Is Le Pen France`s Goldwater?


May Day
saw enormous marches in France,

for
and

against
Jean-Marie Le Pen

My parents and I were staying in a Provençal
auberge
when Apollo XI landed. Most of the guests
stayed up to watch the first steps on the moon, in the
middle of the night French time. As soon as the
astronauts were safely on the surface, out of the
kitchen – at 3 A.M. – came the cooks with a moon-shaped
cake, complete with craters and decorated with U.S.
flags, for the little American boy. I am no Frenchman,
but that helped make me a Francophile.

All received opinion in France says that Jean-Marie
Le Pen will not be the next President of France.  (The
latest polls predict an approximate 80/20 split in
Chirac`s favor. [But click

here
for Barbara Amiel on a daring prediction of an
upset.]
The prevailing assumption is that no one
who did not vote for Le Pen or his

former colleague
Bruno Mégret will vote for him in
the final round, leaving him with the roughly 20%
“extreme-right.` Incumbent Jacques Chirac is banking on
it; he democratically

refuses
even to debate Le Pen: “faced with
intolerance and hate … there is no possible debate.”

I wonder. A lot of Frenchmen are

fed up
with establishment politicians altogether. 
But in any case, Le Pen`s success has forced into the
open the issues both Chirac and Jospin were hiding from:
immigration and the European Union. Le Pen has emerged,
in British parlance, as the Leader of the Opposition.
 In American terms, he could be a harbinger of a massive
political shift like Barry Goldwater. He makes the
election something else the mainstream parties would
rather avoid: a test of how French the French still dare
to be.

France is the most patriotic of European nations. I
lived in Paris during the later years of General de
Gaulle`s presidency and the early years of his
successor, Georges Pompidou. Even as an American, I
remember being struck by the omnipresence of the
Tricolor and the unapologetic national pride on display
on national holidays, especially
Bastille Day
and November 11th parades
along the Champs-Elysées as De Gaulle passed by in his
wartime uniform.

France had recently ended a half-century of suffering
and reverses. Even so, France was defiantly distinct –
and distinctly French. I didn`t know the phrase yet, but
I think most Frenchmen subscribed in some fashion to De
Gaulle`s “certain idea of France”: a great nation with a
high civilization, one worth preserving and sharing with
the world.

This isn`t just arrogance, as many Americans think –
understandably, given the pettiness of recent French
governments – or just a desire to resist U.S. hegemony.
To most Frenchmen, France is precious for herself.

Most Establishment French commentary since Le Pen`s
success has consisted of ritual denunciations of his
racism/ anti-Semitism (citing one 15-year-old comment
about the gas chambers as a “detail” in history)/
“Europhobia” (which is to European discourse as “homophobia”
is to American: an invented, but

indefensible
, offense). There are horrified litanies
of the good things he opposes: immigration, the EU/ the
euro/ homosexuality/ multiculturalism. Le Pen`s
opposition to what he sees as U.S. hegemony and to the
Gulf War generally go unmentioned. The French élite does
not wish to be seen agreeing with the devil. But to
understand Le Pen`s appeal (especially if my hunch is
right that most Frenchmen are still more patriotic than

their government
),
it is worth looking at what Le Pen is actually for.

What he says he is for is France and the French – as
that nation and people have historically been
understood. The Front National`s uncompromisingly
nationalist “Program for Governing” is on the
internet.
Part of the Program`s uncompromising nationalism is that
it is posted in French only, no English (or, for that
matter, Arabic or Berber) translation. 
[There is an English

summary
]

The program is a coherent, even erudite, document. It
analyzes a broad range of issues under the general
headings of Identity, Sovereignty, Security, Prosperity,
Fraternity and Liberty. It is not the work of a bunch of
knuckle-draggers (I concentrated on Identity and
Sovereignty issues, so no comment here about the FN`s

protectionist
economics – but how much worse they
could be than Brussels and most French governments?)

The political tone is very French: the FN is not
averse to centralized, government solutions to problems,
although it favors making many issues subject to direct
democracy in the form of referenda. More significant,
the overall tone is unabashedly national, not European
or globalist: the FN will act exclusively in the
interests of France and the French, as it defines the
two. Alliances and adherence to international
institutions are desirable only to the extent they
advance French interests. All the problems the FN
identifies are, in Le Pen`s view, aspects of one big
problem: seduced by “Europe,” France`s élites have lost
their loyalty to France.

