Archive for the ‘French Politics’ Category
“The Identitarian movement is a pan-European socio-political movement that started in France in 2002 as a far-right youth movement deriving from the French Nouvelle Droite Génération Identitaire. Initially the youth wing of the anti-immigrant, far-right Bloc Identitaire, it has taken on its own identity and is largely classified as a separate entity altogether with the intent of spreading across Europe. The Identitarian movement advocates rights for members of specific European ethnocultural groups.” Wikipedia.
Last Night Channel Four News Broadcast a report, which covers a small French grouping within the ‘identitarian movement”, Génération Identitaire. This, as can be seen, are only part of a wider far-right. view it here (I was signaled this by Facebook friends, I missed the programme):
JONATHAN RUGMAN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Marine Le Pen’s far right Front National party is reckoned to be the most popular amongst young people, with as many as 40% of 18 to 24 year olds backing her. Now a far-right youth movement is emerging from the shadows. It is called Generation Identitaire and it’s proposing controversial solutions to France’s social problems.
They also interviewed Renaud Camus whose views on the “grand remplacement“, that is the replacement of the European Population by non-Europeans, has its roots in conspiracy theories that claim this is an organised process by “élites politiques, intellectuelles et médiatiques”.
Génération Identitaire claims to be the barricade raised by young people to struggle for their identity, the vanguard of youth.
The wider Bloc Identitaire has around 2,000 members, and 600 activists. Génération Identitaire has a lot less, in the low hundreds.
The use of the term “identity”, is both a reflection of the confusion of ‘identity politics”(if every group has to go back to its roots, why not the ‘French’?), and the long-standing opportunism of the French Far-right, which trawls through every possible popular theme in order to appeal to a potential audience, and never forgets to add an intellectual gloss to its propaganda.
Thus we have “nationalisme révolutionnaire“, groups which refer to, amongst others, Blanqui, Proudon, Sorel, Gregor and Otto Strasser, nad have admired, at various time, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Iranian strong man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
We also have, probably the biggest confusionist site of them all, Égalité et Réconciliation, which claims to stand for the Left on Work and the Right on Values is opposed to globalisation, and pitches much of its appeal to ‘an ‘anti-Zionist’ constituency. It is closely linked to the anti-Semite, Dieudonné.
This is their coming meeting:
The Front National’s appeal to the Sovereignty of the Nation is also intended to extend across classes and politics, and has succeeded in drawing in some (formerly ‘left-wing’) sovereigntists who agree that France must stand against the EU, Globalisation and Cosmopolitanism.
The report talked of young people’s support for the far-right.
This is a problem, though it is channeled into voting for the Front National rather than the groupuscles like GI.
Poll, 9.03.2017, people between 18 and 34 (Slate)
In examining these figures Jean-Laurent Cassely suggests that while young people generally have more liberal values than their elders, for the minority who do not hold them, the FN is appealing. That while there are fewer and fewer conservative voters those that are have moved further to the right, and that those too young to have memories of Marine Le Pen’s openly extreme father, Jean-Marie, are more inclined to cast their ballots for the FN.
Others look to the correlation between youth unemployment and support for the far-right.
The poll does show however that the total of young people backing left candidates, collected together, stands at …40%!
With 24% supporting the ‘centre’ Macron.
Channel Four mentioned protests against Génération Identitaire‘s Lille operation, but did not cover their ampleur, nor just how widely this was reported.
The far right group planned to open a bar to act as its headquarters in the northern city of Lille on 24 September 2016. Located just 200 metres from the Grand Palais, it will contain a boxing gym, a cinema a level advice centre, and a library. Aurélien Verhassel, the group’s local leader, said it would open only to ‘Europeans of French spirit, heirs to the Helleno-Christian civilisation’. Locals launched a petition to block the bar, called La Citadelle, citing concern that it ‘will propagate hate and cause incidents that are beyond control’.
The petition had gathered more than 60,000 signatures by the 24th, but the Citadelle’s inauguration went ahead as planned with 30 members of the group present. Around 500 protesters, many of them supporters of the far-Left, marched behind banners with slogans such as ‘No fascists in our districts’ in an attempt to stop the bar’s official opening on the evening of the 24th.
