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Dumbing Down the French Far Right

The more we go into this Charlie Hebdo story, the more I realize that I know next to nothing about France and how it works politically. For your consideration, here’s a fascinating 2012 analysis by John Gaffney of the London School of Economics, in which he observes that Marine Le Pen is making the Front National more acceptable to the mainstream by dumbing it down [1]. Excerpts:

The French far right has two ideological sources, two streams that irrigate it. The most visible today is ‘populist’, with its cult of the leader, and themes of law and order, anti-immigration, xenophobia, and the exclusion of the ‘other’. The second stream is its intellectual tradition, and it is this which distinguishes the French far right from so many of its sister movements in other countries, such as the UK, and offers us lessons in the study of politics,

The French far right is intelligent. This makes it the more compelling and the more disconcerting. Compared to, say, the BNP in Burnley or Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ [2], we are talking of some of the best and the brightest. Far right thought is a rich and textured seam in the French intellectual imagination. It emerged in part from the writings and philosophy of highly influential and intellectually respected reactionary thinkers like Chateaubriand and de Maistre who began, as it were, a right wing narrative – dialoguing with their adversaries over the next two centuries – in negative reaction to the French Revolution of 1789. And they dialogued. In and out of the right, centre right, and far right, and even the left. They are part of the landscape.

In the twentieth century, writers on the nationalist far right such as Maurice Barrès and Charles Maurras became enormously influential—and their influence was felt well beyond the right. Even today, the French intellectual class wrestles with its conscience over someone such as Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a fascist intellectual, a nasty antisemite, and yet a brilliant and innovative novelist. Not surprisingly, the triumph of the far right reached its zenith during the Nazi Occupation and Vichy France (1940-44).

More:

Marine is good on TV, she’s a reasonable debater, and she seems to have chosen to walk away from lots of the right’s traditions and manners. But the detox also involves – apart from all the other things it involves – losing one’s intellectual tradition. Does this have advantages – for her and/or for those who oppose the FN? Marine Le Pen is ‘ordinary’, in fact, very and deliberately ordinary. She is, in the true tradition of the far right, a very forceful personality. But she’s a particular forceful, and a particular ordinary. She’s a twice divorced mum who lives with her partner and their respective kids. That is a far cry from far right values, in itself. And the fact that it is a woman leading this movement is fascinating, a movement whose philosophy and populism loves the leader, but never imagined it might be a female leader. But she is not like Joan of Arc, the FN’s female heroine. She has no visions. No grace inhabits her; she is more like a bossy and assertive middle manager at Asda.

She certainly doesn’t look as if – unlike her father – she has read Barrès or Voyage au bout de la nuit…. as have all French politicians and intellectuals. One gets the impression that not only has she not read them, she doesn’t give a toss either.

Read the whole thing.  [1]

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49 Comments To "Dumbing Down the French Far Right"

#1 Comment By mgregoire On January 9, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

The use of the terms “right” and “left” (to say nothing of “far right” or “extreme”), confuse more than they reveal when it comes to foreign or even historic politics. The Front National is far right and populist, says Mr. Gaffney. Quick, tell me do they want to erect tariffs or increase trade, eliminate or expand the welfare state, strengthen parliament at the expense of the Elysée or the inverse, send troops to fight ISIL or close foreign military bases?

#2 Comment By TommyButler On January 9, 2015 @ 12:26 pm

MGregoire’s comment is appropriate enough, and yet it was the French who invented the gauche/droit polarity for politics, so rather than abandoning it as useless we might be better served to look to the French understanding of those terms as their very paradigm. Though deeply influenced by Burke, the aboriginal French right was a union of the aristocracy and the rural peasantry against (another French paradigmatic term) the bourgeoisie.

There’s no bourgeoisie like a French bourgeoisie and no far right like a French far right!

#3 Comment By collin On January 9, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

At first blush, the Front National does not appear to be very different than various Pat Buchanan articles. We have to devise our country for our current citizens first and need limitations of trade and immigration to protect wages and our values. But doesn’t this limit the long term growth of a nation and its citizens? We have had the Buchanan theory in work in Japan for 40 years and they have becoming a nation of Grandpa Simpsons. (And let us not forget there are a lot complaints about the France economy as well.)

