February 22, 2016
Translated from Russian by Kristina Kharlova
KK: In 2013 Yuri Kovalenko from Russian “Culture” spoke with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s National Front, about immigration, the fate of European Union and his views about Russia. This interview has not been translated into English before and is still relevant today. Some of Le Pen’s forecasts turned out to be prophetic.
Although Jean-Marie Le Pen is known for his controversial statements in the mainstream media, the spectrum of his views represent the evolution of French and European nationalism and show that it may take on many shapes, which often threaten the establishment.
In his youth Jean-Marie Le Penn fought in wars in Indochina, Algeria and Egypt. In 1956 he became the youngest member of French Parliament, and since 1974 ran in presidential elections five times.
In 2002 elections he achieved the greatest success reaching the second round with nearly 17%. Ardent nationalist and eurosceptic, he was then almost called a “fascist”, yet millions of French did not believe in this “black PR” and pinned the hopes for the revival of the old France on him.
Culture: Your political life has lasted for six decades. What are you most proud of?
Le Pen: First of all, founding the National Front in 1972, which became an important political movement. Fighting for the national idea for all these years, which was completely abandoned by other parties.
Culture: I remember during one of our conversations you told me that the only worthy goal for a politician is to gain power. So, have you been defeated?
Le Pen: No, I don’t think so. The political struggle never ends and is not limited by a lifetime of one person. I think the National Front will come to power in dire circumstances, when the perpetrators of France’s decline will run so they don’t have to answer for the crimes committed.
Culture: Is your daughter, Marine, who succeeded you as the head of the National Front, a worthy heiress?
Le Pen: She’s not a heiress. Marine was elected by a democratic process. But of course, she and our entire movement follow in my footsteps, adhering to national values related to our land, history, culture, family.
Culture: Your party has been accused of racism and xenophobia since its inception…
Le Pen: These accusations are ridiculous and completely unfounded. When I was elected deputy of the National Assembly in 1956, the second on my list was a black Frenchman. I was the first to endorse an Arab candidate for a deputy in Paris in 1957.
Culture: Do you still stand by the slogan “First — the French”?
Le Pen: In my country we must first take care of the French – providing work, housing, social insurance. That’s normal. A man thinks primarily about himself, about his loved ones, his neighbors and compatriots. This does not mean that we should not help the disadvantaged in other countries. France itself was not always a rich country. It has achieved everything with hard work. My grandfather and grandmother could neither read nor write. My mother was a peasant who walked to school for seven kilometers from home barefoot. My grandfather was a fisherman…
Culture: Any person born in America becomes American citizen. Why are you against the automatic granting of French citizenship to those born in France?
Le Pen: I am against the “right of the soil”. A goat born in a stable does not become a horse. French citizenship was distributed too generously. In the five years of his reign Nicolas Sarkozy granted it to 750 thousand people. Don’t forget that for the last four decades 350 thousand foreigners arrived in France every year. We must add the children born to them to these figures… France is the only country in the world where foreigners are treated much better than own citizens. Say, a 63-year-old man, who never worked in France can come to our country and is entitled to a monthly pension of 720 euros.
Culture: How many foreigners are there in France today?
Le Pen: It is difficult to establish their number, since there was no census. According to the estimates of the National Statistics Institute, there are 12 million foreigners in France [as of 2013 – FR]. A former minister of Social Equality Azzouz Behag believes that 20 million Muslims live in the country. I think these numbers are true. In 1945 the population of France was 40 million, today it is 65 million. Because we have a low birth rate, the replenishment came from other countries.
Culture: In the National Assembly you have only two deputies, including your 23-year-old granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen. [as of 2013 – FR]
Le Pen: You can blame the scandalous electoral system unique in Europe. In all European countries, representative bodies are chosen by proportional representation — except in England, where there is a majority system in one round. Our candidates are beaten in the elections by the majority system in two rounds because of the arrangement between the left and the right together to act against the National Front. So in this respect France can not be called a democratic country.
Culture: Why do you see immigration as the main threat to France?
