Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Gospel of Matthew – 7:15
The Front National, France’s main far-right party, was renamed Rassemblement Bleu Marine when Marine Le Pen became its leader in 2011, taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party in 1972, is a controversial* figure of the traditional French far-right movement, and of its long history of violence, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. His daughter has been eager to give respectability to the party.
The fact that the former Président de la République, Nicolas Sarkozy, espoused many of the far-right thematics in order to be re-elected has paved the way for this respectability.
(* Jean-Marie Le Pen has famously said – amongst many other provocations – that the gas chambers were “a detail” of WW2.)
This is why the new name Rassemblement Bleu Marine is most interesting in many respects.
♦ The word front connotes confrontation, and even war* – soldiers are sent to the front during wartime. The members of a front define themselves as being against others.
(* Jean-Marie Le Pen was a French army officer during the Algerian war of independence and has been accused of committing acts of torture.)
In contrast, the word rassemblement connotes sharing amongst the assembled members of a community.
It is not easy to translate rassemblement in the sense of a political organisation, as rassemblement denotes an action rather than the result of this action, a dynamic process rather than a set structure.
It can however translate as gathering, or assembly.
When people assemble, they gather together for a common purpose. Etymologically, assemble is based on Latin simul, meaning together. And this Latin word simul is related to similis, which means similar, as in the verb resemble.
“Qui se ressemble s’assemble”, this French saying is the equivalent of “birds of a feather flock together”.
Members of the Front National were confrontational, united in their rejection of outsiders, whereas members of the Rassemblement Bleu Marine are fellow creatures united in a sharing process.
The former focused on exclusion, the latter focuses on inclusion. The former said non!, the latter says oui!
Interestingly, the most virulent opposition to the Rassemblement Bleu Marine comes in fact from a recent front, the Front de Gauche (Left Front), consisting of several far-left movements and the old Parti Communiste Français.
♦ Bleu Marine is an obvious reference to the new leader’s first name, Marine.
The presence of this first name personalises the rassemblement, and, at the same time, breaks with the party’s tradition, and with its founding father.
Marine is Le Pen’s daughter, but the rassemblement has become hers. Its members are no longer lepenistes, they call themselves marinistes.
At the same time, the presence of the name Marine feminises the party, bringing a certain smoothness to it. (Despite the second part of his first name, Jean-Marie Le Pen has never stressed his feminine side.)
A protective woman watches over the members of her family. What’s more, not only is she no threat to the people who are still on the outside, but she also welcomes those stray sheep.
The name Marine connotes the sea of course. And the sea in French is la mer, a homonym of la mère, the mother.
♦ And bleu marine – without capital letters – is also a colour related to the sea: navy blue.
(This is why the marinistes also call themselves les gars de la Marine (Marine’s lads), a pun on Les Gars de la marine (The Navy lads), which is a 1931 French song from the film Le Capitaine Craddock - song at the end of this article.)
Navy blue, this deep colour, is reassuring, soothing, as is Marine’s feminine presence.
In the photo at the beginning of this article, the slogan Oui! la France and Marine Le Pen’s clothes are deep blue (with which the bright red used by the Front de Gauche contrasts sharply.)
Navy blue is also a traditional, familiar colour.
It is close to bleu roi, also called bleu de France, the traditional colour of French monarchy.
And deep blue is traditionally associated with another motherly figure, the Virgin Mary.
But etymology is once again revealing. The word colour is etymologically related to the word conceal, from the Latin verb celare meaning to hide, to disguise.
Beneath its new reassuring name and face, remains the true nature (the true colours) of France’s far-right party, whose Président d’Honneur is… Jean-Marie Le Pen. And whose only MP at the Assemblée Nationale is… Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, aged 23, Jean-Marie’s granddaughter and Marine’s niece.
Also read: The language of hatred
She was elected as an MP in 2012
becoming, as a French saying goes,
“le loup dans la bergerie” (the wolf in the sheepfold)
Les Gars de la marine