REAL LE PEN
the guardians of political correctness have already descended
on Le Pen – whom
they once pronounced "finished" – as the Hitler-of-the-week.
The words most associated with the 73-year-old veteran of
French rightist politics, the son of a fisherman who rose
from nothing to challenge the Euro-establishment, are most
often "demagogue," "racist," "xenophobe,"
and worse. But I suggest you ignore the background noise,
and check out
his recent interview with Ha'aretz – the Israeli version
of the New York Times – because it rings far truer
than the caricature offered up by his detractors. The author
is obviously not sympathetic to his subject, and every quote
from Le Pen is viewed through the lens of some politically
correct academician, who then "interprets" it for
our benefit: but still the real man behind the media-created
bogeyman shines through.
turns out that Le Pen, far from being a dreaded "xenophobe,"
is simply saying that France has had enough Arab immigration:
is an Islamic population in France, most of which comes from
the North African countries. Though some may have French citizenship,
they don't have the French cultural background or sociological
structure. They operate according to a different logic than
most of the population here. Their values are different from
those of the Judeo-Christian world. Not long ago, they spat
at the president of the republic. They booed when the national
anthem was played at a soccer game [in Paris, between the
national teams of France and Algeria]. These elements have
a negative effect on all of public security."
a time when Islamic terrorism is a universal preoccupation,
this kind of talk seems less "xenophobic" than practical.
It has particular resonance in France, where criminal gangs
of North African immigrants dominate whole neighborhoods, and
the police do not dare venture into these enclaves, which are,
in effect, conquered terrain. Crime is skyrocketing: this was
the main issue of the French election, and a major reason for
the National Front's electoral triumph. Le Pen has had the satisfaction
of saying "I told you so," as the political mainstream
tried desperately to come to terms with the crisis. But Jospin
and Chirac are part of the problem, Le Pen argued, and therefore
could offer no solution – and many voters agreed.
up with this charge of "xenophobia," anyway? Le
Pen is merely saying that France should maintain its distinctive
cultural-political identity, and that the immigrant floodtide
threatens values worth preserving. Somehow, when the Israelis
make the same argument – that allowing the Palestinians the
"right of return" would threaten the identity and
very existence of the Jewish state – this is not even commented
on, except by hare-brained Lennonists who exhort us to "imagine there's
the same leftist nutballs "mobilizing" in the streets
against the "fascist" and "racist" Le
Pen might find themselves nodding their heads in agreement
if they bothered to listen to what he has to say about Bush's
projected invasion of Iraq:
war on Iraq is nothing more than a war for American material
interests. During the Gulf War, I derided all those who portrayed
Iraq as the fourth most powerful army in the world. It was
ridiculous: To be one of the world's most powerful armies,
you have to manufacture arms and ammunition. Iraq was crushed,
its army was completely destroyed and the sanctions policy
caused hundreds of thousands of people to die of starvation."
PEN'S AMERICAN PROBLEM
Le Pen and his party opposed
not only the Gulf War, but also participated in demonstrations
against the Kosovo war. His wife traveled to Baghdad in support
of "SCS – Children of Iraq," on a humanitarian mission
to thwart the monstrous sanctions that have killed thousands.
Naturally, the neoconservative Right hates Le Pen as much
as the post-Marxist left, on account of his supposed "anti-Americanism."
But "anti-Americanism," by this definition, turns
out to be simple patriotism: "I am not a xenophobe,"
he explains. "I am a Francophile" He proceeds to
give us a
Francophile's view of the world:
problem with the Americans is that their disproportionate
power makes them undertake policies that aren't always balanced
and well-considered, and therefore dangerous. Today, there
is worldwide tendency to dance to the tune of the powerful.
I, on the other hand, am a French patriot concerned with the
interests of France. Am I supposed to go crazy with admiration
for the Americans just because they are Americans?"
Well, uh, yes, Monsieur, that is if you're going to
co-exist with the US in a world where "you're either
with us, or against us," as the American President and
his international amen corner ceaselessly remind us. Le Pen's
nationalism is bound to conflict with their vision of a world
in which the only sovereignty that matters is American.
