Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #80 Fascism à La Mode

Lis­ten now: Side 1 | Side 2

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

Post a comment