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Weissman writes: "Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's repackaged Front National, stood trial last week for inciting hatred by comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II."

Marine Le Pen. (photo: Patrick Seeger/EPA)
Marine Le Pen. (photo: Patrick Seeger/EPA)

Is Marine Le Pen a Neo-Fascist?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

27 October 15


arine Le Pen, the leader of France’s repackaged Front National, stood trial last week for inciting hatred by comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

Two Muslim and two human rights groups brought the case against her under France’s hate speech laws, which restrict freedom of expression in ways generally prevented by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The French government aided the prosecution by getting the European Parliament to withdraw Le Pen’s immunity as a member.

Portraying herself as a victim of political persecution, Le Pen staunchly defended her right to free speech. So did the state prosecutor, who had only a peripheral role in the proceedings. She was not speaking “of the whole Muslim community,” he told the court, “but only a minority.” The three-judge panel will deliver their verdict after regional elections in December, and it will likely have little effect one way or another.

Le Pen showed how counterproductive French hate speech trials can be, using her day in court to wage an anti-Muslim and anti-migrant campaign to help her win election in December as president of the region around Calais. A victory there would in turn strengthen her campaign for President of France in 2017, where the polls already show her likely to win the first round against whatever candidates the other parties run against her.

Does this mean that France could soon have Marine Le Pen as president? I have to hope that defenders of the French Republic will vote together in the second round in 2017, as they did in 2002 to crush her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in his race against Jacques Chirac. “Better the Super-Liar than the Super-Facho,” read the posters we carried in marches all around the country. The tougher question is whether a victorious Marine Le Pen would rule as a populist, right-wing nationalist, or neo-Fascist.

Marine has expelled her always provocative father Jean-Marine from the party for continuing to insult Jews and minimize the Holocaust. She has reportedly cracked down on anti-Semitism within the party. She defends and admits taking funds from Vladimir Putin, who proudly portrays himself as the world’s leading opponent of Fascism. And she offers extremely cogent critiques of the European Union, the Euro, the United States and its foreign policy, and the foibles of neo-liberal capitalism.

But don’t be fooled. All these are part of how Marine Le Pen has redefined Fascism for the 21st century. She signaled the beginning of the new direction as far back as 2010, when she was still vice-president of her father’s Front National and struggling against the old guard to take over the party. Reports had circulated of Muslims in Paris and two other cities praying in the streets because of a lack of mosques or of space in local prayer rooms. This was all Marine needed, and her reaction led to the current charges against her.

France has seen “more and more veils.” Then “more and more burqas,” and “after that came prayers in the streets,” she told a party rally. “I’m sorry, but for those who really like to talk about the Second World War, if we’re talking about occupation, we can also talk about this while we’re at it, because this is an occupation of territory,”

“It’s an occupation of swaths of territory, of areas in which religious laws apply … for sure, there are no tanks, no soldiers, but it’s an occupation all the same and it weighs on people.”

Marine never mentioned the Nazis by name, and still insists that she was not necessarily referring to them, though they and their allies were the only occupiers of France during World War II. But she made her point. Where her father and his cronies were largely Hitlerites carrying on the legacy of the Third Reich and Vichy France, Marine feels no need to refight the ideological battles of the 1930s and 40s. She presents herself as dramatically post-Nazi and a Republican follower of Gen. DeGaulle and the Resistance rather than of the collaborators around Marshall Philippe Pétain.

These are huge breaks with the past. But she remains neo-Fascist in the way she follows her father and his Führer in building an ultra-nationalist movement by scapegoating unpopular “outsiders.” They largely bashed Jews. She targets Muslims and non-European migrants. Some of her passion could be racist. But, for all her talk of preserving laicité the French version of secularism, she bases her political crusade on religion and national culture.

This stands out in her steadfast support for Vladimir Putin, which started well before the crisis in Ukraine. “He is attached to the sovereignty of his people,” she explained. “He is aware that we defend common values. These are the values of European civilization” and of our “Christian heritage.”

Whether black, brown, or white, and even if they are legally citizens of France, Muslims remain outside occupiers. “This is an organized replacement of our population,” she said. “This threatens our very survival. We don’t have the means to integrate those who are already here. The result is endless cultural conflict.”

Now, with the explosion of migrants and asylum-seekers, she goes even further. “Without any action, this migratory influx will be like the barbarian invasion of the IV century, and the consequences will be the same,” she told supporters. “We must immediately stop this madness to safeguard our social pact, freedom and identity.”

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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