Over the course of the 1950s and '60s, several groups of individuals issued from Marxist, anarchist and surrealist currents attempted to reconstitute a modern social critique upon the debris of its recent failure, upon the comprehension of the forces that had vanquished it, and upon the organization of the world that had been produced. Many people -- more particularly, young people, less dazzled than their elders by the refrigerators, TV sets, so-called popular theater or the Great Russian Revolution -- very keenly felt the repercussions of modern social organization, individual isolation, general passivity and the poverty of the lived. And this suffering rendered them particularly sensitive to the likely reasons for their strange life and attentive to any enterprise that aimed at diverting its course. Collective unease more and more sympathetically encountered the new social critique that itself was nourished by such dissatisfaction, and, in France, this convergence culminated in an explosive fashion in 1968.

The role played by the Situationist International (1958-1972) seemed, after the fact, to have been considerable. It had nevertheless been ridiculously exaggerated -- and also minimized -- by the same procedure of advertising lighting. Those who first participated in its activities had been the dissatisfied children of their time and the spokespeople for the collective dissatisfaction. They were also the inheritors of the revolutionary movement as well as the critical instruments that it had forged 150 years previously. It was in the "melee" of their epoch and the historical movement that they named, denounced and confronted the conditions of life that were shared by all. Social critique thus reemerged, through them, in history as the subject of the world and in the affirmation of its exclusive legitimacy. Social critique made itself recognized as the forgotten maternal tongue of the newly colonized people of the modern world. In the revolt of 1968, social critique had been the contrary of an admirable object and became known to people who had previously not known of its existence and its language.

One knows that, for some police officers, journalists and several others, the situationists were the principal artisans of the revolt. It was not comprehensible from their special[ized] point of view because they did not know the origins of the situationists themselves nor those of their critique. Curious individuals thus began to be drawn to what they elaborated, and proclaimed themselves to be "revolutionaries," "libertarians" and "radicals," according to the procedure enunciated a century before by Maurice Joly[1]: "speak their language . . . penetrate into their ranks . . . give them directions," etc.

In 1965, a headquarters opened in Paris under the sign The Old Mole [La Vieille Taupe], in which a team of booksellers sold old works from the workers' movement, reprinted texts by Amedeo Bordiga (for whom the genocide of the Jews perpetrated by the Nazis only resulted from the collapse of the petite bourgeoisie in the course of the accelerated concentration of capital),[2] as well as copies of the journal Internationale Situationniste. This went on for several months before it appeared to the situationists that the revolutionary pretensions of these booksellers and their [actual] associations were so incompatible that they smelled something burnt.[3]

The Old Mole, whose members had already done their schooling in diverse groups of advanced social critique in the 1950s and '60s,[4] thenceforth presented itself as an autonomous, revolutionary, radical and situationistic group, and invented for itself the confusionist label "ultra-Leftist," which [in France] had never been anything but the label of this small group.

Beyond their activity as booksellers, the members produced commentaries on critiques, showed up during May-June 1968 in diverse committees, commissions and liaison groups, and were in contact with similar groups, principally in Italy and Spain. They proclaimed themselves in perfect agreement with the revolutionary project, but without ever giving the reasons that led them to it, nor producing an original critique -- even of a miniscule aspect -- of what they claimed to denounce "radically." They simply set themselves there, in the revolutionary current of the era, precisely to say nothing except that they were there.

In the counter-revolutionary reflux of the 1970s, the bookstore closed its doors (in 1972) and the sign The Old Mole left the public sphere.[5] It would return with a bang several years later, adorning itself with a quite different program, one that was completely exclusive.

Since the end of the [Second World] war and the enormous lie of the victors that attributed to Germany alone the responsibility for the genocide of the Jews,[6] old Nazis and others who compromised themselves with them (German nationalists and the sons of anti-Semitic shopkeepers), thereafter exposed themselves for banishment from humanity, for committing unprecedented crimes of which they had only been, at worst, the instruments. Their political position prohibited them from accusing their judges of crimes that they were forced to carry out, and they strove, instead, miserably, to reduce or even to deny the existence of the Jewish genocide that condemned them, and them alone, to hell. These micro-sects, which claimed to correct history to their least disadvantage, called themselves "revisionists" and their sympathies were allied with the outlandish neo-Nazis groups.

