Czy naprawdę „szok”? Front Narodowy wygrywa we Francji

Translated by, and originally published in Polish on Krytyka polityczna.

Politycy głównego nurtu we Francji chcą tylko biernej akceptacji tego, co jest. Nic dziwnego, że Front Narodowy na tym zyskuje.

Jak po każdych wyborach ostatnimi laty, dziś rano Francja obudziła się zszokowana i odrętwiała. Front Narodowy znów na pierwszych stronach gazet – to zresztą już stały motyw. Prawicowy „Le Figaro” i komunistyczna „L’Humanité” drukują ten sam nagłówek: Le Choc.

Z 27,96 procentami głosów partia Marine Le Pen zwyciężyła w skali kraju, z przewagą większą, niż ta przewidywana w sondażach. Centroprawicowa Union de la droite (Republikanie, MoDem i UDI) zajęła drugie miejsce z 26,89 proc. głosów, podczas gdy poparcie Partii Socjalistycznej spadło do 23,33 proc. głosów. To fatalny wynik dla centroprawicy, która w poprzednich dwojgu wyborach w 2004 i 2010 roku wygrała we wszystkich regionach Francji kontynentalnej poza jednym. Continue reading Czy naprawdę „szok”? Front Narodowy wygrywa we Francji

The rise of the Front National is only part of the problem

The rise of the Front National is only part of the problem

The ‘shock’ is not the rise of the Front National, but the failure of the system to bring forward a positive alternative.

Marine Le Pen. Demotix/Francois Pauletto. All rights reserved.

As with every recent election, France woke up this morning shocked and groggy. The Front National is front page material, somewhat of a theme recently. Right-wing Le Figaro and communist L’Humanité share the same title: ‘Le Choc’.

With 27.96% of the vote, Marine Le Pen’s party has come top nationally, leading by a larger margin than predicted by polls. The centre right Union de la droite (Les Républicains, the MoDem and UDI) came in second with 26.89%, while the Parti Socialiste collapsed to 23.33%. This is a terrible result for the centre left who had won in all but one region in continental France in the previous two elections in 2004 and 2010.

Yet can we still call such results a shock in light of the past three years? In 2012, Marine Le Pen received 17.9% of the vote in the presidential elections. Later that year, the party received 13.6% in the legislative elections against the odds set by a majoritarian system which had successfully kept the FN out of the National Assembly since 1988. In 2014, the party won in the European elections with 24.86% of the vote. Finally, in March this year, the FN came third in the departmental elections with 25.24% of the vote in the first round.

Yesterday’s results are no longer out of the ordinary in France, and the media pretending to be shocked by them can only point to denial or utter lack of imagination as to what is to be done to reverse the tide.
Continue reading The rise of the Front National is only part of the problem

Η κήρυξη πολέμου εκ μέρους του Ολάντ δεν θα απαλλάξει την Ευρώπη από την τρομοκρατία

μετάφραση: Στρ. Μπουλαλάκης, Γιάννης Χατζηδημητράκης for ΕΝΘΕΜΑΤΑ

Σκίτσο του Μαρκ Ουίλσον

O Φρανσουά Ολάντ επιβεβαίωσε ότι η γαλλική κυβέρνηση θα υιοθετήσει σκληρή στάση ως απάντηση στις επιθέσεις που πραγματοποιήθηκαν στο Παρίσι στις 13 Νοεμβρίου. Ο σοσιαλιστής Πρόεδρος άφησε να εννοηθεί αρκετές φορές ότι τα αντίποινά του θα ξεπεράσουν σε σφοδρότητα ακόμη και εκείνα του Νικολά Σαρκοζί – του δεξιού προκατόχου του στην προεδρία και αντιπάλου του στις εκλογές του 2017, παρά τη φήμη του τελευταίου ως «σκληρού». Οι γαλλικές δυνάμεις ήδη βομβαρδίζουν τη Συρία.

Η αρχική συναισθηματική αντίδραση του Προέδρου, λίγες ώρες μετά τις επιθέσεις, μπορεί να δικαιολογηθεί λόγω της φρίκης που επικράτησε. Ωστόσο, τις μέρες που ακολούθησαν, πολιτικοί από την Δεξιά ως την Αριστερά και η πλειοψηφία των Μέσων Μαζικής Ενημέρωσης έχουν εγκαταλείψει κάθε σύνεση και λογική. Έχουν προσπαθήσει να ξεπεράσουν ο ένας τον άλλο στην πλειοδοσία των πιο αντιδραστικών, βίαιων και διχαστικών ρητορειών.

Σχεδόν όλοι συμφωνούν ότι η Γαλλία βρίσκεται «σε πόλεμο». Ο πρωθυπουργός Μανουέλ Βαλς μίλησε ακόμη και για «εσωτερικό εχθρό» — μια φράση με έντονη φόρτιση στη γαλλική ιστορία. Εξέχοντες δεξιοί πολιτικοί προχώρησαν ακόμη περισσότερο ζητώντας οι ύποπτοι να φυλακίζονται χωρίς δίκη — μια εκπληκτική πρόταση δεδομένης της σκοτεινής ιστορίας των «στρατοπέδων συγκέντρωσης» στην ευρωπαϊκή πολιτική.
Continue reading Η κήρυξη πολέμου εκ μέρους του Ολάντ δεν θα απαλλάξει την Ευρώπη από την τρομοκρατία

Hollande declaring war will not rid Europe of terror

Francois Hollande has confirmed that the French government will take a hard stance in response to the attacks which took place in Paris on November 13.

The Socialist president hinted more than once that his retaliation would even surpass in forcefulness that of Nicolas Sarkozy – his right-wing predecessor as president and opponent for the 2017 elections, despite the latter’s reputation for tough measures. French forces are already bombing Syria.

In the aftermath of the attack, the early emotional reaction from the president was justifiable given the terrible circumstances. But in the days that followed, politicians from right to left and much of the mainstream media have abandoned caution and reason. They have sought to outdo each other in offering up the most reactionary, violent and divisive rhetoric.

Continue reading Hollande declaring war will not rid Europe of terror

Ne tombons pas dans le piège de peur et d’exclusion tendu par Daech

Face à l’horreur provoquée par cette nouvelle série d’attaques terroristes en France, il est urgent de ne pas céder à la peur et de ne pas stigmatiser les populations les plus fragiles.

Les attaques perpétrées ce vendredi 13 novembre sont les plus meurtrières qu’ait connues la France depuis 1945. Selon un dernier bilan, ce sont près de 130 personnes qui ont trouvé la mort à la suite de ces attentats commis simultanément à Paris dans six endroits différents. Les autorités policières ont indiqué que les huit terroristes à l’origine de ces attaques seraient décédés – sept en se faisant exploser.

Ce n’est pas comme si la France n’était pas préparée à l’éventualité d’une telle tragédie. Les mesures antiterroristes ont été renforcées jusqu’à leur plus haut niveau depuis l’attaque, en janvier dernier, de Charlie Hebdo par les frères Kouachi et de l’Hyper Casher par Amédy Coulibaly.

Depuis des mois maintenant, les soldats patrouillant en armes dans les rues font partie du quotidien des Parisiens. Mais le plan Vigipirate mis en place par le gouvernement pour assurer la sécurité des Français n’aura pas suffi à déjouer ce qui apparaît comme l’attaque la mieux organisée qu’ait jamais menée Daech hors de son territoire. Toute la lumière doit encore être faite, mais l’État islamique a déjà revendiqué cette nouvelle vague d’attaques. François Hollande, accusant directement l’organisation terroriste, a affirmé qu’il voyait dans cette série d’attentats « un acte de guerre ». L’état d’urgence a été instauré dans le pays, des mesures radicales comme le rétablissement des contrôles aux frontières ont été prises, écoles et universités ont été fermées.

Continue reading Ne tombons pas dans le piège de peur et d’exclusion tendu par Daech

É essencial lutar contra a paranoia (O Globo)

Os ataques em Paris são os mais mortais em solo francês desde 1945. E não que a França não estivesse preparada. Medidas antiterroristas estavam no nível mais alto desde janeiro, após o ataque ao “Charlie Hebdo”. Soldados armados tornaram-se parte de Paris. No entanto, não foram suficientes para evitar o que se acredita ser o ataque mais exitoso do Estado Islâmico (EI) cometido fora da sua área de domínio.

Agora, Hollande declarou estado de emergência: controle nas fronteiras e escolas e universidades fechadas. Mas um clima de medo e paranoia pode ter consequências graves. Medidas emergenciais são necessárias, mas devem continuar emergenciais. Caso tornem-se permanentes, põem a França num caminho extremamente perigoso.

Continue reading É essencial lutar contra a paranoia (O Globo)

Paris terror attacks: France now faces fight against fear and exclusion

The attacks that took place at a series of venues in Paris on November 13 were the deadliest on French soil since 1945. At least 129 people have been killed in six different places. Reports say that nearly 100 are in a critical condition. Police have reported that eight people believed to have carried out the attacks are also dead – seven by blowing themselves up.

It was not as though France had not prepared itself to face such a tragedy. Anti-terrorist measures have been at their highest level in Paris since January, when two brothers attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.

