[Marxism] Marine Le Pen Gets a Lift From an Unlikely Source: The Far Left

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 25 17:29:59 MDT 2017


(This article is really much more of an op-ed than reporting and reminds 
me of the venom directed against Jill Stein.)

NY Times, April 25, 2017
Marine Le Pen Gets a Lift From an Unlikely Source: The Far Left
By ADAM NOSSITER

PARIS — The far-right leader Marine Le Pen faces an uphill battle in 
France’s presidential runoff, less than two weeks away. But she saw 
daylight through a small window on Tuesday, and from an unlikely source: 
her defeated counterpart on the far left.

Alone among all of France’s major political personalities, Jean-Luc 
Mélenchon, the leader of his own “France Unsubjugated” movement, who 
finished a strong fourth in Sunday’s voting, has refused to endorse Ms. 
Le Pen’s opponent, the former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Mélenchon’s critics say his obstinacy is petulant, wounded pride 
that can only help Ms. Le Pen’s National Front. But it also speaks to 
the passions that Mr. Macron, a seemingly mild-mannered centrist, 
provokes in large parts of the French electorate, far left and far 
right, who share a view of the 39-year-old former investment banker as a 
fire-breathing incarnation of evil market culture.

As populism and anger over the impacts of globalization energize much of 
the electorate, Mr. Mélenchon’s stand has added a new element of 
uncertainty into the final round of voting on May 7.

It has also set off a dynamic in the French race much like when Hillary 
Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential 
primaries last year — leaving his supporters, still in the thrall of 
populism, up for grabs as traditional party allegiances broke down.

Mr. Mélenchon’s 19.6 percent of the vote Sunday is now a rich booty — 
triple the score of the mainstream Socialist Party, whose collapse has 
elevated Mr. Mélenchon to be de facto leader of the French left. He even 
won in big cities like Marseille and Lille.

But it is not clear where that vote will now go, not least because 
far-left populism and far-right populism may have more in common than 
the seemingly vast gulf between them on the political spectrum would 
suggest.

Mr. Mélenchon, 65, a former Trotskyite, ran a campaign denouncing banks, 
globalization and the European Union — just like Ms. Le Pen.

A grizzled orator with a penchant for Latin American dictators, he has 
the same forgiving attitude she does toward the Russian president, 
Vladimir V. Putin.

Both were competing for working-class voters suspicious of the global 
financial elite. Mr. Macron had already “ruined the lives of thousands 
of people” with his pro-market policies, Mr. Mélenchon said during the 
campaign.

And like Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Mélenchon regularly attacked the news media 
during the campaign. On election night, after his defeat, he tore into 
what he called “mediacrats” and “oligarchs.” They were “rejoicing” over 
“two candidates who approve and want to maintain the current 
institutions” of government, the longtime fan of Castro and Hugo Chávez 
said.

The shared lines of attack gave the candidates at the political extremes 
their best showings ever, if from opposite ends of the spectrum. Mr. 
Mélenchon almost doubled his 2012 result, refused to concede for hours 
and then attacked both finalists, refusing to distinguish between them.

In that, he is alone. Across the board, politicians and other former 
candidates have urgently counseled their supporters to vote for Mr. 
Macron to block Ms. Le Pen’s path to the Élysée Palace.

The French call this the “Republican Front,” and it has proved effective 
at preventing the National Front — perceived by many in France as a 
threat to democracy — from taking power before.

Mr. Mélenchon is having none of it.

Instead, his party has announced an internet “consultation” of his 
followers, with three choices offered for the May 7 vote: a blank 
ballot, a vote for Mr. Macron or an abstention. A vote for Ms. Le Pen is 
not one of the choices, and Mr. Mélenchon’s aides insist that is the 
last thing they want.

On Tuesday, a furious online debate continued on a site linked to Mr. 
Mélenchon’s party, with one poster saying Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen 
represented “the failure of the system” and others agonizing over 
whether to abstain or vote blank.

Critics of Mr. Mélenchon — and they have become numerous in both the 
Socialist Party and in Mr. Macron’s camp — say a blank ballot or 
abstention can only help Ms. Le Pen.

“It’s his pride. It’s led him to make an extremely serious mistake,” a 
leading Socialist member of Parliament, Malek Boutih, said in an 
interview Tuesday. “He’s given them a huge boost,” he said of the 
National Front.

“This gesture of Mélenchon, it’s exactly like the political behavior of 
the whole European far left,” added Mr. Boutih, who is part of the 
centrist bloc Mr. Mélenchon despises. “The radical left has a problem 
with democratic culture. It’s a new force, but with old Stalinist ideas.”

The National Front is delighted. The party has extended a welcome mat to 
Mr. Mélenchon’s supporters, pointing out similarities between the 
candidates.

The Front’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen — kicked out of the party by his 
daughter partly over his racism — hailed Mr. Mélenchon’s position warmly 
in an interview on French radio Tuesday.

“This seems very worthy to me, coming from a candidate who made a 
remarkable breakthrough, and who was — it must be said — the best 
orator,” Mr. Le Pen said.

His daughter’s top lieutenant in the far-right party, Florian Philippot, 
said “many voters” for Mr. Mélenchon may now join Ms. Le Pen in the 
second round, adding that there was a “a kind of coherence, after all” 
in his refusal to endorse Mr. Macron.

“Among his voters, many will refuse to vote for Macron, and many could 
vote for us,” Mr. Philippot said on France Info, tying the former 
economy minister to “finance,” as Mr. Mélenchon does, and to the 
unpopular government of President François Hollande, in which Mr. Macron 
served.

“Lots of voters in the electorate that chose Fillon, Dupont-Aignan” — 
two candidates on the right — “and even Mélenchon are open to a number 
of our themes,” another top National Front official, Nicolas Bay, said 
in an internal memo quoted by Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

The coming vote would be a contest between “fans of Mrs. Merkel and the 
unsubjugated,” he wrote — an apparent reference to Mr. Mélenchon’s 
movement and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is criticized on 
both the far left and the far right as pursuing policies that have 
impoverished European Union states.

One of Mr. Mélenchon’s top aides derided the candidate’s critics in a 
telephone interview Tuesday. “You’ve got to look at where the criticism 
is coming from,” said Éric Coquerel, a member of the Paris regional council.

“It’s coming from those whose policies have favored the development of 
the National Front, from the Socialist Party,” said Mr. Coquerel, 
referring to the quarrel that divided the French left for five years: 
the governing Socialists’ mild pro-market turn, seen as a betrayal by 
France’s far left.

“We don’t want to help Marine Le Pen, but we don’t want to endorse Mr. 
Macron,” he said.

“He’s the candidate of free trade,” Mr. Coquerel said. “He’s going to 
assist in the Uberization of society. Everything we are going to fight 
against in the coming months. There’s no possible rapprochement.”



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