The room at the MAS Space is completely full at 7 PM in Paris. More than 450 people are present, all there to participate in launching the campaign of Anasse Kazib — a railway worker, revolutionary, and a militant of Révolution Permanente — in next year’s French presidential election, and to hear from the many guest speakers. But more than the number, it is the composition of the crowd that instantly draws attention. Elsa Marcel, a Révolution Permanente activist and the meeting’s moderator, spells out just who is there, to thunderous applause:
We are proud to see delegations from different sectors of the working class that have kept society running during the pandemic: the Neuhauser workers, who forced their boss to redistribute food during the pandemic; the Transdev strikers; the Infrapôle agents on strike for seven months; the SKF workers in Avallon fighting against layoffs; workers from Onet; the CSP Montreuil activists who were recently attacked. At their side are dozens of workers from the RATP and the SNCF. There are refinery workers, and teachers, and students from Paris 1, Paris 5, Paris 8, and Nanterre, as well as several groups of families of victims of police violence.
We want a campaign that reflects the image of this room
When she concludes, the room erupts with the chanting of slogans.
Within the enthusiastic audience, the diversity is astonishing. “Usually at revolutionary meetings,” says one far-left activist, “you have to look for the young people. Here it’s the opposite; it’s the old folks you have to look for.” Another admits that he’s never seen such a “cosmopolitan” meeting. But it is anti-racist activist Assa Traoré, whose brother Adama was murdered by police, who has what is probably the best answer to the “mystery” of the crowd’s composition:
I have known Anasse for five years and he has been an activist with us. I’ve been an activist for five years, since the death of my little brother, and it’s five years of faces and five years of struggle that I see today.
Defending a Revolutionary Working-Class Candidate as the Right Radicalizes
One after another over the course of the evening, speakers claim the candidacy of Anasse Kazib – a revolutionary, anti-racist, environmentalist, feminist candidacy — as their own, especially in the face of growing radicalization of France’s right wing. In between each of their interventions, slogans rise from the audience, ringing through the hall, evoking the memory of each of the struggles from which they came:
Zyed, Bouna, Théo, and Adama! We don’t forget, we don’t forgive!
The workers’ strength is the strike!
Everyone hates the police!
Capitalism destroys the planet. Let’s destroy capitalism!
The atmosphere is electric. The temperature is high. The enthusiasm and determination of the crowd is palpable.
Philomène Rozan, a student at the University of Paris and a Révolution Permanente activist notes, “Because there is a high level of abstention among young people, they want us to believe that the youth are not interested in politics.” But she then describes the struggles in which young people have taken part, the shock of the pandemic, and the disgust they have directed at a Left that has adapted to the government’s security policies and Islamophobia. From the podium, Adrien Cornet, a leader of the Grandpuits refinery workers struggle, paints a dramatic picture of the environmental crisis, which is overshadowed by the latest racist outrages on Twitter and in the media from the far-Right polemicist Eric Zemmour — including threats against Anasse Kazib. The Grandpuits workers faced down the greenwashing of Total, the giant oil and gas multinational, and revealed the scam of “green capitalism.”
Both Rozan and Cornet champion the program of Révolution Permanente: a guaranteed income for students at the same level as the minimum wage, expropriation of strategic sectors of the economy to plan the end of fossil-fuel use, and so on.
Sasha Yaropolskaya, a trans feminist activist and political refugee from Russia, talks about her journey and the necessary link between the struggle against state transphobia and the struggle against capitalism and all forms of oppression. With humor, she describes the dramatic political state of the country:
Things are bad in France. And when a Russian tells you that things are bad politically, it’s because things are really bad. The extreme right has completely monopolized political discourse and has free rein in all the national media, which are owned by billionaires.
That is why, she declares:
I am proud to say that I support the candidacy of Anasse Kazib, and also the party of the workers, students, and activists that I see constantly on the ground, in the demonstrations, and on the picket lines.
Assa Traoré uses her speech to describe the fight she and Anasse Kazib have been engaged in together. “I joined the struggle because my little brother was killed. We’ve been sharing our struggles with Anasse Kazib for five years. You have always been by our side,” says the anti-racist activist, who then applauds the Onet workers in the room, whose strike recently brought Kazib to meet with them. She continues:
Adama will never come back. But we are the living voices of those who have died at the hands of the police, those who are in prison, those who live in precariousness. Anasse is one of these living voices and we will support him to the end.”
She concludes her speech with an invitation to other victims’ groups to take the stage.
Wynnessa Merabet, a striker and trade unionist at the Transdev depot in Vaux-le-Pénil, is the final speaker before the presidential candidate.