This was obvious to any bystander over the past few months. Armed soldiers have become part of the Paris experience. Yet the government’s security plan, the plan vigipirate, was not enough to stop what is so far believed to be the most organised and coordinated attack Islamic State has perpetrated outside its territory. Details are still thin on the ground, but IS has claimed responsibility. President François Hollande has blamed the group and made it clear that he sees this as an act of war.

Continue reading Paris terror attacks: France now faces fight against fear and exclusion

The French secular hypocrisy: the extreme right, the Republic and the battle for hegemony

Abstract:

The success of the extreme right in France in the past two decades has not been limited to its electoral rise. A more long-lasting victory has taken place in the ideological field, where the discourse of the extreme right now occupies a prominent place in the mainstream liberal democratic agenda. Increasingly, its ideas are seen in the media and in the platforms of mainstream parties as ‘common sense’ or at least acceptable. The growing acceptance of this ‘common sense’ is the result of very carefully crafted strategies put in place by extreme-right thinkers since the 1980s. For over three decades now, in order to change perceptions and renew extreme right-wing ideology, New Right think tanks such as the French GRECE believed it was necessary to borrow the tactics of the left and, more specifically, the Gramscian concept of hegemony: cultural power must precede political power. With the use of contemporary examples, Mondon’s article demonstrates the continuing impact these ideas have had on the Front national and French politics and society, and how this change originated in the association of populist rhetoric with the neo-racist stigmatization of the Other.

Mondon A. (2015) The French secular hypocrisy: the extreme right, the Republic and the battle for hegemony. Patterns of Prejudice 49: 1-22.

UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis

Mondon, A (2015) ‘UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis’, TOR, Vol.1, 25-27

UKIP has been given an important amount of media space, both as a contender and issue in the 2014 EU elections and 2015 General elections. While the party created an ‘earthquake’ a year ago when it won the European contest, its results in the General Elections have proven harder to gauge either positively or negatively. UKIP only managed to send one candidate to Westminster (Douglas Carswell, a defector from the Conservative party), losing not only the second seat it had acquired after another Tory defection, but also with Nigel Farage himself failing to win South Thanet. On paper, it seems that the ‘purple revolution’ has petered out. However, it would be mistaken to reduce UKIP’s electoral performance to the number of seats in parliament it will occupy. On the whole, the party performed well when considering it polled second in 125 seats across England and Wales  (Steafel et al. 11 May 2015). Such contradictory accounts of UKIP’s performance are further nuanced when abstention is taken into account. With 33.9% abstention, UKIP’s overall share of the registered vote falls to 8.3% – a figure which is even lower when non-registered voters are taken into account. This suggests therefore that while the performance of UKIP should not be downplayed, it is not the alternative it has been painted to be in much of the media as the party has failed to appeal to more than one out of ten British voters despite very favourable circumstances  (Mondon Forthcoming 2015).

Continue reading UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis

Populism, the people and the illusion of democracy – the Front National and UKIP in a comparative context

Mondon, A (2015) ‘Populism, the People and the Illusion of Democracy’, French Politics, 13, 141–156. doi:10.1057/fp.2015.6

The 2014 European elections confirmed the prominence in the media of what is commonly called the far right. While parties such as the Front National and UKIP were successful in the elections, their performance has since been exaggerated and they have benefited from a disproportionate coverage. Aiding their apparently ‘irresistible rise’, their normalisation was greatly facilitated by their description as ‘populist’ parties. However, while this term ‘populism’ has been almost universally accepted in the media, it remains a hotly debated concept on the academic circuit, and its careless use could in fact prove counterproductive in the assessment of the current state of democracy in Europe.

Instead of focusing on the reasons behind the rise of these parties, similarities and differences already widely covered in the literature, this article hypothesises that a skewed and disproportionate coverage of the European elections in particular, and the ‘rise’ of ‘right-wing populism’ in general, have prevented a thorough democratic discussion from taking place and impeded the possibility of other political alternatives.

Keywords: Front National; UKIP; populism; democracy; media

Owen Jones is not where the British left should look for answers

[This review was written soon after The Establishment was published, but has sat on my desktop ever since. It felt timely to publish it now]

Owen Jones’ recent book provides a detailed and well-researched overview of the ‘Establishment’ in the United Kingdom, and its role in the construction of a deeply unfair, unequal and divided society. Jones explores in great detail the various segments of society which he concludes represent this loose ‘Establishment’, from outriders to the ‘Westminster cartel’, the media to tycoons and ‘tax-dodgers’ and lists their manifold evils. The Establishment makes for a depressing read, but it is hardly a wakeup call, as most of its likely audience are already broadly familiar with the issue.

