Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité… Where Is France Now?

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Bastille Day (the common English name) or La Fête Nationale commemorates the storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789, the second day of the French revolution. A year later, the Fête de la Federation celebrates the unity of the people among the French revolution, promoting peace and solidarity throughout the bloodshed.

These celebrations boast the oldest and largest military parades in Europe, as the French commemorate the actions of the attackers, leading to the abolition of feudalism in August and the eventual abolition of the aristocracy within France. Yet over 200 years on, what kind of a nation has France become? Does she still uphold those values that so many of her people died for during those revolutionary years?

The simple answer would be yes, although recent events have proved troubling for the French people and their values. For instance, the Socialist government has not always acted in the interests of French values. Equality and fraternity came under threat a few years ago, when the government proposed to strip dual-citizens of their French identity, undermining their ethos of equality for all and ‘brotherhood’.

This is a highly sensitive issue in France. With the rise of terrorism and the recent attacks in Paris and Nice still fresh in their minds, 94% of people approve Hollande’s proposal to strip terrorists of their French nationality. Although this is understandable, the rise of the far right is highly alarming for the Socialist country, especially concerning issues around nationality.

France prides itself in believing and preserving the values of those who died in the revolution. They are committed to the idea that all citizens should be equal and free, but the rise of the far right threatens this harmony. The growing emphasis on national identity, particularly heritage, is creating a tense atmosphere throughout the country. Those who have non-French roots face being isolated and discriminated against- something that is against the very nature of French society.

Under current law, dual-national citizens who are not naturalised and have been in the country less than ten years, can have their French nationality stripped should they commit a crime. Hollande’s proposal to extend this to all citizens convicted of terrorism crimes, even if they are born on French soil, plays on the scaremongering tendencies of the right, and threatens to divide the country apart of which so many sacrificed to unite.

It may be 200 years on from both of these events, but France’s values will continue to remain compromised as long as the far right continue to grow. The threat of the far right is imminent. They continue to scaremonger and create rifts in the nation. Unlike anything seen within the United Kingdom (even UKIP’s scaremongering), racism and discrimination are becoming more apparent within country, against those who were ‘soil born’ and those ‘foreign born’. The continued shift of Hollande’s government to the right and their failure to address the real social issues within the country, threaten the very values of which Modern France was founded.

The values of Liberté, Égalité, and Fratenité continue to live on in France but the message is becoming murkier as each year passes.

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I am a second year Modern History and Politics student.

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