Why Le Pen can’t win

A lot of people in the US, who often make the comparison with Brexit and Trump’s election, seem convinced that Le Pen can win the second round of the French presidential election against Macron in two weeks, but she really can’t and those comparisons are extremely misleading. According to the official results of the first round, Macron got 24.01% of the vote, while Le Pen only got 21.30%. Just behind them, Fillon got 20.01% for the traditional right-wing party, while Mélenchon got 19.58% for the anti-liberal left. Hamon, the socialist party’s candidate, only got 6.36% of the vote. Dupont-Aignan, a right-wing candidate ideologically somewhere between Fillon and Le Pen, got 4.70% of the vote. First of all, it’s worth noting that, if you just look at their own scores, Macron already has a 2.71% lead on Le Pen. This is already bad news for her, but what makes it worse is that he has a lot more reserves than her, as I will now explain.

Some people think that Le Pen could get the vote of many of the people who voted for Mélenchon in the first round, because they don’t like Macron’s liberal economic policies, but this is nonsense. Of course, some of the people who voted for Mélenchon in the first round will vote for Le Pen in the second one, but far more of them will vote for Macron even though they hate him to stop the National Front, while the rest just won’t vote. Because Le Pen and Mélenchon have similar positions on economic policy, many assume that a lot of people who vote for one could also vote for the other, but that is a myth. The reality is that, when you look at polls, the electorate of Le Pen and that of Mélenchon are very different. For instance, more than 22% of Mélenchon’s voters have at least two years of college education and more than 20% have at least three, whereas for Le Pen the figures are respectively 15% and 9%. Mélenchon’s voters are also more urban, whereas Le Pen draws a lot of support from rural areas.

Some pollsters also asked people who said they wanted to vote for Mélenchon but could still change their mind who they would vote for if not him. Only 11% of them said Le Pen was their second choice, while 30% said Macron and 32% said Hamon. The rest mostly said they would vote for one of the far-left candidates and 8% didn’t say anything. Of course, people who were certain to vote for Mélenchon could be different from those who said they could still change their mind, but if anything they are probably more ideologically committed to the left and therefore even less likely to vote for Le Pen. You have to understand that, for most people on the left in France, the National Front is a fascist party they want nothing to do with. (This is nonsense invented by the socialist party in the 1980’s to divide the right-wing vote, but that’s a story for another time. What matters is that most people on the left still believe it.) So Le Pen won’t get many votes from Mélenchon’s voters, whereas Macron will get a lot of them.

In the case of Fillon’s voters, the situation is a bit different, but Macron will still get more of their votes than Le Pen. According to the same poll I used above, which is the most reliable because it has a very large sample (which is particularly important when you’re looking at subpopulations), only 21% of those who said they wanted to vote for Fillon but could still change their mind said Le Pen would be their second choice, while 53% said Macron was. In this case, people who were sure of their choice are probably more likely to vote for Le Pen, because they are ideologically more solidly right-wing, but Macron will still get more votes from them than Le Pen and a lot just won’t vote. Again, this is really not surprising, because Fillon’s electorate and that of Le Pen are sociologically very different. Fillon’s voters are more educated, more catholic, more financially well-off, etc. If Le Pen is smart, she will campaign on immigration and security before the second round, which is how she can maximize the number of votes she can pick from that group, but she will still get less than Macron.

This analysis is largely confirmed by the polls about the second round, which show Macron has a lead on Le Pen somewhere between 20 and 26 points. Of course, she can make up part of it and I think she will, but there is just no way she can make up all of it. In 2012, Sarkozy managed to reduce Hollande’s lead from less than 8 points immediately after the first round to slightly more than 3 points on the day of the second round, but it still wasn’t enough and not anywhere near the kind of come-back Le Pen would have to make in such a short period of time. Such a come-back would be absolutely unprecedented in the history of polling, so it’s just not going to happen. Indeed, if the past is any indication, even a major terrorist attack would not be enough. It’s also worth noting that, in the first round, the polls were remarkably accurate, a lot more than I thought they would be given the numerous sources of uncertainty this year.

Thus, the comparison with Brexit and Trump is extremely misleading, since neither Trump nor Brexit were ever so far behind in the polls as Le Pen is against Macron. Trump was also the Republican candidate, even if the party’s establishment loathed him, so party loyalty could still play a role and indeed it did. But Le Pen is not the candidate of the traditional right-wing party, whose leaders have more or less asked people to vote for Macron, including Fillon the night of the first round. The same thing is true for the leaders of almost every other party. Among those who matter, only Mélenchon refused to ask his supporters to vote for Macron, which incidentally was the smart political move for reasons I don’t care to explain in this post, but as I explained above the vast majority of them will still vote for Macron or at least won’t vote for Le Pen. 

Le Pen is also facing a conundrum on how to campaign before the second round. Mélenchon’s voters for the most part won’t vote for her, but she can try to dissuade them from voting for Macron, by pointing out that unlike her he supports economic policies they abhor. However, if she does that, it will turn off Fillon’s voters who strongly dislike her left-wing positions on the economy and, as a result, many who could have voted for Le Pen won’t vote at all or will vote for Macron. Similarly, if she campaigns on immigration and security (as I think she should anyway because it’s probably how she can maximize her score), she will motivate Mélenchon’s voters to vote for him to stop her. By comparison, in 2012, it was easier for Sarkozy to campaign for the second round, because he could just speak to right-wing voters. Anyway, no matter how you look at it, there is just no way Le Pen can win.

EDIT: If you read French, you can also have a look at this post, where I substantiate the claim I make above that the idea that the National Front is a fascist party is a myth that was created by the socialist party in the 1980’s in order to divide the right-wing vote. I should note that, although many people continue to be surprised when I say that, this is totally uncontroversial among specialists of that period.

