• France
  • The Metamorphosis of the Front National

  • By Antoine de Cabanes | 23 Oct 17 | Posted under: France , Rightist Movements
  • This article was written in January 2017 and initially published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal Sozialismus.

    In December 2016, the Austrian presidential election finally came out with the rejection of far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer. However the defeat of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs’s (FPÖ) candidate should not lead to optimism; if this outcome contrasts with the Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump, we should keep in mind that more than 46% of Austrian voters chose to vote for a man whose party defends islamophobic, nationalist, xenophobic and populist measures. And the current polls estimates that the FPÖ may win the next parliamentary election, polling at around 34-35%1 thus becoming the largest party at the Nationalrat2. This forecast was turned into a hope by Marine Le Pen, the head of the French Front National (FN), when she consoled Hofer after his defeat3.

    Le Pen’s reaction was not a coincidence, as the FN and FPÖ’s MEPs (member of European Parliament) are sitting in the same group at the European Parliament4, along with the MEPs of the Dutch PVV. The FN and the FPÖ are not only sharing a common parliamentary group, they also have in common an islamophobic and eurosceptic rhetoric, a past deeply connected with neofascist movement5 as well as both of them are at the gates of power. The common features of these far right parties, like the PVV or even, in a slightly different way, UKIP (UK Independence Party), the UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre) or the AfD (Alternative for Deutschland), raised several debates among academic and activists, especially about the relevant characterisation for these new forms of the far right. While some calls them right-wing extremism6, other prefers populist radical right parties7; we will adopt the denomination populist right which seems to reflect at best the key characteristics of these parties8.

    We previously said that these parties seemed in position to win the elections and thus access to power, the most obvious being the Front National upon the presidential and legislative elections of May and June 2017. While the classical right (the former UMP renamed Les Républicains in 2015) designated its candidate in October, the Parti Socialiste (PS) will organize a primary election at the end of January to appoint its candidate. Therefore the precise context of the election will be known in the beginning of February and the election campaign will really start at that moment. That is why it is relevant for us to analyse and characterize now the new aspects of the Front National, in order to understand how this party succeeded in becoming the first French political party and why it has its chances in the forthcoming elections.

    A fast electoral increase

    First of all, it is important to revisit the electoral progress of the FN since 2007 in order to apprehend the extent of this progression9. In 2007, when Nicolas Sarkozy got elected, the Front National gathered 10.44% of the votes. While Jean-Marie Le Pen arrived second in the first round of the election in 2002 (thus qualifying for the second round), in 2007 he arrived fourth. The Front National lost 1 million votes in comparison with the 2002 presidential election (3.8 million votes while it aggregated 4.8 million in 2002). At the time, Sarkozy appropriated some Front National’s topics, especially those related with immigration and national identity, and succeeded in translating this into electoral results. Many voters of the Front National turned to Sarkozy. However this was short time politics and it only validated the Front National core issues and put them on top of the official and institutional political agenda. It destroyed the ideological barrier between the classical right and the Front National, just as the electoral “cordon sanitaire”.

    During the local election of Sarkozy’s mandate, the Front National regained many voters as Sarkozy’s policies were disappointing the right-wing electorate. In order to keep the FN voters, Sarkozy decided, in the 2011 local elections to break the “front républicain”. This expression refers to the withdrawal of the classical right or left candidate (PS or UMP) if she or he arrives third in an election. With the two round elections system, when the FN succeeded in accessing at the second round, it implied for the candidate of the eliminated government party to withdraw and to give the voting instruction to “stand in the way of the FN” which means vote for the other government party (PS or UMP) in order to get them elected instead of the FN. The PS candidate in the 2002 presidential election, Lionel Jospin thus called for voting for the UMP Jacques Chirac. The “front républicain” appeared with the emergence of the FN in the 1980s and was enforced by the whole political spectrum since the end of the 1980s. 2011 marked the end of this electoral rule for the classical right as Sarkozy stated that the classical right should not choose between the FN and the left. It did not save the electoral position of Sarkozy and the UMP but had strong consequences.

