Posted on April 3, 2022

Nationalism on the March in France

Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, April 1998

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Jean-Marie Le Pen

After decades of leftist anti-nationalist propaganda, Europe is finally reawakening to the importance of nation and race. In recent years, patriotic parties have made important breakthroughs in Austria, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, and even in Germany, but the achievements of the Front National (FN) in France are the most significant by far. There is a chance that within a decade French racial nationalists could hold real power — in a country that is the birthplace of one of Europe’s great cultures and is the fourth-ranked industrial power in the world.

Over the last 25 years Jean-Marie Le Pen has built a powerful organization that has dramatically shifted the terms of political debate in France. A skilled orator and tireless organizer, the 69-year-old Mr.Le Pen has made it possible once again for the French to think in terms of their own peoplehood, to affirm the importance of blood and soil, and to state openly that France belongs to the French.


The FN unquestionably owes its success to the fact that it is the only political party that openly opposes the transformation of France through Third-World immigration. During the economic expansion of the 1960s, France imported unskilled labor from its former North African colonies just as Germany imported Turks. What began as a temporary boom-time male workforce eventually became a massive transfer of Maghreb Arabs into what had been a very stable white population. With a slowing economy and increasing unemployment, France finally put an official stop to Third-World immigration in 1974 but the damage had been done. Millions of unassimilable Arabs began to accumulate in urban slums that were no longer recognizable as part of France. Illegal immigration continues unabated, encouraged by soft-headed Socialist governments that have granted the lawbreakers several amnesties.

As has been the case in all white countries, to note that this was profoundly damaging to France was to be met with cries of “racism.” Among the credible French political parties, only Mr. Le Pen’s Front National has taken a clear position in favor of systematic expulsion of illegal immigrants, incentives to encourage the repatriation of legal immigrants, and across-the-board preferences for French nationals in housing, employment and social programs. It is this appeal of “France for the French” that has been the main source of the FN’s strength and made it the third most popular party in the country, with approximately 15 percent of the vote.

Although 15 percent may not seem like a large figure to Americans accustomed to a two-party system, in a uniquely French multi-party context the FN’s voting strength puts it well on its way to becoming a significant power. It takes some understanding of the French political system to make sense of this — and to grasp the extent to which anti-FN hysteria now drives the French electoral process.

In the French multi-party system the voter gets many choices, but this can mean that no party gets a substantial share of the vote. It may take a coalition of five or six small, squabbling parties to get a majority of deputies in the National Assembly, or parliament, and the instability of shaky coalitions can paralyze government. France therefore has a two-round or two-ballot electoral system to first narrow the field before the vote for the final winner. Candidates from any number of parties can stand for seats in the National Assembly on the first ballot, but only those who get at least 12.5 percent of the initial vote move on to the second and decisive vote, which takes place one week later. (Any candidate who gets a majority on the first vote wins outright, but this is rare.)

Ordinarily, parties on the left and right cooperate with each other on the second ballot. For example, in the first ballot for a legislative seat the Socialist might get 20 percent, the Communist 15 percent, the (conservative) Gaullist 22 percent and some other “conservative” candidate 18 percent, with the rest of the vote going to no-hopers who don’t make the 12.5 percent cut-off. These four candidates can stay in the race for the second ballot if they choose to, but several usually withdraw for tactical reasons. The Communist would decide he cannot beat the Socialist, and would drop out and urge his supporters to vote Socialist. If both “conservative” candidates then stayed in the race, they would split the “conservative” vote and the Socialist would win with a plurality. The less successful “conservative” would therefore drop out, leaving the Gaullist to duke it out with the Socialist in a real contest.

Ever since FN candidates started winning at least 12.5 percent of the vote and making it into the second round, the French parties of the right have treated them like pariahs. Their candidates refuse to drop out after the first ballot even if they won fewer votes than the FN candidate. This ensures that the “conservative” vote is split, and the lefty wins. As Christian Kopff of the University of Colorado points out, this tactic of ganging up on the FN means that for electoral purposes France has a two-party system with the FN facing a massive, Socio-Gaullist coalition.

This is in part due to the influence of French Jewish groups. Years ago, in what is commonly referred to as “the B’nai B’rith oath,” Jewish organizations got a formal agreement from the parties of the right that they would never cooperate with the FN. At the same time, the parties of the right are fully aware of the strong appeal of the FN and fear that its successes come directly at their expense.

