The Rise of the French National Front – Populist Left – or Free Market Right?

Marine Le Pen and Supporters

Marine Le Pen and Supporters

In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris, France’s National Front and its leader, Marine Le Pen scored electoral victories in the first round of voting (however, they lost the final round, though the party nonetheless achieved its highest ever score of 6.45m votes).  This initial victory, we were told by the pundits, was a triumph for the far right. But it is an odd far right that trusts Russia—and Iran– more than the United States.  And it is a “far right” whose economic policies are in some ways no more conservative than those of our socialist candidate Bernie Sanders.

Le Pen herself sees a dual threat to France from Islamism and American “euro-mondialism” both of which she believes are forms of global imperialism that will subjugate France.

A trusted Le Pen advisor, Emmanual Leroy said this: “I was in the Front National from almost the very beginning. Earlier, I thought that in order to build a dialogue, you had to be an anti-communist. But I then realized that the true enemy is hiding in the Anglo-Saxon world. This is the enemy of every people, it flattens all the characteristics of every nation, it kills their very essence. We must fight this identity-killing influence.”

A former Le Pen associate, her foreign policy advisor Aymeric Chauprade,  wrote a book in which he said that the 9/11 attacks might have been part of a deliberate plot conceived in Washington to start an American war against the rest of the world.

Le Pen has advocated that France sever its links with Saudi Arabia, which she calls “America’s best ally” and a “dangerous country ruled by extremist clans, who, since the origin of Wahhabism, have but one goal: to dominate global Islam and turn it into jihad against all other civilizations.”

She has a point about Saudi Arabia, but to counter the Saudis she wants France to ally itself with Iran, which is just as extreme, the difference being that it advocates Shiite extremism while the Saudis peddle a Sunni variety. She blinds herself to the realities of Iran’s policies, asserting Iran should be allowed to further develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes (taking at face value Iranian assertions about the nature of its nuclear program).

Le Pen is up front about her admiration for Putin. Her party, finding French banks reluctant to provide funding, received a large loan from the First Czech Russian bank in Moscow.  One of her closest advisors traveled to Donetsk, capital of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, for a first anniversary “celebration.”

It would thus seem likely that France, led by Le Pen, would line up with Russia and Iran in respect to foreign policy.

The National Front’s domestic policy is equally remarkable for a “right wing” party. Sympathetic critic Guillaume Fay complains that the Front has taken over the “positions of the old extreme Left,” fusing them with a tough immigration policy. A reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek, Carol Matlack, says this: “Its plan to fix the economy in many ways resembles a leftist manifesto. Nationalizing banks, raising protectionist trade barriers, handing out cash to low-paid workers—they’re all part of the platform.”

Le Pen says France has been “left alone, naked” to face unchecked globalization. She wants France to leave the European Union and to devalue its currency “to relaunch exports and employment.” The National Front platform calls for a 3 percent tax on all imports that would be used to give a €200 ($270) monthly bonus to the country’s lowest-paid workers. It wants a 20 percent cut in the gas tax and lowering the retirement age to 60. (With great effort Sarkozy had raised it to 62 a few years ago.)  LePen says nationalizing the banks would only be temporary. She claims to believe in free markets but is opposed to “ultra-liberalism, where financial markets impose all the rules.”  Some of her advocated policies sound like left-wing populism, even to the left of current President Hollande’s Socialist party program.

A genuine free-market conservative would tell the French that their government is too large, their taxes are too high, their labor rules too restrictive, and that there is no free lunch.

 

Sources:

Marine Le Pen’s Worldview: Oppose America, Embrace Iran by Peter Martino February 6, 2014  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4160/marine-le-pen-chauprade

Marine Le Pen takes sharp left turn By Nicholas Vinocur 11/12/15 http://www.politico.eu/article/marine-le-pen-goes-left-socialist-sarkozy-communist/

The Far-Left Economics of France’s Far Right By Carol Matlack  November 20, 2013 http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-11-20/the-far-left-economics-of-frances-far-right

We should beware Russia’s links with Europe’s right Luke Harding Monday 8 December 2014

Marine Le Pen’s Closest Advisor Comes Out of the Shadows In Donetsk http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/14/marine-le-pen-s-closest-advisor-comes-out-of-the-shadows-in-donetsk.html

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