How Left is Marine Le Pen’s Far-Right Politics?
How valid are blanket political groupings like the Left and the Right anymore?
In 2017, it seems even phrases like “intelligent protectionist measures” and guarantees of “the welfare state” fall in the far Right of the political spectrum. Surprised? Well, news organisations from across the world have used that political tag for French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. From BBC to The New York Times, Le Pen’s policies have been labelled ‘far Right’ by all.
But when US President Donald Trump can talk about the ills of globalisation and still get called a Right-winger, how valid are political groupings like the Left and the Right anymore?
Let’s take a look at Le Pen’s 144 Presidential Commitments to get a better sense of where she falls on the political spectrum.
Disclaimer: There’s no value judgement in this article about whether these proposed policies are right or wrong, just whether they’re Right or Left.
Realist Foreign Policy
Realism in international relations is a simple concept. It assumes that the interests of the nation-state itself play the primary role in decision-making. Every other factor, including morality, is secondary.
Le Pen wants to base France’s foreign policy in the principles of Realism.
But here’s the part that’s making front page headlines globally. As part of this push towards Realism, Le Pen wants to follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom and hold a referendum that decides whether France should remain within the EU or have its own Frexit.
She also wants France to
leave the integrated military command of NATO so that France is not dragged into wars that do not concern her.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an alliance that was created to protect its member states through the combined might of the member nations’ militaries. But Le Pen, in this case, wants to disengage from alliances so France can take decisions keeping its own interests in mind.
While Realism isn’t automatically Left or Right, the inward-looking model based in nationalism that Le Pen is talking about does lean Right.
But here’s a fun fact: Another country that has refrained from establishing alliances with other nations is India.
India, since Independence, has stuck to its decision to not form alliances that require no-questions-asked obligations towards another country or grouping – an evolution of its non-aligned policies after the end of the Cold War.
Throughout Le Pen’s manifesto, there are references to curbing Islamic fundamentalism and jihadist activities. In fact, one entire subsection is titled ‘To Eradicate Terrorism and Break Up Islamic Fundamentalist Networks’. This deals with banning organisations linked to ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, combating ‘jihadi networks’ and closing ‘extremist mosques’.
The very specific focus on fundamentalist beliefs emerging from one particular religion and not religion-motivated violence or terrorism in the wider sense highlights an Islamophobic bent in Le Pen’s policies.
She also wants to “promote secularism and combat multiculturalism” as part of her program “to defend French unity and the national identity.”
While this finds root in the French understanding of secularism – which is a strict separation of religion and state – her program shuns any possibility of inclusivity. She hopes to add a principle to the Constitution: The Republic does not recognise any communities.
In addition to this, she wants to reduce legal immigration into France to 10,000 persons a year and restore the primacy of the French nationalist identity.
All of this also falls squarely into the understanding of Right conservative politics.
A key concept of Right politics is that of smaller government.
But this is where Le Pen no longer fits into the “far Right” narrative.
As part of her economic push for French prosperity, Le Pen clearly mentions the introduction of “intelligent protectionist measures”. She wants to “protect strategic and growth sectors” by controlling foreign investments that go against national interest by setting up an Economic Security Authority. Essentially, Le Pen is pushing for greater government involvement in the economy, which goes against the Right principles of Laissez Faire in business.
One entire section of her manifesto is dedicated to guaranteeing the welfare state. Le Pen wants to increase pensions, create ‘social shields’ for the self-employed, and bring down taxes. She also wants healthcare provisions to be guaranteed to all French citizens under the Social Security system “as well as as the reimbursement of all the risks covered by the state health insurance.”
While many of Marine Le Pen’s proposed policies are conservative, her domestic economic outlook is clearly pushing for bigger government involvement aimed at state-guaranteed welfare for French citizens – a prime principle of Left equality-based politics.
So, how far Left has the far Right moved for Marine Le Pen to make the cut?
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