    The 2012 election is a turning point as it marked the beginning of the winning over of growing sections of the classical right electorate among workers and employees by the Front National. Marine Le Pen made 18%, the best result of the FN in presidential election and two of their candidates get elected in Parliament. The period from 2012 until now is characterized by the ascension of the FN. Their strategy was to develop their local implantation through local elections and to challenge the PS or the UMP for accessing the second round of the elections. For long, the two round elections system was a major institutional obstacle for the Front National, which reinforced bipartism.

    Since 2014 it is no longer the case, as the Front National succeeds in passing the first round. This situation is particularly complicated when we have a second round between the PS and the FN as the classical right electorate is growingly voting for the FN. The normalization of the party (initiated by Marine Le Pen since 2011) made it acceptable for traditional right voters as a choice in second round. The implantation strategy functioned really well: in 2014, in local elections, they gained 11 city halls, and made elected 1500 city councillors. And the FN used the local elections to convert their support membership into activist membership. They built a dense network relying on well trained activists and city councillors which organized local structures and recruited members. The FN had a really weak activist tradition and a low membership; in the past years it has changed drastically. In the European election of 2014 they succeeded in gathering a quarter of the voters and become the first party of France. They now have 24 MEPs, among 74 French members. In the regional elections of 2015, they made their best results ever; they placed first in 6 of the 13 regions and were second in the others. Because of the “front républicain” strategy (still used by sections of the left, especially the PS), they do not rule any regions but they made very high scores in the second round (42 % in the Nord Pas de Calais – Picardie and even 45% in Provence Alpes Côtes d’Azur).

    Henceforth, the Front National stabilized its electorate between 5 and 6 million voters, in elections with low participation rate. In addition they created an unprecedented local implantation, increased their membership and are now a party with a lot of elected representatives. All these elements are completely new and have a strong impact on the political situation. The situation now, in the polls (for the 2017 presidential election), is a Front National in second position, between 24-26% while François Fillon, the candidate of the right is between 26 and 29% and the PS is between 10 to 12%. For now, in every scenario, Marine Le Pen is in the second round of the presidential election.

    The normalization strategy: from marginality to credibility

    The origin of this dynamic of the Front National is 2011, when Marine Le Pen became President of the Front National, succeeding to her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Since 2002, Marine Le Pen was implementing a « dédiabolisation »10 strategy in her stronghold, in Hénin-Beaumont, a small town of the North of France hit by deindustrialization and high unemployment. However with her accession to the presidency of the party, she was in position to extend this strategy to the whole party. Before 2011, the entire political spectrum was demonizing the Front National, denouncing its links with hard-line far right groups, its links with neo fascist movements, its support to colonialism, Jean Marie Le Pen antisemitic and racist’s remarks. This demonizing approach was based on a moral denunciation of the far right assimilated with Vichy and the French collaboration during the Second World War. Marine Le Pen’s strategy was to normalize her party and in order to do that, she transformed the party’s discourse and propositions.

    The first aspect of this normalization strategy is the eradication of the discourse and elements linking the FN to the traditional far right. Marine Le Pen formally cut all the official links with the far right radical group, especially the neo fascist groups. She banned the racist and antisemitic remarks and decided to systematically exclude from the Front National the activists who publicly supported the Vichy regime or the French colonization of Algeria. Several activists, candidates and even high ranked leaders of the party were excluded for transgressing these rules. The most visible consequence of this cleansing was the suspension of Jean-Marie Le Pen from the Front National. Even though he founded the Front National and is the father of Marine Le Pen, he was excluded from the Front National in 2016 because of one queasy Holocaust joke too much targeting a Jewish French singer. However the FN still has unofficial links with the traditional far right11; the neo-fascist groups are still in the FN’s orbit, for instance they serve as security personnel for the FN public events. In coherence with the normalization, the FN abandoned some of its more radical propositions, especially on societal issues, as they distanced themselves from the catholic fundamentalists. They now appear like a conservative party, with similar positions than the classical right: they opposed to gay marriage but are tolerating homosexuality; they want to reduce the abortion right but not suppress it anymore

    The second characteristic of the normalization strategy is the restructuration of the FN with the formation of a local network, based on well trained activists and elected representatives. The normalization led to a progressive purge of all members deviant from Marine Le Pen’s political line, in the local elections of 2014 and 2015, the FN withdraw several traditional candidate of the party because they made antisemitic, negationist or racist speeches. The FN replaced these candidates and local leaders by a new generation of activists highly trained. The militant training program was centralized and placed in the hands of experts who produced argumentative notes on a wide range of subjects, from the communication on social networks to specific aspects of the program. In the last 5 years, the FN managed to create a new generation of presentable candidates who also manage the skills and knowledges of the political field. A particular attention was given to the headhunting of activists from other parties in order to increase the attraction of the party and its respectability. There is no doubt that this effort of the FN to recruit, train and professionalize a new political elite is unprecedented and their success in such a small period is unique in the French political sphere12. It required the formation of an ideological apparatus with thematic commissions filled with newly recruited experts. Florian Philippot is the most well know example of these recruitments among technocrats and academics. The party discipline was extended in order to make possible this massive replacement and Marine Le Pen increased the centralization of the party, as well as the division of work. This rationalization of activism helped the FN to change his image; the party is more and more perceived as credible for managing a city, a region and even the State apparatus. Since 2011, the party also expended its membership, reaching nearly 52 000 contributing members at the 2015 congress. The professionalization of the party is a self-reinforcing tendency: in the first place it helps the party to win elections and therefore FN activists become city or departmental or regional councillors but with these elective positions come along several posts as political professional, such as parliamentary attaché or political advisor. Ten years ago, the FN was lacking of expertise, nowadays they are succeeding in gaining all the signs and symbols of a government party.

    We should not make the mistake to interpret normalization as a sign of a moderation of the Front National, clearly we are observing a strategy to modify the perception of this party in order to break its marginality and make the Front National in position to access to power. Moreover such a strategy is not new; in the history of the Front National the leadership of the party implemented normalization strategies several times13. In the mid-80s, before Jean-Marie Le Pen’s qualification of the Holocaust as “a detail in the history of World War II”, the Front National tried to be perceived as respectable. At the time the normalization strategy aimed at making possible electoral alliances with the classical right14.

    The shift in the discourse and the election platform

    However the normalization is not the only causal factor of the rise of the Front National; Marine Le Pen also changed the program and the discourse of the party15. This change was very subtle as it mixes the conservation of identifying elements, a radical modification on other elements and the introduction of new thematics.

    Firstly the FN developed its “anti-system” rhetoric and cleverly articulated it with the normalization strategy. The Front National claims to belong neither to the right nor to the left and explains (through the use of the “UMP-PS” catchphrase) that the left and the right have no substantial differences as they are implementing similar policies. In this rhetoric, the FN is the only true defender of the people, of the French Nation that is threatened by the political conformist oligarchy. This populist argument seems more and more accepted as the classical right and the social democracy proposes and implements the same neoliberal measures. Along with their anti-system discourse comes a victimization discourse, the FN claims to be the victim of the establishment which is composed, in their logic, by the UMP and the PS but also mass media categorized as conformist and disconnected from the “real” concerns of the people. The FN is therefore targeting mass media and the whole journalist profession, while since 2011 they have and by far the, the best media coverage and the most air time on TV and radios. Prior to the normalization of the FN, this persecution and anti-system discourse was not that efficient as it was easy for mass medias and political opponents of the FN to justify its ostracizing with the racist, antisemitic, xenophobic and neofascist features of the party. The anti-establishment rhetoric is nowadays a key asset for the FN, in a context of strong decrease of confidence in the political institutions among the French population.

    The heart of the ideological shift of the Front National lies in the adoption of the insecurity thematic which is declined in 3 different ways: cultural insecurity, social insecurity and traditional insecurity caused by delinquency. In order to explain the alleged increase of the insecurity feelings, the FN relies on one scapegoat, globalization. They denounce the neoliberal globalization as responsible for the social insecurity as it caused deindustrialization and the high unemployment rate (through social dumping) but also responsible for the rise of immigration as the neoliberal agenda includes the opening of borders (thus confusing freedom of movements of commodities with freedom of movement of people). The FN states that immigration brought in France millions of foreigners who took the job and social benefits at the expense of the pureblood French workers. In addition, these foreigners are accused of importing their Muslim culture and their religion (Islam), thus threatening the cultural and religious identity of the French nation. Finally, they theorize that the immigrants are increasing delinquency as they have no patriotic loyalty and that they cost a lot through state handouts. This ideological mix is extremely dangerous as it formulates a coherent answer to the fear of large segments of the French population hit by precariousness, unemployment and social relegation. The key elements of the prior FN program remains but are included in a broader ideological framework that addresses to the popular classes and the victims of the neoliberal policies.

    The shift on immigration from biological racism to cultural and postcolonial racism should not be interpreted as a form of moderation, it coincides with the diffusion of the conspiracy theory of the “grand remplacement”, the idea that the Christian white population of Europe are been replaced by Muslim immigration from Africa, Maghreb and the Middle East. With this discourse, the FN fed and took advantage of the gradual rise of islamophobia at the same time, of the refugee crisis and also of the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Daesh in 2015. They were able to produce a clear and simplistic argument about these events by designating immigration as the cause of all these phenomenons. The islamophobic rhetoric also led them to change their position on women’s rights, from a very conservative position to the appropriation of the defence of women’s rights as these rights are supposedly threatened by Islam. Their islamophobic discourse goes along with the defence of a traditional French identity based on essentialism, which would be attacked by multiculturalism. In addition they theorize a connection between delinquency and immigration, in a culturalist perspective: as immigrants do not share the traditional Western values of honesty and respect, they are responsible for the supposed increase of anti-social behaviour, offenses and crimes. The mobilization of the cliché of a Nation threatened by an outside invasion which will destroy its culture is a very classical political far right manoeuvre; however it worked in the past years in France (the impoverishment of the lower classes probably played a strong role in the acceptation of this narrative). In addition, the FN did not have much to change in its electoral platform; they kept the propositions of closing the borders for reducing immigrations, expelling the illegal immigrants and implementing the national preference (the idea that French citizens should have priority over foreign residents, in access to public services, jobs). Finally, the attempts of the classical right, and particularly Sarkozy, as well as the immigration policies of the PS governments since 2012 legitimized the FN discourse as they partly validated their analysis.

    The main transformation lies in the economic framework, as in the 1980s and 1990s the Front National glorified the Thatcher and Reagan reforms and defended a neoliberal program. Marine Le Pen personifies this shift to a more social vision of economic issues but the shift began before her accession to the presidency of the FN. Since the mid-2000s, the FN is defending an economic vision based on the defence of the welfare state and of the national interest but also of the market economy16. One of their key propositions is a form of nationalist capitalism (or welfare chauvinism17): through the implementation of the national preference, the cut of the benefits and the expulsion of illegal immigrants, the welfare state will not be in deficit anymore and French unemployed will get back the jobs of the expelled undocumented workers. The FN justifies this xenophobic proposition with the necessity to preserve a functioning welfare state which implies to cut the costs linked to immigration (while in fact, France is economically benefitting from immigration18). With the collapse of the radical left in France in the 80s, 90s, 2000s and the conversion of the PS to neoliberal policies, the FN succeeded in positioning itself as the defender of the working class and claims to have a social discourse on economic issues. But the global picture reveals a kind of Bismarckian approach of economic issues: they intend to help the French firms to invest and create jobs by reducing the fiscal pressure, they plan to reduce the debt and public expenditures (especially in culture and education) and at the same time maintaining social benefits. The other main source of income in order to finance this program is the reinstatement of tariffs and taxation of foreign commodities. On feature of this Bismarckian project is the adoption of a protectionist agenda by the FN, which is coherent with their vision of the EU.

    In the new framework of the FN, the European Union is the synthesis of unrestrained immigration and neoliberal deregulation; the party is benefiting from the growing eurosceptic feeling and therefore has increased its critics towards the EU. The FN is axing its European discourse about the idea of regaining the sovereignty lost in the European construction: monetary sovereignty, commercial sovereignty, the control of the borders but also economical and juridical sovereignty that is to say the refusal of a supranational order. The FN moved from anti EU rhetoric to a critic of the EU mixed with the demand of a “Europe of Nations” built on national sovereignty. The EU is presented as being responsible for the high unemployment rate through the social dumping generated partly by the Bolkenstein directive. Marine Le Pen raises the threat of a Frexit if she cannot succeed in transforming the EU into a Europe of Nations; if elected she will call a referendum on EU membership and, in a second phase, start a negotiation process with Brussels. Furthermore she advocates for an exit from the Eurozone in order to regain the possibility to devaluate the currency for boosting competitiveness.

    The ideological shift of the Front National from neoliberalism to Bismarckian, xenophobic capitalism allowed them to address the impoverished workers and employees through a simplistic rhetoric designating two enemies: the immigrant and the European Union. The combination of islamophobia and the demand for the restoration of the fantasy traditional cultural values and French identity (as well as the authority of the State) forms a nationalist and populist discourse which convinces far beyond their traditional electorate. The articulation of the three form of insecurity gives the FN the possibility to gather very different electorates, by playing and capitalising on people’s fears. However their social discourse is incoherent, besides being xenophobic, as it does not address the questions of financial markets, of the purchasing power or the rise of wages. It does not include anything on the development of public services nor on stimulus packages. Furthermore their diagnosis lies on a false assumption as the social security contribution of the immigrants living in France is much higher than the social benefits they are perceiving ... Nevertheless, this new electoral platform reveals the move from a traditional far right party to a right wing populist party which is a sovereigntist, conservative, eurosceptical, anti-system, nationalist and islamophobic party.

    What is the composition of the electorate of the Front National?

    We previously said that the new ideological framework of the FN is successful and we described its electoral progression in the last five years. In order to understand the link between these two elements we need to analyse the electoral basis of the Front National.

    If we adopt an approach based on social categories, we can identify three FN electorates. The first component is a well off group, belonging to the bourgeoisie, with a strong anchorage among the traditional values of the far right (fundamentalist Catholicism, nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia). Then there is a middle class group, mainly artisans and storekeepers, attracted by the protectionist and “poujadist” discourse, which has a very critic perspective on economic globalization as well as on the decline of the French national identity. The third group belongs to the lower and working class, with a strong social downgrading feeling and characterized by a high level of precariousness and unemployment. This last group raises many questions for the left, as several editorial writers19 said that former radical left voters (mainly former communist voters) are now voting for the FN. This assumption has not been verified; the generally accepted explanation among academics is that the workers and employees who were voting for the right deported to the far right while the working class people who traditionally voted for the PS and the PCF growingly abstained. In the last 20 years, among the working class voters, we can observe a severe decrease of the vote for the classical right and the social democracy, combined with a sharp rise of abstention and a deportation of the traditional right voters to the FN. The consequence is that the FN currently represents 30 to 40% of the working class people who vote, in a context of massive abstention of the lower classes. It is interesting to observe that the Front National succeeded to increase its electoral basis by attracting non-voters as well as a part of the right electorate and particularly the popular classes’ voters of the right. The attraction of voters who previously voted for the left is marginal relatively to the losses of the right or the gain among non-voters. The working class FN’s electorate is also a particular electorate, as it is almost exclusively composed of private sector workers who are not affiliated to trade unions.

    Another interesting approach in order to apprehend the structuring of the vote in favour of the FN is its geographical repartition. Firstly there is a constant aspect: an East-West division; the FN is much stronger in the East of France than in the West. This division is explained by structural factors: the existence of a left based Catholic tradition in the West for instance or the strong presence of descendants of the pied-noirs (the French colons in Algeria) in the South East. The new aspect is the strong progression of the FN in the rural and suburban areas. These territories were the most hurt by the deindustrialization and are gathering high level of unemployment and precariousness, combined by a lack of public services and social cohesion20. On the other hand, the FN is unsuccessful in the metropolis and the city centres and even in the poor suburbs which are melting pot gathering many descendants of immigrants from first generation. This weakness in the suburbs, which are shaped by multiculturalism, should be connected with their high results in suburban areas; several academics tends to say that it shows the efficiency of the xenophobic and islamophobic discourse of the FN on social groups which are not confronted to the reality of immigration on a daily basis but are afraid of it and consider immigration as a cause of their social situation21.

    We should notice that even though the social diversity of the voters of the FN is an old characteristic of the party22, in the last 10 years, the Front National succeeded in keeping their well off electorate as well as increasing their low middle class electorate and attracting a vast part of the voting working class. This dynamic shows that the ideological reorganisation did not cause a leaving of the traditional bourgeois or poujadist middle class electorate from the FN and in fact managed to articulate three very different groups, with various electoral motives, around the new populist right party.

    Perspectives on the left strategies against the Front National and right-wing populism

    From an activist perspective, we first have to be aware of the impact of the change in the discourse, propositions and electoral platform of the FN. These shifts are similar to the evolution of other populist right wing parties in Europe, like the PVV or the FPÖ23 24. We should not make the mistake to understand them as a sign of a moderation of the Front National, clearly we are observing a strategy to modify the perception of this party in order to break its marginality and make the Front National in position to access to power. The combination of a fake social discourse on economic issues, the position of sole champion of French national identity and the islamophobic rhetoric are the consequence of a radical change in the FN that have been materialized by the 2011’s turning point, when Marine Le Pen took over the leadership of the party. However the FN is having a strategy of conquest of power, based upon the conquest of hegemony, for a long time and we should not forget that the current success of the FN can be explained by endogenous factors (the ones explained in this paper) but also by exogenous factors, and among them is the weakness of the radical left and the historic process of convergence of the social democracy with neoliberalism and financialised capitalism.

    In order to confront the FN in a successful way, the radical left requires an accurate strategy, which combines defensive and offensive aspects. The defensive strategy refers to the actions in order to stop the progression of the FN, mainly the deconstruction of its discourse and the diffusion on a large scale of analysis about what they are really proposing, but also how to campaign against them. On the other hand, we also have to take back the offensive with a progressive agenda of our own in order to change the balance of forces.

    The first step of the defensive approach is a very thorough and exhaustive analysis of the various aspects of the Front National: their electoral platform, their achievements in Parliament and in the local governments, their links with neofascist groups, their statistical justifications of their analysis etc ... The idea is to move from a moralist condemnation of the Front National, from a demonizing approach (that does not work anymore) to a rational, precise and massive deconstruction of their analysis and propositions in order to show what they propose, who they are and change their image as well as hurting their credibility (thanks to their fanciful estimations of the costs of immigration and their fancy of an Islamization of France). In order to demystify the FN’s “neither left nor right” catchphrase this analysis shall include the policies defended by the Front National MEP and members of the French Parliament as well as the ones implemented in the local authorities they manage, in order to point out their alignment with austerity and neoliberal policies25. This ideological struggle requires a massive diffusion of the leaflets and books produced with the analysis. We already have some structures like VISA (Vigilances et Initiatives Syndicales Antifascistes26) which is an association gathering the main left unions (CGT, FSU, Solidair-e-s) in order to fight the far right. In addition to the existing structures, the deconstruction struggle needs to extend to small size companies, to working-class areas with door to door campaign. A field campaign for an unlimited duration is essential, especially because the FN discourse is widely spread in the Medias. Secondly the radical left needs to change some of its political habits in order to eradicate political behaviors that are validating the FN analysis of the political spectrum. We must abandon the “front républicain” tactic; this tactic is creating a gathering of the entire political spectrum, with no common program or platform. It just appears as a dogmatic opposition to the FN and the FN can easily characterize itself as anti-system while he assimilates the political parties taking part to the “front républicain” as the establishment defending the status quo.

    If these measures can restrain the progression of the FN and even put them on the defensive, they will not assure a change in the cultural hegemony, in the ideological balance of forces. The starting point is to acknowledge that the FN is partly right: the social democracy and the classical right are implementing the same policies, and in some ways, Hollande is even worse than Sarkozy (the Labour Law, the debate about the deprivation of nationality, the European Fiscal Compact, the state of emergency). The PS and the UMP (now renamed as Les Républicains) are sharing a consensus about neoliberal economic policies and excessive security measures; this consensus is hegemonic. The heart of the problem is that the FN appears as the contestation of this hegemony. And it is easy for them to appear as an alternative to the “establishment” if the left is one homogenous block. The FN’s narrative is bipartism; the political spectrum is divided in two blocs: the FN and the establishment. Since 2012, the PS is using the rise of the FN to reshape the political narrative towards tripartism. The political spectrum would then be divided between:  the left, the right and the far right. This narrative implies the unity of social democracy and the radical left. The right adopted this narrative as it suits them. In these narratives, the radical left is merged with the PS, that is to say the political party which had been implementing neoliberal policies for the last 4 years, which persecuted trade unionists and demonstrators protesting against the Labour Law, which expelled more illegal immigrants per year than Sarkozy … It is obvious that the FN’s position of contestant of the dominant neoliberal hegemony will remain unchallenged unless the radical left break up with social democracy. If the radical left continues to appear as an auxiliary force of social liberalism, there will be no challenge of the neoliberal hegemony from a left perspective. The split with social democracy is the only possibility for us to create a counter-hegemony based upon social transformation. We need to appear as a credible alternative to neoliberalism and the right wing populism (which also implies no compromise on our emancipating values, especially on immigration, on multiculturalism or in the struggle against islamophobia, which remains today a dividing line within the radical left).

