Workers Vanguard No. 1039
7 February 2014
Statement by Workers Vanguard Editorial Board
on Anti-Semite Dieudonné
24 February 2014
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. We will address this further in the next issue of Workers Vanguard.
Workers Must Combat Racist, Anti-Semitic Poison
Down With French Government Censorship of Black Comedian!
We reprint below a January 16 leaflet issued by our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France denouncing the French government’s recent ban on shows by black stand-up comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Socialist Party interior minister Manuel Valls, notorious for vicious racist repression of minority youth and evictions of Roma (Gypsies), banned the shows on the grounds of their anti-Semitic content. The state has continued its vendetta despite Dieudonné writing a revised, expurgated show. The British government has followed suit by barring Dieudonné from entering the country.
Dieudonné initially gained a large following by denouncing the racism of French society. The government ban has, if anything, increased his standing among oppressed black and Muslim youth. However, his vile anti-Semitism diverts their legitimate anger away from the real source of racist oppression—the French capitalists and their state. Heeding Dieudonné’s call, some black and North African youth joined a right-wing, fascist-infested “Day of Rage” anti-government protest on January 26. The key targets of fascist terror are blacks, Muslims, Jews and other minorities and ultimately the organized working class. A key task of the workers movement is to mobilize to fight the growing fascist threat.
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In a sinister attack on the right to free speech, cop minister Manuel Valls brought back pre-emptive censorship to stop projected shows in Nantes and Tours by anti-Semitic populist black comedian Dieudonné. Not since the state of emergency introduced in 1955 during the Algerian War has such a pre-emptive order been decreed by the government. That measure allowed the cop minister and regional prefects at the time to “take all necessary measures to control the press and publications of any kind as well as radio shows, film showings and theater performances” and to “order the temporary closure of theaters, bars and any kind of meeting place.”
Of course, there has been no lack of state censorship or bans over the last six decades, but they are generally implemented by prefects and mayors; hence Valls’ January 6 circular advising prefects on how to ban Dieudonné’s tour. Valls turned to the Conseil d’Etat [Council of State—the administrative supreme court] only after the Nantes Court of Appeals overturned the decision to ban the show. The court had disagreed that the “risk of public disturbance” justified banning the show and disputed the fact that the show’s “fundamental aim was to violate human dignity.”
Citing its “Republican traditions,” the Council of State argued that Dieudonné had in the past made statements that “threatened national cohesion.” This is a dangerous legal precedent that can now be used against all those perceived by the capitalist state as threatening its “national cohesion.” Young Muslims and veiled women will probably be targeted in the first instance as part of the “war on terror.” But such weapons in the ruling class’ arsenal are ultimately aimed at the organized working class and its allies. Class struggle between workers and capitalists is inherently antithetical to “national cohesion.” The working class is the only class with the social power to shut off the flow of profits by withdrawing its labor through strike action. Only the workers can ultimately challenge and overturn capitalist rule.
Capitalist Austerity, Racist Terror Fuel Fascists’ Growth
The January 9 Council of State decree is certainly not the first ban on Dieudonné’s shows. In recent years, local courts have ordered either cancellations or bans in France, Switzerland and Montreal. In Brussels in 2012, cops turned off the power during a performance upon hearing Dieudonné use “xenophobic” slurs. We protest and condemn Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic poison, which sows division by fueling racism. In so doing, he serves the very interests of those he claims to oppose—namely the French ruling class and its Zionist allies. The latter seek at all costs to obscure the common class interests of Jewish and Palestinian workers in the Near East and of workers internationally.
Dieudonné’s personal ties to and promotion of [fascist] Jean-Marie Le Pen, Alain Soral and Holocaust deniers such as Robert Faurisson are well known. He also conducted a sympathetic interview with historic skinhead leader Serge Ayoub shortly after the murder of [anti-fascist youth] Clément Méric last summer. During this interview, Dieudonné proclaimed: “We represent the France of the lower classes, the France of different origins, different histories but who in the end…have the same enemy.” Méric’s murderer, Esteban Morillo, was a member of the fascist group Troisième Voie [Third Way], which was founded and led by Ayoub.
In blaming the French Zionist groups CRIF and LICRA along with the Israeli state for every possible ill, Dieudonné ends up exonerating the French bourgeoisie. CRIF and LICRA are agents of Israel, but they also serve their French masters in helping the bourgeoisie cover up its own history, which is steeped in anti-Semitism, from the Dreyfus Affair to the Vichy regime’s zealous persecution of the Jews—including sending tens of thousands to their deaths in Nazi Germany. But today CRIF & Co. provide even greater assistance to the French state as part of its “war on terror.” The Zionists’ crusade against pro-Palestinian activists is used to strengthen anti-terror legislation and oozes with the bourgeoisie’s racist contempt for (but also fear of) the French banlieues [working-class and largely Muslim neighborhoods].
