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Alain de Benoist discusses the origins of the riots in France. French specificities, the long-standing nature of mass immigration, a culture of denial, obscuring ethnic realities, and individualism – all have converged, more so than elsewhere, to fan the flames.

This interview first appeared in Italy in Il Giornale.

Il Giornale: The protests these days bear witness to the failure of multiculturalism. How did we get to this point?

Alain de Benoist: They indeed demonstrate a failure of multiculturalism, but to limit our understanding to just that would be oversimplifying. The violent urban riots we are witnessing now also reflect a country that is divided and fragmented, not because of immigrants, but due to a prevailing ideology that has replaced moral rules with the law of profit within the general populace. In a society dominated by market values, which inherently set the stage for social fragmentation and disconnection, it’s unsurprising that no one cares for the common good.

When representatives from the Left or far Left visit the estates to express that they ‘understand the anger’ of the rioters, they are met with expulsion or are spat in the face!

In these riots, the Left primarily sees a social revolt (against discrimination, exclusion, unemployment, etc.), whereas the Right speaks of an ethnic rebellion hinting at a potential civil war. Both interpretations hold some truth, yet they are both shortsighted. For forty years, tens of billions of euros have been poured into ‘urban policy’ and the regeneration of ‘challenging neighbourhoods’ with no tangible outcome. On the other hand, urban guerrilla warfare is not a civil war. In a civil war, two armed factions of the population clash, with the police and army also being divided, which is not the case here.

Broadly speaking, strictly political interpretations prove incapable of fully grasping the issue. The current urban riots are devoid of any political nature. The rioters have no claims to put forward. They merely wish to destroy and loot. When representatives from the Left or far Left visit the estates to express that they ‘understand the anger’ of the rioters, they are met with expulsion or are spat in the face!

Il Giornale: To what extent does the crisis of French and European identity influence the protests?

Alain de Benoist: The French population has now lost any sense of belonging to a community. The rioters have one – or believe they have one. The crisis of French identity has deep roots. It’s the result of the dominance of an ideology that’s both individualistic and universalist, believing that people are ‘the same everywhere’ and that ethnocultural factors don’t matter. No society can address its problems solely through legal contracts and commercial exchanges.

Il Giornale: Is the French state being challenged because many immigrants do not recognise the authority of French institutions?

Alain de Benoist: The rioters aren’t concerned with the French state; they’re indifferent to it. When they attack police with fireworks, or set fire to town halls or fire stations, it’s less because they view them as representatives of authority and more because they see them as intruders. They think in terms of territory (the ‘invisible border’), in purely tribal terms. They equally target schools, bookshops, grocery stores, boutiques, and cars. They see themselves as a gang under attack from a rival gang.

The second, third, or fourth generations see themselves as Algerian, Malian, Moroccan, Senegalese, etc., even when they hold French nationality, but they know almost nothing of the countries from which their parents or grandparents came.

It would be another mistake to think the rioters don’t want any rules. On the contrary, there are rules they adhere to very well: their own! Most of them come from cultures and familial societies that are clan-like, and they continue to behave in a clannish way. If one of them falls victim to ‘police violence’, they all feel victimised. This is what public authorities, trapped in their ideology, fail to grasp: the mother of a child killed after committing an armed attack will never say her son behaved wrongly. She will say that the entire clan was attacked through him. This is the very principle of clannish tribalism: my kin are always right simply because they’re mine.

Il Giornale: Why are the second and third generations more radicalised than previous ones?

Alain de Benoist: They are more radicalised because they suffer from a much more pronounced identity deficit. Such riots are never instigated by first-generation immigrants, who came to settle in France voluntarily while retaining a clear consciousness of their origins and thus their identity. The second, third, or fourth generations see themselves as Algerian, Malian, Moroccan, Senegalese, etc., even when they hold French nationality, but they know almost nothing of the countries from which their parents or grandparents came. They don’t feel French but have only a makeshift or imagined substitute identity. Their frustration is complete. They can only express who they are through violence and destruction.

