After the recent results of European elections in France, with 25% of votes to “Front National”, labelled far-right, this party has become with these elections the first party in France.
Many Europeans were surprised or shocked that a noticeable proportion of French would vote in defiance of the European Union (EU), knowing that France was one of the main countries which contributed to its creation. Quite a few Europeans have since wondered or stated that the French would be racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, intolerant, etc. And maybe have always been.
If these words exist, they describe some reality (there are some individuals who indeed are racist, xenophobic, etc.). Is this describing the feelings of a noticeable proportion of the French?
To explain the votes of last 25th of April in France, we must take into account the context of:
– The expectations regarding EU
– Mass immigration
– The “Front National” party
Many French saw the European Union as a dream, and believed what had been sold to them by the elites as the future “United States of Europe”, of which famous French author of “Les Misérables” Victor Hugo spoke in the 19th century. It carried a dream of peace, brotherhood, and unity with the other peoples of Europe.
After the 2 world wars of 20th century, the desire of peace was strong, and any attempt for it was welcome, and many French people valued it deeply, step after step.
With the introduction of the euro currency in 2002, the first feeling of many Europeans was the pride of having a physical daily symbol of our unity all over the countries sharing that currency. Despite an opportunistic inflation with the change of money, most people thought it was a slight discomfort to accept in view of better times.
But twelve years later, the discomfort has become a heavy weight. Europeans see that the promises of a better life have not come true, moreover were lies, or at least errors. Huge errors, with unemployment, increased poverty, and doubts about the future.
But the financial aspect is only one aspect of the problems which the European Union has not solved. Moreover, many French people feel that the EU has contributed to their insecurity, with the opening of borders.
This opening of borders was sold to us as again a promise of brotherhood, of acceptance of the other, of the foreigner, and as the refusal of selfishness. Wonderful value. And indeed, it is great not to have to go through custom controls when we are driving from France to Spain, from France to Belgium, from Belgium to Germany, etc. Just a postmark to show we are entering into another state of the same Country, Europe. As tourists, this is great. As tourists, not having to change currency when we travel to another country is great.
But we are tourists only few days or weeks in a year.
And the opening of borders have let people from all the EU come wherever they want. It seemed good. Now, we see mass immigration coming from Africa (not even EU) and Eastern Europe, when the locals struggle to find a job. The “hotel” France is full, and still many people come to have a bedroom, with full (continental, of not English) breakfast. This is where locals begin to think. They even more become interrogative when they see that new immigrants are granted the same benefits than the locals, without having ever contributed to the welfare of the country. They become angry when these only come in view of benefits and do not try to settle and integrate to the national community, which is a huge difference with previous immigration of Europeans in the 20th century (Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese) who integrated and whose children became as French as the locals.
We see many immigrants of 2nd and 3rd generation, born in France, who only feel French for benefits and do not feel French for the values of the country, who see “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” (the motto of French Republic), as only a one way direction: theirs.
Not all of them, obviously. There are still immigrants who are learning the language of the country, respecting local habits and people.
But when the French see that their habits are altered to please the immigrants, they wonder why it is not immigrants who try to please and adapt to the locals. School holidays used to be officially called Christmas and Easter holidays, they now are officially called winter and spring holidays, not to offend … Buddhists (well, not these, I’m afraid). Let us be clear, there are honest people of the offended religion (I will not say which, you well know) who will say that this is ridiculous and that France is a Christian country and who genuinely respect this. Many canteens only serve halal food, as not to offend (you know whom). Some swimming pools are adapting their opening times so that there are times for men only and times for women only. Very gradually, the habits of a whole nation are adapting to newcomers. People begin to think: why should it be? Should it not be the way round? It used to be for previous generations of immigrants, up to the 70s. Is it racist to demand to be respected in our habits in our own land?
