search
Alexandre Gilbert

French Right-wing Anarchists disguised as Left-wing Thinkers

Aurélien Bellanger (copyright authorized by Le Seuil)
Aurélien Bellanger (copyright authorized by Le Seuil)

Aurélien Bellanger, a cyclist, marathon runner, writer, and philosopher, publishes “The Last Days of the Socialist Party” with Gallimard.

After writing about Xavier Niel in The Theory of Information, Francis Bouygues in The Development of Territory, Nicolas Sarkozy in The Greater Paris, BHL in The Continent of Sweetness, and Stéphane Courbit in Reality TV, who are the influences on your novels The 20th Century and The Last Days of the Socialist Party ?

Aurélien Bellanger: In The Last Days of the Socialist Party, it is a composite portrait of fervent Benjaminian individuals in architecture, film criticism, and philosophical studies. In The Last Days of the Socialist Party, it is more about mediocre secularists than sociologists, close to the Republican Spring.

In The Last Days of the Socialist Party, one of your characters opposes Orwellian leftists to Mao-Spontex-messianics.

Aurélien Bellanger: My character delves into the archaeology of this Orwellian left (Editors: theorized by Chantal Delsol). They claim to be a conservative left, but I lean towards a left that is not really left. It revolves around the famous note on Terra Nova for François Hollande’s 2012 election: “What majority for 2012?” (Editors: Olivier Ferrand, Romain Prudent, and Bruno Jeanbart). Is the left still the major party of the working class, or does it rather represent metropolitan centers allied with the suburbs? My character sees this as a harmful risk but is a great pervert because he writes the Terra Nova note only to refute it later. It is an Orwellian or conservative left, somewhat declining, stretching back to Giscard d’Estaing or Fabien Roussel, and suggests not to offend the working class on societal issues because they are conservative. This is something I don’t believe but try to portray, thinking it is the way to reclaim power on the left.

The 20th Century addressed Walter Benjamin’s concept of history, which he defined as a prophecy of the past. Is the Houellebecquian novelist a prophet of the past, and were Walter Benjamin and Heidegger influenced by each other?

Aurélien Bellanger: Benjamin’s Heideggerianism remained a blind spot for a long time. It is known that they crossed paths in the 1910s. They were students together in Freiburg for a few months. Subsequently, their works diverged significantly. However, Benjamin often stated his desire to destroy Heidegger, a program that Adorno extensively pursued posthumously, writing the jargon of authenticity and almost anti-Heideggerian pamphlets, initially part of negative dialectics and later hypostatized in a book. Derrida has a fascinating text I stumbled upon a few weeks ago, discussing what could be termed as hidden conservatism in Benjamin, especially in his relations with the young Weimar Republic, suggesting links between a conservative Benjamin and the great conservative Heidegger. Derrida touches upon this in “The Origin of Violence,” a text by the young Benjamin.

Isn’t it a bit of a confusionist move by conservatives to reclaim Benjamin?

Aurélien Bellanger: It’s a very interesting question because it is known that from Guy Debord to Marx, the right has often reclaimed intellectuals most opposed to it, not without success. Until recently, Benjamin remained untouched by such maneuvers, but in the last three to four years, that has changed. Somehow, the right found a way to reclaim Benjamin.

Among the intellectuals leaning towards the right who influence leftist thought, there are figures like Slavoj Žižek, who called for a vote for Trump, Alexander Dugin advising Putin, Peter Sloterdijk advising Macron, and Marc Jongen, his former student, who became a theorist for the AfD.

Aurélien Bellanger: In the case of Žižek, he could almost be considered an accelerationist. Dugin’s level is monstrously low, perhaps deliberately so, to better convey his message. Sloterdijk wrote To Read with Finkielkraut, which might have been a small sign.

This confusionism is also seen in Italy with Diego Fusaro, who identifies as a right-wing Marxist. Do you trace its birth to the summer of the New Right by Alain de Benoist?

