CAN WE TRUST MARINE LE PEN AND NATIONAL FRONT TO NOT ATTACK JEWS
By Ted Belman
Marine le Pen has taken over the National Front from her father, Jean-Marie, and has been climbing in the polls to the point where she is ahead of Sarkozy. She could become the next President of France.
She was recently in the US where she was avoided by almost all politicians, But Ron Proser, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, met with her, by mistake, he said, for 20 minutes.
The Guardian asked a few months ago Is this the most dangerous woman in France? It is no longer available on the Guardian so I used another link.
Russell Shorto writes,
[..] Le Pen works assiduously at the fine political balancing act of remaining loyal to her father – and maintaining the support of the party’s base – while distancing herself from the elder Le Pen’s outrageousness. She has jettisoned her father’s frank anti-Semitism, but she keeps the anti-immigrant policy plank as a central feature of the platform and will occasionally use headline-grabbing rhetoric, as in December when she likened the French having to endure Muslims praying on their streets to living under Nazi occupation.
She insists that her message on immigration is not xenophobic but commonsensical. She pointed repeatedly to the United States as a model: “In France, we often say the US is a multicultural society, but it’s not. It’s multiethnic, but one single culture. I don’t say that nobody should enter our country. On the contrary, in the old days immigrants entered France and blended in. They adopted the French language and traditions. Whereas now entire communities set themselves up within France, governed by their own codes and traditions.”
The economic crisis in the European Union has worked to her advantage as well. As a French nationalist and an anti-EU voice, she has called for France to drop the euro and return to the franc. The real secret to her success, however, may be in her adroit scrambling of traditional leftist and rightist positions. Signalling a clear break from her father and the right in general, she has come out with a detailed critique of capitalism and a position promoting the state as the protector of ordinary people. “For a long time, the Front National upheld the idea that the state always does things more expensively and less well than the private sector,” she told me. “But I’m convinced that’s not true. The reason is the inevitable quest for profitability, which is inherent in the private sector. There are certain domains which are so vital to the wellbeing of citizens that they must at all costs be kept out of the private sector and the law of supply and demand.” The government, therefore, should be entrusted with healthcare, education, transportation, banking and energy.
When I pointed out that in the US she would sound like a left-wing politician, she shot back, “Yes, but Obama is way to the right of us.”
Le Pen’s mix of far-right nationalism and frankly leftist economics is related to the platforms of other fringe parties in Europe that have surged recently, and some critics see the combination as darkly reminiscent. “This appeared in the 1920s and 1930s,” says Patrick Lozès, president of the Council Representing the Associations of the Black People of France (Cran), who has recently engaged in a public spat with Le Pen. “Those who a few decades ago saw the Jews as the enemy now use Muslims, saying, ‘They are among us, but they will never be like us, will never share our values.’ ”
Some French intellectuals on the left have been watching Le Pen with a combination of awe and trepidation. “She has totally reoriented the party towards low-skilled, low-income people,” says Laurent Bouvet, professor of political science at the University of Nice. Traditionally, he notes, blue-collar workers in public-sector jobs voted for the socialists, while blue-collar workers in industries might vote for the right, often the Front National. “But all of these people fear the change that comes with opening up the economy. And she is providing an answer to their fear.”
In other words, Le Pen’s economic stance is drawing interest from the left as well as the right. And she is doing something similar on immigration. Where the far right formerly adopted a clash-of-civilisations approach – Christianity versus Islam – Le Pen has donned the cloak of secularism as a value system that is under threat. “She is saying that the problem is not that they are Muslims but that they want to impose their values on our country,” Bouvet says. “That is a big innovation. She pretends to defend gays, Jews, women. The Front National never defended Jews before. They were anti-Semitic – how could they? Now she says to Jews, ‘You have to be careful about Muslims, and I am here to defend you.’ And she says she is here to defend women and gays, in the name of freedom, secularism and the republic. This is really, really new. It’s not a shift to the left, but to a third dimension for French politics.”
Le Pen took over the reins of the party just as mass upheavals destabilised the Middle East. “It’s kind of an Orwellian scenario,” says Jean-Pierre Lehmann, professor of international political economy at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. “You have the youngest population in the world on one side of the Mediterranean and the oldest population on the other side. And now you have mayhem in the Muslim countries, which will continue, so that there will be more pressure on people who want to escape. And Europeans will see their lifestyle in danger. Le Pen’s party plays on fear, and this situation is easily exploitable.”
Sarkozy’s recent use of the military has given Le Pen another opening to exploit. She is opposed to his involvements in Libya and Ivory Coast and to globalist enterprises in general; she sees the uprisings in the Middle East to be partly a result of “policies put into place by the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation toward an impoverishment of the North African countries.”
Sarkozy’s aligning France with Nato might win support in the White House and 10 Downing Street, but it has done little for his popularity at home. For the country’s disaffected, it only reinforces views of him as an elitist and a globalist. Where in America many of the disaffected might look to a return to Christian and free-market values, their counterparts in Europe find comfort in a turn towards nationalism, which includes state protection, and away from the institutions of globalisation. Le Pen is locked into that mindset.
After my interview with Le Pen, I wandered around Belleville, the Parisian neighbourhood long associated with North African immigrants, and stopped in a Tunisian restaurant for lunch. Not surprisingly, mentioning the name Marine Le Pen got everyone in the restaurant wound up. Much of what was said is unprintable, but one customer gave me his critique of Le Pen’s immigration ideas. “I’m very lucky,” he said. “My wife is an attorney and I am a teacher. We are welcome in Paris. But the unskilled Tunisians, the sort of people who historically built France, Le Pen wants to leave them behind.” When I asked if he was Tunisian, he corrected me – “I am Franco-Tunisian” – a rebuke to the Front National’s oft-voiced suspicions about the Frenchness of immigrants.
Few commentators think Le Pen has much chance of winning the presidency next year: for one thing, Sarkozy’s party and the socialists have each indicated that, were she to win a spot in the final round of voting, they would band together to block her, as they have impeded the Front National in the past. Meanwhile, Sarkozy’s perceived vulnerability has made the race for the French presidency extremely fluid. There are several other high-profile potential candidates, including Jean-Louis Borloo, Sarkozy’s former environment minister, who threatens to fracture the centre-right vote, and Nicolas Hulot, a TV naturalist who is one of the most popular personalities in France.
Le Pen may not become president, but some would argue she has already succeeded. “Even if she never wins an election, when you release this kind of thinking into society, modernising the packaging of racism, the consequences go on and on,” says Lozès.
The advances made by the Front National and other parties in Europe today – the Swiss People’s Party, the Northern League in Italy, Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands – are all based on the combination of anti-immigrant stances plus economic populism and national patriotism. Mainstream parties across Europe have not found answers to this movement, for which the term “far right” seems increasingly inadequate.
“We could be looking at a great realignment of the political positions in Europe,” says Bouvet. “It’s a new populism. Marine Le Pen could lead it.” Le Pen insists, however, that her interest is not Europe-wide but limited to her own country.
Le Pen told me she sees a new French revolution building against the mainline parties and she intends that she and her party will be on the frontlines of the battle. Then she hastened to add, “But, of course, I mean a peaceful and democratic revolution.”