It would be necessary to wait until the ferment of the 1970s, resulting from the great fear of 1968, for the newspaper Le Monde to launch a curious affair, of which it became the zealous chronicler.[7] A university professor from Lyon maintained that the genocide of the Jews was a simple myth and that "Hitler neither ordered nor allowed anyone to be killed due to his race or his religion." This stupefying proclamation, which no "revisionist" -- neither archeo-Nazi nor neo-Nazi -- had even dared to make, was paradoxically vouchsafed (or so certain journalistic commentaries cautioned) by people who were complete libertarians, anarchists and even "ultra-Leftists,"[8] by an old group of "sixty-eighters" reunited under the re-hung sign of The Old Mole.[9]

The professor from Lyon had a response to everything. The gas chambers? Simple showers. The post-gas aeration system? It would still be necessary to show that it would have been sufficient [to do the job]! Certainly there were the testimonies of the deported people and those of the executioners themselves, but the former had collectively and massively lied to crack themselves up, and the latter confessed everything/anything -- under torture. The millions of deported Jews who disappeared in the night and fog of the Hitlerian camps probably hid themselves in Israel, the United States or the USSR. Himmler's terrifying diary? One must interpret it figuratively, symbolically; it was completely poetic! The incessant convoys toward Auschwitz? It was a great industrial center! Why were there crowds of innumerable children and babies? There was also a vacation resort there. . . . The Holoccaust thus never existed and the entire trial of Nazism rested upon a lie![10]

The false "lie of Nuremberg" above all permitted one to dissimulate the true lie, namely the collective responsibility of the German people for a genocide that was now primarily imputable to the international managers of "the cold machine." But the "revisionist" operation then posed the question of finding out who had profited from this invented "Holocaust." The response: the Jews and their usurious demands for excessive indemnities. This operation especially implied that an occult Jewish power had, for a half-century, the political, financial and media power to impose this lie on the entire world. Jewish domination was thus highlighted again, thanks to the revelations of The Old Mole. This is why, if the principal activity of the group consisted in the diffusion of the remarks of the counterfeiter from Lyon, some of its members pushed the matter even further: one of them thus worried noisily about seeing "the British army march to the sound of the Shofar" and denounced "The Israeli influence on the West, always pushing for war" (S. Thion), while another -- at the exits of high schools -- distributed tracts in which even his acolytes had to recognize excessive anti-Semitism (Guionnet, called "the Black Eagle" and "Attila the Sorcerer").

The "revisionist" operation thus permitted one to re-start the myth of the Jewish conspiracy in the wake of 1968 and despite the Nazi crimes that seemed to prohibit the resurgence of it. This operation affected to take root in a libertarian strategy, like the preceding anti-Semitic operations of Edouard Drumont and Celine.[11] The Old Mole thus ceaselessly reaffirmed its "ultra-Leftist" label, and it was under this feigned flag that -- at the gatherings of the National Front -- it distributed its own texts, those of old Nazis and neo-Nazis, and texts by the old libertarian Garaudy and the ex-situationist Abbot Pierre[12] between the sickle, the hammer, the swastika and the holy-water sprinkler.

Historians took the trouble to respond to the counterfeiter from Lyon and his accomplices at The Old Mole. They exposed the trickery of the university professor and his juggling. But none of them revealed the [real] meaning of the maneuver and the public has since then found itself with the alternative of either supporting the official lie of the "German crime" or the dissident lie of the "revisionists."

Nevertheless, after these interventions, the "revisionist" affair subsided within a few years. In 1983, a part of the group declared in its journal La Banquise: "Whether the Nazi gas chambers did or did not have a concrete existence matters little to us." No surprise that it didn't matter to them. But this question mattered to those who were accused, not only of having invented this supposed lie, but also of having the power to impose it on the entire world. It also mattered to all those who knew what such a maneuver meant in the real social war.[13]

At that moment, one of them continued to protest against the censorship of which the counterfeitor from Lyon was allegedly the victim. In 1992, a collective text was addressed to the newspapers, avowing that the entire "revisionist" affair was only a "variety of anti-Semitism."

Finally, in 1996, the most representative of the co-signers of the collective text published via Editions Reflex a kind of mea culpa in which they did not content themselves with recognizing the "anti-Semitic drift" of the "revisionist" affair, but also proposed to explain its genesis. And, even more than the recent participation of these repenters from the "revisionist" falsification, it was more obviously their fake confession that showed them to be provocateurs.[14]

"It is time," one of them advanced, "that the intellectual balance sheet of this affair is drawn up." "Nothing would have happened," another sighed, "without the new stance of certain revolutionaries facing the world." Their publisher started the machine, worried about the "stance" that claimed to be "revolutionary, Marxist and libertarian," and came to "mount the same battle horse as the neo-Nazis." One of these oddballs delivered the expected conclusion: "It was the same operational scheme that led to the revolutionary 'stance' and to neo-Nazism": such was the explanation of the "revisionist turn that would affect a good part of the ultra-Left," that is to say, The Old Mole group (revolutionaries, obviously, have always mocked the enterprises of the "revisionists," whether the latter are orthodox or dissident, repented or unrepented).

