The French National Front is not a eurosceptic party – it’s a racist party

By Charlotte Kude

Brussels & EuropeAs much as I disagree with Nigel Farage, I was profoundly relieved to hear him say he would not join forces with the French National Front to fight next year’s European elections. Populist leader Marine Le Pen’s attempts to deradicalise her party’s image since she became leader have had little effect so far, and focusing on anti-EU policies now will never be enough to erase decades of brutal and openly xenophobic propaganda. The National Front isn’t the French UKIP – it’s the French BNP.

Born in the early 1970s out of the far-right ‘Ordre Nouveau’ Movement, the National Front is deeply rooted in statist authoritarianism and its ideology directly inspired by the Italian neo-fascist MSI. When founder Jean-Marie Le Pen passed on the leadership to his daughter Marine in 2011, the hopes were that she would take the National Front from a party of protest to a party of government by developing more moderate and broadly appealing messages. Which to an extent she did – the Party has never been as successful as it is today, and it’s not hard to appear less aggressive than her father. Jean-Marie Le Pen was indeed well-known for his belief in supremacy of the white race[1] and repeated public denial of the Holocaust[2]. While some would say he only said out loud what everyone thought, for a long time he only seemed to scare off a large majority of voters. But in latest news, Marine Le Pen has publicly asked for the phrase ‘extreme right’ to stop being associated[3] with her party, yet another populist strategy to reach out to a wider crowd while continuously claiming to voice out what the silent majority thinks privately.

The same sort of quality that has been attributed to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and no one will pretend his increasing popularity isn’t a sign of him doing just that. I can see how more parallels can be drawn between the two parties: two charismatic leaders with the same claim to brutal honesty, an exacerbated patriotism, all the wrongs blamed on immigrants and a desire to detach their beloved countries from any external influence. All of it expressed in simple, populist messages destined to address individual’s most low and primitive instincts. But the surface hides ideological complexities and clear discrepancies between the two. The UK Independence Party might have been associated with racist comments from individual members in the past; fact is, these are not ideas that UKIP wants to promote, while they are in the French National Front. And with British National Party founder John Tyndall once proclaiming “Mein Kampf is my bible[4],” this is really who it shares common ground with.

Today Marine Le Pen is calling for Nigel Farage to join her eurosceptic front in preparation of next year’s European elections, counting Dutch far right leader Geert Wilders among her allies[5]. She has accused UKIP of worrying too much about its image[6] and Farage of fearing she would impose herself as the natural leader[7]. Now as a Conservative, why would I care?

I care, because in fact I fear that an alliance would form itself between a clearly racist and anti-Semitic movement such as the French FN and the eurosceptic party that Britons are most likely to vote for at the next European elections. They will do that for different reasons, mainly to punish the mainstream parties from failing to address their concerns; and as they do so they will chose to believe that primitive behaviour is the appropriate response to somehow bring this ever more complex world to satisfy their basic needs. They will choose populism, anger and agitation over measurement because they associate it with inefficiency – while it has never been so crucial to stay pragmatic – but at least they won’t choose fascism in disguise.

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