On 21 Might 2013, the French author Dominique Venner shot himself within the head in entrance of the altar at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. An identitarian, racialist and defender of the ‘lengthy European reminiscence’ (a perception that ascribes a standard ethnic origin to the continent’s civilization), Venner had been out of politics for a very long time. Nonetheless, the connection the Entrance nationwide (FN), later the Rassemblement nationwide (RN), has together with his legacy sheds gentle on the evolution of the social gathering and its willingness or in any other case to acknowledge its far-right custom.
Venner was not a faithful fellow traveller of the FN. However his writings – above all of the accounts of his life as a younger fascist imprisoned in Gaullist jails after the Generals’ Putsch of 1961, and later as an aesthete who beloved looking and neo-pagan solstice festivals – have been favourites amongst a number of generations of FN activists.
For the RN’s younger supporters, Venner represents each activist aristocracy and the determine of an engaged mental in a political clan whose conventional heroes turned taboo after 1945. Venner’s suicide efficiently turned him right into a fable. In a letter learn out by the historian Bernard Lugan on the rightwing broadcaster Radio Courtoisie, Venner defined his actions as essential to ‘break the lethargy that afflicts us’ and claimed he was a martyr to the ‘nice substitute’, the racist concept that white Europeans are victims of a ‘genocide by substitution’ on account of immigration.
The day after his loss of life, no-one was stunned to see a tweet commending his legacy from Marine Le Pen, by then had been president of the FN for 2 years: ‘All respect to Dominique Venner, whose closing, eminently political act was to attempt to get up the folks of France.’ At the moment, Le Pen was nonetheless embracing the heritage of her political clan.
Getting again in line
Ten years later, her relationship with France’s far proper has modified. Le Pen didn’t flinch when the tribute to Venner organized by the Institut Iliade (a far proper suppose tank based to additional Venner’s thought) was banned by prefectorial order in Might 2023. Solely two years earlier than, the RN had protested in opposition to the dissolution of the far-right motion Génération identitaire, regardless of this group being extra violent than the Institut Iliade, which limits itself to organizing lectures and working programs. ‘On this query as on all others, the RN adopted Marine’s directions: take cowl, silence within the ranks,’ remarked Jean-Yves Le Gallou, cofounder of the Institute. ‘However we obtained a lot of messages of sympathy in non-public.’
Though many activists and senior figures in Le Pen’s motion proceed to venerate Venner privately, public homage is now not welcome. When the scholar union La Cocarde – which isn’t affiliated with the RN however gives lots of its parliamentary assistants – commemorated Venner on its social networks, the quantity two within the RN group within the Nationwide Meeting, Jean-Philippe Tanguy, introduced these involved to order. Though there was no point out of Venner within the studying listing of the youth wing of the RN (Rassemblement nationwide de la jeunesse – RNJ) printed in summer time 2023, it was compiled by Pierre-Romain Thionnet, the president of the youth motion, a fan and true connoisseur of Venner’s work.
Identitarians should not the one teams with whom the RN is making an attempt to chop ties (or desires to be seen to be doing so). Anybody with a hyperlink to violence or radicalism is instructed to stay out of the highlight. On the demonstration in opposition to the banning of the Venner Tribute on 9 Might 2023, organized by the nationalist and anti-semitic pupil organisation Groupe union défense (GUD), photographs of activists in hoods and masks brandishing the Celtic cross (a neofascist image) shocked public opinion. A number of RN spokespeople demanded the dissolution of the GUD and all violent extremist factions. Nonetheless, figures near Marine Le Pen confirmed their hyperlinks to the group. A minimum of two of the younger demonstrators, one among whom had already been discovered responsible of violent offences, have been recognized by Libération as frequently attending the RNJ’s weekly lectures on the social gathering’s headquarters.
Steeped in a far-right ideology that they’re now not allowed to overtly embrace, RN activists now belong to a celebration and not using a actual frequent tradition. Among the many key figures promoted by Le Pen, pleasure of place goes to defectors from conventional events. Above all, the social gathering’s narrative has misplaced its coherence. Le Pen has unpicked the far-right folklore that characterised her father’s social gathering, however she is now left with one thing threadbare. This case partly explains the emergence of Éric Zemmour. Furthermore, it invitations the query as as to whether the RN nonetheless a far-right social gathering that’s hiding its true nature, or whether or not, by means of the arrival of defectors and the abandonment of swathes of its programme, it has misplaced its ideological coherence in favour of a patchwork of nationalism, radical rightwing thought, populism, pragmatism, demagogy and even some components of progressivism. Is that this a technique of subterfuge or bargain-basement nationalism?
