The Culture Against the National Front rally that took place at the Philharmonie de Paris on May 2. Photo: Rémi Button

French Artists Rally Against Marine Le Pen’s Presidential Bid

Five days before the second round of the French presidential election, more than one thousand activists and sixty cultural organizations rallied at the Philharmonie de Paris, in protest of former National Front leader Marine Le Pen, on Tuesday, May 2, Le Figaro reports.

The president of the Philharmonic, Laurent Bayle, urged the crowd to “vote to block the National Front” by supporting centrist Emmanuel Macron. Denouncing Le Pen’s promise to curb immigration, he said, “We who want to keep living in societies based on differences, we need step up the effort through this week and call a maximum of people to spread our message of friendship.”

Previously, France’s cultural sector has been criticized for being “timid” in speaking out about the election, but as the May 7 vote approaches artists are taking a stand. Among those who attended the Culture Against the National Front rally are French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, artist Orlan, pianist Alexandre Tharaud, and comedian Christophe Alévêque as well as various organizations including CFDT-Culture (the Ministry of Culture’s union), SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers, and Producers of Music), AICA (International Association of Art Critics), and CIPAC (Federation of Contemporary Art Professionals).

“Voting against the National Front means voting for Macron because a blank vote would benefit the National Front,” Raphael Cuir, the president of AICA France, said. “In the FN’s 144 engagements, culture is reduced to heritage, to the ‘promotion of the national novel,’ which translates as ‘national propaganda.’” He added, “The FN in power would be the end of the freedom of expression and the ministry of culture’s vital support in all forms of cultural and contemporary, artistic expression.”

Accusing the National Front of making censorship a national priority, members of France’s writers, directors, and producers association, l’ARP, issued a statement that said: “The values that guide us daily as citizens and filmmakers are under threat. Racist ideas take over our debates, ooze and divert us collectively from the Republic, and seek to divide the citizens of our country. We, the filmmakers of l’ARP, put our daily commitment at the service of an enlightened, tolerant, and ambitious cultural policy. For us, diversity in its broadest sense is the greatest wealth: opinions and cultures from home and abroad must continue to irrigate our patrimony.”

Despite Le Pen’s decision to take “a leave of absence” from her position as head of the National Front in order to focus on the election, she is still viewed as a champion of the party and its xenophobic and racist ideology. If elected, Le Pen said she will increase funding allotted to preserving French heritage by 25 percent, create an online platform for arts sponsorship and philanthropy, establish more residency opportunities for artists, and increase state support for French contemporary artists. In contrast, Macron wants to provide an annual “culture pass” for French youth, protect heritage sites, create a cultural exchange program with the EU, and establish a $218 million fund for cultural initiatives.

According to the official final count published by the interior ministry, the final results from the election’s first round showed that Macron received nearly one million more votes than Le Pen. Macron had 8.66 million votes, or 24.01 percent, while Le Pen garnered 7.68 million votes, or 21.30 percent. On Wednesday evening, another anti-Le Pen conference, organized by actors and performers, will take place in Avignon.