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".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable