“We must rely on the state to contend with fascists!” liberals will tell you. “To fight bigotry and fascism, we have to give the authorities the legal powers to combat them for us!” they say. So what happens when a state has the legal authority to decide whether a political group has the right to exist in society? Who will the state wield that power against?
If you’re an anarchist or if you live in Lyon then you already know the answer.
The French state reserves for itself the right to ban or “dissolve” any group it deems to be “extremist.” The dissolution laws have been criticized by radical, extremist organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for their incompatibility with French republican values like freedom of association.
The city of Lyon has been a hotbed of fascist violence as of late. Last year, les fachos mobbed up to attack a pro-choice/pro-LGBTQ+ march; destroy a Kurdish community centre, injuring the volunteers working there; and wreck a left-wing bookstore (something the International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund stepped in to assist with afterwards). So it would stand to reason that those would be the groups the French state would target for dissolution, not the groups opposed to them.
Wrong. Last month Groupe Antifasciste Lyon et Environs (GALE) were informed that the state had dissolved them. Their rationale? GALE had been involved in a concert months before where a hiphop artist performed got the crowd to join in chanting “toute le monde detestes les flics!” (“everybody hates the police!”). That was literally all it took for the state to target GALE and ultimately declare them dissolved. This is the first time we have heard of an anti-fascist group being “dissolved” by the state.
GALE plan to appeal this draconian crackdown via the French courts and have set up a crowdfunder to help pay for that appeal; the International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund unanimously decided to make a sizeable contribution to that appeal. If you support the values upon which the French republic was established, you should do likewise.