Hmm. Sounds familiar.

The most revealing part of the FN Program is a
nine-page essay (the author is not identified; Le Pen
himself?) entitled “France—Universality, Memory and the
Sacred” (La
France – l`Universalité, la Mémoire et le Sacré
).

This idiosyncratic work is an unusual thing to find
in a party platform. It is an elegantly written,
scholarly exposition of the ideas behind Le Penisme.
It belies media portrayals of Le Pen as a racist thug.
It is undeniably rooted in ideas with long intellectual
pedigrees, however uncongenial they may be to globalist
Europhiles. While its claim for universal significance
for French civilization seems overdone to an American
reader, it is a welcome change from the ritual praise of
the EU and France`s duty to submerge herself in it that
one usually hears from French politicians.

La France is full of quotations from writers,
philosophers and politicians, both French and foreign.

Joan of Arc
(Le Pen`s

heroine-saint
) takes her place along with

Bossuet
,

Clémenceau
and the coronation oath of the Kings of
France, on the duties of good government. Simone Weil
joins Solzhenitsyn (from his

Nobel speech
) in praising the distinctiveness of
nations. The FN seems to favor genuine diversity in the
world, rather than forced diversity in France. Pope John
Paul II joins Soviet dissident Igor Shafarevich and
Solzhenitsyn (again) to decry the horrors mankind
suffered at the hands of materialist totalitarianism in
the 20th Century.

Joseph de Maistre
and

Hippolyte Taine
speak in favor of social
organizations that are responsive to human nature,
against the

Comte de Saint-Simon`
s idea of society as a
“laboratory” to create human happiness. The French
Orientalist Ernest Renan makes an appearance to

argue
that a nation is the fruit of a social order,
rooted in its land, its people and their history.

This is the sort of blood and soil patriotism that
has modern liberals seeing swastikas. But I think in
this case they are mistaken. Le Pen strikes me as in the
tradition of De Gaulle (even though he is denounced by
the rump Gaullists), not that of Mussolini or Hitler.

Boldest of all, in discussing the contempt of élites
for ordinary people, La France quotes none other
than Burke`s

Reflections on the Revolution in France
—risky in
a country where the glories of the French Revolution are
an object of fetishistic lip-service. Max Weber, Claude
Lévi-Strauss and even Herbert Marcuse appear in the
context of the disenchantment of modern secularized man.

Assuming La France accurately reflects Le
Pen`s worldview, what we find is that the “demagogue” is
a profoundly traditional and conservative Frenchman –
despite his sometimes rough-and-tumble approach to the
political arena. What Le Pen wants to do is to restore
France`s traditional order. In his view, that order had
been evolving continuously since the
baptism of Clovis
at the end of the 5th
Century and is the successor of the Christian and
Hellenistic traditions of Roman Gaul. But it has
recently broken down under the blows of secularizing,
materialist ideologies, the subjugation of France to the
EU (and the Americans) and the ethnic dilution of the
French through immigration.

Adopting Renan`s view, French national order is
rooted in the French people themselves and their history
on their land. Their Christian faith (presumably
Catholic, although La France does not specify) is
an integral element. Frenchness is acquired primarily by
birth, not just on French territory but to French
parents, and through a French education. Language and
traditional culture are essential. It is an organic view
of the nation, as people and place: an extended family
in its ancestral home. Destroy any element of the
organism and ultimately it will die, to the immense
detriment of the French and – naturellement – the
world.

