The French patriotic Right has always had trouble unifying into one strong voice that speaks for French interests. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, destroyed his own chances through his deliberate and well-timed provocations and his refusal to give up his one-clan rule of the FN. Determined to stay on as party leader, though he is now 80 years old, Le Pen denies to anyone outside the Le Pen family the opportunity of taking control. He even forces his daughter Marine to kill precious time as she waits for her father to give up his personal stranglehold over the party (although Marine's bad ideas were largely responsible for the FN's poor showing in the presidential election).
Over time many disgruntled and disillusioned party members broke with Le Pen and eventually formed a new party: the Nouvelle Droite Populaire (NDP), headed by Jean-François Touzé, which has as its goal a nationalist agenda founded on stopping the Islamization of France and restoring national identity, minus the provocative remarks that discredited the FN. Among these remarks were the well-publicized anti-Semitic cracks, as well as statements condoning the possession of nuclear reactors by Iran, and several attacks on the US, including one where he called 9/11 an "incident."
It now turns out that the NDP has split in two, with the ouster of Touzé, accused of being "pro-American" – what the French term "Atlantiste". This came about as a result of his comments condemning the "visceral" anti-American reaction on the part of the NDP to the events in Georgia, where Russia asserted her nationalist interests in the face of America's pro-European, pro-Georgian, pro-NATO and pro-oil-based interests. The French blogger Yves Daoudal has this brief:
Jean-François Touzé was "general secretary" of the Nouvelle Droite Populaire. On September 13, he was "placed in a minority" due to his "liberal and pro-American positions that run contrary to the great majority of members of the party." And he did not change his "behavior". "The Statutory Bureau of the NDP therefore decided, by virtue of article 8 of the statutes, to proceed in the exclusion of Jean-François Touzé from the party for grave errors." This measure became effective "September 17, 2008 at 2:00 p.m."
Jean-François Touzé immediately announced the creation of a new party...
Touzé's new party is the Nouvelle Droite Républicaine, or NDR. How the NDR and the NDP will ever combine in a united front is not clear, although on certain issues they may agree. The NDP is now more than ever oriented toward a philosophy of ethnic identity, preservation of national preferences, French sovereignty (without breaking from the EU), and suspicion (to say the least) of America. While a sense of ethnic identity is essential to the resurgence of nationalism, there are dangers it will have to avoid, if it doesn't want to be shunned and marginalized as the FN was. Robert Spieler now heads the NDP.
Touzé has, from the start of the NDP, been ridiculed by Le Pen's FN. In fact a satirical website that parodies the NDP was launched to discredit the party. It can be safely assumed that the FN was behind this parody.
Touzé runs the risk of becoming another Philippe de Villiers: good ideas, weak personality, no public support.
As for the NDP, it is now steered by its general delegate Robert Spieler, a powerful regional voice for French nationalism and sovereignty, and for many years a dedicated fighter for his region of Alsace and his city of Strasbourg. A man who does not mince his words, he is possibly the one who can steer the NDP into the national landscape, while avoiding the pitfalls, but not ugly truths if they cannot be avoided. I will try to have more about Spieler (who at one time belonged to the FN but left to establish the regionalist party Alsace d’Abord, which belongs to the Cities against Islamisation network) in the future, especially if he succeeds in gaining some national recognition. Before I move on, just a mention about a website I discovered through Spieler's own site. Called Causeur, it is a forum for fiercely nationalistic Alsatian writers and activists. French readers might enjoy browsing the site.
Meanwhile, another nationalist party formed in 1998, the MNR or Mouvement National Républicain, that splintered from the FN, with Bruno Mégret as leader, has also cashiered two of its leaders. Bruno Mégret himself supposedly left politics in May 2008, turning leadership over to Alain Vauzelle, Nicolas Bay and Annick Martin among others. When Touzé formed his NDP, the MNR announced it would not meld with the new initiative, but remain at a distance, participating only in a selective way. Again Yves Daoudal reports:
A few days ago we suddenly had two NDP's. Now there are also two MNR's.
According to a communiqué from the ("new") MNR: "Bruno Mégret, who had announced four months ago that he was leaving politics and claimed to be living abroad, showed up without warning at a meeting of the National Bureau of the MNR that met today in Paris." He initiated a motion of exclusion directed at the general secretary Nicolas Bay and his adjunct Jacques Gaillard, who, with 8 others "urged the members of the MNR to continue their fight with them, and to rally to the movement called National Convergence, thus remaining faithful to the political goals of the MNR".
Mercifully, Daoudal points out that "National Convergence" was the name given to a group founded by Nicolas Bay and Jean-François Touzé before the NDP...
And so we have the NDP (minus Touzé, but with Spieler), the NDR (with Touzé), the original MNR (with an obviously engaged Mégret) and the National Convergence, about which I know nothing at all, except that Nicolas Bay (about whom I know nothing) is in it.
How are the French people to make any sense of this nonsense? How can the National Right ever assert itself as a force to be reckoned with? Those still loyal to Le Pen laugh at all this and see in it the predictable consequence of abandoning the only figure they regard as able to win any votes at all: Jean-Marie Le Pen!
Finally, what is the split in the MNR about, philosophically speaking? There is a long list of accusations published at the (original) MNR website. Here is just a brief synopsis:
Mr. Bay and Mr. Gaillard are responsible for at least three series of grave errors with respect to the MNR:
– They openly and repeatedly flouted the leadership committee ("direction collégiale") that was instituted by the National Council, as well as the statutory agencies of the MNR, thus compromising the unity of the party.
– They accumulated a history of initiatives that run contrary to the desires of the MNR agencies that were created by virtue of statutes, and approved through voting, during the last meeting of the National Council, thus destabilizing the party.
– They have, through their actions and their words, displayed a strategy that aims to put a rapid end to the very existence of the MNR in favor of an organization that they control personally.
– Moreover they are not up to date on their dues – Mr. Gaillard is six months behind, Mr. Bay one year.
French readers can consult the article linked for a detailed report on the accusations – it looks as if Bay wanted to seize complete control. Whether he had justification is beyond my knowledge at this point, but after Mégret, the MNR was run by a "college" of members, to prevent any one man from seizing the reins.
And so a Nationalist Right in pieces will have to fight the combined forces of Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialists.
In addition, we have the lone rangers: Philippe de Villiers and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan...