The summer of the dinosaurs: violent press campaing against the New Right
Dinosaurs were in fashion this summer. Not only those kindly beasts from antediluvian times, but the dinosaurs of thought also got together. The aim was to organize a press campaign to demonize non-conformist thinkers and then to demand even more drastic restrictions of free speech in France. But this time the censors went a little too far.
“When the Far Right Stretches in Communist Waters.” This is the title of an article in Le Canard Enchaine of June 23, 1993 which lit the fuse. There followed in quick succession: an article by Jean-Paul Cruse, a militant CCT for Liberation, in L’Idiot international tided “Toward a National Front”; a few provocative formulations by Jean-Edern Hallier, most prominently in the columns of the National Hebdo in June, 1991 –note the timeliness of the scoop; the collaborations of Edward Limonov, fellow traveler of the French Communist Party. (hereafter: PCF), in Choc du Mois; Alain de Benoist’s participation in the work of the Institut de recherches marxistes on May 12, 1992; and the participation of Marc Cohen, general editor of L’Idiot international and member of the PCF, in a conference organized by our journal Elements in May, 1992. Finally, for good measure, there were a few “anti-Semitic slips” by the singer Renaud in Charlie Hebdo and by his brother, Thierry Schan, in Choc du Mois.
So our gossipy colleagues, seeing the summer approach — and the inevitable dry-mindedness which always accompanies it — decided to turn to the favorite sport of pen-wielders without ideas: denunciation. What is the source of this disparate collection of old scoops, accidental slips, and useless collusion? It is a book by Didier Daeninckx, a distinguished author of detective novels who is close to the PCF. For Daeninckx, there is little difference between a detective novel and a political novel. Professional deformation entails responsibility. Daerninckx has published a real serial novel in the great French tradition -there are the good guys (the progressive forces), the bad guys (Nazis, Stalinists, and anti-Semites), an infamous plot (a gigantic National-Bolshevik galaxy which spreads its red and brown shadow from Paris to Moscow), traitors (Arnaud Spire, Marc Cohen, et al.), a madman (Jean-Edern Hallier), a bastard (Jean-Paul Cruse), and a cynical mercenary (Edward Limonov). Of course, it must all end with a final settling of scores, bloody but just. So also will the summer press campaign.
The Delirious Campaign
Le Canard enchaine does not want to gossip all by itself. Two specialists in the resuscitation of old news, Edwy Plenel and Olivier Biffaud, decided to take up the issue and to amplify it. In its inimitable (and fortunately not imitated) style, the Jesuit newspaper announced (in a column on the first page, thank you very much) “Three Frightful Stories for Our Wayward fin de siecle.” The incriminating facts are the same. They feature Benoist’s trip to Russia in March, 1992. From this point on, Le Monde speaks of”revelation” and “temptation” (note how our Torqucmadas of the fountain pen give religious language a singular value). Liberation fell in step as well. Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary, the newspaper’s long march toward bourgeois respectability was spoiled suddenly by a provocative trouble maker. Serge July, who had not been in the factories for a long time, took the opportunity to take a shot at his workers. He demanded the resignation of Jean-Paul Cruse based on an outrageous position from the editorial board. Screaming matches in the hallways of Liberation offices were translated into a dozen articles of collective self-flagellation in which the newspaper lamented having nourished in its bosom such a horrible beast. Nevertheless, our good Serge took much more original positions on free speech in France ten years ago.
The “affair” had thus begun. Thereafter, in quick succession and at breakneck speed, there appeared at least a hundred articles (not counting those in the foreign press) inspired by the demonic threat of National-Bolshevism. Brief encounters became rapprochements, which started flirtations, which indicated trends, which became a galaxy. Although Nazism died in 1945 and Communism in 1989, it appears that France, Europe and the entire Free World are suddenly at the mercy of an implacable red and brown network. Globe-Hebdo — the “useful weekly” –saw a good “buy” in all thiis on June 3rd. While waiting for money from benefactors and government officials, the caviar-Left resuscitates fascist networks. The Globe has had mass bombing in its blood since the Iraqi affair. To begin with, Benoist rubs elbows with Limonov, [Jacques] Doriot, [Joseph] Goebbels and Hitler no less. Then in quick succession the blind pens of Elie Leo and Rene Monzat took shots at: a sizable portion of the political office of the National Front, which is added to the National Communist plot; Alain Sanders of Presence, Roland Gaucher of National-Hebdo, Benot Bartherotte of the naval yards of La Ciotat, and even, for the grande finale that indestructible Leon Degrelle.
