Interview with Marine Le Pen: 'I Don't Want this European Soviet Union'
Part 2: 'Xenophobia Is the Hatred of Foreigners. I Don't Hate Anyone'
SPIEGEL: Does the Front National want France to return to the early 1960s: A protectionist state that steers the economy, an authoritarian head of state and less immigration?
Le Pen: It is undeniable that the French were in a better situation then than they are today. I don't look in the rearview mirror. But there was no need for us to experience an end to social progress since then. It makes no sense that we took on 10 million foreigners within a period of 30 years.
SPIEGEL: Do you really think that France can hide from the world?
Le Pen: I'm not talking about autarky. I'm not crazy. We need an intelligent protectionism. We need customs duties again -- though not for countries that have the same social (security) levels as we do. That's fair competition. The problem is the total opening of borders and allowing the law of the jungle to prevail: The further a company goes today to find slaves, which it then treats like animals and pays a pittance, without regard for environmental laws, the more it earns.
SPIEGEL: Is free trade really such a bad thing?
Le Pen: Trade has always existed, but we used to defend our strategic interests. Could you imagine the United States allowing (French engineering giant) Alstom to purchase General Electric? I don't think so. And I don't want (Germany's) Siemens to buy Alstom. I want Alstom to remain French. That is strategically important for my country's independence.
SPIEGEL: But Alstom has major problems.
Le Pen: One could nationalize a company, even if only temporarily, in order to stabilize it.
SPIEGEL: When you took over the Front National in a desolate state from your father in 2011, did you really think that it could become France's strongest party?
Le Pen: Of course, otherwise I wouldn't have done this. If I didn't believe that we had a chance of coming to power, then I would have focused on taking care of my three children or gardening.
SPIEGEL: Since taking over leadership of the party, you have worked on the "de-demonization" of Front National. Have you finally achieved that with this election result?
Le Pen: Certainly among the people. But the elite, of course, continue to defend themselves. But are we treated like every other party? No. Not by the press and certainly not by the political classes.
SPIEGEL: What is the real Front National? On the one hand, you have your young deputy Florian Philippot, a self-described Gaullist. On the other, you have your father, who recently said that "Monseignor Ebola" could solve the global population explosion within three months.
Le Pen: He did not say "could". And that was not his wish, it was merely a concern he expressed. You know, they used to describe Gaullism as being the "metro crowd at rush hour." That's where you find Jean-Marie Le Pen and Florian Philippot, you find craftsmen, heads of companies and civil servants. We want to represent all the French people with ideas that are neither left nor right: patriotism, defense of the identity and sovereignty of the people. If a person like me is described as being extreme-left and extreme-right at the same time, then that isn't far off the mark.
SPIEGEL: Front National is an anti-immigration party. Polls show that immigration is the issue of greatest concern to voters.
Le Pen: Yes, we support putting a stop to immigration.
SPIEGEL: Why such xenophobia?
Le Pen: Xenophobia is the hatred of foreigners. I don't hate anyone.
SPIEGEL: In Germany today, there is far more immigration than in France. Despite this, there are no parties like yours.
Le Pen: We have millions of unemployed and cannot afford any more immigration. Where are they supposed to live? It is not viable.
SPIEGEL: Is your success the product of the failure of the elite? Socialist politician Samia Ghali argues that the French wanted someone who spoke to their hearts and that you, unfortunately, were the only one who did so.
Le Pen: Our political class no longer has any convictions. You can only pass along the beliefs that you hold. They no longer believe in France -- they have a post-national worldview. I call them France-skeptics. That's why democracy is collapsing here in France.
SPIEGEL: Prime Minister Manuel Valls still has convictions. They just aren't the same ones that you have.
Le Pen: I don't believe that. He is a man with no convictions whatsoever, just like Nicolas Sarkozy. These are people who will tell you anything just to further their little careers.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps you're simply saying that because Valls, who was interior minister before becoming premier, is the only member of the government who is actually even popular with your voters.
Le Pen: He is popular because the others in the government are unpopular. Interior ministers are always popular because they give people the feeling that they are taking care of security, even when they are just people with tough words and a soft hand.
SPIEGEL: Do you think you'll make it into second round of voting in the 2017 presidential elections?
Le Pen: I think that is a very credible hypothesis, yes. Everyone admits that today. If you look at the polls you'll notice that we have at least as many potential voters among non-voters as we do among voters. I have said, and I believe that we will, come to power within the next 10 years. It may even happen faster than some can imagine.
SPIEGEL: Hollande is less popular than any president who preceded him. Are you already focusing your presidential campaign entirely on Nicolas Sarkozy?
Le Pen: I don't shoot at ambulances. Sarkozy is already finished as a candidate.
SPIEGEL: You mean because of his entanglement in the finance scandal surrounding his UMP, which has already forced party boss Jean-François Copé to resign?
Le Pen: Yes. Now he's finished. He cheated. He violated the laws of the Republic and spent twice as much on his campaign as is allowed by law. By doing so, he has totally disqualified himself. Incidentally, I regret it, because I would like to have had him as an opponent.
Le Pen: Because he is who he is.
SPIEGEL: Why are you supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin in his position against Europe in the Ukraine crisis?
Le Pen: I do not support Putin against Europe. This is a caricature. I support a federalist Ukraine. The EU poured fuel on the fire by proposing an economic partnership to a country known to look half to the East and half to the West.
SPIEGEL: Do you admire Putin?
Le Pen: I have a certain admiration for Vladimir Putin because he doesn't allow decisions to be forced upon him by other countries. I think he focuses first and foremost on what is good for Russia and the Russians. As such, I have the same respect for Putin that I do for Ms. Merkel.
SPIEGEL: Putin isn't a democrat.
Le Pen: Oh really? He isn't a democrat? There are no elections in Russia?
SPIEGEL: There is no freedom of the press, for example.
Le Pen: But you think that there is real freedom of the press in France? Ninety-nine percent of the journalists are leftists!
SPIEGEL: That's what you think. But journalists aren't killed and they aren't locked up.
Le Pen: To be honest, there are many things said about Russia because they have been demonized for years at the behest of the USA. It is part of the greatness of a European country to develop one's own opinion and to not view everything through the US lens. We have no lesson to teach Russia if we concurrently roll out the red carpet to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and China.
SPIEGEL: So you are more opposed to the US than you are in favor of Russia?
Le Pen: The Americans are trying to expand their influence in the world, particularly in Europe. They are defending their own interests, not ours. I am in favor of a multi-polar world in which France once again takes its position as the leader of non-aligned states, not with the US, not with Russia and not with Germany. One should strive to be neither slave nor master.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Le Pen, we thank you for this interview.
- Part 1: 'I Don't Want this European Soviet Union'
- Part 2: 'Xenophobia Is the Hatred of Foreigners. I Don't Hate Anyone'
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