At times, the recent family arguments within the French Front National (FN) and the Le Pen clan have seemed more like an episode of Dallas than an ideological or strategic disagreement between its new and old guard.
However, their familial drama tells us a great deal about how contemporary French politics functions, or rather, dysfunctions, as well as the wider significance of this for the future of far-right politics in Europe.
Earlier this month, the 86-year-old founder of the FN, Jean-Marie Le Pen, repeated his scandalous 1987 remark that the gas chambers of the Holocaust were a ‘detail’ of history and that the Nazi collaborator, Philippe Pétain, head of the Vichy State from 1940 to 1944, was a patriot and not a traitor.
There are two things to bear in mind regarding these remarks, over and above any emotional reaction one might have.
One is that Le Pen loves to shock. He’s a street brawler and an old-fashioned bully in the style of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. As such, he is finding his daughter Marine’s ‘respectable’ success since 2011 galling.
The second is that, by uniting the myriad far-right groups in the 1970s, Le Pen brought the FN to the very edge of power by 2010, standing in five presidential elections, and even going through to the run-off in 2002. His outbursts about the Holocaust and Vichy are motivated by his disagreement about the current FN’s strategy and ideology, and his anger is directed mainly at Marine.
Read the full blog post here.