PARIS – France and Europe were left shaken and confused after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party won 18% of the vote in last week’s first round presidential election.

President Nicholas Sarkozy did better than polls had predicted, but the widely anticipated first place win of Socialist Francois Hollande was still a humiliation to the hyperkinetic Sarkozy who sought to wrap himself in the French flag. Polls show Hollande, a bland, unassuming figure, continues to lead Sarkozy in the final election to be held on 6 May.

The National Front is no longer on the ballot in the final two-man race, but it remains the hulking 800-kg gorilla in the ornate drawing room of French politics.

As Marine Le Pen said, French politics will never be the same again.

Just who and what does the National Front represent? I spent a day in the late 1980’s interviewing party founder and father of Marine, Jean Marie LePen, and have followed the LePens ever since.

Leftist critics have branded Jean-Marie Le Pen as a fascist. This is not accurate. I found the big, burly, convivial former paratrooper a modern-day apostle of the Vichy France of 1940’s era: ardently Catholic, anti-foreign, a hater of Islam (Jews used to fill this role), an enemy of the rich industrial class and what he calls “Jewish money,” a fierce foe of Communism and Socialism, and advocate of harsh law and order. “Emigration equals invasion,” he memorably told me.

His daughter, Marine, softened her father’s rhetoric, and is more discreet, but her policies are similar. She wants France to ditch the Euro, end globalism, break the power of the banking elite – a goal shared by Hollande – and crack down on crime and emigration.

Marine Le Pen’s policies are bitterly anti-Muslim. She blames France’s 5-6 million Muslims for many of the nation’s troubles. Sarkozy, in an desperate attempt to attract National Front voters on 6 May, has jumped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon and has intensified his anti-Muslim rhetoric, warning of the alleged dangers of more mosques, halal meat, veils and terrorism.

Sarkozy, a long-time pro-Israel neocon, is beating the war drums for an attack on Syria. France’s 600,000 Jews are solidly behind him.

The big question now is how many of the 6.4 million French who just voted for the National Front can Sarkozy and his UMP party attract. This shift will decide the election.

National Front supporters are a mixed bag. There are working class people furious their factories are being closed and outsourced to East Europe or Asia as unemployment heads over 10%. Many blame Sarkozy and his business mogul friends, or Jewish finance, Muslims, or Americans. They are angry and explosive.

Other National Front members come from the ultra-conservative Catholic haut bourgeoisie, the same class that supported Marshal Petain’s Vichy government during the war. They saw Communism as a far greater threat than Hitler’s National Socialism.

The National Front also draws Muslim haters, anti-Semites, supporters of an all white France, the elderly, and minor neo-fascist groups, as well as small shopkeepers fearing their businesses will be crushed by huge retailers. In the 1950’s, a rightist political Party led by Pierre Poujade fought for “petits commercants.”

France’s right and left have been locked in battle since the 1870’s. The forceful entry of the National Front into this conflict has muddied this two-way fight.

Marine Le Pen’s strategy is to break up Sarkozy’s UMP party and become the party of the center-right. If Sarkozy is defeated on 6 May, his bickering, unstable party may indeed fragment, allowing Le Pen to pick up the pieces in important parliamentary elections on 6 June.

Europe’s neo-fascists, like Holland’s Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, are cheering Le Pen’s stunning vote win. Europe’s center-right leaders are not. They fear growing economic malaise and stresses will spark the same kind of surge to the far right seen in France.

They fear as much a win by Hollande’s big-spending Socialists will undermine their efforts to stabilize continental finances through austerity and saving, or even wreck the vital Franco-German entente that is the foundation of European unity.

But Le Pen’s calls to quit the Euro, return to the franc, and protectionism find many ears across Europe.


copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012

This post is in: European Leaders


  1. Strange…I posted a lengthy comment on April 28 and it appeared on here the next day.There was no profanity,but my usual hard stance on politicians was evident except for Ron Paul…whom I praised.Now it has been deleted.I suppose I have to tone it down somewhat on our spineless political leaders.Moderator?

