Freedom News

Confronting the eco-fascists in Lyon

from Reporterre

“The ecofascist campaign is gaining momentum in Lyon, and the far right sees potential for recruitment”, observes Sam (not his real name), member of the anti-fascist collective Young Guard Lyon. In front of him, the small room at the La Rayonne cultural center in Villeurbanne is full to the brim. Participants overflow into the corridor to attend this training on ecofascism – the appropriation of ecological agendas by fascist organizations – given at the end of April in collaboration with Action Justice Climat (AJC, formerly Alternatiba Rhône), as part of the New Year of Struggles organized by Solidaires.

What draws such a crowd is the fact that the far right is used to the streets of Lyon. The small group Les Remparts, born from the ashes of Génération identitaire after its dissolution in 2021, occupies the bar La Traboule, in the historic district of Vieux Lyon, and trains in the adjoining boxing gym L’Agogé. Popular Lyon, another small group which brings together neo-Nazis, is established in the Confluence district. Regularly, thugs from all over the region carry out raids under the name Guignol squad, the term used by the far right to claim violent actions, like on November 11, when around fifty hooded fascists attacked a conference on Palestine, injuring seven people.

Since October 2023, activists from Popular Lyon have been piloting a campaign promoting integral ecology”, which co-opts the notion of a planetary boundaries but also the “laws of nature” – viewing homosexuality or medically-assisted procreation as unnatural”. Through conferences, lobbying in markets or cleaning landfills near a Traveler camp, they advocate nuclear energy and consumption in short circuits, and are opposed to what they call “bioethical abuses”: voluntary termination of pregnancy, surrogacy for LGBTQ parents, and trans identity.

Poster for eco-fascist “Integral ecology” festival on March 9, 2024.

“This discourse can speak to the general public and help justify the rest of their ideas”, Sam points out. Thus, “Europe would be polluted by invasive species: migrants”. If the recipe works, it could be applied by other groupuscules”. Lyon is the laboratory of the extreme right: they produce speeches that fuel the entire French extreme right”, he explains.

“Don’t give them the field”

To counter ecofascism, Climate Justice Action and the Young Guard want to identify and plug the gaps in environmentalist discourse. “Certain themes can be confusing and can be repeated to attract future activists”, warns Arthur, a member of AJC. In the cultural center of Villeurbanne, examples abound: “The rejection of all technology and all modernity”,  suggests a participant. “To denounce that there are too many people on Earth”, suggests another. Arguments close to those highlighted by Antoine Dubiau, researcher in social sciences and author of Ecofascisms (2022): overpopulation, collapsology, degrowth, health and criticism of modernity.

In counterpoint, the AJC and the Young Guard advocate an “emancipatory ecology” which affirms its values ​​and alliances. Like that of the “Climate Generation, Adama Generation” demonstration which, in 2020, linked climate, social and health struggles.

“Integral ecology” sticker by Lyon populaire on Place Carnot, in downtown Lyon, March 2, 2024. Screenshot Instagram/Lyon populaire

Climate and anti-fascist activists are also part of the collective Fermons les premises fascistes, alongside other unions, political parties and associations (New Anti-Capitalist Party, NPA; CGT; SOS Racisme, etc.). The interorganization is based on an observation: dissolving small groups is ineffective if their activists have places to gather. Problem: the premises of Remparts and Lyon populaire belong to associations with no apparent link to the groupscules. To dislodge them, the collective lobbies elected officials, organizes demonstrations and gets closer to impacted residents. “We are going to tow in Old Lyon to show our presence and not give them the field,” says Tatiana, from Action Justice Climat.

While AJC has not, for the moment, been targeted by the far right, the Alternatibar, one of the left-green gathering places, has to lower its metal curtain when the fascist demonstrations pass. The bar was specifically targeted in the latest quarterly of the far-right media Black Book, because it was “frequented occasionally” by the Young Guard. This identification reinforces the vigilance of activists, says Tatiana: “We warn our activists not to come or leave our events alone, we set up a security service and we plan what to do to guide people in the event of attack”.

~ Moran Kerinec

Translated by Uri Gordon

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