Is That a Far Right Wing Organic Cucumber?
Just when you thought you were doing the right thing food-wise by only buying in- season and backing local organic farmers, up pops an alarmist with a warning that in some cases ‘bio’ is a far-right Franco-German plot.
Damien Dubuc writing in the French version of Slate magazine has been digging around the organic farming world and the right-wing-osphere and claims to have found some interesting and unorthodox links.
In the summer of 2011, he writes, residents of Thorey-en-Plaine, Côte-d’Or, learnt about the “Cercle grevelon” through Dijonscope, the local online newspaper, which described it as an organic farm or “Amap” (AMAP Association pour le Maintien de l’Agriculture Paysanne ) shorthand for a network of local farmers selling direct to the public.
Cercle’s treasurer Mathieu Bouchard was said to be a member of the Bloc identitaire – a far-right wing French nationalist political group founded in 2003 and whose motto is “help our own before helping others” (the Bloc Identitaire or BI aims to be a “rally for young Frenchmen and Europeans who are proud of their roots and of their heritage” and opposes miscegenation and “imperialism, whether it be American or Islamic”). Mathieu Bouchard’s response when asked was : “I do not see how politics comes into the selling of fruit and vegetables grown by small local farmers,” describing the reporter’s line of questioning as “murky”. The BI website also dismissed as scaremongering, online reports carrying headlines such as “greenwashing by Front National”.
Damien Dubuc apparently inspired however by the German component of this assumed axis of organic vegetable politics, was not that easily sidetracked.
“No need to call in Hercule Poirot,”he wrote, “to find sites influenced by the radical right that also show traces of entryism,” offering by way of example a quick visit to Le Mouvement d’action sociale, the Social Action Movement, a website he described as “inspired by fascism” and which has among its aims: ” preserving our environment, the wealth of our regions and terroirs, promoting organic ecology and a return of land to its sacred functions, supporting the micro-credit movement, mutual self-help societies, the AMAP, and local exchange systems”.
The writer then goes on to quote Jean-Yves Camus, an academic researcher and specialist in rightwing movements in Europe, who in a Charlie Hebdo article published March 2011 wrote: “In À Réfléchir et Agir – a ‘pagan and racialist’ BI journal proposing a united white Europe extending from Brest to Vladivostok, one important debate centres on ‘the relative merits of urban life versus the return to rural roots.’ ” Camus goes on to note: “Several emerging initiatives, which combine support for collective life projects rooted in turn in rejection of the consumer society and ecology, are emerging. Networks encouraging direct purchase of organic products have been set up including: Coopérative Parisienne; Terroirs et Productions de France; Ferme de Saumane; Terres Arvernes all with links to the BI”. (BI also runs a pan European news agency Novopress supplying “news ignored” by the mainstream media).
The writer alleges that BI-linked coops in Brittany associate themselves, without formal permission, with leftwing or mainstream ecology and organic movements linking to them or republishing reports and other information. By way of example Camus mentions L’association Terre et Peuple publishing a Greenpeace petition against GM foods or GMOs and Ti Breizh, a Breton BI organisation in Guerlesquin (Finistère) which since 2009 has campaigned for a return to rural living and linked to organic farmers on the AMAP website which have nothing to do with the BI and indeed in some case are openly leftwing.
Camus calls this “rightwing poaching” of the popularity of leftwing causes such as organic farms and local farmer networks – the tactics indeed of the cuckoo (which of course specialises in occupying other birds nests).
“These attempts at going back to basics , to society’s roots, have been around since the 1980s. While they remain marginal, especially as the ideas are not fully followed within the Front National, they are gaining consistency with the BI movement which employs a highly structured discourse, and especially since the localism theme is now popular in the media. The ideas have a long intellectual tradition dating back to the 1920s, but their political use today is tactical to the extent that they are now increasingly more popular and listened to by young people”.
“The BI movement – which defends a so-called ‘European civilization’ and a form of regionalism — has captured ideas such as a return to the roots of the society, defence of terroir, which they rename ‘natural communities’ as major aspects of their political programme. At its 2008 convention the BI for instance tabled a full debate on ecology”, says Jean-Yves Camus.
Arnaud Gouillon, BI candidate in the 2012 presidential election, campaigned on a platform of localism but to cut short any accusations of racism, stressed his respect for identities — all identities — on one condition: que chacun s’occupe de ses oignons. Chez soi or that all should mind their own business and in their own place.
His campaign, writes Damien Dubuc, was “finely tuned to appeal to environmental aspirations without deviating from the underlying hardline movement message. For behind support for local particularity lies the fear of being ‘swamped’ by Muslim immigration. The rejection of intensive agriculture masks a fantasy vision of nature and a radical rejection of modernity in other words all the old appeals of the extreme right but now repackaged under the green or eco label”.
Damien Dubuc’s report goes on to ask: “Are we in France and Germany witnessing an OPA- Offre Publique D’achat or formal takeover bid on hot topics and highly fashionable environmental causes? Is the BI movement (and its German equivalents) treading the same path as leftwing environmentalists and the anti-globalization warriors as a way of cashing in on popular concerns?” No he concludes “that would be too simple”.
For as Stéphane François, a specialist in the radical right and an associate researcher at CNRS says: “Overall, environmentalists say they are leftwing, although their values are clearly conservative, so therefore rightwing. These conservative frames of reference have given rise to a current of political ecology some have described as ‘reactionary’, covering a spectrum ranging from the political right to the extreme right and whose influence is growing in anti-globalization circles “.
This is a political hot potato that he has examined in his latest book on the subject: L’Écologie politique. Une vision du monde réactionnaire? (Political Ecology. A reactionary worldview?). In this book the author points out that the German Greens were influenced from the outset by the conservative ideas of the New Right with a throwback to the medieval guilds — compagnonnages — and an admixture of ideas taken from diverse sources such as The Ecologist published by Edward Goldsmith, Elements, the magazine of the New Right, and Lawrence Ozon’s “The Use of Forests”.
Thus adds Damien Dubuc, while for hundreds of years, groups on the reactionary right have ploughed the fertile furrows of terroir, localism and ecology — themes today that bear the imprint of the Left — the soft-pedalled diffusion of far right ideas is a more recent phenomenon and one where effectively the technique of ‘de-demonization’ has proved highly effective .
German specialists he says, note how radical militants in that country have become involved in back to basics, return to the land, community and communal life causes.
According to a representative of the Centre for Democratic Culture, in Mecklenburg, who declined to be identified: “They want that people don’t think about politics when they hear the word NPD (the extreme right National Democratic Party of Germany). They want as far as possible to build subtle bridges into the lives of other citizens … ecological topics are becoming increasingly important for rightwing extremists,” Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.
In September 2010 the regional government of the Mecklenburg-Pomerania Land passed a law requiring anyone opening a child care centre or nursery to commit to the democratic constitution of Germany. The aim it said, was to prevent neo-Nazis establishing kindergartens to influence children or from being recruited as teachers in kindergartens and nursery schools, a phenomenon that has been growing in recent years.
Back in France Olivier Bonnet told Slate: ”Supporting a moribund system is a poor tactical choice. Better in my opinion is to create constructive alternatives preparing the future with people who are aware of the situation”. Bonnet is a spokesman for Des Racines et des Elfes (Roots and Elves) a movement committed to a society of ” free, proud Europeans rooted in solidarity “- and which runs the Desouchière project, set up in 2008. Desouchière according to Jean-Yves Camus is an attempt “to establish a communitarian environment inhabited by those who are 100% Gauls”.
As for the German component of this Franco German alliance Damien Dubuc highlights a recent report in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“Welcome to the Lower Bavaria farm of Hans-Gunter Laimer, a farmer dressed in green trousers and a plaid shirt. When Laimer organizes an open house at his farm, there is a group of flute players, a storyteller and a flea market for the children , an organic paradise.” But according to Süddeutsche Zeitung the farmer was also a candidate in local elections on a ticket for the NDP which has seats in some of the regional parliaments. Responding to a reporter’s questions about his farming politics he says: “So what do my pickles have that makes them any different from those of the Greens?”.
According to Süddeutsche Zeitung Hans-Gunter Laimer also serves on the board of the Midgard association, which publishes Umwelt & Aktiv, a small magazine devoted to organic agriculture. Apparently no big deal it carries articles dealing with biofuels and GMOs and offers sensible advice for vegetable gardeners. But turn over a few pages and one comes across a jumble of esoteric Germanic myths and pagan rites.
In Der Spiegel, Christian Pfaffinger reviews the 3/2011 issue of Umwelt & Aktiv: “Under the heading of “Homeland Security,” one finds a discussion about how German people die out “biologically and mentally” (‘biologisch und geistig’) when they “breed with people of other ethnic origins.” Members of the NPD populate the magazine’s editorial staff and are among its writers; its first issue in 2007 quotes directly from the NPD’s environmental program; its ads include some for the NPD publisher Deutsche Stimme (German Voice), such as a publication entitled “Rasse, Evolution und Verhalten – Eine Theorie der Entwicklungsgeschichte” (Race, Evolution and Behavior – A theory of evolution).
Umwelt & Aktiv, says Süddeutsche Zeitung, is considered by Germany’s Department of Homeland Security to be “camouflaged propaganda for the NDP “.
The researcher Jean-Yves Camus classifies Umwelt & Aktiv as part of the mouvance völkisch or ethnic movement whose thinkers in an intellectual current dating from the late 19th century, defend the purity of “race” under penalty of its disappearance. “In this line of thinking inevitably, the German peasant, preserved from modernity, becomes the example to follow”, adds Camus.
Story: Ken Pottinger
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