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Michelle Mazel on Etre de droite: Un tabou français

Filed under: Europe and Israel, Israel, Peace Process
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 19:1-2 (Spring 2007)

A Voice in the Wilderness

Etre de droite: Un tabou français (A French Taboo: Belonging to the Right), by Eric Brunet, Albin Michel, 2006, 270 pp. [French]

Reviewed by Michelle Mazel

When the French go to the polls, more than half of them cast their vote for the Right. At the same time, a survey carried out in 2002 revealed that only 6 percent of all French journalists say they belong to the Right. Eric Brunet, who deals mainly with social issues for the Third Channel of French public television, maintains that the Left has taken over the media and whoever does not toe the line is in trouble. Worse, media correctness goes far beyond the press and culture and encompasses the workplace, be it public or private.

Brunet delineates the process that led to what he views as a threat to the very fabric of French society. It began just after World War II, when France was trying to cope with the legacy of the German occupation and the unpleasant realization that too many Frenchmen had collaborated. The Left made a concerted effort to dissociate itself from that past and brand all collaborators as belonging to the Right. According to Brunet, this tactic was highly successful and obscured the fact that some socialists, communists, and other leftists had gone along with Germany and its ideology.

In Italy, similarly, Benito Mussolini was editor in chief of the socialist daily Avanti! before launching his fascist party. In England, Oswald Mosley, after he failed to take over the Labour Party of which he had been a distinguished member and cabinet minister, started his own fascist movement. And in France, the socialist politician François Mitterrand was decorated by Marshall Pétain to whom he had pledged allegiance. As for the French Communist Party, it did not start fighting until Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.


The Left and Its Enemies

Brunet acknowledges that there were collaborators on the Right, but also many who fought and died for the Resistance. In the process of delegitimizing the Right, he notes, the Left extolled the virtues of communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. It rode roughshod over anyone who dared to suggest that Soviet crimes nearly matched Nazi crimes and that only the death of Stalin had prevented the mass deportation of Jews to Siberian camps.

At the same time, the Left vilified the United States and its culture. “All publications that are unhealthy for our young people come from the United States, and solely from the United States,” declared a communist member of the French parliament. In that body the Communist Party, well represented in the postwar era, initiated in 1949 a law to safeguard French youth by censoring foreign publications such as The Adventures of Tarzan. The next step, explains Brunet, was to blur the line between the Right and the extreme Right by focusing on points of convergence, such as law and order and better control of immigration. Brunet asserts that Mitterrand made maximum use of this tactic to cow opponents into silence.

Only in the privacy of the voting booth, Brunet maintains, can people freely express themselves in France. Leftist ideology reigns supreme in the media, the labor unions, the marketplace, the school system, and the cultural sphere. Brunet deplores the passivity of the Center and moderate Right in letting themselves be browbeaten into abdicating some of their values.

Brunet’s argumentation is persuasive, sometimes alarmingly so. Assessing some of his points would require extensive familiarity with French history, politics, and culture. He is at his most convincing when discussing the media. He notes the many media icons who formerly belonged to the Communist, Trotskyite, and other leftist parties and now hold forth in the pages of Le Monde and other leading papers. Beyond the French domestic scene, he observes, this fosters a strong bias against the United States and a staunch pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli stance.

Although Etre de droite was published in May 2006 and is already in its third printing, none of the newspapers it discusses at length have seen fit to respond to its allegations. Indeed, not a single newspaper or magazine has reviewed the book. Its existence is noted only in blogs and online journals where comments are generally favorable. The French media appear reluctant to give any visibility to a book that questions their integrity and is difficult to refute.

It is worth noting that Brunet strongly supports the candidacy of right-wing leader Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential elections scheduled for May 2007.

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MICHELLE MAZEL is a graduate of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and the Faculté de Droit of that city.