Jean-François Thiriart (22 March 1922, Brussels – 23 November 1992) was a Belgian politician associated with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups. In the 1960s he rejected his Nazi past and promoted pan-European ideas founding Jeune Europe.
Coming from a left-wing family, Thiriart was a member of some Socialist and antifascist movements. He switched to far-right politics and joined the extremist Fichte Bund (a National Bolshevist association) and was associated with Les Amis du grand Reich Allemand in 1940, a group composed by former far-left activists which supported collaborationism with the Nazis. Thiriart himself served in the Waffen SS. He served time in prison for his collaboration, and upon his release set up business as an optometrist.
Cold War syncretism
Thiriart returned to the political scene in the 1960s, after Belgium gave up its claim to Congo. Due to his opposition to this development he became associated with the Mouvement d’Action Civique (MAC), although he also became interested in a more international vision. Establishing links with French groups similarly opposed to decolonization, he eventually became a European Nationalist, convinced of the need for a united Europe. As a result, he formed Jeune Europe as a movement to reach out across Europe, soon founding branches in Italy, Spain and France. Domestically he continued to co-operate with MAC, which enjoyed close ties to Jeune Europe.
With a policy that was both Anti-American and Anti-Soviet, Thiriart presented Europe as the true cradle of civilisation, and was opposed to uncontrolled immigration and imperialism, instead supporting national liberation, sovereignty and self-determination for all Europeans and the so-called "allied ethnicities" of Europe. Thiriart's views won him many foes, on both the orthodox right and left. Thiriart denied that he was a Nazi, claiming to belong to the centre of the political spectrum. Thiriart attempted to put his ideas into practice by being instrumental in the formation of the National Party of Europe, an unsuccessful attempt at creating a Europe-wide nationalist party.
Seeking to support radical revolutionaries in Latin America and Black Power movements in the United States, Thiriart began to develop the idea of creating Political Soldiers, and set up training camps to facilitate indoctrination. He also became an admirer of Nicolae Ceauşescu, indicating a sympathy towards Stalinism that displayed strong Nationalist characteristics. The People's Republic of China was also admired for these same reasons. Historian Walter Laqueur called his views a form of fascist Maoism.
National Bolshevism and later life
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Thiriart moved towards National Bolshevism and in later life he worked closely with such exponents of this idea as Aleksandr Dugin. As well as being a member of the small pan-European European Liberation Front, Thiriart came to spend a lot of time in Russia where he saw the potential for an explosion in European Nationalism. He is the author of several books.
Thiriart died of a heart attack.