Marine Le Pen: The face of right-wing politics in France
Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen, or Marine Le Pen as commonly known, is a trailblazer of conservative ideology reinvigorating the spirit of nationalism in France. With her and her party, a torrent of nationalism has been sent across France and Europe, gaining popular support from the traditionalists. A presidential candidate of the French nation, she has the potential to change the political landscape of the continent through her inherent goal of reforming the European Union.
Marine Le Pen is on a mission to assert the value of France as a nation along with the value of French citizenship. An advocate for the end of naturalisation by marriage and automatic citizenship for people born on French soil, Le Pen has reinstated the sense of exclusivity a nation should pride itself on. Many conservatives and traditionalists claim that Europe is on the verge of becoming a nation-state in the utopian vision of the European Union. Announcing that individual nations need to pronounce their own interests and move away from the viewpoint of the continent as a country, where collective wellbeing is supreme, Le Pen is a prospective leader who could lead Europe through this transition.
Providing an opportunity for the French people to go down a different path than the rest of liberal Europe, Le Pen adopts a more self-centred view of society, and to set a precedent of re-nationalism in Western Europe. France has always been a trend-setter in a political sense, as evidenced by the French Revolution. Liberalism has been the backbone of the political system in Europe for decades now. A sense of togetherness has characterised the relations between different countries to give the notion of a continent undivided. This is a philosophy that has, to an extent, come at the expense of national identity, according to conservative leaders across the continent. A lack of individualistic currencies in Europe in favour of the Euro is a prime example of this.
Le Pen wants to highlight her protectionist message which is wrapped in the theme of national preference – the idea of putting native French workers first and introducing additional taxes on contracts for foreign employees. To start re-industrialization, she has, in the past, promised to push back against global corporations such as Ikea, forcing them to buy commodities locally and pay higher taxes if they hire non-French workers. According to Chatham House, an international affairs think tank, in Le Pen’s ideal France, there would also be increased policing. In previous campaigns, she vowed to put 15,000 more police officers on the street.
While Le Pen has adopted a more mainstream, soft policy in recent years, in support of openness and modernity, her ideology still focuses more on patriotic notions of national identity and seeks to fulfil the interests of the French citizens rather than concentrating broadly on the European principles of a nation-state. Le Pen believes that Europe should not exist as a porous collection of like-minded nations but rather as a collaboration between strong and diverse nations.
Apprehensive towards immigration and refugees, she is one of the loudest critics of a heterogeneous society and believes that French citizens should have clear and distinctive characteristics in the interest of unity. Marine Le Pen has described herself as a nationalist rather than a globalist, but at the same time has labelled Emmanuel Macron “unashamedly a champion of the internationalist model, in other words, deregulation and the death of the DNA of nations”, quoted from the Financial Times in March 2021.
“More and more are coming from the third world, taking advantage of our benefits. It’s a choice of civilization.” said Marine Le Pen at a rally in Marseille before the 2017 election. “I will be the president of those French who want to continue living in France as the French do.”
Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, a University of Paris Law graduate who had adopted a problematic viewpoint of society. Among other things, Le Pen senior has cracked ‘oven’ jokes about Jewish presenters and politicians in relation to the holocaust. Le Pen had been exposed to politics from a relatively young age as her childhood was characterised by her father’s founding and presidency of the far-right political party, the National Front, which steadily grew on the fringes of the French political arena in the late 1900s. Le Pen senior was quite a controversial figure and it impacted how the people viewed Marine Le Pen.
His ideology was strongly racist, anti-semitic, and islamophobic to the level that Marine had to detoxify the vision of the party to a more moral stance, thereby moving away from her father’s beliefs when she took over. Le Pen senior had a reputation for controversy. He was convicted in 1987 for antisemitism and made to pay a hefty fine. There was even a program called ‘Le Pen in Quotes’ on public television which strategically used testimonies from historians and disgruntled former allies of Le Pen senior to draw parallels between his statements on immigration and racial inequality with the ideology of the Nazis. It is important to separate her ideology from her father’s as she adopts much milder stances regarding the same issues than her father, hence making her likeable and much more palatable. We must recognize that the branch of nationalism Marine has defended is fundamentally different from the fascist theories preached by her father who prioritised the suppression of minority groups, rather she focuses on the preservation of national identity.
Jean-Marie Le Pen’s greatest ever achievement came in 2002 when he secured 17% of the vote in the national election’s first round. This achievement was swiftly surpassed by Marine who took over the leadership of the party in 2011 with her father’s blessings. However, Marine had one major problem after this shift in leadership: her father. Marine had the goal of moving away from her father’s troublesome figure but despite her warning, he kept making controversial statements under the public eye. One such example is gas chambers and the Holocaust which Jean-Marie insisted were just peripheral details of World War II. At this point, Marine made a decision that could be characterised as both strength and coldheartedness – she got her father expelled from the party. This was a significant moment in her development as a political leader, as she stamped her authority within the party and the French right-wing.
