by Ramin Mazaheri
The fundamental problem in France today is that racists aren’t polling for Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Who? He ran 4th in France’s presidential election in 2012. Same as Jill Stein and you’ve heard of her. He has created the superbly-named Disobedient France Party.
You don’t hear about him for the same reason that what you likely read about the recent Austrian election were exhales over the “far-right loss”, when you should have heard “a Green Party wins for 2nd time ever in Europe” (after Latvia).
The reason for this is that Western mainstream media is fundamentally capitalist when private and fundamentally status quo when public – that they have no interest in promoting leftist victories, ever. Not even a left-center one like in Austria. For them, history is over – there is no alternative to right-wing economics like austerity as well as the continental domination of Brussels.
This rightward fundamentalism is why most of the world knows who ran third in France’s 2012 election – Marine Le Pen of the National Front. Le Pen sells newspapers and draws a crowd with cameras.
Melenchon, however, just draws a crowd. The French Communist Party leadership refused to back him last month in a classic “narcissism of small differences”, but the rank and file knew better – they voted to give the Communist Party endorsement to Melenchon anyway. They know he’s the left’s best bet.
Even among communists, the mainstream is losing.
So this is great, right? France’s working class is coming back to the true left, after their dalliance with the National Front – and it was always just a dalliance.
The National Front is a (news)paper tiger – they currently hold just 0.4% of all elected offices in France. You certainly wouldn’t guess that based on their amount of free media coverage they get.
That pathetic 0.4% does include the fact that they were the winning party in the European Parliament elections in 2014, but the French have still never given them even a modicum of power at home. They can gleefully screw up Brussels all they want, but inside the Hexagon is another story.
And fighting Europe is where the National Front and Melenchon join. Both groups want at least a referendum on leaving the EU, the Eurozone and NATO. Melenchon wants to go even further – he runs on a platform of abolishing the 5th Republic.
Seriously – he wants to create a 6th Republic with a new constitution, and how is that not exciting in this age? France could redraw financial rules to deal with the post-1980 computer virus known as high finance, reduce the power of the executive (extremely high in the current de Gaulle-designed system), give more democratic power to the legislative branch, and on and on. It’s a chance for a velvet revolution.
But few give Melenchon any chance to leapfrog into the 2nd round. Hey, it’s possible: Cameron, Clinton, Sarkozy, Hollande, Renzi – all ousted this year.
But I think the Le Pen train just has too many well-heeled backers. And assuming it is Le Pen versus ultra-austerity conservative party nominee Francois Fillon in the final round, racists and non-racists alike will need to vote for the National Front.
And the National Front is not what it used to be.
The difference between father and daughter here is huge. Father Le Pen was a French intelligence agent in Algeria who did God knows what and Satan knows best.
The French regime killed Algerian revolutionaries and civilians by throwing them out of airplanes, sans parachute. They even beat to death or drowned more than 300 Algerians in 1961…in Paris! Calling ISIL more barbaric because they chop off heads is absurd and purposely distracting propaganda – France last guillotined someone as recently as 1977.
People can imagine Jean-Marie doing stuff like this, even if they can’t prove he did. He has long been so reviled by a majority of France that they can even imagine him involved in some sort black magic ritual to his Celtic ancestors at France’s Stonehenge in the western town of Carnac. (“In the name of all that is unholy…give me the power to stop halal food in school cafeterias!”)
No one is going to dispute that Jean-Marie is a smart guy: I interviewed him once, and he made a fool of me, which is what I deserve for trying to talk to him seriously. Anyway, he’s heard all the angles over the years, and he doesn’t give a damn, so I wasn’t the first or the last. You can’t win with a guy like him unless you raise a commotion and shout him down, and why make all that effort to reach a point where he just laughs because nobody can force him to admit that 2+2 does not equal 5?
But Jean-Marie wasn’t smart enough to keep power once he got it. I don’t mean in 2002, when he made it to the 2nd round of the presidential vote– the French 1st round amounts to nothing, like the US popular vote. I’m talking about back in 1986, when the National Front actually won some power – 35 seats in the National Assembly. Just two years of their black magic later and they were reduced to just 1 parliamentary seat. They were like a dog that looks in a mirror and starts barking at a supposed enemy – remove the mirror and the dog is suddenly impotent.
I say go ahead and vote Le Pen because the best way to deal with the far-right is to give them power and watch them fold under their own stupidity – caused by their xenophobic obsessions and nationalist egotisms. Yeah, you’ll have to fight to wrest power back from them, but the left emerges stronger because it’s then proven to be the only group actually offering social progress for the average person.
Now Daughter Le Pen is a political animal – politics is her family trade. People can’t as easily imagine Marine torturing Algerians or making occult sacrifices. They picture her possibly guilty of the typical political crimes – corruption, hypocrisy, lying, moral turpitude – but she’s almost just another politician, which is what she wanted to achieve, and we can’t deny that she has arrived.
(Then you have the shiny young granddaughter, 26-year old Marion Marechal Le Pen, who has been so encapsulated in the family trade that I imagine she has never even talked to a Muslim who wasn’t filthy rich. It’s no wonder she’s the worst.)
And this is where things get tricky for everybody – Marine has a good political program in many ways. I have to listen to her for my job and I find myself agreeing with her on some key issues. Once again the far-left and far-right meet, which is natural as we both flee the disgusting, corrupted center.
Ignoring Le Pen is to ignore simple facts: France’s average person was richer prior to the Euro (like all Euro nations); the European Union has obviously not brought the promised stability; NATO has made France even more of a target for terrorism by involving it in wars like Libya.
How much more needs to be said? Withdrawal from any or all 3 of these institutions would be the right move for people living in France (and elsewhere).
But can Marine get elected, given her xenophobic policies and legacy?
Here’s the thing: every party is racist in France.
I can’t stress that enough. The only exception are the leftists. So if you vote Socialist or Republicain, you are definitely supporting xenophobic policies – Le Pen is simply not much worse. This is so obvious it is not even worth arguing anymore, sadly, and you can thank Sarkozy and Hollande for mainstreaming racism.
Muslims in France often say they could never, ever vote for Le Pen, because it would be civil war. This is, I believe, an exaggeration, but you must understand that this is a much more genuine threat than in the US, and not just because the French have actually had war on their own soil almost every generation since the 19th century.
In the United States Trump is not talking about deporting every single Hispanic person, only the illegal ones. The fact is that he’ll probably spend a fun Cinco de Mayo 2018 swatting a piñata or two in the White House, happily celebrating Mexico’s victory over France in 1862.
In France, such a celebration is impossible, because there has been zero reconciliation with the fact that anyone can possibly be both Muslim and truly French.
French Muslims (and their many supporters) fear that their 3rd-generation grandchildren – and all 3 generations are citizens – will be deported or beaten or jailed. France certainly has a recent history of rounding people up and sending them to nowhere on trains – plenty of Vichy France stalwarts still around passing on stories privately about their glory days.
What Le Pen and the other racists want to ignore is the fact that France’s Muslims simply are not, and cannot, and will not go anywhere. They are a fait accompli.
They are as rooted to the soil (or patch of city concrete) as much as any French person not six feet under the ground. They are tough – like any group stuck on the bottom of the social pyramid – and you take them on at your peril.
Does France think it can repeat how they killed off and kicked out the Huguenots centuries ago? That’s absurd – get over it. I f France didn’t want any part of Muslims they shouldn’t have tried, and failed, to have an imperial empire which colonized Algeria for 132 years. What I’m saying is – it’s over. Why not send the Normans back to Scandinavia while you’re at it?
But France’s vote-carrying racists see all asylum-seekers, illegals, Muslims, Blacks, Armenian Christians, Cameroonian animists, visiting Mexican tourists and well-tanned White French returning from Martinique as “all these Goddamn Muslims” who cannot possibly contribute anything to French culture (other than as low-level service workers).
And this lays bare the total hypocrisy of France’s outdated, Napoleon-era world view of a “modern” nationalist citizen. It has become hypocritical because it is not “modern” anymore, and the proof is as simple as this A, B and C:
A modern country must reflect the values of its citizens. Millions of citizens in France are Muslim; but France refuses to incorporate any Muslim values into what being “French” means.
For racists, being “French” means having nothing to do with Islam, and yet 5-10% of the country is Muslim. This contradiction creates more than a bit of cognitive dissonance in French culture.
And this backwards, counter-progressive, ignorant, xenophobic hypocrisy is why Le Pen is going to make the 2nd round instead of Melenchon.
And still, Muslims and everyone else with a brain will probably need to vote Le Pen in the 2nd round of France’s presidential election.
A good comparison with today’s EU is the USSR, another multinational, multiethnic empire. The situation is reminiscent of 1989 – in less than 2 years Gorbachev’s pro-capitalist “reforms” provoked economic chaos and shortages (the first in the USSR since WWII) and thus stimulated nationalist rebellions in Azerbaijan and the Baltics.
After all, it’s logical that people would want local control restored when the power center is so inept and corruptly capitalist. For fun, switch yesterday’s “Black Market” with today’s “high finance” – both are capitalist crooks to the nth degree.
