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France: Nearly a Million Votes for the Far-Right.

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Right 8,656,826

Left 6,736,810

Diverse local group, individuals, ‘notables’  1,983,191

Extreme Right. 983,191

Centre 690,140

Gauche radicale (that is the Front de gauche, though see below on this) 247,471

EELV  247,47 (Greens).

Extreme Left (small groups like the NPA and LO)  127,674

These totals are complicated by local alliances, which are extremely intricate (sometimes Communist Party with the Socialists, sometimes Parti de gauche with the Greens – as in Grenoble).

Are there simple conclusions.

The situation, as Libération points out today, may be not at all clear cut.

The Front National won  in the  2014 Presidential elections, 15,7%
This time they got  14,4% in towns and cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants where they stood.

Their break-through in Hénin-Beaumont – town that has become a symbol – was not encouraging.

In  Brignoles and  Perpignan left candidates have stood down, to allow the Republican forces to stand against the far-right.

In  Seine-Saint-Denis  (the ‘red belt’) the Communists managed to maintain their vote.

L’Humanité carries an important editorial today on whether the Front National has achieved a real “breakthrough”.

It asks  if France is today in the same situation as 2002, when Lionel Jospin was beaten in the first round of the Presidential election by Le Pen.

Should there be a wider “front républicain” uniting left and centre-right to fend off the Front National – as happened in 2002 when some  on the left backed Chriac against Le Pen?

They suggest a large part of the responsibility for the present rise of far-right lies with  President François Hollande and his ministers.

The second round (where needed) is on the 30th of March.

Update (Hat-Tip JM): on the problems between the French Communists (PCF) and the other parts on the Front de gauche over the second round. Fusions, quand le PCF dézingue le Front de gauche

Written by Andrew Coates

March 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

France’s Front National on Way to “Political Mainstream”.

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Sondage sur le Front National en France

Front National Enters Political Mainstream.

Adapted from Le Monde.

Today, 34%  of French voters in the Le Monde survey (published in print yesterday) “back the ideas of the National Front “ . This an increase of two percentage points compared to 2013.  59% of respondents disagreed. Since the accession of Marine Le Pen to the presidency of the extreme right party, the level of support for the ideas of FN continues to increase : it was 22% during the inauguration of M me Le Pen 2011, jumping to 31% the following year and 32% in 2013.

Marine Le Pen’s image is winning, meanwhile,  increasingly favourable opinions. 58% of respondents consider that she  is “capable of appealing to people beyond her own constituency  “ (+5 points), 56% that she “understands the ordinary concerns of French people” (+ 7 points) and 40% (+ 5 points) believe that she  “has new ideas on how to solve the problems of France “ .

Another key point: 46% of respondents believe that M me Le Pen is “fairly representative of a straight forward patriotic right-wing  attached to traditional values” (+ 2 points) against 43% who think it is “extreme right-wing nationalist and xenophobic party. “

However, Marine Le Pen is still unable to convince the French of the merits of the two fundamental points of her program: the euro and national preference (giving priority to French nationals in welfare, housing and jobs – a policy that marked legislation in 1932, during the French equivalent of the Great Depression: it fixed at 10% the number of foreign nationals in private firms, and 5% in public ones).

64% of respondents were opposed to the exit from the euro and a return to the Franc, against 29% who disagreed.  Finally, in terms of employment , 72% of people are opposed to the “national preference”, against 24% who are in favour of such a measure.

The Le Monde survey is largely concerned with the image and the entry of the Front National into mainstream French politics.

For the European elections this year the FN is often predicted to lead the poll.

Opinion survey (January):

Front National 23%, l’UMP 21% (centre-right) Parti socialiste and Parti Radical de Gauche 18%.

L’Alternative, Jean-Louis Borloo and François Bayrou (centre) , 11%  Front de Gauche , Jean-Luc Mélenchon (9%) ‘Europe Ecologie Les Verts (7%).

Debout la République 2,5% des suffrages,NPA (nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Olivier Besancenot) 2% .

In the much difficult area to gauge by polls,  the coming Municipal Elections (March), these are some representative figures,

UMP/UDI  (Centre-Right) 29 %, Parti socialiste (21 %) Front national (17 %), 11 % Front de gauche and 8 % pour Europe Écologie-Les Verts.

France: President Hollande Gives in to Right-wing Hysteria on Family Law.

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French and British Bigots Unite Last Year.

(Reuters) – France’s Socialist government dropped plans on Monday to update family law this year after huge weekend protests by conservatives against gay-friendly reforms they say harm traditional families.

The government tried on Monday to reassure the protesters, who numbered over 100,000 in Paris and Lyon on Sunday, that the new law would not legalise assisted procreation for lesbian couples or surrogate motherhood for gay men who wanted children.