  2. makethman says:

    I have lived and worked in france for about 12 years
    the french are a funny lot
    like most people they blame everyone else for their own self created problems and cant look at themselves in the mirror
    they dont like the north africans , but they let in about 4 million in the 50/ 60/ 70s to do lo end work, in due course they have gone forth and multiplied to about 7 million, it is expected that this will double in another 20 years due to the high fertility they have
    most of the low end jobs have disappeared due to automation and de localization and there will never be the abundance of work that there was 30 years ago, unemployment is here to stay for ever in that work segment
    , many still only have resident status and are not interested in becoming french, many when they die; go “home” to be buried ( also many of the jewish community does that )
    unlike most europeans the french do manage to elect some quite weird people to be their presidents ( except for the germans who some time ago elected a austrian to be theirs …)
    basically no one in france likes sarko except his entourage and perhaps his past mistresses
    he was voted in on the wave of support garnered from when he was the interior minister and responsible for crushing the raccail( rabble ) as he calls unfortunates that dont have a lot of dosh

    he has , on air regularly insulted the public ( connard ) is one of his favorite words, i wont translate it
    as DSK recently said openly Sarko was probably behind the set up of the sexually voracious DSK in NYC and Lille
    it is on public record that Sarko tried to hammer De Villepin via the twisted court system
    Be sure that when Sarko is wiped out at the 2nd round he will be like the younger g bush=> the living the twilight of the living dead un- famous politician with nowhere to go:

    no books . no speeches . no money, just forgotten
    what better punishment?
    I would assume that in due course the big guys like DSK will in their turn crush Sarko via the courts and he will , like Chirac get some suspended sentance
    or will he run away to Tel-Aviv??
    or maybe in a safe house in maine in recompense for sending the boys to be blown up in eastern afghanistan under george’s bidding ?

    Holland will not do a great job either , france is too messed and structurally impaired to fix itself
    but at least Holland will be humble and get some respect from the electorate

    liberty equality and fraternity!
    vive la france

  3. To quote Gerald Celente (Trends Research Institute), “when all else fails and they have nothing more to come up with, they take you to war.”
    Unfortunately, Celente appears to be correct. The 2008 financial implosion was a result profligate malfeasance of the highest order. Instead of having market forces purge the toxic financial garbage, tax payer funded bailouts were the order of the day and the toxic waste that was left for the general populace to deal with.
    What we are seeing in Europe is a mere reaction to the effects of this financial alchemy. In similar periods we had the Kaiser, the Japs, those Nazi Krauts and even the Reds to bail out the Military Banking Complex. Now it is the turn of the Muslims. Yet I fear the outcome to the West may not be as favourable a previous adventures.

  4. Aah, the spoils of colonialism. Funny how a full belly makes people complacent, hunger is a strong motivator!

  5. solum temptare possumus says:

    Chancelor Merkel needs Sarkozy to maintain the detente between France and Germany that supports the Euro. However his postering to win the right wing voters has forced her to distance or at least silence her support.
    The factions that supported Le Pen’s 18% vote are many and diverse. Most would not sit down to a meal with each other. If Sarkozy does win, to appease the 10%+ unemployed who have lost their jobs, tariffs of some sort may be started to re-open factories. The spiral of tit for tat will begin, that could eventually doom the Eurozone and the Euro itself. (See link in my response to Mike Smith’s comment)
    France will not fail. Their cheeses and wines alone will save them. I am not so sure about the European Union though.
    It could all hinge on an election in France in 2012!
    Ad iudicium

  6. Mike Smith says:

    Could be a scary summer in Europe,1518,830193,00.html

    ” One might argue that the calendar is about to be set back 40 years and that we are landing right back in the 1970s, in an era when economic policymakers had been infected by the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, and believed they could bridge economic downturns with ever more multi-million programs financed with debt. It was precisely this phase of recent economic history in which governments began to declare it as their right to accrue ever more debt, and it also laid the foundation stone for the policy of racking up debts that is now standard in all industrialized nations. ”

    Sounds like France may follow Greece… or the US

    and if Europe goes down, how long will that take to spread ?

    Perhaps we will come to the point where we can just abolish national debts ? but then why not personal debt too ?

    reset it all to zero, and toss the money lenders under the bus.

    and Ray, here is the song for that sound track

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