Friday, March 13, 2015

The FN in the Shipyards of Saint-Nazaire

It's one thing to read the statistics about the massive defection of working-class voters from the Left to the Front National. It's another to read about a handful of FN stalwarts leafleting at the gates of the Saint-Nazaire shipyards while a dozen CGTistes hand out Front de Gauche leaflets a few yards away. Yes, there were shouts of "facho!" and "coco!" flying back and forth at times, but, as Pascal said, les extrêmes se touchent. This was peaceful, on the whole, and these ship workers seem to resent the ecologists, who want to prohibit extension of the port, more than those on the other side of the left-right divide. There is no more culture de gauche. All that remains is a culture de ressentiment--against elites, Europe, the government, and the rich. It is the kind of terreau in which all sorts of things can grow.


bernard said...

25 years ago, I had a sort of epiphany: the rise of the FN would prove relentless and there was no ceiling. I took the FN specialist, a very nice man who basically lived in constant fear, of Le Monde to lunch to discuss this and he reassured me that in his view there was a ceiling around 18%. I desperately wanted to believe him and thus I did believe him.

And here we are now. The devil wears attractive clothes and the clothes do attract. Anyone in doubt that this devil is terribly dangerous should pause for a moment and reflect on the following theme: what exactly would happen in a France where the police were run by a President from the FN? I myself would predict a France "à feu et à sang", but perhaps I'm still too optimistic on human nature and have not fully learned the lessons of the 20th century.

Art, you have only written about the FN since mid-February, you are probably right there, sadly.

On the article in Le Monde: former trotskyst, force ouvriere entrism, smells strongly like the OCI sect to me. And the only former or current OCI I could ever stand is presently a professor of history, you know who I mean.

Anonymous said...

For the view that there is a cieling to the FN, just as there was for Boulangisme and Poujadisme, see, Jean GARRIGUES "FN: Manuel Valls a-t-il eu tort de dramatiser?", Liberation, 12 mars 2015.

I guess that is the 10,000 euros question at the moment.

C. Jon Delogu
Professeur des universites
U. Jean Moulin, Lyon 3

Anonymous said...

Philippe Legrain offers an answer: "Most Europeans now associate the EU with austerity, recession and German domination, with undemocratic constraints on what they can do... they’re angry and resentful at incompetent and sometimes corrupt establishment politicians and EU technocrats who seem incapable of resolving the crisis and have imposed misery on ordinary voters (but not on themselves)...voters are turning to radical and extremist ones: the radical left in Greece and Spain (and separatists in Catalonia), the far-right in France and Italy, Sinn Fein in Ireland."

Mitch Guthman said...

As I’ve been saying for some time now, the rise of the FN isn’t being fueled by nostalgia for the Vichy regime but rather because of the unwillingness of the other parties to challenge the economic theories that have destroyed so much of Europe’s economy. Neither is MLP herself rising in popularity—her numbers are surprisingly stable and, if anything, she’s personally becoming less popular. There’s actually a lot of data to suggest that the 18% figure is still about right as a reflection of the percentage of the French who are positively attracted to the FN.

So I think it’s important to distinguish between people who actually favor the FN and those who are fearful about the direction in which Europe is headed, or have concerns about the commitment of the other parties to the social welfare state or are against austerity and so forth. Anyone who is worried about those issues has no way to vote against the current policies except by voting for MLP. In other words, the homogeneity of commitment to the status quo by essentially all the political parties, means that the next series of elections will not be between parties or candidates along a political spectrum of left and right but rather will represent a simple binary choice between the status quo versus prosperity with the FN coopting the mantle of prosperity.

Look at it this way: What a drowning man wants is a life preserver. It doesn’t matter to him whether it’s thrown by a gauchiste, a centrist or a monster. What matters to him is not drowning.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Anonymous at 3:03 PM,

Thank you very much for the link to the interview with Philippe Legrain. This is absolutely among the best, most incisive analyses of the current situation and why the extreme right is making a comeback that I have seen.

It is very short and I would urge everyone to read it.

Alexandra Marshall said...

@Mitch Guthman: exactly! Here I really and truly blame the way the French system produces a mono-bloc of elites. Now that times are lean, their homogeneous policies have been exposed, as have their unbelievably entrenched privilege. (Just reading about Anne Hidalgo's retirement package is enough to make your hair curl.) MLP's "UMPS" Couldn't be more spot on. Everyone in France has to agree with that.

But WHERE is the response? Will this simply be 20-20 hindsight lesson in why it's important to have intellectual and social diversity in the political class, while we all toil under authoritarianst hell in the MLP era? Is there NO ONE who gets this and can step up? It's incredibly worrying.

FrédéricLN said...

I don't feel around me more despair or anguish than usually. But rejection of the (local or national) ruling class and people, yes, for sure. Not that they would be considered guilty of any tragedy — the country is not at war. Rather that they would be considered useless, void. I heard Mr Cambadelis yesterday on radio, and (despite his wide intelligence and knowledge) that was my feeling too: what use is he, what use is his party? They don't take and don't foresee any decisions at all. If it is about the welfare system, the army or the education system, all of which are not THAT bad — well, be it UMP or PS ***or FN***, they will go on quite exactly as they do (and cost as much, and increase our debt as much).

So, if nothing will really change, why not vote for "des gens comme nous", ordinary people mumbling like stars about "ce pays de merde" (© Ibrahimovic) instead of the old nomenklatura? My teacher Jean-Marie Domenach had a chapter about France as "USSR, in a much better way" ("L'URSS en beaucoup mieux").

As a militant, I'm absolutely convinced that France needs fundamental policy change, needs a new policy design 70 years after the "programme du CNR", something that meets the present state of the world (the technologies, globalization, and its consequences on the planet) — something that is totally unseen from the French political stage, including FN. But we failed to convince the voters in 2007 and the situation did not improve since. Worse: many people now fear this very change. They would vote for "conservative" parties, including the Front de Gauche and FN.

One additional point here: they are qualified as "extrêmes", but their agenda is pure conservation of "acquis sociaux"… or acquis nationaux. While the ruling parties say they are "changing, reforming, pushing, dynamizing" and the like (words only, for sure).

ghengis blond said...

France's elites r not at fault. Most people have jobs and so they like labor protections, and the most credible policies for reducing unemployment in the long term would remove labor protections. it's like the housing supply crisis everywhere in the 1st world except for southern US and Germany. removing defects is hard when most people benefit personally from the defects. u can't blame elites for not wanting to b the guy who makes it easier to fire u, even if he makes it easier for u and ur kids to b (re)hired