My coworkers and I have traveled 40 kilometers to attend this meeting when we are exhausted and have been on strike for seven weeks. It’s because Anasse is a pillar for our strike at Transdev. He calls me every day with advice. We stand with Anasse, and will be there until the end!
Other strikers join her on stage before giving way to Anasse Kazib.
Anasse Kazib 2022: A Revolutionary Working-Class Candidacy
When the candidate takes the podium, he rises amidst a chant of “President Anasse.” He notes:
Taking part in an event as anti-democratic as the presidential election is a huge challenge for a brand new organization such as ours. And to present a young immigrant proletarian like me in a presidential election that is marked in particular by racist and xenophobic speeches may seem a bit too subversive.
But as Anasse explains, that is precisely why he is a candidate — to raise a voice that isn’t being heard, a voice against the reactionary discourse, a voice that stands as the absolute antithesis to Zemmour.
Our France is not the France of kings and great men, idealized by Zemmour, but the France of the sans-culottes, the Communards, the insurgent slaves of Haiti, the great strikes of 1936, and the general strike of 1968 — struggles that Sarkozy and Zemmour would like to erase from history.
They want to create a new narrative of France, he notes, and then he spells out the political campaign he intends to lead — one that is revolutionary, working-class, feminist, environmentalist, and anti-racist.
He mockingly tells the story of Pierre Mestre, the boss of the children’s clothing company Orchestra, who liquidated his indebted company during the pandemic and then bought it back, laying off hundreds of employees in the process.
While we watched members of our families being put on respirators, and sometimes dying, and while we and our co-workers continued to work to keep humanity going, often with our stomachs in knots, they hid away and amassed wealth without lifting a finger.
In the face of the climate crisis, the health crisis, and the monstrous inequalities and the minority who profit from them, Anasse Kazib exalts the strength of the workers, of the first and second line, and of all the oppressed, as well as our capacity to change the world. He mentions Hong Kong, Lebanon, Algeria, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Palestine, Sudan, Lebanon, and more recently the United States, with its historic wave of strikes. A railway worker himself, he situates all of this — these countries hit by large-scale struggles in recent years — as part of a new cycle of class struggle. He returns to the assault on France’s labor code, the movement against the railway reforms, and the Yellow Vests — to great applause. He raises the strike in his own sector: the transport strike against the pension reform.
Reactionaries like Macron, Le Pen, and Zemmour are out to divide the strength we represent. They know that the youth and the working class today is made up not only of white workers, but also workers with immigrant backgrounds like mine. And it distresses them when a railway worker named Anasse, who grew up in the “Pink City” in Sarcelles, who is the grandson of a Moroccan Rifleman in France’s Army of Africa and the son of a chibani railway worker at the SNCF, who defends the youth and proletarians of the whole of France being exploited by Emmanuel, Édouard, Marlène, and Jean-Baptiste.
The railway worker who grew up in the poor immigrant suburbs of Paris then rolls out his campaign program. It includes a net minimum wage of €1800; repeal of all the security and anti-freedom laws; a real plan to stop violence against women; the immediate release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a political prisoner incarcerated for 37 years; radical democratic transformation; recall elections; dissolution of all special police forces; opening the borders and complete freedom to live and work in France, and so on. It’s enough to make the Right and extreme Right recoil, but also to stake out a difference with those who claim to be “left” of the government.
For his voice to be heard in the elections, there is a major obstacle: the 500 “sponsorships” that are required from mayors, members of parliament, and regional councilors from 30 different departments (which are like counties) in the country.
On stage, Anasse announces that 100 have been collected so far. But to get the other 400, it will take the support of everyone — even with the strength deployed already, with more than 60 visits to potential sponsors being organized each week.
We warmly invite you to make this campaign a reality, to create a campaign committee where you live, to organize public meetings, to participate in the search for sponsorships, by making a donation, or any other help you think you can offer. No one expects us to make it. Let’s surprise them!
Attendance at the rally, and the rich diversity of the guest speakers, demonstrates that the candidacy of Anasse Kazib can engage widely, with different sectors of the population, from workplaces to working-class neighborhoods, within the framework of the 2022 presidential election. “Zemmour is only in the media,” says one participant at the rally’s end. “Anasse is the complete anti-Zemmour. That’s why he has to be a candidate, and that’s why they don’t want him to be.” Notably, the media were completely absent and did not cover the event.
Yes, there are numerous obstacles that must be overcome just for this campaign to make it to the “starting line.” But one thing is certain: there is no lack of determination to take things all the way to the end.
First published in French on October 21 in Révolution Permanente.
Translation and adaptation by Scott Cooper