High Drama on the French Right

Le Pen, father and daughterThe founder of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has said he is pulling out of regional elections amid a row with his daughter. Marine Le Pen, who now leads the far-right party, condemned her father for his recently repeated claims that Nazi gas chambers were a “detail of history.”

The Front National’s clear break with Jean-Marie Le Pen is not good news for many. The left – or what’s left of it – won’t be able to use the threat of fascism as effectively as it has in the past to counter the FN’s assault on the polls. Also, the claim that Jean-Marie Le Pen “says out loud what the FN thinks to itself” will become increasingly absurd. The moralist stance of condemning the party for its anti-Semitism in the name of eternal ‘republican values’ will lose even more of its clout.

Source: Slate Magazine, April 9

If Marine Le Pen seldom uses the word “values,” she has very adroitly steered her party back to the semantics of “the Republic” in order to broaden its appeal. Not only does she profess the ideals of liberty and equality, but she has turned herself into a champion of laïcité, a principle that had traditionally been the hallmark of the left. She feels so strongly about secularism that any mention of “fraternity,” associated with the Catholic Church in French culture, is carefully avoided.

Ms. Le Pen’s laïcité, however, subtly differs from the common understanding of it, which stems from the 1905 law separating church and state. Whenever she refers to laïcité, it relates to Muslim religious practices: the veil, halal food, public prayers. For Ms. Le Pen, laïcité is “a weapon against Muslim communitarianism” and “no mentions of the Catholic or Jewish communities are made,” says Cécile Alduy, an associate professor of French at Stanford and co-author of a revealing book about the role of semantics in Marine Le Pen’s makeover of the National Front.

Source: The New York Times, April 2

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One response to “High Drama on the French Right

  1. Given her economic views you could call her a leftist populist rather than far right. Creepy by either definition.