A Conservative Revolution in France?

The author of Le Suicide Français draws a picture of a France in decline since the riots of 1968, identifying a wide range of causes for this decline such as globalisation, free trade, the European Union, immigration, feminism, human rights, and even some TV shows. 

The author feels nostalgic for the "French golden age" of the 1950s, and readers can hardly fail to be impressed by an author that succeeds in glorifying General De Gaulle while rehabilitating Marshal Pétain, head of the French state during the Occupation, who engaged France in collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Beyond the controversies sparked by the release of the book, which have led to the author being fired from a TV channel, this book is an illustration of a France increasingly seduced by conservative ideas.

In 2012, with the help of his political adviser Patrick Buisson (former adviser of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front), President Nicolas Sarkozy sought to gain the support of French people with a strong right-wing speech calling, for example, for France to exit the Schengen area. At least partly due to this fact François Hollande did not have the anticipated landslide victory in the presidential election. A few weeks later, the National Front, which reached third place in the legislative election, managed to send two deputies to the French National Assembly. This was a success that few had predicted.

In 2013 millions of people, including many young people, took to the streets of France to protest against gay marriage. Some saw a Conservative May of 1968, referring to the 1968 riots denounced by Eric Zemmour. Following these events, an anti-gay marriage group was created within the UMP (the party of French center-right) promoting former President Nicolas Sarkozy. It succeeded in making him promise to abolish gay marriage should he be reelected president.

In May 2014 the National Front won 25% of the French vote at the European elections, securing 24 out of France's 74 seats. It seems very likely now that Marine Le Pen will qualify for the second round of the presidential election in 2017. 2014 saw the birth of an exclusive and improbable political phenomenon as the National Front broke the bi-partisan political system, which seemed extremely difficult under the framework of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic.

So are we the witnesses of a French conservative revolution?

This cannot be the case yet. According to several polls, the French have never seemed so ready for reforms. Taking advantage of the tax increase in recent years, liberalism is less and less regarded as an evil. France's most popular politician is now Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, with a reputation as a moderate politician. Prime Minister Manuel Valls, considered a centrist, remains quite popular compared to the President Francois Hollande. Despite the recent protests, the French are overwhelmingly in favour of gay marriage. Finally, even in the UMP the strong right-wing rhetoric of Nicolas Sarkozy did not attract as many votes as it was expected during the party's internal election.

However 2015 will certainly not be the year of the withdrawal of the conservative wave. Several political observers have already predicted that two regions might soon be led by the National Front following the municipal elections this year. If the prospect of Marine Le Pen winning the 2017 presidential race is fiction, her clout and the philosophic influence of writers like Eric Zemmour seem quite strong on other politicians. As an example, it is interesting to highlight that more moderate centre-right leaders like Nicolas Sarkozy have at times changed their politics in order to appeal to  the far-right electorate. As France remains one of the key actors in Europe, the bigger the National Front and other Eurosceptic parties’ scores are, the bigger the consequences for the European Union will be.