Le Pen: Not only France, but the entire Europe. Sooner or later the immigrants will be in the majority. It will happen soon enough. In addition, they often join the Islamist movements. Finally, we are awaiting massive immigration of the Gypsies. Only in Bulgaria and Romania there is almost a million of them…
Culture: Is it still possible to fight illegal immigration or is it too late?
Le Pen: The first poster of the National Front, released forty years ago, said: “Together – before it is too late!” Never too late to start a good deed, but it would be better to do it sooner.
Culture: According to all forecasts, aging Europe will not survive without the influx of labor force
Le Pen: This was played by our businessmen. They used immigration to lower wages. For forty years we were talking about hard physical work being poorly paid. A priori, I’m not against immigration, but I wish we had the opportunity to control it.
Culture: But what can we do to keep immigration under control?
Le Pen: The issue is, if Europe has retained such an important resource as childbearing. We need proper and daring policy in this area. If the resource is exhausted, the Old continent is doomed. Along with this, we must block the borders, expel illegal immigrants, denying their benefits. We should tell them: “If you want to visit us, to see the country, its museums, live in our hotels and go to our restaurants, then welcome! But if you come with other goals, than you have no right— to free education, and social or medical assistance.”
Culture: However, France for centuries has been a refuge for immigrants from different countries, including Russia.
Le Pen: European nations have been shaped by different events. Without the revolution of 1917 there would be no Russian emigration in France. Some returned, many stayed. And together with the Spaniards, the Portuguese and other Europeans, Russians assimilated well. This is because we have a lot in common. We are bound by culture, religion, customs.
Culture: What are your impressions of Russia, where you have repeatedly visited?
Le Pen: Yes, I was welcomed at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Writers Union. I gave lectures in Moscow and at Omsk University and met with prominent figures. With father Tikhon (Shevkunov) we talked about God and the Holy Rus. One day after a trip to your country I was asked what struck me most in Russia. “That everyone looks like me on the Moscow subway,” – I replied. In your country I can pass for a Russian.
Culture: Gerard Depardieu moved to our lands…
Le Pen: You got the best of what we have (laughs). Depardieu has made a spectacular gesture, but he is an excellent ambassador of French culture.
Culture: What are the implications of the Arab spring for Europe?
Le Pen: Most dramatic. I am lost why the Americans, who are at the roots of these changes, with the help of their loyal English and French allies are replacing secular powers with Islamists in the Arab world? Probably, it corresponds to a strategy aimed at destroying countries from the inside. It has already happened in Libya. Now they are trying to achieve the same — unsuccessfully — in Syria.
Culture: Is France an independent player in the world? Why Nicolas Sarkozy took the country back to NATO?
Le Pen: He was flattered when he was called “the American”, was welcomed in the United States. France is an American satellite. Paris is doing what Americans don’t want to do. Monsieur Hollande is as well suited to the role of commando, as I am for the role of a nun. He is not finished with Mali, but now threatens to go to war with Syria. Personally, I think Assad will win.
Culture: You scare everyone with the advent of Islam.
Le Pen: After WWII there were 400 thousand Muslims and one mosque in France for two or three decades. Today there are three thousand mosques. The government is afraid of an event, which could blow up the suburbs. Not so long ago the former Ambassador of one of the Arab countries at UNESCO warned me: “Don’t underestimate the power of the uprising of French Muslims”. In 2005 a rebellion has swept a hundred of our cities.
Culture: Yes, and some sociologists predict a new violent outbreak in the suburbs.
Le Pen: It should not be excluded. There are people who came to France, but don’t love it. I recall the famous slogan “Love it or leave it”. We didn’t invite you. So think the majority of the French.
Culture: Is the severe crisis in the West caused by the end of the Golden age of capitalism?
Le Pen: The age of banking and financial capitalism is over. We call its representatives “the banksters”. Capitalism must seek new forms. We continue to support free enterprise, but do not want the dictatorship of financial institutions. I don’t think our government is able to rectify the situation. There is a Norman saying: “Would like to, but can’t.”
