Zemmour is famous for pushing the racist ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory, which claims the French elite are trying to replace the white population with people of colour, and which has motivated white nationalist terrorism in New Zealand and the United States. United States. He also argued that women’s and LGBTQ rights have “feminized” France, leading to its decline; and was convicted three times of inciting racial or religious hatred.
But Zemmour is just a product of his patrons – without them, he’d be just another angry fanatic raving in a bar. And they are just products of their ancestors – with success built on the wealth inherited from an earlier era in French history.
As in Britain, the mountains of capital that have been lying around since the age of empire are gravitationally distorting French politics. Zemmour will not win the elections. But he – and, more importantly, the oligarch-owned networks that promoted him and his ideas – have already dragged France into their toxic wasteland. They evoked a feeling of French decline, the memory of a time when the country grew rich from the plunder of its colonies, to sell a retrograde vision of a more racist, chauvinistic and sectarian time. And these ideas are like noxious fumes.
In the first round of selection of their candidates, the members of the Republicans place Éric Ciotti at the top of their ballot. Ciotti comes from the far right of the party, and is described by academic Philippe Marlière as a “carbon copy” of Zemmour on immigration and Islam. Eventually, the party chose former minister Valérie Pécresse as its candidate. Supposedly more reasonable, she even used the words “great replacement”, and attacked migrants and Muslims in her speeches. She criticized those who are French “on paper” but not “in their hearts” – following the tyrant of billionaires down the path of bigotry.
The biggest beneficiary of France’s rush to the right, however, has been the royal family of French fascism, represented over the past decade by Marine Le Pen. As the debate swings over her turf – she has vilified Muslims, called for a ban on the veil and pushed for a referendum on migration – she has thrived. When Russia invaded Ukraine, she had to quickly shred a million leaflets showing a photo of her with Putin calling her a “woman of conviction”, but she managed to profit from the war and its impact on the world. French economy. Blending her radical xenophobia with a softer note of economic nationalism at a time of rising energy costs, she soared in the polls.
Not only does she currently look like she will easily qualify for the second round, but some have pushed her closer to Macron when she gets there.
Just as the veins of a leech are filled with the blood of the species it nurses, this is the era of French politics on which Emmanuel Macron has come to parasitize.
In 2018, he sought to appease French fascists by praising the World War I bravery of Philippe Pétain, the leader of the Nazi collaborator regime during World War II. In 2019, he gave an interview to the far-right magazine Valeurs Actuelles.
Along with his ministers, Mr. President has spent much of this presidency giving speeches and making public statements denouncing Islam and trying to attack the French left for not being anti-Muslim enough. Last year, Macron’s higher education minister demanded an investigation into so-called “Islamo-leftists” in French universities, a direct threat to academic freedom and an attack on the world’s second religion.
After French teacher Samuel Petty was murdered by a Chechen Muslim for showing his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the French president went further, reaching out to Vladimir Putin in a bid to build an Islamophobic alliance with the Kremlin.
During an election debate last year, Macron’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, even accused far-right leader Le Pen of being “too soft” on Muslims.
These capitulations to the far right have only helped Macron’s opponents. After all, if he means what he says about Islam, why not support mass deportations of Muslims, with a candidate like Zemmour? When politics becomes an argument over the boundaries of national identity rather than a discussion of how to live together, the far right always thrives.
But Macron also sucked from the left. Most of his vote in the 2017 election came because the traditional social-democratic party, the Socialist Party, slumped – falling from winning the 2012 election with Francois Hollande to fifth, just over 6% of the vote.
“We had a [Parti Socialiste] government from 2012 to 2017 and it was pathetic,” says French activist Arthur Vincent, who works in migrant communities in the northern suburbs of Paris. “It was a social democrat lie to claim that they were on the left during the campaign and basically had right-wing policies from the start. It was totally pathetic – it destroyed the left.
“[Parti Socialiste’s] leadership on the left has become a thing of the past, and the centre-left have all opted for Macron,” he adds.