Why controversial French comic Dieudonné is forming a new political party - Mediapart

04 Nov 2014
04 Nov 2014 Facebook Twitter Email Print

The following article was first published by the French news website Mediapart.fr

By Karl Laske and Marine Turchi.

The anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is to set up a new political party to rival the far-right Front National headed by Marine Le Pen. The comic, whose one-man show was widely banned in France earlier this year because its anti-Jewish content was seen as a threat to public order, has joined forces with far-right publisher and essayist Alain Soral to create the new organization. According to documents been by Mediapart the new party is to be called 'Réconciliation Nationale' or 'National Reconciliation' and the two men will be co-presidents.

Dieudonné giving his 'quenelle' saluteDieudonné and Soral, who have been close politically for some time, each have their own reasons for setting up the new organization.

Dieudonné is said to want a political vehicle through which he can respond to the “flunkies of the World Jewish Congress”, the “Mafioso and Satanic organisation” which “made the State Council [editor's note, France's top administrative court] give way” in favor of a ban on his show. As for Soral, he announced on 6 September 2014, that he was “disassociating himself completely from the Front National”, a party on whose central committee he sat until 2009. The essayist said that he would operate under his own political steam following the “pro-Israeli” stance adopted by Marine Le Pen's international advisor Aymeric Chauprade during the summer. Soral described this as “Chauprade's betrayal”.

Soral will also use his existing association Égalité et Réconciliation (E&R), which was originally set up in 2007 to help the FN, to support his new party. In documents seen by Mediapart the new party Réconciliation National has been officially registered at 3, rue du Fort de la Briche, in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. This is where both E&R and Soral's publishing house Kontre Kolture are also based. According to an internal source both Soral and Dieudonné are hoping that the National Assembly – for which elections are not due until 2017 – will be dissolved before then as the ruling socialist government increasingly struggles to command a parliamentary majority.

This could allow the new political organisation to get its hand on state funding that is allocated to parties able to put up candidates in at least 50 constituencies - and providing they pick up at least 1 percent of the actual votes cast. The two men have already had a taste of elections; in 2009 they put together a list in the Paris region for the anti-Zionist Parti Antisioniste in the European elections. Alain Soral has since revealed that he obtained “Iranian money” to “compile the anti-Zionist list”, which failed to get anyone elected.

The initial announcement of the new party on 6 September passed by almost completely unnoticed. In a video entitled 'Chauprade's betrayal', the head of Égalité et Réconciliation attacked with some vehemence a text published by Marine Le Pen's internal adviser Aymeric Chauprade on the “Islamic issue”. Soral said: “He leaves it to August to produce a text that, behind everyone’s back and clearly also that of the Front National, submits to Zionism.”

Describing the FN official as a “son of a bitch” and “scum”, Soral adds: “I'm saying this very clearly, Chauprade is responsible for the fact that E&R is today completely disassociating itself from the Front National and will operate under its own steam, as a political party.”

Directly addressing the FN itself he concludes: “And you will see that that won't help you.” The head of E&R complains that before the European elections in May 2014 Chauprade had sought his help, then “totally betrayed” him after he, Soral, had sent some “Muslim patriots” as support. Soral says Chauprade's about-turn has put him “in mortal danger”. In his text Chauprade had explained that he felt “closer to an Israeli than a member of Hamas”, while calling for the “elimination in situ” of the 1,000 French jihadists in Syria. It seems likely that Réconciliation Nationale will thus become the new conduit for the anti-Semitic obsession of fellow travelers Dieudonné and Soral.

In his latest video on 18 October, the comedian launched into a long tirade against the World Jewish Congress and its President Ronald Lauder, in comments worthy of the worst anti-Semitic tracts of the early 20th century. “Ronald Lauder. Yeah, yeah the smell. Yeah, an appropriate name [editor's note, Lauder is the son of Estée Lauder of cosmetic company fame]. When he opens his mouth, it's true … even a dung fly faints … so you can imagine the smell … Lauder's a multi-billionaire. He buys paintings for 140 million like you buy a Pif Gadget [editor's note, a French comic book]. He puts it up above his fireplace, he looks at it, yeah, I'm happy, and when the fire runs low he puts it on the fire. He's got money … he shits money.”

