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An American In the Front
Ever since I began frequenting the FN, I had wondered about its relations with the skinhead underground - the only European youth movement that explicitly calls itself Hitlerite. The Front's cadres had done their best to give me their own version of that obscure alliance, sometimes even before I asked for it.
The events of May 1, 1995, in which three skinheads who participated in the party's annual Festival of Joan of Arc threw a passing Moroccan, Brahim Bouraad, into the Seine, where he drowned, were still fresh, and the subject had to be addressed. Le Pen's son-in-law, Samuel Maréchal, took care to tell me that it wasn't the Front's fault if the killers had ridden to Paris from Rennes in a bus rented by the Movement, and that the FN had nothing to do with them; as proof, he pointed out that the Front had delivered them to the police. Jean-François Jalkh, the party's Secretary for Elections, told me at Melun: "We've got skinheads around us, but they're not our troops. Sometimes they're puppets. They're losers, vulnerable. They're not political types, they're completely disorganized. Sometimes they're on the left, six months later they're on the extreme right. They do a lot to give us a very negative image - a lot of people think they're the FN."
Two points bothered me here. The first was that Jalkh seemed to know these losers very, very well, despite the fact that they weren't his "troops." The second was that Jalkh had told me he generally respected violent people, because "violent people are often sincere," but he didn't include the skinheads in that category. It was hard not to conclude that his rejection of the skinheads was tactical, not ideological. Likewise, the young pagans who edit Réfléchir et Agir [Reflect and Act], a student journal launched in the spring of 1996, while admiring the themes of the skinhead rock band Fraction Hexagone - "to combat without compromise the Zionist peril [and] the capitalism which wants to impose its mercantile morals on us [and] the race-mixing organized by cosmopolite lobbies" - worried that the band's "membership in the skinhead movement can only limit its public."
I kept expecting to see skinheads at the Front's rallies, but the truth is that they weren't easy to find. I never saw skinheads at a departmental meeting, an electoral rally, an anti-abortion rally, or a dinner-debate, the day-to-day social and political rituals of the Movement's hardcore converted. In two full days at the FN's annual fall rally, the BBR, I didn't see the gang of 20 skinheads, armed with iron bars, who attacked the Maison des étudiants des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest that Saturday night. Later I realized that it was their habit to show up late, to let the parade go by while awaiting their moment. Thus at the Festival of Joan of Arc in 1996, they didn't take part in the march of the militants on the Rue de Rivoli, except for a few skinheads who got drunk on the sidewalks (where a reporter for the weekly Canard enchaîné spotted them chatting with friends who broke out of the parade to greet them). But they stayed at the Place de l'Opéra after the crowd left, joining us as I talked with their friends of the Front's student movement, Renouveau Étudiant, basking in the worried glances of passersby.
For most of the Front's militants, the skinheads represented a burden and a subject of indignation. A matron of the Front told me apologetically, "Every family has its black sheep, and they're ours." A woman from Nantes, who gave Samuel Maréchal his first lessons in political organization, told me that every time a skinhead crossed the door of her bureau, "I threw him out." Her voice was thick with the righteous anger of a good housewife whose carpet has just been soiled by a dirty little boy. After the revelation that skinheads had confessed responsibility for the desecration of the Jewish cemetery of Carpentras, the Movement's star reporter, Alain Sanders, suggested in Présent that they could only be provocateurs; as proof, he recounted how he in 1985, he and Roger Holeindre, President of the FN's National Circle of Combattants, pursued a gang of skinheads who were disrupting the Festival of Joan of Arc, only to watch them disappear into the Ministry of Justice on the Plâce Vendôme. Propaganda, maybe; but it is also possible that Sanders simply could not admit to himself that skinheads play a role in his beloved Movement.
The FN does not need, and does not want, to play the demon of French politics any longer. That is why it surrendered the skinheads of Rennes without hesitation. And that is why there are no skinheads in the Front, and why, if there are, they cannot be skinheads.
Nonetheless, the Movement knows them well, and knows where to find them. That was what a trial in the spring of 1996 proved beyond doubt.