I see the promotion of free trade and assimilation as a long term symbol of strength. Long term it appears more nations are moving toward liberalism of government and religion which has diminished the role of war in the world. Large scale wars have limited to regional battles and terrorism. (Unfortunately, this has probably meant the ultimate WMD for the US was The Simpsons, Reality Shows, and free internet porn but that is another post.)

#4 Comment By Dennis On January 9, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

Gaffney’s main complaint, in typically British class-obsessed fashion, seems to revolve around not liking Marine’s voice, appearance, or presumed reading habits (he offers no proof, for example, that she’s never read Céline, just claims she doesn’t “look” like someone who has). He really tells us little about the FN’s actual policies, nor those of the , mainstream Right or the French Nouvelle Droite that arose in the 70s.

Smug, left-wing, intellectual snobism seems to be Gaffney’s MO, which is precisely the kind of thinking that has gotten Europe into this predicament in the first place. Europe’s only hope is for a resurgence of the “Right” (however defined) to counter the disastrous left-wing policies of the last 50 years.

#5 Comment By cermak_rd On January 9, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

Why on earth should an intellectual tradition that seems to date up to 1968 have anything at all to do with circumstances now? What percentage of the French population was born after 1968?

Besides which it’s nice to see a far right party that isn’t sexist at its core.

#6 Comment By Al On January 9, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

As it is , not much distinguishes the right for the left . Hence, the so called extremities have come to fill in the vacuum . The word extremism needs to be revisited

#7 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 9, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

I don’t know that much about French politics either, but a few things:

1) mgregoire’s comment bears repeating. Many of the “right-wing” parties in Europe are economically somewhat to the left (think Pat Buchanan when he’s not busy bashing Obamacare), at least as far as the dominant ethnic is concerned–they often preach what I like to call “white socialism” (benefits and policies designed to benefit the in-group, but neglect and/or hostility to the out-group). This is different from the States: while some TPers here in the US follow the lead of a Pat Buchanan on economics, and there are many poor whites on the economic left who have somewhat reactionary social attitudes–the core of the Tea Party remains economically right-wing, particularly where “unearned” (not SS or Medicare) social insurance is concerned.

2) Many countries polities are scarred by historical events. German politics is scarred by Nazism, for instance–and French politics are scarred, I suspect, by Jacobin terror. Germany has no desire (that I can tell) to bring back the Kaiser (in any form), constitutional monarchies like the UK or Spain have no desire to give back real power to their royal families–but royalism remains a notable (if minority) political faction in France, one which produces a reaction.

To the extent that FN has an intellectual tradition, I somehow doubt that’s a very enlightened one. OTOH, “it’s THEIR fault that WE suffer!” has a long pedigree in politics.

#8 Comment By stephen On January 9, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

That’s so 2012 calling a woman “bossy”.

#9 Comment By Al On January 9, 2015 @ 1:03 pm

I might sound silly but the main stream policies might be considered more extreme than the so called far this and far that. I would even go so far as to say that the main stream politics has invested so much in their policies to the point of not recognizing the negative returns. In other words ,wishful thinking politcs.

PLease aggregate the comments

#10 Comment By Ludovic On January 9, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

“The problem manifested itself in the second generation – to which Cherif, an adopted, French-Algerian orphan born in the mid-Eighties, belonged.

‘They saw how their parents were treated and felt deeply resentful,’ M. Benali told me. ‘After the 2005 riots I was among a Muslim delegation who met Nicolas Sarkozy (then interior minister) and I’ll never forget his words.

‘He told me that “to humiliate is to radicalise” – and that is exactly what came to pass. This second generation felt excluded, discriminated against, and most of all, humiliated…

…But…‘When the imam told everyone to enrol on the register of electors so they could take part in elections, and play their part in society, he [Cherif] refused. He said he wasn’t a French citizen and wanted nothing to do with the democratic process. He then walked out of the mosque. But these beliefs didn’t come from the imams who teach here. He had been who knows where. He was using the internet. He was crazy; brainwashed. He was beyond our reach.’”