But Dieudonné’s case has particular meaning because he is black and he started out as a witty, sharp critic of French racism and colonialism, staging shows with [Jewish comedian] Elie Semoun that denounced the racism dividing Jews and Africans. He took up the cause of the sans-papiers [undocumented immigrants], fought for immigrants to win the right to vote, defended the Palestinians against Zionism and opposed the fascist National Front (FN). His fans included blacks, North Africans and leftists. But he turned to black nationalism and anti-Semitism. Denying that society is divided into social classes—French, white, black, Jewish workers against French, white, black, Jewish capitalists—he increasingly blamed Jews for racist oppression. His new status as a pariah in the media led him to increasingly wallow in anti-Semitism, so much so that he picked Jean-Marie Le Pen, a vile anti-Semitic racist and torturer during the Algerian War, as godfather for one of his children.
This pariah status has continued to win him fans among black and North African youth who are also treated as second-class citizens by the French Republic because of their social origins and the color of their skin. Valls is fully aware that his witchhunt against Dieudonné is seen by banlieue youth—as well as by the bourgeoisie—as an attack on this country’s minorities. Valls has undoubtedly been the greatest promoter of anti-Semitism among oppressed youth in this affair.
While Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic rants before a largely young minority audience are clearly inflammatory, responsibility for any social explosion in this country will lie with the government. Just like its forerunners, this government has nothing but economic austerity, unemployment, racist terror, repression and humiliation to offer youth in the banlieues. Youth unemployment in the “sensitive urban areas” now officially stands at 45 percent. (Given government directives to exclude some unemployed people from the official lists, actual numbers are higher.) For young men, police checks and harassment is their daily lot. If their mothers or sisters wear Islamic headscarves they are barred from public sector jobs. Following the “Baby Loup” decision last November (which upheld the firing of daycare worker Fatima Afif), even the private sector increasingly refuses to hire these women.
As for the crusade against the Roma, Valls positively revels in his eviction “results” for 2013. Over the course of a single year, cops expelled 19,380 Roma from their makeshift camps or squats—more than double those expelled in 2011 under [former president Nicolas] Sarkozy’s top cop Claude Guéant, or in 2012. This is the equivalent of the entire Roma population in France (some 20,000 people) being evicted from their homes at least once in 2013. In nearly all cases, they were given no alternative housing, their children’s schooling was disrupted and their personal belongings were generally destroyed. Last September, like any mainstream racist, Valls summed up his policies as follows: “The Roma’s place is back in Romania or in Bulgaria.”
This climate of state-sponsored racism, which scapegoats banlieue youth, Roma and other minorities for the austerity attacks and mass unemployment, is fueling the growth of the fascists, who are increasingly emboldened in their physical attacks and public demonstrations of force. And while Valls plays the little despot and chases Dieudonné off stage around the country in the name of holy “Republican values,” the same Republican state is officially funding the fascist FN to the tune of millions of euros for its meetings, etc.
The reformist parties—the French Communist Party (PCF), the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and Lutte Ouvrière (LO)—and the trade-union bureaucracy also carry a share of responsibility for the growth of racist reaction and fascist violence. Many leaders of the reformist left and trade unions, such as Bernard Thibault, then-leader of the CGT union federation, called for a vote for [Socialist president François] Hollande in 2012, except LO. More hypocritically, LO declared that the question of whether or not to vote for this class enemy was a “personal decision” and refused to take a position before the working class.
This “unity of the left” for the popular front (which also included the bourgeois Left Radical Party and Green Party) against “the right” will no doubt only be reinforced as the fascist threat grows. This is an obstacle to the overthrow of capitalism and paves the way for the defeat and despair of the proletariat and the oppressed. At the time of the 2012 elections, our paper headlined: “2012 Elections: No Choice for Workers—For a Multiethnic Revolutionary Workers Party!”
The trade unions are the ultimate targets of the fascists but also have the power to stop them by uniting the proletariat in struggle. That power has been seriously undermined by the trade-union bureaucrats’ protectionist campaigns and their capitulation without a fight to the bosses’ repeated attacks on gains won decades ago through hard class struggle. These attacks are all carried out in the name of defending French jobs against those of their class brothers abroad. A joint fight to defend jobs here and for decent wages and working conditions in the countries that the bosses target for superexploitation would undermine the capitalists’ efforts to divide and rule.
But the union bureaucrats ensure that the battles being waged here to stop plant closures remain isolated, breeding further demoralization and bitterness among workers. What’s needed is a leadership that uses transitional demands to link the daily struggles against austerity to the need to overthrow the capitalist order. In response to mass unemployment and plummeting wages, for example, such a leadership would fight for dividing the work among all with no loss in pay and for indexing wages to inflation. As the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky put it: “If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish.” A class-struggle revolutionary leadership would fight to keep the unions independent of the capitalist state and link the need to combat capitalist depredation with the fight against fascism.
