France’s mainstream conservative party is in meltdown, while the far right is stronger than ever. Only a united and resurgent French left can prevent Marine Le Pen from capitalizing on Macron’s authoritarian, neoliberal presidency.
Jim Wolfreys is the author of Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France and coauthor of The Politics of Racism in France.
France’s collaborationist Vichy regime aided Nazi Germany during World War II. With far-right candidates surging in the upcoming presidential election, it’s clear there are still people in French political life who think that was a good thing.
In recent years, Marine Le Pen has sought to detoxify her party’s brand and distance herself from her father Jean-Marie’s crankish outbursts. But his latest volume of memoir is a reminder that her so-called populist right is rooted in fascism and a National Front that united Vichyites and antisemites with radicalized conservatives.
It’s eighty years today since the notorious Vichy regime took power in France under Nazi domination. Vichy-style fascism wasn’t simply a German plant on French soil — it drew on powerful reactionary currents in French politics and society.
The French media has started lumping far-right leader Marine Le Pen with a host of other “populists,” left and right. But calling Le Pen just another populist helps her detoxify her party — and mainstreams the racist right.
In the new memoir of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France’s Front National, the powerful currents of resentment and authoritarianism that animate the far right are well on display.
The FN’s new image doesn’t mean the far-right party had a change of heart — it means the mainstream has accepted its program.