France Both left and right

French populist movements tend to become confused, mixing hard-right arguments and policies with leftist Jacobin centralist protectionism

French populism, old or new, is defined by a xenophobic nationalism linked with outright racism, recently imbued with anti-system ideologies to attract the working classes. The most well-known is the National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen, on the far right. Yet, there is also a populist nationalist leader on the “left of the left,” in Jean-Luc Mélenchon – a presidential candidate who evokes the sovereignty of the people and comparable to Podemos in Spain.

Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to woo votes directly from the National Front with his own populism that he assumed would scare the traditional republican right voters into supporting him, but lost to François Fillon in the primaries, who ignored populist rhetoric.

Sociologist and historian Pierre-André Taguieff defines FN populism as “the call to all people, without distinction of class, ideology or culture, to join forces within a national framework.” What is disturbing to many is that the message can be extrapolated to other European movements. Beyond its xenophobic and racist populism, it borrows ideas and slogans from the left in its social policies. Le Pen's message is aimed at the same disadvantaged voter as the extreme left. What both ends of the spectrum have in common is their unflappable anti-Europe stance.

Marine Le Pen President of the National Front and presidential candidate
“Foreigners will no longer be able to enjoy social welfare services, free health and education in France as they have done until now.”

Local populism

In Northern Catalonia, a group with no social ideology has been formed; the Oui au Pays Catalan. With elements from both left and right, its aim is to thwart any possibility of the formation of an Occitaine region.

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