On the streets of Paris, French youth celebrate New Popular Front victory
The left gathered en masse at Place de la République in Paris, July 7, 2024. | Leo Schilling / l’Humanité

PARIS—“I don’t dare believe it!” “That’s my France!” “It looks so beautiful!”

It’s eight o’clock on Sunday evening at the Place de la République, in Paris. The first election projections have just been released. The left-wing New Popular Front alliance is in the lead, and the far-right National Rally is trailing in third. On the statue, shaded with young silhouettes and laughing faces, a multitude of flags are waving—French tricolor flags, red flags, Palestinian flags.

“First, third generation, who cares, we’re at home!” some intone. “And the world hates fascists!” sing the others. In the crowd that gathers, we hug each other, we wipe our eyes. An impromptu dance party unfolds. We drape the base of the statue with a huge patchwork banner. “France is a fabric of migrations,” says its message.

Morgane and Laeticia can’t believe it. The first is a nurse in Fleury-Mérogis. The second is a teacher in Montreuil. They are both from Martinique and are “so racialized” by society, they say. They’re also women, which adds another layer of oppression. “Politics isn’t really my thing,” Laeticia almost apologizes. But with the threat of fascism facing the country, “we all mobilized.”

“My parents, my brothers, and my sisters all gave proxies [absentee ballots] before going on vacation,” explains Morgane. It was too important this time to not participate.

Nawel, another celebrant present in the plaza, pinches herself to believe it. A resident of Val de Marne and a student at the Sorbonne, she came to the Place de la République “for the symbolism.” She had a knot in her stomach waiting for the results, she said.

She just hoped that the National Rally would not be in front, as polls had predicted. If the far-right party won, “that would be it” for French democracy, Nawel feared. “I know young people who vote on the far right,” she said. “They are not all white, some are black or Arab. They don’t understand that the RN doesn’t want them!”

The first vote projections relieve her, but she remains vigilant.

“My little brothers have already had their facial features examined; some have even been hit. We know what racism is. It’s not going to stop because of this” one election, she says. Marwan, her little brother, displays a huge smile. He is still a minor and “frankly, not being able to vote is annoying.” From time to time, when he is bored, his father turns on the TV. “He didn’t have papers for eight years. Now he has a residence permit. I can see that it affects him, all these concoctions, these caricatures.”

The conversation is interrupted by horns blaring and fresh rounds of cheers from the thousands gathered here. Updated results flash on the screen showing the New Popular Front’s numbers climbing higher.

The crowd quickly grows even bigger at the Place de la République. Laeticia was just hoping to avoid the worst before Sunday because polls had predicted a win for the far right. Now, she speaks of hope. “A period at the end of one sentence is the beginning for the next one,” she exults.

These young people, like millions of others, mobilized for the New Popular Front. “We can’t stop now!” Laeticia says. She sketches out a dance step on the stones of the plaza. She looks up and says, “This is the France that makes me proud.” She plans to dance long into the night, she says, but then there is work to do. “We’re going to have to get even more involved in politics now,” she says, “but in what way or manner?”

The campaign of the New Popular Front against the forces of Marine Le Pen and the racist National Rally party had many young people asking themselves that question. Now that the left alliance has won, the task becomes how to organize to actually make its progressive agenda into reality.

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in l’Humanité, the newspaper associated with the French Communist Party.

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Elizabeth Fleury
Elizabeth Fleury

Elizabeth Fleury writes for l’Humanité newspaper published in Paris, the daily publication associated with the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français; PCF).