Culture: Can Western democracies solve their socio-economic problems in times of crisis?
Le Pen: In this matter I am with Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others”. Let’s try to improve it.
Culture: You are a staunch eurosceptic. Is it necessary to save the EU?
Le Pen: In 1957 I voted against the Treaty of Rome (the document laid the foundation of the European economic community. — “Culture”). I was told that the Treaty of Rome is progress in economic terms. I read the writings of contemporary theorists of European integration. They argued that such a Treaty is the beginning of a process that will complete the formation of the United States of Europe. But I believed it’s foolish to copy the United States. And, by the way, I am against what I call the “Soviet Union of Europe”. Remember that 80 percent of French laws are adopted not by the national Parliament, but by Brussels.
Culture: The number of Europeans who would like to abandon the Euro and return to national currencies is growing. Is that a way to get out of the crisis?
Le Pen: We must exit the Euro zone. We were ‘sold’ the United Europe as a means of achieving freedom, peace, security and prosperity. Today, however, the ‘Euroland ‘has the lowest economic growth in the world. As a result we have achieved the opposite of what we were promised. So, we are on the wrong track. We should quickly hit the brakes, back up, reach the fork and turn where we can get out of the crisis.
Culture: Is there such a road?
Le Pen: It can be a “Europe of Homelands” (the idea of General de Gaulle put forward in contest to the concept of a “Fatherland Europe”. — “Culture”) or a European Confederation, which would include Russia and other Eastern European countries. We have to much to work on together to save our skin.
Culture: Have you already invented the rescue model?
Le Pen: I am a supporter of the so-called “boreal” space (related to countries with the temperate climate in the Northern hemisphere. — “Culture”) that has common interests and faces common threats. This model, of course, should not be a slavish copy of the European Union. Russia may lose Siberia without the support of Western Europe. But without Siberia, this great geopolitical space, the Old continent will disappear. The West and Russia are united by two common interconnected threats. First, the population of Russia annually loses a million souls, but we are surviving largely due to high birth rates among immigrants. The second danger is a global demographic explosion. Well, the principle of communicating vessels carries a big threat to EU countries that have abolished national borders.
Culture: In short, Russia is a natural friend and ally of France…
Le Pen: Without a doubt. I always fought against communism, but never mixed Russian people with this system. Our two countries have always been linked by mutual sympathy. Not for nothing Anna Yaroslavna became the French Queen. I will never forget that in 1815 Tsar Alexander I prevented Metternich and his friends from dismembering France at the Congress of Vienna. Finally, we have high regard for President Putin. We believe that Russia needed such a leader. And France should not lecture Russia on this.
Culture: You knew many prominent figures of Russian emigration…
Le Pen: Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and his wife were present at my wedding. I knew Serge Lifar, many other famous Russians. And I knew not only the immigrants. In Moscow a few years ago, I was invited to meet the former KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov. A very well informed person.
Culture: At home you have your portrait by Ilya Glazunov signed: “Jean-Mari Le Pen, the loyal son of France”.
Le Pen: I met Ilya in 1968. He came to my exhibition in Paris and got stuck during the May student riots. Because my worldview was closer to him than that of the French Communists, we became friends, and now we have a brotherly relationship.
Culture: Who is your favorite historical figure?
Le Pen: Joan of Arc — the greatest hero of France. At the trial in Rouen she was asked:
– Joan, did the Lord God tell us to love your neighbor?
– Yes, it’s true!
– Do you love the English?
– I love them when they are at their home.
Culture: What politician do you respect the most?
Le Pen: Jean-Marie Le Pen (laughs). Don’t see anyone else. Among French politicians there are those who I can tolerate. Others were not able to implement key reforms and brought the country to collapse. They only contributed to immigration and ostracized our National
Front, as if we are enemy No. 1.
Culture: Are you a happy politician and a person?
Le Pen: I don’t feel happy when I think about the future of Europe and France. If you objectively analyze the situation, then all is lost. But we are the people who by the will of providence have been on top before. We have no right to give up and must continue the fight.