How the FN of 1972 became the RN of 2024

Politicians on both the left and the centre are trying to remind their fellow citizens that when it was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen and others in 1972, the party – then known as the “National Front” (FN) – included in its ranks ex-Waffen SS who had fought under the Nazis during the Second World War.

The party’s very first treasurer, Pierre Bousquet, who remained in office for nine years, was a veteran of the SS Charlemagne division. Other historic members of the FN also belonged to paramilitary militias under the Vichy regime, which collaborated with Nazi Germany and contributed to the deportation of a quarter of French Jews.

“Of course” that the RN is “the heir of Vichy”, assured Sarah Legrain, from La France insoumise, (on LCI, June 11). A position visibly shared by Valérie Hayer, head of the list of the presidential majority in the European elections.

Pétain’s heirs

Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, is careful not to make such comparisons. When his former Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, whose father is a Holocaust survivor, described the RN as“heir of Pétain” In an interview last year, the president did not hide his exasperation.

According to him, history and morality were no longer enough to contain the breakthrough of the RN, which was already the party most popular with the working classes, and was gradually gaining ground among young people and civil servants.

“We will not succeed in making millions of French people who voted for her (Marine Le Pen) believe that they are fascists,” the head of state reportedly said in the Council of Ministers following this statement, implying that the party’s challenges should focus not on its past, but on its political programme.

“We are not the heirs of Vichy, contrary to what everyone says,” Louis Aliot, one of the party’s leaders, defended himself on Europe 1. “Mitterrand is an heir to Vichy, we are not” – in the 1990s, the socialist president publicly acknowledged having worked in the administration of the Pétain regime.

Neofascists, activists, nostalgic for French Algeria

The National Front was born in 1972 in Paris, under the leadership of, among others, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a former paratrooper who served in Algeria.

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