27 thoughts

  1. You say: “You have to understand that, for most people on the left in France, the National Front is a fascist party they want nothing to do with. (This is nonsense invented by the socialist party in the 1980’s to divide the right-wing vote, but that’s a story for another time)”

    Nonsense, eh? Here’s are some things Jean-Marie Le Pen (as you know, the founder and leader of the the National Front for decades, and father of Marine) has said over the years which might make one suspect otherwise:

    –“I am not saying that gas chambers did not exist. I did not see them myself. I haven’t studied the questions specially. But I believe it is a minor point in the history of the Second World War.”

    –“[I]n France at least the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses – inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km… If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn’t have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees.”

    –“The sidaïques [person with AIDS], by breathing the virus through all their pores, put into question the equilibrium of the nation… The sidaïque is contagious by his sweat, his saliva, his contact. It’s a kind of leper. [Le Pen goes on to suggest that everyone with AIDS should be interned in sanatoriums]”

    –“[I] can’t say that Bantus have the same ethnological aptitudes as Californians, because that is simply contrary to reality… Even if men have a right to be equally respected, it is evident that hierarchies exist.”

    –“It appears [Nice has] a problem with several hundred Roma who have an irritating and, let’s say, smelly presence in this city.”

    –“Of course, Vichy is excusable.”

    –“Until 1945, I kept a photo of [Vichy ruler] Marshall Petain and retained my admiration for him. Nor did I renounce the authors of my youth, just because they were in prison like Maurras, or among the executed like [anti-semitic Vichy journalist] Robert Brasillach.”

    Jean-Marie le Pen is evidently a holocaust denier, an anti-semite, an apologist for the Vichy regime, and a proponent of racist nationalism. But please, let’s hear more how it was nonsense for the socialist party to label him a fascist.

    1. Yes, it’s total nonsense, as you would know if you had some knowledge of French history, which you evidently don’t. Have you ever read about the Occupation in France during WW2 or a history of the National Front? Have you read a lot about French political history since 1945? No, you haven’t, but it doesn’t prevent you from trying to be a smartass because you found a few quotes on Google, which talk about people whose name you didn’t even know up until a few hours ago.

      For instance, if you knew anything about the history of France during WW2, you would know that many resistants were petainist. You would also know that, with a few exceptions, so were the generals of De Gaulle’s Free French Forces. If you knew anything about French history since WW2, you would know that both De Gaulle and Mitterrand, France’s first socialist President, put flowers on Pétain’s tomb every year. You would also know that, in addition to collaborators, there were many resistants among the founders of the National Front, including a few Righteous Among the Nations. In short, you would know that, despite what you and the cretins who say that the National Front is a fascist party think, history is not in black and white and that it’s more complicated than a Vox article.

      I also note that, just because Le Pen said many disgusting shit over the years, it doesn’t make him a fascist, a distinction that seems to be lost on you and a lot of people. There are also many other politicians who said the same kind of shit, but they weren’t demonized in the same way as Le Pen, because it didn’t serve anyone’s political purposes. Of course, you don’t know about that either, because you don’t know the first thing about French politics.

      There is absolutely no doubt that the “fascist threat” posed by the National Front was a myth created by the socialists during the 1980’s, as indeed several of them, including Lionel Jospin (socialist Prime Minister between 1997 and 2002), have acknowledged since then. I have actually written a post in French with all the references that I plan to publish in a few days, but I don’t have time to translate it or argue with you, since I already know you are going to stubbornly insist that you are right despite your ignorance about this particular topic.

      1. I am using the standard definition of fascism, where it means “authoritarian nationalism, typically inflected with racism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on strict gender roles.” Jean-Marie Le Pen, an open racist and holocaust denier who proposed placing gay men with AIDS in concentration camps, obviously qualifies as a fascist.

        It’s cute that you want to pretend this hinges on the minutiae of french history. What’s really going on here, of course, is that you don’t want to have to identify yourself as a fascist or a fascist sympathizer, so in order to protect your self-image you’re promoting an implausibly narrow definition of fascism. We hear the same thing from racists all the time: no one today wants to think of themselves as a racist, so racists will often go on at length about how everyone else is using “racism” incorrectly and that the term, properly understood, clearly doesn’t apply to them at all and anyone who thinks it does is just confused, historically ignorant, etc. This inevitably leads to comical excesses like David Duke denying that he is in any sense a racist. Fortunately, words have meanings, so the National Front and its supporters will remain fascist trash regardless of what you say.

        1. It may be the standard definition of “fascism” in the imaginary world that you inhabit, but it’s not in the actual world, where the rest of us live. Here is for instance how the word is defined in Merriam-Webster:

          A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

          The same dictionary offers this alternative definition:

          A tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.

          Jean-Marie Le Pen is not a fascist in either sense and, indeed, you won’t find any scholar of fascism who claims that he is a fascist. On the other hand, you will find many who deny it, because no one with a modicum of political culture and a basic knowledge of Le Pen’s political career and life would ever say that. Of course, you don’t know that, because again you have read perhaps one or two articles on Le Pen in your life written by people who barely know more about him than you do.

          Le Pen never “proposed placing gay men with AIDS in concentration camps”, as you would know if, instead of drawing false conclusions from a quote taken out of context that you found on Google the other day, you had actually listened the entire during which he made that statement. He just proposed that specialized medical be created and that the people who exhibited symptoms, which he estimated to number less 3000 (whereas he estimates the number of people who carry the virus but wouldn’t be concerned by this measure to 200000-250000), be placed in them to be isolated from people with other conditions, because he thought the virus was contagious through casual contact. Of course, this is false, but he said that in 1987 and, even though the evidence already strongly suggested it wasn’t true, there was still many doctors who agreed with him at the time and Le Pen was always quick to side with shit peddlers. You can read a transcript of the whole exchange here. I’m afraid it’s in French, but if you don’t understand French, then perhaps this should be a hint that you’re not in a position to talk about this… He says many despicable and/or stupid things in that interview, but at no point does he suggest to place “gay men with AIDS in concentration camps”. Again, you only believe that because you are easily manipulated, so you drew hasty conclusions from a misleading quote taken out of context.

          It’s also disputable that Le Pen is a holocaust denier and indeed it has been denied by many people who have written on him, even though almost every single one of them is a political opponent of his. The quote you gave is something he said during a very famous interview in 1987, but it’s cut before, upon being asked by a shocked journalist whether he thinks that 6 million deaths are a detail, he explains that he wasn’t talking about the fact that they had been killed but only about the method used to kill them, which indeed is what he is specifically talking about in the passage you quoted. Of course, you don’t know that, because you never listened to the whole interview whose existence you probably ignored until a few days ago. You just drew another hasty conclusion because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Again, there are many things he says in that interview which are despicable (he makes very ambiguous statements about the exact number of victims of the genocide), but it’s inconclusive evidence that he is a holocaust denier, especially when you know his taste for “épater le bourgeois”. Indeed, as I already said, people who have studied him disagree on whether he is a holocaust denier, because if you knew more about you would also know that he enjoys offensive provocations just for the sake of it and many people think that it’s just what it was doing. Since you are a cretin, I’m sure you will make fun of that and explain that it’s a far-fetched explanation. But it’s only far-fetched to you because you don’t know the first thing about Le Pen and you couldn’t explain why many people who despise him are not convinced that he is a holocaust denier. Indeed, you have heard of any of them, because you have never read any biography of him.

          Even if Jean-Marie Le Pen is a holocaust denier, his daughter certainly isn’t and neither are the vast majority of people in the National Front. Indeed, many people resented Le Pen for his permanent, stupid provocations, which was one of the main reasons for the scission that nearly destroyed the party in 1998, when almost all of the leaders abandoned him. But you had never heard of this either, because again you don’t know anything about the National Front or, more generally, French politics. The reality is that you are an ignorant fool who has no idea what you are talking about, but instead of admitting that you’re not in a position to talk about this, you prefer to slander me by calling me a fascist. If you had read the post I wrote in French just before the election, you would know that it was very critical of Le Pen, although not because she is a fascist since she clearly isn’t. But you probably can’t read French or, if you can, you evidently didn’t bother. In any case, if you’re going to come here to slander me, I suggest that you just refrain from commenting altogether. I don’t particularly enjoy it when some anonymous coward who doesn’t know the first thing about me or, as I have already pointed out, French political history, calls me a fascist, compares me to David Duke and suggests that I have sympathies for antisemitism and God knows what else.

          1. Here is google’s definition of fascism:

            “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”

            Seems like (Jean-Marie) Le Pen fits that one.

            Here is Collins English Dictionary:

            “1. Any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism.

            2. Any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc”

            Gee, it looks like Le Pen fits both of these!

            The American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:

            “A system of government that flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Germany under Adolf Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco were all fascist states. As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator, who usually possesses a magnetic personality, wears a showy uniform, and rallies his followers by mass parades; appeals to strident nationalism; and promotes suspicion or hatred of both foreigners and “impure” people within his own nation, such as the Jews in Germany. ”

            It’s hard to know whether (given his druthers) Le Pen would wear a showy uniform and throw lots of parades, but he certainly “appeals to strident nationalism” and “promotes suspicion or hatred both foreigners and ‘impure’ people within his own nation.” So I’m gonna go ahead and count this one too. (Note also the explicit inclusion of Franco).

            When the right-wing nationalist talks about rounding up gay people because they pose a public health menace, are we supposed to be reassured when he promises it will be no more than a few thousand sodomites? We know how this ends, it’s going on right now in your beloved Russia:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_concentration_camps_in_Chechnya

            “Indeed, many people resented Le Pen for his permanent, stupid provocations, which was one of the main reasons for the scission that nearly destroyed the party in 1998, when almost all of the leaders abandoned him. But you had never heard of this either, because again you don’t know anything about the National Front or, more generally, French politics.”

            So many people resented him in 1998, and his party was so nearly destroyed, that only a paltry 5.5 million Frenchmen voted for him over Chirac just four years later. See, I do know a bit about french politics– enough to know that you’re delusional, and acting as an apologist for fascism.

          2. Here is google’s definition of fascism:

            “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”

            Seems like (Jean-Marie) Le Pen fits that one.

            Here is Collins English Dictionary:

            “1. Any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism.

            2. Any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc”

            Gee, it looks like Le Pen fits both of these!

            The American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:

            “A system of government that flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Germany under Adolf Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco were all fascist states. As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator, who usually possesses a magnetic personality, wears a showy uniform, and rallies his followers by mass parades; appeals to strident nationalism; and promotes suspicion or hatred of both foreigners and “impure” people within his own nation, such as the Jews in Germany. ”

            It’s hard to know whether (given his druthers) Le Pen would wear a showy uniform and throw lots of parades, but he certainly “appeals to strident nationalism” and “promotes suspicion or hatred both foreigners and ‘impure’ people within his own nation.” So I’m gonna go ahead and count this one too. (Note also the explicit inclusion of Franco).

            The fact that you are asserting that Le Pen fits those definitions without giving any evidence doesn’t show that he does. As anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about, which you clearly don’t, would tell you, he clearly does not fit any of them. Again, you couldn’t find a single reputable scholar of fascism and/or the National Front who claims that Le Pen is a fascist, but to my knowledge, and unlike you I have read many of them so I actually know something about this, every single one of them has denied it or refused to call him a fascist. This is true of Paxton, Payne, Camus, etc. But you have never read any of their books and didn’t even know their names until now. Le Pen in the 1980’s was ideologically the closest thing to Reagan you could find in France. Now, Reagan was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a fascist. If you had ever read something on fascism, you would know that fascists are not exactly fans of laissez-faire economic policies. Even Lionel Jospin, the socialist Prime Minister who was eliminated by Le Pen at the presidential election in 2002 and, unlike you, actually knows what a fascist is because he has a political culture, acknowledged a few years later that the National Front was never a fascist party: « During François Mitterrand’s presidency [between 1981 and 1995, back when the FN was much more radical than it is now], there was never a fascist threat, so all the anti-fascism was just theater. We were facing a party, the National Front, which was a far-right party, a populist party too, in its own way, but we were never in front of a fascist threat or even a fascist party. »  (I translate for you because I can see that you don’t understand French.) By the way, this quote can be found in my latest post (although it’s written in French so it’s probably useless to you), where I substantiate my claim that the “fascist threat” posed by the National Front is a myth created by the socialists in the 1980’s to divide the right. (Note that it’s a totally uncontroversial claim among French specialists of that period. The only controversy is about how important was the role of Mitterrand in the rise of the National Front. But you don’t know that either because you don’t know anything.) As for Franco, although there is some debate about him, the majority of scholars agree that he wasn’t a fascist. José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who died at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, was undoubtedly a fascist, but his ideology was very different from Franco’s. Of course, you had never heard of Primo de Rivera until now, because you don’t know any more about Spanish history than you do about the history of France…

