by Joseph W
The BBC reports today that Front National elections are coming up soon. The next leader of the FN will be chosen at their party conference in Tours, 15-16 January.
Time Magazine has published a profile today of Jean Marie Le Pen’s daughter Marine Le Pen, who is widely considered to be the favourite for leadership of the Front National, and the successor to her father.
Like with other European fascists, it seems that the FN under Marine would appear more friendly to Jews and accept the Holocaust as historical fact. This is not because they genuinely like Jews. They know that otherwise, people would immediately identify them as Nazis. We think of the BNP’s pro-Israel statements which clashed with the anti-Semitism rife within the party.
Marine has recently made headlines for her comparison between Muslims praying outside mosques and the Nazi occupation of France:
“For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory […] It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply. It’s an occupation. There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents.”
Le Figaro interpreted this as a rallying call to core Front National voters. Of course, Marine needs to appeal to them, given the leadership campaign being mounted by the more reactionary candidate Bruno Gollnisch.
Gollnisch has previously faced legal action for his comments doubting the existence of Nazi gas chambers. When asked by the Far Right French magazine Rivarol about Gollnisch in 2004, Marine answered that her “sense of honour” forbade her from participating in the “witch-hunt” of a “committed patriot”, but that the existence of Nazi gas chambers was non-negotiable, and would make FN look anti-Semitic.
Gollnisch attended a show in 2006 in which Dieudonne mocked and doubted the Holocaust (see here for more recent examples of Dieudonne’s “comedy” routine). Ironically, Gollnisch was sent to the event by Jean-Marie Le Pen, along with Marine’s ex-husband, FN activist Eric Lorio.
Marine and Gollnisch have not always been rivals.
In the 1990s, both were key members of Tout Sauf Megret [Anybody But Megret], an FN group opposed to Le Pen’s deputy Bruno Megret, who began criticising Jean Marie Le Pen’s leadership and rhetoric. Marine and Gollnisch also worked alongside ultra-conservative Roger Holeindre and Jean-Claude Martinez in Tout Sauf Megret.
Megret tried to move the party towards the populist, conservative right. Given the strength of the opposition to Megret within the FN, he eventually set up his own Far Right party, the National Republican Movement.
Ironically, it seems that Marine Le Pen appears to be doing what Megret had suggested the FN should do all along, repackaging the party’s image and putting aside some of the FN’s more extreme ideas (for now).
Of course, that leaves the issue of how Marine deals with her father’s legacy.
The Independent reported in September:
But is her drive to “sweep away misconceptions” about the NF not, de facto, an attack on her dear old dad? She says that the media “demonised” the NF. But what about Jean-Marie Le Pen’s own extremist statements over the years? (Too many black players in the France football team; immigration is a Jewish-led conspiracy to destroy France.)
That was then, she says. This is now. “It’s true that, 30 years ago, Jean-Marie Le Pen maybe used a few provocative remarks to make himself heard when the political and media classes would give no space to our ideas. There is no need to use such methods today because, in so many areas, the facts have proved that the National Front was right”
So according to Marine, when her dad was ranting about Jewish conspiracies and black footballers, he was really trying to draw attention to important social issues.
These are not the words of a genuinely reformed character. Were she sincere in her intention to remake the FN, she would not be making nasty statements comparing public prayer to Nazi occupation, or trying to contextualise her father’s racism by presenting him as some kind of populist hero – that is to say the least.