It’s the same today with Brussels and the suffering EU nations – power has been abused, and the people want it back. This was formerly known as “democracy”.
The USSR was actually capable of self-criticism, reform and certainly had the democratic capacity to choose different types of communism, from left-wing communism to right-wing communism. However, the EU and Euro are structurally all-or-nothing projects, failing new developments such as constitutional changes.
Even if Le Pen wins France is still the 5th-largest global economy, and that’s why France currently can borrow all the money it wants to at historically-low rates to pay for new jobs and projects, to give a Keynesian boost to demand. But Brussels simply will not let it, and Sarkozy and Hollande enforce their will and not that of the people, and thus nationalism is soaring across the France (and the West).
But there is “progressive” nationalism and “reactionary” nationalism.
A French nationalism which stresses assimilation – which is what they have and which stands in opposition to “multiculturalism” – is “reactionary” because it is totally unmodern. It rests upon ancient history to the point of absurdity and dogma, typified by Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments in September: “Whatever the nationality of your parents … at the moment you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls and Vercingetorix”.
Really?! Obviously, not everyone will sever ties with their past just for the sake of citizenship or to fit in socially, including myself. And I’m not leaving, so enjoy retirement Sarko!
A French nationalism which preserves, respects and incorporates multiple cultures is inherently progressive. “Progressive nationalism” also ensures political representation for minorities, which Muslims certainly do not have and which creates inequalities that produce rebellions, like in 2005.
Of course, France’s fake-leftists can just as easily and mistakenly denounce as “communitarian” the necessary fight to preserve the Corsican or Breton languages before they disappear, for example. These alleged progressives say such minority protections are a violation of France’s “revolutionary heritage” or “birthplace of human rights ideals” or some such outdated, self-aggrandizing nonsense.
I remind leftists that the USSR was the first empire ever based on affirmative action. Now that was modernity – their ideal was not a rabidly nation-worshiping citizen like in France, but the idea of modern, universal Soviet brotherhood. It was not based on an idea of “Russia-ness”, a concept which sounds as stupid as the French version I am living in today.
It should be clear that Le Pen represents “reactionary” nationalism, while Melenchon and the left champion “progressive” nationalism (in the main).
But results matter more than motives.
And France has suffered long enough under austerity. Inequality, poverty, unemployment – all are at record highs – while the 500 richest people saw their fortunes jump 25% in 2013, followed by France’s European record for stock dividends in 2014, and this list can go on and on.
Polls today have Le Pen and Fillon in the second round. Fillon wants to double the amount of austerity cuts Hollande inflicted. He wants to cut 500,000 government jobs, in a nation where 3.5 million are already unemployed.
Do you need to know more? Don’t worry, he’s also an absurd xenophobe and Islamophobe – this is France, after all.
That’s why voting on “who is the least xenophobic” is an idiotic move, whatever one’s religion or ethnicity. Racists and non-racists alike are most likely going to have to vote Le Pen unless they don’t want more inequality and poverty.
Yes, overcoming the well-deserved aversion to the National Front is difficult, but that’s what breaking with the status quo unfortunately will require in May 2017.
The status quo should be considered unsupportable, and that’s the primary fight available now. It’s not ideal, but it certainly is our modern reality – politics is the art of the possible, after all.
I can’t stress enough: I encourage the French to vote Melenchon and to forge a true Left! Yes! Take the lead against Brussels, high finance and Germany like Hollande promised. Vive la Résistance!
But I am not optimistic. France is not in a mood of equality or fraternity, and it’s not just the economy, stupid – there are serious, unresolved cultural issues. They may not even be in a mood for their own liberty and willingly vote in Fillon, to the delight of the 1%.
But in a country where xenophobia is rampant across 3/4ths of the political spectrum, don’t look down your noses at France’s populists, as they have done in the UK, US and now Italy. They are not ignorant peasants and you are not their aristocratic superiors.
Refusing to even listen or consider the National Front is not only intolerant, egotistical, short-sighted and cowardly – it is a losing bet these days.
As the great Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek provocatively but intelligently said after Trump’s victory: “Sorry, white trash is our only hope. We have to win them over”.
And how can the left ever win over “French trash” if we do not work together on points in common, like leaving the EU, the Eurozone and NATO? In such a currently racist France, voting out of fear or to feel morally-superior – that’s what the mainstream is counting on from you, to only be capable of playing to the lowest common denominator.
I am not racist, yet in the 2nd round I would vote Le Pen in heartbeat if the alternative was Fillon. Throw me in with the trash.