Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whither France?

The growing strength of the Front National was vividly driven home to me today. Some years ago, as a result of my blogging, I was contacted by a young Frenchman, a student then 18 or 19 years old, who was a passionate supporter of Ségolène Royal. He intensely disliked Sarkozy and was such a Ségo enthusiast that he ran a Web site devoted to her doings. We would gChat from time to time. It was interesting to me to make contact with this young man from the provinces, quite interested in politics, a little untutored, to judge by his frequent grammatical errors, but reasonably well-informed. Over the past two years or so, he stopped contacting me, and I more or less forgot about him, until today, when he turned up on my screen. I said I recalled his prediction that Sarkozy would lose in 2012, which at the time was by no means a sure bet. And he replied that yes, the Left had won, but he could no longer support the Left because he had gone over to Marine Le Pen. He liked her patriotism, her defense of the French worker, and her strong image, while he disliked the Left's "betrayal" of what he considered to be the traditional values of the Left. I reminded him that he had once been such an admirer of Royal's that he had asked me to pass her a note when she came to Harvard, which I did. He didn't like to recall those days, when he was "naive." Now, having passed his nursing school exams, he plans to apply for a position in the Gendarmerie.

When one reads about the progress of the FN in the abstract, it's one thing. When one sees the effect on a person one knows, however remotely, it's quite another, and actually startling.

7 comments:

Alison said...

Wow. Unsettling probably doesn't begin to describe it...

meshplate said...

Hell hath no fury like a cougar-chaser scorned. .-D

Anonymous said...

Why startling? The reality on the ground in France and across Europe-- thanks to the psychopaths controlling the global financial services industry -- is provoking despair particularly among the young. When your life, career, family and future are threatened you would expect hardline voter reaction and a rallying round strong leaders with firm views. Such a reaction is merely reinforced by the grotesque absence of effective leadership shown by key EU politicians in the sovereign crisis. The young man you mention is clearly a pragmatist.

Steven Rendall said...

My impression is that the migration of voters to the FN in former communist strongholds (the Var, Nord/Pas de Calais) is a well-established fact, but this suggests that the same process is now infecting the moderate left. This is doubling disquieting because it shows the FN's attraction for elements of both the left and the right.

Steven Rendall said...

doubly disquieting, that is. (Why do typos become visible only after you've published them?)

Passerby said...

@Steve:
"(...) this suggests that the same process is now infecting the moderate left."

Art is talking about 1 man's experience. This example brings food for thought, but is hardly of any statistical significance in itself.

It's always puzzling when one man's convictions shift from one side of the spectrum to another. But it's not exceptional. People who oppose FN's ideas (like I do), often try to convince themselves that it remains a fringe extremist party slowly spreading over. For years, JMLP's outrageous character made it easier to believe. But in my opinion, the FN has become a mainstream party 10 years ago.

The leadership was still the same, but FN voters have been "décomplexés" since JMLP made it to the second round of the presidential elections. I'm talking about the man on the street (not party members who always were a vocal bunch).
In 2002, I voted in a village where on the first round, JMLP was first with 25% of the votes and Chirac second with 15%. The region never was a communist stronghold, yet very few people would have admitted voting FN. The day following the results you could see the change in mentality. All of a sudden it was OK to talk about it.

Steven Rendall said...

I live in a similar village and have noted the same trends. But the countryside has always been largely conservative. I realize, of course, that Art is talking about a single example from which no generalizations can be deduced. But it seems to me to *suggest* that people who used to be staunch mainstream socialists may now be turning to the far right. We will see whether that is true or not.