Macron may have won, but Le Pen's vision has emerged triumphant
Wide segments of French society breathed a sigh of relief after Marine Le Pen’s loss in the 2022 presidential elections. The far-right candidate was defeated, like her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen before her. However, the base of her party has grown and its ideas have been victorious, with Le-Pen's tide rising for the first time to exceed the 40 percent threshold of votes. The ideas of this racist party have gained wide traction, and have been largely normalised in society, a development that can only portend that worse is ahead for France.
Peddling a discourse of hate
At the start of the 1970s, Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the Front National (National Front Party) and began a discourse of hate against immigrants with slogans like: "A million unemployed means a million unwanted immigrants", and "France and the French come first".
His rhetoric found a receptive audience in some quarters which encouraged him to go further, demanding forced deportations: "We must arrange the return of immigrants to their countries of origin as soon as possible", he proclaimed.
"Wide segments of French society breathed a sigh of relief after Marine Le Pen’s defeat in the 2022 presidential elections. The far-right candidate was defeated, like her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen before her. However, the base of her party has grown and its ideas have been victorious, with Le-Pen's tide rising for the first time to exceed the 40 percent threshold of votes"
In the name of racial purity and civilizational superiority, he urged the government of the time to stop granting French citizenship to everyone born in France no matter their parents' citizenship, saying: "A goat may be born in a stable but that doesn't make it a horse". Another time, he bragged about buying a house in the countryside so his children could enjoy looking at cows instead of Arabs.
Since the French judiciary's penalty for inciting hate and racism was confined to nominal fines not exceeding a few thousand euros, Le Pen senior continued to demonise "foreigners", targeting Arabs and Muslims in particular. Marine, his eldest daughter, would often repeat her father's statements, and notoriously compared Muslims praying on French streets to the Nazi occupation.
She also called for an all-out war against 'Islamic tyranny', so that "Sharia doesn’t replace our constitution and radical Islam doesn't replace our laws, destroy our buildings, ban our music, and enforce a campaign of religious cleansing with all the atrocities this entails" as she said in one of her vile speeches in 2015.
New style, same substance
Later, her thirst for power growing, Marine expelled her father from the party, which she rebranded the National Rally in 2018. She softened her discourse, started smiling more and expanded her list of enemies to include the proponents of 'rampant globalisation'.
She altered the branding but kept the essence: instead of attacking Islam and Muslims openly as her father had done with those he termed 'green fascists' she preferred to attack them under the cover of combatting the 'Islamist Ideology'.
By this, she meant Islam is not a religion, but an 'invasive ideology' in which women formed the visible spearhead, due to their wearing hijabs, jilbabs, face veils or burkinis. While Le Pen views the hijab as an "ideological uniform which does not constitute religious clothing", Jordan Bardalla, one of her party's leaders, has stated that the hijab was an expression by "those who strive to separate themselves from the republic".
"In the name of racial purity and civilizational superiority, he urged the then government to stop granting French citizenship to everyone born in France, saying: "A goat may be born in a stable but that doesn't make it a horse".
The battle-against-Islam discourse was accompanied by demands to exterminate Muslims in France, especially in the virtual realm. In one of her racist tweets, pro-Le Pen politician Chantal Clamer wrote in 2014: "Islam and the Mohammedans are the plague of the twenty-first century. They must be fought and destroyed without hesitation and by all means possible". Marine sufficed herself with describing this genocidal rhetoric raging in her party as merely "reckless".
Racism has deep roots in France
In reality, Le Pen's party didn't introduce racism to the so-called land of the Enlightenment, but inherited it from the father of the Fifth Republic, Charles de Gaulle. He was the legendary leader of Free France, which had to be liberated by its North African colonies when most of the French were prostrate before the Nazis.
Le Pen senior would often echo de Gaulle's words, as documented by former education minister, Alain Peyrefitte in his book (C'était De Gaullle): "It is very good that there are yellow Frenchmen, black Frenchmen, brown Frenchmen. They prove that France is open to all races and that she has a universal mission. But [it is good] on condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France. We are, after all, primarily a European people of the white race, Greek and Latin culture, and the Christian religion. Let's be frank! Have you seen the Muslims with their turbans and their robes? It is clear they aren’t French…Do you think France is able to absorb 10 million Muslims, who tomorrow will become 20 million then 40 million?"
Polls opened in France on Sunday morning for the second round of the presidential election.https://t.co/6LWzCDo54X— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) April 25, 2022
In truth, De Gaulle himself inherited his racism from Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of Vichy France, which passed a series of laws targeting the "Jewish race" in October 1940 and legitimised the persecution of the Jews. They were forced to wear a yellow star to separate them from the rest of the population, and tens of thousands were sent to their deaths in the Nazi Holocaust.
But Pétain had also inherited his anti-semitism from others before him, who in turn had inherited it. Hatred of others, and the vile racist policies institutionalized by France, have roots in a society that succeeded in hiding them by excessively associating itself with the image of the Enlightenment, as well as marketing itself as a leading purveyor of culture and the arts, and an exporter of luxury cosmetics, perfumes and fashion.
All that changed is that de Gaulle and his Fifth Republic swapped hatred of Jews with hatred of Arabs and Muslims, after the Nazi, fascist and Vichy crimes in World War II prohibited them from continuing to publicly profess their anti-Semitism.
"France, where the slogan of the French Revolution, "Freedom - Equality - Fraternity" is prominently engraved on its most prestigious public buildings, separated millions of Muslims from the rest of society"
France: An apartheid?
