On May 11, delegates from Europe’s political fringes travelled to Donetsk, the occupied ‘capital’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), for a forum to mark the first anniversary of the proclamation of the Russian-backed separatist entities in Ukraine. This in itself is unsurprising since far-right politicians have been used on several occasions to lend a veneer of legitimacy to Russia’s puppet statelets and sham votes since the invasion of Crimea last year.
The attendance roster for this confab included some familiar pro-Putin faces such as French far-right Member of European Parliament Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, Italian nationalist Alessandro Musolino and German neo-Nazi journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter, who moonlights as Kremlin propaganda channel RT’s German “expert” on the Middle East. But this time there was one surprising name in the bunch: Emmanuel Leroy.
Leroy was billed as representing the French charity, Urgence d’Enfants Ukraine (UEU), led by Alain Fragny, a former member of the extreme-right Bloc Identitaire. UEU is a suspicious organization that promotes pro-Russian and pro-separatist propaganda on its websites and is rather opaque with regards to its structure and operations. Leroy was also named by the official site of the DNR leadership as one of the initiators of the forum back in March this year.
But this infamously reclusive figure on France’s far-right is a far more interesting and important figure than any of the other political outliers to have participated in pro-separatist events.
Leroy is a former member of GRECE (Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, or the Research and Study Group for European Civilization), an extreme, ethno-nationalist think tank, formed in 1968 and headed by Alain de Benoist, whose name appeared in a leaked list of potentially sympathetic contacts purportedly drafted by the Russian ultra-nationalist, Aleksandr Dugin. GRECE promotes ethnic nationalism as a bulwark against race-mixing, placing great emphasis on pre-Christian Nordic culture, which left the group at odds with the Catholic mainstream of the Front National, France’s increasingly popular far-right party, which last year won two seats in the French senate.
In 1998, Leroy, who had been a member of the FN for 25 years, backed Bruno Mégret during Mégret’s split with the party and Jean-Marie Le Pen, then FN’s notorious Holocaust-denying leader. In 2008, Leroy joined the Parti Populisite, a splinter faction formed of former members of the FN and Mégret’s Mouvement National Républicain. However, in spite of his schism with the FN and Le Pen père, Leroy is now regarded as one of the closest advisers and speech writers for none other than Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter and the forthcoming presidential candidate who has broken with her father—now suspended from the party he founded—over the direction of FN.
In 2011, Caroline Monnot and Abel Mestre wrote in Le Monde:
Marine Le Pen appropriated for herself practically all of Emmanuel Leroy’s reflections: they make up her political identity. It is the new ideological corpus of the FN. And it does not come from a moderate. In this text from 2008, the future political adviser of the president of the FN advocates “the tight and exclusive control” of telecommunications and the media, “due to their potential utilization as strategic weapons of disinformation.” He also thinks that the state should “assume the right to ban any society or foreign organization whose activities could be detrimental (in political, economic or cultural terms) for the country.” This proposition would be reprised by Mme Le Pen in 2009.
Indeed, in their 2011 book, Le Système Le Pen, Monnot and Mestre claimed that a 2009 speech, given by the FN leader in Arras, was a “true copy and paste” of Leroy’s text. Leroy’s comments on the use of media as a weapon for disinformation is certainly reminiscent of the Kremlin.
In the 2008 essay referred to above, Leroy advocates “solidarisme,” a nationalist, economically protectionist ideology derived from the traditional fascist “Third Position.” Notably, echoing the language of Aleksandr Dugin, Leroy calls for the replacement of the European Union with “a continental economy…from Brest to Vladivostok.”
In 2014, Gaïdz Minassian wrote in Le Monde that Leroy had been attempting “without much success, to establish high-level contacts between Marine Le Pen and Russian leaders, by means of his Russian wife, close to the IDC and the Russian ambassador in Paris.”
The Institute of Democracy and Cooperation (IDC) is a Paris-based, pro-Russian think tank headed by Natalia Narochnitskaya, a former Duma deputy from the nationalist Rodina party. The IDC was launched in 2008 by Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who currently represents both Viktor Yanukovych and Edward Snowden.
Leroy himself was placed in charge of communications at the Alliance France-Europe-Russie (AAFER), pro-Russian think tank headed by Fabrice Sorlin, a former FN electoral candidate. According to a 2014 article by Marine Turchi on Mediapart.fr, the AAFER seeks a “rapprochement between Europe and Russia via ‘re-information’ on the ‘reality of Russian politics.”
In 2007, Leroy was a speaker at the “White Forum,” a conference of racists held in Moscow, headlined by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Leroy’s lecture, titled “A letter to a Russian Friend,” appears in the program for the event alongside “Euro-Rus as a Positive Antibiotic against the Negative Cosmopolitan Virus” (for “cosmopolitan” read “Jews”) and “Renaissance of Pan-Aryan Thought.”
