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France: The Immigration Act and the fascism to come

21 December 2023 Expertises   183616  

atmane tazaghart

Hats off to the illustrious analyst of French political life, Jean-François Kahn: a year ago, in an interview he gave us for our special issue “Resist the cretinization of the world”, he warned – with his customary brio – against the “fascisation of the mind”, while pointing out that fascism does not come from the rise of the far right or the far left, but from the junction of the two extremes.
Here we go!

On 11 December, La France Insoumise crossed the red line by voting, hand in hand with the Rassemblement National, in favour of the motion for the prior rejection of the Immigration Law proposed by the government. And with appalling political short-sightedness, the radical left was jubilant at the time at having brought Macronism to heel, unaware of the disaster that this “junction of extremes” was going to cause. Not only on a moral level – regarding the compromise of a left that renounced all its values, to ally itself with what it had long described as the “brown plague” – but also, and above all, on a concrete and immediate level, regarding the calamitous political strategy of such a motion that produced the exact opposite of the intended goal: by inflicting such a slap in the face on the (very relative) majority of the Macron camp, the rejection motion led the government to make concessions, unthinkable just a few weeks ago, in order to secure the support of the most right-wing wing of the Republicans.

The result was the adoption of a much tougher version of the Immigration Act, thanks to the votes of the Republican Right, but also with the blessing of the Rassemblement National, which was quick to hail this tougher version of the Immigration Act as an “ideological victory” for far-right ideas. Thanks, in particular to the introduction into the law – for the first time in the history of the French republic – of xenophobic measures based on “national preference”, the Front National’s historical hobbyhorse for more than three decades!

The Le Pen fathers and daughters dreamt of it. Mélenchon, by cornering Macron, made him do it!

This brings us to the famous words of another illustrious columnist, the late Jacques Julliard, who, ten months before his death last September, made the observation – not without bitterness – that “the French left no longer needs to be killed, it can do it itself” (see Screen Watch, #38).

Of course, the responsibility for this “ideological victory” of the far right does not lie solely with the French radical left. Nothing obliged President Macron to compromise himself with the most right-wing xenophobic ideas. If it wasn’t for his Jupiterian posture and inordinate political ego.

Faced with the political crisis and the institutional deadlock caused by the rejection motion on 11 December, the occupant of the Élysée should have taken a step back and acted like a statesman, instead of sinking into the vilest political calculations.

There were several honourable options open to him, the most obvious of which was dissolution of the parliament. On the one hand, such a solution would have allowed him to turn to the ballot box to reshuffle the political deck and create a new majority in the Assembly. On the other hand – and this is at least as important – it would have put the parliamentary church back in the middle of the republican village, by rebalancing the electoral agenda. The legislative elections would thus become mid-term elections once again, as they were before the Chirac dissolution of 1997, which – combined with the transition from the seven-year to the five-year presidential term – had the perverse effect of making the legislative and presidential elections coincide.

Unfortunately, political calculation prevailed. With the ulterior motive that the dissolution could offer a parliamentary majority to the national coalition. But when it comes to elections, the worst is never certain. And even if Jordan Bardella found himself in Matignon as Prime Minister, wouldn’t that be a kind of “fertile regression” likely to wear down the popularity of the Rassemblement National, under the trying burden of government management? This would have compromised its chances of winning the next presidential election. Instead of offering it, through the hardened version of the Immigration Law, an “ideological victory” that opens up a boulevard for 2027!