[3]

Why humiliate those who were bloodily colonially defeated then made generationally powerless, and, in some cases, rendered even insane by the pain of extreme racism and social exclusion?

#11 Comment By M_Young On January 9, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

I read the essay the first time you linked. In it, at least, the connection between Le Penn Pere and some of the New Right thinkers is not exactly drawn clearly — it is merely asserted. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but Gaffney doesn’t make the connection clear nor does he make a case for its relative strength or weakness.

The Front National’s project is available on its website. Those with a smattering of French (or good knowledge of another Romance language) should be able to get its drift. Pretty standard stuff — protect France’s culture, language, film industry etc.

The only thing ‘far right’ about it is that they want immigration drastically curtailed. Immigration, 30-40 years ago a policy matter that was a permissible subject of debate (see in our own country the Jordan Commission), has become a sacred cow throughout the West.

#12 Comment By T.S.Gay On January 9, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

Take it for what it’s worth, but Diana Johnstone says Marine Le Pen is “basically on the left” and( probably even more accurately) calls her a demagogue. Rightly defined as appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than being rational. That probably is a better description than dumbing down, but I’m not sure of that.

#13 Comment By IowaNederlander On January 9, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

I remember hearing this book referenced in some ISI lecture…appears to inlcude some of the names in that article…

Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition

[4]

#14 Comment By Brother Padilla On January 9, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

She displays the same vacuousness of the current American right.

#15 Comment By Sam M On January 9, 2015 @ 2:09 pm

“Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a fascist intellectual, a nasty antisemite, and yet a brilliant and innovative novelist. ”

Interesting. Not a lot of hard right novelists on this side of the pond. Are there? Were there?

#16 Comment By Niccolo Salo On January 9, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

Brother Padilla says:

“She displays the same vacuousness of the current American right.”

This passes for a comment here? Throughly ignorant and american-centric, adding zero value.

Madame Le Pen is well-spoken, much better than any American politician, and without a teleprompter.

Furthermore: FN is a broad coalition of nationalists, royalists, Catholics, and an ever-increasing number of workers whether urban or rural. Other parties have abandoned their core constituencies (except public workers) and the FN has found them a new home.

#17 Comment By IowaNederlander On January 9, 2015 @ 2:44 pm

Feel free to delete this comment, or add to or ignore from my old one, but these links provide more of the “critics of the Enlightenment” survey…the second is a 40 pg PDF of intro/background on the writers in the collection.

[5]

–PDF–
[6]

Remembering ISI exists and AmConMag, versus then turning on the news, makes me not look forward to our “choices” in 2016.

#18 Comment By CatherineNY On January 9, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

There are all kinds of things we don’t understand about France. I have seen more than one article today describing Charlie Hebdo as the French equivalent of Mad Magazine. Um, no. Concepts of right, left, free speech, and satire are wildly different among European nations, much less between the U.S. and Europe.

#19 Comment By MikeCA On January 9, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

Bossy middle manager at Asda (aka WalMart)? Wow. I’m no fan of Marine Le Pen but that’s a terribly elitist description. Read: middle aged,frumpy & not exceptionally bright and a cow. Yikes! That’s the sort of character blighting that makes her sympathetic to the general public and even to those like myself at the other end of the political spectrum.Attack her political views & policy positions but the personal stuff is beyond the pale. Besides most Frenchmen believe a person’s personal life is just that, personal.

#20 Comment By KD On January 9, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

Intellect and electoral politics do not go hand and hand. The intellectual is seeking clarity, a person running for office is interested in being vague, so that hopefully two groups that are opposed to each other will still vote for you if you put on a good pep rally. Someone like Lenin can write an essay called What Is To Be Done. George Bush can give us “compassionate conservativism”, which I suppose only “mean, tight-fisted liberals” could oppose. Intellectuals defending representational democracy tend to simply cheerlead the process, with maybe some recommendations on how to make the process better–nothing is to be done, and its good thing too. The reason is that representational democracy is about preserving a set of social contradictions, whereas ideology is about resolving them, in the logic of blood. FN is inevitably going to degenerate into “a chicken in every pot” if they are going to last in electoral politics. Vulgarity and knavery protect us from a 1,000 crimes.

