I admit to not spending too much time in my life attending to the details of French politics. I know a bit, but mostly of a general historical nature (such as: monarchists routinely got legislative majorities in free elections up to 1871). But with Marine Le Pen making it to the second round and likely to go north of 40% of the vote (ie, more than doubling the best result her father ever got), I thought I’d look into it a bit.
Le Pen’s National Front party was founded by her dad and other people who had been deeply involved in France’s Algeria War (as well a collection of Vichy collaborators, worn-out Monarchists and a host of other political oddities). That war was where Algerian nationalists fought the French for independence. One odd thing about that war – I’ve seen it in enough respectable sources to believe it true: more Algerian Muslims fought voluntarily on the French side than did on the independence side. Naturally, the Algerian Muslims who fought for France got very much the short end of the stick when Algeria was granted independence (they Algerian nationalists didn’t win it – they had, in fact, pretty much lost the military struggle…but to finish the job was no longer desired by France and De Gaulle felt it was better for France to give up the fight). And therein lies an odd tale, given that Le Pen (daughter and father) are most roundly condemned for being racist anti-Muslims…Marine’s dad had actually nominated a French Muslim for political office. This is something which makes complete sense when you’re talking about a guy who fought alongside Muslims. Pity that such a fact isn’t more well known – it might give us all something to chew on as we view French politics from the outside. But I’m pretty sure that a lot of people would prefer we just not think on it: just accept the Narrative, if you please…Le Pen (daughter and father) are just racist fascists out to destroy all that is good and true.
To be sure, this might well be the case – as I said, the National Front had at its foundation some former Vichy collaborators and thus I think it likely it contained some unrepentant fascists. You can also see why the elder Le Pen didn’t have much love for De Gaulle and often found a kind word for the Vichyites…De Gaulle had given up on Algeria (and in a strange twist of fate, it was those military forces which wanted to keep Algeria who convinced De Gaulle to return to power in France for the express purpose of saving French Algeria). It brings to mind a story I have heard – a fairly large number of French men joined the Waffen SS and fought quite doggedly for Hitler’s Third Reich. Indeed, among Hitler’s very last defenders were some French SS troops guarding the Reich Chancellery. Another group of French SS soldiers were captured in western Germany by Free French troops…the story goes that the Free French asked the SS troops, “how come you are in German uniforms?”, to which the SS soldiers responded, “and why are you in American uniforms?”. It makes you understand that there are actually quite deep fissures in French society – papered over for a long time by the compromises of De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic (it was designed to make sure that those who carried a grudge – right or left – could not rise to the pinnacle), but still very real.
I don’t know where Europe goes from here. Clearly, the Europeans can’t go on as they are…but most of the Ruling Class of Europe is very determined to keep on as now. I can only figure that they feel they are doing well for themselves and that any rocking of the boat would result in their loss of power. That Europe may die doesn’t concern them…they know it will last through their lifetimes: it is 40 years from now when the chickens will come home to roost. France is the pivot of Europe – the nation which should lead a re-invigorated Europe in this new century. But, France can’t even figure itself out…however you want to slice it, a very large number of French people don’t subscribe to the status quo and want a very different France: and while France is unable to agree, in general terms, what it means to be France, there is no chance of real French leadership in the revival of Europe. The Germans have excluded themselves. The Hapsburgs are no more. Peter the Great’s Russian Empire is a dying shell of it’s former self, run by a tin-pot wanna-be Czar. Britain is moving away from Europe…but Britain has never set the pace in Europe; always being a bit outside and self-contained. France is all there is, and France isn’t in any condition to do it.
It’s all very sad, actually. I hate to see it. I, myself, feel no organic connection to Europe, as such. My Catholicism is a much stronger tie, but that is to the Holy See. But a dying civilization is a terrible thing to behold, especially when you can see that they can save themselves, but appear not to know how…or simply don’t have the courage to try. I suspect that Europe is in for some large upheavals over the next couple decades…something is eventually going to take charge in Europe and make Europe all that thing…I only hope it is a Christian civilization thing which does it.