In the latest elections for the National Assembly in the summer of 1997, the Gaullists slit their own throats (and those of the FN) rather than break the B’nai B’rith oath. The ruling Gaullist coalition called a surprise election on only a few weeks notice in the hope of preserving its 80 percent majority in the National Assembly. Even on such short notice, the FN managed to stand for all 577 seats, fight a vigorous campaign, and get a very respectable 133 candidates into the second ballot. In the face of the usual gang-up tactics, the FN sent only one deputy to the National Assembly.

But fighting the FN was a disaster for the right. From a crushing majority in the assembly before the vote, the Gaullists plunged to a 41 percent minority. Government thus passed into the hands of a Socialist-Communist coalition, and there are now two Communists in the French cabinet (the French Communist party is one of the largest and most consistently Stalinist in Europe). Although the left got fewer popular votes than the right (including the FN) it now has a majority of deputies because the right destroyed itself.

Analysts at France’s leading but left-leaning paper, Le Monde, calculated that if the right had cooperated in the second ballot as the left had, the FN would have won seats for 77 deputies who, in coalition with the Gaullist parties, could have formed a government of the right. The FN has therefore demonstrated that without its coalition support the “mainstream” right can no longer rule.

Even Le Monde, though delighted with the left’s victory, notes that anti-FN conniving is distorting French democracy. The paper finds it “disquieting” that the Communists, who got only 9.9 percent of the first round vote, have 33 deputies in the assembly and men in the cabinet, whereas the FN got 15.3 percent of the vote and seated only one deputy.

Even more significant, there is now a vigorous insurgency among some Gaullists and other “conservatives” who see no reason why the right should tear itself to bits while Socialists and Communists rule. Charles de Gaulle himself wrote, “The French right is the most stupid right in the world,” and some of the men who campaign in his name are tired of being living proof of this. Local representatives of the rightist parties have begun to meet with Mr. Le Pen and other FN figures in an attempt to find some means of compromise. For the time being, these conversations are still being denounced by the leaders of the rightist parties.

Whatever pose the party bosses are now striking, in future elections there will be tremendous pressure on them from below not to repeat the suicidal disaster of last June. Some form of cooperation with the FN may be in the works, if only to deprive the left of a governing majority.

Some politicians are calling for straight, single-round elections that would return a number of deputies in rough proportion to the percentage of the popular vote. It was just such an experiment in 1986 that resulted in the FN’s 11 percent of the popular vote giving it 35 deputies — an experiment the country has never dared repeat. Nevertheless, proportional representation could end up giving the Gaullists exactly what they want: a victory of the right over the left without the need publicly to cooperate with the FN on the second ballot. Whatever happens, the front is poised for a real breakthrough in the next legislative elections, which will be held no later than 2002.

In the mean time, two-ballot regional elections are scheduled for March 15 and 22, and results will be known about the time this issue of AR goes into the mail. Regionals are of less significance than national elections, but the French scrutinize the results with great care looking for shifts in the balance of power. Few American papers are likely to report the results, but the next issue of AR will carry an update.

Depth of Presence

One of the FN’s great strengths is the depth of its electoral presence, which it has built up by contesting elections at all levels, local and national. In 1989, for example, it won 1,200 city council seats in 400 French cities. The front now controls the mayor’s office in four cities, including Toulon, which has a population of over 100,000 and is the principal French naval base on the Mediterranean.

When it first elected mayors in 1995, there was much shrieking about the return of fascism, but the front has gone quietly to work, rooting out corruption, correcting “affirmative-action” style preferences for foreigners, and stopping local funding for “multicultural festivals” and anti-French library books. This deliberate pace is now decried as a mere tactic to lull people into thinking the front is no different from any other party.

Perhaps the most excitement has been had from the front’s 1997 victory in the Marseille suburb of Vitrolles. Catherine Mégret, the new mayor, immediately made headlines with her interpretation of the voters’ wishes: “[They] wanted us to scare people who don’t belong. We will immediately stop all state aid to immigrants and give the money to French people. Our motto is: ‘French first.’” “You’ll see how quickly they [immigrants] disappear from here,” she added. “They’re only here for the money. She also called immigrants “colonists” and concluded that the races are genetically different. Later, under France’s tyrannical anti-free speech laws, Mrs. Mégret was fined and given a suspended jail sentence but she is still firmly in office. Like a number of FN office-holders, Mrs. Mégret is Jewish, but this does not seem to silence those who insist that the front is anti-Semitic.

In February of this year Vitrolles turned the country on its ear by announcing selective grants of $1,000 to certain city residents who had babies. Only French couples and citizens of other European Union nations get the money. The grants are made without regard to race, but the effect is to subsidize white baby-making. Every other political party has denounced the program and it has been challenged in court.

At a more symbolic level, the FN has gotten rid of the lefty street names the Socialists had scattered around Vitrolles. The old names are back, replacing Olof Palme (very lefty Swedish prime minister), Salvador Allende (Marxist president of Chile), and Dulcie September (black anti-apartheid activist). Mrs. Mégret has done away with Avenue François Mitterand, the socialist President of France who died in 1996, and brought back Avenue Marseille instead. Likewise, the city once more has a Place de Provence after having endured a Place Nelson Mandela for several years. The other side has always made heavy use of symbols, and the front takes great pleasure in undoing its work.

Shifting the Debate

Of course, the FN’s importance goes far beyond its electoral strength. As always happens when “extremists” win support, their positions suddenly cease to be quite so extreme. Many “mainstream” conservatives now sound just like Mr. Le Pen. Jacques Mayard, deputy from Yvelines, explains what to do with an illegal immigrant: “You tie him onto a stretcher, a little Valium, and out he goes.” Jean-Marie André, Gaullist deputy mayor of Beaucaire says — putting the cart before the horse — “If Jean-Marie Le Pen says the same things as I it is not my fault.” Former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has now taken the FN position in favor of jus sanguinis.

Even the left has become infected. In 1990, when the Gaullist mayor of the Paris suburb of Montfermeil made local, publicly-supported nursery schools stop accepting any more immigrant children, the Communist mayor of nearby Clichy-sous-Bois defended the decision, saying he was “faced with a similar situation.” Former Socialist prime minister Edith Cresson has spoken openly about loading up chartered airplanes with immigrants and sending them home. Remarks of this kind, which might well end an American politician’s career, are no longer fatal in France.

Public opinion polls show a great variety of views about the FN. Sixty-three percent of the French were reportedly “somewhat shocked” or “very shocked” by Mr. Le Pen’s comments on race and the Olympics, but 25 percent said they were “not very shocked” or “not shocked at all.” Fifty-one percent feel that at least some FN ideas are close to their own while 44 percent totally disapprove of the party. In one remarkable survey, three quarters of respondents said there are “too many Arabs in France,” and half said they feel “antipathy” towards them.

Broadening the Base

Poll results will continue to change, not only as the FN gains more power and respectability but as its own politics change. A dozen years ago, the party promoted a virtually Thatcherite, free-market economics. Recently, it has begun to shift towards workers’ concerns: protectionism, wage supports, and unemployment and retirement benefits. For the latest legislative elections it coined a new slogan: “Not right, not left, but French!” Combined with its unfailing support for “France for the French,” the new emphasis is moving the FN in a distinctly populist direction. To the chagrin of the left, the FN now gets more votes from workers and employees than any other party.

Of course, the press finds a sinister motive in anything the FN does. Whenever the “mainstream” right makes a populist move, Le Monde and the socialist-supporting Nouvel Observateur see this as a sign of good sense. When the FN starts talking about respecting the French worker, the same journalists fret that Hitler, too, was a populist, whose doctrine was National Socialism. Le Monde,choosing its dates carefully, worries that the FN “is now showing an activism in a direction not familiar to the extreme right since 1945.”

This move towards the center has greatly increased the appeal of the FN’s annual May 1st parade. Years ago, the front boldly decided to compete head to head with the very lefty French observances of May Day, and its increasingly populist message now attracts 6,000 to 8,000 demonstrators, in what is one of the most-watched political events on the French calendar.

The party gets an even more spectacular turnout for its annual “Blue White and Red Festival” in the fall. Last year, 60,000 heeded the call to the colors, and more than 30,000 listened to Mr. Le Pen’s keynote address. No other politician in France — or in America — can bring out crowds of this size. These figures are all the more impressive — and known to be accurate — because the FN is the only major political party that can charge admission to its events and still pack the halls. Mr. Le Pen also inspires his opponents to mobilize on an unprecedented scale. An “anti-racist” counter-demonstration sent 10,000 people through the streets of Paris to protest the most recent FN festival.

As Samuel Francis has pointed out, national prominence of this kind is based in large part on painstaking, unglamorous work at every level of society. The FN has an organization for teachers, the equivalents of several trade unions, an association of retired people, a police union, tenant and housing organizations, and a large and very active youth association. By improving the daily lives of the French, the front spreads its message and builds support.

At the same time, the success of the Le Pen movement has established a clear, rightward boundary to French political discourse. There is simply no future for racialists or nationalists outside the front. Groups like the New Forces Party, the Popular Alliance, New Resistance, and the National Republican Party have either marched straight into political insignificance or joined the front.

Why the Success?