Aurélien Bellanger: We are emerging from a period where the right was hegemonic for about twenty years, starting with the publication of The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq when Le Figaro discovered Philippe Muray in the early 2000s. Interestingly, it did not produce any major intellectuals. Twenty years of hegemony founded on nothing. You are correct; it was based on war trophies, but when I was a teenager, the right around Jean-François Revel or Raymond Aron had its organic intellectuals. The right has spent the last twenty years in a near-total intellectual desert while being intellectually dominant. My hypothesis is that the right does not need to win intellectually. The right has the police; it does not need total ideological victory, just domination. If this domination involves a somewhat perverted rereading of left-wing intellectuals, it will do so without shame. It is much rarer to find left-wing intellectuals fascinated by Bernanos, but it does happen.

Sorry to insist, but there are right-wing or even far-right intellectuals frequenting television sets, like Julien Rochedy.

Aurélien Bellanger: They are serious intellectuals as show hosts, but conceptually very poor. Their delusion is to win one-on-one debates and not at all to produce concepts. Deleuze did not care about winning… they are not rhetoricians. There are some sophists, Rochedy is a sophist, but apart from defending rather weak ideas. The turn of social sciences, a great discovery since the structuralists but even more emphasized over the last twenty years with the studies, was embraced by left-wing intellectuals but not by right-wing intellectuals who mock the concept of deconstruction rather stupidly and have not made this turn, which makes them somewhat disconnected. They end up defending left-wing ideals borrowed from Michelet or Hugo but are not serious intellectually. Alain de Benoist draws from a vaguely mythified right-wing German intellectual tradition from the 1920s, ranging from Jünger to Schmitt. But it is not well-nourished or very lively. Apart from a few polemicists, no one finds intellectual substance there.

However, we have the case of Renaud Camus, who derives his theory of the “Great Replacement” from Heidegger’s concept of machination (machenshaft).

Aurélien Bellanger: The “Great Replacement” is a typical example because it claims to be a demographic concept but is not validated by demographers, posing a problem of legitimacy if the concepts lack scientific validity.

He relies on Heidegger, who did not care about science, a thought influencing Camus and in Russia, Dugin.

Aurélien Bellanger: It is lively but in a dead end. It cannot be refuted because it is a huge joke. When I deal with intellectuals like those from Republican Spring, I do not write an essay because it is so intellectually impoverished that ridiculing them is my only task. But just because it is a huge joke does not mean it is not powerful. That is the paradox. The only modest way I found to beat them is through satirical novels. There isn’t a serious intellectual attacking Michel Onfray’s thought to refute it. There was a book Zemmour, La Plume dans le venin, with a commendable intention but somewhat off-topic, reminding us that Zemmour is racist.

But Onfray has fought against Heideggerianism with Emmanuel Faye, this anti-modern science…

Aurélien Bellanger: The problem with Michel Onfray is his method, which is always the same: taking opponents of his target as credible sources. This method is convenient and allows him to write many books devoid of context. To write about Freud, he won’t read Freud but Freud’s opponents. Against Christian intellectuals, he will take Enlightenment intellectuals. Against Enlightenment intellectuals, he will take conservative English or French ones like Bonald. The method is easy, proven, and somewhat dishonest.

You also mention Jean-Michel Blanquer’s famous conference on deconstruction at the Sorbonne.

Aurélien Bellanger: Absolutely, where one of the speakers is an RN deputy in the East.

This moment of rupture is a trap set by CNews or Jean-Michel Blanquer, almost as if Blanquer himself fell into his own trap. Instead of addressing serious questions about the deconstruction of metaphysics in Heidegger and Derrida, it becomes an anti-woke platform.

Aurélien Bellanger: I almost went because I was writing The Last Days of the Socialist Party and knew it would end on this. I was too lazy to sign up and thought I would be better at reinventing what was said than copying it.

I will discuss this with Raphael Zagury-Orly in an upcoming interview.

Aurélien Bellanger: I met him once in Romania but did not know he participated.

We agree that Zemmour and Philippe de Villiers’s great victory is hijacking the concept of deconstruction, which never meant what they claim it does.

Aurélien Bellanger: Heidegger has only one heir: Derrida. One can criticize him for being a soft left thinker, but not for being a right-wing thinker. It is a sham. And I had fun reconstructing this conference to have a speaker on Derrida say that the big villain in all this is Derrida.

Yes, this is the injunction that consists of wanting to make him a Nazi, but what these far-right people reproach him for is, on the contrary, being a champion of the far left. It’s a tipping point, almost the Austerlitz of the right.

Aurélien Bellanger: More modestly, I get by with a sort of anaphora. When did May 1968 die? When Mitterrand laid a wreath on Jaurès’ grave in 1981. When Houellebecq prosecuted it in 1998. When Cohn-Bendit joined Macron in 2017. No, May 1968 died when a minister of the Republic came to inaugurate a colloquium on deconstruction. The problem is that it’s a victory for the far right, but the far right isn’t playing along. It’s a tactical victory, but it hasn’t brought any new ideas. It has changed the common view of Derrida. But it hasn’t provided the slightest serious perspective on Derrida’s philosophy.

What do you think of Giorgio Agamben, Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, and Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, who have turned towards a more anarchist fringe, even some towards sovereignism?

Aurélien Bellanger: Lagasnerie defends LFI to the point of chaos, while MBK got lost during the Covid period. He has become much more of a symptom than an intellectual.

But he just published a book saying that Nietzsche was already a transhumanist saved by the whitewashing of France, which wanted to make him an anti-Nazi, and that all this is nonsense. But just because he’s schizophrenic, do we quickly dismiss it by saying, Mehdi has turned far-right but he’s crazy, Rochedy is a YouTube influencer, Renaud Camus is fundamentally a rhetorician, a literary figure so they do not count, Dugin’s thought is very weak, and I’m not far from agreeing with you on all these assertions, but isn’t it in a way how we’re being deceived?

Aurélien Bellanger: I return to my earlier point; I thought for a long time that the battle between the right and the left was an intellectual one. Not because the right doesn’t need intellectual victories. It can administer the world through error and violence. Marxists believe that one day the bourgeoisie will be horrified by their false consciousness and collapse.

But moreover, the right is obsessed with the Logos; at TV Libertés, Sud Radio, or VA+, we see people like Juan Branco, Aude Lancelin, and François Bégaudeau. Hasn’t there been a convergence at some point?

Aurélien Bellanger: The names you cite are very characteristic because they are not recognized either as intellectuals or as intellectuals of their camp by the left. They are right-wing anarchists disguised as left-wing thinkers. We can mention Houria Bouteldja, who has a tactical relationship with conservatism. She is from a left of emancipation, but there is no point in overly antagonizing the conservatives. It’s not by chance that she is seen as a trophy.

The philosophical left remains elusive. We agree that the French Theory and the New Philosophers have left a void.

Aurélien Bellanger: It’s not on the same level; the former were revolutionary, the latter were conservative. They claimed to be leftist and anti-Marxist, but there’s a whole tradition of dissident Marxism, of heterodox Marxism, that didn’t connect with this.

Yes, but all these people remained marginal, whereas today we see a generation of intellectuals bridging the extreme right and the extreme left. Who can stop the far-right and inspire the Popular Front?

Aurélien Bellanger: I don’t know, but what is happening is that the heirs of Clément Rosset, like Raphaël Enthoven, are sad conservatives. And Macron has been tempted for a long time by the ethno-Christian conservatism of Onfray. But we are witnessing a shift towards abandoning the great philosopher and social sciences, which is one of the legacies of the French Theory that we’ve somewhat forgotten, stemming from structuralism and being very transversal. Therefore, there is vitality in social sciences that has allowed them to be labeled as enemies under the fraudulent term “wokism.” But the problem isn’t that they felt they were going to destroy the patriarchy or family, but that they had just become powerful and audible. On issues of gender and race, it is they who have introduced new themes that have shaken the thoughts of people who considered themselves leftist but suddenly found themselves conservative. We return to the Orwellian left, thinking that male and female were the alpha and omega of all political thought and finding themselves deconstructed by gender studies, which didn’t please them, so they started the counter-attack.

But the transversality you talk about, which could also be called complexity, as in Edgar Morin, and taken up by Pope Francis or grandly welcomed by Macron, hasn’t it long been co-opted?

Aurélien Bellanger: Yes, but that’s not a thought of complexity but of the deconstruction of self-evident number one, for example, which was much defended by the neo-conservatives twenty years ago. And MeToo arrives and deconstructs this myth. Western women are not safer in so-called evolved and patriarchal societies. So, it wasn’t complex thought but substantiated, which is why I talk about social sciences and quantified arguments, and it was a real earthquake within conservatism, including Macronism, which thought that democracy had been achieved and that we were in the best of all possible worlds.

And what do you think of the Strasbourg School?

Aurélien Bellanger: I don’t know, I tend to think that the Frankfurt School isn’t dead and that we still find solid weapons there. But we must say that universities have been beaten down by various governments in recent decades. However, I remain optimistic; once we know this, we can organize ourselves for battle.

Yes, but in your novel, you don’t seem to believe it since you announce The Last Days of the Socialist Party ?

Aurélien Bellanger: No, because the left I describe is no longer a left.

So, if I follow you, the New Right, by reappropriating Gramsci, offers us a right-wing Marxism on one side, while the left offers us a Bainvillism or a Maistreanism on the left?

Aurélien Bellanger: Indeed, you’re right, because the linchpin of this undermining work is obsessed with Maurras‘ thought. The key is there, because behind this program around neo-secularism, there’s a question of racism, but not a low-level racism like the RN. In fact, in the Republican Spring, there are Arabs, it’s even more serious than that, it’s supremacism, a belief in the inherent superiority of Western culture over others. This makes them the proponents of a historical left, the left of colonization, the grandchildren of Jules Ferry crossed with Charles Maurras.

A genealogy from Jules Ferry to Pierre Laval.

Aurélien Bellanger: Exactly, and what’s interesting is that the mother of all battles in the past ten years is those who explain to you that the concept of Islamophobia is improper and that the only residual racists left are anti-racist activists. There’s such a perversion that the book stems from anger against this.

But at the same time, the Republican Spring is dead.

Aurélien Bellanger: As a political force, yes. It was the bad demon of the annus horribilis of the 2015 attacks, but they maneuvered and had two prime ministers: Valls and Attal, who want more order, blind to the question of work. The only relevant question for work, the horizon, is its abolition, the horizon is its reduction. Anyone who wants to valorize work as a value is right-wing. Work is the linchpin of all alienation in any coherent Marxist theory.

But aren’t the people you target precisely the enemies of Valls and Attal, those you call right-wing anarchists pretending to be left-wing like Juan Branco or Aude Lancelin?

Aurélien Bellanger: They’re Orwellians, a left giving leftist lessons to those who are no longer leftist, even though they themselves are no longer leftist. They’re leftist terrorists.

The one who is both left and right and talks a lot about philosophy is Paul-Marie Couteaux.

Aurélien Bellanger: Or Julien Dray, who wants to take over Marianne. PMC, I saw him in a lunar video. Mélenchon had the good idea of renouncing the concept of populism after 2017. But for me, LFI is not the far-right; it’s a social democrat.

And antisemitism?

Aurélien Bellanger: Similarly, it’s the racialized who should define what racism is. If the Jews of France feel there is antisemitism, then there is antisemitism, end of discussion. Conversely, Islamophobia is rampant on CNews, and antisemitism has become a distraction that tainted the first two weeks of the campaign. I’m surprised people complained about Palestinian flags at the République since the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza is the most urgent issue right now. We must neither be anti-Semitic nor massacre the population of Gaza. These two ideas are quite compatible, in my opinion.

At this level, do you align with La Fabrique, Eric Hazan, etc.?

Aurélien Bellanger: I have no sympathy for the indigenists who exhumed the old tool of de-colonialism against Zionism, which complicates the issue. Israel is the last European people without a nation-state. And who authorized its emergence? England, imposing its colonial domination over the Middle East. It was just the tool in vogue at the time.

But didn’t this movement originate in the pages of Nouvel Obs, with Jean Daniel, Maurice Clavel, André Gorz, and then the New Philosophers? Do we really want to see them reappear?

Aurélien Bellanger: We should look at Sartre, a great friend of Israel and a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause; it was possible. But what has been lost is the concept of universalism, and that’s a good loss.

Do you believe in Bardella’s victory?

Aurélien Bellanger: Everything is in the slimy hands of Macronists.

But if he is elected, your book will become somewhat prophetic.

Aurélien Bellanger: No, because my book ends in 2022.

As you said, there is no culture on the right; it’s faith against logos…

Aurélien Bellanger: Violence against logos…

And despite this, what underpins Bardella’s ideology?

Aurélien Bellanger: Racism. We see with the alliance with Ciotti how quickly the RN’s social program collapsed within 24 hours. The social racism experienced by the white population instantly gives way to traditional racism.

 

About the Author
Alexandre Gilbert is the director of the Chappe gallery.