This Week in History: February 7-13
25 years ago: French neo-fascists win local elections
On February 9, 1997, the French neo-fascist National Front (FN) of Jean Marie Le Pen won an election in the small town of Vitrolles near Marseille. The victory at Vitrolles came after FN victories in 1995 at Orange, Marignane and Toulon.
FN candidate Catherine Mégret was elected mayor with 52% of the votes cast. His only opponent, the leader of the council of the Socialist Party (PS), Jean-Jacques Anglade, obtained only 47.5% of the vote. The overall turnout was very high at 82%.
The new mayor has announced the launch of a “La France d’abord” campaign. She told the press: “Here in France, we are now in a state of emergency. Our constituents wanted us to scare people who don’t belong. She immediately announced the closure of eight community centers that were mainly used by young French immigrants and anti-racists. Immigrants were also subjected to increased police and identity checks on the streets.
For nearly 15 years, Anglade had presided over a worsening social crisis in Vitrolles. At the time of the elections, 22% of the population and more than 30% of young people were unemployed.
In the first round of the election, Mégret obtained 46.7%, Anglade 37% and Jacques Chirac, the candidate of the RPR, the Gaullist government party, only 16%. The RPR withdrew and, together with its coalition partner, the UDF, flaunted its anti-fascism, urging its supporters to vote for the PS in the second round. They called it a “republican front” for “the defense of the republic against the extreme right”. This led to conflicts within the right-wing political milieu of the ruling parties, which called on their support base to vote FN.
But the main factor in the FN’s victory was the relatively high vote for fascists in working-class neighborhoods who once voted overwhelmingly for the Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (PCF). Opinion polls predicted that in the legislative elections, one in three workers and one in three unemployed people would vote for the FN, putting its vote above that of the PS and the Stalinists of the PCF.
Vitrolles was not a local phenomenon. The rise of the fascists is the product of two interconnected phenomena across France and all of Europe. The first was the dramatic economic and social decline of capitalism. Second, the rotting of traditional parties and unions in the labor movement that has blocked any progressive way out of the crisis for the working class.
50 years ago: state of emergency in the UK against the miners’ strike
British Prime Minister Edward Heath declared a nationwide state of emergency on February 8, 1972, as a nationwide strike by coal miners continued to cripple heavy industry and electricity supplies. The emergency declaration, the third strike-breaking order under Heath in three years, was used to mobilize the army, with army vehicles transporting coal and carrying out “essential work”.
The Feb. 9 funeral of miner Fred Matthews, killed Feb. 3 on the picket line by a scab, was attended by at least 6,000 workers. The strike then reached its highest point of tension in what became known as the Battle of Saltley Gate. The miners, who had been picketing the Birmingham fuel storage depot since the day Matthews died, fought off police who attacked strikers and made numerous arrests. Saltley Gate workers came under repeated attack from trucks crossing their picket lines in the same way that killed Matthews.
On February 10, hundreds of miners picketing Saltley Gate were joined by more than 20,000 workers from other industries, forcing the depot to close. A Saltley Gate miner, Tony Morris, told the Trotskyist newspaper Labor press, “We will stay on strike until Ted Heath gets down on all fours. This strike can be won. We have suffered five weeks and we will suffer another five. Speaking in solidarity with other workers, he continued “We had a promise from a factory that if they open the door again tomorrow, 5,000 will be here.”
There was overwhelming support for British working class miners. Heath’s statement came as 115,000 electricity supply workers prepared to join the coal strike, posing the potential for the development of a national general strike. Fearing that the situation was spiraling out of control, the British government granted pay rises of around 27% on February 18, ending the strike. Touted by union officials and Labor politicians as a victory for working people, the pay rise was a great boon for Britain’s ruling class. The union bureaucracy, forcing the concession, had once again come to the rescue in a moment of revolutionary peril.
75 years ago: Paris peace treaties with Nazi allies officially end World War II
On February 10, 1947, the Paris Peace Treaties were signed, defining the position of five states that had aligned themselves with Nazi Germany during World War II. Overseen by the victorious Allied powers of the war, the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union, the treaties were one of the last international conventions formally ending the conflict, which had ended nearly two years previously.
The Treaties were the subject of the Paris Peace Conference of 21 nations, which was held from July 29 to October 15, 1946. The deliberations were related to the formation of the United Nations and the new order of international relations of after war. The nations directly affected by the treaties were Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland.
Italy lost most of its colonial possessions, including those seized before and during the war. Among them were territories in East Africa and Libya in the north of the continent, as well as the Italian concession in the Chinese city of Tianjin. Italy’s designs on Albania were annulled, the independence of that country being officially recognized. The Dodecanese islands were returned to Greece and the French border with Italy adjusted slightly in favor of France. Finland also lost territory, with the treaties confirming the border established during the 1940 Winter War with the Soviet Union. Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria were also returned to their pre-war borders.
The Paris Peace Conference was held while the Allies were still administering Germany through four separate zones, with minimal cooperation between the imperialist powers and the Soviet Union. It was one of the last major international forums to complete its deliberations without sharp conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1947, the Truman administration turned to an aggressive Cold War policy, aimed at asserting American hegemony throughout Europe and internationally.
100 years ago: Dutch arrest Indonesian communist leader
On February 13, 1922, Dutch colonial authorities arrested Tan Malaka, a leader of the PKH, the Communist Union of India (the forerunner of the PKI, Communist Party of Indonesia) for seeking to extend a strike by government pawnbrokers. to a general strike. Indonesian workers. The Dutch first sent Malaka into exile in Timor, but later allowed him to go to Holland.
Malaka, the son of a relatively wealthy employee of Dutch agricultural companies, had studied in Holland from 1914 to 1919, where, under the impact of the 1917 October Revolution, he had begun to read key Marxist works. After returning to Indonesia, Tan Malaka began teaching the children of tea plantation workers and sought to establish independent Indonesian schools. He began writing in leftist and liberal journals, describing the conditions of farmworkers. He contacted the ISDV, the Indonesian social-democratic organization founded by Henk Sneevliet, which became the PKH in 1920 and affiliated with the Communist International. Malaka also participated in nationalist Islamic organizations and was elected as part of the left-wing list in the Indonesian colonial parliament.
Tan Malaka joined the PKH in 1921 and became the head of the Printing Workers’ Association, playing an important role in the young Indonesian trade union movement. He became party chairman but sought to allow dual membership between the communist movement and Islamic nationalist organizations.
During his exile in the Netherlands, Malaka joined the Dutch Communist Party (CPN) and attended the fourth congress of the Communist International in Moscow in November 1922, where he proposed collaboration between pan-Islamism and the communist movement.
He becomes a representative of the Comintern in Asia, based in the Philippines, but is disoriented by the growing Stalinization of the International. A failed revolution led by the PKI in Indonesia in 1926, inspired by the Comintern and fought by Malaka, led to a major defeat for the party.
Subsequently, Malaka moved further away from the party into bourgeois nationalist politics. He participated in the Indonesian War of Independence against the Netherlands and other imperialist powers after 1945 and was executed by a faction of the Nationalist government army in 1949.