On Fascism in Lyon
Written by: Unité Communiste on 8 August 2023
Below we publish a recent contribution to an international webinar on the United front Against Fascism and Imperialism. The contribution was made the day after more than three hundred anti-fascists confronted Nazis in Melbourne who were on a recruiting drive. We publish the contribution from French comrades so as to encourage anti-fascists to be aware of, and give support to, each other’s struggles – eds.
ON FASCISM IN LYON
The aim of this brief overview of the situation in Lyon is to make comrades outside France aware of the specific features of fascism in Lyon, and how this local problem plays an important role in developments at national and sometimes international level.
As Unité Communiste was born in Lyon, many of its members have been experiencing the problem there directly for a long time.
Lyon is nicknamed the capital of French fascism.
Although fascist groups are well established in other parts of France, it's only in this city that all types of groupuscules come together at the same time. From fundamentalist Catholic movements to hooligans and student groups, this is where they are most developed, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Historically, the city has also been marked by fascism, both since the Second World War and with the establishment of highly influential ideologues from the French far right, such as the Holocaust denier Faurisson.
Recent decades have seen the establishment of extreme right-wing premises in the city's historic district, particularly through the Génération identitaire organization and its followers.
These premises serve as a rear base for militias and ratonnades (1), and are officially the venue for numerous meetings, training courses and events. They are also used for international outreach and fund-raising.
They enabled a pragmatic union of small groups that were allied at the time, but also competitive and divided.
However, the anti-fascist struggle, coupled with a heightened risk of right-wing extremist attacks, recently prompted the state to disband several fascist groups nationwide, including Génération identitaire and others in Lyon.
Although insufficient and mainly for publicity purposes, this action has shattered important organizational tools, weakening many groups and prompting a restructuring of the extreme right locally and nationally.
Despite the presence of various anti-fascist groups doing important work that has sometimes paid off with certain victories, they have never been able to close down the main premises created by Génération identitaire.
Fascist violence in the city remains endemic.
Fascists also enjoy the tacit support of the prefecture and local police force, with a total absence of repression, even though anti-fascist groups suffer the full brunt of it.
Today, French fascism is growing, becoming more radical and decentralized as the parliamentary far right advances. Lyon serves as a laboratory for its development, enabling its vanguard to develop under the best possible conditions.
This must be taken into account when analysing and understanding the French situation.
(1) Ratonnade is physical violence against an ethnic minority or social group, initially against people of North African origin in France. The expression comes from the French word for raccoon (raton), and is very strongly pejorative and racist. The word was used in writing for the first time in 1958 to designate violence committed on December 29, 1956 by the French of Algeria on Algerians during the funeral of the assassinated leader of French Algeria Amédée Froger. It was then used to describe police violence against Algerians, including the massacre of October 17, 1961 in Paris, which left dozens dead (estimates vary from 30 to more than 200) and the wave of murders and racist violence of 1973 in particular in Marseille.
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