TRUTH VERSUS PROPAGANDA
Practically every news story
on Le Pen's upset, by at least the second or third line, reminds
us that he once said the Holocaust was an historical "detail."
But not quite. Here
is what he actually said, when pressed, not in
reference to the Holocaust per se, but to the question of
whether or not gas chambers were among the Nazi methods of
a book of 1,000 pages on the Second World War, the gas chambers
take up 10 to 15 lines. That is a detail."
in context with an earlier statement, in which he opposed
French "hate crime" laws that make "holocaust
denial" a crime, Le Pen's real position clearly has nothing
to do with "holocaust denial," and the truth shines
through even the rhetorical murk of this LeMonde Diplomatique rant:
is not a matter for the administration or the courts. It is
a purely a question of historical research .... All reasonable
people accept that Jews died en masse in the Nazi camps. What
"revisionist" historians are disputing is the method
of extermination .... These are matters for specialists and
must be settled by historical methodology."
PEN ON ISRAEL
great irony of the charge of "anti-Semitism" leveled
against Le Pen and his followers is that they were the first
to point to the danger posed by the real perpetrators of anti-Semitic
violence in France – Arab immigrants. Le Pen is also very
pro-Israel, because, as a nationalist, he can well understand
the impulse that motivates the Zionist project. Asked if he
thinks the military campaign that Sharon is waging in the
territories is justified, he neither condemns nor approves
it, but takes Sharon's self-identification as an Israeli patriot
as a given:
is the policy that he declared. He is not betraying the commitments
that he made. He said from the beginning, `I will wage war,'
and he is waging a war with all the risks that involves. History
will show if he was right or wrong."
if he can "understand the complaints in Israel about
the 'hypocritical' European reaction," Le Pen's answer
underscores his natural empathy for Israel's fight for self-preservation:
After all, I got a similar reaction during the war in Algeria,
when I served in General Massu's 10th division. We were called
upon to fight the terrorism of the FLN (the Algerian nationalist
movement that fought against French colonialism). The intelligentsia
at home criticized our actions. It's very easy to criticize
from the armchair in the living room. I completely understand
the State of Israel, which is seeking to defend its citizens."
for French, European, or specifically French intervention
or mediation, he opines that the West should probably stay
well out of it:
the efforts at mediation are not effective. I wonder if international
influences might be harmful to negotiations, if they aren't
pouring fuel on the fire. There is a need for a direct understanding
between Israel and the Palestinians."
LE PEN, GO!
a true nationalist, however, Le Pen looks at the Israeli-Arab
conflict in demographic terms, and wonders how long a few
million Israelis can hold off a billion Muslims and not be
absorbed. Gee, I wondered the same thing in my last column, in which
I (citing a post by Emmanuel Goldstein on his "Airstrip
One" blog) speculated on the "orientalization"
of Israeli society. Say, Jean Marie, if you're out there,
lemme give you a shout-out, and I'll just say this: Go,
Le Pen, go!
I say this without endorsing some of his kookier views, like
paying women to stay home (if we have to pay them, we're lost,
anyway), or agricultural subsidies (even the French libertarians
of the 1760s, the Physiocrats, who
pioneered the development of free-market economics, made an
exception when it came to agriculture: what is it with
the French and their farms?) In very broad terms, however,
Le Pen represents a phenomenon I have written about in
previous columns: market
Although, in the French case,
the emphasis is definitely on the second half of that phrase,
you have to remember that Le Pen started out his political
career as a Poujadist: he
was one of several elected to the French legislature in 1956,
the youngest ever elevated to that august assembly. And that makes
all the difference….
