Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Front National Appeals to French Left Intellectuals.

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FN Appeals to Left Sovereigntist Intellectuals.

At the end of September the Front National launched an appeal to “left-wing intellectuals” meeting at the Mutualité (home of large public meetings, roughly a version as the Friends Meeting House in London) held by the weekly, Marianne. Around the philosopher Michel Onfray, Régis Debray, Alain Finkielkraut, Jean-François Kahn Jean-Pierre Chevènement are to speak.

Under the name of Bertrand Dutheil de La Rochère, the Front National launched, on the 24th of September,  an appeal to these people (More details of the background: Le FN lance un appel à “Michel Onfray et ses soutiens”)

Your meeting of 20 October 2015 could be more than an amiable and friendly get together. It could become one of those crucial dates in the history of France. It could be the prelude to the union of the people of France. It is up to you to decide to open an inclusive  discussion between all patriots, all Republicans, all sovereignists. Of course, the self-righteous will deliver anathemas and excommunications. It will be for us to despise the prohibitions laid down by the media-political caste.

The basis of this appeal is on “sovereignty” – that is the defence of the French nation’s power, through its own political institutions to make ‘its’ own decisions.

On this ground there should be, the FN asserts, some degree of common thinking.

The call is for a “une discussion entre tous les patriotes, tous les républicains, tous les souverainistes, sans exclusive.”

Open debate between all patriots, all republicans, all sovereigntists, with no exclusions.


As La Rochère says

Vous dénoncerez la trahison de tous ces partis qui se réclament encore de la gauche. Ils ont choisi la mondialisation ultra libérale au nom de l’Europe. Ils confondent désormais l’internationalisme avec les migrations massives qui pèsent sur les salaires et qui démantèlent la protection sociale. Ils ont oublié d’où vient l’insulte « jaune » que proféraient autrefois les syndicalistes ouvriers contre les briseurs de grève.

You will denounce the treason of the parties who still claim to be on the left. They have chosen ultra-liberal globalisation in the name of Europe. They have confused internationalism with the massive migrations which weigh on the wage earners and which erode social legislation. They forget the origin of the insult “jaune” (yellow) which trade unions used to throw at strike breakers.

I am at a loss here.

One theory is that Jaune comes from a strike of  1899 at  Montceau-les-Mines (Saône-et-Loire)  used against a small group of miners, who refused to join in. The strikers smashed the windows of their meeting place, le Café de la mairie. The windows were replaced with yellow paper. Another theory is that comes from the dye colour (sulfur) of strike breakers at another disputes in 1970.

I would however bet, with the degree of possibility bordering on certainty,  that the Front National meant……Chinese…..

There has been a great deal of debate about this appeal.

Those addressed have rejected the idea that they should engage actively with the FN.

Nevertheless it’s not hard to see that Régis Debray’s essay Éloge des frontières (2011), to cite one example (his writings on the Nation go back to the 1980s), indicates at least some meeting points on nationalism and the fear of cosmopolitanism and not only globalisation. Alain Finkielkraut signed the petition this year Touche pas à mon église a protest against turning churches into Mosques, in actual fact a phenomenon confined to a handful of buildings  – with strong echoes of Maurice Barrès’s defence of “la terre et les morts.” Chevènement has developed a patriotism and a paranoia about the Euro. He has come a long away (as has Debray) from his left-wing days in the 1970s. Jean-François Kahn  who founded Marianne has preferred to accuse the liberal supporters of globalisation ignoring the social issues that have given rise to the FN, and distance himself from any complicity with either the FN (Qui fait le jeu du Front national ?) In short, Kahn would say that excluding the far-right from the national debate is not the way to deal with Marine Le Pen……

Michel Onfray – a home-spun philosopher, known in the anglophone world as an atheist, a hedonist (in the classical sense) but also a libertarian leftist, if not anarchist – has given a greater variety of contradictory responses than Bernard Henri-Lévy on a bad day.


(Hat-tip: Fabienne)

Having read Onfray’s Traité d’Athéologie  (2005), which offers a clear attack on the use of religion in politics, from Catholicism to Islamism,  I can only contrast it with the utter confusion of his more recent tomes assembled under the name of La contre histoire de la philosophie (2006 onwards), which barely bear skimming.

The latest in the Onfray saga is in the Nouvel Observateur this week:  Onfray : “Mon problème, c’est ceux qui rendent Marine Le Pen possible

Last week a local councillor, François Meunier, Antony (Hauts-de-Seine) left the Front de Gauche and joined the Front National.

Of more importance was the turn in August of the economist, Jacques Sapir, from the Front de gauche to the Front National. Sapir is a sovereigntist. He has called for left-right unity around opposition to the Euro – a call perhaps not without echoes in the United Kingdom (Quand un économiste souverainiste “de gauche” drague le Front National.)

It is important to underline that it is this issue of the ‘Nation’ as the ground of the Republic which acts as a meeting point between ‘left’ and far-Right. That is not ‘migration’ as such, not race, and certainly not Laïcité.

On the racial  issue a more traditional alignment between Right and Extreme-Right has taken place in the last week when one of Sarkozy’s politicians, Nadine Morano, was removed from a regional election for asserting that France is a country of the “white race”.

Perhaps most significant is the way the Front National has entered the intellectual arena.

This was confirmed a couple days in way that drew the attention of the Financial Times.

France’s National Front (FN), long a pariah on leading university campuses, has secured the right to create a political group at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), underlining the resurgent far-right party’s willingness to enter the circles of the French elite.

The newly formed group quickly obtained the 120 votes required to gain validation from the prestigious institute during a four-day “recognition” process of all student associations.

It will co-exist with other political groups, including the Socialist party, the centre-right Republicans party and the far-left Front de Gauche.

