Czech version here
Editor’s Note: The following translation is reprinted by kind permission of Der Schattige Wald at the Actaeon Journal. The interview was originally published in the Italian journal Il Giornale on July 7.
A little over a week after the outbreak of the riots, Alain de Benoist draws up their genealogy: French specificity, the anteriority of mass immigration, the culture of denial, the occultation of ethnic realities, individualism . . . everything contributed, more than elsewhere, to fanning the flames.
IL GIORNALE: The demonstrations these days bear witness to the failure of multiculturalism. How did we get here?
ALAIN DE BENOIST. They of course show the failure of multiculturalism, but to stop there would be simplistic. The violent urban riots we are witnessing at the moment also testify to a country divided and fragmented, not because of immigrants but because of a dominant ideology that has substituted the law of profit for moral rules in the general population. In a society dominated by market values, which structurally create the conditions for social fragmentation, it is not surprising that no one cares about the common good.
The Left mainly saw in these riots a social revolt (against discrimination, exclusion, unemployment, etc.), while the Right spoke of an ethnic revolt heralding a civil war. There is some truth in both interpretations, but they are both short-sighted. For 40 years, tens of billions of euros have been invested in “urban policy” and the rehabilitation of “difficult neighborhoods” without any results. On the other hand, an urban riot is not a civil war. In a civil war, two armed factions of the population clash, with the police and the army being equally divided, which is not the case here.
Generally speaking, it is the strictly political interpretations that prove incapable of taking the full measure of the problem. The current urban riots have no political character. The rioters have no claims to make. They only want to destroy and plunder. When representatives of the Left, or the extreme Left, go to the suburbs to make it known that they “understand the anger” of the rioters, they are expelled or get spit in their faces!
IL GIORNALE: To what extent does the crisis of French and European identity influence the demonstrations?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: The French population today has lost all feeling of belonging to a community. The rioters have one — or believe they have one. The crisis of French identity has ancient roots. It is the result of the influence of an ideology that is both individualist and universalist, and which believes that men are “everywhere the same” and that ethnocultural factors are not important. No society can solve its problems through legal contracts and the stock exchange.
IL GIORNALE: Is the French state being challenged because many immigrants do not recognize the authority of French institutions?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: The rioters don’t care about the French state, which is indifferent to them. When they attack the police with fireworks, when they set town halls or fire stations on fire, it is less because they see them as representatives of authority than because they perceive them as intruders . They reason in terms of territory (the “invisible border”), in a purely tribal way. They also attack schools, bookstores, grocery stores, shops, and cars. They look at each other as a gang attacked by a rival gang.
It would be another mistake to believe that the rioters do not want to follow any rules. On the contrary, there are rules that they very much respect: their own! Most of them come from clan-like family cultures and societies, and they continue to behave in a clan-like manner. If one of them is a victim of “police violence,” all of them see themselves as victims as well. This is what the public authorities, who are prisoners of their ideology, fail to understand: the mother of a child killed after committing an armed robbery will never say that her son behaved badly. She will say that through him, the whole clan was attacked. This is the very principle of clan tribalism: My people are always right because they are mine.
IL GIORNALE: Why are the second and third generations more radicalized than the previous ones?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: They are more radicalized because they suffer from a much more significant loss of identity. Such riots are never the work of first-generation immigrants, who came to settle in France voluntarily while retaining a clear awareness of their origins, and therefore of their identity. The second, third, or fourth generation consider themselves to be Algerian, Malian, Moroccan, Senegalese, etc., even when they have French nationality, but they know practically nothing of the countries from which their parents or grandparents came. They do not feel French, but have only an artificial or fantasy alternative identity. Their frustration is total. They can no longer express what they are except through violence and destruction.
IL GIORNALE: In this context, did the French judicial system, which is often accused of being too lax with regard to immigrants who commit crimes, play a role, in your opinion?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: The laxity of the judicial system is very real. The rioters know well that they are basically not taking much risk, because the law is not being applied. A hit-and-run offense can theoretically result in up to ten years in prison, but such sentences have never been imposed. Moreover, there is no more room in the prisons! This contributes to the demoralization of the police.
IL GIORNALE: Serious demonstrations took place in France already in 2005. What has changed compared to the situation almost 20 years ago? Has the situation gotten worse?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: There are differences between 2005 and 2023,. The greater scale of the riots, which in five days have already done more damage than those of 2005, which lasted three weeks, is explained primarily by the simple fact that there are many more immigrant populations from which the rioters come today. The current predominant role of social networks should also be taken into account. In 2005 the riots were concentrated in the big cities, while today they are affecting the small towns. The rioters are also much younger (a third of those arrested are between 13 and 15, and were unknown to the police), and are much more violent. In the suburbs, a culture of gratuitous violence has developed: One no longer resorts to violence just to steal something, but simply for receiving a “bad look” — someone refusing to offer a cigarette, or simply for nothing — if not merely for pleasure. And we quickly go to extremes: We continue to hit someone who is already on the ground, and we do not hesitate to kill. In France, according to a National Institute of Statistical and Economic Information (INSEE) survey, there is a gratuitous attack every 44 seconds . . .
IL GIORNALE: The problem of immigration does not only concern France, but also other major European nations such as Germany — where, however, phenomena of this magnitude have never occurred. What went wrong with the French immigration model?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: This is precisely the proof that multiculturalism alone is not enough to explain the riots. What is special about France is that it was a pioneer in terms of immigration: The problem was already there when immigration was just beginning in countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain, or the United Kingdom. There is also the fact that immigration to France remains associated with the memory of the colonial period, which gave rise to resentments that have not yet ended. Finally, it cannot be ruled out that certain policing techniques which have proved to be the most effective elsewhere are not always utilized by the French police. The relentless denial of problems for decades has had explosive consequences.
IL GIORNALE: Will the protests today also have political consequences, in view of next year’s European elections, by strengthening the Right?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: Yes, it is obvious. Disturbances such as the ones we are witnessing at the moment help to open our eyes. National Rally has already become the leading party in France, and the polls show that it will win in the next European elections. French public opinion is overwhelmed; it can’t take it anymore.
The people see that the government is completely overwhelmed by what is happening. A majority of French people would like to see the army intervene in the suburbs. Emmanuel Macron is being criticized for not having instituted a state of emergency, as was done in 2005. The most significant symbol is the incredible success of the fundraiser that was launched on social networks to help the family of the police officer who fired the shots that sparked the riots: In less than four days, it exceeded one-and-a-half million euros (before being closed)! This has never been seen before.
IL GIORNALE: Is France lost forever or is there a chance of putting an end to this situation?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: Never say never! The old countries of Europe have known much more serious ordeals in the past, and have always recovered from them. Everything that is actualized potentiates a reaction in the opposite direction. History is unpredictable. It is by definition the domain of the unforeseen.
IL GIORNALE: Do you think that what is happening today in France could also happen in Italy?
ALAIN DE BENOIST: It is possible, if not probable. The whole question is whether the Italian government will be able to learn the lessons from what is happening today on the other side of the Alps.
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