Analysis: France

Who are the French far right?

In the aftermath of the death of anti-fascist activist Clément Méric, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls says that some far-right groups will “without doubt” be banned. So who are the French far right? A look at some of the many groups accused of following in the footsteps of the pre-war fascist leagues.

Clément Méric in a photo placed by his group, Action antifasciste, on Facebook.
Clément Méric in a photo placed by his group, Action antifasciste, on Facebook. AFP

Front National (National Front): Under new leader Marine Le Pen France’s largest far-right movement has tried to shake off its reputation for violence, anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies, going so far as to purge members deemed to be too nostalgic for the collaborationist Vichy government during World War II or to belng to ultra-right sects.

After Méric's death Le Pen called for the banning of "all movements that use violence".

The bid for respectability hasn’t stopped her claiming that Muslim prayers in French streets were a "new occupation", a claim that may mean an appearance in a French court, or put an end to the FN’s denunciation of “massive” immigration and propaganda on favourite right-wing themes such as law and order.

Marine Le Pen came third in the first round of last year's presidential election with 6,412,426 votes.

Troisième Voie(Third Way) and Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionaires (JNR – Revolutionary Nationalist Youth): The youths involved in Méric’s death were sympathisers of the Troisième Voie, so this small group is the most likely candidate for a legal ban. It was founded in 2010 by Serge Ayoub, a 49-year-old of Lebanese origin previously known as Batskin because of his shaved head and predilection for the use of baseball bats in confrontations with opponents.

The JNR, whose motto “Believe, fight, obey” was lifted from the Italian fascist movement, is its youth wing.

The group mainly recruits skinheads, often football hooligans, and declares itself anti-American, anti-communist and anti-Zionist, advocating a “third way” between “cynical capitalism and simple-minded leftism”.

Ouevre Française and Jeunesses Nationalistes (JN – Nationalist Youth): Formed in 1968, Oeuvre Française doesn’t hide its support for Philippe Pétain’s Vichy government. Its members were purged from the FN by Marine Le Pen and is currently led by Yvan Benedetti.

Its youth wing, JN, was formed in 2011 and often launches publicity-seeking demonstrations, one of which, due to take place on Saturday 8 June, was banned after Méric’s death. Its emblem is an eagle, reminiscent of Nazi emblems dating back to the 1930s.

Bloc Identitaire (Identity Bloc): Set up in 2002, the Bloc Identitaire claims to be defending “regional, national and European identity” against a perceived threat from Islam, and says that “anti-white racism” is growing, a claim echoed by UMP leader Jean-François Copé.

It grabbed headlines in 2011 with sausage and wine street parties, designed to offend Muslims, and earlier by offering pork soup to down-and-outs, with the same end in mind.

Its claim to defend French secularism has attracted some former left-wingers and has been taken up by Le Pen as a theme of the new-look FN.

Groupe Union Défense (Gud – Union and Defence Group): A “nationalist and patriotic youth movement” that has adopted the name and violent activities of a former student movement born after May 1968, the Gud sees itself as a faction of the FN.

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Its members were involved in clashes with the police during protests against the Socialist government’s gay-marriage bill.

Its emblem is a black rat.

Printemps Français (French Spring): More of a tendency than an organisation, the Printemps Français was born of the radicalisation of the anti-gay marriage movement and hoped to fuel a wider revolt against President François Hollande’s government.

Its best-known representative is Béatrice Bourges, stripped of her functions of spokesperson of the Manif pour tous movement by Frigide Barjot, who later fell foul of the movement’s leaders herself.

Civitas: A Catholic fundamentalist group, led by former Belgian FN member Alain Escada, Civitas organised some of the first protests against the gay-marriage bill in November last year but held its own pray-ins while the Manif pour tous took to the streets.

It has previously organised demonstrations against plays and other cultural activities it deems blasphemous and one of its members attacked the artwork Immersion (Piss Christ) with a hammer in an Avignon museum in 2011.

On RFI's site in French: Inventaire des mouvements d'extrême droite en France

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