Right Again

Le Pen’s Strong Showing Leaves the French Left in Disarray

BY Doug Ireland

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By defeating Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the April 21 first round of France’s presidential elections to become the only candidate in the runoff against conservative President Jacques Chirac, the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen has dramatically underscored the insidious rise of rampant racism engulfing Continental Europe. He has confirmed for skeptics the dangers posed by the mushrooming growth of xenophobic, ultra-nationalist parties of the extreme right from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and shaken France’s democratic institutions to their very core.

One in five French voters, in the privacy of the voting booth, chose one of the two neo-fascist parties (Le Pen’s National Front, which rolled up an impressive 16.9 percent, and the tiny splinter party of former Le Pen deputy Bruno Megret, which got 2.4 percent). Le Pen is the linear descendant of Vichy France’s collaborationists with the Nazis (he got his start in politics as a young lieutenant in the crypto-fascist political formation led in the ’50s by Tixier-Vignancourt, the lawyer for Marshal Petain at his treason trial); a notorious anti-Semite (he wrote a forward to the neo-Nazi tract published by Franz Schönhuber

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Doug Ireland has been writing about power, politics and the media since 1977. A former columnist for the Village Voice, the New York Observer and the Paris daily Libération, among others, his articles have appeared everywhere from The Nation to Vanity Fair to POZ. He’s a contributing editor of In These Times. He can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND.

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