Retired French Generals Under Fire For Warning About Migration, Security Policies

By Fayçal Benhassain | April 27, 2021 | 8:07pm EDT
French President Emmanuel Macron reviews troops in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron reviews troops in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Paris ( – A magazine column signed by 20 retired French generals and hundreds of other soldiers, warning that government laxity in the face of unchecked immigration and social unrest is threatening French values, is causing an uproar here.

The government has reacted strongly to the column, as have left-wing parties, while far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen told reporters she shared the sentiments expressed, and invited the signatories to support her in next year’s presidential elections.

The column, published in the right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles, accuses policymakers and lawmakers of failing to take necessary security measures in the face of the challenges, and risking chaos and even civil war. The signatories appealed to President Emmanuel Macron to defend the values of French civilization against the “suburban hordes” – a reference to migrants from mostly African or Islamic countries – who they say are threatening the country.

“It is no longer time to procrastinate, otherwise, tomorrow, the civil war will put an end to this growing chaos. And the deaths, for which you will bear the responsibility, will number in the thousands,” they wrote.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly lashed out against what she called the “irresponsible politicization of the army,” while the minister responsible for industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said she condemned the “generals in slippers who call for an uprising.” In France, retired people who refuse to accept they are no longer active are sometimes said to be “in slippers.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the leftist movement Rebellious France, asked the state prosecutor in Paris, Rémy Heitz, to take legal action against the authors and the magazine.

“It is time to mobilize to defend the values that these people are trampling on,” Mélenchon said.

Other left-wing politicians called the column a thinly veiled call for insurrection, with Pierre Laurent, a former head of the Communist Party, joining calls for prosecutions.

Many of the retired generals are known for their far-right wing opinions. In 2016 one of them, Christian Piquemal, was accused of participating in a prohibited demonstration against migrants and the “Islamization of Europe,” in the coastal city of Calais.

Even though retired, after that demonstration Piquemal was prohibited from wearing his uniform at ceremonial events, although he retains his rank.

Another retired general who signed the column, Roland Dubois, was scathing of Macron, calling him “an immature, post-68 prince, who is leading France to the grave and whom we must get rid of as soon as possible.”

(The reference was to people born after 1968, a year marked by civil upheaval and protests, considered a cultural and social turning point in the history of modern France.)

“I hope that next year the priority of the presidential campaign will be identity, security and therefore immigration,” Dubois said. “Everything else is secondary.”

The Armed Forces Ministry is investigating, and said if any of the soldiers who signed the column are still on active duty, they risk sanctions.

General officers in the French army are divided in two types – those in active duty or detached to international organizations, and those not in active duty but who “remain at the disposal of the Ministry of the Armed Forces,” explained Elodie Maumont, a lawyer specializing in military law. In both cases they enjoy advantages allocated to soldiers but are “subject to the obligations incumbent on any soldier” – including the prohibition of involvement in politics.

Historians noted that the column was published on the 60th anniversary of the abortive Algiers coup, when four five-star generals opposed to General Charles de Gaulle’s policy in Algeria tried to seize control of its largest cities.

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