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Monday, July 18, 2011

Immigration and the French Far Right

I put this post off for several days.  Why?  Because, to be brutally honest, I don't like the French Far Right very much.  I don't like their grandiosity, anti-immigrant rhetoric and extravagant promises -  "simple" solutions meant to appeal to fearful people.  I don't believe for a moment that they have any interest in wielding power.  They are more of a political movement that seeks to influence the major parties.  To that end they are succeeding remarkably well.

I realized long ago that I am invisible to these people.  Eric Hoffer once said, "It is the true believer's ability to 'shut his eyes and stop his ears' to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.  He cannot be... baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence."

Having firmly fixed North African footballers and women in burkas in their heads as the face of  immigration (undesirable in their view) in France, they experience a moment of cognitive dissonance when they meet me:  a working woman immigrant of European origin and a Roman Catholic to boot.  More than once I have had the surreal experience of being surrounded by French citizens at a dinner party who are loudly complaining about how France is going to hell because of immigrants stealing jobs, refusing to integrate, and becoming a burden on French social services.  When I raise my hand and quietly point out that one of "those people" (me) is sitting at the table with them,  they inevitably reply, "Oh, we aren't talking about you."  Really?  How extraordinary.  Frankly, that is all the proof I need to consider these people and their sympathizers pure and unrepentant racists.

Le Front National (The National Front).  Their program for immigration can be found in two places on their website.  Their tracts can be found here and I would call your attention to two that I think sum up quite nicely their overall attitude:

LE FIASCO DE L’IMMIGRATION CHOISIE ! (The Selective Immigration Fiasco!).  In this one they come out swinging against selective immigration programs arguing that they increase unemployment, lower wages for the French worker and open the door for waves of immigrants to enter the country through other means.  Pretty classic and you can hear the same "chanson" on the American Right.

DOUBLE NATIONALITÉ : IL FAUT EN FINIR ! (Dual Nationality:  Time to end it!).  Their feelings  and action plan on this subject are quite clear - they would abolish it.  Of course, they do not tell their adherents just how difficult a task this would be and how it is not entirely up to France to make this decision.  There are other countries involved and for such a law to be effective France would need to negotiate with other nation-states.  For a very good discussion on this topic from a legal standpoint see this post, Pour en finir avec la binationalité, by Maitre Eolas, a French lawyer.

Their program for immigration can be found here.  Again, they are quite clear as to how they feel about immigration and what they would do if they ever got into power.  In all fairness the site says that this is their program for 2007 and an update for 2012 will be coming soon.  However, from what I have gleaned from Marine Le Pen's recent interviews, I doubt much will change. I will let you read their 2007 program at your leisure so you can form your own conclusions.

My conclusions are pretty clear:  these people are not my allies and their policies are detrimental to me and to my family.  Taking a larger view, I believe they are doing real damage to the cause of controlling immigration and the integration/naturalization of the foreign population here.  I have talked to other long-term residents who have decided to put off applying for citizenship because of Le Pen's standing in the polls and her views against dual nationality.  No one wants to go through the bureaucratic process of becoming a French citizen, only to be forced to choose and lose later on.  As for integration, if an immigrant has the impression that, no matter what he or she does, he is not welcome and is even viewed as the ultimate source of evil things,  it doesn't make any sense to try to integrate into the receiving culture.  To quote Hoffer again, " A minority that preserves its identity is inevitably a compact whole which shelters the individual, gives him a sense of belonging and immunizes him against frustration.  On the other hand, in a minority bent on assimilation, the individual stands alone, pitted against prejudice and discrimination."  The louder the Front National gets and the better they poll, the more insecure we feel and the more likely we are to cling to our national communities where we are safe and accepted.  It is really that simple.

That concludes my series on immigration and the French political landscape.  Quite a diverse field of opinions and positions.  We'll see how this all shakes out in 2012.


anaotchan said...

How very true. Everyone should be made to live abroad for a while, and become the "immigrants" right-wing parties dislike so much. Would give a much-needed sense of perspective.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hello anaotchan. I couldn't agree with you more.

Last week an acquaintance of mine was sitting in a meeting with folks from an English-speaking country (we won't say which one) who are trying to get work/residency permits to stay in France. He said that he just about hit the floor laughing when they started complaining about all the paperwork and being forced to stand in line at the prefecture.

Now I don't want to be cruel and have a laugh at their expense but it does seem to me that this will be an invaluable experience for them. :-) One can only hope that it will translate into empathy on their part when they go home and be part of the dialogue on immigration in their own country.