The text below was presented during the “Beat Le Pen” (BLP) Forum, hosted by l’École de la Cause freudienne, on April 22, 2022, two days before the second and final round of the French presidential election between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Many speakers presented during the two nights of the BLP (April 21-22, 2022). This is the first of four presentations from that event that LRO will publish in the coming days.

In her speech on 22 February in Reims, Marine Le Pen (henceforth referred to as MLP) held forth on her obsession with dispossession and her wish to give French people back their country by making them the custodians of the right to define who can be French and to take it to the people by means of a referendum proposed by popular initiative. This plebiscitary practice, which claims to give significant legislative power to the people, can legitimately give rise to fears that by establishing the street, the crowd­, with such a power of decree, a certain lynch mob mentality could acquire the force of law. In a broadcast on Studio Lacan, Blandine Kriegel showed the excesses and errors of this power given to the crowd in the name of the majority rule, which is what brought Hitler to power. Thus, power in the hands of the people – which is also expressed by MLP in the expression make the French masters of their own house – is not a guarantee of democracy (liberal democracy, at any rate), and even less of the maintenance of the republic’s institutions, which are seen as rivals to this will of the majority. Prioritising referendums over institutions is how the framework of the rule of law is torn apart, and with it, one of the most consequential obstacles to the establishment of a real fascist power, because the state and its institutions are, in fact, the only safeguards left against the fascist threat.

It is therefore a question of giving the French back control of their own country, just as it is a question of giving them back France, but also their security, their money and their pride. In Reims, the cradle of the royal coronation, the restitution is also carried out under the auspices of the condemnation of the “Macronic-Orange Republic”. Behind the satirical reference to Kubrick’s film [the French title of A Clockwork Orange is Orange-Mecanique], the monarchical and anti-Masonic Action Française is sneaking in. The restitution desired by MLP is only valid here in the context of a France of yore, a France of long-ago in which, in a time that cannot be specified, the French supposedly possessed their country, their security, their pride, as their own property. This idealisation is illustrative of a relation to History based on negation, since time does not exist in it, except to mark the advent of MLP as a moment of rebirth. Speaking of negation, the master signifier give back or return  comes to resonate singularly with the censored chapter of Vichy, which was marked by the spoliation of Jewish property: in 1997, Gollnich and Dumez, the FN elected representatives of Lyon, were the only two to vote against the setting up of a commission of enquiry into the spoliation of Jewish property.

Paxton said of fascism that it was more recognisable in acts than in speeches. This is all the more true since the speeches, as we see, are based on a permanent blurring of values, where the reading is done by inversion of terms, as Stéphane Wahnich noted: for protection read threat, for restitution read spoliation, for false read true (during the debate with Mr. Macron, MLP affirmed several times that it was false that she had taken out a loan in Russia, then admitted to paying it back).

This blurring is not, however, a simple inversion, but, as this obsessive signifier “give back” shows, rather the mark in language of the persistence of a certain relationship to History that was readily admitted to be revisionist or even negationist in the time of MLP’s father [Jean-Marie Le Pen]: while now careful to avoid using words that kill, words are used to kill words. Thus, in order to finally put an end to the spoliation of what rightfully belongs to the French, MLP advocates nationalising the motorways.

This signature relation to History comes straight from the language that Jean-Marie Le Pen uses in the second volume of his memoirs, published in 2019. From a detail of history at Carpentras, he returns to the great moments of his saga and proceeds to the history of the demonisation of his movement, revising his revisions, legitimising the “detail of History” from the very definition of the word detail. The detail is part of a whole: part of the war, of the tragedy, the genocide is therefore part of this whole, therefore a detail. Why did we make such a big deal of it? In this game of fools, the best way to spot the details is still through acts. The acts that sometimes ooze from words, as the term “relocation” of foreigners suggests. If Paxton’s remark insists on the act more than on the discourse, then it also gives us pause for thought in relation to those who argue that MLP poses no real threat because she will not apply her programme. They are not wrong about her economic or social (left-wing) programme, which we saw on Wednesday that she herself was struggling to get her head around, but the ideological programme of the far right, the one that makes the act synonymous with the punch, the kick, that one, history shows that it is always brought to bear, because its cost only falls to those whose skin is not worth much. So on the 24th, it must be Macron, not the bungled action [l’acte manqué], nor the passage à l’acte.

Translated by Peggy Papada

Reviewed by Philip Dravers