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the faction that called for the return to the Old Regime in the French Revolution

Two months ago, the residents of Chueca were stunned by the demonstration called in the heart of the capital by Madrid Seguro, the brand that brings together several extreme right-wing groups. The streets of the neighborhood were filled with supporters who walked defiantly pounding drums, lighting flares and shouting xenophobic and homophobic proclamations such as “Away with AIDS!”, “We are going to end gay marriage!” “Christian Spain, not Muslim!” The march was led by the ultra leader of Spain 2000, José Luis Roberto, charged in Valencia for a hate crime.

The demonstration was widely received in the media, in the same way as the rise of the extreme right

in Europe in recent years, although few newspapers or television networks have been interested in finding out what is the historical origin of this ultraconservative movement and where does the expression that qualifies them as ‘extreme right’ come from. And why not left or maroon? In addition, contrary to what many people believe, this appellation was not born, as many think, with the appearance of the first fascist government of Mussolini, in 1922, after the violent march on Rome that ABC and the rest of the press covered so extensively. Spanish. Nor in Hitler’s Germany prior to World War II.

The last country to give a high representation to the extreme right has been Finland. In April, the True Finns party came close to being the most voted in the country. This is not an isolated event, since in the different countries of Europe this political trend has been obtaining more and more parliamentary representation in recent years, sharing in all common features: criticism of migration policies, the questioning of the European Union, a firm nationalism, the rejection of globalization in favor of greater economic protectionism and attacks on feminism and LGBT policies.

The Constituent Assembly

The Vox phenomenon in Spain has, saving the differences, similar movements in the old continent. In Greece, Golden Dawn; in Belgium, New Flemish Alliance; in Austria, FPÖ; in Slovakia, the Slovak National Party; in the Netherlands, the Party for Freedom; in Hungary, Fidesz-KDNP; in Poland, Law and Justice, and in France, the famous Le Pen National Front, which is considered the closest formation to the birth of the extreme right in Europe. The reason is that a good number of historians place its origin in the years of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.

Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg thus contextualize the ‘extreme right’ today, in their book
‘The extreme right in Europe: Nationalism, xenophobia, hatred’
(Intellectual Code, 2020):

«The fundamental ambiguity of the term is that it is generally used by political opponents of the ‘extreme right’ as a disqualifying, even stigmatizing term, which aims to refer and reduce all forms of partisan nationalism to the historical experiences of Italian fascism, the German National Socialism and its more or less close national declines in the first half of the 20th century. The label ‘far right’ is almost never assumed by the people to whom it is attached and they prefer to designate themselves with names such as ‘national movement’ or ‘national right’. However, the scientific literature agrees to validate the existence of a family of far-right parties.

These two experts in the history of the National Front defend that the first extreme right-wing political parties were born in the Constituent Assembly, in reference to the name adopted by the Estates General, in France, as of July 9, 1789. It is due to the spatial organization of the meeting room, which placed the aristocrats (‘Blacks’) to the right of the president, that is, the supporters of the Old Regime who totally rejected any revolutionary change. Next, from right to left, were the monarchists, supporters of the bicameral parliamentary monarchy in the British style; the patriots or the constitutional, who sought to reduce the powers of King Louis XVI to a minimum and wanted a single Chamber, and, finally, on the extreme left, the democrats, supporters of universal suffrage and all those changes that would end the regime settled down.

Storming of the Bastille

The storming of the Bastille, on July 14 of that year, has traditionally been considered the turning point between that dying world, that of the Old Regime, and the new society that was configured from the French Revolution, considered freer and egalitarian. There is a cartoon from the time that perfectly represented what happened at the time of the birth of the ‘extreme right’. In it you could see a bourgeois breaking some chains and taking up arms before the horrified gesture of an aristocrat and a priest. The image was accompanied by the following slogan: “The awakening of the Third Estate.”

Vignette on the Third Estate published in 1789

That Third State was represented by the people and the bourgeoisie, who became aware of their ability to become the engine of society against the traditionally privileged estates, including the monarchy. It was at that moment that equality, fraternity and justice for all citizens were openly recognized. Two months later, on September 11, we find for the first time registered the aforementioned distribution in the Salle du Manége of the Tuileries castle, in Paris: the supporters of the right to veto by King Louis XVI on the decisions that the Assembly were placed to the right of the president and the opponents, to his left.

Depending on the group of authors you ask, this division happened on other dates. The Riojan philosopher Gustavo Bueno in
‘The myth of the left’
(Ediciones B, 2003) explains: «It was in the session of August 28, 1789, that is, the Third State had already been constituted as the National Assembly, when the supporters of the absolute royal veto went to the right and those who adhered to a smoothed, or null, veto to the left. This ‘geography of the Assembly’, as Mirabeau said on September 15, 1789, was maintained.

According to the historian of the Rey Juan Carlos University, José Luis Rodríguez, in
‘From the old to the new extreme right’
(2005), the main claim of these thinkers was to return directly to the model of the Middle Ages, since they considered that everything that the rupture of 1789 had brought with it was nothing more than an involution. They argued that the new regime that raised the bourgeoisie as the dominant force was harmful and much more damaging than feudalism and absolutism.

Far right setup

The faction located further to the right was outside the Assembly in the French Hall and was led by the Viscount of Mirabeau, brother of one of the leaders of the French Revolution, Honoré Gabriel de Mirabeau, with whom he was confronted. He was accompanied by the officer Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès, capable of dying for the monarchy, and the abbot Jean-Sifrein Maury, one of the most persevering defenders of the Old Regime. All made up a group of some two hundred privileged people who quickly abandoned the debates and emigrated from the country or retired to their lands before the end of the year.

Throughout the Revolution and in the years afterwards until the Second French Empire, this varied and broad faction against the changes embodied what would shape the far right in the future. The French, however, did not officially name these trends “left” or “right” until later. During the revolutionary period of 1789 they were known as “the mountain” (left), “the plain” (right) and “the marsh” (undecided), but all agree that the ideas of each group were associated with that position in the Assembly forever, spreading even to other countries. In fact, the royalists and the conservatives always stood to the right.

For Camus and Lebourg, “although at the beginning of the 19th century political qualifications were already arranged on the basis of this position, it was not until the First World War that citizens classified themselves on the right and left axis,” they say. . In any case, the references were never lacking in the intervening century. The historian René Rémond points out that in the period between the Restoration of 1814 and the Revolution of 1830, supporters of a return to absolute monarchy were delighted to accept the prefix of “ultra” and the name “ultra-realists”, due to the fact that his ideas went beyond the simple monarchical principle that enshrined the arrival of Louis XVIII to the throne.

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