Down With State Bans and Censorship!
There has been little protest from the reformist left against Valls’ “pre-emptive censorship” and the strengthening of the state’s arsenal of repression. Quite the opposite. [Jean-Luc] Melenchon’s Left Party attacked Valls for not going far enough. They demand that the state also ban Dieudonné’s videos on the Internet: “But it is also intolerable to find the same author broadcasting videos with very violent and stubbornly anti-Semitic statements.... The Left Party therefore calls on the competent authorities to prevent this type of video being broadcast on the Internet.” The Left Party may get what they wish for as the government is preparing more bills to expand Internet censorship.
The PCF did condemn the expansion of Valls’ “legal arsenal,” but it did so by arguing that the 1990 Gayssot law prohibiting Holocaust denial, which carries a prison sentence of up to one year, was perfectly adequate for dealing with the Dieudonné problem. This law, introduced by Jean-Claude Gayssot, then PCF deputy (and later PCF minister under [Lionel] Jospin) and PCF senator Charles Lederman, has been sharply attacked from both the left and the right. For example, left-liberal academic Noam Chomsky correctly condemned this law for granting “the state the right to determine historic truth and to punish those who deviate from its decrees.” State censorship against racist provocations and ideology is always used to regulate what people can and cannot say and to create a regimented society, seeking to stamp out any protest.
We also oppose state bans on the fascists, such as those imposed by the Hollande government last July against the fascist groups Third Way and Revolutionary Nationalist Youth following Clément Méric’s murder. The fascist scum must be swept off the streets and out of meeting rooms by the working class, not the capitalist state. Historically, these bans have been directed against the workers movement and perceived opponents of capitalist interests. This was the case in the wake of May 1968, when on the basis of the 1936 law outlawing fascist militias, Voix Ouvrière (later Lutte Ouvrière) and the NPA’s forerunners (the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire and the Parti Communiste Internationaliste) were dissolved and banned along with a number of other left-wing groups. The same law has also been used to ban those fighting for independence against French colonialism. The Algerian People’s Party, forerunner of the Algerian National Liberation Front, was banned in 1939 because it opposed the racist treatment of Algerians in France. Then, during the Algerian War, organizations including the Union of Algerian Moslem Students and the Association of Algerian Workers were also outlawed. In the 1970s, Basque, Corsican and Breton groups protesting their national oppression were in turn dissolved on the basis of the 1936 law.
It seems that LO has forgotten its own history and the extent to which such decrees are ultimately used against the workers movement. Indeed, LO complains that Valls’ measures in the Dieudonné case are insufficient and adds that “the banning of the offending performance will be ineffective from the point of view of the anti-racist struggle” (Lutte Ouvrière editorial, 17 January). For LO, “it would be wrong and fatuous to believe that preventing them [Dieudonné’s ideas] from being formulated would be enough for them to cease existing and circulating” (Lutte Ouvrière, 3 January).
Enemy of the Enlightenment
Valls and the Council of State justified their pre-emptive censorship of Dieudonné in the name of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” and the Republican tradition of the great French bourgeois revolution of 1789. The Declaration proclaimed freedom of speech and thought: “No man ought to be molested on account of his opinions, not even on account of his religious opinions, provided his avowal of them does not disturb the public order established by law” (Article 10), and “The unrestrained communication of thoughts and opinions being one of the most precious rights of man, every citizen may speak, write, and publish freely, provided he is responsible for the abuse of this liberty, in cases determined by law” (Article 11). In its struggle against decaying feudalism and its Catholic and royal censorship and prohibitions, the bourgeoisie at the time embraced Enlightenment rationalism.
But for the bourgeois ideologues of today, the first part of these two articles on freedom of speech is simply the homage vice pays to virtue. Their second part (e.g., “cases determined by law”) is considered the substance of the articles: the law authorizes the exploitation of man by man and makes it possible to ban everything else when it suits the capitalists, their parliament and their government.
Their speechifying over “human rights” and “violation of human dignity” has largely become a cover for racist and anti-Muslim prejudices and for neocolonial military expeditions in Africa as well as a rallying cry for their anti-Communist campaigns against the deformed workers states, such as China and North Korea.
It falls to revolutionaries today to uphold the ideals of the Enlightenment and Marxism. The rule of capital and its “armed bodies of men” (the cops, prisons and courts) that enforce the oppressive racist and anti-working-class legislation must be smashed through workers revolution. Our goal is to build a revolutionary, internationalist workers party, like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, to lead the working class in the fight for the overthrow of the capitalist state, as part of the struggle for international socialist revolution.