The Front National (FN) Congress in Tours approved the transfer of the family business to Marine Le Pen. Jean-Marie Le Pen has handed over everything, including his goodwill. Gregory Marino and Lionel Venturini report for L’Humanité from Tours. Translated for L’Humanité in English by David Lundy.
Slicker… Marine Le Pen? In her first speech as president of the Front National, the heiress to the founder of the party used the word “immigration” only once. But her speech was marked by allusions to a phenomenon that the party still intends to stop: “France is not a caliphate.” This is the brand she wants to impose, softening the tone to convey the same ideas. Her father passed on to her a movement of “awakeners”, she notes, while she wants a party of “builders”, “renewed, open and effective.” The only cracks, a reference to a “strong state” and a “Vive la Republique!” that her father, schooled in the Poujadist movement, would have deliberately avoided.
The FN is entering modernity. But the familiar comes back when activists think they are out of earshot. An old man from Algeria before a shoeshine machine: “back there, the little Arabs were better at this”, and another singing colonialist songs in the corridors of the conference centre. For €2 you could get a t-shirt depicting a North African worker wearing the traditional djellaba robe, packing his bags “Go live and work in your own country, bon voyage mate!” If the new activists sometimes have long hair, hooded sweatshirts or red keffiyehs, the ideological background remains.
“Preserving the fundamentals”
Jean-Marie Le Pen dedicated his last speech as party president to this ‘change without change’. His favourite themes of immigration and insecurity have not gone away, as shown by a speech concerned with the political legacy and history (details to boot) of the Front National. But one must return to the beginning of the speech to see the changes brought in by his daughter to the rhetoric of the party: the fight against Islamization rather than immigration, with a focus on social issues. Writing in the Nouvelle République, Jean-François Le Gras de la Sarthe draws the link: “Marine retains the fundamentals of the party, adapting them to society. She is ready to govern.”
The party base is also ready. Activists are asked to step outside the party community to display their political views. For his part, Thierry Maillard, secretary of the Reims (Marne) branch, subtly refers to “these illegal immigrants who receive benefits at the expense of the French, or foreigners who are here legally.” Listen to those who “swore allegiance to France.” Jean-François Jalkh, in charge of elections, warms the hearts of the 2000 delegates in his praise for the “third political force” in France. A spineless press, charges for convention admission and election materials, the FN feels comfortable enough to ask its activists to step into the spotlight. For the more deserving, those decorated with the “flame of honour,” Le Pen’s warning, in the form of an order, is that it is a badge that should be worn in public.
 Populist 1950s anti-tax movement lead by Pierre Poujade
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