“The National Front has made a deafening entry at Sciences Po,” tweeted Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader.

The creation of an FN-linked organisation at Sciences Po, a school whose students traditionally lean to the left and whose alumni include the last five French presidents, reflects Ms Le Pen’s desire to become more mainstream. By doing so, she is breaking from her father and FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who positioned the party as an outsider on the fringes of French politics.



Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

9 Responses

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  1. Talking about yellow unions, from Wikipedia:

    “The first yellow union in France, the Fédération nationale des Jaunes de France (“National Federation of the Yellows of France”) was created by Pierre Biétry in 1902. The yellow color was deliberately chosen in opposition to the red color associated with socialism. Yellow unions, in opposition to red unions such as the Confédération Générale du Travail, rejected class struggle and favored the collaboration of capital and labor, and were opposed to strikes. According to Zeev Sternhell, the yellow union of Biétry had a membership of about a third of that of the Confédération Générale du Travail, and was funded by corporate interests. Moreover, also according to Sternell, there were close relationships between Pierre Biétry and Maurice Barrès and the Action Française.”

    Maybe one can speak of “yellow intellectuals”, although I don’t know how many were “red” in the first place (or indeed what is their intellectual capabalities).


    October 4, 2015 at 2:40 pm

  2. Polecat.

    It certainly indicates that La Rochère’s reference is even more than bizarre.

    I take it the note comes from Sternhell.

    His Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français : la France entre nationalisme et fascisme, préface de Raoul
    La droite révolutionnaire (1885-1914). Les origines françaises du fascisme,, 1998.
    Ni droite ni gauche, l’idéologie fasciste en France, are important, though not to be taken as absolute authority incidentally.

    There is a tendency to exaggerate way too much just how far the connections between a limited part of the French left and the French far-right went.

    Andrew Coates

    October 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm

  3. I agree that Sternhall has a tendency to exxagerate the inluence of part of the revolutionary left on the origins of fascism. The note from him I qouted has nothing to do with the left, but with the connection between the Yellow Union in France and “Action Française”, the monarchist proto- fascist predecessor of the Front Nationale. It helps to show how empty the FN’s “social” (in truth, corporatist) demagogy is, and honestly I think that any leftist stupid enough to believe it, does not deserve to be called an intellectual.


    October 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  4. Finkelkraut’s appearance yesterday on ONPC was nauseating.


    October 4, 2015 at 11:51 pm

  5. Onfray looks more and more foolish every day.

    Kahn has always been a contrarian: blimey I hardly know how many magazines he’s edited or been part of before falling out with people.

    As for Debray, his nationalism is sickly sweet word poetry, not serious politics.

    Andrew Coates

    October 5, 2015 at 10:41 am

  6. I agree Polecat, I said this because I’ve a long-standing gripe about Sternhell’s books and rarely fail to mention it!

    Andrew Coates

    October 5, 2015 at 11:03 am

  7. Action Française still exists and is not linked to the Front National. Concerning the social part of FN ideology, you should probably have a look at people like Charles Péguy, Emmanuel Mounier or Abbé Pierre and wonder which party they would vote for today. Catholicism is the root ideology of the FN (and of France) and it has many things in common with Socialism (equality of souls, care of the poor, opposition to the free-market, etc…). That people switch from one to another in a period of economical, political and intellectual troubles is not that surprising.

  8. Which Péguy?

    The Péguy of the libertarian strain in Notre jeunesse?

    Or the filth who called for the beloved Jaurès to be guillotined, the “volumineux poussah, d’agent de la politique impériale allemande” the “infection jaurésiste” ?

    Mounier and Esprit, well, Esprit : Des intellectuels dans la cité. Michel Winock is too charitable – a charitable mystery to me – towards their flirtation with planisme, Henri de Mann, and the national ‘revolution’. And Mounier is unreadable these days.

    As for Abbé Pierre, there’s the ‘affaire Garaudy’

    “L’abbé Pierre considère que le débat sur la Shoah reste ouvert : « ils [la LICRA] n’acceptent absolument pas le dialogue, contrairement à Garaudy. Ils considèrent que le débat (sur le génocide des juifs) est clos. Qu’oser le rouvrir n’est pas possible. Par exemple sur la question des chambres à gaz, il est vraisemblable que la totalité de celles projetées par les nazis n’ont pas été construites »40, propos auquel l’abbé Pierre ajoute toutefois : « Mais mes amis de la LICRA me disent qu’avancer de telles affirmations, c’est contester la Shoah. Ce n’est pas sérieux »40 (Roger Garaudy sera finalement condamné pour contestation de crimes contre l’humanité et incitation à la haine raciale)

    Not much common ground there.

    Andrew Coates

    October 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

  9. I found Mounier very readable, in particular when he wrote “Le personnalisme n’est pas une éthique des “grands hommes”, un aristocratisme d’un nouveau genre, qui sélectionnerait les plus prestigieuses réussites psychologiques ou spirituelles pour en faire des chefs hautains et solitaires de l’humanité. C’est, on le sait, la position de Nietzsche.” Is this quotation from Le Personnalisme not very accurate to denounce the attitude of today’s elite ?

    Jaurès was a pacifist traitor and Péguy was right to denounce him. In addition, according to Péguy, Jaurès ans the socialists of his time (1910s) betrayed the French people because they were focused on economical demand and forgot spiritual needs. Isn’t it a very personnalist attitude ?

    That some jews use the Shoah to mute the objections against their lobby’s policy is a fact, not crime nore a call to racial hatred… And shall I remind you that Abbé Pierre was an active resistant who saved many jews during german occupation ?

    The common ground (between these three men, not between you and me) is they knew human beings have spiritual needs that materialists (either communist or liberal) denies and they concluded that capitalism needs rules to be moralised.

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