In “French Curtains“, Christopher Caldwell discusses Eric Zemmour’s bestseller book in France Le suicide français, a book which (coming from what in the States would be a most decisively Democratic political position) nonetheless discusses the ‘death of France’.
In many ways, this could be harbinger of what to expect in the U.S.: middle-class economic populism becoming more overtly identitarian in its rejection of mass immigration (as is the case with the National Front in France and UKIP in England.):
French readers follow the herd. They believe in prizes. When a French author wins the Goncourt or the Nobel, people rush to bookstores and send his books rocketing to the top of the bestseller lists. But today the French have other things on their minds. President François Hollande is France’s least popular leader since World War II. His poll ratings are even lower than Barack Obama’s. A gay marriage law he rushed through the National Assembly in 2013 has continued to bring enraged (and previously apolitical) protesters into the streets in 2014. Hollande’s Socialist party lost 150 cities in last spring’s municipal elections. In elections for the European parliament, which took place at about the same time, the National Front became France’s largest party. The working-class group, long tarred as fascist, took twice as many seats as the Socialists, who fell to third.
Although the French novelist Patrick Modiano won the Nobel in October, he has lately been bumped off the charts by Eric Zemmour, a talk-show pundit who is persona non grata among the country’s intellectual establishment. Zemmour’s Le suicide français (Paris: Albin Michel, 534 pages, 22.90 euros) is made for the moment. It argues that, since the French student uprising of May 1968, women’s libbers, Muslim migrants, crooked bankers, and overzealous judges have brought France to ruin. To judge from the reaction to Zemmour’s book—which sold a quarter-million copies in the fortnight after publication despite furious condemnations in all of the daily papers—large parts of the French public think he is right…
Mass immigration, especially from France’s hastily abandoned colonies in North Africa and West Africa, looms over this book as the great unintended consequence…
To Zemmour, virtually everything the French government has done since 1983—when the Socialist Mitterrand reversed course and opened up France to more free enterprise and international competition—has wound up selling off some part of the working-class patrimony to benefit the rich…
Of the French suburbs (housing projects) and working-class neighborhoods that (like Italy) the Communist Party used to dominate in local political power:
Immigration flushed the Communist party out of these areas—and eventually drove its voters towards the National Front. The Communist leader Georges Marchais was the first and last politician to insist that mass immigration of Muslims was damaging not just working-class economic prospects but the very fabric of French life. For this he was pilloried on left and right as a racist. Zemmour’s reverence for Marchais makes his own anti-anti-racism easier to define. It is not racism. It is a belief that France’s ruling class uses accusations of racism as a way of discrediting its class enemies, the better to impose on them a capitalism they have no familiarity with and no reason to want.
A telling excerpt from the concluding section:
Zemmour has been accused by Figaro editor Franz-Olivier Giesbert of “being in total harmony of thought with [National Front leader] Marine Le Pen.” Remarks such as Giesbert’s used to be a warning of pariah status, but they are losing their bite. In certain recent polls, and now the European elections, the National Front has proved to be France’s most popular party—for much the same reason that Le suicide français spent several weeks as France’s most popular book. The French, having decided they need their sovereignty back, are increasingly willing to ignore their misgivings about the only party that can credibly promise to fight for it. Long-term, France is as good a bet to pull out of the European Union as Britain. That does not mean it is moving to the “right” or embracing “hatred.” If the Socialists or the UMP ever made a credible promise to allow their members to vote their conscience on the matter of staying in Europe, they would be able to stop Le Pen in her tracks. But they won’t. For some reason they can’t.