Le Front National

Le Front National (FN, The National Front) is the third largest political power in France behind the Social Party and the Union for a Popular Movement, and represents far right nationalist sentiment, including economic protectionism and a strongly anti-immigrant stance (especially towards non-European immigrants). The FN was founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Catholic social conservative and veteran of the Algerian War who sought to bring together multiple right wing movements under a single umbrella. The party is currently led by his daughter, Marine Le Pen.

Historically, the FN is the inheritor of a strand of far-right nationalism that dates back to the cleavage between Royalists and Republicans in post-Revolutionary France, drawing from the alliance between monarchists, conservative Catholics, and nationalists. It is also shaped by far right movements that have emerged in the 20th century.

Both Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen are practicing Catholics who have positioned the FN as representing a conservative Catholic voice in France, though Church representatives themselves—who lean toward the left—have distanced themselves from FN positions. The FN promotes conservative social values, the cornerstone of which is understood to be Catholicism, and at various points FN leaders have taken a stand against homosexuality, abortion, contraception, and divorce. Nonetheless, non-practicing Catholics far outweigh practicing Catholics among supporters of the FN.

Leaders of the FN have spoken forcefully on Islam and France, regarding Islam as inherently incompatible with French values and with the modern French state, and have represented Islam as eroding France’s Catholic identity. Representatives, including Jean-Marie Le Pen, have also made anti-Semitic statements, though in recent years the FN has actively worked to improve its “extremist” image.

Sources:

Peter Davies, “The Front National and Catholicism: from integrisme to Joan of Arc and Clovis,” Religion Compass, Vol. 4, No. 9 (2010), pp. 576-587.

See also: France