This does not mean that the detail in which Jones explores the often detestable misbehaviour of our political, intellectual and economic elite is not important, but simply that he is preaching to the converted. His narrative will stir the well-educated middle class who will feel rightly outraged, but who ultimately do not suffer the brunt of the injustice plaguing this country. The many graphic examples Jones provides make ‘Us’ feel closer to those who suffer, but ‘We’ remain all too able to turn our backs on them when push comes to shove. Upon closing the book readers will feel warm and fuzzy at the thought that exposing such an unjust society will finally change things. But many will subsequently go on with their life, partaking in the consumerist orgy responsible for the very plight they feel so strongly about in their leisure time, yet all but rebuke to the darkest corners of their minds when it counts. In this manner the book acts as a therapy session for those who chafe against the social iniquities of the world live in and yet profit very much from it. Others, of course, will continue their daily struggle to turn the social justice Jones advocates into reality. Yet, it is those who dedicate their lives to effect change whom, I would argue, Jones misleads in his book by claiming his vision is radical and his alternative world view anything but a band-aid. Continue reading Owen Jones is not where the British left should look for answers

Charlie Hebdo attack: this is not a clash of civilisations

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was an abominable tragedy. It struck the heart of one of our capitals and symbols of our democracies as terrorists attacked our freedom of the press. It is now essential to pay our respects to those who lost their lives yesterday and hope that those responsible for the attacks are arrested as soon as possible.

In terrible circumstances, where shock and confusion prevail, it is also crucial to remain level-headed in our response to these horrendous events. While we must stand on the side of the victims and in defence of our inalienable rights, this should not lead us to simplistic, uncritical conclusions and further divisions.

Much of the reporting so far has had the tendency to pit a “Muslim community” against a French or European one in the most essentialist manner. While most commentators, be they journalists, politicians or academics, have warned against laying indiscriminate blame against Islam, their initial disclaimers have too often been lost in simplistic and stigmatising analysis. Many have inadvertently blamed Islam in their subsequent arguments. In the prevalent discourse, the “Muslim community” is commonly described as foreign to our land, values and beliefs.

Continue reading Charlie Hebdo attack: this is not a clash of civilisations

Creating the people

Interview with Antonis Galanopoulos

AG: Let’s start with the most important question. In recent years, there have been too many debates in the media and in academia about populism. And we ourselves will now have a discussion focusing on populism. But, what is populism? Which is, in your opinion, the best way to define the term?

AM: That is a crucial point indeed, and too often commentators talk about populism without clearly defining it. Because the concept of ‘the people’ is central to the word populism and because of its highly polemical political content, a definition is necessary before anything else can be discussed. Populism is usually understood either as an ideology (be it a thin one) or as a style or discourse.

My own research, based loosely on the so-called Essex School, sits firmly within the latter understanding, wherein populism is a political style or discourse whereby the populist creates her/his ‘people’ according to her/his ideological goals. ‘The people’ therefore can take many shapes and forms and be used in both inclusive and exclusive ways (e.g. against global injustice, against minorities, for democracy, for discriminatory purposes etc.). Essentially, populism is not intrinsically positive or negative, it is a tool to create a political commonality. Continue reading Creating the people

Nuancing the right-wing populist hype

While right-wing populism is certainly one expression of democratic discontent, disproportionate media focus risks reinforcing these parties as serious contenders and adversaries of the status quo, and alienating those who do not believe that the Le Pens and Farages are a viable solution to their political and democratic demands. A more ambitious democratic discussion is needed

One of the most obvious and potentially serious political shifts in the past twenty years in Europe has been the surge in right-wing populism, and yet, as this piece argues, this phenomenon is widely misunderstood and misinterpreted with potentially dramatic consequences. Year on year, the media warns of new waves of (right-wing) populism crashing against the defences of the liberal democratic status quo. The most recent example was the 2014 European elections which, according to much of the media, witnessed an ‘irresistible’ rise of populist parties from the right side of politics. From UKIP, French Front National and Danish People’s Party victories, to the shocking results of the more extreme Jobbik and Golden Dawn in Hungary and Greece, it would seem that right-wing populism has become inescapable.

Early on, Hans-Georg Betz in his formative work on radical right-wing populism argued that this surge was part of the corrective function of democracy (what Margaret Canovan called its ‘redemptive function’). In this understanding (simplified for this short piece), right-wing populism acts as a counterpoint to the pragmatic side of democracy, that is the technocratic forms of government which have become increasingly central to what Colin Crouch has called ‘post-democracy.’ By voting for these parties, the ‘people’ (be they workers, the losers of globalisation etc.) can express their discontent and frustration towards policies and politics from which they feel alienated. This vote acts as a reminder to politicians that the mob may not want the advance of (neo)liberalism and that a step back or a reframing is at times necessary. Continue reading Nuancing the right-wing populist hype

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