“The civil war has already started” repeats Éric Zemmour in France day after day. Until a few months ago he was a journalist and essayist who had gained notoriety as a guest and columnist on large television channels. Now, although he has not yet officially announced his candidacy, two electoral polls show him as third or second in the presidential race for the Elysee Palace in May 2022, side by side with Marine Le Pen, a traditional candidate of the extreme right, and below the current president, Emmanuel Macron.
Zemmour speaks without filters in a country where political correctness is often the norm. Take advantage of the space left by Marine Le Pen who worked for years to be correct, to de-demonize as they say in France, to show herself presidential, to get rid of the image of her father Jean Marie Le Pen and her former partisan partners, openly anti-Arab, Jewish , colonialists. Thus, while far-right forces grew in nearby countries with disruptions and disinhibitions, their force chose a different path, which seemed to bear fruit until the poor results of the regional elections last June.
The new figure opted for the frontal strategy. He did not do it in the forms, where he presents himself as an intellectual, a writer knowledgeable about French history and its culture. The escalation occurs in the contents: Zemmour raises old ideas updated to this moment of crisis. One of them is that “Western civilization” and “Islamic civilization” would be incompatible, and the second would be in a process of “colonization” of the first through immigration. That process, he affirms, is the one that would give rise to the “great replacement” of the population, a thesis developed by the writer Renaud Camus. Thus, he affirms, directly: “the French people are being replaced by another people.”
“The French elites for 40 years have committed the criminal folly of making and letting millions of immigrants come from an Arab-Muslim civilization that is hostile to the Christian civilization from which we have come for a thousand years,” he repeats in their interventions. His security discourse takes on another dimension: “the crime that we live is not delinquency, it is a jihad, it is a war that they wage on us, a war of civilization, looting, robbery, rape, murder.” An obsession, as he himself acknowledges: “civilization is at stake,” he says.
It is not only a question of racism based on skin color and class. Zemmour goes further, takes up the original civilizational thesis on the part of the French extreme right, the one that supported the current of Jean Marie Le Pen, who voluntarily enlisted to go to fight in Algeria when the National Liberation Front led the fight for the independence that finally occurred in 1962. That war always returns: the Algerian government recently called its ambassador in France to consult for the statements of Macron who, among other things, criticized the “official history” constructed by Algeria regarding colonization and war. Macron, who can be one thing, the other, or, quite the opposite, seeks votes to the right.
Immigration is at the center of all Zemmour’s speech. In economics, for example, he explains that one of the causes of what he calls the “third globalization of France” with an “obese providence state” would be that it went from a “national solidarity to a system of universal solidarity, we opened hospitals, social security to the whole world ”. His proposal oscillates between internal liberalism, external protectionism opposed to globalization – he accuses Macron of wanting to “dissolve France in Europe and Africa” - with the closure of borders and migratory flows. In geopolitical terms, he argues that it is necessary to leave NATO in order not to continue to “submit” to the United States, and to make a rapprochement with Russia, removing the current economic sanctions.
The extreme right manages to focus the debate where it grows, polarizes, increases fears, anguish, catastrophic horizons, and avoids delving into economic issues, where it manages to show less strength. Its enemy, unlike Latin America, Spain, and partially the United States, is not communism, socialism, cultural Marxism or populism: the French left has not governed or presented a strong alternative for decades – with the exception of Jean Luc Mélenchon. in the last elections- and the Socialist Party, under the government of Francois Hollande between 2012 and 2017, it ended up adopting the neoliberal agenda and even historical ideas of the extreme right, such as taking away French nationality from those who have dual nationality and have “attacked the fundamental interests of the nation ”.
This year Mélenchon, who affirms that Zemmour is “a danger to France”, appears fifth or sixth in the polls, close to the Green candidate, Yannick Jadot, above the Socialist Party with the figure of the current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. In first place is Macron, second or third is Zemmour and Le Pen, and fourth is the right-wing Republican party – which achieved its last presidency with Nicolas Sarkozy recently sentenced to one year in prison – which will elect its candidate in December.
It is an arc that has moved sharply to the right, after a Macron mandate marked by large mobilizations, such as that of the yellow vests, and by the pandemic and the different quarantines implemented. The elections are still seven months away and some polls also indicate a high percentage of abstention that would reach 48%, recalling the saying that the first party in France is abstention. Although surprises and twists cannot be ruled out, the map, for the moment, takes, according to the pollsters, the form announced for some time: a second round between Macron and one of the right-wing forces, repeating itself, perhaps, the scenario of the 2017.
Zemmour is part of the current growth trend of these new / old rights. In this case, an emergency more to the right of the already existing one, such as VOX to the Popular Party or Javier Milei to Together for Change, in a strategy of competition and alliance. It is likely that its gravitation, supported by the great media impulse, will operate as a pull towards a greater right wing of Macron, Marine Le Pen, and the future candidate of the Republicans. Similar to the VOX effect on the Popular Party with renewed anti-communist and pro-colonial flags, or Milei on Juntos, now in a crusade to remove the severance pay.