For First Time, a US President backs a Fascist France

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

While she is highly unlikely to win the run-off presidential election on May 7 against the Bill Clinton of France, Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen managed to come in second in the first round on Sunday. She came ahead of the leaders of both major French political parties, the Socialists and the Gaullists. It is a sad day for France, and for the world, that such a hateful person– a neo-Fascist— is in the running to be president.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt hated fascism and was determined to defeat it, even if it meant allying with Joe Stalin of the Soviet Union.

During World War II, Germany occupied northern France and installed a right wing puppet government in the south of the country at Vichy, led by Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, the victor at Verdun in WW I.

Roosevelt despised the Vichy, and ultimately his troops defeated it. [Roosevelt was the one who pressed for an invasion of Vichy-held North Africa. US troops took heavy fire during Operation Torch in Algeria e.g. Some “82,600 of the invasion force was U.S. Army personnel. Ninety-six percent of the 1,469 casualties were American.” It was the remnants and children of people like those Vichy soldiers who fired on and killed American GIs who formed the National Front of Le Pen.]

Today we are presented with the spectacle of the American president, Donald J. Trump, praising the Neo-Fascist National Front candidate, Marine LePen. It would be like FDR cozying up to Marshal Petain.

Trump said, “Le Pen is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”

We are living in an alternate universe not so different from Philip K. Dick’s “Man in a High Castle.” The Nazis won after all.

Le Pen’s platform includes denying French Jews the right to hold dual French-Israeli citizenship. The National Front has moderated the anti-Semitic rhetoric of its founder, but let’s face it, they don’t like Jews very much, and French Jews are alarmed by the outcome of the election. Le Pen recently denied the responsibility of France for the round-up of Jews in the 1940s, even though there is plenty of historical documentation for it.

Le Pen’s wounded national pride, the seed of her platform, drives her to seek negotiations with the EU over a referendum on membership. In any case, she says, France will “recover” four areas of “sovereignty”: monetary, legislative, territorial, economic.

Here’s her security platform:

Massive build-up of the police, disarming the slums. Building 40,000 new prison cells. Restore borders, keep out all but 10,000 immigrants a year. Breaking Muslim fundamentalist networks in order to eradicate terrorism.

She also has a re-industrialization plan that will depend, she says, on “Smart protectionism” and “Economic patriotism”.

She wants to leave the NATO command. Her war department budget will grow to 2% of GDP and 3% by the end of five years.

Hatred of the 5 million French Muslims is central to her program, even thought the majority of French Muslims are not religious.

It is like she plagiarized from Trump. Or maybe it is the other way around and Steve Bannon, Trump’s Brain, has been studying far right European neo-Fascists as a blueprint for America.

It is a sad day when all those millions of American veterans who served in the European theater during WW II have their memory besmirched by the reemergence of fascism, in the White House and in French politics. How many Americans died to prevent a fascist take-over here and to end the Vichy in France itself.

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Related video:

Vox: “Marine Le Pen: France’s Trump is on the rise”

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41 Responses

  1. Vichy was an authoritarian puppet state full of hard-right Catholic ultra-traditionalists of the same stamp that formed the bedrock of support for quasi-Fascist leaders like General Franco in Spain and António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal (link to bbc.co.uk). They were Fascist collaborators and (by today’s standards) open white supremacists and imperialists.

    The FN was founded by a grab-bag of these ex-Vichy supporters and and some ex-pied noir settlers out for revenge after Algeria broke away from the French Republic. Like a lot of extremist movements (Al-Qaeda in Syria springs to mind) it pretends to be less monstrous than it is. But things like Le Pen denying that the French state deported Jews to the Nazis during WWII show that it hasn’t changed its stripes that much. Its just that these days the target of choice in Europe is Muslims rather than Jews.

  2. Juan,

    you write that “During World War II, Germany occupied northern France and installed a right wing puppet government in the south of the country at Vichy, led by Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, the victor at Verdun in WW I. ”

    This is not true.

    Philippe Petain was not put in place by the Germans, but by the french themselves, and the first thing he did was to negociate an “armistice” with the germans who had invaded northern France.

