macron le pen tv debate Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

The Left Must Vote for Macron

Progressives have good reason to be suspicious of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, a former banker who, during his one brief stint in government, stripped full-time workers of hard-won labor rights. But, faced with the prospect of Marine Le Pen, the imperative to oppose racism trumps hostility to neoliberal policies.

LONDON – In 2002, Jacques Chirac, the French right’s leader, faced Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the racist National Front, in the second round of France’s presidential election. The French left rallied behind the Gaullist, conservative Chirac to oppose the xenophobic heir of Vichy collaborationism. Fifteen years later, however, large sections of the French left are refusing to back Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter.

Progressives have good reason to be angry with a liberal establishment that feels comfortable with Macron, a former banker with no previous experience in democratic politics prior to his brief appointment as Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs by President François Hollande. They see him, correctly, as the minister who stripped full-time French workers of hard-won labor rights and who today is the establishment’s last resort against Le Pen.

Moreover, it is not hard to identify with the French left’s feeling that the liberal establishment is getting its comeuppance with Le Pen’s rise. In 2015, the same establishment that now supports Macron and rails against the “alternative facts,” loony economics, and authoritarianism of Le Pen, Donald Trump, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and others, launched a ferociously effective campaign of falsehood and character assassination to undermine the democratically elected Greek government in which I served.

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