The Far Right in France: The Front National in European Perspective

Michael Lowy, Francis Sitel


The 2014 European elections in France confirmed a tendency that had been apparent for some years: the growth of the support for the Front National (FN). This is not a specifically French development. Across most of the European continent we see the spectacular rise of the far right. Can this situation be compared to Europe in the 1930s? Yes and no. It is the first time since the 1930s that the far right has attained such an influence in European politics. But history never repeats itself. There are many differences between the past and the present conjunctures. The most obvious one is that, after 1933, two of the most important countries in Europe, Italy and Germany, already were fascist totalitarian regimes, while fortunately nothing comparable exists yet today. Yet another difference is that unlike today, paradoxically, most of the fascist movements of the 1930s, with the notable exception of Germany (and, in a much smaller scale, France) were not openly racist. This applies, at least before 1938, to the movements led by Mussolini, Franco and Salazar in Italy, Spain and Portugal. A further important difference is that bourgeois interests today are overwhelmingly favourable to capitalist neoliberal globalization and hostile to economic nationalism – a basic content of any fascist or semi-fascist project. On the other hand, the anti-fascist left, either in its more radical versions – Marxist and anarchist – or in the more moderate parliamentary form of the Popular Front, was much stronger in the 1930s than today.

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