    • link to ww2days.com

      “Montoire, Occupied France • October 24, 1940

      After failing the day before to convince Spanish dictator Fran­cisco Franco to bring his coun­try into the war on the Axis side, Adolf Hitler met with 84-year-old Maréchal (Marshal) Philippe Pétain, respected military leader (“victor of Verdun”) and now head of state (chef de l’État Fran­çais), and Pierre Laval, deputy leader of Vichy France, on this date in 1940 in the rela­tively iso­lated town of Mon­toire-sur-le-Loir, about 80 miles south of Paris. The secret meeting between German and French leaders had been sug­gested two days ear­lier by Laval, an out­spoken pro­po­nent of state col­labo­ration with Nazi Germany, even pushing his view on Pétain that the Marshal formally enroll France in the Tripartite (Axis) Pact.

      Hitler’s charm offensive took place in his pri­vate rail­car just out­side the town’s train station. For Pétain and Laval it was impor­tant to define a new political rela­tion­ship with Germany, even if it was an unequal one. On Pétain’s agen­da was a re­duc­tion in the war indem­nity France was obliged to pay the vic­tor­ious Germans. Pétain also wanted Hitler to release the 1-1/2 million French pri­soners of war who were still in POW camps, held hostage to enforce German terms on France. Pétain and Laval were assured that France could expect con­ces­sions if an acceptable agreement on collaboration was negotiated.

      The famous hand­shake between Hitler and Pétain was photo­graphed, and Joseph Goeb­bels’ Nazi propa­ganda ministry made much use of the photo to gain sup­port from French civil­ians. A week later, when Pétain publicized his meeting with Hitler, the Marshal made collab­o­ra­tion Vichy state policy, declaring on French radio: “I enter today on the path of collab­o­ra­tion” (“J’entre au­jourd’hui dans la voie de la col­lab­o­ra­tion”), and in­viting his coun­try­men to join him on the jour­ney. Five years later, in 1945, Pétain was handed over to the pro­vi­sional French government headed by his wartime nemesis, Gen. Charles de Gaulle.”

  3. Juan,

    you also write that “Roosevelt despised the Vichy, and ultimately his troops defeated it.”

    I believe this also is not true.

    Until the US were forced by Japan to join the war, Roosevelt established a good relationship with Vichy, which caused great difficulty with de Gaulle, whom Roosevelt did not trust and tried to sideline until Paris was retaken from the germans and de Gaulle strongly established his government.

    • Roosevelt in 1940 was trying to avoid war; not a sign he liked Fascism. He sent troops soon thereafter to kill those Vichy troops in N. Africa who would not stand down.

  4. The Nazis didn’t impose Vichy – the French parliament gave full powers to Petain willingly. Roosevelt didn’t mind Vichy. When his troops took Algeria, he wanted to keep De Gaulle out and supported the ex-Vichy governor and maintained the anti-semitic laws. It was a Gaullist terrorist who killed the governor, provoking a change of policy from Roosevelt. There are also not a few Jews who voted for her or at least are happy she got to the second round.

  5. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could put President Trump, Marine Le Pen, President Sisi, President Erdogan, President Rodrigo Duterte, Viktor Orban, the Persian Gulf monarchs and all their rightwing advisors and supporters on an island to set up a closed society, to build a beautiful wall around the whole island, stop immigration, ban abortion and family planning, deny science and global warming (until the whole island was submerged in the sea) and leave the rest of us all alone!

  6. Le Pen’s platform is scarcely fascist. It is more like France for the French and in that sense it is arguably more a preference for the local over the global, vide Brexit. Generally speaking the US does pretty much all the invading these days but has never itself been subject to invasion and occupation, or even the threat of it. Tides of armies from time immemorial have swept this way and that across the fields of France, pillaging, murdering, destroying. I have lived in the Limousin where most communities, even small villages, possess a well maintained monument to Les Déportés, those who were taken away by the Nazis and often never heard of again. Massive immigration or even the threat of it can awaken dark memories, particularly in rural areas where I understand Le Pen’s support is strong. Fascism, first of all, involves dictatorship, and France is nowhere near such a thing. Fascist is a pejorative term, you can call her many uncomplimentary things and you can abjure her platform, as with Trump, but fascist is a word with a significance all its own in much of Europe. There is an unfortunate tendency these days to ignore cultural differences, seeing all the world as either in harmony with the US or alien in some deeply suspect way, that and attendant efforts to regularise the discrepancy is one reason for declining US popularity,and the perceived need to balance that with exhibitions of military might. As Kipling put it, The wildest dreams of Kew, are facts in Kathmandu.

