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Weissman writes: "Marine Le Pen has rebranded France’s Front National (FN) and is fast becoming the face of Europe’s growing right-wing nationalism. But how much does the new right-wing darling still take from Adolph Hitler’s National Socialists, which gave the FN much of its initial inspiration?"

President of French far-right party Front national (FN) Marine Le Pen. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
President of French far-right party Front national (FN) Marine Le Pen. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Marine Le Pen Targets Muslims, Seeks Jewish Support, and Loves Vladimir Putin

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

18 May 14


arine Le Pen has rebranded France’s Front National (FN) and is fast becoming the face of Europe’s growing right-wing nationalism. But how much does the new right-wing darling still take from Adolph Hitler’s National Socialists, which gave the FN much of its initial inspiration?

When Marine’s father – Jean-Marie Le Pen – ran the FN, his opponents called him “Super Facho,” or “Super Fascist,” while many journalists, including this one, regularly described his group as “the neo-Nazi Front National.” He certainly admired Adolph Hitler. From the early 1960s, Jean Marie ran a record company that produced historic speeches and songs across the political spectrum. One album was “The Third Reich: Voices and Songs of the German Revolution,” which included “Vive Hitler” and “The Hymn of the Nazi Party.” On the record jacket, Le Pen characterized Hitler and the National Socialists in their rise to power as “a powerful mass movement, altogether popular and democratic, that triumphed through elections.”

With this in mind, Jean-Marie created the Front National in 1972, bringing together self-proclaimed Fascists, Vichy collaborators, well-known war criminals, and more traditional right-wing Catholics. This was a nationalistic amalgam, not an avowedly Fascist or Nazi party. A former paratrooper and intelligence officer whose unit brutally tortured and killed “Arab terrorists” in Algeria, Le Pen cast himself primarily as a French patriot, not an Aryan supremacist. But many around him, especially in his security detail, remained hardline German-style Nazis, while he himself rarely missed an opportunity to bash the Führer’s chosen scapegoats.

Shamelessly provocative, he dismissed the Holocaust as “a mere detail in the history of the Second World War.” He made puns about the Nazi gas ovens. He accused former president Jacques Chirac of being “in the pay of Jewish organizations.” Never a one-trick pony, in his 2002 presidential campaign against Chirac, Jean-Marie directed most of his venom at Muslims, whom he accused of taking French jobs, threatening French culture, and polluting the national identity. “Tomorrow, if you don’t watch out,” he warned, “they will take your home, eat your food and sleep with your wife, your daughter, or your son.”

Marine, his youngest daughter, cuts a different figure, which is winning her more support than her father ever received. The latest poll predicts that the Front National will lead the pack in the May 25th elections for the European Parliament, where she has allied with other far-right anti-immigrant parties to “battle the monster of Brussels” and block any further European integration.

The good news is that Marine’s predicted share of the vote has slipped from over 30% to only 24%, while a poll last week showed that two-thirds of the French find her a demagogue and 60% still think she’s a racist. That’s reassuring, but I find it kind of scary that nearly a quarter of the people among whom my wife and I live say they will vote for the Front National.

However the vote turns out, a large element in Marine’s success has been the pig-headed policies of the European Union, from creating the Euro to enforcing painful, anti-growth austerity and neo-liberal economics with its belief in some mythic “free market.” Blame, as well, the pathetic failure of the French left to offer any serious alternative. But give the lady her due, as did the American Free Press, the latest racist rag of the Liberty Lobby’s Willis Carto, whom readers may recall as an outspoken admirer of Hitler, global promoter of Holocaust denial, and long-time fan of the elder Le Pen.

“Ms. Le Pen has learned to walk the fine line of right-wing politics,” wrote the AFP. “She has focused on illegal immigration, high unemployment, exit from the Eurozone and other nationalist issues while toning down language that might be perceived as ‘racist’ or ‘anti-Semitic.’”

