Note: Essay originally submitted for History credit at Queens College in the Fall 2016 semester. It has not been updated.
In recent years, a growing number of issues have threatened the continued existence and viability of the European Union. While external pressures have not been without their effects, it is the internal strife within the member states that has presented the most fundamental danger to the 28-member union. While many observers trace a widespread swell of populist-infused nationalism across the entirety of the continent, perhaps the most notable and disconcerting example has been the alarming rise of France’s National Front (FN) party.
Formerly a marginalized group garnering more headshakes than votes, the party’s head, Marine Le Pen, is now considered a lock to advance to the final round of the country’s presidential election this coming May. Le Pen and her party—its platform staunchly nationalist, anti-immigrant, and anti-EU—have witnessed a surge in popularity with the FN most recently winning 27.7% of votes in the first round of 2015’s regional elections. Their success has not gone unnoticed, and many have linked Le Pen alongside Brexit and Donald Trump to form the potential trifecta of anger-driven, anti-globalist, political upheavals of 2016-17.
Whether Le Pen wins or not—her prospects presently look unlikely in 2017—she has succeeded in mobilizing a large segment of France’s population, giving voice to their discontentment, and injecting far-right thought into the nation’s mainstream political discourse. In doing so, she has already achieved what was unthinkable not long ago. This paper will survey the far right in France over the past century or so, and document the unexpected rise of a once ostracized political party, and question whether it deserves the “fascist” label detractors so often apply to it. Keep Reading