Based on ideas from Michel Wieviorka
In France, we've seen a socialist elected as president. However, the turn to the right by the population since this event has been marked and notably so.The leader of French extreme right party has succeeded where her father failed. People now admit to voting F.N. (Front national) whereas before the phrase used was 'everyone had their ideas' or 'I have my ideas' which translates as 'I vote for extreme parties' or 'I don't want to say who I voted for, but it wasn't the same as you'. And admitting to this was not done.
Marine Le Pen currently enjoys an approval rating of 40% of the French population if the polls are to be believed; it seems that people are ready to trust her , or to protest with their vote . So which is it? A vote for the 'beliefs' of the FN, racist and xenophobe, nationalistic and protectionism, or a vote to protest against the mainstream parties who flounder in the austerity of everyday politics in modern Europe? What do French people really believe?
Ten years ago, when Mr Le Pen, Marine's father, was elected to the second round of the French presidential elections, Chirac showed people that the choice was simple: Either be raped by Le Pen or make love to Chirac. People chose Chirac, with an overwhelming majority in the 70% range. Chirac also refused a debate with Le Pen on TV, and I think that was a very wise move, removing the oxygen of publicity from Le Pen.
The mainstream right became obsessed with security and terrorism, this was Sarkozy's mistake.
6 years ago, security dominated the electoral campaign, polarizing it to the right. Sarkozy created a minister of immigration and national identity, Ségoline Royal from the left grabbed the French anthem to try to remove the monopoly of patriotism from the right. She failed, and wasn't elected. Sarkozy was, and the rest , as they say, is history.
France has two faces, like Janus, the ancient Roman/Greek god, who looks at the past and at the future and whose name is celebrated in January's title. On one hand, France boasts about being the country where human rights were invented, the first country to get rid of the death penalty, and the benefits of republicanism.The state recognizes historical mistakes, with apologies made by the President for things done to Jewish people by the SNCF and monuments erected to slavery in Nantes for example.
But on the other hand, France looks to protect its goods and services with "appelations" which control exactly where things can and cant be made, such as Champagne. It looks to a 'united France' with integration as a magic goal and becomes like the tribe in the Asterix albums, surrounded by Romans, fighting against the tide. France loves nothing more than to give others lessons in how do do things, never being wrong. It refuses diversity,and becomes permeable to xenophobia and racism and antisemitism. This all dates from the 80's, when the front national won their first electoral success in Dreux. or even before, with france's shame stemming from the years of nazi collaboration and occupation. But ask the people and they'll tell you! The black mayoress Samia Ghali here who I saw on TV is quite clear! The FN win, but afterwards do nothing.Its just posturing and no action.
Nicholas Sarkozy tried to win the election by wooing the extreme right, and he lost. However, since this watershed moment, the extreme right has gained in strength as the mainstream right imploded, with warring factions inside and a lack of clear leadership in the mainstream UMP. Power hates a vacuum. Philippe de Villiers' illness and disappearance from the extreme right has meant that the extreme right, rather than being divided, has become united. Remember, An "Ifop-Paris-Match" poll conducted on 12 October 2006 gave him his highest ever popularity rating, with 37% saying they "have an excellent or good opinion" of Villiers, and 28% saying they could vote for him in 2007. This was not borne out in the results of the first round of voting, with him receiving less than 3% of the popular vote. so the 40% for Le Pen can be taken with large pinches of salt.
The more we talk of France, of the things we have in common, the things which unite us, the more we forget the things that divide us, poverty, social opportunities, ghettos and oppression.We see migrants as obviously different from us, marked out, and unequal, rather than seeing them as an opportunity to evolve and progress, by nurturing their talent and welcoming their ideas.
On Canal Plus, the FN spokesman said 'the only criteria is the French nationality card" and that's very depressing; Why close your mind to the world in the hope that things will improve? As they won't if you aren't open to all the talents coming to help! France needs to be an open nation, all the more so since Germany decided to change its social policies towards increasing families by offering money for children born to German couples.
Germany , instead of taking the opportunity to use immigrant labour, already trained, but with a different culture and colour and language, has chosen the longer road of natural reproduction. Closing the door to growth and progression in society, opening the past and its shadows and salutes.
But France has a wonderful opportunity. All of Northern Africa has been touched for better or worse by French history, and these educated and intelligent people could turn round the French and European and African economies if we welcome them and tempt them. Countries like Cameroon and Ivory coast, and the northern African states seem obvious candidates for migrants; that's not to say these countries don't need educated labour themselves, but in the future, the population will be so high, they'll need some escape valve, and France could offer this.Who else is going to pay for the baby boomers pensions?
Look at the picture here which shows population changes into the future.
French will be a world language in 2050, and if we prepare now, France could be a world leader, with its partners in Africa. However, this isn't an argument for neocolonialism or brain draining. France needs to be a partner with these countries, not a patron, or a parasite.
So when I read of Europe's drift to the right, or hear news that Germany will pump money into family friendly policies,(here ) or that 40% of French people support Marine Le Pen ( here) ,or that the British government want to stop students coming in here it depresses me. The world is a wonderful place, if you accept that we are all human. And that last one is from an MP safe in his Charing Village, far from the real world.
So tempting as it is to lay the faults of modernisation on the scapegoat of the immigrant, we should instead open our hearts and minds and encourage immigration.Some people will say 'We can't have them all' but I doubt very much that they all want to come. Let's build a fairer, more just society together. And lets start that by noticing how very dangerous the far right is.