The resurgence of fascism in France has become a real and present danger, for many of the same reasons that fascism enjoyed a considerable following here in the 1930’s depression era before World War II — social discontent, large-scale unemployment and racial prejudice.
The fascist National Front Party won hundreds of new members following the appearance of its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen on a television panel show February 13, watched by at least 10 million people. Long queues were seen outside the party headquarters.
Asked by reporters why they were joining the extreme rightwing group, most of those in line said they were impressed by Le Pen’s frankness, especially his remark that Jews in France were over-protected compared to other citizens.
DEFENDS TRADITIONAL VALUES
They also claimed that Le Pen was the only one on the panel to defend traditional values and they agreed with him that immigration must be severely curtailed in order to protect France’s cultural heritage.
Le Pen professed to have nothing against Jews personally. But he told the millions of television viewers that he could not understand why they needed more protection than others, disregarding the terrorist attacks on synagogues and other Jewish premises in recent years in which lives were lost and scores of people were injured.
He insisted that no one could accuse him of being an anti-Semite simply because he had no taste for the art of Marc Chagall or for the policies and activities of former Prime Minister Pierre Mendes-France or Health Minister Simone Veil, both Jewish.
Asked why he has not condemned those of his followers who have repeatedly made vulgar anti-Semitic remarks, Le Pen replied he could not restrict their freedom of expression. “I take my friends with their qualities and their faults,” he said.
BASIC THEMES OF THE NATIONAL FRONT
“Present,” the organ of the National Front, has constantly attacked Socialist Justice Minister Robert Badinter, who is Jewish, and Veil, the former for his reforms and the latter for promoting the abortion law. The newspaper has also expressed concern that too many Jews hold key posts in the government and administration, not only in France but elsewhere in the world.
In February, 1979, “Present” claimed that Jews are back in command at all levels. The National Front is also using the themes of violence and unemployment to recruit followers from among people dissatisfied with present conditions. It is campaigning vigoroursly in suburban areas where there has been a recent influx of immigrant workers. It calls for the expulsion of Arab migrant workers, hammering home that two million Frenchmen are unemployed.
Although the National Front offers no program for the future and plays openly on personal hatreds and fears, observers here believe the phenomenon it represents must be taken seriously, particularly since leaders of opposition conservative groups have agreed to seek Le Pen’s cooperation on certain issues. If the party continues to gather adherents at its current pace, the danger of fascism as an important force in French politics cannot be discounted, the observers say.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.