What accounts for the FN’s success on a scale beyond the dreams of an equivalent movement in the United States? Any answer is necessarily speculative, but one factor that can be ruled out is any difference in the prevailing intellectual climate. Elite opinion in France is, if anything, more left-over Marxist than in America. For years, Mr. Le Pen’s program was simply ignored by the press and now that it cannot be ignored, it is routinely called fascist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and racist. The most neutral epithet is “extreme right,” but now that the front is moving in a populist direction, the term “gaucho-lepénism” (leftist-Le Penism) has come into vogue.

As in the United States, journalism standards go by the board if points can be scored against “the fascists.” Typical of the way the press has treated the party is an article that appeared in the August 6-7, 1995, issue of Le Monde. With the headline, “The Front National Recruits Young Activists Among the Neo-Nazis,” the article purports to be an exposé of the kind of people who attend the FN’s “summer university,” which has been an annual event for more than ten years. The reader is titillated with comments attributed to attendees (example: “Hitler didn’t do everything right but he didn’t do all that badly either.”). The speakers remain unnamed — though since anyone can apply to attend the sessions their remarks mean nothing — and their comments were passed along to Le Monde by a disgruntled attendee who is also unnamed.

Over the years, the FN message has gotten out despite the press, not because of it.

Unlike the United States, however, France is a country with a long history of ethnic and cultural stability. “We are a nation of immigrants” wins no arguments in a Paris café. The French have always taken a prickly sort of pride in their Frenchness, which is visibly eroded by alien implantation. Also, the French cannot be blackmailed with constant harping on race-slavery. Lefties have tried to use the imperialist past as a moral shakedown, but this has generally failed. France maintains a clearly beneficial presence in its former African colonies, which are generally in better shape than their ex-British neighbors. Senegalese and even Algerians still look up to France as the font of true culture, and enthusiastically take part in the “Francophone summits” that bring French-speaking countries together. The ordinary Frenchman is therefore less on the racial defensive and less susceptible to the multi-racial, anti-white nonsense that circulates just as freely in France as in the United States.

Another French advantage has been its multi-party system. Although the two-ballot process has been used viciously against the FN, France is entirely accustomed to new parties cropping up and even taking power. The two main parties of the formerly-ruling conservative coalition, the Union for French Democracy (UDF) and the Rally for the Republic (RPR), are only a decade or two old. Thus, unlike the United States, where “third-party candidacy” is almost synonymous with “irrelevant,” political expression in France is not limited by a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.

Patrick Buchanan, for example has much in common with Mr. Le Pen, and people vote for him for many of the same reasons. In a national contest he could probably attract a similar proportion of the popular vote. However, he faces far higher institutional obstacles to building an organization capable of challenging the existing parties. The dominance of the Democrats and Republicans leaves potential supporters of an American populist movement with no voice and no power.

As they have shown in California ballot initiatives banning affirmative action and state handouts for illegal immigrants, American whites vote for their own interests when they have the chance. Like the French, they are far more racial-nationalist than the press or the politicians. The genius of Mr. Le Pen is to have broken through to the people, to have fought off the press and the politicians long enough to give the French a chance to vote for the things their grandparents took for granted: France, race, and nation.

What are the prospects for the FN? Today, only the conservative Rally for the Republic (RPR) and the Socialist Party outpoll the FN, and the RPR does so by only a few percentage points. Although Mr. Le Pen is growing older and there may be some changes at the top of the party, an FN prime minister is no longer out of the question. Indeed, at this point the right might be more inclined to break the B’nai B’rith oath if the old warrior were to step down. At the same time, if the insurgency among the conservatives is successful, the RPR and the UDF may offer to cooperate in the next legislative elections. At the moment, there is debate within the front over whether to forgive the “rotten right” its past treachery or whether simply to try to crush it. But if the right cooperates across the board and the front outpolls the RPR, it could find itself the senior partner in a governing coalition. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s mission to reawaken France could be on the verge of success.

This possibility is not lost on the opposition. Reflex, a French “anti-racist” magazine, notes that what it calls “fascist gangrene” continues to spread. Its post-elections summary glumly concludes that the nation faces “the very real prospect of an extreme-right government in France for the first time since Vichy.”

Derek Turner, editor of the British nationalist magazine Right Now!, writes: “If an FN government, or a government strongly influenced by the FN, comes to power in France (as now seems likely), the effects will be incalculable.” He goes on to argue that a nationalist success in such an important country as France could not help but stimulate similar successes elsewhere in Europe, and even bring the British Tories — many of whom already agree privately with Mr. Le Pen — out of the closet. By reawakening France, the FN could reawaken Europe, and perhaps even the United States.