Le Pen is, in many ways, a man with a medieval view
of society (I mean no insult), especially in his view of
the state`s duty to maintain society`s unifying sense of
the sacred, and conserve the “rootedness” of the French
in their own tradition:

It is past time to
reintroduce the Sacred into our society. We see clearly
that our contemporaries are hungry for more than bread.
… The progressive secularization of Western societies
since the 16th Century,
a secularization
they have exported to the rest of the world, bears a
very heavy responsibility for the “disenchantment of the
modern world” (Weber).
[emphasis added]

This is a man who takes the long view, who has also
said that communism and Nazism are the “dreadful
bastards” of the French Revolution. La France
also implicitly rebukes Chirac (on the stump, Le Pen is
far less polite about Chirac, whom he considers a
traitor and a thief), for his failure to maintain that
sense of the sacred:

It is the responsibility
of the head of state not to desacralize public life. It
is unacceptable, for example that

July 14th
[Bastille Day] should be
dissolved into a euroglobalist demonstration, causing it
to lose its significance: the celebration of the unity
of the Nation (la Patrie) in the glory of our
armies. Through symbols, our country`s political
authorities must assure the continuity of France and
watch over her sovereignty. The one cannot live without
the other. Allowing our demography to collapse and
substituting an immigration of repopulation, letting
criminality explode or “demonizing” our origins, this is
letting France dissolve in the globalist melting pot.

France must remain sovereign and strong in order to
be able to defend herself culturally and physically.

Distributing Hollywood movies in France wouldn`t
become any easier under a FN government.

Le Pen`s view of Frenchness is the key to his
opposition to immigration. He is criticized for
disliking Arabs and Jews. While he does not care for
Islam, and wants not merely to end Moslem immigration
but to repatriate many immigrants, in the broader sense
Moslems and Islam are not the point. The nature of
France and Frenchmen is. As far as I can tell, Le Pen
does not particularly dislike North Africans. He just
prefers France and Frenchmen.  

Because Frenchness is acquired through one`s parents
and one`s upbringing, Le Pen would set the bar of
naturalization much higher than it is now:

[The
candidate for naturalization] must assimilate to
assimilate: since he is not French by blood, he must
become so, with all his spirit and without turning back,
in mores, language and the education he gives his
children.

Not too long ago, this would
have been obvious. Now it is called racist.

Le Pen`s immigration and
sovereignty policy proposals are consistent with the
worldview expressed in La France. He would end
immigration immediately, and seek the repatriation of
immigrants who are not assimilating or who commit

crimes
in France. He would deport all illegal
aliens. He would suppress government funding for
organizations that proselytize for Islam, as a matter of
cultural self-defense. He would withdraw France from the
EU and restore the franc. He favors ethnic preferences
for the French in employment, government housing and
access to benefits. His economic policies are avowedly
protectionist.

Le Pen`s advance to the
second round stunned France`s bien-pensants, but
they were immediately in print in Le Monde, Le
Figaro, Libération
and elsewhere decrying the
horrible event, e.g. voters were too fixated on
l`insecurité
(crime)
(there is probably a lot of truth to this). The student
left took to the streets, naturally, to break things and
get into fights to protest the violence Le Pen is
introducing into French society. Among their peaceful
cries: “Le Pen Fascist, the people will have your hide”
(it rhymes in French). And May 1 saw even

larger demonstrations
.

As is typical in the newly
multicultural France, minority pressure groups were out
in force to tell the French how to think. Malek Boutih,

president of “SOS Racisme”
announced in Le Figaro
(April 25) that “the nation must truly make a place” for
immigrants. There were surprises also. Ever since the
intifada
reignited in Israel in September 2000,
there have been attacks on Jewish targets in France. The
government and media have deplored the anti-Semitic acts
while never mentioning

who was doing them.
They preferred to leave the
impression that it is the work of French fascists. But
it is overwhelmingly North African Moslems importing the
Middle East`s wars into France. At least one prominent
French Jew, Jo Goldenberg, former owner of a famous
kosher Paris restaurant (and target of terrorist
attacks),

announced
that he had voted for Le Pen: “Le Pen,
it`s the defense of France first of all, in the
patriotic sense. As for me, that`s what I care about.”
 The Israeli daily Ha`aretz reported: "Roger Cukierman
[president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions,
the functional equivalent of Abraham Foxman] said he hoped Le
Pen`s victory would reduce

Moslem anti-Semitism
and
anti-Israeli behavior, because his score is a message to Moslems
telling them to behave themselves (leur indiquant de se tenir tranquilles)."
Cukierman later claimed that he was quoted out of
context, but didn`t deny having said it.

If there is still such a
thing as a patriotic vote in France, Jean-Marie Le Pen
might do very well. Stranger things have happened in
France.  And, of course, in America – witness Goldwater.

May 01, 2002