«‘National revolutionary’ groupuscules and the resurgence of ‘left-wing’ fascism: the case of France’s Nouvelle Résistance ABSTRACT ...»
24 Patterns of Prejudice 36:3
JEFFREY M. BALE
‘National revolutionary’ groupuscules and
the resurgence of ‘left-wing’ fascism: the
case of France’s Nouvelle Résistance
Nouvelle Résistance (NR) was a left-leaning national revolutionary
groupuscule founded by long-time French activist Christian Bouchet in 1991. In
contrast to the generally ‘nostalgic’ neo-fascist grouplets of the 1960s (such as
Occident), which tended to adopt intransigent pro-western, anti-communist and pro-colonial platforms during the height of the Cold War, NR adopted a much more radical political programme characterized by pan-Europeanism, anti-Americanism and Third Worldism, the proclaimed goal of which was the unification of all ‘antisystem’ forces, rightist and leftist, in a common struggle against the globalist New World Order. In that sense, it was in certain ways representative of the ongoing radicalization of younger generations of European neo-fascists, who increasingly sought to jettison the parochial nationalism, vulgar racism and cultural conservatism of the past and forge a new, ‘hipper’ rightist youth (counter-)culture. A detailed examination of NR’s history, organization, ideology and political tactics therefore serves to illuminate many broader topics, including the nature and significance of the ‘groupuscular’ form of organization, the cultural transformation of the post-war radical right, the increasingly close interaction between certain types of right- and left-wing extremists, and the complex ideological bases of fascism itself.
KEYWORDS anti-Americanism, anti-globalization, Christian Bouchet, fascism, groupuscule, left and right, neo-fascism, occultism, radical right, rock music, satanism The five years I spent in Troisième Voie were formative. A youth in a groupuscule can learn one hundred times more than one who remains in the youth organization of a large party.1 We must begin with thousands of tiny revolutions so that one day the great revolution which will change the face of the world will come.2 The author wishes to thank, first, the Office of Scholarly Programs at the Library of Congress for funding and research support, and, second, Christian Bouchet for his generosity in providing copies of Nouvelle Résistance publications and other primary source materials, as well as his willingness to answer questions about his personal background and political activities. Both Kevin Coogan and Roger Griffin offered useful feedback on the content.
1 André-Yves Beck, former Nouvelle Résistance leader and current Front National official, quoted in Christian Bouchet (ed.), Les Nouveaux Nationalistes (Paris: Déterna 2001), 24.
Foreign-language translations, unless otherwise stated, are by the author.
T he French word ‘groupuscule’, like its closest English counterpart ‘grouplet’, is generally used to refer to organizations of different types whose most obvious characteristic is their small size. Since small size is in turn all too often equated with insignificance, scholars have tended to ignore the study of political groupuscules, which they view as unpopular fringe elements within the overall constellation of a given nation’s political forces, and to focus their attention instead on larger and higher-profile organizations such as electoral parties.3 While perhaps understandable, this widespread neglect of groupuscules operating on the margins of conventional politics is not always warranted, especially in the case of self-styled revolutionary vanguards.
Although outright seizures of power by such vanguard groups appear to be increasingly unlikely in both Western Europe and North America, groupuscules that are nowadays being overlooked may nonetheless turn out to be very important in other ways. One need only mention ’Usamah ibn Ladin’s diffuse terrorist network, al-Qa’idah (The Base), to illustrate this crucial point. Moreover, since the overwhelming majority of European neo-fascist organizations—including the most important clandestine terrorist cells, ideological ‘think tanks’, counter-cultural youth groups and transnational networks—fall into this ‘groupuscular’ category, ignoring such groupuscules can only result in a total failure to appreciate the historical significance of the post-war radical right.
A few preliminary theoretical observations are therefore in order. There exist several means by which apparently weak political groupuscules may, given the right circumstances, become much more historically significant. First, the formation of groupuscules not only enables fringe groups to maintain internal social solidarity and sustain ideological purity in a hostile social environment but, once created, such structures can become important incubators 2 Christian Bouchet, former Nouvelle Résistance leader, quoted in Jean-Paul Bourre, Les Profanateurs: La Nébuleuse de tous les périls.
