21 December 2009
French president Nicolas Sarkozy, in a December 9 opinion piece in Le Monde, gave vent to an extreme nationalist and barely concealed Islamophobic appeal to the most reactionary forces within French society.
Its purpose is to win a social base for the imposition of authoritarian rule in order to make the working class pay for the economic crisis and the vast state debts incurred in bailing out the banks. It is also designed to create the ideological climate to justify France’s imperialist foreign policy, involving the unpopular military intervention in Afghanistan in the scramble for the world’s strategic resources, mainly oil and gas, by competing imperialist powers.
The article vigorously defends the recent Swiss referendum vote for a law making the building of mosque minarets illegal. Sarkozy asserts that those attacking the Swiss referendum vote were attacking “the Swiss people” and furthermore were showing a general “scorn for the people” and “a visceral mistrust for everything coming from the people.” He denies that the vote had any effect on “religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”
Sarkozy’s public endorsement of the Swiss referendum vote places him at the head of a sharp move to the right in European politics. Indeed, Sarkozy positions himself to the right of the ruling political parties in Switzerland, which had opposed a vote for the ban, if only for fear of possible damage to the country’s banking, trade and tourist interests.
The law is being challenged by Muslim groups in the European Court of Human Rights as being incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. They point out that it is discriminatory because it exclusively directed at the Muslim religion.
Sarkozy’s article is part of the national-identity campaign, spearheaded by his increasingly fanatical minister of immigration and national identity, Eric Besson, the former Socialist Party spokesman on economic affairs. It is an escalation of the state racism and Islamophobia expressed in the 2004 law banning the wearing of Muslim headscarfs by girls in schools and the parliamentary mission preparing legislation for the banning of the burqa in public. …
Besson ordered the forced repatriation of nine Afghans, whose safety is in severe doubt, to Kabul on Wednesday, on a plane jointly chartered with the British government, against the express wishes of the Afghan government.
Most notable about Sarkozy’s right-wing populism is the complete non-recognition of class divisions within “the people” and his exclusive use of religion to define social categories: “Christian, Jew or Muslim, man of faith, whatever his faith, whatever his beliefs.…”
Asserting the fundamentally “Christian civilisation” of France and the “values of the Republic,” Sarkozy warns newcomers and particularly Muslims that any challenge by them to these “values…would condemn to failure the so-necessary establishment of a French Islam.” …
There are signs that Sarkozy’s strident embrace of large parts of the National Front’s programme and ideology, rather than attracting the far-right vote, is boosting the neo-fascists. Le Pen’s daughter and likely successor, Marine Le Pen, is shown on television working the markets with leaflets headed “ National Identity.” The opinion polls show 10% voting for the FN in the regional elections, which could be very damaging for the prospects of the ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Movement). Approval ratings for Sarkozy are now dipping below 40%. …
Increasingly, sections of the political elite are worried that the national identity campaign launched by Sarkozy and Besson is getting out of control. AFP quotes the UMP deputy Jean-Pierre Grand, a supporter of Sarkozy’s rival, Dominique de Villepin, describing the national identity campaign as “a marvellous boost for the National Front. I regret it profoundly.”
Former UMP prime ministers de Villepin, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Alain Juppé have publicly expressed their objections to Sarkozy’s article and the national identity campaign.
Why We Must Put an End to the Debate Over National Identity, by Bernard-Henri Lévy: here.
The acquittal of ex-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on slander charges in the Clearstream trial brought by President Nicolas Sarkozy is a major blow to Sarkozy and to France’s political order: here.
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