As befits its rank, Le Figaro only lends money to the rich. In an astounding article on July 1, 1993, Muriel Frat disclosed the secret –the old red-brown alliances are fully armed to combat market democracies because they would have at their disposal a “war chest of several million dollars deposited in secret bank accounts.” One wonders why the journalist uses the conditional tense to affirm this truth known to everyone. This famous National-Bolshevik war chest is only that of the SS, deposited in Vatican bank accounts, to which only Paul Touvier’s half-sister has the access code.
Bernard-Henri Levy, fortified with assurances from fifteen years of professional anti-fascism and seven minutes in a bar at the Sarajevo airport, called his colleagues “naive” in Le Point on July 3. In one of his notebooks, the old “philosophe nouveau” and new husband gives up the key to the mystery. According to him, the red-brown conspiracy has existed ever since the Proudhon circle. To refresh your memory, this circle was established on the fringes of the Action Francaise in 1911 –six years before the birth of Soviet Communism and twenty-one years before Hitler took power. We will allow ourselves the luxury of providing the left-bank prophet with our own interpretation. Has not the national community alliance existed since . . . Plato, who was the first to link the idea of preservation with the equalization of human communities? In which case, not only “French ideology” but even “European philosophy” would lead straight to Auschwitz. Think about this, dear Bernard-Henri. This is the stuff of advertising copy dear to the heart of our century at its end. Bertrand-Poirot-Delpech-from-the-Academie Francaise — Poirot to his friends — on July 7 laid the blame on the blinndness . . . of intellectuals in Le Monde. In his view, they feed on the illusion of combating a dominant ideology which exists only in their nightmares. One must put an end to the “legend of the omnipotent doxa.” Nevertheless, Poirot reminds us that there really was a stifling conformism at the time. But when? In the 1930s of course. Then the dominant ideology — the only ideology, the true ideology, that of others -was hatred of democracy, of Jews, of the rabble, of revolution, of the Enlightenment, etc. And all this led to the horror, as everyone knows. This academic watchdog supports his limpid prose with a shocking proof. With reference to the reprinting of Moderes, he quotes Abel Bonard: “Thinking is not done collectively.” Where does this rather anodyne and ultimately common sense remark lead? To individuals? To intellectualism? not at all. It is supposed to legitimate . . . revision in them. Magnificent Poirot. In order to call into question the existence of a dominant ideology, he turns himself into the indispensable purveyor of the gross cliches and worn-out banalities of our age.
But Poirot-Delpech is not entirely wrong about the blindness of some people, even though one must understand this in the proper sense. Thus, Jean-Edern Hallier, decried by the well-meaning press, could fabricate nothing better than the following excuse — struck blind by implacable fate, he was unable to read the copy for his journal. The frightful Marc Cohen, assisted by Cruse and Limonov, benefitted from this by organizing a putsch and passing out humiliating articles. The guilty party was fired. Thierry Schan did much the same thing when he attacked Marc Cohen in his monthly Interview. One does not always have the courage of one’s reputation. Jean-Edern Hallier should take heart. Francette Lazard, cadre in the PCF for the IRM’s Marxist get-togethers was equally shortsighted. The hostess thought she had invited Jean-Marie Benoist (who also had been dead for years) instead of Alain de Benoist. The least one can say is that twenty years of education in Party schools have given Franchette a singular command of revolutionary dialectics.