But when Socialist lawmakers insisted they would amend the planned bill to include those reforms, the government announced the draft law – which would also define the legal rights of step-parents in second marriages – needed more work.

“The government will not submit a family reform bill before the end of the year,” the prime minister’s office said.

Sunday’s protesters, many of the Catholics but also some Muslims, tapped continued resentment against the legalization of gay marriage last year to pressure the government not to go further and allow ways to help gays have their own children.

Reactions have not been slow in coming.

Le Parisien reports (freely  adapted),

Ludovine the Rochère, (the ultra-Catholic leader of the Manif pour tous), was glad, “”What stood out in this bill was that it was not conducive to the best interests of children and the family.”

For Yannick Moreau, UMP (main right-wing oppositon)  : “It’s a great victory for the popular mobilisation, quiet and peaceful (…) But we must remain vigilant: there are still ambiguities on the LDCs, the GPA with the circular Taubira which is still not repealed, or  the experiment with ‘gender’ (theory) in 600 of our schools with the  ABCD of equality. “

Christian Jacob, the leader of UMP deputies quipped: “In government, we went from cock up to panic. That said, the real victory will be for us when the government has abandoned its family policy.”

The left has denounced the betrayal of the government in yielding to “extremists.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Co-President of  the  Parti de Gauche (PG) , said that the left was “deceived, repudiated” because “with the PS, the right is cajoled, the bosses’ association, the MEDEFis  admired the church is blessed (…) Our time will come. I call for a severe punishment on the government in (this year’s) elections.

The National Secretary of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV – part of the government) Emmanuelle Cosse, said, “The day after the mobilisation of the reactionary camp this decision is of great concern. WE hope the government will go back on its decision.

For Inter-LGBT, which represents lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals, the announcement came as an unpleasant surprise. The association stated late on Monday that the Hollande government was “no longer fulfilling their commitments: this follows a row of  setbacks and betrayals over the last months.” Here.

By contrast the ruling Parti Socialiste saluted this as a “good decision”.

Reports indicate that the government considers that this dispute diverts attention from its ‘pact of responsibility’ with employers.

An Ideology of Fear and Loathing.

The Manif pour tous, the Day of Rage, have, in just two weeks, shown that the French far-right is able to get people out in the streets. They come after a year of growing extreme rightist protest.

In some respects there are similarities with the last right-wing popular movement in France, the 1950s Poujadism. In 1956 his Union de Defense Commercants et Artisans (4000,000 members)  won  51 Parliamentary seats with  11% of the vote.

He stood up for rural France, opposed “Americanisation”, stood for maintaining the French Empire (above all,  in North Africa) but above all railed without end against taxation and the malfeasance of the French state.

Poujade’s movement attracted anti-Semites and the far-right, but was not itself fascist.

The Bonnets rouges have denounced taxation, and ecological taxes in particular. The conspiracy theorists of the  followers of Dieudonné echo the “anti-politics”  the Poujadists. His racism, under the name of ‘anti-Zionism’ has attracted traditional Catholic right and some touched by Islamist ideology.

There is a widespread disaffection with politics and the “system”.

There is however little sign of the organised anti-Parliamentarianism that Ian Birchall (hat-tip Paul Flewers) describes as a mark of Poujadism.

A better comparison perhaps would be with the mouvement de l’École libre in 1984.

This was organised by the state-subsidised French Catholic schools (École libre), in defence of attempts by the education Minister Savary to bring them under some kind of public control (Projet de loi Savary). The Law envisaged the creation of ” « grand service public unifié et laïc de l’éducation nationale » – a national secular education service.

That year, after demonstrations across the country,  in June, these movement attracted between 2 million and 850,000 supporters to a Paris march.

Apart from the mainstream French right-wing the Front National was prominent in the ranks of protesters.

A key aspect of its campaign  was opposition to French secularism (laïcité).

Soon afterwards President  François Mitterrand withdrew the proposals.

The latest Manif pour Tous stems from another  religious origin: the defence of the ‘family’ against “la théorie du genre” and LGBT rights.

If anybody is in any doubt about the religious basis of the hysteria against this, and against LGBT rights they should look at this site, famille chriétienne.

It is no coincidence they also rant against the alleged  secularism of the present Education Minister,  La laïcité de combat de Vincent Peillon

An Islamic site, Islam & Info, equals the Christians in broadcasting hatred of sexual equality and gay rights.

They post a video showing little boys being educated into being “good mothers” (“a vidéo montre que les petits garçons apprennent à être de bonnes “mères”).

President Hollande’s capitulation to these forces is unlikely to go down well with one core constituency of his party, teachers.

