Workers Vanguard No. 1041
7 March 2014
Repudiating WVs Liberal Whitewash of Anti-Jewish Demagogue
Dieudonné: Front Man for Fascist Terror
The Oppressed and Far Right Populism in France
As authorized by the International Secretariat of the International Communist League, the Workers Vanguard Editorial Board wrote in a February 24 statement posted on the ICL’s Web site: “The headline in WV No. 1039 (7 February), ‘Down With French Government Censorship of Black Comedian!’ was false, prettifying the fascistic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Dieudonné is an active anti-Semite and front man for French fascists, skinheads and the far right.” The headline exacerbated a weakness in the article—a reprint of a leaflet issued by our comrades in the Ligue Trotskyste de France—which understated the pestilent danger Dieudonné represents to all intended victims of fascist terror. At a time when the fascist National Front is making gains, Dieudonné peddles the Hitlerite lie that this unjust world is run by a global Jewish conspiracy. In an overwhelmingly white Catholic country like France, Dieudonné’s anti-Jewish demagogy can only benefit the fascists, among whose first victims in France will be the non-white population.
We repeat the warning the LTF leaflet sounded against the French bourgeois state’s bans on Dieudonné’s performances on the pretext that they threaten “national cohesion”: “Such weapons in the ruling class’ arsenal are ultimately aimed at the organized working class and its allies.” The WV headline reflected liberal squeamishness about confronting reactionary ideas expressed by a target of state repression who is dark-skinned and postures as a spokesman for the oppressed.
The LTF leaflet stated, “The fascist scum must be swept off the streets and out of meeting rooms by the working class, not the capitalist state.” Exposing sinister demagogues like Dieudonné, breaking illusions pushed by the reformist left in the neutrality of the capitalist state, and fighting indifference to racial oppression in the organized labor movement and the left are crucial tasks in forging the type of proletarian-centered anti-fascist mobilizations we call for.
Dieudonné’s Gall and Guile
It takes a lot of gall for Dieudonné (whose audiences include many whites) to claim to speak for dark-skinned people in France. Hardly the brother from the banlieue (suburban ghetto), Dieudonné’s father from Cameroon is an accountant; his white French mother is a sociologist. Dieudonné’s “anti-establishment” posture is a lucrative means to rake in euros and build a political base while propagandizing race-hate terror.
Dieudonné is suckled by the National Front, which pumped 60,000 euros into his coffers to rent his theater to train their fascist cadre. He is braintrusted by an entourage of politicos like Alain Soral, a former National Front leader. Dieudonné is their tool to ratchet up hatred against Jews and make the National Front more acceptable to the heavily North African and black residents of the banlieues, where white racists could never get a hearing on their own, and to broaden its electoral support.
Dieudonné averts prosecution through guile, for example by deliberately and persistently substituting the word “Zionist” for “Jew.” His cunning performances fall just short of explicit calls to kill Jews and leftists, but his murderous messages require no decrypting. He is a master of the verbal ellipsis. Here is a literal transcription of Dieudonné’s remarks about Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen at one of his performances: “You see, if the winds shift, I’m not sure he’ll have time to pack a suitcase...when I hear him speak, I say to myself, ‘see, the gas chambers...ah, what a pity’” (Jeune Afrique, 30 December 2013).
Videos of Dieudonné on YouTube get hundreds of thousands of hits, making each performance the equivalent of a virtual and eternal rally for race-hate terror. In one video, Dieudonné tacitly exonerates the murderers of a young anti-fascist, Clément Méric, by conducting a sympathetic interview with Serge Ayoub, infamous leader of the fascist skinheads who killed Méric, shortly after the killing last June. This can only incite more fascist and skinhead violence against the left at a time when the far right is already dangerously emboldened.
In another video, Dieudonné launches a campaign to free Fofana, the jailed leader of a gang that kidnapped a working-class Jewish youth, Ilan Halimi, in 2006 and held him for ransom from the “Jewish lobby.” Dieudonné smirked that Halimi, who died after being beaten and burned almost beyond recognition, was “turned into a grilled cheese sandwich” (L’Express, 26 February 2009). Choosing his words to deliberately echo Nazi propaganda, Dieudonné repeatedly refers to Jews as “rats” and argues that Fofana must be freed because Zionist thugs who killed Saïd Bourarach, a young Moroccan father, and tossed his body in a canal were released from prison. To conclude, Dieudonné whips up the crowd with a team of masked supporters on stage chanting “Free Fofana!” as they do the “quenelle,” a modified Nazi salute invented by Dieudonné.
This is incitement to pogromist violence. Dieudonné does not do the wet work himself. His job is to create a climate of opinion that makes murdering Jews and leftists acceptable, indeed, even a laughing matter.
The quenelle has gone viral throughout France and has spread worldwide. Misinterpreted by people of seemingly all races and ethnicities as a way to say “up yours” to the system, it is also embraced by cops and soldiers—the guard dogs of the capitalist system—as well as by Jean-Marie Le Pen, historic leader of the National Front, and skinheads. Jew-haters post photographs of themselves doing the quenelle in front of Auschwitz; at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin; in front of the synagogue in Bordeaux on the anniversary of the deportation of 365 Jews from that very synagogue to Nazi death camps; in front of the school in Toulouse where three Jewish children and a rabbi were shot dead in 2012; in front of kosher shops and under menorahs decorating Jewish storefronts for Hanukkah.
It is fitting that Dieudonné readily accepts the moniker of “the French Louis Farrakhan.” Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States, hailed Hitler as a “great man” and wanted Malcolm X dead because Malcolm broke with the reactionary demagogy and bigotry that are Farrakhan’s and Dieudonné’s stock in trade. The Nation of Islam has accommodated the American Nazi Party and KKK out of a shared reactionary goal of racial separation. Dieudonné goes further as a stand-up propagandist (hardly a comic) for fascist and skinhead terror.
Dieudonné promotes the Nation of Islam’s book The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. This tract is in the spirit of the infamous tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Like Farrakhan, Dieudonné promotes the falsehood that Jews ran the slave trade. Since he flaunts his sub-Saharan African roots, Dieudonné should know that Muslims, not Jews, ran the slave trade in his country of ancestry. Arabs as well as black African rulers from the “Slave Coast” also raided the interior of the continent to sell other Africans to white slave-traders. But truth might stand in the way of Dieudonné’s agenda, so scratch that. He peddles timeworn lies to pit one sector of the oppressed against another and in so doing he lets the racist white ruling class off the hook.
Zionism and Anti-Semitism Go Hand in Hand
It is truly obscene to witness the French ruling class now wielding the charge of anti-Semitism as a club against blacks and North Africans in France after committing atrocities such as the 1890s frame-up of Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus for treason, which set off an explosion of anti-Jewish hatred, and the deportation of nearly 76,000 Jews to Nazi death camps with the direct collaboration of the World War II Vichy regime. The French capitalist rulers and the Zionist Israeli state both push the false equation that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. In fact, the Zionists have themselves been in league with anti-Semitic forces to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel. Attacks on Jews provide a pretext for Israel’s rulers to clobber Arab people. And in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen advanced to the second round in the presidential elections, the leader of the CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, affiliate of the World Jewish Congress) rejoiced that this should “provoke the Muslims to keep quiet.”
The French ruling class plays Jew against Arab for diplomatic advantage in the Near East, a historic region of its colonial rule, and to obstruct Arab-French unity within the working class inside France. After helping arm Israel to the teeth, including assisting its development of a nuclear arsenal, the French government under Charles de Gaulle switched sides and backed the Arab regimes in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. This was a calculated move to shore up France’s standing in the Arab world after the Algerians defeated French imperialism and won independence in 1962. Events in the Near East reverberate loudly within France, which has a large population of both Jews and Arabs.