Nouvelle Droite, skinheads, rock metal, néonazis (n.p.: Le Comptoir 1997), 68, citing Philippe Hertens, Le Nationalisme radicale en France:
Enquête (Paris: Magrie 1994).
3 A large and ever-growing number of academic studies dealing with ‘neo-fascist’ electoral parties such as the Front National, the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, Alleanza Nazionale, Fuerza Nueva and the Republikaner have been published in recent years, whereas only a handful have been devoted to individual neo-fascist groupuscules, even when the latter have had considerable operational and/or ideological significance. Among the rare exceptions are Roger Griffin, ‘Net gains and GUD reactions: patterns of prejudice in a neo-fascist groupuscule’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 33, no. 2, April 1999, 31–50; Jeffrey M. Bale, ‘Jean Thiriart’s Jeune Europe: a neo-fascist international between East and West’, in preparation for the Journal of Contemporary History; Xavier Casals, Neonazis en España: De los audiciones wagnerianas a los skinheads (Barcelona: Grijalbo 1995), 37–194, which focuses on the neo-Nazi Círculo Español de Amigos de Europa (CEDADE); and those appearing in this special issue of Patterns of Prejudice. Perhaps not surprisingly, neo-fascists themselves have published the bulk of the serious works on lesser-known groupuscules within their own milieu: see e.g. Colectivo ‘Karl-Otto Paetel’, Fascismo rojo (Valencia: Colectivo ‘Karl-Otto Paetel’ 1998); Gabriele Adinolfi and Roberto Fiore, Noi, Terza posizione (Rome: Settimo Segillo 2000); and Yannick Sauveur, ‘Jean Thiriart et le national communautarisme européen’, unpublished thesis, Université de Paris, 1978, later reprinted and distributed by Thiriart’s supporters.
26 Patterns of Prejudice 36:3 of, and transmission belts for, unconventional political ideas that eventually spread beyond their own boundaries. This is all the more likely with the advent of the Internet, which today makes it possible for any computer-literate person to disseminate political messages, no matter how unpopular, to a much larger audience. Second, there is often a greater degree of overlap between the personnel of fringe groupuscules and more respectable cultural circles or political institutions than is visible to the untutored eye, a sort of ‘grey zone’ where extremists and moderates, knowingly or not, rub shoulders with one another.4 This is generally the product of two distinct but interrelated processes. On the one hand, members of groupuscules often seek to infiltrate and covertly influence the attitudes and actions of larger, more conventional political parties and other relatively mainstream socio-cultural bodies. On the other, elements from the so-called ‘establishment’ periodically seek to make use of fringe groupuscules in various ways. To mention only two of many possible examples, factions of the secret services have often infiltrated, manipulated and made instrumental use of political groupuscules in order to carry out covert, ‘plausibly deniable’ operations,5 and more mainstream political parties have at times intentionally recruited members of such groupuscules for various purposes, ranging from low-level campaigning and bodyguard duties to serving as intellectual spokespersons or even political candidates. Third, like-minded groupuscules very often join together to form much more extensive transnational networks, both in the real world and, increasingly, in cyberspace. Fourth, in times of acute social, political or economic crisis, such groupuscules, even if previously perceived as extremist, can rapidly attract a larger base of disenfranchised supporters who now suddenly find their radical perspectives appealing. Finally, if necessary groupuscules can, given their small and often secretive organizational structure, more easily be transformed into fully clandestine and highly compartmentalized terrorist cells than can larger, more public organizations.
The (changing) nature of neo-fascist groupuscules There are two salient characteristics of post-war fascism that at first glance may seem paradoxical. On the one hand, there has been an extraordinary proliferation of small neo-fascist groups—that is, groupuscules—within every country of Western and Southern Europe since the end of the Second World War. On the national level, however, the omnipresence of divisive ideological conflicts, profound differences over political tactics, and contentious personal 4 The term ‘grey zone’ has sometimes been employed by German left-wing commentators to refer to the allegedly cosy, behind-the-scenes relationships between the conservative right and neo-Nazis: see e.g. Michael Venner, Nationale Identität: Die neue Rechte und die Grauzone zwischen Konservatismus und Rechtsextremismus (Cologne: PapyRossa 1994).
