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Weissman writes: "Marine Le Pen, leader of the French Front National (FN), has become the face of the far right across Europe, which explains to all but Vladimir Putin's 'useful idiots' much of why the far right Russian nationalist is bankrolling her, her Hitlerite father Jean-Marie, and her cosmetically rebranded party."

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 and the Long March of Europe's Neo-Fascists

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

05 December 14


arine Le Pen, leader of the French Front National (FN), has become the face of the far right across Europe, which explains to all but Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiots” much of why the far right Russian nationalist is bankrolling her, her Hitlerite father Jean-Marie, and her cosmetically rebranded party. The tougher questions require thinking about the future. What is Putin likely to get for his €40 million “loan?” And how is his pay-to-play patronage likely to impact the new European Fascism that Marine is working so hard to create.

Though Putin systematically presents himself as fighting Fascists, not funding them, I purposely use the F-word with a new or neo to describe the Le Pens, the Front National, and most of their European allies. Polite journalists, especially those needing access, hold back from using the term, especially about Marine. She presents a far more reasonable image as party leader than did her thuggish, provocative father. She has also house trained her subordinates not to engage in Nazi salutes and similar gestures, though – as this shows – they cannot always control the temptation.

Mostly, Marine’s new respectability comes from a major tactical choice. She has moved the party away from her father’s Jew-bashing, Holocaust denial, and gas oven puns, for which French courts have convicted and fined him over a dozen times. Marine has stuck to bashing Muslims, Africans, immigrants, gays and other “outsiders.”

To her credit, she does her bashing without her father’s way with words, as when in the elections of 2002 he accused French Muslims of threatening French culture and polluting the national identity. “Tomorrow, if you don’t watch out,” he warned voters, “they will take your home, eat your food and sleep with your wife, your daughter or your son.”

But Marine nonetheless targets Muslims and others, as do her fellow-travelers throughout Europe. Theirs is a classic example of the old French adage, the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing. Right-wing extremists still scapegoat “the other” as a strategy to pave their way to power, which is why I call them neo-Fascists. Though the targets may differ, the hateful strategy remains.

Back in the 1960s, Jean-Marie wrote that the Nazi rise to power came from their building “a powerful mass movement, altogether popular and democratic, that triumphed through elections.” He harbored this hope for his Front National, but fell far short. Marine and her European allies are already doing far better, and the €40 million “loan” from Putin will now let her build that “popular movement” on a scale that her father could only dream about.

She and her European allies also have an added advantage, one that could make them all the more valuable to Putin’s political aims. They have taken leadership of a growing Euro-Skeptic movement against the European Union, and their critique of the Brussels bureaucracy has serious merit.

From the early days after World War II, American lawyers and diplomats helped create the European Iron and Steel Community, while the CIA’s largest single beneficiary was the European Movement. Later, the Americans strongly backed the creation of the Common Market, which gave the larger US corporations a huge advantage over the smaller, nationally divided European firms. Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, in his best-selling Le Défi Americain, or The American Challenge, warned of this as early as 1967.

“The greater wealth of American corporations allows them to conduct business in Europe faster and more flexibly than their European competitors,” he wrote. “This flexibility of the Americans, even more than their wealth, is their major weapon. While Common Market officials are still looking for a law which will permit the creation of European-wide businesses, American firms, with their own headquarters, already form the framework of a real Europeanization.”

As Paul Krugman points out in his forward to a new edition of the book, American firms never did take over the European economy. But, backed by Washington, they did exert enormous influence in the Common Market, and I would argue that they exert even more in the European Union. The EU is by no means an American pawn, as Putin and the neo-Fascists often assert. But American corporations and investment banks play a huge role in keeping Brussels from becoming anything approaching democratic.

A bigger cause of Euro-Skepticism for the neo-Fascists is the push led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to impose anti-growth, anti-job cutbacks on the economies of other countries, especially those in Southern Europe. Washington and the IMF generally push in a similar direction, but as ironic as it may seem, the neo-Fascists are finding that their major enemies speak German, not American.

All this could help Marine Le Pen and the neo-Fascists build a major opposition movement, one that could in time become contenders for power in more than one European country. The odds are still against them, but with Putin’s loans, the Front National could pose a serious threat in France, and I’m now investigating her allies and evidence of more Moscow money in other countries. In any case, the neo-Fascists are already setting the tone for anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred throughout Europe.

What can stop them? The only alternative I know is to build a popular and democratic left that works harder, makes stronger arguments, and offers more serious solutions. Some are certainly trying, especially in Greece and Spain, and I will be reporting on them as well, one column at a time.

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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