#21 Comment By Samn! On January 9, 2015 @ 3:08 pm

I second Dennis’ pointing out the British class-silliness of the linked article. It’s hard to describe Jean-Marie Le Pen as in sense an intellectual either… His political career at best was being the voice of ‘get off my lawn’ for Alegeria vets and at worst France’s racist uncle that you avoid because he reminds you of the bad parts of yourself and your past. He was eventually able to cobble together electorally parts of the detritus of the major streams of the classical, monarchist and Bonapartist French right, mostly because they have no other electoral options. (But then, should monarchists have electoral options?) The only streams of French right-wing thought that he could plausibly be said to have drawn on are Pétain and the right-wing reaction against de Gaulle’s withdrawal from Algeria. You could say that the FN is the French Right with neither throne nor altar.

#22 Comment By FN On January 9, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

Well, my knowledge of the “old” Front National is limited, but I do remember Jean-Marie Le Pen quite well, and whatever he might have read, to me he neither exuded class nor intellectualism. He did not make it appear as if his party represented the old far right intellectuals in any way. He seemed to me simply a populist with a penchant and talent for provocation. So nothing has been “dumbed down” by his daughter.

But I may be mistaken; one can never trust what one reads about the far right. What do the French here say?

#23 Comment By grumpy realist On January 9, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

Or are we seeing yet another instance of the old truism: at the extremes, the far left and the far right meet.

#24 Comment By Derek Leaberry On January 9, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

In a democracy, a successful political party must dumb down its message. Even Adolf Hitler understood that when gunning for votes in old Weimar. We don’t live in an age like the late 1700s where the electorate can figure out an argument as elaborate as that contained in the Federalist Papers. Go to your local supermarket tomorrow and, while checking out at the cashier lane, look at what the unwashed find important- the Kardashians, Bruce Jenner’s sex change, Bill Clinton’s antics, evil Duchess Camilla’s feud with Duchess Kate and the Queen. As the wise George Carlin once said, the average person is stupid. And half of the people are stupider than he. Why should France be any different than America?

#25 Comment By Athanasius On January 9, 2015 @ 4:26 pm

Why humiliate those who were bloodily colonially defeated then made generationally powerless, and, in some cases, rendered even insane by the pain of extreme racism and social exclusion?

Muslims made slave raids into Europe from the Ummayads all the way until 1815. Muslims invaded France and were famously stopped by Charles Martel (and the modern French build a mosque on the site where the Muslims were stopped! [7] )
They also had a colony in France for almost 100 years (Fraxinetum) that they used to conduct slave raids.

Enough with the white guilt, it is embarrassing.

#26 Comment By cka2nd On January 9, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

Dennis says: “Europe’s only hope is for a resurgence of the ‘Right’ (however defined) to counter the disastrous left-wing policies of the last 50 years.”

Austerity, breaking down the welfare state and kowtowing to finance and the central bankers are hardly left-wing policies, even when they’ve been implemented by historically left parties, and I would argue that those have done far more to undercut the working class of Europe than anything else. and the mass immigration of low-wage workers is, in my opinion, more of a problem for the low-wage part than the immigration part.

#27 Comment By Archon On January 9, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

Dennis wrote, “Europe’s only hope is for a resurgence of the “Right” (however defined) to counter the disastrous left-wing policies of the last 50 years”.

Problem is the last 50 years of “left wing” policies also coincide with the most peaceful 50 years Europe has ever had. Now correlation does not mean causation but someone sure needs to explain to me how returning to a fragmented, nativist, nationalist Europe will also continue to be a peaceful one.