The ‘anti-Dieudonné’ Comedian Nicolas Bedos.

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Bedos

Bedos: the Anti-Dieudonné.

The French Comedian Nicolas has been satirising Dieudonné .

He appeared in one-man show with a Hitler moustache in a parody of the racist bigot.

Nicolas has stated that his intention is to “Not leave Dieudonné with the monopoly of subversion, and  to remember that we can be provocative on the most sensitive issues without being oneself plagued by racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.”

“For the most part, the pro-Dieudonné fans  are fragile, culturally and intellectually, socially vulnerable and shocked by the fate of Palestinians, hence the fantasy of some sort of Israeli-Jewish-American political-media-financial conspiracy: Dieudonné continues to feed this frenzy.”

Why embody a character in Arabic accent?

I mostly played simply a complete tosser. I knew very well in writing the sketch that people would see some housing estate  scum. But I play somebody who is above all a cretin, rather than because he is an Arab (slang rebeu).

We have to stop the hypocrisy: you only have to look at the public for the  shows Dieudo puts on to see that  a large majority are young people of immigrant origin, wounded by their situation, contempt for society, and indifference  to  Palestinian suffering.

I understand their anger, but I absolutely hate to see Dieudonné and Soral taking advantage of their plight for their own  narcissistic and financial reasons.”

Bedos  is opposed to a public ban on the anti-Semite’s shows.

“We have to fight against the tendency to legislate on artistic matters.

Dieudonné  is no longer an artist, he is a proselyte for the extreme right. But we should not forbid him from performing, that in itself expands and solidifies  his audience.

Dieudonné’s public only dreams of being stifled and muzzled, and this keeps them together.

If we talk about banning, why not ban  Marine Le Pen and the Front National”

(Adapted from Le Monde.)

In the past Bedos has also been in trouble because he criticised Israeli policies, attacked Sarkozy (« VRP cocaïné ») and has been fined for insulting the Police – amongst other controversies. 

Now he has received death threats.

For this.

Those anti-Semites don’t like it up ‘em!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

François Hollande: From One Social Democracy to Another.

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http://www.english.rfi.fr/sites/english.filesrfi/imagecache/rfi_43_large/sites/images.rfi.fr/files/aef_image/affichehollande_0.jpg

François Hollande: From One Social Democracy to Another.

The sight of President François Hollande as a pudgy Alain Delon, scootering to a gallant assignation with Julie Gayet, has captured the world’s attention. No doubt to be made into a film by the Comic Strip as a hommage to the Nouvelle Vague, this aspect of the Head of State’s life is less important than the other big event last week. At Tuesday’s New Year Presidential Press Conference Hollande announced a major political turn, to “resolutely social democratic policies”.

The former General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste wooed the French employers’, and their organisation, the MEDEF, with pro-“enterprise” proposals. This “pacte de responsabilité” is based on reducing (state) charges on companies. This would be part of an overall reform of taxation, and specifically the gradual abolition of the contribution employers have to make to finance family allowances. Employees will not, he claimed, have to take over responsibility for paying for them. Instead there will be a reduction in state spending and a reduction in the public deficit.

Political Strategy?

For Jean-Luc Mélenchon this declaration was the worst blow to the left since Guy Mollet (Socialist leader in the 1950s) backed the repression of the fighters for Algerian independence. Hollande, the former Presidential candidate of the Front de gauche, stated, was elected to wage war on finance capital. He has now abandoned the battle (Blog 14.1.14). Indeed he had dropped social democracy, the idea that a left government could help share out the wealth produced by growth. Now Hollande, and his Prime Minister, Ayraud, were in reality “social liberals”.

Indeed many people had the impression that Hollande’s objective was to reach out to the Centre. The “pact’s favourable reception by some on the centre-right, such as Jean-Louis Borloo (Union des démocrats et independents, UDI) , suggested an attempt to reach more formal agreement. But “triangulation” is much more probable, as commentators note that the President is reaching out not to right-wing parties but to their electorate (le Monde 17. 1.14)

Taxation and Cuts

What are the assumptions behind this “pact”?

Nasser Mansouri Guilani of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) in l’Humanité (14.1.14) began by observing that projected growth in the French economy for 2014 satnds at a low 1%, unemployment continues to grow, and investment is also down, France is not prospering.

Holalnde, as Mélenchon notes, criticised the financial system and its responsibility for the 2009 crisis. His Projet Présidential began with a call to assert the sovereignty of the Republic against the market. European measures to protect public services and to regulate banking and finance, including an agency of « notation » were proposed. schemes to reduce youth unemployment, measures to protect the jobs in companies of more than 5,000 employees were taken, and an active industrial strategy – persued by his (left-wing) Minister Arnaud Montebourg, were initiated.

This has not, as we observed, resulted in growth. Guilani puts the responsibility for this on neo-liberal economics. Hollande by contrast has turned to the liberal idea that the « wealth creators » need encouragement. They are held back by too much state taxation. Polices that encourage the « offre », that is those producing for the market, must be put in place. The pact is a way to do this. Much is unclear. The “redefinition” of the principle “missions de l’État” is open to many interpretations. But reducing spending means one thing: cuts

Few have ignored that the basis of the new approach responds to long-standing criticisms from business and political leaders in ‘anglo-saxon’ countries that France is too bureaucratic and the economy is hampered by too much state control. As Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of l’Oréal, put it, these are steps in the right direction (Le Monde. 17.1.14). Next, he stated, is a need to change the taxation rates for high earners.

The protests of the « bonnets rouges » in Brittany and elsewhere against the « eco-taxes » have contributed to this focus on state finance and the « problem » of regulation by public authorities. The right, including the Front National, calls for ever more radical reductions in state spending. Members of the (previously governing) party, the UMP, want to 25 hour week abolished, and privatisations.

With union membership at a feeble 7,6% of employees there is little effective working class opposition. We might even ask that if Hollande’s has proposed a ‘pact’ and the employers have responded yes, whether he feels he needs them. The non Parti Socialiste left, largely the Front de gauche (FdG), has responded with  calls for fiscal justice, but, on the evidence, has been little heard. But then reports equally indicate that the Pacte has not been widely greeted by the public either.

A Failure of Equality.

The Socialist Party’s Déclaration des principes (2008) put equality, as the basis for a critique of capitalism, at the heart of its programme. In Les Gauches Françaises (2012) Jacques Julliard asserted that Hollande represented a « third generation » of social democracy. This had the objective of redistributing wealth, from finance capital to employees. Pierre Rosenvallon, from the social democratic « second Left » wrote, in the influential La société des égaux (2011) (partly inspired by Anthony Crosland) of a reformism that would create « common decency » in a more equal society. In this people’s individuality (« singularité ») would be founded in citizenship and community.

It is hard to see how this will come about under François Hollande’s Presidency. As Serge Halimi has commented neither he, nor his Prime Minster, Ayrault, have shown any « pugnacity » in challenging neo-liberalism (Le Monde Diplomatique. January 2014). This, Halmi asserts, reflects a long-term accommodation to market economics, going back to the time of François Mitterrand in the mid-1980s. After efforts to introduce a state-led socialist programme and nationalisation faltered, they changed direction. Under Mitterrrand’s Prime Minister Laurent Fabius (1984 – 1986) – now Foreign Minister – the Socialists encouraged “winners”. Entrepeneurs such as Bernard Tapie came into Mitterrand’s orbit. We will be watching with interest to see if anything similar happens now.

The French Socialists’ modest proposals to change the course of European Union policies have not been heard. Social democracy is weak in Europe and has become weaker still in recent years. That the German Chancellor and her SPD partners have welcomed Hollande’s latest moves indicates that it is the French Socialists and not the European right that have been persuaded to alter direction.

Equality in any form is no longer a priority. With all due sense of proportion, one could say of this latest turn to the market, as Ernest Bevin might have remarked, that once you’ve opened this Pandora’s Box you never know what Trojan ‘orses might jump out.

Mitterrand’s legacy.

President François Mitterrand was the personality who indelibly marked the French Socialist Party’s transition from a party of opposition to a regular participant in government. His socialism, such as it was, barely developed beyond Victor Hugo’s warm calls for social justice. The ‘Sphnix’ was also famously ambiguous. Apart from a hidden double marital life, Mitterrand harboured more grudges than an entire mountain Albanian clan. (Mitterrand. Philip Short. 2013)

François Hollande had a reputation for normality, good humour, and a more ideological socialism, or rather the social democracy represented in the Parti Socialiste’s humanist critique of finance capital. In the last week we have learnt that he too has a compartmentalised life, and that his political comrades know little of his private character (Kim Willsher. Observer. 19..12014). It is now being said that anybody that does not follow the new line will be excluded from power, though there have been  grumbles from inside his own party, and  partners such as the Greens, (EELV).

Hollande’s presidential campaign was an echo of Mitterrand’s 1981 success. He presented himself as a force tranquille. Is January’s move another copy, this time of the former President’s efforts to divide the right ? Will he act equally ruthlessly against his enemies ? Is this move to the market the sign of abandoning any reformist politics?

Of more importance: will the left, which was paralysed during the Mitterrand years, be able to respond with vigorous opposition?

We certainly hope so.