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Sunday 13 November 2016


Brownskirt

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 11th December 2015

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre and Paris terrorist bombings, the French National Front has undergone an unwelcome resurgence in French regional elections. Why should French LGBTI community members be wary of this?

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As matters stand, the French National Front is already France's third largest political party after the governing Socialists of President Francois Hollande and the Union for a Popular Movement on the centre-right. The National Front is Eurosceptic, economically protectionist, socially conservative...and neo-fascist. It is also anti-immigrant when it comes to unemployed, unskilled and illegal immigrants from France's Arab and African former imperial colonies and more recently, it has fulminated about "Islamisation" due to increased Muslim presence within French towns and cities. Consequently, the party has done chillingly well in French regional elections in early December 2015.

Despite recent attempts to sanitise its public image by its current leader, Marine Le Pen, the organisation's history speaks for itself. It was formed from members of several prior French neo-fascist groups. One, Action Francais, was active from 1899. Rabidly anti-Semitic, it collaborated with Nazi Germany during its occupation, as well as the Nazi puppet state of Vichy France in the south. Occident was a more recent far right organisation, which regularly attacked leftist students during sixties protests against the Vietnam War, while the contemporary Groupe Union Defence are unreconstructed anti-Semites, pitted against the French Union of Jewish Students. So, where did these organisations come from? Until the sixties, France downplayed and obscured much of its active collaboration during the Nazi Holocaust when it came to the deportation of French Jews. At the same time, it had also lost its former colonies in Indochina and Algeria, given that the Algerian War ended in 1962, triggering an exodus of embittered right-wing French ex-colonists back to the mainland, which became a sizable electoral constituency for far right political ambitions and activism in the decades afterward. In 1968, France narrowly averted a student-led socialist revolution, while during the seventies, it entered a long period of economic stagnation and growing unemployment as well as political polarisation.

At first, the clumsy unreconstructed anti-Semitism of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father, told against him, as did his enthusiastic admission that he had tortured Algerian prisoners of war during the Algerian War for Independence. He also referred to the Holocaust as an "historical detail' and called for the imprisonment of HIV+ people and PLWAs, as well as mandatory HIV testing for immigrants that entered France. However, in 2002, the French political establishment was shocked when Le Pen beat the Socialist Party, coming second in the first round of France's direct presidential elections. Fortunately, RPR's Jacques Chirac rallied, with the assistance of anti-Front tactical voting. Le Pen's antics led to his displacement as Front National leader by Marine Le Pen, his daughter, in 2012. Marine has sought to present a softer, populist image. However, during the recent French marriage equality debates, violent neofascist elements infiltrated the anti-equality "Manif Pour Tous" movement, causing rioting in their wake as well as confrontations with French police. In 2012, she came third behind Francois Hollande, the incumbent president, and Nicholas Sarkozy, his UMP rival, whose populist anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric must be held partially responsible for the revival of the Front National. Divorced, she is currently also a Calais regional councillor, elected to that position in 2010. The party still emphasises its anti-immigration stance and Islamophobia, despite the ostensible change in leadership.

While Marine Le Pen gloated at her party's current good turn of fortune, it remains to be seen whether the party will suffer a pratfall in the months ahead.

Recommended:

Peter Davies:The National Front in France: Ideology, Discourse and Power:London: Routledge: 1999.

Edward DeClair:Politics on the Fringe: People, Policies and Organisation Within the French National Front:Durham: Duke University Press: 1999.

Peter DeFrayn and Jim Wolfreys:The Politics of Racism in France:New York: St Martins Press: 1998.


James Shields:The Extreme Right in France: From Petain to Le Pen: London: Routledge: 2007.

Peter Merkel and Len Weinberg:Right-Wing Extremism in the Twenty First Century: London: Routledge: 2003.

Craig Young - 11th December 2015

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