The story began at Draveil in the Essonne, a suburban county of Paris, at the beginning of the 1990s, in a bar called the Viking. It was "a meeting place" for young men who had "principles and ideas in common from across the entire Ile de France," in the phrase of an habitué named "Jos", whose thick, powerful upper body was decorated with tattoos drawn from Nordic mythology and white power slogans. It wasn't a place for the timid or frail: "Sometimes they even beat each other up," said another regular, a certain Olivier X, a budding and ambitious leader of men who happened to be working as a security guard. According to him, "We rebuilt the world our way." That is, by exchanging "racist jokes or proposals."
Olivier said he liked to go to the Viking "not because it was popular with skeen-haeds"- his words were recorded on a Verbal Record of Interrogation and Confrontation, a French judicial transcript, and the recording clerk apparently didn't know how to spell the foreign word Skinhead the right way -"or by nationalists but also because there were people interested in Celtic art."
The investigating magistrate asking the questions wanted to know more about these mysterious connoisseurs, for good reason: Given the setting, they could only have been pagans, because that is the only group in France which integrates Celtic symbology with nationalism. Instead the judge was treated to a lecture on skinhead esthetics.
Olivier, while recognizing that "the mood was a little primitive," emphasized the hidden sensitivity of his rough comrades: "There are skinheads who like that kind of art." And they were alone in their taste, he added: "There isn't any museum that offers Celtic art, hardly anyone cares for it... At the Louvre there are just a few potteries...."
This is what just happened: Olivier avoided describing his pagan friends to the judge, but only by talking nonsense and then trying to make sense of it. It is a classic mistake when you are being interrogated, because all these tortuous lines of argument end up by drawing a map of the inside of your skull. This is the inside of Olivier's: Rightly or not, he felt superior to all the curators of Paris, because he thought he knew more about Celtic art than they did, and he learned it all by himself. Superior, but bitter: By his own word, he knew only skinheads who like that kind of art, and that is not much company or reward for a self-taught intellectual. This ambition, this bitterness that holds together Olivier's thoughts like mortar holds together mismatched bricks, are the elements that define the revolted elitism of the man of the hard right, his conviction that he is never quite appreciated at his true value by a world divided among all-powerful hypocrites and credulous sheep.
Since Olivier declined to describe his pagan friends, we have to do it for him. They weren't rare in the Front. After surveying the stands mounted by pagan nationalist groups at a February 1996 colloquium in Paris, a reporter for Réfléchir et agir commented, "At this level of representation, one can no longer speak only of infiltration." They had begun to penetrate the Front simultaneously with the massive entry of Bernard Antony's "integrist" Catholics in the early 1980s; at the time their ranks included Carl Lang, who later became General Secretary of the FN. In 1988, when the pagan author Pierre Vial joined the party, bringing along numerous allies from the Group for Research and Studies on European Civilization (GRECE, the thinktank of the French "New Right"), they had already become a crucial intellectual force within the party. A regional counsellor and follower of Antony called them "New Right types, eaters of priests, pagans," spitting out the word. He added: "And they're taking up position, especially in the party apparatus."
A new generation of pagans, critical (if not disdainful) of Le Pen, but ready to make use of his movement, appeared in the 1990s in the universities. Their ranks were reinforced by a contingent from Troisième Voie, a group founded by Jean-Gilles Malliarkis in 1985 from elements of the Mouvement national révolutionnaire, the GRECE, the Parti des Forces Nouvelles, and a number of skinheads - a range of influences running from the purest of French fascism to neo-pagan intellectuals and brain-dead streetfighters. Their "third way" drew on intellectual and tactical sources as diverse as Ernst Rohm (founder of the Nazi brownshirts, the SA), Proudhon (author of the maxim, "property is theft") and Ché Guevara. Their former activists - including the director of communication at the FN city hall of Orange, André-Yves Beck, who bragged to me that he was a pagan, "the best element of the people at a given time" - counted as some of the FN's most radical troops.
