi past defeated Jospin in the first round sent a shock wave through France and Europe. Le Pen's vote was not much higher than in 1995, but in protest against the anti-working class policies of Jospin's 'plural left' government, millions abstained or turned to the Front National candidate.

At the same time, nearly three million people voted for Trotskyist candidates, a remarkable development when the French workers' movement was for so long dominated by the Stalinist Communist Party. In protest against Le Pen, 1.5 million demonstrated throughout France on 1 May. With a much higher turnout in the second round, Chirac, the corrupt liar, was returned to the presidency to stop Le Pen. Chirac received an overwhelming 25.3 million votes compared to Le Pen's 5.5 million. But over 1.7 million registered a blank vote to show they would not support Chirac. Socialism Today interviewed Alex Rouillard, organiser for Gauche Revolutionaire, the CWI's section in France (see page 14), on the election and the tasks now for the left.

The Netherlands produced two shocks. Opinion polls showed that Pim Fortuyn's List, contesting parliamentary elections for the first time, was likely to win dramatic support. An unusual far-right figure, Fortuyn was the focus of discontent with the 'purple' coalition government led by the Labour Party. Then, on 5 May, the Netherlands' tranquility was shattered by the assassination of Fortuyn by an animal rights activist. In the elections on 15 May the LPF won 26 seats while Labour was left with only 23 (see page 3).

The election results in France and the Netherlands reinforce the turn towards far-right parties throughout Europe. Berlusconi, Haider, Le Pen, Fortuyn. Do we face the danger of a fascist resurgence? Rather, the broad reaction against the neo-liberal policies of incumbent social-democratic governments and coalitions has resulted in the growth of a new type of far-right populist parties. In the absence of genuine mass workers' parties, they have become a vehicle of electoral protest against establishment parties of left and right. Socialism Today analyses the character of far-right populism and the 1990s conjuncture from which they have arisen (see page 9). We also examine the evolution and prospects of the British National Party (see page 18), following its recent electoral breakthrough.

Unlike France and the Netherlands, the Irish general election on 17 May returned the incumbent government of Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fail, primarily because of the continuing (though increasingly hollow) economic boom. The Irish Labour Party lost votes, as did the country's second capitalist party, Fine Gael. Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins was returned to the Dil (parliament) from Dublin West with an increased vote, and another SP candidate, Clare Daly, won 5,501 first-preference votes (12.5%) in Dublin North (see page 5).

May's local council elections in England are also analysed (see page 7). The Socialist Party retained two councillors. Overall, the SP's 34 candidates won 10,078 votes, an average of 11.48% in the seats contested.

Lastly, in Sri Lanka's recent provincial elections, the main capitalist party has made gains. Responsible for brutal repression in the 1980s and committed to neo-liberal policies, the UNP has gained because it now favours a settlement of the Island's long civil war. The Popular Alliance of Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected in 1994 on promises of ending the war and raising living standards. But Chandrika's failure to support independence for the Tamil north, the continuation of the war, and her government's pro-big-business policies, has undermined her position. The JVP, with a Sinhala chauvinist position, also lost support. The United Socialist Party, affiliated to CWI, whose general secretary Siritunga Jayasuriya we interview in this issue (see page 27), contested council seats on a socialist programme.

 


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