5 See e.g. Jeffrey M. Bale, The Secret Cold War and European Right-wing Terrorism (forthcoming); Gianni Flamini, Il partito del golpe: Le strategie della tensione e del terrore dal primo centrosinistra organico al sequestro Moro, 1964–1978, 4 vols in 6 parts (Ferrara: Bovolenta 1981–5); and Frédéric Laurent, L’Orchestre noir (Paris: Stock 1978).
JEFFREY M. BALE 27 disputes between competing would-be Führerin has made it very difficult for these sectarian and often insular groups to co-ordinate their activities in any meaningful way. The history of neo-fascism is therefore replete with a kaleidoscopic array and bewildering variety of organizations, personalities and doctrines, many of which have been the direct or indirect outgrowths of a complex process of fission and fusion precipitated by bitter internal struggles and rivalries.6 On the other hand, some of the very same groups that could not manage to find a basis for co-operation with similarly minded organizations inside their own countries have made strenuous efforts to ‘internationalize’ and link up with their counterparts in other nations, both throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world.7 In spite of all the transformations that have taken place within this milieu, both ideological and organizational, this peculiar combination of fragmentation within national boundaries and transnational alliance formation has remained a constant pattern between 1945 and the present day.
Groupuscules, neo-fascist or otherwise, can be analysed in both functional and historical terms. From a functional standpoint, one of the most acute observers of the radical-right youth subculture in France during the 1980s and 1990s has characterized recent neo-fascist groupuscules as hybrid organizations incorporating some of the traits associated with four different types of groups: mass parties (in terms of their emphasis on ideology, their use of militants, their concern for the popular factor and their claim to represent excluded political and social elements); pressure groups (as regards their overt and covert lobbying activities, their infiltration of other organizations and exploitation of dual membership and their application of pressure by means of violence); terrorist organizations (with respect to their insularity and their semi-clandestine and sectarian nature); and armies (in terms of their emphasis on discipline, maintenance of hierarchies and their penchant for training and paramilitary activities). 8 Although the suggestion that all neo-fascist groupuscules share every one of these characteristics is problematic, if not erroneous, there is no doubt that such groupuscules often are hybrid formations that do not fall neatly within standard, well-delimited political or organizational categories. Moreover, despite displaying certain common traits by virtue of their participation in the same political milieu and their small size, all neo-fascist groupuscules develop a number of unique features that serve, on closer inspection, to distinguish them from their temporal counterparts. Furthermore these features are not frozen in time.
On the contrary, groupuscules with some degree of longevity almost invariably evolve over time in response to new conditions and circumstances.
6 Compare the astute observations of fascist theorist Maurice Bardèche, Qu’est-ce que le fascisme?
(Paris: Sept Couleurs 1961), 97–8, 101.
7 For the seeming paradox between these two characteristics of European neo-fascism, see Joseph Algazy, La tentation néo-fasciste en France, 1944–1965 (Paris: Fayard 1984), 289–91.
8 See Eric Rossi, Jeunesse française des années 80–90: La tentation néo-fasciste (Paris: Université Pantheon-Arras 1995), 157.
28 Patterns of Prejudice 36:3 Even the animators of more ephemeral groups—those that fail to survive the aforementioned processes of fission and fusion—often try to make up for their prior mistakes by organizing new formations capable of overcoming the perceived shortcomings of earlier and still-existing groups. It would therefore be a serious mistake to adopt an overly schematic, ahistorical model, as social scientists are wont to do, since neo-fascist groupuscules of, say, the 1990s are by no means identical to those of the 1960s. Very significant ideological, organizational and cultural shifts occurred during that tumultuous thirty-year period, shifts that not only reflected broader historical trends but also internal processes of evolution within the neo-fascist milieu. Indeed, by comparing and contrasting characteristic features of the more recent organizations discussed below with those of representative groupuscules operating in the 1960s, one can learn a great deal about the historical evolution of neo-fascism.