In reality, as one of the repenters made clear, it was the "phantasm of the Machiavellian maneuvers of the State" that ended up in the baleful theory of Jewish conspiracy (this was actually a diversion that our century knows well, yet it has needed the "Machiavellian maneuvers" of the Okhrana, the Black Hundred and other specialized police forces, as well as the money of Krupp, I.G. Farben, Henry Ford and other purveyors of funds).[15]

Whatever this indecent truth was, it was now necessary (it was decided) to finish off with the "illuminist cult of the truth" and instead promote an opportune tolerance towards provocateurs, liars and falsifiers. Revolutionaries have thus been quite guilty, this tolerant repenter continued, because "in place of a universal to share as a communal practice, they make the truth a secret to be revealed." What secret could indeed hide behind the fabrication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the nazification of Germany and the work of The Old Mole?

The universal consensus elaborated by the mediatic experts thus had to take the place of the truth, because "the mistrust of official experts" -- the religious fanaticism of mistrust! -- and especially the arrogant pretense to contradict them publicly, the "propensity to always want to be scandalous and detested," led to Nazism.

"The position of revolutionaries and partisans of the human community," they finally decreed -- addressing those who obviously regurgitated all of the "positions" that one wanted to accord them -- "is with the clandestine people and those without [proper] papers," certainly not to demand the suppression of papers, passports, nationalities and other humiliating ignominies, but so that each person has the right to a nationality and a job; not to collectively invent new human relations, but so that each whore has the right to her [identity] card and her work. Any other project wwill thus be likened to the Nazis' crimes; and here the expected conclusion finally arrives: it is necessary to be done with the "residual delirium of May '68" since -- the operation of The Old Mole has proved it -- these dangerous follies "are inextricably mixed with neo-fascist phantasmagoria."

This unsurprising conclusion thus completes the so-called "revisionist" operation, the unfolding of which reproduced very exactly that of the great anti-Semitic maneuvers deployed, for a century, during the course of the principal social crises.

[1] Maurice Joly (1829-1878) was a French satirist and the author of Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (1864), which was used as source material for The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Note that when Bounan refers to "curious people," it appears that he means provocateurs, police agents or other enemies of social critique.)

[2] In 1960, Programme Communiste -- the organ of a Marxist sect founded by Amadeo Bordiga -- published an anonymous text entitled "Auschwitz, or the Great Alibi." In 1970, this text was reprinted by The Old Mole.

[3] See "On the Poverty of the Bookstore," Internationale Situationniste #11 (October 1967). Though he appears to have frequented the bookstore in 1965, the situationist Guy Debord (briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1960) had not been on speaking terms with the bookstore's founder, Pierre Guillaume (1940-present), since 1962: see his letter to Andre Girard dated 15 May 1962 and his letter to Marie-Christine Guillaume dated 22 March 1965. As for Guillaume, in a ridiculous text called Debord (1995), he alleged that Debord himself had sympathies with the "revisionist" movement. (The author's reference to "something burnt" alludes to an arson attack against the bookstore in early 1966, after which it sold the partially burnt books at a discount.)

[4] Pierre Guillaume had been a rank-and-file member of Socialisme ou Barbarie (S. ou B.) and then Pouvoir Ouvrier in the early 1960s. (In "Addendum," Or the Cornelius Castoriadis/Agora International Website Receives a Threat, David Ames Curtis notes that: "Some unscrupulous souls have used especially the S. ou B. connection with Pierre Guillaume (not to be confused with long-time S. ou B. member and author Philippe Guillaume, Pierre Guillaume having never penned a S. ou B. text) to attack C[ornelius] C[astoriadis] and S. ou B.; see Nadine Fresco, 'Parcours du ressentiment,' Lignes, 2 (fevrier 1988), to which Castoriadis replied in 'Au sujet de 'Parcours du ressentiment' de Nadine Fresco,' Lignes, 4 (octobre 1988). CC found Pierre Guillaume's supposedly leftist version of negationism a tawdry and appalling spectacle, 'stupidity' and 'maliciousness' combined, he wrote.")

[5] In "A Paper Eichmann" (Assassins of Memory [1992], p.11), Pierre Vidal-Naquet -- quoting Pierre Guillaume -- reports that, as early as 1970, The Old Mole "shared in essence the theses of Paul Rassinier." Like Robert Faurisson (see footnote 7), Rassinier was a denier of the Holocaust's existence. The Old Mole would go on to reprint two of his books.

[6] Presumably that responsibility was shared by Nazi Germany's allies (Italy and Japan), the countries that were happy to assist in the deportation of Jews (France, Belgium, Hungary and Poland), the countries that financed and profited from Germany's war machine (the USA, among them), the countries that refused to increase its immigration quotas to accommodate Jewish refugees (the USA, among them), et al.