    • Le Pen is a fascist. Racial hierarchy? Check. Ultra-Nationalism? Check. Xenophobia? Check. State-corporate hegemony? Check. Authoritarianism? Check. Militarism? Check.

      Trump also has fascist tendencies.

      • These are your definitions of fascism, fair enough, but others have different definitions, particularly those who have lived under its heel, and respected dictionaries like Merriam Webster.

        A way of organising a country in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of people and in which the people are not allowed to disagree with the government.

        The word itself is a 20th century construct derived from the Latin word fasces, the rods of authority born before Roman high officials

        • Hi, Nicholas. I lived in Beirut under Syrian Baath occupation. I was personally censored under Baath rules. I know fascism when I see it.

        • As an ideology, fascism is a populist but anti-egalitarian critique of capitalism, essentially decrying markets only to the extent that they fail to preserve traditional caste inequalities, and demanding all forms of power be concentrated in the hands of traditional “patriotic” elites, meaning local landlords and clergy, at the expense of urban elites and minorities. It can be seen as a demand of the lower levels of the “master race” to have their tribal leaders restore their primacy, in the manner of a conquering tribe over the conquered, with private property and markets working around that as best they can.

          As a ruling system, fascism in our experience has always involved a sellout to the most right-wing capitalist elites. The terms of this included the requirement of the capitalists to be completely compliant to the state – but for the workers and peasants to be completely compliant to the capitalists. Meaning, the capitalists produce what the state demands, but are handsomely rewarded for doing so since they have total control over labor, all the way to slavery.

          Of course fascists on the path to power look very different than they do once in power. Your omission is the role of the populist mob as a covert tool of regime enforcement. Since I look at fascism primarily from its racist component, I can see the similarities of White supremacism in the Jim Crow South, the Third Reich, and Apartheid South Africa. Part of that is the romanticization of armed ancestors and the implied threat of their re-mobilization. The KKK, the Brownshirts, and the Broederbund of South Africa in a sense were the polity of these regimes, the henchmen classes whose grievances had brought them to power.

          Thus from their point of view, there is no dictatorship, because the regime reflects their tribal consciousness and consent. The rights of others are where we get into racial ideology and exclusionism. The Jim Crow South wasn’t a dictatorship if you were White, but it was if you were Black.

          Enough of these aspirations are apparent in the arc of authoritarian movements reaching across the White world with startling suddenness that we should not refuse to look back at the mechanics of fascism. You say there’s no dictatorship yet. It only takes one emergency decree and the right combination of oligarch and henchman support to change everything, like in America in 1876 and South Africa in 1948.

        • “What constitutes a definition of fascism and fascist governments is a highly disputed subject that has proven complicated and contentious. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets.”
          link to en.wikipedia.org

          “…born…” u mean “borne”, I believe. ;-)

  7. For a good account of one of the least-known bits of World War II, there is Colin Smith’s “England’s Last War Against France” – an account of the extent of the fighting between Britain and Vichy France, largely played out in the Middle East.

    The Vichy regime was a Fascist junta in all but name, and the British were worried – among other things – that the French fleet would fall into German hands, or even that France would re-enter the war on the side of the Germans.

  8. … the Bill Clinton of France, Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen …

    Given that choice, France is screwed either way. Not as grotesque as the Clinton-Trump choice but bad enough.

    • So if say, the choice facing the world in World War 2 was Adolf Hitler versus Tom Dewey you don’t think that’s enough of a difference to be worth dying for? You’re not accepting the trend line of how much worse the Right is getting from year to year.

  9. Regardless of whether Le Pen is fascist or not, I will be hoping for a Macron victory. Also, I forgot to quote defitions of fascism. Note: Liberalism in the quotes mean what modern Americans would call Libertarianism.

    F. A. Hayek definition
    F.A. Hayek, in his book The Road to Serfdom, argued that socialism and national socialism had similar roots. “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion.” In this he means intellectual roots. Professor Werner Sombart in particular was hailed as a Marxist and was persecuted for his beliefs but later rejected internationalism and pacifism in favor of German militarism and nationalism. He became an intellectual force for national socialism early on. Professor Johann Plenge, another early national socialist intellectual, saw national socialism as a German adaptation of socialism. Paul Lensch was a socialist politician in the Reichstag who argued for central control of the economy and for militarism that became features of national socialism. Western or English liberalism, which includes the ideas of freedom, community, and equality and rule by parliamentary democracy, is anathema in a true Germany, he wrote, where power should belong to the whole, everyone is given his place, and one either obeys or commands. Oswald Spengler in his early writings advocated many of the ideas shared by German socialists at this time. Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, patron saint of national socialism, as Hayek calls him, claimed that World War I was a war between liberalism and socialism and that socialism lost. Like Plenge and Lensch, he saw national socialism as socialism adapted to the German character and undefiled by Western ideas of liberalism. Benito Mussolini’s political origins are also socialist, being a leader in the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) before founding the first National Fascist Party.

    Linda/Morris Tannehill definition
    “Fascism is a system in which the government leaves nominal ownership of the means of production in the hands of private individuals but exercises control by means of regulatory legislation and reaps most of the profit by means of heavy taxation. In effect, fascism is simply a more subtle form of government ownership than is socialism. ” — The Market for Liberty

    Fascism and Liberalism (quote from Fascism and Idelogy page of Wikipedia instead)
    Fascism is strongly opposed to liberalism. Fascists accuse liberalism as being the cause of despiritualization of human beings and transforming them into materialistic beings in which the highest ideal is moneymaking. In particular, fascism opposes liberalism for its materialism, rationalism, individualism, and utilitarianism. Fascists believe that the liberal emphasis on individual freedom produces national divisiveness. Mussolini directed his criticism not against modern, Keynesian liberalism, but the older form of classical liberalism, due to its individualistic nature, writing: “Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; . . . It is opposed to classical Liberalism . . . Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual.” Fascists and Nazis, however, support a type of hierarchical individualism in the form of Social Darwinism, because they believe it promotes “superior individuals” and weeds out “the weak”.

    One issue where Fascism is in accord with liberalism is in its support of private property rights and the existence of a market economy. Although Fascism sought to “destroy the existing political order,” it had tentatively adopted the economic elements of liberalism, but “completely denied its philosophical principles and the intellectual and moral heritage of modernity.” Due to the economic hardships that resulted from “War Communism,” which almost toppled the leadership of Soviet Russia in 1921, fascists in Germany and Italy followed the examples of Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which had endorsed “state capitalism” and permitted the public to trade, buy and sell for “private profit.” Although the Bolsheviks were averse to the principles of open markets and profit, they were nonetheless forced by dire circumstances to allow “privatization and private initiative” that resulted in a Soviet “mixed economy.” For fascist leaders, following the two economic pillars of Fascism—“productionism” and “syndicalism”—was more important than adhering to ideological commitments that could risk economic collapse and mass unemployment that had plagued Lenin’s nationalization policies. Moreover, Fascism espoused antimaterialism, which meant that it rejected the “rationalistic, individualistic and utilitarian heritage” that defined the liberal-centric Age of Enlightenment.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    I forgot to put this info in my earlier post.

    • For Christ’s sake, you’re going to use Fascists as a stick to beat socialists with after all the right-wing smears against egalitarianism that prepared the path for Trumpism?

      It’s the acceptance of private property that matters. The fascist is in love with the same past as the libertarian, one simply uses a gun to get there and the other a privatization edict. (Thus Milton Friedman being Pinochet’s mentor.)
      Feudalism – the only real system of serfdom that we’ve ever actually known – began as a process by which the kings swept into tenuous control of post-Roman Europe traded away their sovereign power over parcels of land in exchange for military support from those landlords able to raise their own forces. But this became formalized as a hereditary monopoly over state offices by the big landlords, who after all were the capitalists of their time. Much of this also happened in ancient Japan, and I suspect in other kingdoms as well.

