Durt Fibo, July 7, 2024


An eruption of civic resistance exploded over today’s French legislative elections, with the left-wing coalition rushing in to absorb the most seats, and incinerating the far-right’s march to power. As polls closed, the Nouveau Front populaire (New Popular Front) is calculated to win between 170 and 215 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly. An absolute majority would require 289.

The coalition, named after the Popular Front formed to keep genuine Fascists from taking power in France in 1936, has always indicated that it would cooperate with President Macron’s center and center-right grouping to keep Marine Le Pen’s neo-fascist forces out of government. But now they themselves –unexpectedly- appear to have emerged stronger than all others.

Once again, today France fought back the flood of fascism at the last minute, with the center-right and the leftist parties uniting in two blocks to defeat the Le Pen gang’s Rassemblement National (National Rally, or RN). Due to France’s two-round election model, this has been a continuous soap opera, with the country ‘coming to its senses’ in the second vote after an initial protest vote against the establishment party in power. The Le Pen machine was similarly knocked out in the second round of the presidential elections in 2002, 2017 and 2022.

French President Emmanuel Macron surprised the nation by calling for these snap legislative elections after the Rassemblement National won the June 9th European Parliament elections with an overwhelming 31.4% of French votes. To Macron’s horror, last week a coalition led by the RN emerged on top of the first national round with a record 33.2% of the votes. Districts in which a candidate won an outright majority last week do not participate in this second round. Of those clear victors, Le Pen’s party had 39 winners and Macron’s only two. Nouveau Front populaire, the emergency coalition of the leftist parties had 32.

The Rassemblement National is, of course, the old Front National (FN), rebranded by Marine Le Pen in 2018 when she made her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, shut up. Esteeming herself contemporary and blessed with savoir faire, Marine directed the party’s resources into bleaching out the FN’s origins as Vichy Nazi collaborators. Since 2022, the RN has bet on the telegenic smarm of its new young party president, Jordan Bardella, to defeat its lifelong pattern of defeat.

Le Pen pere’s political party was formed of bitter and vicious French chauvinists dedicated to reviving an imaginary world power, and united old Nazis with those ready to kill for la Gloire in Vietnam and Algieria. But they came from a truly French tradition of monarchists, anti-semites and religious militarists such as the old anti-Dreyfusard leagues, Action Française and the Camelots du Roi among others, who had employed brownshirt terror attack methods before Germans ever had the notion.  Le Pen fille finally staged a hard coup against her father when her ambition collided with his inability to restrain his personal buffoonery and his boasting of these historical origins; Marine knew how to play the new Europe game.

Le Pen’s real power remains in the European Parliament, where her party is a leading force in that Parliament’s far-right “Identity and Democracy” block, along with Italy’s Lega Nord, Germany’s AFD, Austria’s FPÖ, the Czech Republic’s Svoboda a přímá demokracie, (SPD), the Netherlands’ Partij voor de Vrijheid, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang , Denmark’s Danish People’s Party , the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, and the Finns Party.  The RN is also tactically cuddled with Victor Orban’s Fidesz party and Slovenia’s Socialdemokratska stranka Slovenije (SDSS). Excepting Finland and Estonia, all those national parties have very vocal pro-Russian inclinations. Le Pen herself has lauded Vladimir Putin as a “defender of the Christian heritage of European civilization.”

Which illuminates why the Le Pen organization has repeatedly been in legal trouble for its entanglement with Russian funding. In 2019, no less a schemer than former Trump eminence grease Steve Bannon met with the RN in France during his dust storm tour of Europe, fantasizing about uniting the entire Western far-right under –naturally- Donald J. Trump, was actually shocked to discover the extent to which the RN depended on Russian money.  Having once been a drunken banker, Bannon met with them to look at their finances and see which contested areas needed infusions. As he subsequently related (in detail, and on the record) to the American journalist Michael Wolff, the biggest investors in the Front were Russian gangsters likely fronting for Putin. For years, Russians had been financing both Le Pens and their parties. His first instincts were that “the optics, not to mention the unnerving political reality, were “not good.””  But, Bannon calculated, “here was a curiously naked fact: the Russians really were funding opposition parties. Many of the European right-wing parties had accepted Russian help. This support was only loosely hidden, and though there was nothing specifically illegal about it, the funding prompted an obvious question: If the Russians were supporting the Front National and almost every other right-wing party that came calling, why not support the Trump Party?”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.