In France, the bourgeoisie has deliberately fostered Islam as a means to regiment immigrant workers and sow divisions in the proletariat, even building prayer rooms inside factories. Yet when North African workers took the lead in militant strikes throughout the auto industry in the 1980s, the French government denounced them as “ayatollahs in the factories.” Since 11 September 2001, the French bourgeoisie has fanned the flames of hysteria about Islamic “terror networks” in France in order to justify brutal police-state crackdowns, especially against the swelling ranks of unemployed youth in the banlieues. Meanwhile, attacks against Jews are on the rise as the timeworn “socialism of fools” is pushed by scum like Dieudonné. Attacks on Arabs, which are routine and delivered with the full force and legitimacy of bourgeois state repression, grab fewer headlines.
In 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy devised a novel way to whitewash the French bourgeoisie’s crimes against Jews by demanding that every schoolchild “adopt” one of the more than 11,000 French Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. This agenda of collective guilt pushed on children of North African descent, whose families keenly identify with the just cause of the Palestinian people, adds grist to Dieudonné’s anti-Jewish rants that the Holocaust is “memorial pornography.” Dieudonné gave Holocaust denialist Robert Faurisson an award presented by an actor dressed as a concentration camp detainee with a yellow Star of David pinned on his chest. Anti-Jewish bigotry and Holocaust denialism already saturate the Arab world, pushed by despotic Arab rulers seeking legitimacy among the people they oppress.
The abandonment of the immigrant population by key sections of the labor movement and the left, which stems directly from their program of class collaboration, leaves the field wide open for a malignant provocateur like Dieudonné. Over the past four decades, the trade-union tops and the reformist working-class parties have been ensconced in a series of popular-front coalitions with bourgeois parties. These popular fronts have pushed anti-working-class austerity and racist state repression against immigrants and their French-born children, undercutting class struggle and poisoning class consciousness. The French Communist Party offered credentials for its 1981 entry into Socialist president François Mitterrand’s Union of the Left government by bulldozing a hostel for immigrant workers in Vitry-sur-Seine, a working-class and immigrant municipality outside Paris it controlled.
Popular-front governments have rivaled the right-wing parties in sowing police terror against banlieue youth and carrying out mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. With the exception of our comrades of the LTF, the rest of the left has supported these popular fronts, calling on workers to vote them into office systematically (in the case of the former Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire) or with less regularity (Lutte Ouvrière). Lutte Ouvrière refuses to oppose the Vigipirate campaign of racist cop terror and supports the expulsion from school of young women wearing the Islamic headscarf.
Dieudonné is the fulcrum of a shady, dangerous milieu where “anti-establishment” demagogues crawl into bed with fascists and reactionaries of all stripes. On January 26, Dieudonné helped mobilize blacks and North Africans to join their most mortal enemies in the “Day of Rage” demonstration led by the far right. Under the French tricolor, slogans included, “Jew: France does not belong to you” and “Faurisson is right; gas chambers are a sham.” Anti-Semitism and homophobia (whipped to a fever pitch in opposition to gay marriage) are the threads that stitch together the reactionary populism expressed in that demonstration.
Dieudonné is both a symptom and a product of French capitalism in decay. Subject to systematic segregation and relentless police terror, blacks and youth of North African descent face massive unemployment, a condition that defines life for growing numbers of white working-class youth as well. This is the background of despair and social disorganization that has led to an embrace of Dieudonné’s poison. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fragmentation and rightward lunge of the reformist left have created a vacuum filled by religious fundamentalism—Catholic, Jewish and Islamic—and other forms of social reaction.
As Marxists, our starting point has to be to tell the truth, no matter how bitter. We want a common front of all working people and the oppressed against their class enemies—not a deadly lash-up of the oppressed with their would-be executioners. This has to be forged behind the social weight of the integrated labor movement through the intervention of a revolutionary party that fights against all manifestations of oppression as a Leninist tribune of the people.