Next-door folk who man the Front line


We are in Les Pavillons-sous-Bois, a leafy fragment in the tangle of motorways, tower-blocks, shopping-malls and factories in the north- eastern suburbs of Paris. The headquarters of Front National Departement 93 - Seine St Denis - branch is a suburban house which has been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Inside, the walls are plastered with posters, including several examples of the FN popular classic "immigration equals unemployment". But the first poster one sees sums up the revised, fin-de-siecle dogma of the FN. It shows a large, crude dinosaur, a savage version of Barney in US colours, gobbling up French working people. The slogan is: "Globalisation - eater of work."

Michel Paulin, deputy head of the local party, is a retired chief salesman, aged 58. "We have nothing to hide," he says. "You see - no swastikas. No guns." He has just taken delivery of a new series of posters, which say: "Death penalty for child-killers". At my request, Mr Paulin has assembled a cross-section of his "militants" to discuss why they belong to the FN. One does not necessarily expect a true cross-section. No doubt these men - they are all men - have been chosen to give a foreign visitor the "right" idea. But that is what I wanted: to meet a cross-section of respectable members of the Front in one of its most successful breeding- grounds before the party's annual conference in Strasbourg next weekend.

The "militants" range in age from 26 to 58, in occupation from municipal workers to an engineer and a self-employed accountant. They are all white - save one. The FN likes to parade its tiny minority of brown and black members. Jean-Marc Edrom, 33, is an engineer. His father was from Guadeloupe, in the West Indies. He is not an immigrant, nor the son of an immigrant, because Guadeloupe is part of France. He says his presence proves the FN is not racist: he belongs to it because he has "a high idea of my country, as one of the major contributors to advanced civilisation in the world".

Mr Edrom apart, it would be easy to caricature these men. Unhandsome; badly dressed; an atmosphere of personal depression. I have met them before: supporters of the Ku Klux Klan leader turned politician Alan Duke, in Louisiana; supporters of Ross Perot. They, of course, were convinced the world was a conspiracy against the US; not that the US was a conspiracy against the world.

But the Frontistes are open and friendly enough; they are not overtly racist; a man's skin does not matter, they say, his culture and behaviour do. To understand the success of the Front, and its dangers, it is important to bear this in mind: its leaders may be cynical and ill-intentioned but, at local level, the Front's supporters look like - are - the people next door.

Michel Sellier, 56, a shabby, self-employed accountant, says he is typical of the kind of people coming to the FN. He joined four years ago after having voted for every other party except the Communists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he saw there was a new threat to French identity in the world. "I saw the new world order being erected by the US, which was intolerant of other cultures. I looked around and saw nothing but American films on television; McDonald's; young people wearing jeans, baseball hats, playing rap music. I saw our jobs going abroad. I saw immigrants who had no respect for our culture. I looked for a party which could express and defend these ideas and saw only the Front National."

I tease them about an FN publication on the origins of the French nation which has a drawing of Clovis (the Frankish king who reigned 481-511 and who founded the Merovingian monarchy) on the front resembling Bjorn Borg at his most hirsute. How many people in this room, how many people in France, look like that? "No, you misunderstand. Clovis was the origin of the French nation but he was a German: that was what he looked like". Yes, but this resembles the worst kind of Aryan-nation propaganda by neo- Nazi parties in Britain, Germany or the US.

Mr Paulin brings me a picture of his daughter when she was about seven. She is blonde; but he is not. "That caused me a lot of problems ..." he said, guffawing. "People jumped to the wrong conclusions." I try another tack. The job-eating US dinosaur poster. Is that not exaggerated? Globalism is a leap into the unknown for all countries, including the US. And if the might of the dollar is such a threat, what do they have against the European Union, a European single currency?

Francois Bellaton, 58, an engineer, says: "The Americans will never let the euro happen." Why not? "They will manipulate the markets to prevent it, because they will not tolerate anything which challenges the domination of the dollar." So he is in favour of the euro? (The FN officially is certainly not). "Non," he is "tout a fait contre," because he is against the European government of bureaucrats being plotted in Brussels.

But how would he defend France against the dollar? Can the franc stand alone against US-manipulated markets? No, they agree, probably not. There should be an arrangement to fix all European exchange rates permanently against one another. Yes, I said, it will be called the euro. No, they are against that because France must preserve its monetary independence and the franc must survive as a national symbol ...

It was like arguing with a friend who has had a nervous breakdown. The anxieties are rooted in reality but magnified and distorted by some psychological cause you cannot quite touch. I left the meeting confused, defeated, depressed.

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments