Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poitiers: Ville Fleury

A rather strange story is developing in Poitiers. Benoît Fleury, a 31-yr-old law student, finished first in the agrégation in history of law. Under French university rules, this entitles him to choose the faculty in which he wishes to teach, and he chose the University of Poitiers. But the university is up in arms and has made it known that it does not want him.

Why? Because M. Fleury has an interesting past. From 1995 to 2000 (when he was 18 to 23) he headed an extreme right-wing student group known as Groupe Union Défense. This group has a long history of violent activities and racist and xenophobic statements going back to 1968. In 1999 Fleury gave an interview to the magazine Echo des savanes in which he said:

  • Q : Quels sont vos maîtres à penser ?

R . Le premier, c’est Léon Degrelle (inventeur du rexisme, le national-socialisme version belge, chef de la division wallone durant la guerre, ndlr Des gens comme Nasser, Saddam Hussein, on s’en sent assez proche.

  • Q : Votre slogan favori, "A paris comme à Gaza, intifada ", ça veut dire quoi ?

R : C’est pour désigner l’ennemi, et l’ennemi aujourd’hui en France, c’est le même qu’en Palestine. On est contre l’occupation sioniste, avec un côté antisémite qu’il faut appliquer partout où les juifs peuvent être présents.

  • Q : Vous n’avez pas toujours été antisionistes et pro-arabes...

Avant, l’ennemi des nationalistes, c’était le Rouge. On considérait qu’Israël était une base du Moyen Orient contre l’ennemi rouge. Il y’avait même des juifs qui travaillaient avec le GUD ou Occident.

  • Q : Aujourd’hui, vous soutenez l’Islam et le Hamas...

On se retrouve dans les valeurs de la famille et de la tradition chères à l’Islam. Ce qui est paradoxal, c’est que l’Islam peut à la fois être un allié et un ennemi. Autant la Syrie et l’Irak sont des régimes nationalistes laïques et on les soutient, autant, l’Islam peut être un danger pour la civilisation européenne. Pour le Hamas, c’est le coté combat identitaire qui nous plaît.


Nevertheless, the jurist Philippe Bilger condemns the Poitiers protest in no uncertain terms: rules are rules, he says, in a preciously polished essay that makes a virtue of scrupulous avoidance of any mention of Fleury's past:


Je n'ai pas voulu écrire la phrase qu'on attendait de moi. Pour mon argumentation, j'ai refusé d'évoquer Benoît Fleury, le GUD, l'extrême-droite en les condamnant. Cette solution de facilité, auprès de certains, aurait donné plus de prix à ma dénonciation. A mon sens, c'est le contraire. Abriter le droit, la liberté d'expression sous la morale, c'est les démonétiser, violer leur essence. Ma position n'aurait pas varié d'un pouce si, par extraordinaire, une telle affaire avait concerné un ancien militant de l'extrême-gauche violente. Je préfère le roc des principes aux fluctuations des affinités dans ce domaine fondamental pour la démocratie.

Le roc des principes is of course a fine promontory on which to stand, far above the streets in which the younger Fleury fought his brawls and incurred a prison sentence of 3 months for assaulting other extremist students. At some point, however, his casier judiciaire was wiped clean; otherwise he would not have been permitted to sit for the agrégation.


The history of the GUD is an interesting one. Its former members include at least two men who are prominent political figures today: Claude Goasguen and Gérard Longuet. Of course its political trajectory over the years, like that of many radical student political organizations, by no means followed a straight line.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is worth mentioning that Patrick Devedjian and Didier Shuller were members of the group Occident, whose ban was followed by the creation of the GUD. If I may add, the "Pasqua boys" such as Devedjian, Shuller, Balkany, Sarkozy and others, their very specific social and intellectual background, as well as the way they took over the Hauts-de-Seine is in itself a fascinating subject.

Unknown said...

Christine,
Can you tell us more about the takeover of the Hauts-de-Seine? I don't know this story.

MYOS said...

I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that Mr. Hortefeux and Mr. Madelin also were members of Occident/GUD.
Due to violence, GUD was made illegal, and transformed itself into another group.
I believe that their latest coup was to liberally apply baseball bats and steel rods onto teachers and students from an alternative public school called lycee autogérée, about a year ago.

Unknown said...

I'm not au courant with the latest transformations and excesses of the extreme right. I would add one note of caution, however. One has to be careful about guilt by association and "youthful indiscretions." It's been a long time since I could be accused of youthful indiscretion, and fortunately I didn't make my career in politics, but there was a time when I knew people who knew people who did things that wouldn't be so easy to defend in a new day and age. Remember the case of Joschka Fischer, who made a pretty decent foreign minister, I thought, despite a past he probably didn't regret as much as some would have liked. As a sage friend of mine once observed, "Remember, Arthur, people do change." I try to remember, though I would like to see some evidence that Benoît Fleury has changed and that he recognizes why some people would think it imperative that he atone publicly for his past.

HemelExpat said...

Is there any clarification on how and why Fleury's casier judiciaire was "wiped clean"? He was a legal adult when he committed the crimes, and politically motivated assault doesn't seem like the kind of "youthful indiscretion" that the French legal system would excuse too easily. The general idea behind removing certain rights from people convicted of serious crimes is that they have effectively opted out of the rules of French political life, and thus are no longer entitled to all of its privileges. The University is apparently in error in refusing him, but it seems that they have been forced into this distasteful situation by the failure of the judiciary to apply the penalty that was part and parcel of Fleury's sentence. No matter what views motivated him - and the university's focus on the content of those views is both their mistake and their only option - his behavior should have disqualified him from taking the agreg, and thus from accessing the power that accompanies a faculty position.

Tom Holzman said...

This discussion takes me back to the year I spent at Science Po in 1970-71. One of the assistants in my Conférence de Méthode was a woman who belonged to the GUD. I once heard her remark how proud she was that her father had been a member of the LVF during World War II (Légion de Volontaires Français Contre le Bolchévisme), the French SS fighters that fought alongside the German SS in the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

Im a not sure if there is any book about the story of the Pasqua clan and the Hauts-de-Seine, but I guess the book "Le clan du Président" that was published recently gives some good insight in the question (I haven't read it, only the review by bakchich). To make it short (and as far as I heard of course), Pasqua managed to build up in the Hauts-de-Seine his own clan, mainly by "recruiting" people that had in common at that time to be young, very ambitious, and "outsiders" to the local political "baronnie"(either sons of immigrants or from Corsica like Pasqua). Some of them came from right-extreme movements before joining the RPR. It is still a mistery how certain of these men got locally elected for so long, despite the rumors (trafics d'armes, doing the dirty work for the RPR, etc...)surrounding Pasqua, as well as the accusations of corruption and/or nepotism that have been poisening the whole Pasqua clan since 20 years. Balkany finally got condemned, but was reelected as a mayor soon after.

Anonymous said...

Hi! The "people do change" anecdote was very interesting. Could you -or would you be at liberty to- expand on the context of that great story? One often thinks one may hear words of wisdom but so many of them seem so trite; however, for some uncanny reason, your story really struck a cord. I would love to hear more about it. If you are comfortable with offering more details, I would love to hear about it. Regards, Your New Keen-to-Read-your-Blog Fanatique of the Past Month :)

Unknown said...

Anonymous,
Sorry, the "people do change" story would take too long to tell.

Anonymous said...

Too long, is it that we and/or the story are not worthy of your time? I guess people do change . . .

-Sad girl

:(