The FN: An Ideological Renewal?

With 17.9% in the first round of presidential elections – and an 80% national participation rate- the question of the Front National’s (FN) profound values is more relevant than ever. Marine Le Pen led her campaign with the intention of ridding the party of its extremely negative reputation. But even if the form of the discourse has changed, many believe that the communitarian and nationalistic values remained constant under the surface.

Communitiarianism deals with the relationship between the individual and their community. In France, the term Communautarianisme takes on another meaning, acquiring an anti-immigration connotation by putting forth the idea that a country should be united and “like” in all aspects of its culture.

The FN recently gained 3 seats in the National Assembly, confirming that it is definitively part of the French political landscape. Earlier in its history, in 1982, the views of the FN were rejected as being violently anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant. But with the affirmation of the legal rights of minorities, their ideas changed to a “clash of civilizations” discourse. The FN softened its speech, talking about “national preference” and using other, more neutral terms.

The exclusion of the Jewish population has been replaced by the exclusion of the Muslim one. The discourse about the inequality of races has been replaced by discussions on halal meat, the building of mosques, and ostensible signs of religion like the veil. The regulation of the veil was criticized on the grounds of secularism.  For the FN, immigrants would be the “inner menace” for French national identity and workers.

“For more than thirty years, left and right have imposed a mass immigration on us that destabilizes our Nation, that destroys our national identity, that ruins our system of social welfaire,” asserted Martine Le Pen in a speech in Nice. Similarly, the FN website reads that mass immigration “undermines our national identity and brings with it a more and more visible Islamization with its procession of claims.” Muslims have become, in the discourse of the FN, the symbol of Communitarianism that could put an end to the unity of the French Republic.

The racists are not those whom we think. Or at least, that is what the FN assumes. Thus, the UMP was unable to fight the “explosion of anti-white racism which ravages the suburbs,” pinning the blame on “the immigrants and the foreigners” said Marine Le Pen, reinforcing the safety doctrine of the party.

And this is the FN that is marginalized by the “UMPS” majority as Marine Le Pen calls it, merging the names of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) – the two main political parties in France. She criticized the notion of political correctness, saying that “it paralyzes left and right, and we can no longer talk about anything at the risk of being accused of stigmatizing…”

European integration created a false opposition between those who are members of a  national school of thought and those who tilt toward a more “European” worldview.  This argument has been taken to a new level by the FN.

Most others believe the latter are in fact sharing a European culture while keeping their national heritage. Marine Le Pen is convinced this split is one of the more important issues needing to be discussed.

On the France 2 TV channel, she said: “I do not believe in the fracture between left and right… the real fracture today is between the Nation and globalization. Meaning, between those who believe in France, and those who no longer do.” The FN thereby remains attached to the old nation state structure.

If there is one thing that can be said about Le Pen: regardless of her change in campaign tactics, she believes very strongly in a nationalist France. At a speech in Nice she said,  “I am fighting because I believe in France. Because I think our people is great and can achieve a lot.”

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