Fascists fracture in France, but right wing ascends as a whole
Far-right leader Eric Zemmour is gaining on Marine Le Pen and her remodeled National Front. | Michel Euler / AP

Voters across Europe head to the polls June 6 to 9 for elections to the European Parliament. In countries around the continent, the parties of the far right are expected to make major gains.

This article is part of a series, “Rise of the Right in Europe.” It is a collaborative project of three newspapers, Junge Welt in Germany, Arbejderen in Denmark, and Morning Star in Britain. Each installment in the series will examine the far-right threat in a different country.

In this article, analyst Hansgeorg Hermann examines the growth of the far-right in France and how the country is becoming a haven for explicit fascists.

Read other installments in the series: Rise of the Right in Europe.

Ahead of the EU elections, France presents itself as a haven for the fascist right, which is stepping hard on the toes of the already ultra-right Marine Le Pen.

The bourgeois party Les Republicains, founded by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president and adviser to current President Emmanuel Macron, is plummeting, as is the latter’s Renaissance formation. So far, Le Penʼs Rassemblement National, with its top candidate and new leader Jordan Bardella, is far ahead in all polls, with more than 31%.

Fascist leader Eric Zemmour and his Movement Reconquete could achieve between 6 and 7% of the vote on June 9. That is apparently reason enough for the former columnist of the conservative paper Le Figaro to declare the competition on the right-wing fringe “utterly useless.”

In the duel of right-wing leaders organized by news channel BFM TV on May 2, Bardella made Macronʼs favorite, Valerie Hayer, who is in first place on the Renaissance electoral list for the vote in June, look pretty bad.

On May 1, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine sneered that the president would probably prefer to argue himself with his hated rivals on the right on the open TV stage. That is how miserable and terribly agitated Hayer has presented herself in public so far.

Bardella patronizingly lamented to his counterpart on the day of the TV duel that she would have to carry Macronʼs “disastrous political record” through the election campaign.

In fact, the protagonists in the country’s right-wing spectrum have been arguing for weeks about which position in the Ukraine war could be the most favorable for France—not writing Russia off, threatening to bomb it, or even sending soldiers to the east. Or about increasing youth violence in local schools, or about Macronʼs labor market and pension reform laws, all of which were pushed through parliament.

It was Macron’s now infamous statements to students at the Sorbonne about the supposedly imminent death of Europe if it could not agree on common “security, economy, and democracy” that gave the election campaign a certain spin in the direction of Brussels and Strasbourg. For fascist leader Zemmour in particular, it seemed like the right moment to completely write off the EU in its current state.

The current “bad Europe” supposedly had to be “abolished” because it was driving the “Islamization” of the continent and “tearing us apart.” The “good, beautiful Europe” awaits—a continent that needs to be reconquered from Islam, hence the party name Reconquete (Reconquest).

It is interesting to note that, according to the latest polls, Zemmourʼs list is about to catch up with Jean-Luc Melenchon’s left-wing La France Insoumise and possibly also overtake the Greens—both are hovering at around 7%.

Zemmourʼs Reconquete is being led by Marion Marechal, Marine Le Penʼs niece, who has declared war on her aunt and her auntʼs top man Bardella—apparently because of what she perceives as the “left-wing deviation” of the party, which has been successfully “demonized” by her aunt Marine for years and used to bear the “better name” Front National under her racist grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Hardly to be seen or heard is the bourgeois Catholic right of Les Republicains, which has largely written off its former patron. In fact, former head of state Sarkozy can be found much more often at Macronʼs side than among his former water carriers.

The only thing the Les Republicains grandees have in common is that the judiciary is hot on their heels—especially Sarkozy, who has to defend himself against accusations of fraud and bribery. Les Republicains leader Eric Ciotti, meanwhile, is an admirer and favorite of fascist leader Zemmour; both see Franceʼs six million Muslims as the end of Christian rule and culture in Europe.

Translated from German to English by Marc Bebenroth.


Hansgeorg Hermann
Hansgeorg Hermann

Hansgeorg Hermann writes for the German newspaper Junge Welt.