Marine Le Pen can win: A response to Arun Kapil

27 May 2014, Nanterre, France — Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front political party head, attends a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris. Image by © PHILIPPE WOJAZER/Reuters/Corbis

I highly recommend this analysis by Arun Kapil of the new government formed by Manuel Vallis.   It is incisive, informative and worth reading.  Although I agree with much that Arun says, I think he is far too sanguine about the threat of a victory by Mme Le Pen in the 2017 élection présidentiel.   In one of Art Goldhammer’s recent posts he speaks about the phenomena I call the “New Versailles,” and observes how elites of the political class have “become the intendants of the Fifth Republic, a caste of royal officials utterly divorced from the society they purport to govern.”   Clustered together in the chic arrondissements of Paris “le pouvoir grows more out of touch and less capable of responding to the groans from below. The rise of the Front National is only one sign of the resulting malaise.”

My feelings about the Front National and the Le Pen family are hardly a secret to anyone who reads this blog or my comments on other websites. I believe that the FN is a party that hides its true agenda. I see MLP as the velvet glove that hides the party’s iron fist—an iron fist that would crush liberty, equality and fraternity if given the opportunity. I believe that the FN are the heirs of Vichy and that they want to basically recreate that fascist state in every corner of France.   I believe the FN would liquidate or expel most immigrants, Jews and other “undesirables” if it could. A MLP presidency would be an unspeakable evil and a disaster for France.

Nevertheless, it’s easy for me with my comfortable bobo lifestyle to look down my nose at the many ordinary Frenchmen who today face economic ruin and a future that becomes bleaker every day. Yes, it is too easy for me to dismiss the people whose fears have lead them to defect to the FN from the PS or the FdG. I don’t know what I’d do if my world was crumbling around me and Le Pen was the only candidate promising even the slightest relief from the murderous austerity regime that is destroying everything.

Nor should it be a comfort that, as Arun Kapil observes, the FN has always been a protest party whose leader is regarded negatively by an overwhelming number of Frenchmen.  I fear that the shift of the PS to become a party of the center right, in combination with the near universal embrace of austerity by all of the other large parties has changed everything. And because of their alliance with Hollande, even the FdG has acquiesced in these terrible policies. So where else in the political spectrum is the rejection of austerity?

I have read the stories of those who have left the PS or the FdG for the FN. It is clear that they all have very negative views of Le Pen and the FN but felt compelled to defect anyway, for reasons that are entirely understandable. People are frightened for the future. They need a better economy and some hope for a decent future for their families, not reminders about how awful the FN is—undoubtedly these people know well what monsters they would empower but feel that there is no other choice that will give them relief from the murderous austerity regime that has been so cavalierly imposed upon them.

As I say, there is only a “Sophie’s choice” for the French. Out of all the prospective candidates for 2017, the only one who has offered the people—and especially the working class and the middle class—the slightest hope of a better economic future is MLP.   Ironically, however, the economic program of the FN has far more of Keynes and Jaurès about it than does the increasingly Thatcherite “Parti socialiste”.

If Hollande had been inspired to fight for a better life for the French people, I have little doubt that everyone would be better off today. Instead, he chose neoliberalism, liquidationism and an increasingly horrible life for most ordinary French people.The 2017 élection présidentiel is shaping up to be a choice between the monsters of the FN and decades more of murderous austerity.  Unless the left wakes up, dumps Hollande and Valls and begins to fight against austerity and develop a manifesto for a new “socialism of the possible”, I fear that MLP is very likely the next president of France.