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Marine Le Pen; Jean-Marie Le Pen. Photo supplied

The origins of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally

Without this organisation, the Rassemblement National or National Rally, would not exist today.

Published: December 13, 2019, 9:29 am

    When political veterans remember the 50th anniversary of the founding of their party or movement (Ordre Nouveau 1969-1973), they do so with some pride in what they have achieved.

    But there is, of course, another case: activists who have no choice but to admit failure. With regard to the Ordre Nouveau (ON), it is only clear at first glance which of the two categories is involved: Founded in November 1969, it disappeared in 1973 again from the political stage. And not only that, the ON was banned as an anti-state organisation and dissolved.

    This end was anything but random. For the existence of the Ordre Nouveau resulted in a phase of massive domestic conflicts that shook France. Basically, the country had not calmed down at the end of the Second World War. Although the liberation had put an end to the German occupation, it also triggered a covert civil war. The attempts to preserve at least some of the former power status failed.

    The uprising in Algeria made the clashes in France escalate once again. They ended with the downfall of the notoriously unstable Fourth Republic. This was followed by a “Coup de Velours” (Charles de Gaulle) and then the establishment of the Fifth Republic.

    But even this gave the country only a respite, before the middle of the sixties, when a revolutionary left and a revolutionary right violently collided, author Victor-Isaac Anne noted in his op-ed for French weekly Valeurs Actuelles.

    Even if the left had won a victory in “Red May” in 1968, de Gaulle succeeded in the meantime in drawing largely bourgeois and petty-bourgeois France closer to his side. However, it was not ruled out that a massive shock would follow from the other side. To organise that was the aim of the Ordre Nouveau. The leadership was counting on a further escalation of the situation.

    In any case, the violent clashes at the universities and the street fighting between the left and the right in Paris and the other major cities in the country, spoke in favor of this escalation. However, this also meant that the ON should be understood not as a movement made up of the highly fragmented French right, but as an avant-garde.

    The attempt to bring together royalists and traditionalists, nostalgics of the Vichy regime and Algerian French, petty-bourgeois “Poujadists” and men who had gone underground for the organisation Armée Secrète (OAS), did not seem to be promising.

    In addition, the ON did not have a “leader” but was led by a sort of board of directors, in which representatives of an emphatically nationalist or nationalist revolutionary persuasion had gathered.

    A former member noted the “anarchic” feature of the movement, whose image was mainly determined by the “militants”, young men in jeans, black leather jackets, armed with iron bars or clubs, and wearing a motorcycle helmet. The helmets were often marked with a celtic cross, that has been the symbol of French nationalism since the 1950s.

    But otherwise the visual language of the ON seemed very modern. This applied to the color scheme of the posters – especially the unfamiliar violet – and the typeface used, reminiscent of Popart. In addition, at the congresses of the ON, one was reminded of a party congress in Moscow on the one hand, and on the other a science fiction film.

    This corporate design was appealing to a part of the youth, but it was irritating for the mass of the population. The ideological mixture of anti-communism and anti-leagueism found no wider support. In elections, the ON obtained no more than 3,2 percent of the votes, and usually the share was significantly lower.

    This did not lead to resignation during 1972, but to the decision to found a party as a “Republican showcase”. In October of that year, the formation of the Front National (FN) under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen took over, with François Brigneau as vice president and Alain Robert as secretary-general, two cadres of the ON.

    However, the Ordre retained its organisational independence and held a third congress under the title “We are the social, national and revolutionary right”. It was not this type of radicalism that determined the way forward, but the decision to expand cooperation with the FN, so that in the March 1973 parliamentary elections, ON made up about 70 percent of all candidates of the FN.

    The success of this operation remained limited – the party came to just 2,3 percent of the votes – but it was clearly at the time that new developments began and the old constellations of French politics would lose their importance. One week before the dissolution, on June 21, 1973, the Ordre Nouveau held its last big “meeting” entitled “Stop illegal immigration!”

    One of the ON’s alumni recalled that Le Pen considered the subject meaningless at the time. It has no “mobilizing” effect, he said. But the further course of things corrected this assessment.

    The agitation against the influx of foreigners and the transformation of France into a multicultural mosaic has made the Front National, which has been called since 2018 the Rassemblement National (RN), a people’s party.

    The finding of a veteran that the RN would not exist without the Ordre Nouveau, should be viewed in a historical perspective. But it also speaks of the history of political parties, suggesting that they only survive if they conform to the laws of their jungle.

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