#28 Comment By cka2nd On January 9, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

T.S.Gay says: “Take it for what it’s worth, but Diana Johnstone says Marine Le Pen is ‘basically on the left’ and( probably even more accurately) calls her a demagogue.

Side note (Sorry, Rod): I just finished her book on the destruction of Yugoslavia by the United States, Germany and NATO. Excellent work but enormously depressing and infuriating. Gods, I hate imperialism, whether imposed by neo-cons, liberal interventionists, humanitarian interventionists, foreign policy realists or ex-radicals!

#29 Comment By seamus_padraig On January 9, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

FN may not be perfect, but compared to the establishment parties in France, they’re a breath of fresh air. Much the same with UKIP in Britain. In so many countries, the left has completely sold out; the right is just picking up their slack.

#30 Comment By T.S.Gay On January 9, 2015 @ 5:42 pm

cka2nd says: “I just finished her(Diana Johnstone) book on the destruction of Yugoslavia….”

Side note(Sorry Rod): Her new book’s title is…”Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton”.

#31 Comment By Glaivester On January 9, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

cka2nd:

I think Dennis is referring specifically to the cultural policies, not to the economic ones.

the mass immigration of low-wage workers is, in my opinion, more of a problem for the low-wage part than the immigration part.

The immigration part and the low-wage part are inseparable. You cannot import large numbers of workers and keep wages high. Flooding the labor market while legislating high wages means high unemployment. High minimum wages are only sustainable by keeping the labor market tight.

Problem is the last 50 years of “left wing” policies also coincide with the most peaceful 50 years Europe has ever had. Now correlation does not mean causation but someone sure needs to explain to me how returning to a fragmented, nativist, nationalist Europe will also continue to be a peaceful one.

If the current policies continue, Europeans are going to be replaced in Europe by Africans, Arabs, and an assortment of other third-worlders. This will not result in peace either. I don’t know if a break from the current policies will allow Europe to remain peaceful, but I know that continuing the current trends will not allow it to remain Europe. Sometimes peace is just another word for surrender.

#32 Comment By Michael On January 9, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

Hi, Rod!

If you want some perspective on French politics from a man who was raised in France, I recommend that you investigate the Vineyard of the Saker blog:

Here is the blogger’s background:

[8]

And here is his “take” on contemporary French politics:

[9]

Whether you like what this man says or not, these articles will definitely give you a richer and more nuanced view of what is going on in France than anything you will get from the Anglo-Zionist media.

[NFR: The “Anglo-Zionist media”? Really? — RD]

#33 Comment By Noah172 On January 9, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

collin wrote:

We have had the Buchanan theory in work in Japan for 40 years and they have becoming a nation of Grandpa Simpsons

Despite its economic troubles, Japan remains a prosperous, safe, and stable home for its citizens. It stays out of other people’s business, doesn’t get bogged down in foolish, unwinnable wars, has had years of trade surpluses in high-value-added manufactured goods (though with an overall trade deficit due to energy imports), and, even though saddled with a high debt level, is not in hock to foreigners. The country is also a world leader in robotics research precisely because it does not have a pool of immigrant menial laborers. Japan’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t crank out enough new Japanese — a problem more immigration and free trade would not solve, and indeed would make worse (at least for native Japanese).

#34 Comment By M_Young On January 9, 2015 @ 9:27 pm

“Why humiliate those who were bloodily colonially defeated then made generationally powerless, and, in some cases, rendered even insane by the pain of extreme racism and social exclusion?”

Most recently, the North Africans won their respective independences. If the parents of these malcontents had stayed put — or if France had refused to admit them, they’d be home basking in the glory and surrounded by those like themselves.

Really, I am sick and tired of whites (or whatever nationality) getting blamed for everything.

#35 Comment By M_Young On January 9, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

“Problem is the last 50 years of “left wing” policies also coincide with the most peaceful 50 years Europe has ever had. Now correlation does not mean causation but someone sure needs to explain to me how returning to a fragmented, nativist, nationalist Europe will also continue to be a peaceful one.”

The present peace in Europe has zero to do with third world immigration. In fact, as is obvious from the last few days and last decade, it is reintroducing conflict.

#36 Comment By M_Young On January 9, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

Athanasius is not only wise, he (I’m assuming) introduces fascinating facts regularly.

#37 Comment By M_Young On January 9, 2015 @ 9:32 pm

Good on ya MikeCA!

#38 Comment By Reinhold On January 9, 2015 @ 9:59 pm

“Or are we seeing yet another instance of the old truism: at the extremes, the far left and the far right meet.”
Kind of how the mainstream liberals and conservatives are one indiscriminate mush of opportunism?

#39 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 9, 2015 @ 11:26 pm

So, to keep it short, the left has no monopoly on the loyalty either of intellectuals or the working class. Next topic.

#40 Comment By YAG On January 10, 2015 @ 12:15 am

For those who read French, and want to delve in the countless cliques of the French far right from WWII to the present, you can always begin there:
[10]
The site is mostly left-of-center, but with no patience for ‘cultural’ silliness. (Nowadays, right-wingers are think-thankers, cultists, or, for those with something to say, don’t really care about revisiting the past: thus you’re stuck with leftist scholars. Nonetheless, the FTP writers are amongst the very best, and serious guys to boot – you won’t get any ‘Le Pen is talking about immigr… ohmygawd the Waffen SS are back!’ Some of the historical FTP papers are very good, so give it a try if you care.)

As for the LSE analysis, ‘mkay, but I think there’s a catch. First, Gaffney forgets Bonald, who really was the forefather of the French Reaction, and, in my opinion (therefore a leftist one, and maybe I have an axe to grind, etc., but evaluating the ideological arguments here), vastly superior to Maistre: the latter is reactionnary through-and-through, with a genius for a tit for tat dialogue with Revolutionnary concepts and ideals that’s good as far as it goes, but lacks the lineaments of a conservative thought, a conservative imagination (as some would say), that make Bonald so interesting. I don’t know that Maistre wouldn’t die of boredom if the Revolution came to be extinguished; while Bonald proposes a life to be lived, even if, in a way, ‘utopian’ – and, sure thing, in a Catholic monarchy, but his readers have some leeway if they so will (I often get a very Bonald-ey feel when I read Patrick Deneen). There’s even a low-key debate going on in French philosophical circles as to the paternity of sociology: Rousseau or Bonald? (For those interested, see: Bruno Karsenti)

The thing is, if you write out Bonald, and the way Catholicism was intrisically woven in his, shall we say, conservative reaction, you don’t get the sharpness of Maurras’s departure from that tradition. (Leaving aside Barrès, whose Culte du Moi seems a less brutal and more philosophical take upon its xerox’d version, Jünger’s Storm of Steel: Barrès, categorized as far left in his youth, is very much part of the excited spiritualism of the late 19th-early 20th century, but less guilty than Jünger of the markedly proto- or para-fascist virilism that was gonna sweep over Europe.) Maurras might then seem merely an uncouth version of Maistre (uncouth in his less fine political analyses, less developped philosophical arguments, and less witty snipes; whereas he certainly was a fine writer), while he was in fact opening a whole new chapter in the history of political thought. Maurras managed to take Catholicism out of the reactionnary equation, and replace it with Nationalism (and was duly excommunicated by the Vatican: the French far-right was beginning to look very much pantheistic).

And thus it was that French right-wingers wouldn’t be able to avoid sliding into quasi-fascism. Indeed, all Mussolini had to do was to take Maurras for the right, Proudhon for the left, shake a bit, and voilà!, totalitarianism (sad thing is, that’s really what happened: Italian fascists never had to do much ideological handiwork, everything having been pre-processed in France; standard Sternhell analysis here). Then WWII, Vichy collaboration and so forth. French far-right was never able to separate its Bonald and Maurras streaks. Ironically, De Gaulle was probably the last French right-winger of the Bonaldian stripe (albeit with a healthy dose of Barrèsian youthfulness), rightly much maligned as a kind of a Last King of France by the Left, but torpedoed by everybody on the Right who wouldn’t understand that there’s a world of difference between Kingdom and Empire – even the colonialist Left had a hard time swallowing that.

