How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France?


by Paul Cotterill    
9:30 am - May 7th 2012

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Of course I’m delighted that Hollande has won, and that Sarkozy is gone. But I’m also worried what the next year will bring.

Marine Le Pen’s refusal to support her natural ally, despite the lengths he was prepared to go to in order to garner Front National votes, really only means one thing.

By consigning Sarkozy to defeat, she has kick-started the UMP infighting, and her very successful one year campaign detoxification campaign now puts her in prime position to pick up a large percentage of UMP votes in June’s parliamentary elections. That campaign started in earnest a couple of days ago.

The complacency surrounding her Round 1 vote percentage – the idea that she’s not that much of a threat – is likely to be washed away within a 50 days, as the parliamentary seats in all areas of France start to flow her way. She may not be the official opposition by the end of that 50 days, but to many French people she will look and sound like it.

Unlike her father, Marine Le Pen has – by force of circumstance – a coherent sounding argument on the economy, which touches a chord with many: ‘leave the Euro’ is a simple, effective message. This, mixed with the message that the UMP betrayed the French people on immigration and security (especially in the wake of the Toulouse killings), will have a powerful effect on a wide group of people.

After 2002, Le Pen père faded away for want of this. In 2012, Le Pen fille will not do so.

So what can British Labour and other European political parties concerned at the rise of neo-Nazism in a major European country do about it other than wring their hands?

Perhaps the only productive thing Labour can do is to support Hollande when he does his best to take on the European austerity machine, based in Brussels, with orders given in Berlin.

We know that Olli Rehn is already moving to fob off Hollande with vague reassurances, when the latter comes calling about his commitment to the French people to renegotiate the Merkozy Fiscal Treaty.

If the “grands travaux” public investment promised by Hollande does not flow, because it becomes stuck in the bureaucratic nightmare that is the ‘six pack’ Stablility and Growth Pact legislation, Le Pen will be quick to pounce: “Hollande is as bad as all the others” will be her claim. “Only I stand aside from the Eurocrat crowd”.

Labour must step in to help Hollande here, as best it can. It must argue, long and loud, that the Fiscal Treaty Hollande is seeking to renegotiate must take precedence over the legislation which was quietly – almost secretly – signed off last year.

The initial signs are good. Mandelson is no fool when it comes to Europe, and his call for a radical reconstruction on the way Europe runs its finances (this is overshadowed in the UK press by the idea of a referendum), he knows exactly what he’s doing: helping to open the way to a new agreement in Europe which sidesteps the machinations of Olli Rehn and his unelected cabale in Brussels.

It’s a good start. I just hope Miliband is watching and learning.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


A rather uncomfortable thought which strikes me is that even Hollande seems to be pandering to some far right trends – but possibly this is more a UK/French cultural difference thing.

2. So Much For Subtlety

Perhaps the only productive thing Labour can do is to support Hollande when he does his best to take on the European austerity machine, based in Brussels, with orders given in Berlin.

That’s the European monetary policy to the rest of us. Signing up to the Euro doesn’t look so smart now does it?

Labour must step in to help Hollande here, as best it can. It must argue, long and loud, that the Fiscal Treaty Hollande is seeking to renegotiate must take precedence over the legislation which was quietly – almost secretly – signed off last year.

Except Hollande is not dumb. He must know that there is nothing much he can do. He is not going to be able to renegotiate the Fiscal Treaty. France is stuck with it. Even if he could, he hasn’t got the money to spend. France has already lost its AAA rating. It will go the way of Argentina at this rate. As I said, for all his faults, Hollande is not dumb. If you read what he is promising, it is basically what Sarkozy promised but a little slower. France has no choice. It can either stay within the Liberal Democratic framework with massive austerity, or it can step outside by choosing the Communists or the Fascists.

I think they would be better off staying with rationality. But the Euro needs to die.

Austerity from the bottom gets people annoyed, especially when they hear about the rich getting richer, Germany is ruling the roust with austerity and Germany should know what happens if you push the poor into a corner.

4. David Ellis

The surest way of not defeating the French far right is to put your faith in Hollande.

The surest way of promoting the far right in France is for Germany to continue to refuse to renegotiate the EU Fiscal Pact despite Hollande’s popular mandate.

Intransigence breeds intransigence.

Two questions:

How is Le Pen a neo-Nazi?

What about actually addressing some of the problems that motivate support for Le Pen rather than assuming that since they do so, the correct response is to ignore or even seek to exacerbate them?

Don’t miss this video: Mrs Merkel’s butler
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBSCqH6xm_U

8. Steve Stubbs

“How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France?” asks Paul Cotteril.

Bit arrogant there my friend. It’s up to the French to deal with their domestic parties, not us.

But then that’s nu labopur socialists for you.

Can we have the real Labour Party back please?

AH AHA AHA!!!!!!!!!!

Sarkdozy given the boot what a gift! Replaced by a man with a depth of experience!!!!!! His main enemy being finance! He is going to show the world what its all about, a 75% income tax for those rich bastards! A financial transaction tax and a total rework of Europe!

Go left Go Go!

