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FTR #80 Fascism à La Mode

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One of the most important elements in French electoral politics as the century draws to a close, Jean-Marie Le Pen and his fascist National Front have succeeded by using a political formula similar to that being used by the American right. Founded by former Gestapo and SS collaborators and veterans of the Vichy fascist government that collaborated with the Nazis, the National Front is the proudly outspoken heir to the Vichy. Le Pen has gained political mileage by running against “corrupt politicians,” “immigrants” (people of color in particular), “crime in the streets,” “destructive foreign cultural influences” and “leftists.” All of these are frequent rhetorical targets of the American right-wing. In addition, the National Front is pursuing a strategy of establishing grass-roots, local political control in order to build a dominant power base – a strategy being pursued by the Christian right in the United States.


2 comments for “FTR #80 Fascism à La Mode”

  1. It’s deeply disturbing how often raging against the machine takes the form of xenophobic self-mutilation:

    France’s far right makes local gains; voters punish Hollande

    By Dominique Vidalon

    PARIS Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:40pm EDT

    (Reuters) – France’s anti-immigrant National Front (FN) scored gains in first-round town hall elections on Sunday and took control of a former Socialist bastion as voters punished President Francois Hollande and his left-wing allies.

    The elections in thousands of constituencies across France were the first nationwide voter test for Hollande, who came to power in May 2012 and has seen his popularity slump to record lows for failing to rein in unemployment.

    A second round of voting is due next Sunday but FN leader Marine Le Pen, who has softened the party’s image since taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011, said advances made in the first round already marked a major breakthrough.

    “The National Front has arrived as a major independent force – a political force both at the national and local level,” Le Pen, who scored 18 percent in the 2012 presidential election, told TF1 television.

    An exit poll by pollster BVA put Hollande’s Socialists and their left-wing allies at 43 percent of the vote, trailing opposition conservatives whose 48 percent put them on track to reverse Socialist gains made in the 2008 municipal elections.

    The FN scored 7 percent of the vote, BVA estimated, a high national tally, given that it only fielded candidates in 596 out of some 36,000 municipalities across France.

    Its candidate Steve Briois was declared the winner with an outright majority of votes in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, a former coal-mining centre with 25,000 inhabitants that has long been in Socialist hands.

    Exit polls put the National Front ahead in the eastern town of Forbach in France’s former industrial heartland. In the south, the anti-EU party was in the lead in Avignon, Perpignan, Beziers and Frejus, and vying for second place in Marseille behind the conservative incumbent.


    Pollsters have identified half a dozen towns that could see FN rule after next Sunday’s run-offs, giving it the chance to show it can be trusted with power after attempts to run four towns in the late 1990s revealed its lack of competence.

    With official figures expected to show turnout at record lows of around 65 percent of voters, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault made a television appeal for “all democratic forces” to close ranks against FN candidates next week.

    “Wherever the FN is in a position to win the second round, all who support democracy and the Republic have a duty to prevent them,” Ayrault said, calling on voters to turn out in greater numbers than for the first round.

    Heavy losses for Hollande’s party could trigger a reshuffle of his cabinet and encourage backbench attacks on a raft of new pro-business policies on which Hollande has called a vote of confidence in coming weeks.

    However, the final outcome will depend in some cases on highly unpredictable three-way races between the Socialists, the UMP and the National Front.

    While Ayrault called for Socialist and UMP voters to back whichever of the major parties’ candidates is best placed to ensure the FN does not win control of a town, the UMP is seen declining such a pact.

    Le Pen has sanctioned or ejected members found to have made racist comments. While skeptics say much of the party’s grass roots remains racist, analysts say the strategy has made it more acceptable to many potential voters.

    “The National Front is much less repulsive than it has been in recent years,” said Jean-Daniel Levy, an analyst with pollster Harris Interactive. “Voters are not looking for the most competent candidate, but the one who shares their feelings about the state of French society.”

    Polls also show the FN emerging as the leading French party in European Parliament elections in May.

    “While Ayrault called for Socialist and UMP voters to back whichever of the major parties’ candidates is best placed to ensure the FN does not win control of a town, the UMP is seen declining such a pact.”

    So does the French center right now prefer the National Front over the Socialists? Is it tea time for France?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 24, 2014, 10:10 am
  2. Whitewashing the National Front is turning out to be shockingly easy. All that’s required is soap! is a soap opera:

    The Daily Beast

    The Winning Strategy Behind the Le Pen Family Feud
    Marine Le Pen may have forced her father out of the party he founded after his latest outrages, but that will just make her own pursuit of the French presidency easier.

    Benjamin Haddad
    04.13.15 3:25 PM ET

    Last October, Marine Le Pen, 46, leader of the French far-right party the National Front, finally moved out of her father’s house. Her cat had been devoured by her father’s Doberman. An almost too-good metaphor for the dramatic family rift that had been brewing for months and abruptly escalated last week. After a series of provocative declarations about Nazi gas chambers (“a detail of history”) and the origins of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, whose family hails from Spain (“Valls has been French for 30 years, I have for a 1000”), Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s honorary president, stands accused of being pretty much what people always thought he was.

    National Front party leaders, including and especially his daughter, vocally denounced his latest statements and denied him the party’s endorsement to run for the coming regional elections.