Marine Le Pen’s social gathering muddies the waters. The media narrative calls this ‘de-demonization’ – a problematic neologism, because it originates within the FN camp and means that the ‘system’ is accountable for the ‘demonization’ of the social gathering, as supposedly the one anti-establishment social gathering working within the pursuits of French folks. As if Jean-Marie Le Pen by no means performed with transgression (racism and antisemitism) or emphasised his distinctive place on the political spectrum. Self-demonization entails cultivating one’s uniqueness and styling oneself as a sufferer justified in making assaults due to the persecutions one suffers. Described as Marine Le Pen’s technique to climb the greasy pole of energy, ‘de-demonization’ is as previous because the FN itself.
Inside establishments however not a part of the system
Is de-demonization nonetheless the RN’s technique? Issues have turn out to be much less sure now that the social gathering has eighty-eight deputies (elected representatives sitting within the Assemblée nationale) and presents itself as ‘inside establishments however not a part of the system’. In 2023, the mission for Le Pen’s deputies is outwardly to mix in. To her troops, Marine Le Pen has given them the identical recommendation as Jean-Paul Sartre’s grandmother in Les Mots: ‘Gently, mortals, be discreet!’ It’s higher to not be seen in any respect than to be seen for the unsuitable causes. ‘They’re obsessive about ensuring there are not any slip-ups’, claimed a veteran of the proper wing.
The very fact is, there was no parliamentary far proper to talk of earlier than the legislative elections in June 2022. Of the eight FN politicians elected in 2017, solely three deputies remained: Le Pen, Bruno Bilde and Sébastien Chenu (in addition to two replacements who took workplace close to the top of the time period). Amongst those that entered the Meeting, solely a handful had parliamentary expertise: Jean-Philippe Tanguy and Alexandre Loubet had labored there for Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, and Florence Goulet had supported Henri Guaino. ‘We have been ranging from zero’, summarized Renaud Labaye, the overall secretary of the group. ‘We needed to create a corporation of 200 and fifty folks from nothing and have it working right away.’
The brand new recruits have been stored in line. Among the many senior figures, many weren’t longstanding social gathering members. Chenu joined the FN in 2015, as did Franck Allisio, a spokesperson for the group. Each got here from the Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP, renamed Les Républicains in 2015) and continued to be on good phrases with their former colleagues. Jean-Philippe Tanguy, the group’s quantity two, collectively together with his pal Alexandre Loubet and Thomas Ménagé, the RN’s consultant on the Legislation Committee and the social gathering’s frontman throughout the debate on retirement reform, got here from Debout la France, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s small sovereignist social gathering. They overshadowed Le Pen’s older supporters, equivalent to Frédéric Boccaletti, deputy for Le Var, who ran a bookshop carrying Holocaust-denying books and was sentenced to a yr in jail (launched on parole after six months) for joint enterprise racist violence. One other was José Gonzalez, député for Les Bouches-du-Rhône and at the moment the oldest member of the Nationwide Meeting, who praised French Algeria when giving the opening speech for the sixteenth parliamentary time period.
The truth is, the FN/RN has at all times given distinguished roles to defectors, whether or not they have come from the UMP, from the left (Andréa Kotarac, previously a member of La France Insoumise, head of the RN listing in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and a spokesperson who works straight with Le Pen), or from civil society (Hervé Juvin, Member of the European Parliament, from whom the RN distanced itself on the finish of 2022 after he was convicted of home violence). For backbench politicians, becoming a member of the RN opens up entry to posts that might be out of attain of their former events, and permits them to increase careers which might be coming to an finish. This has been the case for Jean-Paul Garraud and Thierry Mariani, each elected MEPs in 2019, who got here from Les Républicains.
In return, Marine Le Pen will get to dilute the far-right character of her social gathering. If the previous guard gnashes their enamel, a lot the higher: it proves the boss desires to alter the social gathering she inherited from her father. Defections are important to the theatre of Le Pen’s ‘de-demonization’, the place she now performs reverse Éric Zemmour. There isn’t any want for a crystal ball to foretell that the RN’s listing within the 2024 European elections will prominently characteristic newcomers from different political backgrounds.
RN deputies are anticipated to attend the Meeting assiduously, though that is usually much less helpful than time spent in committees, the place they’ve proven much less agility and effectiveness than different parliamentary teams. When the group meets every Tuesday morning, the secretary-general Renaud Labaye repeats his slogan: ‘We aren’t right here to have enjoyable.’ The troops are scolded once they lose their composure: ‘Cease your nonsense, consider the impression you’re making’, orders Sébastien Chenu or Jean-Philippe Tanguy once they get too excitable.
Acutely aware that it’s by means of showing severe (versus being severe) and by constructing relationships with MPs from different teams (greater than their ability in influencing parliamentary enterprise) that the RN will rating factors, Le Pen’s deputies are cautious to be particularly well mannered and obliging in direction of their colleagues. Together with this collegiate strategy goes a ‘constructive’ political technique: vote for all laws that goes in the proper path, even when it doesn’t go far sufficient, and even when it comes from the left. The RN expects the identical factor from its opponents and bemoans their sectarianism when they don’t assist comparatively anodyne laws.
