‘History is on our side’ (Steve Bannon, Trump’s ex-Head of Strategy)
Bannon (on a European tour promoting ‘economic nationalism’) was surprise speaker at this weekend’s Front National Congress, in Lille. He thrilled a rapt hall of ultra-right-wing extremists, telling his constantly-applauding audience: ‘You are part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary, bigger than all of it … History is on our side. The tide of history is with us and it will compel us to victory after victory after victory … That’s why the Establishment is so afraid of us … Because every day we get stronger and they get weaker.’
Great pic. Pity the pinky tarnishes the full effect. (Photo by Ph Huguen, AFP)
[That phrase from Bannon, ‘History is on our side’ was used by Kruschev at Polish leader, Gomulka’s farewell (1956): ‘Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!’ (For anyone interested in reading what are claimed to be declassified CIA files, the background to Kruschev’s remarks is here.)]
(No apologies to long-term blog readers for re-using this wonderfully evocative scene from Cabaret.)
The presence of Bigot Bannon on the FN Congress platform even caused comments from unreconstructed Jean-Marie Le Pen (no longer FN Honorary President, the post having been abolished). While signing copies of the first of his two-volume autobiography (‘Son of The Nation’) Le Pen called Bannon’s visit ‘paradoxical’ and ‘not exactly the definition of de-demonisation’ his daughter had sought to give the FN.
‘Will the line stretch to the crack of doom?’ Click through to You Tube to see eager Le Pen supporters queuing to have that Vile Old Man personally dedicate their copy of his outpourings (50,000 allegedly sold pre-publication and a 2nd edition under way):
But who’s to be Absolute Leader when the Great New Day dawns? Maybe not Marine Le Pen? Bannon was asked by a journalist whether Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (seriously Old School FN echoing grandfather, and convicted Holocaust denier, Jean-Marie Le Pen) was a ‘rising star’, while Marine Le Pen (re-elected FN Leader) was actually a ‘dying star’.
Bannon unhesitatingly offered a paean of praise to the youthful one, fresh from her ‘star’ turn at the American Conservative Union love (should that be hate?)-fest. Predicting a ‘great future’ for her, Bannon said Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is ‘not simply a rising star in France, she is one of the most impressive people in the entire world’. Of a dumbfounded Marine Le Pen, sat next to Bannon … not a word.
Could anything be more appropriate for the ‘Front National’ than white-washing?
Marine Le Pen unveiled the Party’s new name to be voted on by the membership. The ‘Front National name’ said Le Pen to the Party Congress ‘has an epic and glorious history … but, for many French people, it’s a psychological barrier’.
Earlier on France 2 TV she’d said that the FN had moved from being a ‘protest party in its youth’ to becoming ‘adult’. And in order to change from being ‘a Party of Opposition to a Party of Government’ the Party had to ‘acquire the culture of making alliances’
Le Pen proposed that the Front National should be renamed ‘Rassemblement national’ (National Rally). It’s not actually a total given that Party members will vote the new name through on the nod. In the FN’s pre-Congress canvass of members’ opinions
- 98% called for reduced immigration to France
- 92% wanted a referendum on Frexit, while only
- 52% voted in favour of a name-change … though it’s still scarcely imaginable that members will now reject The Dear Leader’s proposal.
This ‘new’ Party name may seem be a bit second-hand. For some, it will evoke Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist Party, ‘Rassemblement pour la République’ (RPR). That lasted 25 years until becoming ‘Union pour un mouvement populaire’ (UMP) in 2002. Thirteen years later ‘Les Républicains’ emerged. No boring political party longevity on France’s traditional Right. Also, a Le Monde journalist immediately spotted that the FN’s ‘new’ name was not quite so brand spanking. Within minutes, this poster emerged (Jean-Marie Le Pen’s 1986 Parliamentary Election campaign)
For what it’s worth (less than zero) Jean-Marie Le Pen told France Inter radio today that the proposal to drop the ‘must-have’ Front National name was a ‘disaster’ and a ‘political assassination’ … and he certainly wouldn’t join ‘Rassemblement National’.
It may take a lot of white-washing before the French change their view of the Front National. Ifop‘s weekend poll showed 2 out of 3 agree that the ‘arrival of the FN in power would be a danger for democracy in France’. [Still, 1 in 3 don’t – not a bad platform from which to start cosmetic re-branding.]
Still uncertain about the politics of Steve Bannon?
How about this from Bannon’s speech to the FN Congress? ‘Why do they call you racists and xenophobes and nativists and homophobes and islamophobes and misogynists? Because they can’t answer the basic questions you put in front of them. You argue for sovereignty and they call you a nativist. You argue for your freedom and they call you a xenophobe. You argue for your country and they call you a racist. But the days of that smear are over. [Thunderous applause] … Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honour.’
Is the Socialist Party dead?
Unlike that infamous parrot, was the Socialist Party really just resting. This seems at least true of the current Garonne bye-election. Readers of my previous post will recall that this former Socialist bastion (near Toulouse) had been retained by the Socialists by a wafer-thin 91 votes last June, just defeating the President’s LREM Party. The bye-election came about because electoral irregularities, plus the narrow margin of victory, meant the original result was overturned by the Constitutional Council.
Mélenchon’s hard-left France Unbowed Party was anticipated to take advantage of the problems facing the Front National and the Socialists. Further, boosted by the campaigning presence of The Great Leader Mélenchon himself, France Unbowed was expected to win through, representing The French People’s Opposition to the President.
And yet, in the 1st round yesterday (with a 35% turnout) the sitting Socialist Deputy – campaigning on rural issues – more than doubled his percentage of the vote (18% last June to 39% now), while the same LREM candidate (an ex-Beziers champion rugby player … supported in his campaign by no less than 11 Ministers, including Prime Minister Philippe and the Ministers of the Interior, Education etc etc) dropped from 33% of the vote to 20%. The Front National dropped from 15% to 12%, France Unbowed from 14% to 13% and the Républicains from 9% to 5%.
Next week’s run-off will be between the same candidates as last June: Socialist v. President Macron’s LREM. Looks like an utterly astonishing Socialist Hold.
A really bad weekend out of the office for Hard-Left Mélenchon
Bye-elections. Dontcha love ’em. France (Un)bowed (Mélenchon’s Party) is looking distinctly bowed this Monday
- Garonne bye-election: rather than being in Sunday’s run-off, having hoovered up discontented centre-left and ultra-right voters galore, France Unbowed languish in a dismal 3rd place with an extremely modest 13%
- Guyane bye-election: President Macron’s LREM candidate held his seat by 213 votes against the Regionalist supported by Mélenchon who’d flown there to campaign for him. A very much against-the-odds LREM Hold. The arrival of the 18th France Unbowed Deputy in Parliament has been unavoidably delayed.
- Bannon: asked his views on Mélenchon, Bannon said he didn’t know who he was