by Julia Hamlaoui, Lionel Venturini and Maud Vergnol writing in l’Humanité
The end of the “cordon sanitaire” between the UMP and the National Front (FN) plays into the hands of the FN, which therein sees an encouragement of its own strategy. The Left Front warns against the “suicidal” enterprise of a part of the French left, should it persist in rejecting any social or economic “change of direction.”
Cross my heart and hope to die! The left won’t go along with the crowd any more. The end of Sarkozy-ism was to put an end to the dictatorship of emotionalism, to the strategy of scapegoating, to the one-upmanship in security questions, and to the instrumentalization of sundry sordid news items. The great con game of the National Front dynasty was to crumble in the face of “change” and in the face of the responses made by the left to the distress of the working classes, which are stifled by the economic crisis…
The nauseating stench that hung in the air this weekend (Sept. 14-15), far from the Fête de l’Humanité, reminded one of the heyday of Sarkozy-ism. Right-wing loyalty to the Republic has been buried, security neurosis has been put back at the heart of public debate, and the most nauseating reactionaries are monopolizing media attention… France is said to be “besieged” and on the verge of civil war. And yet, the demonstration organized on Sept. 16 in Nice – “in support” of the jeweler who took the law into his own hands, and intended to serve as a spillway for hate – flopped. The far right intended to turn it into a demonstration of strength. They failed. In Marseilles, instead of military battalions, solidarity is being organized, and the Left Front is calling on the government to send in “battalions of tax inspectors” to put an end to the trafficking, to which all of the crimes that have been committed are linked. For the resumption of politics following the summer holidays, National Front leader Marine Le Pen announced the details of her program for France: authoritarian power in the service of a financial oligarchy.
The left government must not play with fire any longer. “With their abjurations, which cause despair, plunge the French into disarray, and provoke a rejection of politics, the Socialists bear a responsibility,” the national secretary of the French Communist Party, Pierre Laurent, declared at the Fête de l’Humanité, “a breath of oxygen for a left that is stifled by anger at all these abjurations.”
1. When UMP leader François Fillon, through political opportunism, sells off the Republic on the cheap.
How is one to understand François Fillon’s surprise aggiornamento on the National Front? Opinions are divided even within his own party, between surprise, condemnation and unconditional backing. On this point, the declarations made to l’Humanité by Mickaël Camilleri, the president of the so-called “social right” fraction of the UMP, are edifying. The young cadre, who was certainly given the mission of providing the after sales service, said he is “astonished” at the polemics aroused by the former prime minister’s words, and he confirmed to us that in the case of an electoral duel between the Socialist Party and the National Front, he would vote for the far right. So we shall have to get used to the new face of this “social right” which, for reasons of careerism and political opportunism, is ready to sell off the Republic on the cheap.
How else is one to understand this headlong rush by François Fillon, a former supporter of Philippe Séguin (1943-2010), who, just a year ago, claimed to embody “social Gaullism” and who made Nicolas Sarkozy’s relationship with the National Front “a line of fracture,” to use his own words? But, during the five years of Sarkozy-ism, how many right-wing voices were raised to condemn the banalization of the ideology of the far right, when the head of state stated that he “did not see a xenophobic dimension in Marine Le Pen”? François Fillon and his camp put up with it, before getting a face-lift to make themselves respectable in November 2012, in time for the elections to the presidency of the UMP. At that time, François Fillon stated that “in second-round elections, no vote should go to the far right.” In the meantime, François Fillon has lost his bid for the presidency of the UMP and is making repeated errors in strategy and in communication.
As his inner circle is tacitly suggesting, the former prime minister has decided to adopt, after the fact, what he for some days presented as “a blunder due to a trap sprung by a journalist.” Hence his salvation for the 2017 French presidential elections lies in a gutter-politics race with the National Front, thus boosting the groundswell that is pushing traditional right-wing voters towards the party of the Le Pen dynasty. This wicked policy is strengthened by a BVA opinion poll showing that 72% of UMP voters approve of his words and 70% see the National Front as a party that is like any other. “François Fillon has sawn off the branch he was sitting on,” according to Stéphane Rozès, a political commentator who says he is “dumbstruck” by the strategy.
“Copé got the rug pulled out from under his feet,” a Fillon supporter said gleefully. After having refused to “react in the heat of the moment,” and with good reason, Jean-François Copé, the president of the UMP, was to restate on TF1 television on the evening of Sept. 16 the party line to which he intends to hold in the run-up to the March municipal elections: “The banalization of voting for the National Front can be devastating for our candidates whereas on the other hand, if we refuse to compromise while not giving way on our ‘uninhibited right’ image, we will win.”
The overmuch protesting on the part of the inner circle of the boss of the UMP, and his “uninhibited right” image will not convince anyone easily. Alain Juppé, in his blog on Sept. 16, said that the position favored by François Fillon is “incomprehensible” and that it is likely to push the UMP into a “trap that is set for it again and again.” Juppé, who is mayor of Bordeaux, stated that he “doesn’t believe” that the declarations of François Fillon, who has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential primary election, “can be explained by a political calculation to reposition himself tactically within the UMP and the opposition,” and concluded that “I may still be very naïve.” The “mess” on the right might seem grotesque if it did not threaten our country’s democratic future.
