France, austerity and Le Pen…

Firstly, apologies for the lack of blogging. Third year university is proving to be on another level re work load! This blog is one I have been wanting to do for a while and can be seen as a sequel to my blog on the neopolitics of hate in the UK.

The rise of the far right in France, to me, relates to the historic cuts that France are enacting. These cuts have largely occurred because France are wanting to meet European restrictions, which are possibly to become more fixed through the European Commission being granted control over fines (much to France’s despair) so countries such as France can’t get away from fines as easily. Such restrictions include the requirement to have a deficit no more than 3% of GDP and a debt no more than 60% of GDP; as France’s deficit was around 7-8% last year, they are being pressured by their European partners, especially Germany (who have enacted such restrictions into national law) to cut. Whilst I am for European integration, there needs to be serious questions raised about the neoliberal path the Union is increasingly tightening.

France tried to distance themselves from the austerity line, and still do; but after detrimental pension reform, cuts and historical reductions of spending France have also gone down the path of neoliberal ‘reform’. This has contributed, as shown by the following quote, to making Sarkozy the most unpopular President in the Fifth Republic’s history:

Surveys show deep dissatisfaction with his domestic and economic policies and authoritarian personality.

Given this and Sarkozy’s recent actions such as banning the Burka and provoking anger to the way he dealt with Roman immigration, it is easier to understand reasons for why the National Front is on the rise. According to two recent polls, if a Presidential election was held now, Sarkozy would be seriously challenged by the National Front leader Le Pen.

Whilst there are rightful reservations regarding jumping to conclusions (as explained here), such a poll should make people stop and think about why should views are increasingly rising. Sarkozy’s polling ratings are dropping, the people don’t trust him and according to Melissa Bounoua, a French journalist, Le Pen is starting to make worrying inroads (sound familiar?):

What if these polls help her? Back in September, I met her. It was crystal clear how good a political animal she is. She has changed her discourse to introduce social issues and was noticeably softer on immigration. She is currently using these figures to claim she doubled her points in less than three months on national TV. Her brand new Facebook pagequickly gained a lot of fans, just like movie stars after the Oscars ceremony. Posters already present her as “Marine”, with almost no mention of FN (like Socialist party candidate “Ségolène” Royal in 2007). Her strategy has started, and it may work.

And as the FT report:

However, since her election in January, the 42-year-old Ms Le Pen has already succeeded in winning wider support than her father by courting working class voters with a greater emphasis on social protection. She has also ditched the old anti-semitic rhetoric, to focus on the fears sparked by a growing Muslim population in Europe.

As I said the other day, there are other reasons for why people are racist. However, there are connections between cutting people’s support, destroying communities and encouraging hate. As mentioned, Sarkozy has also done his fair share to spread this hate. For instance, his 2003 sex work policies making passive soliciting (so the way you act, for example) an arrestable offence on the suspicion you may be a sex worker has targeted migrant sex workers; forcing them to tell the authorities who their pimp is (if they have one), yet only if the pimp is convicted are they allowed to stay in the country! These sex work policies are largely governed by immigration scares. Ignoring the complexities of migrant sex work, Sarkozy framed these changes in line with ‘national security’,  increased racial tensions alongside undermining sex workers’ rights.

There are clear connections between the rise of far right parties and neoliberal policies; such times can spread hate and fear, alongside destroying communities and people’s livelihoods. Of course, there are other reasons – but it is hard to deny the connections and the paralleling movements in countries such as the UK as well.

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