This implicit racism explains the presence of "a system of territorial, social and ethnic apartheid" in France, as described by former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. He shocked the French by recognising the state's responsibility in perpetuating an apartheid regime ten years after riots broke out in France’s suburbs in late 2005.
Valls pointed to apartheid policies pursued by the Fifth Republic since the 1970s and 1980s, such as the construction of marginalised neighbourhoods outside city centres, in which concrete apartment blocks were densely packed to house "immigrant" families, most originally from north Africa.
France, where the slogan of the French Revolution, "Freedom - Equality - Fraternity" is prominently engraved on its most prestigious public buildings, separated millions of Muslims from the rest of society. It built them 1,436 isolated neighbourhoods in city suburbs, that house today 5.4 million people, around 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
Unemployment in its suburbs is 23.4 percent, compared to 8.9 percent in the rest of France, and youth unemployment is 33 percent, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (2018).
Instead of helping those in the suburbs escape the marginal existence imposed on them (as the ghettos imposed similar conditions on Polish Jews), the media and politicians demonised them. This included the "Champagne socialists" and TV philosophers, led by Bernard-Henri Lévy, André Glucksmann and Alain Finkelcrot, and other intellectual hate-peddlers.
These commentators didn't dare hold Vichy France accountable for its crimes against the Jews, instead finding in the demonisation of Muslims an outlet for their neuroses. in the name of "the Republic" and "secularism", they have accused Muslims in the suburbs of "Islamic communitarianism" since the 1980s. Then came Macron to hammer the final nail in their coffin by wielding the accusation of "Islamic separatism".
"These commentators didn't dare hold Vichy France accountable for its crimes against the Jews, instead finding in the demonisation of Muslims an outlet for their neuroses"
Macron, who recently claimed to be defending Muslims against Le Pen’s racism, fought to enact a law combatting 'Islamic separatism', which bans schoolgirls from wearing hijabs, and forbids their parents from homeschooling them if they are expelled.
Punishments for those who commit the crime of 'Islamic separatism' include stripping citizenship and residency rights and being barred from places of worship. In 2017, Macron pushed an anti-terrorism law which still permits the government to pre-emptively punish Muslims without charge or trial based on withheld information about actions they may commit in the future, a bizarre situation which evokes the term coined by British writer George Orwell: "Thoughtcrime ".
But the racial discrimination that Macron promoted wasn't strict enough according to Ms Le Pen, who drafted a counter-proposal which criminalised the wearing of the veil and 'Islamic dress' in all public places, so that hijabi women would have to choose between de facto house arrest, renouncing the hijab, or leaving the country.
#PresidentMacron is considering forming a new political party with MP candidates from Left and Right to try and ensure a majority in June’s 'Assemblée nationale' elections#frenchpolitics #frenchelection #frenchMPs #politicsinfrance #macronsnewparty https://t.co/e4kFUaTx3S— The Connexion (@ConnexionFrance) April 29, 2022
Le Pen pledged to allocate the most important economic and social benefits, including access to work and housing to the "French", by which she meant, as is made clear in her party's literature, the "real French".
Macron has won and Marine has been defeated. But the ideas of the Le Pen family have triumphed, and Arabs, Muslims and residents of the suburbs remain fearful of the future in the light of Macron's pledge in his victory speech to find answers to those who voted for the extreme right.
This means that the French state is following the path of Le Pen, and that her authoritarian policies may well pave the way for fascism. The state now governed by the rule of law could transform gradually into a police state, based on the repressive police forces, which French sociologist Emmanuel Todd summarized in one sentence: "The police assault on behalf of Macron and vote for Le Pen".
"All indicate that France is moving towards a confrontation between the racist state, with its institutions, parties, laws, base, media, and repressive apparatus, and those it considers "foreigners" and "separatists"
The far-right captured almost half the electorate. Added to this, the rhetoric of fascist-Zionist journalist Eric Zemmour was normalized in the political scene; armed Nazi militias like "Recolonisons la France" emerged, and a discourse of "resistance" in suburban neighbourhoods has been sparked.
All indicate that France is moving towards a confrontation between a racist state, with its institutions, parties, laws, base, media, and repressive apparatus, and those it considers "foreigners" and "separatists". Moreover, violent clashes which have been called for by Zemmour's Reconquête Party, which the most hardline leaders of Le Pen's party have now joined, including Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, should not be considered far-fetched.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen's granddaughter, also announced she has joined the reserve forces to defend France against 'Islamists', stating: "They assassinate our children, they kill our police, they slaughter our priests. Wake up!"
Marine will withdraw for Marion to carry the baton of the Le-Pen family for the sake of a white and Christian France in which there is no place for foreigners in general, and for Arabs and Muslims in particular. But who will stop the Le Pen march towards this impossible dream?
Will the progressive forces who believe in plurality, peaceful coexistence and social justice challenge it, and will the Arab, Muslim and Black communities join them? Will French democracy survive a Macron-Le Pen coalition if Macron's "Republic" party fails to secure 50 percent of votes in the coming parliamentary elections and Le Pen succeeds in maintaining her voter base?
Will 'Leftist' forces achieve a miracle and enter the coalition government instead of Le Pen, if Macron's party fails? Only seven weeks separate us from a decisive electoral battle, which will answer these questions, and decide France's fate for the next five years, and perhaps beyond.
Article translated from Arabic by Rose Chacko.
Dr. Aicha el Basri is a Moroccan author and journalist. She is former spokeswoman for the African Union and the United Nations Mission in Darfur, and recipient of the 2015 American Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling.
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