France will be electing a new president in April of next year. Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party (formerly the National Front) is doing well in the polls. The current president Emmanuel Macron is hoping to stay ahead of his rival by adopting the Far Right’s program. Recent months have seen a wave of attacks by the government on democratic rights in general and those of Muslims in particular. These have been combined with neoliberal reforms that undermine workers’ rights.
Thus, the elections in this ancient bourgeois republic might well take the form of a “choice” between the neoliberal Right and the populist Far Right — a phenomenon that is all too familiar in the United States.
In this situation of reactionary polarization, a new candidate has thrown his hat into the ring. Anasse Kazib is a rail worker at the state-owned train company SNCF and also a militant of Révolution Permanente. Kazib has become known across France as a voice of the working class, with countless appearances on TV debating with government ministers.
The campaign began today with the hashtag #Anasse2022. Mediapart published an open letter by over 40 prominent activists, artists, athletes, unionists, and intellectuals in support of Kazib’s candidacy. This includes leaders of recent workers’ struggles, such as Adrien Cornet of the Total oil refinery in Grandpuits and Gaëtan Gracia of the airplane industry.
The most well-known supporter by far is Assa Traoré, whose brother Adama Traoré was murdered five years ago by police. This is one of the most infamous cases of police violence in recent French history, and the Committee for Justice and Truth for Adama has played a leading role in anti-racist struggles. Today, Kazib released a long video with family and friends of Traoré detailing the five years of struggles for justice for victims of police violence.
Over recent years, Kazib has built up a reputation as a working-class fighter. When workers fought against Macron’s pension reforms in 2019, he was a leading figure of the rank-and-file assemblies. As the bureaucratic leaders of the struggle wanted to retreat, these assemblies kept the fight going.
The Yellow Vests movement shook France starting in 2018. Kazib was part of workers’ contingents who joined the demonstrations that were called “Orange Vests” due to the protective clothing of workers at the SNCF.
These workers’ struggles have been connected to antiracist movements. The French state has a long history of colonialism and imperialism, and just like in the United States, Black and Brown people are subject to police terror. The state ideology of secularism is used to attack democratic rights of Muslims.
In this context, Kazib’s candidacy could be an important boost for struggles of Black and Brown workers. He would be one of the first non-white candidates for the office.
Just over a month ago, Kazib was expelled from the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) along with 300 additional activists. The leadership of that party was virulently opposed to the idea that Kazib could be the NPA’s presidential candidate. Kazib is one of a new generation of workers who want to build up an independent revolutionary party.
The NPA, in contrast, is oriented towards alliances with the reformist party of former social democratic minister Jean-Luc Mélenchon. As such, last weekend they nominated Philippe Poutou as their presidential candidate, the same one they had in the last two elections. While Poutou played a progressive role in the past, he has recently formed an alliance with Mélenchon’s party for regional elections. He will thus have a difficult time explaining why voters should support him and not Mélenchon. His weakness as a candidate is illustrated by the fact that at the NPA conference, some 45% of delegates abstained from voting for him.
Kazib and the 300 militants excluded from the NPA have begun the process of building a new revolutionary organization in France. Révolution Permanente, the sister site of Left Voice, will be an instrument for that struggle, as will the campaign #Anasse2022. This should be a step to connecting the Trotskyist tradition in France with young workers’ leaders and antiracist activists.