These ridiculous evasions must not conceal the crux of the matter. In fact, Biffaud and Plenel benefitted from the National-Bolshevik illusion by settling some scores. First, with the L’Idiot International which, a few weeks earlier, mocked the liberated morals of Josyane Savigneau, who is responsible for the book pages of the daily newspaper on Falguire Street. By denouncing L’Idiot international as a laboratory for totalitarian alliances, Le Monde succeeded in discrediting it in the eyes of its associates at the same time as Bernard Tapie tried to destroy it with legal and financial maneuvers. For that fateful organ of Social Democratic propaganda which Le Monde has become, it was a question of marginalizing the hard-line tendencies of the PCF in order to revitalize the minorities ready to ally themselves with a socialist party in complete collapse. Biffaud and Plenel played the hand of the likes of Fiterman and Herzog by exploiting subtly the internal divisions in the Party (particularly between Guy Hermier and Jean-Paul Jouary, respectively the director and general editor of Revolution).
The PCF determined to adopt a mitigating attitude. In the June 30 issue of L’Humanite, Arnaud Spire denounced any idea of collusion between the communists and the far Right. But the author of the editorial did not fail to recognize “bad faith” and “political goals” in Biffaud’s and Plenel’s opinions. He particularly objected to the abandonment of the theme of the nation “which has by far not exhausted its capacity to justify itself and its potential for creativity.” Spire concluded: “Democracy and the clash of ideas have still not reached the point of losing their power in France.” Paradoxically, the PCF is attacked for its new pluralism by the very same people who accuse it of Stalinism. If Biffaud and Plenel are impassioned by red-brown alliances, their editorial board should give them money for a trip to Russia. Archives are currently in the process of revealing the collusion between the PCF and the German occupiers in 1940 and 1941, everything from the demand that L’Humanite be published again to the emphatic words of Jacques Duclos on the “social dimension” of Nazism.
The third and last Le Monde target is the New Right in general and the journal Krisis in particular. An explanatory letter by Benoist was published in Le Monde on June 30. In response Biffaud and Plenel deployed standard arguments attacking intentions, amalgamations and abridgements. They reproached Benoist for planning to publish an anthology including the work of Charles Maurras, Abel Bonnard, Robert Brasillach and Jules Soury under the heading “Les Grands Classiques de l’Homme de Droit.” Out of twenty authors, who include representatives of the liberal or republican Right, they focus only on those from the “far” Right. Moreover, Le Monde assumes a dose ideological complicity between Benoist and all the tides published under his name, in which case, he would have the dubious distinction of being at once counter-revolutionary and liberal, a Maurrasian, a Barresian, a personalist, a Sorelian and a Gaullist.
In support of their contention, Biffaud and Plenel then quote “two recent studies” which are supposed to thwart the horrible beast. What are these studies? First, a text which appeared in Celcius, a far Left Belgian journal known for its close relations with the Suret d’outre-Quievran and no longer published. Second, a text by Maurice Olender, which appeared in the magazine L’Histoire (apparently, official history) playing on the old refrain of the Indo-European racism of the New Right. When this obscure text appeared, L’Histoire received a writ of rejoinder refuting Olender’s assertion. Of course, this writ was not published, which is as it should be in our pseudo-democracy.
Finally, Biffaud and Plenel supported their arguments with a quote from Alain Caille taken out of context in an article in Revue du Mauss, No. 13. Let us quote this writer and include the passages which our two bloodhounds prefer to censor. Caille wrote the following to Benoist: “What strikes me most in the many critical studies written about and against you is that they create an imaginary enemy and attribute to you a number of positions which you have never taken or which you have not held for a long time. For example, they confuse you with your three former friends from the Club de l’Horloge, who represent an ultra-liberal, hard Reagan-Thatcherite, ultra-utilitarian rightist position, whereas you have always opposed such a position. They accuse you of biologism, although you are one of the main critics of naturalism and Darwinism, and a supporter of culturalism and radical historicism. They think you are a racist, whereas your study on racism published in Racismes, Antiracismes (Paris: Meridiens-Klincksieck, 1986) is perhaps the most anti-racist of all the works in this collection. They imagine you are a fierce nationalist, although Krisis (No. 5, April 1990) contains not only an article by Taguieff but one by Bernard Chantebout that is one of the most virulent and forceful critiques of the idea of the nation. In short, they think you are a Le Pen fanatic, although you cannot find strong enough words to denounce him and have reproached him for going off in the four directions you believe characterize the Right — liberalism, moralism, integrationism and racism” (Revue du Mauss, No. 13, p. 95). At the time, Benoist simply replied: “Those who criticize me will do so even after having read me, and they will reproach you for having allowed me to speak.”
Here is “Nazi Paganism”
Murky National-Bolshevism was only the first stage in a stand-up fight against the New Right. The second stage was a full-page article titled “The SS Ritual of the New Right,” signed by Rene Monzat, in the July 3 issue of Le Monde. As is usual with Monzat, the article is imbued with his terminal conspiracy fixation. (Globe Hebdo and L’Evenement de Jeudi had already rejected this sensational article and Le Monde followed suit.) Monzat’s opinions have a biblical simplicity. Accordingly, the Tower of Jul is the “deep-seated foundation” of the New Right. The Tower was used by the SS sixty years ago; thus the New Right is Nazi. This is what had to be proved. Monzat uses a terra cotta object to judge an intellectual movement. He believes he can make an “ideological” argument out of a Christmas candle holder which has been used for centuries in half of Europe and which all Swedish families know as a Jullykta.
Monzat is really a special case. Famous for bashing imaginary discourses, he also indulges in them, as this press campaign clearly demonstrates. In L’Evenement de Jeudi (July 8-14) one can read his analysis of the Left-Right rapprochement, which, though riddled with errors, is at least polite. In Le Monde one finds a second level of discourse, where he gives in to conspiracy theories. Finally, in Globe Hebdo (July 7-17) he undertakes a third level of discourse. Here he is more reserved — Monzat the priest excommunicates, condemns and builds a funeral pyre in thirty lines. Nouvelle Ecole is a “negativistic” journal and Benoist has “devoted his life to defending the theoreticians of racial hatred.” The expression of this delirious opinion will likely land Globe Hebdo in court.
The problem is that Monzat has peculiar work habits. In Elements apparently he only considers images. From the last six issues, which at least included some substantive files, he kept only his small stylized letter representing a death rune. The reason is simple. Like Jean-Edern Hallier and Francette Lazard, Monzat is losing his sight. Decoding is really his specialty. This exacts a triple effort from him. The first time he understands nothing, whereby the New Right does not correspond to his preconceived idea of it. Then he reads the second time and does not always believe his eves. Finally, a luminous revelation occurs, whereby every text is coded and reserved for initiates in the Great Conspiracy. Thereafter, Rene takes up his glass eye and miraculously reads between the lines. Everything becomes clear. Then he carefully files away the fruit of his labors and runs to Le Monde’s editorial board to sell his prose. Worn out! God is paving him back for his efforts. There is no doubt that by reading between the lines what has never been written, he will soon lose his sight completely.
Monzat’s article, which made no headlines in the press, was in fact only the beginning of the third stage of the campaign. Le Monde denounced the “confusion of ideas” and published a “call to vigilance with respect to the increasing triviality of the ideas of the far Right,” signed by forty intellectuals. In the same issue, Roger-Pol Droit (Pol Pot to his friends) published a long article in which he denounced Taguieff, Benoist and Paul Yonnet. Their crimes? The first dared to criticize anti-racism with as much intelligence as he denounced racism (he even went so far as to initiate a “dialogue” with the New Right). The second is charged with remaining what he always was and always will be no matter what (it is well-known that on the Left one evolves and on the Right one dissimulates). The third is accused of having carefully analyzed the manipulation and instrumentalization of anti-racism by the Left in power,
But it is the text of the “call to vigilance” which merits special attention. Denouncing a hypothetical attempt at legitimation led by the extreme Right, it declares: “Writers, publishers, and those responsible for the press in general do not yet seem to be sufficiently suspicious of these maneuvers. Owing to a lack of information, a lack of vigilance, to scruples about free speech (sic) or to a belief in unlimited tolerance (again sic), a good number of them (who are among the most respectable) today participate in this attempt at legitimation unknowingly.” Since “the far Right is not simply discussing a few ideas but in fact inciting exclusion, violence and crime,” anything that destroys them is legitimate. The problem with this “call to vigilance” is that the “far Right’ is never defined. But if the text is unclear about its target, it is quite clear about the means to be employed to combat it — deprive the suspects of free speech and ghettoize certain ideas considered dangerous by this squadron of Parisian fanatics. This is the perfect example of the “wayward democracy” mentioned in Le Monde. No more contradiction but interdiction. No more debate but denunciation. The jailers and executioners have gotten together for the bicentennial of the Terror. Those who instigated the “call to vigilance,” Maurice Olender and Nadine Fresco, did not hesitate to draw a cordon sanitaire. Lists of people suspected of having “sympathy for the New Right” today circulate among editorial boards and Parisian publishing houses. The aim is to stop the publication of these writers at all costs. On July 27 Le Canard Enchaine handed over the lists of “intellectuals who agreed to collaborate on the journal Krisis from 1988 to 1993” to the public vendetta.
Too bad. The censors went too far. Way too far. First, many of those who signed the “call to vigilance” now feel they were entrapped. They were contacted by telephone and asked to sign an “anti-fascist petition,” the text of which they had not seen. This is why all over Paris there are bitter recriminations against Vichinsky’s new rivals and shocking recollections about the “return of sectarianism.” Second, in his vindictive article Droit denounced not only Benoist but also Paul Yonnet, Tagnieff and the journal Le Debat. Tagnieff responded immediately by organizing a counter-appeal (from “the thirty”) with the aim of reminding people that freedom of research is a fundamental principle of the social sciences. He also emphasized that Droit’s citation from one of his texts was definitely taken out of context. Third, during its five-year existence the journal Krisis has published a dozen issues in which thinkers of all stripes have been allowed to express ideas freely and without redress, taking positions which obviously have nothing to do with the far Right. Any sensible reader –any reader whose thinking is not blurred by fixed ideas — will recognize this. Today many people know what to believe in all areas.
This press campaign, and especially the “call to vigilance” have evidenced distinct fracture lines on the Left. At the beginning of the affair, concerning National-Bolshevism, Aain Finkielkraut stated in Le Point (July 3): “Some people on the Globe Hebdo and elsewhere would like to see only two alternatives; fascism or the rule of money. They are wrong.” In L’Evenement du Jeudi (July 814), Serge Maury (a.k.a. Jean-Francois Kahn) insisted: “Functional alliances should not be confused . . . with debates on ideas, pluralist colloquia, even occasional or chance meetings. . . . Here it is appropriate to mistrust certain generalizations which really hide secret intentions. . . . Some people have developed their own conservative agendas designed to solidify dogmatic enclosures, to cement asphyxiating divisions, and to block all innovative ‘cross-current’ approaches in the name of a neo-conformism designed to assure the continued existence of the established ideological powers.” This journalist who denounced “a kind of McCarthyism of the Left,” called for “innovative, liberating junctures.”
Bernard Langlois went further. In Politis (July 29) he wrote: “I would not hesitate, if the opportunity arose and in the same circumstances, to allow my work to be reprinted again in Krisis, where I cannot recall ever reading any anti-Semitic texts or any texts expressing the ideology. of the far Right, against which I have been fighting. It is well-known that ‘one needs a long spoon to eat with the devil.’ Is Benoist the devil? Apparently he is for some. But not for me. Whatever the case may be, I intend to remain the judge both of those who eat with me and of the length of my table cloths.” Finally, Jacques Julliard explained in Nouvel Observateur (August 15-19): “I have never collaborated with the journal Krisis. . . . I have, however, agreed, as I always do, to allow this journal to reprint one of my Nouvel Observateur articles. If I did so, it was to avoid any ambiguity. But in light of the purifying zeal of some, I will end up regretting the fact that I abstained [from collaborating]. . . . As for the ‘vigilant’ forty, I admit that I would have preferred that they were a little more vigilant about the racist crimes in Bosnia and Croatia. All this is a little sad, and even a little farcical.”
The conflict between the center and the periphery, has finally found a good illustration in this summer affair. The new divisions really pit the innovators against the cement mixers, the thinkers against the censors, the announcers against the denouncers, audacious ideas against frivolous backsliders. Big ideological mutations are always fatal to the dinosaurs of thought. Their final vindictive twitching is also their last death rattle.
* Originally published in Elements, No. 78 (September 1993, pp. 13-18. Translated by Deborah Cook.
[Telos, Winter93/Spring94, Issue 98-99]