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Far-Right Movements in France: The Principal Role of Front National and the Rise of Islamophobia


This chapter presents the current landscape of the French far right through an ethnographic study of two significant protagonists, the Front National and the network of activists fighting the phenomenon they call ‘Islamisation’. The chapter is principally devoted to the Front National, which has been overwhelming in the lead on the radical right since its first success in 1982–1983. The Front National is described in terms of its ideological production and evolution, its conception of the ‘others’ and its links with other organisations or institutions whose intellectual work can build political and ideological cleavages. We also describe organisations that are fighting hate speeches and discrimination, providing examples of recent cases involving far-right organisations and leaders.

The empirical section focuses on the Front National and, inter alia, analyses a specific, explicitly anti-Islam “event” in Paris that attracted a large number of activists. The analysis is built with data gathered in interviews with members of organisations and participants involved in the events. We also use observations and important literature available in French, especially about Front National and the Le Pen family, to explore recent changes within the organisation. For the first time since the birth of the party in 1972, the new president has been elected by the membership. They chose Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter, Marine, regarded as a moderniser as a result of her strategy known as dédiabolisation. The analysis of the data collected from the interviewees, who were all strong Marine Le Pen supporters, illustrates the organisation’s new recruitment strategy and the new direction it seeks to adopt to become a ‘regular’ political party. The chapter also explores the latest trends in the French far right emerging in the 2000s that position Islam as the principal enemy. These individual activists, with their links to the international network (anti-Islam or counter-Jihad) that is being built in Europe, have developed a new way of observing French society through the lens of Islamic issues. We then look at the role played by anti-far right organisations in combating hate speech and crime against the ‘other’.


  • Assisted Reproductive Technology
  • Hate Speech
  • Lesbian Couple
  • Youth Organisation
  • Front National

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We would like to thank Ari Rable for assisting us with editing and proofreading this chapter.

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  1. 1.

    We are using this topographic notion rather than the more ideological ‘populism’. Far right is topographic in the sense that it describes a liminal position in the political landscape. Populism presupposes a special link between the leaders and ‘the people’, a questionable notion. Whether or not classical sociological studies have demonstrated the presence and the wide influence of a real intellectual ‘populism’, in the sense of a propensity to exalt ‘the people’ and popular culture, the concept cannot automatically be applied to political leaders.

  2. 2.

    François Sidos, who was sentenced to death at the end of the war.

  3. 3.

    Œuvre Française was banned in June 2013, after the death of an anti-racist activist during a fight with skinheads in Paris.

  4. 4.

    Fédération des Étudiants Nationalistes (FEN).

  5. 5.

    Alain de Benoist, who created the GRECE in 1969, was a New Right thinker who defended European culture against Judeo-Christian values,and individual liberalism against Marxism, socialism and equality. He was also opposed to the productivist society. Cf. Camus (2009).

  6. 6.

    Front National only got 0.18 per cent of the votes in the 1981 parliamentary election, and 0.2 per cent in the 1982 local elections. It increased its share of the vote to reach 10.95 per cent in the 1984 European Election, gaining 35 MEPs in 1986. Since then their share has increased to 15 per cent in the 1990s, rising to 25 per cent in the 2014 regional elections.

  7. 7.

    Bruno Gollnish, Une âme pour la France. Pour en finir avec le génocide culturel, Albatros, 1985.

    David Mascré, De la France, Éditions de l’Infini, 2010.

    Christophe Guilluy, La France périphérique. Comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires , Flammarion, 2014.

  8. 8.

    Interview 1 and 2: leaders of FNJ Parisian sections; interviews 4 and 5: leaders of FNJ Alsacian section; interview 6: leader of FNJ section in Nantes; interview 3: Vice president of FNJ.

  9. 9.

    He is also the father of MP Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, elected in south-east France.

  10. 10.

    Held on 1 May in celebration of Joan of Arc.

  11. 11.

    ‘Islam : out of Europe’ is nowadays a regular slogan of far-right demonstrations.


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Benveniste, A., Pingaud, E. (2016). Far-Right Movements in France: The Principal Role of Front National and the Rise of Islamophobia. In: Lazaridis, G., Campani, G., Benveniste, A. (eds) The Rise of the Far Right in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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