May 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the 1995 Presidential election, the Front National received just over 15 percent of the vote. But the FN achieved its greatest success in the municipal elections, in June of that year. It captured the councils of Marignane. near Marseille. Orange near Avignon, and the naval base of Toulon, all in the south of the country. In many other towns and cities, the FN received between 30 percent and 48 percent of the votes cast; and by the end of 1995. the party had 2.000 members sitting on local municipal councils.
In February this year, the FN captured Vitrolles in a dramatic municipal election victory, where Catherine Mégret, wife of Bruno Mégret, who hopes to take over the Party when Le Pen finally stands down as leader, achieved almost 53 percent of the second round votes (against 47.5 percent for the reformist‘‘Socialist" Party candidate), and became mayor of the town. Catherine Mégret did not empathise the Front's policy of the forcible expulsion of at least three million immigrant workers: in such an area, it had no need to do so. Many of the electorate are pieds noirs, former French colonists from north Africa who, in the main, support the Front National.
The Front's main support is in the south-east and south-west, the Paris banlieue (formerly Communist Party-controlled municipalities) and region and, to some extent, the Germanic Alsace area in the north-east of the country. The FN has the support, particularly in those areas, but also elsewhere, of youngish, "white" unemployed males, and petit bourgeois, poujadist, small shopkeepers who are continually losing out to the giant supermarket chains.
Although the FN has recently attempted to woo organised workers, and has even formed its own "trade unions" among the police prison warders and the RATP (Paris) transport workers, it has traditionally opposed strikes; and its influence among "blue collar" workers is weak. The Front National has opened up soup kitchens for unemployed ("white") workers, outside, for example, the Gare St. Lazare in Paris! There have, however, been fewer FN-organised mass demonstrations in recent years.
Is the Front National a Fascist party? Even some anti-Fascists have found this difficult to answer.
It is extremely nationalistic; and it even adopted Clovis, the barbarian chief, who converted to Christianity, and became the first Catholic king of Gaul. It is populist; and it includes among its members both right-wing conservatives who support "Thatcherite", free market economic theories, as well as supporters of a corporate state and economy.
At the same time, the FN has been able to accommodate many former members of small Fascist and neo-Nazi parties and groups. The inner "core" of the Front National is both racist and Fascist. Indeed, the long-time leader Jean-Marie Le Pen regularly proclaims the “inequality of the races", and also rants against what he calls “the worldwide Judeo-Masonic conspiracy” (see Le Monde and the Guardian. 5 March). And, like may Fascists, he has an extreme inferiority complex.
The Front National is unlikely to obtain the support of the majority of French workers. But with unemployment officially at 12.7 percent (probably more than four million), and many more workers feeling insecure in their jobs due to increasing redundancies and short-term contracts (as in Britain and elsewhere), together with the irrational nationalism and fear of "foreigners” (actually over 40 percent of all French people are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants), the FN is able to get a sizeable minority to believe mistakenly—and stupidly—that immigrant workers cause unemployment.
Peter E. Newell