Or, to cite the AFP’s tagline, “National Front finds being ‘anti-Muslim’ better for business than being ‘anti-Semitic.’”

Like many European aristocrats with their long history of despising Jews, the proudly middle-class Marine has learned to accept an inescapable truth. Hitler gave anti-Semitism a bad name. She now tries to sound positively pro-Jewish and Israeli, which traditional racists blame on her live-in lover Louis Aliot, an FN vice president who speaks proudly of his Algerian Jewish grandfather and regularly visits Israel. But the scapegoat shift goes beyond Marine’s personal life. Most of the leading far-right nationalist groups in Western Europe find it “better for business” to bash Muslims than Jews. And, shamefully, they are actively encouraged to do so by right-wing Israelis and anti-Muslim activists, Christian as well as Jewish, in Europe and the United States.

Fine-tuning her new brand of bashing, Ms. Le Pen shows great finesse, a trait few outsiders ever saw in her father. She is “not waging war against Islam,” she insists. She is only fighting against “the Islamisation of French society.” The term has lots of wiggle room, but she gives herself away. Just look at how she defines the threat and rushes in like an avenging Joan of Arc to defend her beloved France.

Still vice president of her father’s Front National in 2010, she loudly condemned weekly Muslim prayers for blocking streets and squares in French cities, including the 18th arrondisement of Paris, the area on the right bank of the Seine around Montmartre. Marine could have compared the traffic congestion to a large Catholic funeral cortege or religious procession, but she likened it to an occupation of French territory. That scored two birds with one stone. She bashed Muslim worshippers. And she cleverly called to mind the German occupation during World War II.

Jean-Marie’s daughter was signaling a new gambit in the old hate-filled game. Where her father went out of his way to characterize the Nazi occupation of France as “not especially inhumane,” Marine feels no need to refight the ideological battles of the 1930s and 40s. She presents herself as dramatically post-Nazi. But, at the same time, she follows her father and his Führer in building a nationalist movement by scapegoating unpopular “outsiders.”

To cite another example from 2010, the state-owned fast food chain Quick announced that it would offer only halal meat at eight to fourteen of its outlets. The chain wanted to attract Muslim customers. Marine flew into a self-righteous rage. The government of then-president Nicholas Sarkozy was supporting a “forced Islamisation of France,” she declared. Sadly, several French socialists and center-right conservatives jumped on the same anti-Muslim bandwagon.

On the basis of a television report two years later, Marine – now FN’s president – struck even deeper. All the meat distributed in the Ile de France, the region around Paris, was butchered to meet halal standards, she claimed. “The consumer unwittingly eats meat from religious slaughter,” which she saw as a violation of the French constitutional principle of secularism. Government and industry leaders called her claim “totally absurd,” but she had succeeded once again in singling out Muslims for attack while presenting herself as simply defending French values.

She similarly supported Swiss voters for banning construction of new minarets and approving the deportation of criminal foreigners. She blames immigrants for taking jobs away from French workers, without any evidence that the two groups compete for the same jobs. And, without ever mentioning race, she never misses an opportunity to attack Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, a black woman from French Guiana. Where Jean-Marie was thuggish and overbearing, Marine is sly and underhanded.

One other clue to Marine’s thinking is her steadfast support for Vladimir Putin, which started well before the current crisis in Ukraine. “He is attached to the sovereignty of his people,” she explained in a recent interview with Kurier, the Austrian daily. “He is aware that we defend common values. These are the values of European civilization” and of our “Christian heritage.”

Warmly received in April by the Russian Duma, the parliament, Marine declared that Putin was “a pure democrat, but with an authoritarian style.” The question is obvious. Were she ever to become president of France, would she follow in Putin’s “democratic” footsteps? Would she jail her political opponents? Would she close down independent media? Would she persecute gays? Would she break treaty commitments and threaten war on her neighbors? I hope that we will never have to find out.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

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