[7] On 29 December 1978, Le Monde published an article by Robert Faurisson, a professor of literature at the University of Lyon, entitled "'The problem of the gas chambers,' or 'The rumor of Auschwitz'." A storm of controversy broke out; Faurisson responded to it on 16 January 1979. Thereafter, Le Monde refused to print any more of his texts.

[8] Including Pierre Guillaume, Serge Quadruppani, Gilles Dauve (aka Jean Barrot) and Jean-Gabriel Cohn-Bendit (Daniel Cohn-Bendit's brother).

[9] Author's note: According to their own declarations, the animators of The Old Mole were inspired by the writings of the anti-Semitic "revisionist" Rassinier, whose theses had been noticed in the course of the 1950s and 1960s: the maneuvers of the "Jewish lobby" were responsible for the Second World War; there had never been a Nazi will to exterminate the Jewish populations of Europe; the mortality in the Hitlerians camps principally fell upon the Socialist-Communist prisoners. Rassinier was obviously a "man of the Left" since he had previously and for many years shuffled through diverse "Left" or "extreme Left" groups," and had been deported to Germany. He, too, thus claimed to speak as a libertarian; and Celine had admired, as a connoisseur, his delicate work ("a splendid work and worthy of the best society").

[10] Author's note: This professor of literature -- whom P. Vidal-Naquet recalls having known in the classes that prepared them for taking the entrance examination for the Ecole Normale Superieure, "was devoured by a delirious anti-Semitic passion" -- was put in his place due to his "inconceivable negligence" in his thesis on Arthur Rimbaud by the erudite scholar Eugene Canseliet (E. Canseliet, Alchimie, Pauvert, 1964). At the moment of his campaign of "revisionist" mystification, his partisans proclaimed him to be "apolitical," "rather Leftist," and "not at all an anti-Semite." It was thus only in the framework of his literary specialty that he rendered an ardent hommage to Celine in La Revue celinienne.

[11] Edouard Drumont (1844-1917), though Jewish, was one of the 19th century's most virulent anti-Semites. He was one of Alfred Dreyfus' most vocal accusers. Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, aka Celine (1894-1961), was a French author who supported the Nazis before and during WWII.

[12] Roger Garaudy (1913-present) is a former Communist who converted to Islam in 1982 and became a virulent anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier. The reference to him being "libertarian" is sarcastic. Henri Groues (aka Priest Pierre) was the founder of a Catholic association that cared for the poor. In 1996, he defended Garaudy.

[13] La Guerre Sociale was the name of a journal run by Pierre Guillaume; in 1979, it published a "revisionist" text by Gilles Dauve entitled "From exploitation in the camps to the exploitation of the camps."

[14] In Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (translated by Richard Crawley and revised by Donald Lateiner), we read:

In the state of irritation thus produced, many persons of consideration had been already thrown into prison, and far from showing any signs of abating, public feeling grew daily more savage, and more arrests were made; until at last one of those in custody, thought to be the most guilty of all, was induced by a fellow-prisoner to make a revelation, whether true or not is a matter on which there are two opinions, no one having been able, either then or since, to say for certain who did the deed. However this may be, the other found arguments to persuade him, that even if he had not done it, he ought to save himself by gaining a promise of impunity, and free the state of its present suspicions; as he would be surer of safety if he confessed after promise of impunity than if he denied and was brought to trial. He accordingly made a revelation, affecting himself and others in the affair (...); and the Athenian people, glad at last, as they supposed, to get at the truth, and furious until then at not being able to discover those who had conspired against the commons, at once let go the informer and all the rest whom he had not denounced, and bringing the accused to trial executed as many as were apprehended, and condemned to death such as had fled and set a price upon their heads. In this it was, after all, not clear whether the sufferers had been punished unjustly, while in any case the rest of the city received immediate and manifest relief.

For a more contemporary discussion, see Guy Debord's discussion of the pentiti in Italy in the 1970s in his Comments on the Society of the Spectacle.

[15] The Okhrana were the Czarist secret police; among other "operations," they constructed and distributed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. "The Black Hundred" was an anti-Semitic movement involving many groups in Russia in the wake of the 1905 revolution. Krupp and I.G. Farben were German companies convicted of war crimes during WWII. Henry Ford was an American industrialist who thought The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an authentic document and paid to have it distributed in the USA during the 1920s.

(Written by Michel Bounan and published as Chapter VII of The Art of Celine and His Times [Editions Allia, 1997; new edition published in 2004]. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 20 October 2007. All footnotes by the translator, except where noted. Thanks to Jean-Pierre Baudet, Fabrice de San Mateo, and David Ames Curtis for their help.)

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