So was begotten the FN: Maurrassian hypernationalists, former French Waffen SS, ex-Algerian settlers, OAS terrorists, neo-fascists — and the last monarchists, forever standing on the edge between Bonald and Maurras, never willing to take a hard look at the choices they should have made long ago. What’s not especially comforting right now, is that the FN looks set upon having another go at the ‘nationalism now, everything else never’ mentality that so thoroughly destroyed the French Right, no to mention its effects on the country as a whole. For those who think they’re really conservative at the core: the FN managed not to peep a word, as a party, about same-sex marriage. Quite a feat, really. Political catholics either don’t bother explaining their whims, or are economically liberal (various chrétien-démocrate constituencies and parties of the day). Even on the matter of the exit from the eurozone (a FN preserve insofar as everybody else play the blind man; I mean, if Krugman thinks the eurozone is a sham, you probably don’t have to be a demented fascist to conclude that we have a big problem here – and yet…), it never was big on the FN agenda before the item surged in popularity in the population. An example of demagoguery if there even was one (and, while the rhetoric stays the same, their last primary was a big win of the ‘who cares’ side on the euro front).

And that’s the whole problem here: Marine Le Pen refusal to give cues about her ideological preferences might be a sign of her not being learned; don’t know, don’t care – but it sure doesn’t make it look like she’s willing to take on the much needed reformation of the French Right, or that she has any moral or political ideas that we should care about, in a good or a bad way, beyond the standard ‘beware the demagogue’. (And I’m positive she wouldn’t have a flicker of interest for ideas such as Rod’s Benedictine solution.)

Anyway. Hope it helps those who wonder.

***
Regarding Céline: There were dozens of great right-wing French writers active between the two World Wars – arguably, most of the best French writers to date (usually better than their left-wing contemporaries). But, if you want something great, try Bernanos or Mauriac, not Céline: they were better writers, and were not complete asshats. That said, I’m biased here: I just don’t get Céline. I’m not the only one: you can draw a divide amongst French literature lovers: you’re either on the side of Céline, or on the side of Musil (with a superb French translation). (Which might be not completely unrelated to the fascist epithet, but let’s leave it at that.) Discounting your religious affiliation, what do you think you’d be more awestruck by: a wondrous Cathedral or the gigantic Colossus of Rhodes? A place where you are and of which you are a part, or a dead thing purporting to be alive that you have to watch? Grace, or kitsch? Well, that’s the way Musil and Céline respectively deal with words and do literature.

#41 Comment By M_Young On January 10, 2015 @ 3:16 am

“To the extent that FN has an intellectual tradition, I somehow doubt that’s a very enlightened one. OTOH, “it’s THEIR fault that WE suffer!” has a long pedigree in politics.”

Would that include the whole 1% Narrative?

#42 Comment By M_Young On January 10, 2015 @ 3:43 am

“Despite its economic troubles, Japan remains a prosperous, safe, and stable home for its citizens. ”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

First, Japan is still insanely overcrowded, with about 3.5 times the people of California in the same land area.

Second, I can’t think of a time, other than immediately after the second world war, when Japanese culture has been more influential. From anime to manga to kawaii to food and, well, porn, Japan is a cultural powerhouse.

#43 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 10, 2015 @ 11:24 am

“Europe’s only hope is for a resurgence of the “Right” (however defined) to counter the disastrous left-wing policies of the last 50 years”.

Neoliberalism, breaking down the welfare state, and making things ever more favourable and ‘competitive’ for big business may be many things, but left wing they are not.

#44 Comment By Tim D. On January 10, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

John Gaffney understands the highlights of the far right with two observations:

1). “The most visible today is ‘populist’, with its cult of the leader, and themes of law and order, anti-immigration, xenophobia, and the exclusion of the ‘other’.”

2). “The French far right is intelligent.”

