Le Pen and the Rise of Fascism in France

by Brian Risman, Publisher www thelawjournal co uk - 30 April 2002

I have returned from France having witnessed the first round of the French Presidential election, where Jean-Marie Le Pen, the candidate from the National Front party, polled second after the incumbent President, Jacques Chirac.

While it is true that Chirac will almost certainly win over Le Pen in the second round scheduled this Sunday, the truth is that the real winner is Le Pen and his fascistic type of politics. Why is he the winner? He is the winner since he gained publicity for himself and his cause. Everyone in France, in Europe and the World knows Jean-Marie Le Pen now. His ideas are spread far and wide, and are sure to become a symbol for potential supporters.

The publicity impact begs the question -- why did this happen? Was it the fact that a large number, upwards of 29 per cent, of French voters stayed home? Yes, of course.

However, why did they stay home, and why did Le Pen's vote percentage rise? Is it apathy, or is it alienation?

Of course there is apathy. When the so-called mainstream candidates have overstayed their welcome by at least a decade, apathy will result. However, apathy doesn't truly explain what happened in France, and its lessons for other leaders.

The answer, of course, is alienation. Leaders in France, in Europe and around the World simply do not listen to their electorate -- they only listen to an elite group that sets the agenda. Most of the time, people don't care -- but when they hurt, watch out.

The failure of the Socialist candidate, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, is an example of the impact of alienation. His government did not address the needs of his constituency -- the working classes, the unemployed -- who cared about their declining quality of life due to crime, competition from immigrants and other issues such as an uncaring E.U. in Brussels. In summary, the lack of a future and a view that no one cared about them resulted in the working class and unemployed opening the door to an extremist answer.

What is the lesson for other countries, including the UK and indeed the US ? Simply this -- if you ignore people's concerns too long, then someone on the extreme will become their champion, like it or not.

A perfect example of this situation -- and panic -- is the UK local elections this week. There is great concern -- suddenly -- that the British National Party, the Le Pen clone, could win several areas due to the alienation of the working class population. The BBC, Sky News, the newspapers, have been filled with interviews with people in these areas stating their intention to vote for the National Party. Now this could be media hysteria -- but I don't think so. The publicity generated by the Le Pen success is planting seeds in the UK, the rest of Europe and around the world.

Do the politicians understand this hard reality? Not likely. I attended the House of Commons for a debate on "The Quality of Life in our Communities", covering issues such as crime. Given the high profile of this issue in the light of the acquittal of the thugs in Damilola Taylor's brutal killing (more on that travesty of justice next week), I would think the session would be well attended by politicians seeking easy publicity. No such luck -- I counted nine (yes, nine) MPs present on the floor, with the Minister actually suggesting that the community warden programme could control the gangs. Really now. However, what truly bothered me was the whereabouts of the other 600-plus MPs.

We should all take note of the reality of the situation and address it. Otherwise, the situation will address all of us.

Brian Risman