In November 2016, demonstrations against the bar were still taking place. On the 19th, protesters had gathered between 600 and 1,200 people in the streets and 70,000 signatures against the bar on their online petition.
More simply: A Lille, des centaines de personnes réclament la fermeture du bar d’extrême-droite La Citadelle. Le Monde.
The Channel Four reporter’s reference to “tous les mosques” instead of toutes le Mosques, suggests an imperfect acquaintance with French.
There are, as the organigramme of the French far-right (above) indicates, many many groups, and this is just one, a marginal one.
The Boradcaster did not contrast the couple of thousand strong identitaire demonstration they showed with the over 100,000 moblised in Paris this Sunday by La France insoumise or the over 20,000 who attended the rally for Socialist Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon.
After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.
For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.
A Bulwark against National Populism?
For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart, Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.
It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.
These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.
A Tool Against Hamon.
The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.
The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.
It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)
Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.
France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.
(and, this precondition fulfilled…)
Much deeper integration within the eurozone.
Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….) and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.
This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times” The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.
Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.
It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.
All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!
The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”, by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?
The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.
Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.
Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.
We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..
Latest Opinion Polls.
Tricolores , Marseillaise, l’Internationale, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon gathered tens of thousands of supporters in Paris at a rally Saturday calling for deep reforms in the French constitution. France 24.
Melenchon, who wants to shorten France’s 35-hour workweek, leave NATO, block free-trade deals and stop using nuclear energy, has pledged to summon a constituent assembly if he wins the election.
The 65-year-old former Socialist who previously served as minister for vocational training often depicts himself as the candidate of the people. He promises to get rid of what he calls the “presidential monarchy” and give more power to parliament.
The gathering Saturday between two iconic squares in the French capital – the Place de La Bastille and Place de la Republique – took place on the anniversary of the Paris Commune, an alliance between the middle and working classes who broke into revolt on the 18th of March 1871 in the wake of the collapse of Napoleon III’s Second Empire.
Melenchon was greeted to chants of “President! President!” as he joined the cortege. He later claimed on his Twitter account that 130,000 people had attended.
Melenchon, who is supported by the Communist party, has so far struggled to make his campaign take off. Opinion polls suggest he has no chance of making it to the second round of France’s presidential ballot on May 7.
Melenchon and his Socialist rival Benoit Hamon are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, but well behind far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative hopeful Francois Fillon.
Both Melenchon and Hamon have criticized Socialist President Francois Hollande’s austerity politics but have failed to join forces in the presidential race.
The first round of the French presidential vote will be held on April 23, with the two top vote-getters there going into a presidential runoff ballot on May 7.
With becoming modesty Mélenchon called the rally a “Citizens’ Uprising” and declared, “Voici notre maxime : quel que soit le problème, la solution est le peuple.” Here’s our motto: whatever the Problem, the People are the Solution.
Organisers claimed over 130,000 attended.
The figures given by Mélenchon’s organisation are not universally accepted.
Le camp Mélenchon se moque des chiffres de la manifestation de Fillon mais… Huffington Post.
Difficile d’affirmer que la place de la République comptait quatre personnes au m2.
Unconvincing ‘anti-racist’ makeover of Front National.
As part of its modernisation the far-right Front National, at present topping polls for the first round of the French Presidential elections but slipping fast, claimed to have dropped any association with anti-Semitism, and all forms of race hate.
Today a spanner was put in the well-oiled works of Marine Le Pen’s party.
The documentary, filmed, like revelations in UK parties, undercover, showed Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, casting doubt of the number of deaths in the Shoah, and citing the negationist “Leuchter report” associated with Holocaust denier M. Faurisson. The councillor declared, “Il n’y a pas eu de morts de masse comme ça a été dit” there were not the mass deaths as has been said.
The film, to be broadcast tonight, is also revealing about the pervasive racism inside the FN something that English language reports on this have so far not explored Another councillor, Philippe Vardon, is shown complaining that all the people he shakes hands with are blacks (“Ça commence à être inquiétant : tous les mecs qui me serrent la main, ils sont noirs”). (le Monde)
The message is that not only is Holocuast denial far from extinct within the FN but that close links with the cultural racist “identitaires” movement is at the heart of the far-right party.
Guardian report: France’s Front National suspends party official over Holocaust denial.
France’s far-right Front National has suspended a party official for Holocaust denial after he suggested there was no mass killing in the Nazi concentration camps.
Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, was secretly filmed making the comments, which will be broadcast in a documentary. “I don’t think there were that many deaths … during the Shoah,” he is heard saying.
Jean-Marie Le Pen fined again for dismissing Holocaust as ‘detail’
Asked by the journalist filming him about Holocaust deniers, Loeuillet, said: “I don’t really know what to think. It’s complicated … there weren’t 6 million [deaths]. There weren’t mass deaths as we’ve been told.”
The film-makers, from TV Press Productions, had asked to follow the FN in the Alpes-Maritimes region earlier this year to understand why so many young voters support the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner for the first round of France’s presidential election at the end of April.
According to an opinion poll yesterday, one French person out of three supports the ideas of the Front National (Un Français sur trois en accord avec les idées du Front national). In survey after survey around 40% of workers who intend to vote back the FN. Amongst this “électorat populaire” 31% of those in council housing back the far-right, as do 30% of office employees. A majority of young people say they will vote for Marine le Pen (Here,there are many studies with roughly the same result).
With François Fillon clinging to his presidential ambitions, organising mass rallies of his remaining supporters, Le Monde has accused him of adopting a “populist” defence against all-comers, screaming about “political assassination” “lynching” and hinting at plots against him. He has talked of a “coup d’Etat des juges“.
Some are already drawing comparisons with the 1930s. The traditional political parties are discredited. As Laurent Joffrin writes in Libération, reviewing the book pictured above (“c’est le retour au terroir, aux traditions, à l’exaltation nationale qui l’emporte dans des opinions déboussolées.”) “with the loss of certainty, it’s a return to the native soil, to tradition, to exalting the Nation…” that is carrying the day in public opinion.
It appears that there are parallels with the 1930s. Both are marked by nationalist propaganda, poverty and mass unemployment in the rich countries, doubts about values, intellectuals joining extreme parties, nostalgia for national grandeur, the simplistic slogans of populist agitators, and the phantom of a deathly spiral which is leading people to the abyss.
As Joffrin points out the comparison has its limits. France has experienced an unprecedented level of Jihadist violence. One only has to read Gilles Kepel’s La Fracture (2016) to see that the brutal acts of Islamist terror have reinforced the far-right, from the Front National to a host of linked “groupes identitaires.” But horrific as these atrocities are, from Charlie, the Hyper Cacher, Bataclan to Nice, passing by many other incidents, the degree of violence in Europe remains low. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.
Think about it.
Nevertheless some are so swept up in the mood that they are calling for a vote for Emmanuel Macron to block the route to Marine Le Pen, from the first round of the Presidential election onwards.
While the right of the Parti Socialiste may need little encouragement to back Marcon against their own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon (Bertrand Delanoë l’annonce de son ralliement à Emmanuel Macron) this call from a prominent figure on the radical left and President of the important territorial coordinating structure next to Paris, Plaine Commune is more surprising:
Braouezec bases his decision on the need to unite against the right and the extreme right. He nevertheless asks people to cast their ballots for the Parti Communiste Français and the Front de gauche – and notably not Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France Insoumise – in the 1th and 18th legislative elections.
The language used recalls the first paragraphs of this post. This alliance of all “progressives” is the only rampart against Barbarism. “le seul rempart à la barbarie »(/ Braouezec choisit Macron)
Patrick Braouezec is a former Communist (PCF) and Mayor of the famous Communist district (a city in its own right), just next to Paris, Saint Denis, from 1991 to 2004. He was often in conflict with his party’s leadership. As one of the dissident “”refondateurs he backed the Green candidacy of José Bové against his own party’s Marie-George Buffet in 2007. From 2010 he has been a supporter of the Front de Gauche (FG) initially as a member of the network, Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique.
Described in the past, by the unimpressed on his own side, as “incontrôlable” Braouezec is still well-regarded enough to maintain, as noted, an important elected position.
This is one possible result of the Pro-Macron moves:
Harris Interactive poll shows Macron one percentage point ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round.
Update: Socialist Party activists call for elected members of the party who back Macron to give up their membership.
Another issue is the predicted record abstention: