Éric Zemmour on the Suicide of France
Le Suicide français
Paris: Albin Michel, 2014
I approached Éric Zemmour’s door-stopper of a book, Le Suicide français, with some trepidation. I had not always been impressed with his previous work, he is after all one of “the System’s” journalists, and Alain Soral had spoken ill of it. My fears were for the most part unfounded: This is a very worthwhile book, indeed remarkably so for one promoted by establishment media, notwithstanding its flaws, as we shall see.
Le Suicide is a chronicle of the gradual disintegration of France both as a nation and a state from the death of General Charles de Gaulle in 1970 to the present day. The culprits? The end of patriarchy, the rise of feminism, individualism, multiculturalism, globalized capitalism, European integration, and borderlessness in all spheres. Amazingly for a mainstream publication, the book explicitly highlights the contributions of Left-wing and ethnocentric Jews to this process, with full chapters on SOS Racisme’s Judeo-Trotskyite character, the tribal activism of the official Jewish lobby, Bernard-Henri Lévy’s representing “the ruling ideology for dummies” (19), and “the rise of the Shoah as the official religion of the French Republic” (383).
I was frankly very impressed that Zemmour would go so far in criticizing Jewish ethnocentrism and activism in his account, this strikes me as going far beyond your typical “neoconservative” fare. No doubt he gets away with more than others would because he is a Sephardic Jew, nonetheless, his explicit positions on Jews and Afro-Muslims remain rather risqué for a mainstream career. Indeed, he was widely attacked upon the book’s release for defending the Vichy Regime’s policy of protecting French Jews over foreign ones (citing estimates that 90% of French Jews survived the war) and was fired by i>Télé from one of his pundit jobs when comments he gave to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera were interpreted as calling for the expulsion of all Muslims.
The book benefited from substantial media coverage, with Zemmour being repeatedly invited to various talk shows. The interviewers’ questions were often hostile but, were he really beyond the pale, they would not have given him such publicity in the first place. Le Suicide sold 400,000 copies between October and December 2014.
Le Suicide is rather similar in its fears and presentation to Thilo Sarrazin’s Deutschland schafft sich ab, which also examines the slow suicide of a great European nation. Deutschland is the work of an erudite German professor who, with all the dry rigor of a post-Prussian central banker familiar with Anglo-American studies of human biodiversity, steadily makes his case with a barrage of socio-economic data. Le Suicide in contrast is the latest polemic of a conservative journalist-turned-pundit, a professional provocateur (Zemmour has been called a “troll” more than once), each chapter presenting a colorful vignette of a key cultural, economic, social, political, or even sports moment in France’s decline. Zemmour’s work has the great merit of taking a holistic approach to national decline, exploring the complex mix of underlying causes and how they into the wider world and individual experience. In doing this, he draws from an impressive array of mainstream and alternative sources (mostly French, naturellement, but also a few Anglophones and Europeans). Though he does not cite Soral, many of Zemmour’s points on feminism and Balkanization are very close (the two men apparently correspond regularly).
The book is of course not perfect. Zemmour is constantly using various rhetorical devices to exaggerate for effect: flowery metaphors, superficial analogies, pseudo-paradoxes. While certainly evocative in a single chapter – and perhaps more suited to the brevity of an op-ed or the spectacle of radio or television, where he excels – the repetitive use of such wordplay grows tiresome over time; especially in a 527-page book. His rhetorical prowess is certainly impressive on occasion, as when he describes the Green movement:
Environmental politics would become this curious far-left movement which only speaks to the urban petty bourgeois; despising globalization and hating borders; advocates of local productions but with foreigners freely arriving from the entire world; defenders of the precautionary principle for nature (nuclear, GMOs, shale gas) but not for man (gay marriage, adoption by gay couples), nor for the nation (massive immigration, the right to vote and even of candidature for foreigners) [. . .]. (79-80)
Zemmour presents the most controversial points in indirect ways, using conditional or speculative qualifiers, or putting them in the mouths of others, especially concerning Jewish power (François Mitterrand and Jean-Marie Le Pen said there was a “Jewish lobby,” Muslims are anti-Semitic, Richelieu and De Gaulle were opposed to any “State within the State,”  etc.). This is a well-advised technique of plausible deniability. Soral has called Zemmour “a wily right-winger,” no doubt Savitri Devi would have classed him among the “clever Levantines.”
The book was often promoted by the media alongside Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, and indeed the two works share a number of themes, namely the negative effects of individualism, sexual liberation, and Jewish influence upon French society. The main difference is in the treatment of Islam: Whereas Houellebecq sees still-patriarchal Muslims as an opportunity to re-inject the French with values of Tradition, for Zemmour Islamization is an exclusively negative phenomenon.
Zemmour advocates, in effect, a return to the virtues of the Gaullist era, with a patriarchal, sovereign, non-aligned, state capitalist France without immigration; a defensible position, not dissimilar to that of a Patrick Buchanan in America. But how does one get from here to there? He knows full well the clock cannot and should not be turned back (we’d just end up back where we are).
Here the book itself is rather silent. Indeed, too often Zemmour excessively idealizes the past or paints an unduly dark picture of the present. The trends are bad, of course, but everything has a silver lining. When Zemmour presents a purely negative picture of the Internet (218), because of its encouraging atomization and creating massive transnational IT giants, the points are well-taken, but it seems to me the net effect remains enormously positive in economic, cultural, and even social terms (such as enabling self-employment).
Zemmour then provides no explicit way out. He is asking a question, presenting a diagnostic. But I believe, similarly to Houellebecq, certain conclusions can be drawn from Le Suicide as a publishing event and Éric Zemmour as a political actor, which I think may also help to explain why a Sephardic Jew has become mainstream France’s leading advocate of “nationalism,” and why the media are promoting his particular brand of it.
Who is Éric Zemmour?
Zemmour’s biography helps to explain his personal positions and his place in the French politico-media system. He was born in 1958 in the Parisian département of Seine-Saint-Denis to North African Jewish immigrants fleeing the Algerian War. His forefathers, along with 35,000 other Algerian Jews, were given full French citizenship in 1870 with the Crémieux Decree. Seine-Saint-Denis has since become the most thoroughly Afro-Islamized département in the country, with considerable associated poverty and criminality.
While Zemmour’s father was an ambulance technician, the son studied at Sciences Po Paris, an elite grande école, and became a journalist for various media. He would go on to work as a political reporter for the conservative Figaro newspaper and a radio and TV pundit, where he would be (in)famous for his politically incorrect tirades (“most drug dealers are Black or Arab,” “If there were no races, there would also be no métissage [race-mixing]”).
Today Zemmour co-hosts a talk show on regional TV station Paris Première, has a morning op-ed on RTL radio, and a column for Figaro Magazine. He is now the most famous and influential nationalist voice allowed on French television, all but calling to vote for the Front National (although he has always been coy on this, claiming to not remember who he voted for in the 2012 presidential elections, the “democratic” French regime has yet to allow a single French pundit openly back the FN and still work in mainstream media, a party representing 10-25% of the vote). No doubt the diversity of his jobs, along with his book sales, provide him with some economic leeway to be more politically incorrect than most.
Zemmour is then a typical example of Jewish upward social mobility in post-Enlightenment, meritocratic Western societies, once secularization had made the Jewish/Christian divide apparently less salient. He and his family owe everything, from its being granted French citizenship in majority-Muslim Algeria, to the French Republic and nation. Zemmour seems to ask: Was France not the first nation to emancipate the Jews during the French Revolution? Did not Napoleon’s code civile not free all Jews from their ghettos wherever the French armies triumphed? Today, Paris is ringed by sullen, impoverished, crime-prone Afro-Islamic neighborhoods, and in particular his birthplace of Seine-Saint-Denis. The same people who, sixty years ago, a blink of an eye historically, kicked his parents out of Algeria, along with 1 million European settlers. Le Suicide is dedicated “to my father.”
As I have suggested elsewhere, I believe Zemmour wants to save France for the same reasons Ron Unz wants to save America: because the end of Western civilization would be a tragedy for all, including the Jews. His audience is as much France’s elites, Jewish and indigenous, as the general public, pleading: Why destroy France, where else have we been allowed to prosper so? Are we not “as happy as God in France”? Do you really want to put French Jewry at the mercy of an Afro-Islamic majority, with Jewish children already bullied in some neighborhoods and Jews being periodically murdered by Muslim chavs-turned-jihadis?
The fact that Zemmour has been promoted by the politico-media system shows, I believe, that there is genuine intra-elite debate in France on whether the French Republic and nation should be preserved or whether the current program of slow by steady abolition should be pursued to its logical conclusion. He is the symbol of a possible change of course in the regime. Concretely, this would pass by the reconciliation of the ruling establishment with the Front National, which might then come to power alone or as part of a coalition, an action which would be useful insofar as it restored French politico-economic sovereignty, halted and then reversed migratory flows, and reinstituted freedom of speech on ethnic and historical questions. Such gains would no doubt be helpful in the demographic and cultural struggle, and gradual reconquest of our sovereignty and cohesion; were the FN to achieve power without them, this would be a sign of selling out to the regime.
This strategy will no doubt strike many as too conservative or indeed foolhardy. Zemmour does not really explain how the forces of disintegration which destroyed his beloved 1960s France can be overcome, saying: “This enlightened conservatism was no doubt too subtle to resist the destructive folly of the age” (113). No doubt far more radical thinking and novel action will be eventually required.
Zemmour on Jews
Jews are an enormous presence in Le Suicide – between the dedicated chapters and references under other headings, perhaps 100 pages deal with the community’s members and organizations. This is suggestive of the enormous presence of Jews among France’s cultural, economic, legal, and political elites.
Zemmour wants French Jews to return to the republican pact, to become what he calls “Israelites,” what Winston Churchill called “national Jews.” He quotes the Count of Clermont-Tonnerre’s argument for Jewish emancipation before the Constituent Assembly in 1789:
We must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation and accord everything to the Jews as individuals; they must form neither a political body nor an order within the State; they must individually be citizens. But, I will be told, they do not want to be citizens. Well then! If they do not want to be citizens, let them say it, let us banish them. It is loathsome that there be within the State a society of non-citizens and a nation within the nation. (259)
This meritocratic promise is why Zemmour is so infatuated with republican and even Napoleonic France: Had the French Republic or the French Empire been stronger, there would have been no Third Reich and no persecution of the Jews of Europe. Zemmour accuses organized Jewry – notably the CRIF – of betraying this promise. In his words they have “murdered Napoleon” and repeatedly refers to them as a “State within the State.”
Zemmour repeatedly describes left-wing Jewish agitation against the native French:
In the 1970s, the hatred of France was reinforced with a hatred of the French [. . .]. In this politico-historical context – [Robert] Paxton’s work [on Vichy], The Sorrow and the Pity, Night and Fog, etc. – inglorious memories return, of the war, of collaboration, of the extermination of the Jews. The youth, which did not experience the Occupation, ignorantly condemned the behavior of their fathers, guilty at once of having lost the war, collaborated, and handed over Jews. The leaders of leftist micro-groups [groupuscules] were mostly Jews, sons of those Ashkenazis who had been chased out, or handed over to the Germans, because they were not French citizens. [. . .]
But this youth – more imbued with Judeo-Christianity than they would care to admit – cannot mourn the loss of all millenialism, nor of all salvatory religion. The immigrant would be their new Christ, their new chosen people. His suffering would be that of the Jewish people; his oppressor – the French people of course – would be identified together in an implacable curse. (150)
He condemns left-wing Jews’ scapegoating of nationalists for various events, such as when a pro-Palestinian Arab bombed the Copernic Street synagogue in 1980:
Movements of young “anti-fascist and anti-racist” Jews hurried to demonstrate in the streets of the capital; others pillaged the Parisian head office of the European Nationalist Fasces, or fought with “neo-nazis” [. . .]; gunfire was shot against the Œuvre française office [. . .]. (183)
Zemmour’s account is not ideal. He recognizes the issue of dual loyalty while seeming to suggest Western Jews have no agency in the matter, citing “the effective action of the Israeli State’s PR, which had closely associated the Jewish communities of the entire world – and particularly those of the United States and France – to its destiny” (186). He wants to save our “civilization, Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian” (523). He curiously described contemporary “French self-hatred” as modeled on nineteenth-century Jewish self-hatred (506). He describes the tensions between native French and African immigrants as a return of “the ancient conflict which we had thought long past between nomads and sedentaries,” a very strange choice of words, since after all those immigrants are generally looking to permanently settle (211).
Zemmour’s narrative on the relationship between post-revolutionary France and Jews is not entirely persuasive, but has a significant degree of truth. He recognizes that the nineteenth century Universal Israelite Alliance engaged in a “parallel diplomacy,” seeking to influence the French state in the sole interests of foreign Jewish communities. Zemmour appears to consider this a legitimate anti-Semitic grievance. Many French Jews did sincerely uphold French republicanism and some even died for it, like Marc Bloch. Jewish ethnocentrism has clearly become more overt and explicit since the 1960s.
Zemmour is then the strange successor to that other Jewish intellectual associated with France’s conservative establishment, Raymond Aron, though they radically differ in style. The ever-hyperbolic and metaphorical Zemmour fears, as Aron did towards the end of his life 30 years ago, that the rise in explicit Jewish ethnocentrism, in particular since the 1967 Six Day War, will have adverse consequences. While the measured, conciliatory Aron was pessimistic on immigration and European decadence, Zemmour wants immigration ended and multiculturalism abolished, decadence arrested.
But there is the same problem with Zemmour’s civic nationalism as with Aron’s or Soral’s: It only works in good times and is inherently unstable, just waiting to fall into debilitating contradictions or outright collapse as soon as any group’s ethnocentrism rises, causing other groups’ ethnocentrism to rise in retaliation and the usual escalation through mimetic rivalry. When the mass of society is ethnically divided, this leads to bloody partition. When a minority ethnic group is influential at the top of society, this leads a country’s elites to be hostile to majority-group ethnocentrism and supportive of the minority group’s (e.g. Israel). A multiethnic country is an accident waiting to happen.
1. The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF).
2. Given Lévy’s notorious ethnocentrism and Francophobia, this is in effect admitting that France is dominated by a MacDonaldian culture of critique. Kevin B. MacDonald, The Culture of Critique (First Books, 2002). Zemmour summarizes Lévy’s thesis thus: “Love of France is therefore the extermination of the Jews” (193) and accuses him of “alternating between pacifism on French TV shows, and nationalist pride in Jerusalem” (195).
3. Indeed, I thought some of these texts were so noteworthy they merited translation into English. Éric Zemmour, “The Rise of the Shoah as the Official Religion of the French Republic,” The Occidental Observer, May 12, 2015 http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2015/05/eric-zemmour-the-rise-of-the-shoah-as-the-official-religion-of-the-french-republic/ Zemmour, “SOS Racisme: A Case Study in Anti-Nationalist Jewish Activism,” The Occidental Observer, May 14, 2014. http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2015/05/eric-zemmour-sos-racisme-a-case-study-in-anti-nationalist-jewish-activism/
4. Although, admittedly, I may not be in a good position to compare, as I have always been repulsed by, and rarely expose myself to, such brain poison.
5. The following extracts from Zemmour’s conclusion give a sense of his style and argument:
De Gaulle failed. Forty years after his death, his masterpiece is in ruins. [. . .]
For the most part our elites have abdicated. Our political elites have abandoned national sovereignty and independence in the name of the great European project. Our economic elites betray the interests of France in the name of globalization and a necessary internationalization. Over half the companies of the French stock exchange are owned by foreign funds. Industrial France no longer belongs to France. The French stock exchange has not welcomed new companies for 20 years. Bosses are leaving the Hexagon [metropolitan France], following or preceding their children who are studying in London, New York, Montreal, Los Angeles, establishing their companies in England, the Netherlands, America, Singapore or Shanghai, as though their future growth only depended on emerging countries, as though their past growth owed nothing to the dear old country.
Our media elites justify and exalt this great abdication, admonish and track down rare dissenters, and unleash a continuous flow of guilt-inducing moralism upon the public mind.
Their common objective is to bind France to the Western ensemble which will unite against the new threat from the East, in particular China. The transatlantic free trade agreement [TAFTA] has as its goal, in the words of the American negotiators, to build “an economic NATO.” This agreement would subject the European economy to U.S. health, technical, environmental, legal, and cultural norms; this would definitively spell the end of a coherent and independent Europe. (517-519)
He goes on:
For them [French elites], the cultural coherence which our people had been able to preserve, despite significant immigration in the nineteenth century, is suspect [. . .]. The future of our dear Hexagon lies between a vast touristic amusement park and Islamic fortresses, between Disneyland and Kosovo. The State is no more than an empty shell which has conserved only the worst Gaullian particularities (elite arrogance), without having the remarkable effectiveness. We would need the firm hand of a Colbert or a Pompidou for our lost industries to be reborn from their ashes. We would need an implacable Richelieu to relentlessly fight “the State within the State” [a thinly-veiled to organized Jewry, among others] and the “foreigners’ parties” [partis de l’étranger, serving foreign power, rather than immigrants] to destroy the “Islamic La Rochelles” which are being built on our territory; but we give way to the internal enemy which we have allowed to prosper, and we ally with foreign powers who feed it with their subsidies and religious propaganda – the Gulf Arab princes have replaced the Duke of Buckingham [. . .].
The anti-racist and multiculturalist ideology of globalization will be to the twenty-first century what nationalism was to the nineteenth and totalitarianism was to the twentieth: a warmongering messianic progressivism; we will have transferred war between nations to war within nations [. . .]
It’s the entire Occident which is suffering this gigantic movement of peoples, losing bearings, identities and certainties. [. . .]
France is dying, France is dead.
Our political, economic, administrative, media, intellectual, and artistic elites are spitting on her grave and trampling on her festering corpse. They draw social and financial gratification from this. All watch, with sarcasm and feigned emotion, the France that is being felled; and write with a bored and disdainful air, “the last pages of the history of France.” (525-7)
This or similar expressions were used by presidents Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand. Zemmour quotes De Gaulle after he (temporarily) lost power in 1946: “French decadence began in the middle of the eighteenth century. Since, there have only been occasional resurgences. The last was in 1914. Me, I bluffed, and by bluffing I was able to write the last pages of the history of France.” (24) The journalist Georges-Marc Benhamou reported Mitterrand saying: “I am the last of the great presidents . . . Well, I mean the last in De Gaulle’s tradition. After me, there will not be any more in France . . . Because of Europe . . . Because of globalization.” Georges-Marc Benhamou, Le dernier Mitterrand (Plon: 1996), 145-6.
6. “France is the sick man of Europe” (9, who isn’t sick in Europe?), Europeans’ settlement of America is likened to the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, the 1981 race riots of Vénissieux are termed the French Communists’ “Dien Bien Phu,” etc. Zemmour engages in hyperbolic excess to better condemn: France’s (limited) decentralization in the 1980s meant “the State was decapitated at the top after having been gnawed at from the bottom. The Gulliver inherited from Colbert, Napoleon, De Gaulle was bound, ridiculed, humiliated. Assassinated” (228). An excellent chapter on the difficult subject of European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet begins with a just slightly overdone metaphor. “He was the final sovereign of a European continent which had abolished sovereignty in the name of peace. He was at once the Emperor Charlemagne and the last head of the French State” (483).
7. Guillaume Durocher, “Houellebecq, Islam, & the Jews: A Review of Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission,” Counter-Currents, February 26, 2015. http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/02/michel-houellebecq-soumission/
8. Zemmour notes that Socialist President François Mitterrand tried briefly to restore a kind of socially progressive nation-statist dirigisme in 1981 but “the economic transformations (abolition of borders within Europe, end of the gold standard, price of oil, etc), but also the decapitation by May 68 of the hierarchical structure which was the backbone of French society, had made this Restoration [. . . ] impossible” (232).
10. Named after the Franco-Jewish Justice Minister of the day, Adolphe Crémieux, who incidentally had taken a leading role in more generally organizing Jewish lobbying worldwide, founding the Universal Israelite Alliance in 1860.
11. The argument for the preservation of France is somewhat different for native French elites and oligarchs: Are you really comfortable in a world where only English may be spoken? Are you really comfortable destroying the French Republic and putting your fate in the hands of the ineffectual, unresponsive Eurocracy? Are you and your children really going to be better off when you are reduced to a minority in an Afro-Islamic country?
12. Guillaume Durocher, “‘As Happy as God in France’: The state of French Jewish elites,” The Occidental Quarterly 14, no. 4 (Winter 2014-2015): 41-56. http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/05/as-happy-as-god-in-france-the-state-of-french-jewish-elites-part-1/
13. Other rising stars symbolizing this debate include “philosopher” Alain Finkielkraut and pundit Élisabeth Lévy, both of whom are objectively hysterical. Like Zemmour, these two have promoted a certain rehabilitation of French culture and criticism of multiculturalism. Finkielkraut once lamented that the French national football team had become “Black-black-black” (saying it in English, a play on the old multiracial slogan: “black-blanc-beur” [Black-White-Arab]). As such, he could hardly complain if we remark that these three mainstream “nationalist” voices form a “Jew-Jew-Jew” trio. Élisabeth Lévy once famously attacked a Black activist, who demanded more people of color on television, saying: “If there is aren’t enough of X, then what is there ‘too much’ of, exactly?” As it happens, if Jews in the French media were gracious enough to hand their positions to Blacks and Muslims in line with their share of population (15-20%), they would still be the most over-represented group. No other (pseudo-)nationalist pundits are allowed on French television. One would indeed find it strange if, in Israel, only Christians were allowed by the media to present an apology of “Israeli nationalism” . . .
14. À la Gianfranco Fini.
15. Zemmour peppers the book with ominous quotes, such as Claude Lévi-Strauss’ “The ultimate goal of the human sciences is not to build man, but to dissolve him” (14), Michel Foucault’s “I am creating something which ultimately is used for a siege, for a war, for a destruction” (122), and the strange “philosopher” Benny Lévy’s ideological journey “from Mao to to Moses,” ending up teaching “Levinassian studies” in Jerusalem under the patronage of Bernard-Henri Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut . . . Difficult to imagine a more blatant transition from pseudo-universalist anti-European agitation to absolute Jewish ethnocentrism.
16. Zemmour’s previous book, Mélancolie française, is a short historical overview which portrays France as a sort of failed empire, which I think is an incorrect view, the revolutionary-Napoleonic episode being an exception, as opposed to being the first and archetypical nation-state. I found Le Suicide a far better work, Zemmour I believe being much more familiar with contemporary history.
17. As an aside, Zemmour quotes a particularly perceptive De Gaulle: “In the victories of Alexander, there is Aristotle” (477). A conqueror’s political œuvre – above and beyond the cruelly ruthless pragmatism of any successful war leader – is inevitably shaped by the ruling intellectual Zeitgeist, by the intellectuals, dead or alive, who have given them their assumptions and values. While Adolf Hitler drew from the German conservative revolutionary and Anglo-American evolutionary thinkers of the day, Napoleon followed the bourgeois Enlightenment. Thus I suspect that had Napoleon defeated England and his vast, largely ethnically-naïve Empire endured, Jews would have risen to the same position of privilege there as they currently enjoy in the United States.
18. A nationalist group.
19. Guillaume Durocher, “The Jew as Citizen: Raymond Aron & Civic Nationalism,” Counter-Currents, November 5, 2014. http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/11/the-jew-as-citizen-part-1/
20. During a chance meeting, the francophone Black Nationalist Kemi Seba explained his skepticism of Soralism to me with the following example: Will Soral’s Algerian supporters “die for France” if the French Republic were to go to war with Algeria?