    The combination of a deconstruction long term campaign and the emergence of clear left alternative can flow back the FN, as it will allow the radical left to challenge the dominant hegemony. I am deeply convinced that, when the radical left appears as the solution to the problems of the lower classes, we win and the FN is losing ground. During the social movement against the Labour, the FN was inaudible; they were not anymore defining the political agenda or the dominant thematics in mass media. Why? Because the trade unions, the radical left political parties and the student movements were at the time in a position of strength. It is not only through direct struggle against the FN that we will confront them successfully; it is also through the emergence of a strong, credible radical left.


    Notes:

    1. http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/Hofer-fuehrt-im-Hofburg-Thriller/259205883

    2. https://www.ft.com/content/3ad5ea36-bae5-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080

    3. Marine Le Pen’s tweet stated that “the next parliamentary elections will see their victory”. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/05/defeat-austria-far-right-norbert-hofer-hope-europe

    4. Europe of Nations and Freedom, http://www.enfgroup-ep.eu/

    5. The neofascist group Ordre Nouveau (gathering many former “collaborators”) was at the origin of the foundation of the Front National, while the first leader of the FPÖ, Anton Reinthaller, was a former SS and former Minister in the Nazi Government during World War Two.

    6. http://www.transform-network.net/focus/radical-far-and-populist-right/news/detail/Programm/-0209af7471.html

    7. Mudde, Cas, Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    8. Bischoff Joachim, Gauthier Elisabeth, Müller Bernhard, Droites Populistes en Europe : les raisons d’un succès, Editions du Croquant, 2015.

    9. Albertini Dominique, Doucet David, Histoire du Front National, Tallandier, 2014.

    10. Dédiabolisation will be translated as normalization.

    11. Lebourg, Nicolas, ‘Le Front National et la galaxie des extrêmes droites radicales’, in Crépon Sylvain, Dézé Alexandre et Mayer Nonna, Les Faux-Semblants du Front National. Sociologie d’un parti politique, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015.

    12. Igounet, Valérie, ‘La formation au Front National (1972-2015). Son histoire, ses enjeux et techniques’ in Crépon Sylvain, Dézé Alexandre et Mayer Nonna, Les Faux-Semblants du Front National. Sociologie d’un parti politique, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015.

    13. Dezé, Alexandre, ‘La « dédiabolisation ». Une nouvelle stratégie ?’ in Crépon Sylvain, Dézé Alexandre et Mayer Nonna, Les Faux-Semblants du Front National. Sociologie d’un parti politique, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015.

    14. Gombin, Joël, Le Front National, Eyrolles, 2016.

    15. Alduy Cécile, Wahnich Stéphane, Marine Le Pen prise aux mots. Décryptage du nouveau discours frontiste, Le Seuil, 2015.

    16. Ivaldi, Gilles, ‘Du néolibéralisme au social-populisme ? La Transformation du programme économique du Front National’ in Crépon Sylvain, Dézé Alexandre et Mayer Nonna, Les Faux-Semblants du Front National. Sociologie d’un parti politique, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015.

    17. Kitschelt, Herbert, The Radical Right in Western Europe: a comparative analysis, Michigan University Press, 1995.

    18. http://en.rfi.fr/africa/20130614-immigrants-contribute-more-they-cost-oecd-reports-finds; for the latest OECD report see http://www.oecd.org/els/international-migration-outlook-1999124x.htm

    19. Perrineau, Pascal, Le gaucho-lepénisme existe bien, L'Histoire (n°198), avril 1996.

    20. Gombin, Joël, ‘Le changement dans la continuité, géographies électorales du Front National depuis 1992’, in Crépon Sylvain, Dézé Alexandre et Mayer Nonna, Les Faux-Semblants du Front National. Sociologie d’un parti politique, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015.

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