Anger has grown with the release last November by French government of a report, on their request, regarding integration of immigrants, which was advising for the French to adapt to immigrants, and not the other way round. Voices shouted, even from MPs of the Socialist Party in power, to bury such proposals as soon as they were exposed.
Now with the entry of Romania in the Schengen space, Roma people are allowed to enter France and be granted same benefits as the locals. The problem is that most of these people do not come to work but have a culture of stealing and destroying, reminding more the tribes of Huns that pleasant peaceful immigrants wanting to settle down. Last 24th September, the then Interior Minister Manuel Valls, now Prime Minister said that only a minority of Roma people wanted to integrate, and that they “have ways of life extremely different to ours which are obviously in confrontation” and that “it is illusory to think that the problem conveyed by Roma people will only be solved by their insertion”. He had to step down from his words, as many voices from his own party and from European Commissioner Viviane Reding expressed their outrage at his words.
Funnily enough, many French people thought Valls’ words were common sense, but applied also to a much larger population, belonging to the religion I must not mention. But Valls did not mention these … they are electors!
So that French people are noticing the huge discrepancy between the speech of the elites (main parties and European commissioners) and what they live on a daily basis.
In fact, most French people have been tolerant, thinking the other would gradually adapt, or the next generation. But how long for somebody has to tend to the right cheek at each slap to the left one? The elites are not listening to the people, which feels not considered.
Here is the situation. Hence the growing vote against the EU.
But why voting for Front National? Far-left parties are also against the EU. But their fight is only against global economics, and they are very welcoming for mass immigration. They got 6% of votes in France. The French have said to them: it is OK to open the door, but only if we chose the guests.
People all over Europe are afraid of Front National. I was. Front National has had a bad reputation of a nationalist and xenophobic party. Which may have been deserved, I cannot tell. It is said that men from the Vichy regime (the collaborationist government of invaded France during World War 2) were in the core of Front National. It is not that simple. Some of the ministers of that regime came from … the French Socialist Party of the 1930’s. Some who organised deportation of Jews during the Vichy regime had demonstrated 10 years before against anti-Semitism! Former French Socialist president François Mitterrand had been a far-right activist and joined the Vichy government. He afterwards joined Resistance, but knowing how clever that man was, one has reason to question his motivations: had he changed his mind, or was his attitude simply opportunistic? No one can answer, I bet.
On the other hand, Jean-Marie Le Pen (the 1st leader of Front National), aged 16, wanted to join Resistance, against the Nazis. But yes, to many French people, he did appear anti-Semitic and racist. Difficult to say whether he is or whether he was demonised, as media seem to show what they want. The man is indeed a character and a fighter. Now, since he left, his daughter Marine was elected at the president of the party. She is clever, like her father. She is a patriot, like her father. But unlike her father, she appears more open to people. She does not accept that a member of the party would have racist words and she dismisses these individuals straight away. Some people may say this is just an attitude to please more people and to appear more respectable, but that she is as racist and xenophobic as her father appeared to be. Difficult to answer. What can give an element of answer, though, is that the party has taken on board a new generation of men and women who really look more open, who look respectful of the individuals. So that some former members of Front National say that Marine is a traitor to their core values, which is a good sign for many people.
Now, having seen what the Socialist Party in power does, many French people are more afraid of the Socialist Party (which appears daily more and more totalitarian) than of Front National.
I personally do not think Front National is a racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic party. I voted UKIP for European elections. Had I lived in my home country, France, I would have voted Front National for the very first time of my life. (I used to vote for UMP, the French equivalent pro-EU party of Tories).
I am not stating I am right. I am expressing my understanding so far.
With respect to anyone, politics (which in Greek, means things relating to the city) could be so wonderful. Disrespect only makes individuals not to listen. Respect should be the core of politics, as it must be the core of life between individuals. Politics relies more on individuals than on ideologies. The ideology of “United Nations of Europe” was wonderful. Some individuals have switched the dream into a nightmare. The French, as well as the Britons, are waking up.