Four years after neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen created a political earthquake in France when he beat the French Socialists’ candidate for place in the presidential run-off, a disturbing new poll released today in France shows that a third of the French — 34% — say the extreme right is close to their pre-occupations (as opposed to 66% disagree). The poll, taken by the leading polling institute IFOP and published today in the Paris daily Metro, also shows that 35% believe that the extreme-right “enriches” political debate. And 48% of the French say neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front, best incarnates the extreme right (followed at 24% by ultramontane Catholic Viscount Phillipe de Villiers, the aristocratic leader of the ultra-right, xenophobic, homophobic, and extreme nationalist MPF (Movement for France). Le Pen’s daughter and designated successor, Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s vice president, gets 19%). Combine the scores of Le Pen and his daughter, and 67% of the French who identify with the extreme right say their sympathy goes to the neo-fascist National Front.
Immigration tops the preoccupations of those who identify with the neo-fascist extreme right with 43%, followed by security (meaning crime in France) at 31%, unemployment at 14%, and education at 7%. With immigration and crime together totaling 74%, it’s a clear indication that this poll reflects the heightened climate of racism in France since last fall’s ghetto riots, which produced two weeks of car-burnings and arson, and confrontations by ghetto youths with police all across France. Indeed, I predicted a rise in racism would manifest itself in the riots’ wake (for background, see my analysis of the ghetto riots from last November 6, “Why is France Burning?” and my followup, “France After the Riots: ‘Autism,’ Repression–and the Socialists’ Impotence”). The resurgence of that violence on the margins of the two successful nation-wide general strikes against a reactionary youth labor contract last month — even though that much-televised disorder was mostly generated by only a few hundred ghetto youths out of millions of peaceful demonstrators — also contributed to the increase in security hysteria and anti-immigrant sentiments this new poll records.
This poll is also good news for the likely conservative nominee for president in 2007, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The hard-line law-and-order Sarkozy — who called the ghetto rioters “scum” and worse, and has been pursuing a tough policy of deporting immigrants and making it harder for them to get French citizenship — is well-positioned to pick up the Le Pen sympathizers in the presidential run-off two years hence against the Socialist-led coalition’s candidate. Racism in France, this new poll tells us, is clearly on the increase.
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared April 21, 2006.