Their preferred authors, like Alain de Benoist, founder of the GRECE., display an unconcealed admiration for the "sporting, military, and sexual adventure" of medieval knights. Their songs celebrate the "Enormous joy, terrible joy/Of the final sacrifice" , exalt violence. For the contemporary pagan poet Maurice Rollet, violence is a redemptive ritual:
intrepid and strong
The writings of the Italian fascist, Baron Julius Evola, serve as the major intellectual reference for the FN's pagans. In the late Thirties, he sought vainly to inspire "a resurrection of non-Christian spirituality in the framework of fascism" - much to the disdain of S.S. leader Heinrich Himmler's underlings, one of whom called Evola "a 'Roman reactionary'" whose theories "may provoke ideological confusion" . His political ideas combined the verticality of a hierarchical power with the horizontal dimension of a homogeneous society. The community in Evola's thought does not proceed from biology, as in Nazism, but from culture. Its basis resides in "a conception of the Nordic spirit world... something which simultaneously combines herosim and the sacred, the temporal and supratemporal.... "
The pagan elite imagined by Evola will be exemplary of what he called "the surpassing of individualism by a virile and spiritual sense of the community." This is not far from the Catholic and Royalist nationalist Charles Maurras's dictum that "a nationalist conscious of his role admits as the rule that a good citizen subordinates his emotions, his interests and his systems to the good of the nation." But Evola is far from sharing the Catholic faith of Maurras. Only a "solar" spirituality and its political counterpart, an "organic" society," organized in concentric circles around an aristocratic elite, can save the West from Christian decadence, Evola argues. His followers nourish that flame: "Inscribe the people in an historical continuity, guide it toward political perspectives [through] an erudite dose of magical and logical thinking, this is the mission of the elite we must create," declares a contemporary pagan essayist. According to a poet included in a pagan anthology edited by Pierre Vidal, the elite's task will also include finishing off "The men of vile soul/Carrying the club and the Cross/Who imposed in our towns/The denial of the Law."
This is the image and the reward that attracts pagan militants like Michel, the student recruiter of the Movement for a National Instruction, who told me that he had loved the film Braveheart, in which a medieval hero fights to liberate his land and people. And for every handsome knight like Michel, the pagan ranks include at least one vengeful squire, waiting for the day he can teach others what it means to fight and suffer. I met one at Melun, where Michel was accompanied by a heavyset pagan in his late twenties - "a professional [of student politics], like me," said Michel - whose thick face was permanently clouded by rage. He showed me a wound on his arm that he said had been inflicted by leftists with a razor. "Down to the bone," he seethed. "No witnesses, no charges." (I believe it. The question isn't which extreme is more dangerous, but which may soon hold power over our lives.) In the same bitter tone, he recounted how he'd seen geographers with a master's degree "who don't know how to read a map, who don't know how to work." His life was an infinite circle of combats, humiliations and anticipated vengeance.
And this is the kind of Celtic art lover you meet in a place like the Viking.
On March 31 1991, Olivier, Jos and their pal "Laurent", known as "Papaille" - probably because his protruding, disquietingly intense eyes and his quickness to fight gave him a certain resemblance to the American comic book hero, Popeye the Sailor Man - found each other at the Viking, where they had met frequently over the previous months. "The alcohol I drank that night stopped me from thinking," said Jos later. The point was important, because the only one of the trio who didn't get drunk was Olivier.
As Olivier remembered the end of the evening, he offered to drive the others home, because "I considered them friends and I didn't want to let them do their usual dumb tricks, like fighting and beating up Arabs." Papaille remembered things differently: Olivier, he said, "wanted to show what the boys of Juvisy are worth." To whom? Perhaps the men who followed them in a second car. Olivier had met them at the Viking; they too were nationalists, but none of them wore skinhead regalia, nor even a bomber jacket like Olivier's. "They had nothing to do with us visually," said Jos later, "not one of them had a particular style."
And so the clean-cut pagans reappear in the story.
So far as Jos knew, they were all on a "punitive expedition." Whom they would punish, or for what, he didn't fully understand.
In the early hours of the morning, cruising through Juvisy, they saw a couple standing at a corner; one was long-haired and the other was Black. Olivier says that all he did was point his finger at one of them and say, "I know him." He admits that he slowed down a bit, in case another car was coming through the crossroads. But he always claimed to be amazed when Papaille leaped out of their car onto the sidewalk, followed by Jos.
