Special Report: In France, far right capitalizes on euro crisis

At the entrance to the National Front’s headquarters, an anonymous building in the suburb of Nanterre, stands a small statue of Joan of Arc. The 15th-century peasant girl who led French soldiers to victory is the Front’s mascot. She symbolizes its rejection of foreign domination.

Amneville, a town in the Moselle region of northeastern France, does not look like a fault-line in the euro zone. The smell of grilled chicken wafts over the marketplace on a recent Saturday morning, the CD vendor plays German oom-pah music, and the sky behind the ochre clock tower is a steely blue.

Yet the single currency is a target for an unusual politician canvassing stallholders and shoppers in this town near the German border.

Fabien Engelmann, a 32-year old municipal plumber with tight-cropped hair, was an activist with France’s leading trade union and a Trotskyist for many years. Later he joined the far-left “New Anticapitalist Party”. This year he switched party again, but not on a leftist ticket.

He joined France’s famed far-right National Front, and he was not the only one.

This year, five trade unionists have joined the minority party that made its name with the anti-immigrant rhetoric of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Since January, Le Pen’s daughter Marine has been in charge of the party, and Engelmann says she is a magnet.


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