On the French nightly news for Monday, June 12, the anchor’s face was so grim that, at first, I thought the French forces in Bosnia had suffered serious losses. But, no, he was reporting on the French municipal elections, the first round of voting for mayors of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. The recent presidential victory of Gaullist Jacques Chirac had not led to the collapse of the Socialist Party. Instead, initial results showed that the National Front was now a permanent part of the political scene. That was the bad news.

Founded in 1972 by French nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front (FN) had taken off in the 80’s, aided by its opposition to North African immigration, permanent mass unemployment resulting from France’s commitment to global free trade, and the corruption of the Socialist regime of President François Mitterrand. Mitterrand gave the FN a boost when he halved the percentage of the vote needed to send representatives to the French Parliament from 20 percent to 10 percent, expecting to split the French right. Instead, the Communist Party went from its traditional 20 percent of the vote to about 10 percent, while the National Front rose to 10 percent. Political analysts assured us that it was hasty to assume that half the communist working-class vote went over to the National Front. That is, however, what happened.

Mitterrand continued to play the Le Pen card cynically against the traditional rightist coalition, but responsible conservatives and socialists were not concerned. France had seen periodical outbursts of nationalist “fever” before, such as the Poujadists of the 1950’s, as America and England had seen the bright flares of Joe McCarthy and Enoch Powell rise, lighten the sky, and then sputter out and fall harmlessly to the ground. Such movements rarely attracted more than 10 percent of the vote in France, and the more fiercely the fever burned, the sooner the temperature returned to the levels favored by representatives of international cooperation and world trade. The National Front has now seen nearly 25 years of steady growth. This year’s presidential vote (in two stages) followed in short order by the municipal elections (also in two stages) confirmed its appeal.

The presidential elections were supposed to be between two Gaullists, the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, and Prime Minister Eduard Bahadur. The Socialists, in despair, held a kind of American-style primary, out of which emerged Lionel Jospin, best known as the Minister of Education who approved the right of Islamic girls to wear their veils in France’s secular public schools. The polls indicated that Le Pen would be lucky to get 10 percent of the vote. The first round was a shocker. Jospin won 22 percent, edging out Chirac, whose 20 percent beat Balladur’s 18 percent. Le Pen’s 15 percent was only a few million votes away from each of the Gaullist candidates. If the polls had not misled voters, Le Pen might well have won the several million votes he needed to make it into the second round, where Chirac ended up beating Jospin. There was an exceptionally high number of abstentions and wasted ballots.

The municipal elections were expected to confirm rightist control of the country, since the right held a large majority in the parliament. Instead, there were few clear-cut victories in the first round, and in many cities the National Front won from 25 to 40 percent of the vote. The Socialists called for a “democratic front,” where they would yield to Gaullist candidates who were in the best position to beat the Front, if the traditional right would withdraw in cities where Socialists were ahead. Chirac preferred to leave the country for the G-7 meeting in Canada without approving any such agreement, which would have won a number of cities at the cost of proving Le Pen’s point, that the major parties are a conspiracy against the French people. The Socialists joined forces with their old allies, the Communists, to defeat the Front and were successful in a number of northern cities, but the FN won outright in three southern cities, including the port of Toulon, and a Le Pen fellow traveler became mayor of Nice.

The precise details of the votes are less important than their strategic significance. The attempts of the past two decades to demonize the National Front have been a resounding failure. “In Tourcoing, if you put an FN sign on an ass’s neck, he’ll take 30 percent of the vote.” That wisecrack is true of many French cities, north and south. Between the presidential elections of 1988 and 1995, Le Pen’s share of the working class vote rose from 18 to 27 percent, while the Socialist Party candidates’ share declined from 43 to 20 percent. As the leftist Nouvel Observateur put it, “The National Front is the leading working class party in France.” The FN has also changed the debate on immigration, for years dominated by the open-borders extremists of SOS Racisme. Responsible leftists no longer call for open borders. They are trying to keep current immigrants from being deported, and they are not succeeding. In the moments of leisure left him by organizing European resistance to the Serb Freedom Fighters and frustrating the attempts of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior II to disrupt France’s renewed atomic testing (his Socialist predecessor, Mitterrand, planted a bomb on the original Rainbow Warrior, killing an environmentalist), Chirac is deporting immigrants at a furious rate.

Left and right now admit that the National Front is not going away because the issues are not going away. Islam is not a form of personal piety. It is a true culture that affects every part of a person’s life, from the girl’s veil to the man’s quintuple daily genuflection. France’s Islamic minority is not assimilating, pace random anecdotes to the contrary, and it is massively outreproducing the native French. What is more, Muslims can “under-live” the average Frenchman and so can survive on jobs, petits boulots, which the increasingly university educated French will not take. While immigration is crushing the French worker from the bottom, global free trade hand in hand with social democracy is crippling the French standard of living, though not the French economy. As Sir James Goldsmith points out in The Trap, in the last 20 years the French GNP has grown an amazing 80 percent, but, at the same time, unemployment has grown from 400,000 to over 5 million. Governmental intrusion and corruption are not going away, either. Aroused French voters stripped the corrupt Socialist Party of its control of parliament. Increasingly important decisions will be made by the bureaucrats of the European Union in Brussels, and over them the French voter will have little or no control.

Are there lessons here for the United States? Are massive immigration, the flight of jobs to the Third World, and a corrupt and out-of-control government issues here? At one million immigrants a year, we let in more immigrants than the rest of the world combined. NAFTA has already had the effect that GATT will accentuate, a steady rise in the GNP accompanied by massive “downsizing,” i.e., unemployment. This summer a South Korean firm purchased majority control of Zenith, the last American TV manufacturer. For Americans the change was largely symbolic, of course. Most Zenith TV sets are assembled in Mexico. As for murderous corruption (e.g., Waco, Ruby Ridge, Whitewater, the not very mysterious death of Vince Foster), three years of Clinton are already challenging 14 years of Mitterand. (Those who were outraged at the promotion of Larry Potts after his handling of Waco and Ruby Ridge will be glad to know that the French secret agents who planted the bomb on the Rainbow Warrior were sentenced to years of exile . . . on Tahiti, not exactly Devil’s Island.)

In France, Le Pen has said for years that left and right are meaningless concepts. France is ruled by une social democratic mondialiste, a one-party globalist socialist regime. The same situation holds true for America. Naturally, the media are not silly enough to tell this to the American people, any more than they let on that Mareia Clark goes out drinking with Johnnie Cochran when the O.J. trial adjourns for the day.

French politics has lessons for us. One, the issues at the heart of a principled nationalism are not going away and can form the basis for an enduring political and cultural movement. Le Pen has a summer school for his young adherents (this summer’s theme: Ni droite ni gauche, Français!). The majority of voters between 18 and 25 avoided leftist candidates. We need to think about the long term. Two, if Pat Buchanan is the Republican nominee, leftist and liberal nationalists need to swallow hard and support him. Conservative nationalists need to understand that if the COP nominee is Pete Wilson, we have to support him. It is time for nationalists to unite against globalists if we expect to live in a world where our other ideological differences will even make sense. Solon in the sixth century B.C. passed a law that those who abstained from major conflicts confronting the Athenian people were disenfranchised. If we hope to avoid the ethnic wars that are America’s likely future, we need to act. We are not likely to be given the 25 years it took Le Pen to achieve his current position.