Extremely looking forward to watching this mess unfold:D!

10. Trooper Thompson

“[Mandelson's] call for a radical reconstruction on the way Europe runs its finances”

He didn’t do much when he was in the Commission, did he (other than line his pockets with crooked deals)?

Sorry, didn’t see this had been edited down for LibCon.

@1: Don’t see any evidence of that – more an idea that he would lean to the right, which was promoted by the press early on in R2 campaign.

@2: Wasn’t arguing that the euro was a smart idea. I know Hollande’s not dumb, and I’ve read his 60 ‘engagements’. He’s taking a v cautious line but hopes to get some flex in the fiscal pact, but, as noted, the fiscal pact is not the Stab & Growth pact six pack regs, which is where the real control lies. He needs international support.

@3: Yes

@4: Whole point of the piece is that if Hollande is left to it he probably won’t succeed in this (fiscal pact etc.) area. He needs European solidarity e.g. from Labour.

@5: Yes

@6: We’ve been here before (my last edited post on this topic here). You asked me to say why I think Len Pen is a Neo-Nazi. I gave evidence. You asked for the source. I gave the source. You ignored that, and repeated that the allegation was unfounded.

One of the issues that motivates Le Pen supporters is around Brussels’/Merkel’s control of French economic policy (via the six-pack regs etc). I suggest Euro left co-operation around tackling that – this being the only thing that the left outside France can usefully contribute. You ignore that and say the article should be about tackling the issues that motivate Le Pen supporters. Same as.

@8: I said that there wasn’t much parties beyond France can do, but that there is one area where we might contribute. It’s not arrogance to assume/want that centre-left parties in Europe, and part of the same party in the EU, might want to co-operate on a matter which concerns France most directly, but all of us indirectly.

@9: That’s a summary of the Ps manifesto, is it?

@10: Didn’t say Mandelson did a good job when at the EU. Doesn’t stop him knowing something about Europe now.

Like the UMP and its numerous Gaullist and Giscardien predecessor formations, the Front National, as a party, is not immediately easy to locate within René Rémond’s theory of the three French right wings, les trois droites.

Both the UMP and, to a lesser extent, the FN now exhibit Orléanism as the bourgeois economic liberalism against which stand both the populist traditionalism of the Legitimists and the populist authoritarianism of the Bonapartists. There is a certain continuation of Legitimism in the more-or-less Lefebvrist wing of the FN and its electorate, but also in the Social Catholicism of a section of the old UDF and of those who look to the Gaullist conception of the strong French State with a strong Head.

Although Gaullism does have obvious Bonapartist roots, yet its popular following is at least as much Legitimist, especially deep in the countryside. Especially there, the anti-Gaullist Right is not entirely Orléanist, either; not for nothing did it most recently rally to a man whose name was not merely Giscard, but Giscard d’Estaing. And where does anyone think that the popular constituency for an anti-Marxist Socialist Party first came from, or very largely still does come from?

Mitterrand could never decide whether he wanted to be Louis XIV or Napoleon. But he certainly wanted to be one or the other. Deep down, at least, one or the other was what huge numbers of his voters wanted him to be, too. Otherwise, he would never have won. And when he did win, he gave a job to Poujade, in whom the Legitimist and Bonapartist populisms of the Right met, who had endorsed him and who did so again.

The Legitimists celebrated patois (it was more than a century after the Revolution before anything more than half the population of France spoke French), local festivals and folk-customs, the ancient provincial boundaries, and everything else that Jacobins, Whigs, and their imitators or collaborators would wish to iron out, to put it at its very mildest, in the name of progress.

At present, the FN has a thoroughly républicain approach, not only to regional peculiarities, but also and increasingly to secularism. However, if a new movement is indeed arising out of much or most of it and much or most of the disintegrating UMP to give voice to those who would thus rise in electoral revolt against an increasingly Islamised, or no longer recognisably French, Île-de-France, then such a movement is likely to be most popular the further from Paris one travelled both geographically and culturally. It is likely to be a movement very largely conducted in Breton and Corsican, in Provençal and West Flemish, in Occitan and Franconian, in Catalan and Alsation (already spoken by a goodly number of FN supporters), even in Basque.

And even in places not quite as different as that, the call will be for ever-greater rural, traditional, Catholic, even French-speaking autonomy from the centre. Thus, a movement sincerely intended to save France might very well end up destroying her.

How did the UK ever end up in an ‘ever closer union’ with a group of states with significant fascist and communist minorities?

Sadly, it was the liberal left and the liberal right who jointly urged this upon us…

Some here may sneer at the UK’s evolutionary 1000-year path to democracy — eg Galen10 who has referred contemptuously to the “crypto-medieval” governance of the UK – but it is surely highly preferable to the chaos and wholesale slaughter that has prevailed in continental Europe over the last four centuries.

Tradition can both constipate and guide.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France? http://t.co/6KpzzfY0

  2. Jason Brickley

    How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France? http://t.co/jlkhRY8A

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France? http://t.co/IZJm8ss9

  4. BevR

    How do we deal with the rise of the far-right in France? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/OwEzfnOE via @libcon





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