One of the key elements when highlighting right-wing parties in general is their emphasis on culture, on this “us vs. them” mentality. Also, their tendency to not give a darn about other people. The French far right doesn’t speak for the majority of citizens, just a well-organized, intelligent network that’ll soon learn how to utilize dog-whistle politics to obtain greater power in French politics.

The last decade has been a great time for the emergence of far-right parties in places such as Europe because of the overwhelming incompetence of the political elite (e.g. the insistence on austerity despite it being failed policy). When it comes to Western countries in particular, people are ideologically tolerant but operationally segregationist.

My main concern isn’t the growing Islamophobia that clouds judgment (e.g. USA), it’s that the stagnating conditions in Europe, the USA, Asia, etc. will set the stage for future military conflicts as witnessed by Russia and Syria.

#45 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 11, 2015 @ 12:12 am

“The most visible today is ‘populist’, with its cult of the leader, and themes of law and order, anti-immigration, xenophobia, and the exclusion of the ‘other’.”

That’s not populist, its the classic alliance of lumpenproletarians with the more paranoid of the middle class.

Read up on the original People’s Party, which grew out of the farmers alliances. It was all about class solidarity, and demand for government intervention to create economic opportunity for small and tenant farmers.

#46 Comment By SoCal Patriot On January 11, 2015 @ 2:33 am

The Left has abandoned protection of the working citizens of all Western nations in which it operates. The Left is committed to cultural bloodless, peaceful genocide. New Labour in the UK, the Democratic Left in the United States (in unision with Big Business libertarians), the socialist-communist Left in mainland Europe. That is why countless working class citizens have abandoned the Left.

Sovereign people have a natural right to establish their borders, to defend those borders, to decide who may dwell within those borders, and to fight for their right to survive.

#47 Comment By M_Young On January 11, 2015 @ 4:49 am

Marine has three biological children. Merkel has none.

Then again, Segolene Royal has 4 by Hollande.

The French, left or right, worry about their own demographics.

#48 Comment By M_Young On January 11, 2015 @ 4:55 am

“their emphasis on culture, on this ‘use vs. them’ mentality”

Well, yes, Tim D. This is in many ways what politics is about. What is the whole 1% vs. 99% Narrative about? What is the whole #blacklivesmatter Narrative about?

At least the Right — the FN type Right — is addressing a more immediate reality. A district where Muslims block the streets to pray on Fridays, where alcohol and saucisson cannot be sold, is not longer a French district. It is really ‘Us vs. Them’, and they have won.

#49 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 12, 2015 @ 9:48 pm

The Left has abandoned protection of the working citizens of all Western nations in which it operates. The Left is committed to cultural bloodless, peaceful genocide. New Labour in the UK, the Democratic Left in the United States (in unision with Big Business libertarians)

New Labor is not left at all, that’s why its called New Labor. “The workers flag is deepest pink, its not as red as some folks think…” The “Democratic Left in the United States” was never a working class movement in the first place, its an intellectual preoccupation. There is no communist movement in Europe any more, attenuated or otherwise.

Its worth remembering that when ossified trade union leaders encountered the pathetic efforts by SDS to “go to the factories,” circa 1970, they remarked that the Stalinists they had fought in the 1940s were “real working stiffs,” unlike the college students weakly confronting them thirty years later. “The Left” actually originated in the working class, not on college campuses. Circa 1900, a proposal to form an Intercollegiate Socialist Society was greeted with derision as akin to “The Royal Communist League.” (Although, the mind drifts to Prince Sihanouk’s sister telling a reporter “It is not easy for a princess to work with the communist party…”)

In short, what you are talking about is not left at all. “That’s not a doctor, that’s God. He just thinks he’s a doctor.”

As to borders, they are not so easy to “establish” as the volume of rhetoric sometimes assumes. People don’t migrate just for the fun of it, certainly not for the sheer joy of shifting a nation’s politics. People from ancient times to modern times migrate when life is too rough to remain where they are, and attractive possibilities beckon elsehwere. Laws can stem the tide, but seldom staunch the flow.