Franceís Far Right Climbs Out of the Shadows
by Eric Margolis: South
Asiaís Arms Race Heats Up
PARIS Ė It
wasnít another French Revolution, but the dramatic showing of Franceís
far right in last weekís presidential election was a bombshell that
left France shaken and Europe confused and alarmed.
Marine Le Penís
far-right National Front party won 18% of the vote in the first
round presidential election in which ten candidates competed. Nine
were from either left or right, and only one a self-professed centrist.
In France, the center has all but vanished.
Sarkozy did better than polls had predicted, but the widely anticipated
first place win of Socialist Francois Hollande was still a humiliation
to the hyperkinetic Sarkozy who sought to wrap himself in the French
flag. Polls show Hollande, a bland, unassuming figure, continues
to lead Sarkozy in the final runoff election to be held on 6 May.
Front is no longer on the ballot in the final two-man race, but
it remains the hulking 800 lb gorilla in the ornate drawing room
of French politics.
As Marine Le
Pen said, French politics will never be the same again.
Just who and
what does the National Front represent? I spent a day in the late
1980ís interviewing party founder and father of Marine, Jean Marie
LePen, and have followed the Le Pens ever since.
have branded Jean-Marie Le Pen as a fascist, and his daughter, and
now party leader, a fascist wolf in a designer dress.
This view is
not accurate. I found the big, burly, convivial former paratrooper
a modern-day apostle of the Vichy France of 1940ís era: ardently
Catholic, anti-foreign, a hater of Islam (Jews used to fill this
role), an enemy of the rich industrial class and what he calls "Jewish
money," a fierce foe of Communism and Socialism, and advocate
of harsh law and order. "Emigration equals invasion,"
he memorably told me.
The term "fascist"
is over-used. The Le Pens are traditional rightists familiar to
France, Spain, Turkey and Portugal during the 1930ís.
Marine Le Pen
softened her fatherís rhetoric and is more discreet, but her policies
are similar. She wants France to ditch the Euro, end globalism,
break the power of the banking elite Ė a goal shared by Hollande
Ė and crack down on crime and emigration.
Marine Le Penís
policies are stridently anti-Muslim. She blames Franceís 5-6 million
Muslims for many of the nationís troubles. Islamophobia has replaced
the rightís anti-Jewish creed of the 1930ís. Unfortunately, this
toxic practice has also spread to Americaís hard right and religious
an desperate attempt to attract National Front voters on 6 May,
has also jumped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon and has intensified
his anti-Muslim rhetoric, warning of the alleged dangers of mosques,
halal meat, veils and terrorism Ė which has become code for Arabs.
close ally of Israel, is beating the war drums for attacks on Syria
and Iran. Franceís 600,000 Jews are solidly behind him.
The big question
now is how many of the 6.4 million French who just voted for the
National Front can Sarkozy and his UMP party attract. This shift
will decide the election.
supporters are a mixed bag. There are working class people furious
their factories are being closed and outsourced to East Europe or
Asia as unemployment heads over 10%. Many blame Sarkozy and his
business mogul friends, or Jewish finance, Muslims, or Americans.
They are angry and explosive and find many like-minded workers across
Front members come from the ultra-conservative Catholic haut bourgeoisie,
the same class that supported Marshal Petainís Vichy government
during the war. They saw Communism as a far greater threat than
Hitlerís National Socialism. Francois Hollandeís Socialists and
its far left allies horrify Franceís bourgeoisie.
Front also draws Muslim haters, anti-Semites, supporters of an all
white France, the elderly, and minor neo-fascist groups, as well
as small shopkeepers fearing their businesses will be crushed by
huge retailers. In the 1950ís, a rightist political Party led by
Pierre Poujade fought for "petits commercants."
and left have been locked in battle since the 1870ís. Now, the forceful
entry of the National Front into this conflict has muddied this
Marine Le Penís
strategy is to break up Sarkozyís UMP party and become the party
of the center-right. If Sarkozy is defeated on 6 May, his bickering,
unstable party may indeed fragment, allowing Le Pen to pick up the
pieces in important parliamentary elections on 6 June.
neo-fascists, like Hollandís Geert Wildersí Freedom Party, are cheering
Le Penís stunning vote win. Europeís center-right leaders are not.
They fear growing economic malaise and stresses will spark the same
kind of surge to the far right seen in France.
They fear as
much a win by Hollandeís big-spending Socialists will undermine
their efforts to stabilize continental finances through austerity
and saving, or even wreck the vital Franco-German entente that is
the foundation of European unity.
But Le Penís
calls to quit the Euro, return to the franc, and protectionism find
many ears across Europe.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
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