Il Giornale: In this context, has the French judicial system, often accused of being too lenient towards immigrants who commit crimes, played a role in your opinion?

Alain de Benoist: The leniency of the judicial system is very real. The rioters are well aware that they fundamentally face little risk as the law is not enforced. A failure to comply, combined with evading arrest, can theoretically lead to up to ten years in prison, but such sentences have never been handed down. Moreover, there’s no room left in the prisons! This contributes to the demoralisation of the police.

Il Giornale: Back in 2005, serious protests took place in France. What has changed compared to the situation almost twenty years ago? Has the situation worsened?

Alain de Benoist: Between 2005 and 2023, there are differences. The larger scale of the riots, which in five days have already caused more damage than those of 2005 which lasted three weeks, can be first attributed to the simple fact that the immigrant populations from which the rioters originate are now much larger. The now predominant role of social media should also be considered. In 2005, the riots were concentrated in major cities; now they affect smaller towns. Rioters are also much younger (a third of those arrested are between 13 and 15 and were unknown to the police) and much more violent. Within these areas, a culture of senseless violence has developed: violence is used not only to steal but over a ‘bad look’, a refusal of a cigarette, or simply for no reason – other than for pleasure. And things quickly escalate: attackers continue to hit someone already down and don’t hesitate to kill. In France, according to an INSEE survey, a gratuitous assault occurs every 44 seconds…

Il Giornale: The immigration issue doesn’t only concern France but also other major European nations, like Germany, where, however, phenomena of this scale have never occurred. What hasn’t worked in the French model of immigration?

A majority of the French would like to see the army intervene in the suburbs.

Alain de Benoist: This is precisely the proof that multiculturalism alone doesn’t suffice to explain the riots. What’s unique to France is that it pioneered immigration: the problem already existed here while immigration was only beginning in countries like Italy, Germany, Spain, or the UK. There’s also the fact that immigration in France remains associated with memories of the colonial era, which has given rise to resentments that haven’t subsided. Lastly, we can’t rule out that certain crowd-control techniques proven effective elsewhere aren’t always employed by the French police. The way in which problems were relentlessly denied for decades has had explosive consequences.

Il Giornale: Will the recent protests also have political consequences leading up to next year’s European elections by strengthening the Right?

Alain de Benoist: Yes, it’s evident. Upheavals like those we’re currently witnessing do open eyes. The National Rally has already become France’s leading party, and polls predict it winning the upcoming European elections. The French public is fed up. They see that the government is completely overwhelmed by what’s happening. A majority of the French would like to see the army intervene in the suburbs. Emmanuel Macron is criticised for not declaring a state of emergency, as was done in 2005. The most significant symbol is the incredible success of the fundraiser launched on social media to support the family of the police officer responsible for the shots that sparked the riots: in less than four days, it exceeded one and a half million euros (before being closed)! It’s unprecedented.

Il Giornale: Is France lost forever, or is there a chance to end this situation?

Alain de Benoist: One should never say never! The old countries of Europe have faced much more severe challenges in the past and have always risen above them. Everything that materialises prompts a counter-reaction. History is unpredictable. It is, by definition, the realm of the unexpected.

Il Giornale: Do you think what’s happening in France today could also occur in Italy?

Alain de Benoist: It’s possible, if not likely. The question is whether the Italian government will learn from what’s happening across the Alps today.

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Alain de Benoist

Alain de Benoist is the leading thinker of the European ‘New Right’ movement, a school of political thought founded in France in 1968 with the establishment of GRECE (Research and Study Group for European Civilisation). To this day he remains its primary representative, even while rejecting the label ‘New Right’ for himself. An ethnopluralist defender of cultural uniqueness and integrity, he has argued for the right of Europeans to retain their identity in the face of multiculturalism, and he has opposed immigration, while still preferring the preservation of native cultures over the forced assimilation of immigrant groups.

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Swede
Swede
10 months ago

“The old countries of Europe have faced much more severe challenges in the past…” No they haven’t! But the interview was interesting.

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