      That’s what I see when I see privatization of state services and property underway, supported by Christian “libertarians” like Betsy DeVos and her brother Erik Prince.

      • I would argue that we are living in a system of serfdom today. That’s what the student debt crisis is all about. Many of today’s students will be tethered to jobs (if they’re lucky) by a permanent debt that began before they knew what they were getting into. That’s serfdom — a loss of freedom due to a debt which for all practical purposes can never be retired.

        Perhaps not coincidentally, the inequalities of wealth and lifestyle we see today are also probably comparable to that earlier era of serfdom.

  10. De Gaulle was in a difficult position. France signed an armistice with Germany, which meant that it automatically became neutral. Other countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, the Netherlands, formed governments in exile, which enabled them to continue fighting, generally as part of Britain’s armed forces. De Gaulle was – in the eyes of the French government – a rebel and a traitor, and consequently had enormous difficulties in raising his Free French forces until the tide of war began to turn in the Allies’ favour.

  11. I’m told that the Morrocan anti colonial movement evacuated Jews from the coastal cities to the Atlas during WW2 so that the Vichy regime couldn’t cart them off.

    • The Moroccan king pushed back against Vichy inquiries about surrendering his Jews to them, but he wasn’t very powerful. There isn’t any doubt that most Muslims were appalled at the idea.

    • US troops took heavy fire, and casualties, from loyalist Vichy French troops in North Africa. Admittedly, some of them went over to de Gaulle and laid down their arms. The children of those Vichy troops firing on American GIs in Morocco and Algeria formed Le Pen’s National Front. I am shocked that some readers are resisting these obvious facts.

      • It does seem that the overarching agenda of a lot of your respondents is to look the other way while monsters destroy the Western capitalist order they have proven pathetically too weak to reform themselves. They will believe any crazy thing – Trump the peacemaker, Putin the progressive, any 3rd-world despot with a Swiss bank account and anti-American rhetoric as a hero of socialism – as long as it opens the tiniest crack of daylight in an order that, for all its crimes, is a vast improvement on the rapacious colonial empires of the Victorian Age and their inevitable slide into war with each other.

        And none of them will address my endless remarks about this. They call me a dupe, but they won’t explain how a future restored to the objective conditions of 1914 will be a utopia of peace and prosperity. Maybe because then they’d have to expose whether they’re really on the Left or the Right, and as we’ve seen lately, the fake news machine depends greatly on confusing those things to melt radicals in general into a giant swamp of paranoia and cynicism that bogs down everyone else.

      • Juan,

        don’t be so simplistic. Fighting for your country does not make you a fascist.

        French soldiers in Algeria and Morocco were ordered to fight a foreign army (the US) invading their country, and so they did. What would you expect ?

        The same soldiers ( or at least those the GIs had not killed) later fought alongside the US in Tunisia, Sicily, mainland Italy, France, and all the way to Germany.

        • Some officers and soldiers were Vichy loyalists and never did support the allies. Their ‘country’ was Nazi occupied, so is that what they were fighting for? And some of these officers and troops went on to genocide the Algerians. The FN has very, very smelly origins.

  12. I never imagined the day would come when the US President would conspire with Russia to destabilize the West. It borders on treason.

    • The question is, what are they intending to replace the “West” with? A White Bloc like the strange coalition of fascist regimes that existed in Eastern Europe during that brief moment before Hitler sacrificed it to his need to invade Russia? It has been pointed out that if Hitler had resisted that urge, he could have used his hegemony to mold those regimes into a sort of evil twin of NATO.

  13. Ironically Trump is so widely despised in Europe, the endorsement will not help but handicap her.

  14. “We are living in an alternate universe not so different from Philip K. Dick’s “Man in a High Castle.” The Nazis won after all.”

    Huh! it’s only taken the rest of us 70+ years to figure it out.

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