            When the right-wing nationalist talks about rounding up gay people because they pose a public health menace, are we supposed to be reassured when he promises it will be no more than a few thousand sodomites? We know how this ends, it’s going on right now in your beloved Russia:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_concentration_camps_in_Chechnya

            Now that you have realized that the claim you made earlier was completely false, because you were relying on a misleading quote without knowing the context, so you’re using a distraction by bringing up Kadyrov, who has nothing to do with Le Pen or anything we were talking about unless you beg the question. Indeed, as you would know if you knew anything about Le Pen, unlike many American conservatives (who aren’t fascists either), he doesn’t give a flying fuck about homosexuals. In fact, two of his biographers even claimed that he had a homosexual liaison with the socialist mayor of Pau back in the days. The notion that people in the National Front are somehow anti-gay bigots is even more preposterous today. His daughter, Marine Le Pen, used to spend her nights in Parisian gay nightclubs when she was young and, nowadays, there are more gay people among the leadership of the National Front than in any other French party. But I guess now you’re going to make a reference to Ernst Röhm to explain that it proves that the National Front is a nazi party after all or you would if you had any idea who Röhm was…

            So many people resented him in 1998, and his party was so nearly destroyed, that only a paltry 5.5 million Frenchmen voted for him over Chirac just four years later. See, I do know a bit about french politics– enough to know that you’re delusional, and acting as an apologist for fascism.

            No, you clearly don’t know anything, otherwise you would realize that every French person who has read this claim of yours was laughing out loud. The National Front was nearly destroyed by the scission in 1998. The vast majority of the members in a leadership position left the party in defiance of Le Pen. This is precisely why his qualification for the second round of the presidential election in 2002 was such a surprise. The party was hurt so badly by this that it wasn’t until a few years ago that it recovered, despite its momentary success at the presidential election in 2002, because all the leaders with expertise were gone and the party had no longer any local implantation. In fact, in some ways, it arguably still hasn’t recovered, since to this day there is a shortage of people with the relevant expertise compared to the situation just before the scission. Again, this is totally uncontroversial, you just don’t realize that you are everyone’s laughing stock when you say that kind of nonsense. You are really embarrassing yourself in this conversation because you’re clearly way in over your head, but the most embarrassing thing is that you don’t even realize how much you are embarrassing yourself. Anyway, I’m really done with you now, I should have stopped before like I said at first but I couldn’t stand the way in which you slandered me.

          3. “If you had ever read something on fascism, you would know that fascists are not exactly fans of laissez-faire economic policies.”

            The standard definition of “fascism”, which I cited repeatedly above, is entirely compatible with market-oriented economic policies. It requires only extreme nationalism and authoritarianism, with elements of racism and xenophobia. Hence, (Jean-Marie) Le Pen is clearly a fascist as the term is normally understood.

            There is a specialized sense of “Fascism” (typically taking the capital) in which it refers more narrowly to right-wing ideologies modeled after the tenets of Mussolini’s Fascism. But it’s not up to you to decide that the narrowest definition of “Fascism” is the only one that counts, and that all other uses of the term are in error. Le Pen is a (lower-case) fascist. I am sorry if our language vexes you, but this is just how things stand in english.

            “if you knew anything about Le Pen, unlike many American conservatives (who aren’t fascists either), he doesn’t give a flying fuck about homosexuals.”

            He has enough animus for gay people to call homosexuality a “biological and social anomaly” and to find it plausible that gay men with AIDS are lepers who should be rounded up and interned in sanitoria.

            It’s strange that you think your argument is with me. It is actually with the historical Le Pen, who did everything in his power to prove that he was a fascist, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-Semite. You seem to have bought heavily into the National Front’s recent rebranding, but Le Pen left too long a paper trail, and there is no escaping the fact that the party was steeped in fascism from its inception and for decades after.

            “The vast majority of the members in a leadership position left the party in defiance of Le Pen. This is precisely why his qualification for the second round of the presidential election in 2002 was such a surprise.”

            In other words, Le Pen’s monstrous inhumanity did absolutely nothing to deter the National Front’s core supporters, who, like him, are bigots and fascists through-and-through. And how many millions of Marine’s supporters are the self-same frenchmen who voted for her holocaust-denying, racist father 15 years ago? Nothing has really changed– the fascists have just become a little clever and learned to watch what they say in public.

    2. P. S. I will just add that, even if those statements showed that Jean-Marie Le Pen is a fascist, which they don’t, his daughter never said anything of the sort and repudiated his views on those issues a long time ago. I don’t think any of her biographers, who typically are political opponents, think she isn’t sincere. She even expelled him from the party after his latest provocation…

  2. Phillipe Le Moine,
    The fact that both De Gaulle and Jean Marie Le Pen respected Petain does not indicate that J.M Le Pen is not a fascist.

    The word “fascist” has a technical historical meaning: Mussolini was definitely a fascist. Generally, Hitler is called a “fascist”. Sometimes people call Franco a “fascist”, although he probably wasn’t.