The RN’s parliamentary area of interest in January 2023 indicated a need to depoliticize, and in so doing to drag the rug from underneath their common critics. Out of the 9 items of laws tabled, two have been copied nearly phrase for phrase from different rightwing teams and the bulk social gathering. None associated to immigration or ‘nationwide choice’ (giving precedence to French residents), though one textual content did suggest establishing a presumption of legit defence for these working in regulation enforcement. The RN put ahead laws ‘which corresponds to the concrete issues of residents’, Le Pen maintained: the elimination of low-emissions zones, deputies to be elected by single-round proportional illustration, recalculation of the tax for home garbage assortment, and so forth. Its positioning within the struggle in opposition to the retirement age reforms – opposing the reforms within the parliament and the media whereas remaining absent from the protests – additionally confirmed that the RN prefers to carry again, even to the purpose of wanting idle. Marine Le Pen intends to desk primarily consensus-building laws throughout the RN’s subsequent parliamentary window in October.
‘Individuals say that they’ve succeeded within the first stage of their time period of workplace as a result of they haven’t pissed on the carpet, however the actuality is that they haven’t carried out something,’ summarized a former RN member who has switched allegiance to Reconquête! (the social gathering based by Éric Zemmour in 2021). What has been referred to as a ‘go well with and tie strategy’ – a readiness to mix into the establishment – has by no means been a concerted technique. ‘All of that’s nonsense, folks notice that we’re not savages and so they suppose that it’s a technique’, mentioned Nicolas Meizonnet, RN deputy for Le Gard, probably conscious that doing nothing is a technique in itself.
It’s also deployed outdoors of the Nationwide Meeting. Get together activists are allowed at hand out leaflets on the street, however when plans for an asylum centre or facility for unaccompanied minors are made public, the management forbids the devoted from collaborating in demonstrations. Throughout a protest in Saint-Brévins (Loire-Atlantique), at the least a dozen RN activists instructed Libération they have been there incognito. These larger up settle for that they’ll solely take part in occasions over which they’ve absolute management. This is the reason Le Pen deserted the normal 1 Might parade previous the statue of Joan of Arc in Paris, which at all times attracted the skinhead faction, and why ‘blue, white and crimson’ festivals, at which bookstalls at all times featured works by Brasillach, Venner, or Saint-Loup, are now not allowed. As an alternative, on 1 Might 2023 the social gathering held a ‘pageant of the nation’ in Le Havre. It occurred in a closed auditorium removed from the city centre: this was the far-right vacuum-packed for the media, with no probability of spoiled items being on present.
Within the shadows
However it’s uncertain whether or not this try to enhance the RN’s picture can completely masks its true nature. Alongside the high-ranking defectors Marine Le Pen likes to showcase, others lurk within the shadows whom the social gathering appears unable or unwilling to do with out.
One instance is e-Politic. The corporate takes care of the RN’s communications and is 45 % owned by two former members of the far-right pupil organisation Groupe union défense (GUD), who’re nonetheless very near the nationalist-revolutionary motion. Whereas the social gathering maintains that e-Politic is solely a service supplier, lots of its employees are additionally social gathering activists, and even elected representatives. Typically it turns into tough to inform the distinction between the 2 organizations.
‘It’s an incubator’, explains a senior member of the RN who used to work for the company. ‘Working for them means doing comms, wanting deeply into points, following the information, growing political instincts… It’s actually formative.’ The work of e-Politic is crucial in a context the place the RN at the moment has no coaching construction for its youthful members, nor the means to compensate its foot troopers. Amongst those that encompass Jordan Bardella, RN’s president, are two senior figures skilled on the firm. Each got here by means of the FN’s youth wing, similar to Paul-Alexandre Martin, the founder and now majority shareholder of e-Politic. Martin is usually thought-about the religious inheritor to Frédéric Chatillon, former chief of the GUD, and shut pal of Marine Le Pen.
Martin’s radical roots have additionally led him to recruit inside far-right actions. The corporate notably employed a younger RN parliamentary assistant with hyperlinks to neo-Nazi teams for a number of years, in addition to activists from Alvarium, an Angers far-right faction dissolved in November 2021. The whiff that emerges from e-Politic has led Bardella to decide to bringing social gathering communications in-house insofar as is feasible. In 2020 the social gathering, confronted with monetary difficulties, distributed with nearly all of its communications workforce. The person accountable for axing the roles was the MEP Jean-Lin Lacapelle, the RN’s ‘HR man’, but additionally near the ‘GUD connection’ and recognized to be a pal of Frédéric Chatillon.