Jos told another
story: Olivier "said while pointing
at them that they were addicts and dealers." Jos had lost someone
he cared about to drugs, and he hated dealers.
Papaille remembered that Olivier "asked us to chase them [and] if I wanted to use a bat to hit them." Papaille refused, saying he could do anything that needed doing with his fists.
But Jos picked up a baseball bat which happened to be lying on the front floorboard at his feet.
It seemed logical to Papaille that Olivier didn't want to leave the car himself, because "Olivier knew one of them." But Jos and Papaille were drunk, and drunks don't always remember things exactly.
Patrice Jousseau had had a fair amount to drink himself that night, and he did not turn when Olivier braked, nor when Jos, Papaille, and the occupants of the second car came running toward him. But his companion, David Avenel, saw everything - the two cars braking abruptly, an assailant in bomber jacket and steel-capped Doc Martens, another who rushed at him holding "an object that made a blade jump out between the fingers when the fist was closed." In his shock, David took them all for skinheads, and he had no time to correct his mistake. He was unarmed, and he figured that they were after him because he was black. He ran.
As he ran he looked back and saw Olivier at the wheel of his Peugeot, drinking a beer and listening to music. David Avenel knew him as the brother of one of his friends, and as a nationalist whom some people in their neighborhoood suspected of writing racist graffiti on the walls. It occurred to him that if he could recognize Olivier, Olivier might likewise recognize him. They might have to kill me to keep me from identifying them, thought Avenel. He kept running until he had shaken his pursuers and found a dark place to hide in, off the street.
He did not see Patrice again that night.
Patrice was still looking in the wrong direction when the baseball bat hit him in the head. As he lay unconscious on the ground, Jos recalled, "I gave him four or five hits with the bat on the head and body... he struggled a lot."
Meanwhile, Papaille was kicking him in the back.
Then Jos stopped,
perhaps because his victim had
stopped moving too. He realized that the head on the ground was covered
with blood. "That scared me," he recalled. He was big, tough and angry,
but he was not an assassin.
He heard Olivier shouting at Papaille, "Come back, stop it," calling them back to the car. They obeyed him. Obeying Olivier seems to have been a habit for them.
Olivier later claimed that he was stricken by "the most total confusion, and that's why I didn't think of trying to help" the victim. On the drive to his parents' home, he had to listen while Jos, slumped in his seat, repeated over and over, "I killed him, this is bad news."
Jos said he heard Olivier reply, "Yeah, it's bad news. The one who got away knows my brother."
If so, Olivier wasn't confused. Olivier was measuring the risks.
Still he did not turn around and go back to help the victim. [Under French law, "non-assistance to a person in danger of death" is a crime.]
Safe in his bedroom, in his parents' house, "Olivier yelled a little," said Jos. "He decided that we wouldn't see each other for a while until we saw how things worked out."
Jos thought of another precaution: "Better destroy the bat."
But Olivier kept it.
When they walked downstairs the next morning, another friend of Olivier's brother, who happened to be a friend of Patrice Jousseau as well, was standing at the bottom of the stairs. Jos must have given him a chill, because he never forgot the big-necked, tattooed man.
Olivier was making the decisions, once again. He drove Papaille to Mennecy, "while telling him not to say anything and to stop the 'Beating Plans',"said Jos. Both Jos and Olivier had had enough of Papaille, anyway. "We didn't want to see him anymore... He isn't very safe, nor very reliable," said Jos. "He had unpredictable reactions."
But Jos was the one who couldn't live with it, and that's what brought them down.
Patrice Jousseau did not die, but that night marked him permanently. He was found lying in the street, hours after David Avenel and his assailants had separately fled the scene, and was brought to the hospital by the police. The Report of Operations signed by Dr. Cornu of the emergency room at the Salpétrière Hospital speaks of a fracture of the skull, which had to be probed and sutured, and adds, "there exists at the level of the probable impact a mud-filled zone." Patrice's head had been literally crushed into the dirt.
The following year, a follow-up examination reported "frequent reductions and losses of memory", "problems of language (missing or sought-for word)", severe headaches at the rhythm of two or three weekly, and "epileptic crises." By then Patrice Jousseau had been forced to quit his final year's classes in high school. He attempted a course in English, but he failed, according to his doctor, because of his "frequent and short episodes of confusion, which oblige him to stop his activity momentarily.... There persists a permanent, partial incapacity."
