o o
Le Front National est une force populaire de liberation, un
instrument politique de regeneration,
est Ie chemin par
lequella France peut de nouveau rentrer dans l'histoire.
- Bruno Megret, delegate-general of the French
National Front
In the aftermath of the 1981 legislative elections,
Simone Veil, a former Cabinet minister and European Parliament presi-
dent, addressed the leaders of the dispirited and scattered forces of the
French far right and stated, "You do not represent one percent. You do
not exist" (Begeron and Vilgier 1985, 188). At approximately the same
time, Christopher Husbands examined the far right's poor political pros-
pects and its inability to attract votes in the country's working-class
neighborhoods and surmised that "Specifically in France the working
class is apparently almost totally immune to such racist political mobi-
lization" (1981, 92). Other noted experts have sung this chorus. In 1983,
Jean-Christian Petitfils concluded his survey of the French far right by
stating, "It no longer exists as a political force" (124). More recently,
Alain Duhamel commented that "The National Front seems to have
stopped making headway and even seems unable to maintain itself at
its current level" (1993, 237). Throughout French history, political ob-
servers have often underestimated the far right's talent for survival. This
is a common approach taken by those who are unwilling to face the
far right's incredible ability to redefine itself according to the prevailing
political climate. Contrary to the experts' opinions, the French far right
is ascendant.
broke into the European Parliament in 1984, became the
leading party of France's working class in 1995, and received 15 percent
of the vote in the 1997 legislative elections, its highest total ever.
Crafting an obituary for the French far right is clearly a dangerous
proposition, given that even a cursory examination of French history re-
veals a constant appetite for the politics practiced by its representatives;
pundits and politicians alike should be more wary of voicing such cava-
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