JEAN-MARIE LE PEN
A Right-Wing Extremist and His Party
NEW: 2002 Update

Introduction
History
Racism and
Anti-Semitism
Range and Limits of Public Support


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Introduction

In no major country has the resurgence of an ultranationalist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic political party made more headway than in France. With a vote share of between 15 and 20 percent, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National (FN) has become a central element in French political life.
"While the FN’s basic approach in recent years has been to curb immigration ...
Le Pen and his aides have also consistently espoused anti-Semitism."
It has triggered a split in the conservative coalition headed by President Jacques Chirac; caused the major parties who normally oppose each other to withdraw in local contests in favor of one or the other so as to forestall a Le Pen victory — not always successfully, and it has continued to make slow but steady headway in polls and local balloting without having to moderate its message of bigotry.

The issues involved became unmistakably clear on the Easter weekend this year in the city of Strasbourg: this site of French-German reconciliation and seat of the European Parliament was where extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic Jean-Marie Le Pen held his Front National (FN) party’s national congress.

As thousands of demonstrators led by Strasbourg’s Mayor, Catherine Trautmann, marched to protest the FN’s congress, they also demonstrated the mainstream political parties’ trouble in coming to grips with the increasingly successful campaigning by the Le Pen party.

While the FN’s basic approach in recent years has been to curb immigration, send many immigrants back to their country of origin and compel those who stay in France to assimilate, Le Pen and his aides have also consistently espoused anti-Semitism. Only in February this year, Le Pen accused President Chirac of being "in the pay of Jewish organizations, and particularly of the notorious B’nai B’rith." In a book
". . .the newly elected Mayor of the town of Vitrolles. . . repeated a Le Pen statement that 'there are differences between the races. . . there are simply too many immigrants, and they make who knows how many children whom they send into the streets and then claim welfare. . . .' "
about the rise of Jacques Chirac to the presidency, the authors quote Le Pen as saying that only this could explain why Chirac is so "hostile" to the Front National.

The FN’s racist ideology has most recently been spelled out in the words of the newly elected Mayor of the town of Vitrolles, near Marseilles — an area in which the party now controls the city halls of four municipalities. Catherine Mégret, who stood in for her husband, Bruno, the number two leader of the FN and often described as the party’s brain, repeated a Le Pen statement that "there are differences between the races. . .there are differences in the genes. . .there are simply too many immigrants, and they make who knows how many children whom they send into the streets and then claim welfare...."
 

Next: History


This report was published in April 1997

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