    Worse, it would seem, Marine stated during an interview on Thursday night that her father was slip-sliding in a dangerous direction and should “have the wisdom to leave the party by himself,” or face a disciplinary committee to decide on his future within the F.N.. The elder Le Pen predicted, for his part, that the party he founded in 1972 would “die” if he were to be expelled.

    The result, in fact, is likely to be quite the contrary. By figuratively killing off her father, Marine Le Pen would clear away a significant obstacle in a path that could lead her to the French presidency in the 2017 elections.

    On Monday the elder Le Pen accepted to withdraw from the race in the Southeast region of Provence Alpes Côtes d’Azur, ceding his place to his granddaughter, Marine’s niece, Marion Maréchal Le Pen. At 25 she is the youngest member of the National Assembly, one of two F.N. deputies.

    The move underscores the extent to which the party is a family business. It was founded as a fringe refuge for Vichy and French Algeria nostalgics and other such right-wing crackpots. It rose to prominence in the 1980s, feeding on the emergence of mass unemployment and rising insecurity. When the party’s anti-immigration platform started getting attention, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a loud and eloquent speaker who lost an eye in a fist-fight during the 1950s, was perfectly suited to embody these concerns. “Three million unemployed, 3 million immigrants: there’s the solution,” an ominous campaign poster proclaimed in the 1990s.

    In 2002, Le Pen’s ascension to the second round of the presidential election came as a shock to many. People protested en masse and voted against what they saw as a threat to democracy. In the run-off the incumbent Jacques Chirac defeated Jean-Marie Le Pen with a 64-point margin.

    Le Pen’s ephemeral triumph in the first round of those elections also showed the limits of his message: he was happy to be a spoiler but stood no serious chance of getting near the Elysée Palace or controlling a sizable number of seats at the National Assembly. The F.N. would never gain the absolute majority of votes necessary to ascend to office. While denouncing the “UMPS system” which favors the two main parties, the conservative UMP and the Socialist PS), the F.N. came up against a tradition called the “republican front” where mainstream parties refused any alliance with the F.N., and generally supported one another in case the F.N. candidate stood a chance of winning.

    Something had to change if the F.N. was to rule France one day.

    Regarding the longstanding “republican front” that called for the mainstream center-right and center-left parties to support each other when faced with the threat of the F. N. getting elected and how “Something had to change if the F.N. was to rule France one day”, keep in mind that something did change. The right-wing UMP abandoned it.


    Since inheriting the party leadership in 2011, Marine Le Pen has embarked on a strategy of “de-demonization” to make the party more appealing, even glamorous, to voters.

    The intellectual architect of this rebranding is Florian Philippot, a 33-year-old technocrat who came from the ranks of the anti-European-Union left, and the current vice president. It’s said the octogenarian Jean-Marie despises him. But Philippot has helped make Marine’s party attractive to a much less geriatric generation: it attracts young voters and endorses a large number of young candidates. Despite its few elected MPs, it can boast the youngest member of the National Assembly and the Senate. (And a poll last week shows a majority of the French think the electoral system is rigged against the Front, since it garners so many more votes than it does deputies.) It is also relatively gay friendly: it was less vocal than the UMP in its opposition to gay marriage and has even attracted defections from the leader of a gay movement within the center-right party.

    Le Pen Sr. has been the main obstacle to this strategy. Not only has he incessantly criticized it, his very looming presence, and his history of anti-Semitic and racist provocations is a turn-off for mainstream voters who may have been tempted to rally behind Marine. Jean-Marie Le Pen is taboo; Marine tries to be cool.

    Make no mistake. Despite the embarrassment, this latest controversy is an incredible opportunity for Marine Le Pen, a shrewd politician who has, so far, managed a flawless communications operation: make her party increasingly respectable without changing its fundamentals ideas. She has undoubtedly refrained from anti-Semitic comments, has gotten rid of the skinheads marching alongside the F.N. parades and expelled candidates showing openly fascist or racist sympathies. Her speeches are filled with allusions to republican ideals such as secularism and she claims to be the true heir to Charles De Gaulle, the very leader despised by the party’s founders for granting independence to Algeria.

    But scratch the surface and the party has not changed: it is anti-liberal, Europhobic and focused on immigration and Islam. Her 2012 presidential run placed great emphasis on the question of halal food that French families supposedly consume without their knowledge. Besides, F.N. voters still share the party’s historic anti-Semitism: 48 percent of Le Pen’s voters in 2012 consider “Jews have too much power in the media,” according to a recent Ifop study.

    “The words and references have changed, the ideology remains,” says Raphael Glucksmann, a human rights activist who just published a book to denounce the rise of the F.N.’s ideas in the public discourse. “In Italy, Gianfranco Fini had distanced himself from the core principles of European neo-fascism. She never did.”

    Time is running out for mainstream leaders to address the country’s challenges and reclaim the defense of republican principles that have been hijacked by the F.N. to promote its divisive and intolerant agenda. Otherwise, the prospect of a Le Pen at the Elysée will no longer seem remote at all. Marine’s old man may have a vicious Doberman, but she has very sharp teeth of her own.

    Well that sounded like an awful soap. You probably have to be in the target audience to really lose yourself in the story.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 15, 2015, 5:08 pm

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