Liberal France vents anger at Le Pen

The Jewish woman - in her fifties, immaculately dressed - emerged from her synagogue at 7pm on Saturday to find the Avenue de la Paix littered with tear-gas canisters, broken bottles and smashed paving stones.

She stared for a moment along the deserted avenue at the massed ranks of the CRS riot police. "Quelle bande de salauds [what a bunch of bastards]", she said. She glanced the other way at the group of 500 French and German anarchists who had just been repulsed by the CRS, smashing windows as they fled. "Quel espece de voyous, [what a bunch of hooligans]," she muttered. Then she recalled, with a wail, that her son, David, had been taking part in the large, anti-National Front demonstration in Strasbourg that afternoon. "If he's been hurt, I'll throw a bomb at that bastard Le Pen myself," she announced, and stumped off home through the broken glass.

A plague on almost all your houses was an apt summary of much of what happened in Strasbourg at the weekend. More than 50,000 people - many more than the organisers expected - took part in a loose, shambling but mostly good-humoured demonstration against the presence in the city of the tenth national congress of the far-right French National Front (FN). But, as the demonstration was due to end, a crowd of young men and women, carrying anarchist flags and banners, broke away from the approved route and attacked the riot police ringing the Palais des Congres where the FN was meeting.

The main demonstration had been a success. It was partly a promenade for the tribes of the French left, marching separately like floats in a carnival: the Socialists, the Communists, the ecologists and the feminists.But there was also an impressive turnout of ordinary French people, young and old, who wanted to state their revulsion of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The violence was limited. It continued with the gratuitous smashing of shop windows in the city centre, another tear-gas charge and 40 arrests.

But this was enough to allow Mr Le Pen to claim that the real threat to democracy in France was not the FN, but the forces of "professional anti-racism" which refused to allow a "democratic party" to meet in peace.

A democratic party? By their friends you shall know them. Part of yesterday's conference was given over to fraternal greetings from some of the nastiest fringe groups in Europe, including a Mussolini-supporting outfit from Italy, and one of the most extremist Serb militias.

From Britain came a fulsome message of praise from Gregory Lauder-Frost, of the Western Goals Foundation - described fictitiously to the FN-delegates as a Conservative Party group. Mr Le Pen announced that he was working towards uniting all these rightist groups - Belgian, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak - into a Europe-wide organisation called Euronat. He acknowledged that many of them hated each other, and had ill-tempered claims on each others' territory but, he said, "that does not stop them from being our friends".

A democratic party? Mr Le Pen was re-elected president yesterday afternoon by loud acclaim. There were no other candidates. What could be more democratic than that? The personal rivalries and tensions below the surface unity of the party were poorly disguised, however. Bruno Megret (the de facto Number Two of the FN, and architect of the pivotal mayoral victory last month in Vitrolles, near Marseilles, topped the poll for the 104 members of the central committee. But throughout yesterday's session he was damned with faint praise and suffered one minor snub after another.

Mr Le Pen made his usual litany of complaints about the snubs, lies, insults, plots and provocations which the FN suffers as the hands of the French political establishment and media.

In a conscious and vulgar provocation of his own, Mr Le Pen went on to compare this alleged victimisation of his party to the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis.

For a man who claims not to be anti-semitic, Mr Le Pen finds it necessary to refer to Jews rather often. He complained at one point that President Francois Mitterrand had attended an anti-Front demonstration "surrounded by Israeli flags".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Arts and Entertainment
music
News
news

Sport
football

Follow the latest news and score as Chelsea take on Maribor at Stamford Bridge.

Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album