Wanting on the RN delegation on the European Parliament, the place administration is much less heavy-handed than within the Assemblée nationale, one can see proof of all of the issues that the social gathering tries to brush underneath the rug. Foremost amongst them are networks linking the RN to the New Proper. David L’Épée, an in depth affiliate of Alain de Benoist, the mental figurehead of New Proper, was invited converse to the European Parliament on the hazards of ‘wokeism’. His second speech was cancelled by the RN after Libération printed an article revealing his hyperlinks with Alain Soral, one other far-right ideologue, in addition to his promotion of an antisemitic artist and his speeches on gender ideology, which L’Épéeclaimed was a plot by George Soros to influence white folks to not have youngsters and thus to allow the ‘nice substitute’.
To fill in for L’Épée’s on the final minute, the RN referred to as on one other determine from the identical circles: François Bousquet, editor of Éléments journal, additionally near de Benoist and Jean-Yves Le Gallou, a former MEP for FN and now member of Zemmour’s social gathering Reconquête. In such settings, refined alerts are essential: they permit folks to acknowledge each other. Thus, in Bousquet’s Nouvelle Librairie bookshop, there’s a stuffed boar’s head introduced by Gilles Soulas, who ran a bookshop within the Nineteen Nineties that carried antisemitic and Holocaust-denying works.
Antisemitism is alive and properly inside the RN, on whose premises the motto of collaborationist Jacques Doriot remains to be displayed: ‘The Get together owes you nothing, you owe the Get together every little thing.’ This summer time, at summer time colleges run by the fundamentalist social gathering Civitas, the essayist Pierre Hillard steered stripping Jews of their citizenship, in a caricature of Catholic antisemitism that the RN shortly denounced. Nonetheless, at the least two of Hillard’s shut associates have connections to the RN. Considered one of them, Sylvain Durain, was invited to the European Parliament in March, regardless of having denounced ‘a significant Jewish infiltration inside world organizations such because the Crimson Cross, human rights organizations, NGOs, and likewise – or ought to I say most of all – the Church.’ The opposite, Thibault Kerlizin, is the writer of research paid for by the RN, together with one on the ‘affect of NGOs’ on the European Union. In it, he cites the non-public publication Faits et paperwork, which speaks of Jews as an ‘organized group’ and began a hearsay that Brigitte Macron was a trans lady.
These networks should not with out affect on France’s largest opposition social gathering, which periodically expresses a frankly conspiracist imaginative and prescient of the world. Thus, on 1 Might 2023, Marine Le Pen denounced the French president, ‘wokeism’, the Inexperienced’s ‘perverted’ ecology, and the European Union in phrases laden with connotations: ‘There are transitions to which our instances lead us … however there are additionally others that small coteries invent, “the demographic transition”, and at last these which might be quietly established, with out anybody speaking about them, behind the backs of European populations, the “transition of civilizations”.’
Amongst Le Pen’s targets was the relocation of asylum seekers ‘at the moment underway in lots of villages’, which she known as a ‘migratory flood scheme’. She used quite a few circumlocutions to keep away from espousing the racist concept of the ‘nice substitute’. It’s unsurprising that her speechwriter, Philippe Olivier, shouldn’t be a last-minute defector, however an genuine far-right activist whose networks are intertwined together with his sister-in-law’s social gathering.
However other than a number of fundamentals, foremost amongst them ‘nationwide choice’ (placing French residents first), it’s tough to discern a transparent RN place. Le Pen has adopted a stubbornly populist route in economics, which distances her from a liberal rightwing place, but additionally a socialist one. Even on these points on the coronary heart of her doctrine, the top of the RN enjoys defying expectations. Thus, throughout the presidential marketing campaign, Le Pen quietly deserted her dedication to abolishing twin nationality. This dogma was a vital marker of nationalism, intrinsic to the unique nature of nationality that’s both inherited or earned. ‘I’ve met 1000’s of individuals’, she mentioned, ‘who legally can’t surrender their nationality as a result of their nation forbids it. Actually, I’d relatively set that each one apart, because it’s like rubbing salt right into a wound.’
With out denying that Le Pen has the capability to alter her thoughts, it’s noteworthy that this concept was justified inside the social gathering by the need that citizenship might be withdrawn: anybody who solely has a French passport can’t be deported. It must also be famous that the RN nonetheless proposes drastically limiting bi-nationals’ entry to jobs in ‘sovereign’ sectors equivalent to defence, policing and justice: ‘No-one can have two allegiances’, argued the secretary-general of the group within the Nationwide Meeting, revealing his implicit place that these with twin nationality should not as French as everybody else.
Revealed in cooperation with CAIRN Worldwide Version, translated and edited by Cadenza Tutorial Translations.