Just over three weeks before the forum in Donetsk, Leroy appeared in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave on the Baltic between Poland and Lithuania, to speak at the Berdyaev Readings, a forum for “conservative thinkers,” held in honor of the Christian-existentialist philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, who is often cited by President Putin. This was the third such forum and the first in which foreign speakers participated.
Speaking at the event, Leroy said that Russia had been the source of two great ideological “messages” for the world. First, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which saw the establishment of the Holy Alliance, the coalition of Russia, Austria and Prussia. The Holy Alliance served to repress republicanism and secularism in the aftermath of the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. Leroy proclaimed that the Holy Alliance was “the first in the history of the world to have been founded on the values of the Gospel.”
Leroy’s praise for a union based on Christian values may seem odd given past in GRECE, but outwardly presented ideological consistency is often fluid on the extreme-right. Take, for example, the British neo-Nazi ideologue and mentor to nail-bomber David Copeland, David Myatt, who shifted from neo-paganism to Islamism (changing his name to Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt) and then back again. Or take Horst Mahler, the Baader-Meinhoff member turned Neo-nazi NDP member.
In another example of ideological sublimation, Leroy declared that the second such great ideological message from Russia came in 1945 with the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. “I am not a Marxist,” he said, “but one must recognize that the Soviet Union was then an ideological beacon. Granted, it addressed the world with completely different ideas than in 1815. Nonetheless, this was an alternative on a global scale.”
Today, Leroy said, the West is awaiting a third message from Russia: “This cannot be a Holy Alliance, because there are no empires any more, nor can it be Marxism, naturally. But it could be a new, bright idea, that may withstand the totalitarian, ultra-liberal ideology.”
Leroy also gave an interview to Ridus.ru, a Russian news portal close to the separatist movement:
“I’ve been in politics for forty years now—during this time I have grown up and my beard has grown grey. I was in the Front National from almost the very beginning. Earlier, I thought that in order to build a dialogue, you had to be an anti-communist. But I then realized that the true enemy is hiding in the Anglo-Saxon world. This the enemy of every people, it flattens all the characteristics of every nation, it kills their very essence. We must fight this identity-killing influence.”
In the interview, Ridus describes him as a “former adviser to Le Pen,” in another piece, he is presented as a current adviser, but Leroy makes clear his support for the FN:
“I hope that, in the near future, Marie Le Pen will succeed in leading France and creating a dialogue the dialogue with Russia about which we are speaking. Furthermore, we need to establish a platform where Russian and French intellectuals can discuss current problems. They must not be ignored, we must speak of them publicly.”
Expressing his support for Russia’s repressive attitude towards homosexuality, Leroy said that this showed that Russia was, in fact, more liberal than Western Europe, which he claimed had fallen under the oppressive influence of the Anglo-Saxon “Big Brother.”
Leroy also stated at the Berdyaev Readings that the current conflict in Ukraine was a continuation of The Great Game against Russia. The Anglo-Saxon oligarchs who stood behind the ascent to power of the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, he insisted, are behind the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet empire. Once again, the neo-Nazis’ ideological fluidity is on display.
The Berdyaev Readings are organized by the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research (ISEPR). The ISEPR, established in 2012, is a non-profit foundation headed by Svetlana Orlova, governor of the Vladimir region and a member of the Supreme Council Bureau of Russia’s ruling United Russia party. Other board members include Aleksandr Galushka, minister for far-eastern development, Vyacheslav Lysakov, first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Contistutional Legislation and State-Building, and Stanislav Govorukhin, chairman of the Duma Culture Committee. All three of these men are leading members of Vladimir Putin’s People’s Front for Russia.
In 2013 the ISEPR was made an administrator of the presidential grant scheme, which gives out state money to NGOs and academics. Less than a year later, on Putin’s executive order, the ISEPR was designated “one of the non-profit non-governmental organizations that were entrusted with implementation of state support of NGOs that implement socially important projects and projects in the field of protections of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen.”
Leroy’s invitation to a forum hosted by an organization so tightly-bound to the Kremlin puts paid to the earlier claims that his attempts to establish high-level contacts with the Russian leadership had failed.
Indeed, with the revelation late last year that the FN had received a €9 million loan from a Russian bank linked to the Kremlin (allegedly the first instalment of €40 million), it seems that efforts by Leroy and his colleagues have been extremely successful. Meanwhile, the FN currently controls 12 mayoralties, 1,546 municipal and 459 “intercommunal” councillors, two Senate and two National Assembly seats, 23 European Parliament seats, and won 17.9% of the vote in the first round of the 2012 presidential election.
Here then, at a time when the FN holds more political power than ever before, we have the real, extreme ideological mentor of Marine Le Pen, who has ostensibly been engaged in the detoxification of the party, culminating in the current spat with her father: Emmanuel Leroy—a racist totalitarian forming political alliances with the Kremlin and their proxies in Ukraine.