My thoughts on Marine le Pen and populism

marine le pen

Previously I didn’t bother commenting on the French election, mainly because I had far too much assignment work, and didn’t know much about French politics to adequately weigh in. Before the polls closed, I thought that Marine le Pen was the best choice for France, but only because I believed she would be the one to bring France out of the EU, hastening the EU’s demise. In fact, given everything that happened before the election, I thought le Pen’s victory was a certainty. So when Emmanuel Macron became President of France – in a landslide no less – I was undoubtedly shocked.

I absolutely despised the idea of a Macron presidency, mainly because he was the establishment candidate, the man who doesn’t give a damn about Islamic terrorism, such as the kind France experienced throughout last summer. He’s basically France’s Tony Blair, peddling the same “third-way” crap that we fell for back in the 1990’s (Macron is called a “centrist”, but he’s really a neoliberal). Given what we knew about Macron, it should have been easy to defeat Macron. However, I should have known that it would be foolish to assume that the wave of populism that succeeding in Britain and America could succeed everywhere just because that was the trend. If that were true, Geert Wilders would have won in a landslide.

What I should have accounted for is that Marine le Pen’s economic policies might have been her undoing. She is essentially a protectionist who wanted to make business pay more taxes for hiring foreigners, a policy even I as an anti-globalist would oppose because it’s downright ridiculous. The problem with Le Pen was that she was too extreme on economic policy. Frexit and scrapping the euro were fine ideas. In fact, that’s why I would have liked for her to win, but given her overall economic agenda, I think I can come to the conclusion that many of Macron’s voters didn’t actually agree with Macron’s agenda as a whole, but saw him as better for their financial interests than Le Pen.

It also doesn’t help that, despite Le Pen’s attempts to soften the party’s image, it can’t escape the controversial history of the Le Pen name. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie le Pen, was an out-and-out holocaust denier (if he didn’t deny it, he considered it “a minor detail in history”), and Le Pen herself claimed that French police did not round up French jews in the Vel’ d’Hiv in July 1942. Of course, she was lying. The incident she was talking about was the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, an incident in which, yes, French police officers rounded up and arrested Jews living in Paris and handed them over to the Nazis. The name of the incident comes from the arena where the captured Jews were contained before being shipped off to Auschwitz. The incident lives on as a moment of national shame for the French, and Le Pen’s attempt to gloss it over only made Front National seem more like the radical right wing party the media was portraying them to be.

In other words, Le Pen was a crap candidate, mainly because she failed to liberalise the party’s economic policies, and didn’t do enough to clean up the party’s extremist image. If you want my opinion, the party and its populist cause would be better served if the party were lead by someone other than a Le Pen.

Now that I’ve covered my thoughts of Le Pen, and I think I should talk about populism. I used to have a lot of disdain for the idea of populism, but then, I was a left-wing moron who took his definition of populism from the dying legacy media I was fighting. So first, I should clear up the definition of populism. Populism, in the strictest sense, is the idea of uniting the common people against the elites with the goal of meeting the needs of the common people in a society where their needs are constantly ignored by the mainstream political class. A populist can be left-wing (like Jean-Luc Mélenchon), right-wing (like Donald Trump), or somewhere close to the centre.

The main thing to remember about populists is that they typically thrive when none of the mainstream political parties will listen to the common people. In this situation, many ordinary working people will listen to the populists because they’re the only ones talking about their issues (for example, mass immigration depressing wages for the working class). When that happens, you see the elitists come out of the woodwork and attack them.

The elites try to suppress the influence of populism through use of the mainstream media, which has poisoned the term “populist” by conflating it with demagoguery and bigotry, with some occasional Nazi analogies thrown in. Of course we know the mentality. When the people vote the way the establishment wants, it’s called “democracy”, but when they don’t, it’s called “populism”, and that’s because the populists want to actually change the system, and this threatens the status quo created by the neoliberals, neoconservatives, and their corporate masters. They’re the ones that actually run the show, and the populists are their enemies.

In other words, I am a supporter of populism, though I’m more cautious of the populist candidates after Le Pen’s failure. Why do I support populism? Because regardless their ideological position, I think we need populists right now, because they expose the condition of the society they operate in. In a society in dire need of social change, there will always come a populist reformer, and the longer the state of decline happens, and depending on the condition of society, the more extreme the populists get, and the more people who are willing to turn to a charismatic leader to fix everything. So yes, I believe that populism is part of the life cycle of a society. If they succeed, then there’s a chance that society will improve. But if they fail, the society becomes even worse as the old elite ingratiates itself further at the expense of the common folk, and without any intervention, the society collapses.

In conclusion, the need for populism, even in France, is greater at this stage than at any point in modern history. The problem with Le Pen is that she was doomed from the start, and yet many prominent eurosceptics simply took sides with Le Pen purely because she was the Frexit candidate. For all the good she could have done, we eurosceptics were fools to blindly back the deeply flawed candidate that was Marine le Pen. I don’t think this will change the EU’s fortunes to their favour. They’re still doomed. We’ll simply have to wait a little longer for the EU’s inevitable collapse.