The typical narrative on French socialism has been popularized by an overemphasis on particular aspects of French intellectual and political history. Yes, perhaps the serious enthusiasm for a socialist or communist type of collectivism in Europe began with Rousseau and the French Revolution. Yes, there was the 1848 Revolution. Yes, there was the Paris Commune of 1871. And yes, similar, in intellectual and aesthetic depth, to the appeal an anonymous rear end has to my vizsla, a romanticized genre of socialism has seduced and continues to seduce an array of French intellectuals. The threat posed by socialists is a real one, but this and the above events hardly qualify France as a socialist state.
Unfortunately, the remaining liberty of the French people may be jeopardized by a new threat in the form of the National Front, France's premier nationalist political organization founded by holocaust de-emphasizer and xenophobe Jean Marie Le Pen. Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, was appointed as head henchwoman of the party in January. Lacking her father's tactless, anti-Semitic disposition, Marine Le Pen is looking to enhance the growing popularity of her father's political legacy and, according to recent polling data, it seems that the Front is well on its way to becoming a significant presence in France's political environment. Now conservatives and libertarians make careers out of expressing disgust and disapproval with European and especially French social democrats. That's hardly objectionable. But foul as social democracy may seem, its doubtful that diet fascism is a sound alternative, particularly given the nefarious history of the Front. Here's a brief, translated list, thanks to Daily Kos, of some objectives sought by the Front straight from their website:
- Combat the unfair dismantlement of social subsidies
- Improve security in schools
- Lower local taxes
- Provide financial help to small businesses and fight outsourcing
- Restore local services, especially for the elderly and the handicapped
- Repair local roads and infrastructure
- Stop subsidies to political organizations
- Fight waste and corruption
- Restore moral values
Our platform for the Country:
- Create hiring priorities for French citizens
- Restore law, order and security
- Restore fairness before taxes
- Defend republican values, traditions and our way of life
- Stop illegal immigration and expel illegal immigrants
- Increase financial support to poor family & single parents
- Guarantee affordable housing to everyone
- Restore the right to health care and the reimbursement of quality care
- Leave retirement pensions as is
The Wikipedia description of the Front is more revealing, claiming that the Front endorses the following:
- A return to traditional values: to include making access to abortion more difficult or illegal; giving an income to mothers who do not go out to work; promoting local traditional culture
- Greater independence from the European Union and other international organizations
- The establishment of tariffs or other protestionist measures against cheap imports
- Firm sentences for all crimes and reinstatement of the death penalty for "the most heinous crimes"
- The end of non-European immigration and the establishment of the jus sanguinis
If one opposes the French social democrats and socialists on the grounds that they champion government intervention in the economy, then one ought to treat the National Front with the same scorn. Choosing between French nationalism and French socialism is analogous to choosing between havoc and calamity. They are united in their opposition to free trade, to liberalization, and in their support for the welfare state. Unfortunately, as economic troubles persist it seems that the approval of the Front will expand, especially given the efforts of Madam Le Pen to curtail the party's crass racial bigotry.
As usual, the UMP is the only tolerable alternative. They are perhaps the only real political hindrance to the rise of either the socialists or the nationalists. All one can do is hope that French voters come to their senses. France remains a relatively free country, but this freedom requires the presence of a cautious, ever vigilant electorate.