Marine Le Pen’s vision is bold, to say the least. The integrity and status of France as a sovereign nation are at the heart of her policy. When a group of French soldiers issued an open letter that a civil war was brewing over Emmanual Macron’s concessions to Islamism, Le Pen publicly welcomed this warning. She had threatened to hold a referendum for ‘Frexit’ and hailed Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory as a growing recovery of strength in national identity.
If France leaves the European Union, it is expected that instead of the Euro it would deal in Francs, which would be significantly weaker. In 2016, France imported 48.1 billion euros more in goods and services than it exported. The country imports food, gas, oil, and clothing in considerable amounts which have led the country to have a negative trade balance. This essentially portrays that it imports more than it exports, and is subsequently highly dependent on international trade. All those materials would get more expensive with a weaker French currency. As evident by ‘Brexit’, simply applying World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules instead of EU rules could lead to great economic loss for France. The Research and Development (RAND) corporation predicts that trading under WTO rules would reduce the future GDP of the United Kingdom by approximately 5% ten years after Brexit, which is equivalent to $140 billion. Similarly, France leaving the EU would be an economic disaster for the nation. Although she has expressed sincere distaste for the basic functioning of the EU, Le Pen has stated that she does not want France to leave the European Union, much to the relief of the union.
Her main goal is to defend the nation, which she believes is the best method of defending their identity, security, freedom, and prosperity. If she is elected in 2022, she plans to hold a referendum on immigration with the focussed aim to make the criteria for entering French territory stricter, the process of gaining French citizenship increasingly difficult, as well as prioritising the development goals for French citizens.
In 2018, Le Pen announced the National Front would be changing its name to Rassemblement National (National Rally). This was done in an attempt for the party to move on from her father’s fascist policies, towards a more mainstream and slightly centrist approach. Le Pen has found a way to select the important traditional values out of the far-right agendas which associate with the French people, whilst incorporating modern ideas of state policy to form a coherent patriotic collection of ideas for French society.
Marine Le Pen, through her eccentric blueprint of society, already has her influence stretching across different countries in Europe and has already created alliances across the continent without actually controlling the French government. Le Pen and Matteo Salvini in Italy have already allied with the aim of overhauling the EU from within, having given up on ‘Italexit” and ‘Frexit’. Le Pen has highlighted the need for strategically rebranding the EU, where the individual interest of the nation takes precedence over the collective interest of the union.
Citizens who take pride in France’s past tend to favour Le Pen’s bold attempt to retain that legacy of individual interest. The European Union is growing stagnant. It needs to be revitalised and rejuvenated. The idea of ‘one for all, all for one’ is progressively growing passive. The status quo needs to change. Le Pen provides France with the opportunity to take the leading charge of revolutionising the union, moving away from the idea of a continent which partially acts as a country, to adopting a vision in which strong nations cooperate together to pursue their own interests.
In the event of a Marine Le Pen victory, Brussels may regret the abandonment of ‘Frexit’. A hostile France would be cataclysmic to the EU, potentially leading to Franco-German tension, following Brexit which has rendered France and Germany in a power struggle for the union’s greatest influence. Marine Le Pen would probably be championed by Poland, Hungary, and Austria – all three countries have a significant presence of the right-wing.
She strives for the preference of national rights over European legislation, the Schengen system of open borders, and the distribution of a common agricultural policy to nation-states. The National Rally stands for increased national central bank powers, in order to regulate national debt, instead of the fixed EU ratio of 60% debt to GDP.
This influence of Le Pen across Europe is evident by the setting up of an alliance called ‘Identity and Democracy’. It comprises mainly eurosceptic and nationalist parties around the European Union and has the objective of bringing power back to the member states from Brussels, where the EU is headquartered. Among these parties, the notable ones are Le Pen’s National Rally, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's League party, and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD). The alliance also contains nationalists from Austria, Finland, and Denmark. This alliance would jointly advocate for several ideas, such as voicing hostility towards the promotion and acceptance of Islamism in European society.
Recognizing that the origin of Marine Le Pen’s ideology, through her father, might be troubling; her ideology itself has a mainstream agenda to it. It takes pride in the French national identity, rather than the pooled interests of the European continent. Moving away from racist and separatist visions of society, it focuses on a sense of commonality. Marine Le Pen has the potential to take on the right-centrist Emmanuel Macron and the liberals, by portraying herself as the saviour of French national honour and the torchbearer of a radical France. Le Pen is a strong political character who is not afraid to have a bold view of European nationalism. The French people see that. She provides an alternative to a widely adopted view of facilitation of the whole rather than the prioritisation of a nation’s own socio-economic interests. The European Union has become too egalitarian in its approach, while it needs to be individualistic to each nation. Le Pen understands that and is determined to establish that in the union if given the stage to do so.
Edited by Thenthamizh SS and Eshal Zahur
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