The expression “Islamo-leftism” was born out of a historical misunderstanding

“Islamo-leftist”, “Islamo-collabo”, “Islamist fascism”, “Judeo-Bolshevism,” Hitler-Trotskyite “… the vocabulary currently used resorts with a certain systematism either to communism or to fascism, against the backdrop of the Second World War. However, voluntary shortcuts are very far from their historical reality. Screen words do not allow us to identify, qualify or define this politico-religious phenomenon.

The abundantly commented expression, “Islamo-leftist”, deserves to examine this strange neologism. The two connoted terms were associated for the first time around twenty years ago by the historian and philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff, a former leftist militant in the original sense of the term, to describe meetings between far left militants and Islamists. The expression could already surprise.


The term “leftism” in communism responds to a precise qualification. It has an infamous character, first used by the cadres of the movement in Germany, in 1919. It was systematized by Lenin to denounce “The childhood disease of communism”, that is to say, left-wing critiques of Bolshevism, hostile to the dictatorship over the proletariat and to the political construction of theCommunist International (IC).

For nearly sixty years, the PCF, but also a part of the Leninist left, did not stop denouncing leftism, like Georges Marchais, then secretary of the organization of the PCF, who condemned in Humanity of May 3, 1968 “The leftist groups [s’agitant] in all circles ”. With irony, Gabriel and Daniel Cohn-Bendit responded by posting Leftism, a remedy for the senile disease of communism (Threshold, 1968).

The “Islamo-leftism” contraction was born out of a historical misinterpretation to qualify a phenomenon.

This reversal of the initial meaning was carried by the counter-culture of anti-authoritarian left in the 1970s. It was put into perspective in its French dimension by the sociologist Richard Gombin (The origins of leftism, Seuil, 1971) which recalled that leftism is based on criticism of the USSR and communist systems, the alienation born of the consumer society, modes of protest and appeals to another society. A perfect illustration of leftism can be found in the corrosive humor of a censored weekly called Hara-Kiri, later Charlie Hebdo. But the Leninist groups, except in exceptional cases, refused to call themselves leftists.


There remains a central question which is that of the alliances proposed by the communist system. They have existed since the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. The congress of oriental peoples held in Baku between the 1is and September 8, 1920, in the wake of the IIe Congress of the Communist International is the most convincing illustration of this.

In Lenin’s time, Grigory Zinoviev, one of the main leaders of the Bolshevik Party and the CI, declares in opening: “Comrades! Brothers! The time has come to start organizing a true holy war of the people against thieves and oppressors. The CI today turns to the peoples of the East and says to them: Brothers, we call you to holy war first against British imperialism. ” This proclamation reveals ambiguity about possible alliances, including those that may seemingly unnatural. Zinoviev’s declaration underlines the strategic and tactical dimensions of the communist movement which even today all the families from Bolshevism claim.

Almost a century later, still in line with the Baku Congress, some of the Leninist groups – especially in English-speaking countries – such as the Socialist Workers Party, an English Trotskyist party, were ready to make an alliance with religious currents, which reportedly displayed anti-imperialist beliefs. These statements are at the indirect origin of the use of the expression “Islamo-leftism”, even if this contraction was born out of a historical misinterpretation to qualify a phenomenon.


The second term that we find today associated with Islamism is that of “islamo-collabo”, whose graffiti inscribed on the PCF headquarters is a recent illustration. The expression oscillates between point Godwin and anachronism. It is mainly used in some right-wing circles and especially by the far right to disqualify a hypothetical opponent. The weeklies and monthly newspapers of this radical right frequently illustrate this to qualify any of their detractors accusing them of «collaboration», thus diluting the real meaning of the word collaboration.

This mention refers to the episode of German-Soviet pact and in France to the attempt to reappearance of L’Humanité in June 1940. For the world communist system, the agreement with Hitler is in reality only a tactical alliance, in which the end justifies the means, like that suggested in Baku in 1920. For the reappearance of L’Humanité, Jacques Duclos, via the person in charge of the clandestine apparatus Maurice Tréand, deposited the communist daily newspaper with the Kommandantur with a view to its reappearance in full German occupation.

The expression “collaborators”, to qualify the Communists, refers to a reality that did not exist.

The archives found both in Moscow and in Paris show that the approach was part of a logic of revolutionary defeatism, in order to provoke the revolution, but certainly not of a policy of collaboration. This policy was not defined until three months later in Montoire-sur-le-Loir, on October 24, 1940, during the meeting between Pétain and Hitler.

The word “collaboration” can therefore hardly be applied to the PCF, which, from June 22, 1941, paid by far the heaviest price in the war against the occupier and its collaborators (more than a third of those shot and deported on French soil were Communists). The expression “collaborators”, to qualify the Communists, refers to a reality which did not exist, any more than there is an army which occupies French territory.

References to the past to explain the present

The third frequently used expression is “Islamo-fascism”. It was indirectly taken up by the President of the Republic during his speech delivered on the day of the murder of Samuel Paty. He concludes by: “They will not pass.”

“No pasarán” mobilizes the imagination surrounding the Spanish Civil War. These words refer to the speech of Dolores Ibárruri, the Pasionaria, who in besieged Madrid called for combat against Franco’s troops. If the desperate appeals of the Republicans did not ultimately prevent the factious troops from triumphing, this mythology has remained mobilizing. Sometimes it even transcends the left-right divide.

Part of the left, accused today, also uses overtones of historical anti-fascism.

A part of the right can be recognized in this story of an anti-fascism ranging from the Resistance to the call of De Gaulle and André Malraux against the factious generals in Algiers, in avril 1961. The presidential words sought to cover this dimension.

But the memory and the imagination of anti-fascism are composite. Part of the left, accused today, also uses overtones of historical anti-fascism.

She explains that behind the expression “Islamo-leftist” resurfaces the expression “Judeo-Bolshevik”, used by the extreme right of the interwar period, which wanted to denounce the enemy from within. racist and anti-Semitic foundations. The comparison implicitly refers to the fight against fascism since only the Nazis and the extreme right used the expression of which the left feels the heir. This left seeks historical filiation and refers its detractors to continuities with the past to explain the present.

Communism, fascism, Resistance… The use of references to the past is a commonplace in politics. It is not certain that the recourse to historical shortcuts by shock formulas and anathemas make it possible to make intelligible a new phenomenon which has been developing for more than thirty years and which has its roots in a set of aspects of a new nature, such as , among others, the return of religious beliefs, the disintegration of the social fabric and its resumption in hand by fundamentalists, the new forms of communication and the isolation they generate, of which these same fundamentalists take advantage.

The uses of these historical expressions are used to designate scapegoats. Above all, they make it possible to avoid a global examination of the fundamentalist phenomenon and its understanding, in no way excusing the mass crimes and terror perpetrated by these politico-religious movements.

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