Pierre Poujade's Union in Defense of Merchants and Artisans
was what today would be called an "anti-government"
movement -- a militant group of small shopkeepers and rural
folk who resented government taxes and regulation. At the
time there was a great outcry from the leftist-socialist establishment
(on both sides of the Atlantic) that Poujade was a "fascist"
and a "black reactionary." But that is utter hogwash,
as Murray N. Rothbard
pointed out in his trenchant
1956 article on the subject:
first thing for Americans to realize: don't fall blindly for
the cry of 'fascist.' Remember how the leftist press is always
ready to smear anti-Communists and anti-Socialists or anti-internationalist
Americans with the 'fascist' label. Poujade himself strongly
denies that his movement is fascist. He points out that the
fascists did not come from the middle classes, but were usually
former socialists from the ranks of the workers."
was true in 1956 in regard to the Poujadists is even truer
now when it comes to Le Pen. For the supposedly "fascist"
leader, in calling for halving the tax rate, is being
true to his roots as a French populist with a decidedly libertarian
streak, as Rothbard's description of the Poujadist program
together in the Union in Defense of Merchants and Artisans,
they were led by Pierre Poujade, a bookseller from the little
southern French town of St. Céré. Winning election to the
local council, the young bookseller persuaded the council
and the town's merchants to refuse tax payment and resist
inspection of their books by the central government. Successful
resistance spread the idea and the movement to neighboring
towns, and finally to a large portion of France.
Poujadist belief in direct action by the people is dramatically
revealed in one of their favorite devices: 'packing' every
auction for tax delinquency. Defying the desperate auctioneers,
one Poujadist would then buy the store for a few cents, and
give it back to the grateful shopkeeper."
is "fascism" only if you're some Euro-weenie intellectual
who vaguely remembers something from Adorno
– or was that Wilhelm
Reich? – about how fascism is the effusion of the "enraged
of which, I wrote on that topic
the enraged bourgeoisie, that is specifically in regard
to Europe, back when the famous gas tax revolt swept the continent
in September of 2000:
we are witnessing in Europe is nothing less than a revolution,
a radical reaction to the consolidation of continental socialism
– a reaction that goes beyond the ballot box and takes the
fight against the Eurocrats to the streets. As even the idea
of national sovereignty is erased, and the rule of the managers
and corporate planners seeks to rationalize European social
and economic life into prescribed patterns of political correctness,
the intended victims of this new order – the small business
owners, the independent truckers and lorrie drivers, the Belgian
hauliers, the French farmers, the fishermen – in short, ordinary
people throughout Europe – have been thoroughly radicalized
by the stubborn arrogance of their socialist elites."
is precisely what is fueling the Le Pen phenomenon. The revolt
against the European elites by ordinary bourgeois Europeans
has once again erupted, and it looks like the French run-off
election is going to be … very interesting.
conventional wisdom, naturally, is that Le Pen doesn't stand
a chance, the polls show a Chirac landslide, blah blah blah.
But the polls were wrong before, and, who knows, but they
could be wrong again. Certainly Chirac, whose Clintonian
scale of corruption
has been mercilessly exposed
in a series
scandals involving kickbacks,
is vulnerable – and he is making himself even more vulnerable
to debate Le Pen. This sense of entitlement displayed
by the political class seems, to the ordinary French citizen,
to be entirely unearned. By arrogantly refusing to debate,
Chirac is tempting fate – and certainly he deserves to lose.
PEN VS. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Ledeen gives us
neocon wisdom on l'affaire Le Pen:
any event, we will not have to worry about Mr. Le Pen for
more than the two weeks until the runoff. When Mr. Chirac
is reelected, he will have to lead his country in a very new
Europe, but not the center-left Europe so long imagined by
most of the intellectuals and fashionable politicians. Through
no particular merit of his own, Mr. Chirac will be a major
player in a center-right Europe that will be more suspicious
of the mounting power of the European bureaucracy in Brussels,
less inclined to dissolve national identities in a new continental
union, and keen on retaining more initiative in national legislatures."
no particular merit of his own" indeed! Is that why anti-Le
Pen commies, who took to the streets immediately after the
election returns came in – overturning cars and smashing
store windows – carried placards proclaiming "Vote sleaze, not fascist"?
Pen is not merely "suspicious" of that monstrosity
in Brussels, he is unalterably opposed to it and has vowed
to take France out of the EU altogether. Instead of waiting
for the monster to be born, he wants to kill it in its crib.
In that battle, there can be no compromise, no neutrality:
you are either with the defenders of national sovereignty
(including libertarians as well as nationalists), or you are
with the Euro-crats. Let us hope and pray the French voters
have the wisdom and the courage to choose the former.
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