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Are Marine Le Pen’s supporters really far-Right?

Marine Le Pen has a wide support base, both geographically and ideologically. Credit: Getty

June 13, 2024 - 12:45pm

Over the last few days, a map of France’s European election results has been doing the rounds on social media. It is lavishly detailed, showing the first-placed political party in each of the country’s 35,000 communes. An interactive version is available on the Le Monde website: just click on a département and then zoom in for a town-by-town, village-by-village breakdown of votes.

Yet it’s the big picture that’s attracted the attention. With the main exception of Paris, France appears as a sea of brown, indicating the dominance of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN). Why might the map’s designers have chosen that particular hue? It’s not the official party colour, which is navy blue. Irrespective of intentions, brown is suggestive of fascism. That’s especially because of the uniforms worn by the SA, the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party.

The map also classifies the RN as “far right”. By contrast, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s LFl party is classified as “radical left” — as, for that matter, is the French Communist Party. This is not accidental, and it’s surely time to start using political terminology with greater care.

Instead of running through dry definitions, we should look to the middle reaches of the Saulx — a part of France few Britons have heard of, let alone visited — where the RN dominates, scooping up half the vote. Located on the borders of Lorraine and Champagne, its villages are strung out along a gentle river, open fields on one side and forested hills on the other. But though bucolic, it’s not quite chocolate box material. Unlike the renaissance glories of nearby Bar-le-Duc, many of the buildings are of post-war vintage.

There’s a reason for that.

In August 1944, retreating German soldiers perpetrated a massacre through the villages of Robert-Espagne, Couvonges, Beurey-sur-Saulx, Mognéville and Trémont-sur-Saulx. Scores of defenceless civilians were rounded up and murdered, their homes then burned to the ground.

Now, 80 years later, when those same communities vote in strength for Le Pen, what do the commentators of Paris and London imagine that they are voting for? Fascism and Nazism? In fact, more than most of us, the people of the Saulx Valley remember what those things are.

A catch-all label like “far-Right” brings confusion rather than clarity. Much of France — especially the vast depopulated stretch of territory known as the empty diagonal — is a deeply conservative place. It isn’t, for the most part, divided by communal tensions, but it does want to be respected — or just remembered — by the French and EU elites.

There was a time when those desires were championed by the mainstream Right. But today, the heirs of De Gaulle are a chaotic mess, in a worse state than the British Conservative Party — if that can be imagined. The leader of the centre-right Les Républicains, Eric Ciotti, was yesterday expelled from the party for publicly stating his intention to form an alliance with Le Pen, only for him to question the legitimacy of his removal.

Le Pen has stepped into the void left behind by a failing establishment, and has reformed her party to this purpose. You don’t have to be an admirer to recognise this reality, and that labels such as “far-Right” have been stripped of meaning. Anyone who wants to defeat populism, or at least curb its excesses, needs to stop fighting old wars.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

The disdain felt by Parisians for their bumpkin cousins is not very different to that of metropolitan remainers in the UK.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

One of the things quite a noticeable differences between Paris and London is the degree of ethnic separation in the former. East Paris feels v unlike anywhere in London. In fact one only has to travel a bit to appreciate how unique London can often seem and in a good way, despite some problems. Just possibly that’s why it continues to be a net contributor to the UK economy? (Although more broadly I agree we’ve allowed our economy to become geographically imbalanced)
Now as regards the Met Remainers, it may well be that the Hedge Fund managers, the great concentration of Bankers and the v Rich residing in London do suffer from some of that stereotyping and you are quite right to mention the possibility.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Ditto the USA. Urban elites, especially Hillary Clinton referred to country people as ‘deplorables’ and Obama said they, ‘were bitter clingers of their guns & Bibles’. Two of the most despicable politicians of the modern era.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago

Overuse of terms like “fascist” to effectively mean “anyone to the right of me whose opinions I disagree with” has stripped them of meaning to such an extent that when I see someone described as a fascist, a Nazi or far right, I immediately assume that on the balance of probability they are probably none of those things. Experience suggests its more likely that someone on the progressive left wants to traduce them as such and thereby delegitimize anything they say.
The danger of all this “crying wolf” should be obvious: when a real fascist comes along we won’t be paying attention.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago

when a real fascist comes along we won’t be paying attention – He will be left

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

“when I see someone described as a fascist, a Nazi or far right, I immediately assume that on the balance of probability they are probably none of those things”

I assume that they are probably correct in their world view.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago

Lean in: I’m a fascist LOL

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago

The leader of the centre-right Les Républicains, Eric Ciotti, was yesterday expelled from the party for publicly stating his intention to form an alliance with Le Pen, only for his to question the legitimacy of the decision. – Far-right, far-left is not the point. The point is that they are classic metropolitan sissies, confident that cows shit roses.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

I wouldn’t say they’re “far-right”, or “fascist sympathisers” or “Nazis”, or even “populists”. They’re just really “hacked off” at a political establishment that consistently ignores their legitimate concerns and/or smears them for articulating them.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

How far is far-right? Who decides?
And in any case, populism, like anti-elitism, is left wing.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

I couldn’t agree more with the assertion that commentators need to take far more care with their language.

David Yetter
David Yetter
1 month ago

“Far-right”, if it ever had any coherent meaning, is certainly now a meaningless pejorative used in an increasingly vain attempt to scare voters away from any movement that criticises the centre-left consensus that reigns in the halls of power in Brussels, Whitehall and Washington, D.C. To be “far-right” it suffices to favor national sovereignty over the diktats of the European Commission, or to have noticed that every fiqh of Islamic sharia is deeply illiberal, to have concluded that mass immigration from the Muslim world to the West is a bad idea and to state this conclusion publicly. In North America, concern about the efficacy and side-effects of mRNA vaccines also seems to suffice to earn the moniker.
Are Le Pen voters “far-right”? Yes, but that’s only because the phrase now has the meaning I just described.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago

The left (including clearly biased MSM media like the BBC) have cleverly overused the term “far right” to increasingly weaponise laziness. There must be a huge number of people who see that description, and then decide not to read on to any depth because they already know they are supposed to hate/dismiss the person who has been described as such.

ERIC PERBET
ERIC PERBET
1 month ago

Communist film director Pier Paolo Pasolini famously predicted 50 years ago that fascism could possibly return providing it labelled itself “anti-fascism”: this is exactly where we are now, especially since October 7th.
The new “Font Populaire” (People’s Front) alliance set up by the French moderate Left with the Antifa/Hamas-leaning far-Left in view of the snap parliamentary elections held on June 30th. and 7th. July definitely is the new fascism.
Casting my vote will be a no-brainer for me!

michael harris
michael harris
1 month ago
Reply to  ERIC PERBET

Pasolini can be found in a grainy old film clip declaiming – in Italian – Ezra Pound’s lines that begin ‘What thou lovest best…’. His audience is old Ezra himself in his prophetic beard. The connections between the extremities of left and right are subtle, sometimes bizarre.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 month ago

Great map, thanks. Very enlightening. Some discussion of Le Pen’s economic policies would be interesting, too.