2. What are the objectives behind focalizing on the far right party?
The struggle against the National Front was the key theme at last summer’s Socialist Party conference. At the resumption of politics following the summer holidays, the Socialist Party is focalizing on the far right, now adding a forum “for the Republic and against extremism” which it is organizing for Oct. 5. “All republicans have to understand that, beyond the social and economic responses that we have to propose to those who are suffering the most, a political offensive is necessary to defend our fundamental values and beat back, inch by inch, nationalist circling the wagons and hatred for others,” David Assouline, a Socialist Party spokesman, said on Sept. 16. The problem is that “at times, when you hear [Interior Minister] Manuel Valls, it really sounds like you’re listening to Claude Guéant [Nicolas Sarkozy’s Interior Minister in 2011]. This right-wing discourse on insecurity isn’t the way we should be going,” Pierre Laurent commented. Socialist Party chairman Harlem Désir, wants to launch “an anti-National Front arsenal to deconstruct the FN’s discourse.” This would be a praiseworthy objective if Désir did not immediately spill the beans: “We need to gather together the whole left.” The struggle against the National Front has the advantage of welding together a governing majority that is weakened by the contradictions between the campaign promises and the choices made behind the wheel. In addition, the appearance of a sort of French “Tea Party” following the debate on gay marriage requires, according to political commentator Gaël Brustier, “that one work to propose to the French an alternative dream and vision of the world to that proposed by the right.” In the final analysis, between the new right and a Socialist Party that is tempted to become hegemonic, a two-party system is being encouraged, one that is reassuring for the Socialists, even though it inexorably repulses voters.
3. Austerity, a good fuel for the National Front, which feeds on desperation
François Hollande’s quick conversion to budgetary austerity, so soon as he was elected, and his refusal to look for a margin of maneuver to embody change anywhere except in debt reduction, means that signs of improvement for the working classes are late in coming. In the analysis presented by French Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent at the Fête de l’Humanité, the blowback is that “François Hollande’s policy turns its back on change and he is creating a climate of despair /…/ Folks have received the changes in government policy right in their faces. This has led them to say that politics won’t change their lives.” Proof is furnished by the by-elections, which are rarely favorable to the governing party. Austerity also paves the way for the National Front, which is always ready to criticize the European Union vehemently. And yet, political commentator Vincent Tiberj writes, in a work soon to be published, if you take the symbolic issue of regulation of the economy, one saw “ in 2011-2012 levels of opposition to privatization and demands for government control of companies (…) that had not been seen since the early 1980s.” Never, since the return of the right to power in 2002, had such a level of opposition to the policy of reducing the number of civil servants been seen as in 2012. So there is an expectation on the part of the French, and on the part of the left in particular, which cannot be satisfied, for example, just on the theme of public services, by recruiting in targeted sectors like education, masking the continuation of reorganization of territorial government and the axing of jobs in most sectors.
4. Following the Nice affair, the UMP is legitimizing the Le Pen theses on insecurity
Once again, the right is following in the footsteps of the National Front, following the killing by a jeweler in Nice of one of the two robbers fleeing his shop on Sept. 11, validating the idea of legitimate self-defense. “I’ve always been on the side of the victims, and in this tragedy, the victim is a shopkeeper, a jeweler in my city,” Christian Estrosi, the UMP mayor of Nice, declared on Sept. 14-15. He proposed that “the conditions governing legitimate defense be reviewed.” The fact that a shopkeeper is led to make use of his firearm unfortunately shows the loss of confidence on the part of a good number of our citizens in the institutions which should be protecting them,” added Eric Ciotti, the UMP president of the general council of the Alpes-Maritimes département. In passing, both attack the passage of Christiane Taubira’s penal reform. This is how the UMP elected officials navigate in National Front waters. “We’ve had enough of this France that systematically defends the bad guys and finds excuses for them,” Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the National Front deputy from the Vaucluse département, declared on Sept. 13, while her grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, stated that if he had “been the jeweler,” he would have “done the same thing” and “would have killed” the robber. Stéphane Turk, the jeweler, said he acted in legitimate self-defense, but the Nice public prosecutor did not accept this and charged him with “voluntary manslaughter.” These declarations have contributed to creating a detestable atmosphere, which has opened the way on the Internet for a wave of hatred. “One less parasite! Who’s next?” is one of the comments that can be read on the social networks.
5. In Marseilles, a section of the Socialist Party is playing the “feeling of insecurity” game
After the working class suburbs in 2005, Marseilles has become the new politico-media symbol of the “feeling of insecurity” which permits the playing of the “all-out security” card. While the series of violent events of these past months deserves a response, the credo on the right is already known. “When is the government going to stop keeping thugs out of prison and stop subjecting the police to delinquents’ procedures to win time?” asked Rachida Dati, the former UMP Justice Minister in early September. Part of the Socialist Party, beyond the party line embodied by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, is calling for armed force and is participating in this stigmatization. “It’s the role of the police, quite obviously, Marseilles is not at war,” Socialist Party leader Ségolène Royal conceded on Sept. 12, the better to rebound with: “But since there are weapons of war, which are circulating, why not imagine cooperation between the police and the army to seize and destroy these weapons of war?” Already in August 2012, Socialist senator Samia Ghali had called for this extreme measure: “Only the army can intervene. To disarm the dealers, first of all. And then to block access to the neighborhoods to customers [of drugs], as in time of war, with roadblocks,” she stated in la Provence newspaper.
This is a perspective condemned by part of the left. Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent rejected this “stigmatization” and proposed sending “instead of military battalions or battalions of riot police to the northern neighborhoods, battalions of tax inspectors” to put an end to the trafficking in the name of which “all the crimes that have been committed are linked.”
ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Comment le FN se nourrit de la stratégie du pire
by Julia Hamlaoui, Lionel Venturini and Maud Vergnol
How the National Front Benefits from the Socialist “By Any Means Necessary” Strategy
Translated Friday 11 October 2013, by Gene Zbikowski