Two days after he just missed being beaten to death, his parents filed a complaint. The Principal Inspector of the police who interrogated Patrice Jousseau on April 11, 1991 asked if his friends owned cars like the ones that surrounded him at the crossroads, and if he'd argued with them earlier in the evening, and if he was drunk that night. "I felt drunk," Patrice admitted, "but I was okay."
A French judicial procès-verbal is not a literal transcript, and thus it can be made to say what the person asking the questions (which are generally not recorded) and typing the answers wants it to say. In this case, a young man who was struck repeatedly on the head with a baseball bat is recorded as saying, in order to explain why he never saw his aggressors: "Maybe I was aggressed from behind. Unless, given that I'd been drinking, I fell down sick."
Thirteen days later, the Principal Inspector complained that Patrice Jousseau had not only failed to answer "our repeated demands" for a medical certificate, he "told us that he didn't remember the arrival of his aggressors, and this before any attack on his person." As for David Avenel, he wasn't a witness, in fact, of the moment when the bat hit Patrice, for the simple reason that he was fleeing for his life. Consequently, the Inspector continued, "It is not possible for us to objectively determine... if it is appropriate to retain a... criminal qualification [of the facts]."
The Inspector had not yet interrogated Olivier, whom David Avenel had formally identified at the scene. Olivier was convoked, but as the Inspector noted on April 18, "[he] has neither appeared nor made known the motives for his absence." He was finally located on June 7, at the prison of Fleury-Mérogis, where he was being held on the charges of "attempted voluntary homicide [and] possession of arms and munitions in the fourth degree." The arm in question was the same baseball bat that had crushed Patrice Jousseau. This time, Olivier had employed it on a French-born Arab. The news had circulated among the Viking crowd; Jos had heard about it. Olivier should have listened to Jos about that bat.
The police finally interrogated Olivier on September 30, six months after the attack on Patrice Jousseau. Olivier admitted that he was present, but denied any part in the massacre. He also denied knowing Jos's name, or Papaille's real name, or where they lived, though he promised to find out.
Convoked again on December 16, he could only excuse himself: "I have nothing more to say than the last time... I hardly never see these guys."
There were no witnesses, because Avenel ran and Jousseau was unconscious at the crucial moment, and no clues to the identity of the assailants, because Olivier had "forgotten" the names of his friends and where to find them, and no apparent enthusiasm for the case among the police. At the end of 1991, the affair was closed.
That was when Jos re-opened it.
Jos had started
talking about what he'd
done on the night of March 31. Very likely, he was trying to come to
terms with it. He had been
raised in a tough place, he had seen his friends get hurt, and he was
deeply angry. He hadn't mastered the anger yet. His
employers and co-workers at a security company
called ACDS in the
12th arrondissement of Paris thought he was a
racist, because he picked fights
with men of color on the job site.
"They called him 'the Skinhead of Juvisy'," recalled Vincent Oury, who also worked at ACDS. "I only talked to him once. He asked me if I belonged to the Front." Vincent Oury had seen Jos once before. It was Oury who happened to be standing at the foot of the stairs in Olivier's house, on the morning after Patrice Jousseau's beating, when Jos descended the stairs. The incident held no special significance for Vincent Oury at the time, though he soon heard about what happpened to Patrice.
It became significant only when another employee of ACDS repeated to Oury some of the crazy boasts he'd heard from Jos: That he owned an entire arsenal of weapons, including a rifle with a laser sight (which was never confirmed), and that one night in the spring, he had taken part in several "punitive expeditions" at Juvisy, during which he'd nearly killed a man.
In a single moment, Oury saw the connection between Jos, Jousseau, and Olivier. On February 29, 1992, Vincent Oury put what he knew into a hand-written letter, and sent it to the Prosecutor of Evry.
The resulting investigation dragged on for three more years, during which four investigating magistrates laboriously took up and set aside the case file. Jos and Papaille were finally identified by the police and admitted their roles in the beating. Neither were held in detention at any point in the proceedings. Olivier denied any and every evidence of his own responsibility.
Thus he denied that he had chosen the "target" for Jos and Papaille and launched them at their victim like hunting dogs, or even that he had any reason to expect they would get violent that night: "They were normal and not really tense, so far as I know they didn't want to look for trouble."
And he kept trying to cover the clean-cut young men in the second car, whom he never identified: "They had nothing to do with it."
The investigating magistrate Christiane Pioline wasn't convinced. "One might think... that the two cars went together in search of an aggression [and] that it was at Olivier's instigation that the two victims were chosen," she told Papaille, in the course of a confrontation on March 21, 1995.
"I agree," said Papaille.
"I don't see why their version of the facts isn't the same as mine," complained Olivier.
No? But it's very simple. If he were telling the truth, then Jos and Papaille had not attacked Jousseau in a drunken stupor, as they claimed, but in cold blood. Olivier was saying that far from following his orders, they had betrayed him, by turning his pleasant evening drive into a crime spree. Jos and Papaille admitted they had done something stupid, but they would have to be far more stupid not to feel betrayed themselves.
The case came to trial on April 15, 1996, five years and two weeks after the assault on Patrice Jousseau, at the tribunal correctionel of Evry. Olivier was defended by a member of the Paris bar who frequently handles legal affairs for members of the Front.
The plaintiff was represented by Emmanuelle Hauser-Phélizon, an active member of an association of lawyers concerned with immigrants' rights. "They say there are five million immigrants in France, as if it were unimaginable, horrible," she told me one afternoon. "So what? We're in a country with 58 million people, what's the problem?"
Hauser-Phélizon sensed that so far as the prosecution was concerned, this was an insignificant affair. Appearances no longer favored her client; Olivier and Jos were now employed and settled. They would regret the incident in court, claim it was simply a youthful error, and walk away free. Hauser-Phélizon did what the Front does in such cases: She invited the friendly press, Libération and Le Parisien.
The presence of reporters clearly altered the ambiance in the courtroom. The prosecutor concluded that it would not be excessive to press for three years of prison for Papaille and Olivier, and four for Jos. The president of the tribunal warned the accused: "You're lucky not to be in a felony court, and Patrice Jousseau is very lucky not to be in the cemetery."
Olivier repeated that he had merely been a stunned and helpless witness to a nightmare, and added that since the night of March 31, 1991 he had avoided the nationalist milieu.
Hauser-Phélizon had been awaiting this moment. She now displayed a document:
elections of 11 and 18 juin
 - commune of Draveil
In the 29th position on the list was printed: Olivier _____, waiter.
"His membership in the Front is the sign of a political gentrification!" protested his lawyer.
True - at least compared to his old Viking politics. But he was still a gentrified nationalist.
"You lied all through the investigation," roared Hauser-Phélizon at Olivier, "and you're still lying today."
Like Jos and
Papaille, he was condemned,
and appealed. They did not go to prison in the end. But the incident
followed them for years. In Jos's case, it was a warning of what
he could become, and he listened to it. We have no news of the
The double problem posed to the Front by skinheads - how to make use of marginals to expand its ranks, without becoming hostage to them - is not new in its history. Since the Front's inception in 1972, it has absorbed and competed for cadres and militants from the most violent elements of the French extreme right, from the OAS to Occident and Ordre Nouveau (and its second incarnation, Faire Front), the Groupe Action-jeunesse, the Parti des Forces Nouvelles, the Faisceaux nationalistes européens, the Fédération d'action nationale et européene, and other formations too numerous to list here. Key cadres of the FN, such as François Duprat (killed in 1978 by the explosion of his booby-trapped Citroen; he was suspected of informing on the extreme right) and the late FN Secretary General Jean-Pierre Stirbois began their careers in the "groupuscules" of the extreme right. According to Joseph Malgazy's rich study, L'extrême-droite en France (1965 à 1984), the precise role of Duprat in the FN's direction was to "organize the neo-fascist elements which declared themselves nationalist-revolutionary for the profit of the National Front." At least one neo-fascist terrorist moved in and out of the Front in the early 1980's: Claude Noublia, a member of the terrorist group SOS-France, killed by the explosion of a bomb at Toulon in August 1986, had belonged to the FN.
Just as the Front maintains the traditional strategy of "entrism," infiltrating its militants into unions, neighborhood committees, and cultural associations - it was FN Secretary General Bruno Gollnisch who confirmed it to me - neo-fascists are free to practice their own "entrism" within the Front. In fact, the structure of the Front encourages and rewards the recruitment of leaders of objectively marginal groups. At every level, advancement and power within the Front depends on whether or not the candidate possesses a clientèle or a clan of his or her own. The most potent example within the Front is Bernard Antony, whose Catholic faction embraces anti-Communists, anti-abortionists, and veterans of Vichy. Likewise, Serge "Batskin" Ayoub, founder of the Revolutionary National Youth movement, brought the Front into contact with the hooligans of the Parc des Princes soccer stadium. (In the fall of 2000, two of Ayoub's former acolytes were convicted of the murder of an immigrant at Rennes, whom they had forced to drink beer mixed with bleach. Like the Front, Ayoub refused to provide an alibi for his followers at their trial.)
The Front recruits directly among the same troops. Militer au Front, the manual of the Movement's militants, urges every member to see every enemy of the established order as an eventual friend and recruit: "Through permanent contact the militant should know, so far as is possible, all the members and sympathizers living in his neighborhood. He will miss no occasion to salute them, to engage them in conversation, to turn them into relations, if not friends." (That is what Michel did with the thugs of the GUD.) In particular, one of the militant's main tasks is to keep any and all allies of the FN "informed of the activities of the Movement."
The FN had followed this procedure with the killers of Brahim Bouraad. At their trial in May 1998, it emerged that one of the trio of assassins had been a card-carrying member of the FN, employed from time to time as an armed, covert auxiliary of its uniformed security force. I don't know what Samuel Maréchal and Jean-François Jalkh knew about them, and it is possible that they truly believed that none of the killers had ever belonged to the FN. But some members of the party hierarchy knew, because the order had come down to destroy all traces of their party membership in the week before the murderers were handed over to the police.
The Front is hardly the only party which has recycled violent elements into legal political activity. Former President Valérie Giscard d'Estaing and former Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua recruited aides, cadres and functionaries among some of the same movements, and recycled veterans of the extreme Left and extreme Right were among the stalwarts of Mitterandism. The argument can be made that by enlisting violent neo-fascists, the Front diverts them from terrorism, just as the established parties did.
But unlike them, the Front sets a hypothetical limit to this process, by arguing openly that if for some reason the Movement's more or less peaceable advance is blocked, violence will again erupt: "If tensions cannot be expressed democratically, they can be expressed other ways," I heard Le Pen say in a press conference on Jan. 26, 1996. (In Austria, the same argument is made by Jörg Haider, leader of the extreme-right FPÖ party.)
At first I thought that line was merely an improvised boast; but today, it strikes me as a threat and a proposition. The threat is that Le Pen could throw France into turmoil, simply by announcing to his followers that the Front had failed. The proposition is that if the power really wants social peace, it had best give the Front some successes to brag about.
No threat is effective unless one can demonstrate its reality; no negotiation can succeed unless the parties involved can deliver on their commitments. So far as the skinheads are concerned, by 1996 we had witnessed this double demonstration. We knew what happens when the Movement loses control of its "friends," and we also knew that if it wants to, it can sacrifice them to the power without risk to its electoral success. That is their place in an organization whose leaders, be they Catholic or pagan, believe firmly that everyone has a place.
The skinheads and
some of the more sophisticated
neo-fascists would almost certainly keep that place if the Front ever
came to power. Every state, including the Fifth Republic, needs
operatives and agents to carry out certain tasks which, though
necessary and even vital, are poorly viewed by the public. The skinhead
underground and its neo-fascist relations represent a potential
solution to this eternal problem of governance, already tested in
action. One need only imagine that what happened at Juvisy in 1991, and
on the banks of the Seine in 1995, will no longer be left to the
initiative of undisciplined thugs. One need merely hypothesize the
of other Oliviers in France, and that they will find their way
to the power, bringing their bitter hunger for status and recognition,
their crude manipulative skills, and their very special relations with