In passing, Dieudonné also has a go at Jérôme Guedj, president of the Essonne département – roughly equivalent to a county – near Paris, who a few months ago called on people to “ruin” Dieudonné's life. The comedian's retaliation was to make public the former MP's telephone number and address, and to invite him to go and live in Israel.

'Don't vote Front National'

The setting up of Réconciliation Nationale will be seen as a blow to the Front National. Some members of Soral's existing E&R association are also currently members of Marine Le Pen's party and they will now face something of a conflict of interest. When E&R was set up back in 2007 as a 'breeding ground' for the FN in the suburbs, it included a number of figures close to Marine Le Pen. They included the former lawyer Philippe Péninque, who has been close to Le Pen for many years, and Jildaz Mahé O'Chinal, formerly of the extreme right student group Groupe Union Défense (GUD), who with Frédéric Chatillon runs the network of businesses that provide services to the FN. Chatillon introduced Soral to his network of interests in Syria and the Lebanon.However, in recent times Soral's recurring themes have begun to worry senior figures in the FN who have embarked on a process to 'de-demonise' the party and appeal to more mainstream voters. In October 2013 the FN's number two Louis Aliot attacked those who he said are “obsessed by past events and particular communities” and who “don't belong with us!”.

For her part Marine Le Pen has struggled to maintain the balance of a party than contains several different tendencies. On the one hand she distanced herself from Aymeric Chauprade's comments relating to Israel, saying he had simply expressed “his personal view of the situation”. Yet at the same time she said she understood the existence of the Ligue de Défense Juif (LDJ), the extreme right Jewish group that often clashes with pro-Palestinians in the streets. “If there is a Ligue de Défense Juif it's because many Jews feel under threat. They feel that a new anti-Semitism is rising in France which is the result of community clashes,” Le Pen said.

However, Alain Soral still has his own contacts inside the FN, particularly among senior figures. When he left the party in 2009, Soral paid tribute in a video to “the trust and friendship accorded [to me] by the president [editor's note, Jean-Marie Le Pen], the respect and the courteous neutrality of Bruno Gollnisch.” In August this year Gollnisch told Marianne magazine that it was naïve of Chauprade to “regurgitate the official line of the Israeli authorities”.

And in September, following his comments about Chauprade's “betrayal”, Alain Soral complained that Aliot had had a go at him over it. “Today I say to those who are watching me, don't vote Front National, that's clear, we will wait and do things differently,” he said in a video. Marine Le Pen's father and the former FN president Jean-Marie Le Pen apparently spoke to Soral in a bid to calm the situation, but clearly without success.

Soral seems instead to have turned his attention to the notoriety attracted by his ally Dieudonné. In recent months the publisher's existing association Égalité et Réconciliation (E & R) has been doing well out of the banning of the comedian's shows. He has picked up a wave of new members as a result – he has a total of around 12,000 members in all across various associations - and has reorganised the organisation internally. E&R now seems better equipped to mobilise activists on the streets. During the pro-Palestinian demonstrations over the summer a Soral associate, Mathias Cardet, was identified as one of the organisers of the group 'Gaza firm' which came to “secure” the marches, or rather the trouble that arose from some of them. Some members of this small, obscure group are hard-core supporters of Paris football club Paris Saint-Germain – former members of the so-called 'K-soce team' of fans at the club. The Gaza firm was presented as a 'gentile defence league' and appeared for the first time during the extreme right's 'Jour de colère' or 'Day of Anger' protest in January.

Some of these heavies can be seen around Alain Soral during his public appearances. On October 17th, 2014, the essayist arrived at court surrounded by half-a-dozen bodyguards, several cameras and dozens of activists singing the Marseillaise. In line with political parties E&R has now organized its structure with regional centers and local sections, which include “skills centers”, which offer training and guidance on activism, public relations, organizing events, ideas and theories, and external relations.

However, potential members of the E&R association are carefully filtered and told how they must behave. “The member agrees to be humble, honest, disciplined, polite, punctual and respectful towards all their colleagues and their hierarchy,” says one of the internal rules seen by Mediapart. “There is therefore absolutely no place in the section for notions of personal gain, self-interest, scheming, hypocritical ambition, lies or betrayal.” E&R's “recruitment protocols”, which gives a foretaste of what can be expected in the new party Réconciliation Nationale, even covers the “handling of the initial contact” with potential recruits.

The head of each local section of the association must be sure about the “real” identity” of people applying, so they can carry out “precautionary checks” to obtain “professional or personal” details. Two emails are required to be sent in order to screen requests for membership, to make sure the potential recruit reflects on their application. The rules also state that the first meeting with the potential recruit is important. This should take place in “a busy public place which can be checked out visually” and where the recruiter should arrive “a quarter of an hour early in order to check for anything suspect”.

'I hope we won't also have to pay you royalties to be anti-Semitic'

The way the recruitment interview itself should be conducted is also set out. The head of the local section is asked to compare their background checks with the applicant’s own statements in relation to “family situation, professional life, type of reading, knowledge of E&R, and the works of Alain Soral … political experiences, police record”. The future member also has to be briefed on the importance of security and confidentiality. “Make this point strongly, by imposing some pressure on the member so that they know what's what immediately,” says the recruitment protocol.

The basic instructions for a new recruit are quite strict. They have to create an anonymous email account reserved for E&R activity, the name must not be registered in their online contacts, there is a ban on Facebook activism, and they must not divulge any form of information such as “details of meetings places, plans”. Members are asked to use pseudonyms or just their first names.

Dieudonné and Alain Soral, who as documents seen by Mediapart show will be co-presidents of Réconciliation Nationale, are also creating an association to help finance it, which has as its sole aim the “raising of funds”. It will be the organization that receives any state funding that the party might receive and it will oversee the party's application to the Commission des Comptes de Campagne et des Financements Politiques (CNCCFP), the official body that oversees campaign and party political finances in France. Neither man wants to talk publicly about the new political organisation. “We have our own media, we are not communicating with the outside, we have very strict instructions,” E&R's number two Julien Limes told Mediapart.

Indeed, the new party apparatus is planning to hand responsibility for its public relations to an existing network of firms linked to both men. These include Culture pour tous, which is the front company for Soral's publishing concerns, and Productions de la plume, which manages Dieudonné's shows, and partner websites of E&R.

However, despite the creation of the new party and booming membership of his existing association, Soral faces some legal problems. His court appearance in Paris on October 17 was to face accusations of “incitement to hated and discrimination” for his comments about the journalist Frédéric Haziza. On the same day Soral's website proudly detailed the 15 legal actions he has faced so far, and gave a total figure of € 476,792 claimed by his opponents. Soral has also just been found guilty on appeal of defamation against the former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, and ordered to pay a fine of € 2,500.

Later this month Soral also faces court over the publication by his firm Kontre Kulture of five anti-Semitic books. The criminal court at Bobigny, north-east of Paris, has banned the publication of 'L’Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, Le Judaïsme et le Sionisme' ('The Anthology of comments against the Jews, Judaism and Zionism') by Paul-Éric Blanrue. It has also ordered the withdrawal of four other books, including 'La France juive' ('Jewish France') by Édouard Drumont. Dieudonné, meanwhile, who has already been convicted of making anti-Semitic comments, was placed under formal examination in July for tax fraud and misuse of company assets. A key area being investigated by examining magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke relates to the 400,000 euros the comedian has sent to the Cameroon since 2009.

And despite the new political alliance between the two men, Dieudonné's wife and business associate Noémie Montagne fell out with Soral as recently as September 2013. In a series of emails (read online in French here) Montagne strongly criticised Soral's E&R for using both 'quenelle' – the inverted Nazi salute popularized by the comedian – and 'ananas' ('pineapple') on an E&R sticker. 'Ananas' is a reference to Dieudonné's song 'Shoah nanas' - Shoah is the Hebrew word referring to the Holocaust against the Jews, and 'nanas' is French slang for girls or 'chicks'. Dieudonné has claimed that the song is actually about 'chauds ananas' or 'hot pineapples', which in French sounds very similar to 'Shoah nanas'.

In one email Noémie Montagne wrote to Soral: “I understand that we might be allies against Zionism, but to be completely associated with Égalité et Réconciliation would not be wise for Dieudonné's image.” Montaigne said her purpose was not to “interfere in the political relationship” between Soral and her husband. “ER and my companies have common interests but they are not dependent on each other,” she wrote.

“Everything that affects Dieudonné's image and which is commercialized is my concern.” Soral replied: “What are you accusing me of? Of taking some small advantage of the popularity of the quenelle? That would be the final straw, as we have been working hard with you for nearly ten years and have not got anything out of it at E&R! … I hope that in the future we won't also have to pay you royalties to be anti-Semitic.”