    It also is used to refer to extreme-rightwing nationalists with a racist and/or anti-semitic and/or anti-immigrant agenda. I take it that you don’t use the word “fascist” in the second sense, that is, “an extreme rightwing nationalist with a racist and/or anti-semitic and/or anti-immigrant agenda. Is that correct?

    If so, how would you define a “fascist”?

    1. I never said that the fact that De Gaulle and Mitterrand both respected Pétain showed Le Pen isn’t a fascist. I just pointed out that the fact that Jean-Marie Le Pen respects him doesn’t make him a fascist, which is not the same thing and is shown to be true by the fact that both De Gaulle and Mitterrand respected him. I also said that Le Pen isn’t a fascist, a fact that nobody with some historical knowledge would deny. I don’t think the word “fascist” has a clear enough meaning unless it’s used to refer to someone who defends the kind of doctrine that has historically been associated with fascism. Very roughly because it’s very difficult to give a short definition of fascism, someone who promotes a totalitarian, anti-individualist, nationalist social order, where the state has a significant degree of control over the economy, which is organized in a corporative fashion. As you say, Mussolini was definitely a fascist in that sense and so was Hitler, but Franco wasn’t and neither was Pétain.

      When the word “fascist” is not used in that relatively precise sense, it has essentially become a short for “someone I don’t like”, which is why I think it should only be used in the historical sense. Having said that, I also deny that Le Pen has a “racist and/or anti-semitic and/or anti-immigrant agenda”. This is just false and anyone who says otherwise thereby proves that he doesn’t know anything about he’s talking about. (I can see how some people might want to say that Le Pen’s agenda is anti-immigrant, but I think it’s totally unfair, unless you think that any restrictionist agenda on immigration is anti-immigrant, which strikes me as both unfair and stupid. She certainly doesn’t have a racist or anti-semitic agenda, no matter how many people say she does.)

  3. We’re talking about Marine Le Pen now to avoid confusions.

    First of all, all countries restrict immigration in some sense, so obviously, not everyone who wants to restrict immigration is anti-immigrant.

    Second, the term “anti-immigrant” may lead to confusion because it appears analogous to “anti-semite”, and people may want to restrict immigration radically without hating or having negative prejudices about immigrants. An anti-semite hates and/or has negative prejudices about Jews. Someone could want to restrict immigration, for example, for purely economic motives, keep the labor force small and thus, force up wages.

    However, what would you call a political figure who exaggerates the danger and threats to the well-being of non-immigrants from immigrants from third-world countries in order to gain political power? It is irrelevant whether that politician
    believes that the immigrants do constitute a threat or not.

    1. We’re talking about Marine Le Pen now to avoid confusions.

      Indeed, my understanding is that we’re now talking about the Marine Le Pen, as well as the current platform of the National Front.

      First of all, all countries restrict immigration in some sense, so obviously, not everyone who wants to restrict immigration is anti-immigrant.

      Second, the term “anti-immigrant” may lead to confusion because it appears analogous to “anti-semite”, and people may want to restrict immigration radically without hating or having negative prejudices about immigrants. An anti-semite hates and/or has negative prejudices about Jews. Someone could want to restrict immigration, for example, for purely economic motives, keep the labor force small and thus, force up wages.

      I think that, in the debate about immigration, the term “restrictionist” is applied to people who want to restrict immigration significantly more than it currently is, since otherwise most people would qualify, as you point out. As you also note, one can be a restrictionist in that sense without being anti-immigrant, in the sense that one harbors animosity toward immigrants. So, up to that point, I think we are largely in agreement.

      However, what would you call a political figure who exaggerates the danger and threats to the well-being of non-immigrants from immigrants from third-world countries in order to gain political power? It is irrelevant whether that politician
      believes that the immigrants do constitute a threat or not.

      I call that a demagogue, which most politicians are, although not always for the same reasons. Depending on the details of the case, I may also call them anti-immigrant, although I don’t think Marine Le Pen qualifies. She does sometimes exaggerate the threat of posed by immigrants to non-immigrants, by making false claims about the effects of immigration, but I think on the whole she actually underestimates it, because there are also many true claims about immigration that she doesn’t make or rarely. I also suspect that, more often than not, she actually believes the false claims she makes about this, but I agree that it’s largely — though not completely — irrelevant.

      I just don’t think what she says about immigration is sufficient to make her anti-immigrant. In particular, she systematically condemns acts of violence and bigotry against immigrants and, moreover, I have no doubt that, when she does, she is absolutely sincere. To be sure, this would probably be irrelevant if what she said about immigration, when she isn’t condemning acts of bigotry and violence against immigrants, were sufficiently inflammatory to incite enough bigotry against them, but I don’t think it’s anywhere close to that.

      I actually think that someone who told the truth about the effects of immigration would incite significantly more bigotry against immigrants than Le Pen does. This is a reason not to tell the truth about immigration, but I think it’s outweighed by the reasons to tell it. One must be careful not to say that the fact that a restrictionist position about immigration generates bigotry, which I think is inevitable, automatically disqualify such a position.

  4. You said previously that you were going to do a post about immigration and that would be a way to answer the question I’m going to ask you: what are the effects of immigration?

    (I assume that we’re talking about immigration to France, not to the U.S. and specifically about immigration of unskilled people from third world countries, not of Chinese computer scientists or of Russian billionaires).

    To give you an idea of where I’m coming from, although I’m fairly leftwing, I read Houellebecq’s latest novel, Submission, last year and I found it very funny. In fact, I generally find Houellebecq to be very talented and funny.

  5. One more thing.

    If you’re going to do a longer post on immigration, for me at least there’s no problem that it appears in French if that reaches more of your target group of readers on that subject, given the context of the runoff election. I can’t write French, but I read it well enough to get the general idea.

    1. Sorry for taking some time to reply, but as you can see above, I made the mistake to engage with someone who clearly doesn’t understand when they should stop talking because they have no idea what they’re talking about… I plan to write several posts about immigration, but they will be very long, so I don’t know when I’ll have time. The first probably won’t be published until a few weeks or even months from now. I think most of them will be in English, although some will be in French. They will sometimes deal with immigration in the West in general and sometimes more specifically with immigration in France. You are also right that what I think is a problem is mass immigration of unskilled people from third-world countries. I also want to write about what I think should be done, because I think there are solutions that would benefit both rich countries and the countries where immigrants come from. I haven’t read Submission yet, but Houellebecq is a talented writer. Well, I’m not sure he is a great writer from a purely stylistic point of view, but he’s certainly understood some very profound truths about the transformations that the West underwent in the past few decades.

  6. I grew up in the U.S. in the 1950’s, in the era of “better dead than red”, of McCarthism, when everything and everyone to the left of the New York Times was seen as communist, or worse, as commie.

    Since then most of us have learned to use the word “communist” to refer to members or followers of Communist Parties. I’ve lived my adult life in Chile where there is a legal Communist Party, which has 6 congresspeople (out of 120) and generally gets around 5% of the vote. I believe that there is a Communist Party in France, if not in the U.S. Current Communist Parties are the successors of the pro-Soviet Communist Parties of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    We all know that on the Marxist or Marxist-Leninist left there are other parties or groups which are not communists. There are Trotskyists, generally to the left of the communist; there are libertarian socialists, followers of Rosa Luxemberg; there are Maoists. Jean Luc Melenchon is not a communist, Pablo Iglesias (from Podemos in Spain) is not a communist, I am not a communist, although on some issues I find myself to the left of the Chilean Communist Party.

    So too with fascism. Hitler was a fascist, Mussolini was a fascist, Primo de Rivera was a fascist, etc. However, the entire nationalist far-right, which includes Jean Marie and Marine Le Pen, is not necessarily fascist. We learn nothing about a new social or political phenonenom by placing an old label, in this case, the label of fascism, on it. The nationalist far-right is going to be around for a long time, it appears and we need to study it in its specific manifestations, some of which are fascist and some of which are not.

    1. I largely agree with this, as I think you know, but unfortunately nuance is not a virtue that usually goes hand in hand with political debate. In particular, I think the old political categories are totally unhelpful to understand the phenomenon of the rise of populist right-wing country in Europe, but people insist on using them anyway because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They usually don’t even know what the old political categories actually mean.

      I remembered you saying that you lived in Chile on another blog, although I don’t remember which one, but I’m glad that you share more information about your story. I often wish that I knew more about people who read this blog. It’s kind of weird and frustrating to see that people from all over the world are reading you, but not know anything about them. That’s why I always like it when someone who reads me tells me something about them.

    2. “Communist” is an easier case, both because actual communists are seldom shy about identifying themselves as such, and because the word’s meaning is anchored to the semantics of the prefix. But what about “neoliberal,” or, for that matter, “populist”? Who exactly counts as a populist? Self-identification isn’t going to get us anywhere, as few willingly embrace the label. And looking to the history of the term is no more helpful — what similarities are there supposed to be between Donald Trump or Le Pen and William Jennings Bryan?

      Anyone who has a principled objection to using “fascism” to mean anything other than Mussolini-style corporatism should, for the same reasons, take exception when “populist” is applied to someone who is not a Bible-thumping peasant farmer who advocates a return to the silver standard. But we recognize this as ridiculous pedantry which would rob the word of all value. The meaning of political labels is not fixed for all time at their moment of coinage, it evolves with use, just like with any other term. And “fascism” today means authoritarian nationalism with elements of racism, xenophobia, etc., a description broad enough to encompass both Mussolini and Le Pen. Fascists and their fellow-travelers may complain about being relegated to the same category as the engineers of past genocides, but we should not taken their whinging any more seriously than we do David Duke’s insistence that he is, hand to heart, not any sort of racist.

      1. I had somehow missed that one… You really don’t know when to quit, do you? Jean-Marie Le Pen, to say nothing of his daughter, believes and has always believed in democracy, the separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc. (At least he embraces these values as much as a typical French politician does, which is probably not saying that much, given what a deeply illiberal country France is.) I know you don’t believe that, and that you will even find what I just said preposterous, but that doesn’t make it any less true and just shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Even if what I say were not true, you would clearly not be in a position to know that, since the sum total of your knowledge about Jean-Marie Le Pen and the National Front consists in a few statements taken out of contexts that you found on Google the other day and, if we’re lucky, a handful of articles you read written by journalists who barely know more than you about this. I know it, you know it and everyone who has read our exchange also knows it. Nevertheless, you persist in smugly asserting that Jean-Marie Le Pen is a fascist and that the National Front is a fascist party, something that every single expert denies. But somehow you just think that, having found a few quotes on Google, you know better than all of them…

        Yes, Jean-Marie Le Pen, though not his daughter, is a racist. He is almost certainly an antisemite, though again his daughter most definitely isn’t. But that doesn’t make him a fascist in any interesting sense, not anymore than, for example, Nixon’s racism and antisemitism made him a fascist. He also made many distasteful statements and some frankly repugnant ones, but that doesn’t make him a fascist in any interesting sense either. This is why no historian or political scientist who has studied the National Front says that Le Pen is a fascist or that the National Front is a fascist party, because unlike you they understand that doing so would only bring about confusion instead of shedding light on the nature of his ideology and that of the party he created. Indeed, it’s not just Le Pen who denies that he is a fascist, it’s every specialist of his movement (I can think of 7 or 8 just off the top of my head), which makes your comparison with the case of David Duke inept. You’re probably going to try to be cute and jest that I’m depicting Le Pen as a leftist or saying that he is the same as Nixon, even though that’s not at all what I said, but this will only confirm that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

        I honestly don’t even understand how you can be so irrational as to insist that you are right when even you must surely know that you are not in a position to have a well-informed view about this. If that were all you did, I would just ignore you because ignorance and foolishness is something I have learned to live with, but not content with being a fool you also repeatedly slander me by suggesting that I’m a fascist, a fascist sympathizer or, the latest one, a fellow-traveler of fascism. Unlike you, I’m writing under my real name, so I put my reputation on the line with everything I say and you tarnish it every time you defame me. Any effect that your repeated smears may have on my reputation is of no consequence to you, because you comment anonymously and know that your reputation will not be affected in any way, no matter how shameful your behavior. If you want to insult me, at least have the courage of doing the same thing as me and use your real name, instead of hiding behind a pseudonym like a coward to smear me. You are lucky that I’m not a fascist, because a fascist would have kicked you out of here a long time ago and so would have the vast majority of people who aren’t fascists.

        1. As I said above, I live in Chile and I follow politics very closely.

          When I read well-known media, say, the New York Times or the Guardian, about Chilean politics, it generally surprises me how much they miss. They have Latinamerican correspondents who cover a lot of countries, arrive in Chile for a few days, talk to a few name politicians and probably chat with the proverbial tax driver (on the way from and to the airport) and the proverbial hotel bartender and often fail to appreciate the politic situation as a whole, miss important factors that someone who follows politics on a day to day basis does not miss, are unaware of who is who (because they haven’t followed the whole career of political figures) and misread key and often tacit codes which govern Chilean politics and Chilean society.

          I imagine that that’s true of almost every society. If I don’t follow the French media on a day to day basis (and I don’t read it at all), I really cannot appreciate who Jean Luc Melenchon is or who Marine Le Pen is. I can have a very general idea of what they represent in French politics, but I’ll miss a lot.

          1. I generally don’t read what the English-speaking press writes about France, but I have observed the same thing when I read what the French press writes about the US. In a way, this isn’t really surprising, for the reasons you explained in your comment, yet like you I keep being surprised by it. But I have also have observed something even more surprising. I know some French correspondents in the US who have lived here for years and still miss a lot that I wouldn’t expect people who have followed the political life of a country in which they live for years to miss. I think it shows that it’s more difficult than one might think to gain a good understanding of the political landscape of a country where one didn’t grow up. I’m not sure what the explanation for this phenomenon is, but I suspect that part of it is that the correspondents in question haven’t read much about the history of the US. I think that history is really crucial to really understand the political landscape of a country. My hypothesis is that, even if they don’t read a lot of history books, people who grew up in a country somehow nevertheless pick up a lot of the necessary background, whereas a foreigner who arrived later in life doesn’t even after several years. I don’t know if that sounds plausible to you at all in the case of Chile.

          2. To understand the political scene in a country you not only need to have read some history, but also you need to know what the masses of people believe is their history (which may be very different than what academic history books say) and in addition, you should learn what politically active people believe is their history (which may be very different than what the masses believe is their history and what academic history books say). All in all, you need to have some sense of people’s beliefs about their history and even their commonly held historical myths.

        2. “You really don’t know when to quit, do you? Jean-Marie Le Pen, to say nothing of his daughter, believes and has always believed in democracy, the separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.”

          This is quite the moving target! Earlier you were claiming that the elder Le Pen doesn’t count as a fascist because he’s a believer in free markets. Do you recognize now that the term “fascism”, as it is commonly used in english, is compatible with laissez-faire economic policies? Do you understand, moreover, that the definition I originally gave– that fascism is authoritarian nationalism with elements of racism and xenophobia– was quite correct, and that you were dead wrong to say “it may be the standard definition of “fascism” in the imaginary world that you inhabit, but it’s not in the actual world, where the rest of us live”? (Or were the three dictionaries I cited, all of which gave almost exactly the same definition as I did, insufficient for these purposes?) I will be happy to go on to discuss whether Le Pen is a fascist once I’m confident that you understand the meaning of the term.

          2. “Any effect that your repeated smears may have on my reputation is of no consequence to you, because you comment anonymously and know that your reputation will not be affected in any way, no matter how shameful your behavior.”

          Well, while I do enjoy insulting you when you behave like a childish buffoon, as here, I have no desire cause any lasting damage to your reputation or career prospects. Please feel free to alter or delete my comments as necessary where you have a reasonable concern that they will have that effect.

          1. Any proposition logically implies infinitely many other propositions. In order to deny that a definition applies to something or someone, one just has to show that, assuming it does, one of the propositions that follows about that person or thing isn’t true. For instance, on any interesting definition of fascism, that Jean-Marie Le Pen is a fascist implies both that he opposes laissez-faire economic policies and that his views are incompatible with democracy, freedom of speech, etc. In order to show that he isn’t a fascist, one therefore just has to show that he favors laissez-faire economic policies, that his views are compatible with democracy, freedom of speech, etc. or both. Since you were not moved by the fact that, at least in the 1980’s, Le Pen was a proponent of laissez-faire economic policies (something that of course you didn’t know), I had (naively) hoped that you might be convinced upon learning that he also didn’t oppose democracy, freedom of speech, etc. So there is no moving target, it’s just that, unlike you, I understand modus tollens. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you also claimed that you can teach me logic…

            I take it that you deny that, on the standard interpretation of fascism, if Le Pen is a fascist, then he rejects laissez-faire economic policies, but also democracy, freedom of speech, etc. However, despite what you say, this is clearly the case. I have already noted that Le Pen wasn’t a fascist even in the sense of the definitions you quoted, but you just ignored it and didn’t offer any evidence to the contrary. Of course, you couldn’t possibly offer any, since as we know you don’t know anything about Le Pen except for a few quotes you found on Google a few days ago.

            I already cited the definition of “fascism” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

            A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

            Here is the second definition this particular dictionary offers for that word:

            A tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.

            Le Pen clearly doesn’t satisfy either of these definitions. If you deny that, it’s because you don’t know anything about him, as we have already established.

            You quoted the definition in Collins English Dictionary:

            Any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism.

            Again, Le Pen clearly doesn’t satisfy this definition, as I already noted when you first quoted this definition. You also quoted the secondary definition given by the same dictionary:

            Any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc.

            I suppose this could apply to Le Pen, provided that “authoritarian” is given a very weak interpretation, which given the other definitions of “fascism” is presumably not the one intended here. Indeed, when you used this dictionary, you quoted the definition of the word in (British) English, but conveniently left out the definition in (American) English:

            The doctrines, methods, or movement of the Fascisti.

            Obviously this doesn’t apply to Le Pen, but here is the secondary definition, which is probably more relevant here:

            A system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism, etc.

            Hmm, I wonder why you didn’t mention this definition, it’s a real mystery to me, especially since I assume that you’re American… Needless to say, it doesn’t apply to Le Pen, for reasons I already explained. Finally, here is the Learner’s definition provided by this same dictionary, which you also omitted:

            Fascism is a set of right-wing political beliefs that includes strong control of society and the economy by the state, a powerful role for the armed forces, and the stopping of political opposition.

            Again, it clearly doesn’t apply to Le Pen, as I have noted.

            You also quoted Google’s definition of the word:

            An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.

            Again, it doesn’t seem that it applies to Le Pen, although depending on some interpretations of the terms this (extremely vague) definition contains I suppose it could. But the synonyms offered by Google for this word, which you also didn’t mention, make it abundantly clear that it doesn’t apply to him: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, dictatorship, despotism, autocracy… (This list of synonyms also suggests that Google’s dictionary is not very good, but that’s another point.)

            Finally, you gave a (dishonestly edited to make your point) quote of the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, which can be found here:

            A system of government that flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Germany under Adolf Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco were all fascist states. As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator, who usually possesses a magnetic personality, wears a showy uniform, and rallies his followers by mass parades; appeals to strident nationalism; and promotes suspicion or hatred of both foreigners and “impure” people within his own nation, such as the Jews in Germany. Although both communism and fascism are forms of totalitarianism, fascism does not demand state ownership of the means of production, nor is fascism committed to the achievement of economic equality. In theory, communism opposes the identification of government with a single charismatic leader (the “ cult of personality”), which is the cornerstone of fascism. Whereas communists are considered left-wing, fascists are usually described as right-wing.

            The part in bold is the part you omitted to reproduce when you quoted the definition. Could it be because it explicitly says that fascism is a form of totalitarianism, which would have made it even more obvious that Le Pen isn’t a fascist in the sense of that definition than it already was based on the first part? Hmm, I wonder… Here is how the more common American Dictionary of the English Language defines “fascism”:

            A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

            Again, it clearly doesn’t apply to Le Pen, for the reasons I cited and many others.

            Of course, there are other definitions in other dictionaries, but they would lead to the same conclusion. For instance, the website dictionary.com, where I found the full definition of “fascism” according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy that you quoted only partially, gives this definition:

            A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

            Again, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who actually knows more about Le Pen than a few quotes they found on Google, he clearly isn’t a fascism in that sense. The overall picture of the meaning of the word “fascism” painted by these definitions corresponds pretty close to what I said in response to s.wallerstein, before we started this ridiculous conversation, when he asked me how I would defined fascism:

            Very roughly because it’s very difficult to give a short definition of fascism, someone who promotes a totalitarian, anti-individualist, nationalist social order, where the state has a significant degree of control over the economy, which is organized in a corporative fashion.

            This is indeed how people who use that term in a somewhat informative way, as opposed to a meaningless term of abuse for someone they don’t like, use it. The bottom line is that one has to be completely ignorant or argue in bad faith to deny that Le Pen is not a fascist.

            Indeed, he isn’t a fascist in any interesting sense, but only in the completely uninformative sense in which people on both the left and the right use the word “fascist”, namely as a term of abuse used to characterize anyone they don’t like. This is why there isn’t a single specialist of the National Front who agrees that Le Pen or the National Front are fascist. Here are several off the top of my head who I know deny it explicitly: Pascal Perrineau, Nonna Mayer, Pierre-André Taguieff, Jean-Yves Camus, Nicolas Lebourg, Valérie Igounet. I’m sure I could find more if I spend some time thinking about it. I know that both Robert Paxton and Stanley Payne, who aren’t specialists of the National Front but of fascism, also don’t use the word “fascism” to characterize Le Pen or the National Front, so this is also not a reflexion of different usage between French and English since they are both American. Of course, you haven’t read a single one of them, and more generally don’t know the first thing about Le Pen, the National Front or French political history. But again this doesn’t prevent you from asserting that Le Pen is a fascist even though you don’t know anything about him. You just know better than everyone…

            Anyway, this time it’s really the last time I waste my time with you, because it’s clear that you just won’t let it go, let alone admit that you’re wrong as anyone reading this exchange already knows…

          2. My, you are desperate to avoid admitting you made a mistake, aren’t you? Let’s go through this once more, shall we?

            –I originally defined fascism as “authoritarian nationalism, typically inflected with racism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on strict gender roles.”

            –Your response was that “this may be the standard definition of “fascism” in the imaginary world that you inhabit, but it’s not in the actual world, where the rest of us live.”

            –But, as we’ve seen, my definition corresponds more or less exactly to the definition of “fascism” found in various dictionaries of the english language.

            Are you willing to concede yet that my definition was appropriate, and that you were wrong to criticize it? Or do you think that Colliers and google (i.e. Oxford Living Dictionaries) are also living in a “fantasy realm”?

            It’s funny, you like to boast about how much time you’ve devoted to reading books on french politics, but you bolluxed this one up just by failing to spend three minutes looking up the word “fascism” in a few different dictionaries before opening your mouth. Live and learn, I suppose!

  7. “Jean-Marie Le Pen, to say nothing of his daughter, believes and has always believed in democracy, the separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.”

    Ooh, I almost missed this howler. Tell me, which best illustrates Le Pen’s high regard for democracy and individual rights, his proposal to forcibly intern gay men with AIDS, his affection for the Vichy collaborators, or the youth he spent torturing dissidents in Algeria?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/04/france.thefarright

    When Le Pen was electrocuting his victims, do you think he was showing greater respect for democracy or for freedom of speech?

Leave a Reply