Marine Le Pen rejects "extreme right" label
The British-based market research and information group TNS Sofres has just published its most recent findings on the popularity of Marine Le Pen. According to Le Figaro, dated October 3, for the first time Marine Le Pen ranks among those politicians in third place in popularity. She has managed to earn equal status with François Fillon, Alain Juppé and Christine Lagarde, all three Nicolas Sarkozy appointees as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and IMF director, all three of dubious loyalty to the principle of French sovereignty:
She has made progress everywhere: with Socialist sympathizers she gained one point, with UMP voters seven points. The most troubling thing for her adversaries is that she began the new season softly, without publicity or scandal. She is benefiting above all from the weakness of a tone-deaf Socialist Party and a right that never stops tearing itself apart over past issues. While Marine Le Pen's rating goes through the roof, François Hollande suffers record unpopularity. The French censure especially his lack of authority. His ministers indulge in mutual recriminations. Better yet, for Marine Le Pen, Manuel Valls is beginning to sound almost like her on the matter of the Roma gypsies! It's harvest time for the president of the Front National who eagerly awaits the next election - the municipal battles that will take place next March. The FN finds itself in a position to generate several three-way races and to increase considerably the number of its elected officials. Then come the European elections in which her party has a very good chance of coming out ahead of the Socialists and the UMP. A streak of bad luck for the government.
No sooner was this news released than Marine Le Pen announced she was taking legal action against those who referred to the Front National as the "extreme right", a term she regards as pejorative and harmful to the image of the party. Her statements elicited the following contemptuous response from Le Monde:
With the wind in her sails, buoyed by flattering polls, encouraged by the obvious uneasiness she causes to both the left and the right, the president of the Front National clearly intends to exploit her advantage.
Marine Le Pen has again demonstrated this by refusing the label of "extreme right" attached to the party created by her father in 1972, and that she has been leading for almost three years. "It is a deliberately pejorative term," used to "cause harm" by putting the FN "in the same boat" with the Greek neo-nazi movement Golden Dawn, she declared on October 1 and then again on October 3. She is therefore considering going to court to put an end to what she sees as an "insult" and a "semantic war" against her movement.
It is not a surprise. On the one hand, the president of the Front National is pursuing, logically, her "un-demonization" project, that has served her well for three years. By ridding herself of the old Petainist remnants from the original FN, by separating herself from the antisemitic cracks of her father, by seizing upon laïcité (even if it is to denounce "Islamism"), Mme Le Pen has managed to give to the FN, in the eyes of a growing number of Frenchmen, the image of a respectable party. To refuse the label of "extreme right" completes this effort of normalization.
On the other hand - as she often does - the president of the FN pulls the same strings as her father. Already in 1995 Jean-Marie Le Pen had denounced the label of extreme right and had sued two newspapers, Le Monde and Libération, for this reason. The courts threw the case out, judging that it was an "abuse of the law" on his part, that aimed "in a deliberately dissuasive manner to censor the speech of journalists."
At the time, Le Pen père had pleaded that his movement derived from the "national right" and had nothing to do with the extreme right of the pre-war fascist leagues and movements. His daughter adds another argument: the Front National was "absolutely not" born, forty years ago, from the regrouping of smaller groups of the extreme right.
And yet she knows perfectly well that it's a lie. The FN did indeed bring together, in the beginning, neo-fascists of the New Order, former collaborators, lost soldiers of the OAS (the army that fought to keep Algeria French), revolutionary nationalists and Poujadists (middle-class reactionaries, from the movement begun by Pierre Poujade in the 1950's). She is especially aware of this since, in order to be elected to the presidency of the movement in 2011, she had "taken responsibility for the entire heritage" of the FN - her genetic code, in a manner of speaking.
For her, calling her party "extreme right" is, frankly, an "ethical error." Let us repeat clearly: by virtue of its position on the French political chessboard, as much from its ideas as from its platform, the Front National is, today as yesterday, a movement of the extreme right.
Her denunciation of the "system" and the elected leaders, the national preference (or priority) that she wants to impose, the stigmatization of immigration and of Islam, the condemnation of the European Union and of "globalism" make it a reactionary party. A party opposed to the republican principles of equality, fraternity and liberty - in this case freedom of the press - when Mme Le Pen assumes she can dictate language and analyses to everyone.
Note: Is Marine Le Pen right to attempt this legal action against the media? Would she achieve a better result by trying to explain that what is called "extreme right" today was simply called "patriotism" at one time? Suing journalists is like suing lawyers. It's almost impossible to win, unless you can provide some kind of tangible proof that the journalist committed an intentional unethical action, as in the al-Durrah case. (But even here the final verdict in 2013 went against Philippe Karsenty who had accused France 2 of unethical conduct). Le Monde's assertion that a desire for national preference proves the FN is a party of the "extreme right" is a blatant example of the media's hatred of the basic human need for a national home in which one culture dominates, no matter how many minorities live side by side. Any nation worthy of the name has to follow a policy of national preference just as any father must defend his family. For Le Monde nationalism is an evil, opposition to globalism is an evil, opposition to uncontrollable immigration is an evil, and we can assume that any father who defends his family is evil. Le Monde's case against Marine Le Pen is based on the totalitarian powers of the media, not on any desire to clarify the meaning of words like "left" and "right" that are so overused and yet still succeed in arousing violent emotions. And what does Le Monde have to say about the extreme left and its heritage of sixty million (minimum) people killed because they dissented?
I think Marine would do better to take her case to the people, hammer it home, and avoid the French courts which, she surely knows, will render a guilty verdict without wasting energy on a trial. She has to explain in what way the party is right-wing and why that is not necessarily a bad thing. She has to show how Hitlerian racist policies differ radically from a policy of immigration restriction. And she should describe to her constituents how the media have instilled into vulnerable minds the notion that nationalism is equivalent to nazism.