Le Monde has brought an article on the Fascist Alain Soral out of its paywall.
Visitors to Alain Soral’s Egalité et Réconciliation (Equality and Reconciliation, E & R) website see pictures of Hugo Chávez, Che Guevara, Muammar Gaddafi, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin on the left of the masthead. Joan of Arc and Soral are on the right. The site, with its motto “leftwing on labour, but rightwing values”, is France’s 269th most popular, a few places behind the TV magazine Télérama.
The juxtaposition of Guevara and Putin, of Chávez and rightwing values is a sign of the confused political times. The big questions are, who stands for what and what does it mean to be on the right or left?
The summer workshop of MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France, a business leaders’ organisation) warmly applauded the Socialist economics minister Pierre Moscovici, who had told them: “We must fight together.” Alain de Benoist, co-founder of GRECE (Research and Study Group for European Civilisation) and a leader of the new right, supports bank nationalisation, the creation of socialised credit and the refusal to pay debt; he draws on the work of progressives such as Emmanuel Todd, Perry Anderson and the Economistes Atterrés (Appalled Economists), who reject neoliberal orthodoxy (1). The Front National (FN) is defending protectionism — as are sections of the radical left — and talks of popular sovereignty, and so does the Front de Gauche (FG, Leftwing Front).
Developments like leftwing union activists or a Communist candidate on an FG ticket in the Marseilles 2012 legislative elections all standing under the FN banner are more than freak events, as is the considerable percentage of Socialist votes transferred to the FN in by-elections in Oise and Villeneuve-sur-Lot. They are signs of serious confusion. Is this, as the columnist Jacques Julliard says, a mysterious emotional swing against a background of scepticism about the governing class, left and right alike (2), or do people want to transcend divisions, because extremist parties, left or right, stand to benefit from making common cause?
Soral’s monthly videos on his site, billed as “crossfactional” and providing tools of resistance to the system, draw huge audiences, especially among the young (15 million views). He expresses his personal views, directed to people keen to understand what he calls this “bloody mess”, the current situation. He is serious about trying to explain both current events and history. In the past he has directed several films and written a novel, which suggests artistic gifts and intellectual courage; and his political trajectory appeals to many of his worried viewers. He has not been afraid to change direction: from (apparently brief) membership of the Communist Party in the 1990s, to the Anti-Zionist List, co-founded with the comedian-activist Dieudonné (M’bala M’bala) for the 2009 EU elections, with two years in the Front National. He stresses his “bloody-mindedness” in a way reminiscent of the late lawyer Jacques Vergès, whose funeral he attended this August.
Soral, who is also a martial arts enthusiast, is subtly but clearly a mix of eternal adolescent — his questions are intense, and he’s non-conformist in what he engages with, and ignores — and man in the street: he has the heroic, robust isolation of someone without party or support, trying to see things for what they are, despite opposition. Filmed in casual clothes, on a sofa, he is the antithesis of an academic or career politician, and picks and mixes his ideologies; this is popular online with many people who no longer have the political education from party or union membership that once shaped their views.
His talks appeal to key emotions and ideas: a feeling of powerlessness about globalisation and France’s loss of autonomy under EU law; worries about economic and social decline; the malaise caused by modernity; the difficulty of conceiving a different future. He highlights the need to fight globalism, as “an ideological project that aims to create a global government and dissolve nation states on the pretext of universal peace; this will be achieved through the complete commodification of humanity” (3). To Soral globalism means “oligarchic domination”, which disregards popular sovereignty and underpins the myth of market omnipotence, “as though that were not a political phenomenon, created by power and class relations”. The granting of specific rights to “oppressed minorities” replaces collective social advances and leads to the fragmentation of society, which risks civil war. He believes the evidence for this is the racialist interpretation of social relations: “indigenous French” against “Arabs”, at the lowest echelon of society, rather than labour against capital. One result of this is that Muslims are scapegoated.
The new world order, “the empire”, seeks a democracy in name only, the “power of the richest” that upholds an abstract egalitarianism replacing the question of social inequality and class exploitation with societal questions, justifying this in the name of human rights.
Soral advocates “leaving the European Union, leaving NATO, and reclaiming control of our currency … to restore France’s sovereignty and give democracy some of its meaning back”, fighting the obsolescence of nation states and introducing protectionism.
This analysis would not shock those who, like him, want to end what he calls “the oligarchy of profit from human labour”. Soral might even make you believe that he is, if hardly a Marxist, then at least in search of an authentic left. He condemns colonialism as the “betrayal by the left of French universalism”, and neo-colonialism; emphasises that the instrumentalisation of ethnic and religious tensions subverts class struggle; and wants a multi-polar world. However, he rarely mentions social movements or the means of production, and seems keener on denouncing the alliance of the financial right and the libertarian left that legitimises elites and the media.
His true obsession is saving France — “I want to save France!” — and what it represents. Politics matter less to him than morality, because of the meaning it can give to personal life, and revolution counts for less than the nation, because of the meaning it can give to collective life.
His analysis of class relations, a recurrent theme, is sketchy, and based on a conception of man that neoliberalism, a synonym for modernity, is trying to demolish. The fundamental enemy is the incitement to “compulsive consumption and individualism” (E & R charter) — “the ideology of the market-oriented world”. He thinks the problem with neoliberalism is not that it exploits but that it creates a society dedicated to gratifying its impulses, which weakens the sense of the collective, and of political consciousness, via selfishness, competitiveness and pleasure seeking. He believes that only the nation is capable of protecting people from “cosmopolitan profits, which possess neither country nor morality”, and which pervert higher values than personal satisfaction.
His view of the nation is that, to protect the people, it should reject selfishness and “cosmopolitan profits”; this supposes that the nation has a single essence, a spirit that belongs to a particular culture, and that it must exclude amoral cosmopolitanism. Starting with a call for sovereignty in the face of supranational laws, he arrives at a near-mythic conception of the nation that will allow the creation of “a labour, patriotic and popular front against all the networks of finance and globalised ultra-liberalism” (
): what he calls a “national fraternal community, conscious of its history and culture”, uniting those who want the most equitable division of work and wealth and those who want to preserve what is good and human in the Helleno-Christian tradition, which he presumes led to the demand for true equality.
He believes that to transcend materialism it is necessary to recover the spiritual strength which once counterbalanced it, represented as much by religion as communism or French universalism: the sense of fraternity, of respect for self and others, the consciousness of being an individual linked to a whole.
In his view, the nation is innately anti-capitalist, and so no agents of neoliberalism have a place in it: this includes those on the left for whom the fight is only about “legal equality” and those on the right who want to retain their privileges. What matters for Soral is the possibility of coming together to share common values greater than individual appetites and characteristics. Secularism counts for little (it has become “the most fanatical of all religions”); likewise a citizen’s origins (integrated French Muslims would be an opportunity for France, unlike “this new generation of wastersfrom the ghettos … who typify a delinquent American neoliberal ideology”). Cultural separatists are enemies of fraternity, too, with their idea of equality based on defending victimhood; so are people who are unproductive, greedy, pleasure seeking or individualistic. Progressives and reactionaries are not necessarily homogenous groups.
It is important for Soral to define those who genuinely contribute to a society free from the alienation of neoliberal representations of the world: the true people, who embody the spirit of the nation,in which — rejecting false oppositions and clichéd divisions — he includes the petite bourgeoisie, which he believes can be close to the proletariat, and bosses of small businesses, who don’t share the practices of big corporations. Peasants, workers and small entrepreneurs can be part of a “mutualist society of citizen producers” since for each “social and economic responsibility — and therefore political responsibility — results from the appropriateness of their means of production”. Soral is not far from the views of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon or Pierre Poujade. But he’s a long way from Karl Marx.
Such a dignified, “reconciled” society could provide a common objective for the anti-liberal right and the radical left: “There is a moral right, which is, if you think about it carefully, the ally of the economic and social left. And conversely an amoral left which has shown itself to be akin to the ideological state of the economic right in its most recent and most brutal manifestation.” “Leftwing on labour, but rightwing values” here comes into its own. The social left incorporates the sense of transcendence inherent in the nation’s values, and the class struggle is abolished in a diverse, but united society.
This leaves the victory of neoliberalism still to be explained, including its ideological hold over the amoral left. He thinks it’s an American-Zionist plot. If democracy is artificial, if the arguments in favour of neoliberalism are made so strongly, and opposition is so often weak, it is because of secret networks that infiltrate all the decision-making institutions of the empire, neutralising or corrupting political action. From the dinners of France’s elite club Le Siècle to the “new masonic orders of the hyper-class, Bilderberg and Trilateral-style think tanks”, the oligarchy calculates its manoeuvres, manages public opinion and plays up the terrorist threat. Soral thinks this justifies his support for “Islamic resistance” and its allies, who alone can oppose the world domination of the oligarchy.
He believes that Jews are at the root of these conspiracies, linked to the rapacious US — it’s the old accusation that they are rootless cosmopolitans intent on the accumulation of capital; banks are Jewish, the press is Jewish, the destruction of national unity is Jewish. Soral hates them obsessively and sees them everywhere. He says his views are anti-Zionist, and oppose Israeli policy — but they are straight anti-Semitism, not support for the Palestinians, or mere provocation. He republishes classic works of anti-Semitism under his Kontre Kulture imprint (Edouard Drumont, Jewish France), and it’s unquestionably conviction publishing. This rage is not enough to discredit him with his followers, probably because the conspiracy theories tap in to widespread feelings of impotence. (True, there have been secret arrangements, for example the contact between the Chilean business class before the coup which overthrew Salvador Allende.)
We have to ask whether “moral” reflections, like Soral’s supposedly anti-capitalist, nationalist and above party allegiances, do not often lead to a red-brown populism, which is not anti-capitalist but strongly xenophobic, if not fascist. If history is any guide, the answer is yes.
Not all Soral’s supporters are proto-fascists, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that his speeches invite more than one interpretation. His arguments and their conclusions hinge on an assessment of social problems in terms of societal values and the idea of the “nation”. The result is an apparently coherent view of the social and personal damage done by neoliberal modernity. This frees his online followers from any fear that they are sad reactionaries, and makes them feel part of an enlightened minority.
A left that wants to create the conditions for genuine social justice has to remember that nothing in its own objectives can ever be confused with the objectives of the far right. So it must clarify its own analysis of these questions, even if the price is internal conflict.