The French redskin movement emerged during the period 1984-86. It was informed by two developments. First, a very difficult economic and political situation, characterised by massive unemployment, the initial introduction into France of neoliberalism, and the simultaneous emergence of a large, extreme right-wing movement, represented most successfully by the Front National (National Front). Secondly, the appearance of an alternative cultural movement (a mix of French punk rock, political protest, and multiculturalism). Around one element of this milieu, Bérurier noir, a new type of security group was created, and put in charge of protecting shows from fascist assault.
- Bérurier noir was a French punk band formed in Paris in 1983 by Loran (guitar), François (vocals) and Dédé (drum machine). They called themselves “noir” (black) for the color of mourning (their first concert was intended to also be their last) and for anarchy, and “Bérurier” after the character from the novels of Frédéric Dard.
Many “crews” were subsequently formed in Paris, including the “Ducky Boys” and “Red Ants”, and in Marseilles, the “Marseilles Red Army”. But the first and most important crew of French redskins was the “Red Warriors”, who were a catalyst for the proliferation of militant anti-fascist groups. These groups were collectively known as “nazi-hunters”, because they constantly pursued nazis on the streets, and when they found them, beat them. Moreover, as self-defence groups, they played a major role in protecting trade unions assemblies, squats and public protests from fascist actions.
On an aesthetic level, the redskins cultivated a mix of elements taken from skins (bomber jackets, Doctor Martens boots), the psychobillies (flat top haircuts, red handkerchiefs), and the early B-Boys (baggy pants, baseball caps). Added to this were Native American symbols (belt bags, “Washington Redskins” t-shirts) and proletarian folklore (trucker shirts, jumpsuits). Some followed the style of wearing their bomber jackets inside out, with the orange side on the outside, which originated in the English redskins, but not all followed this trend.
In 1986, French media discovered the existence of redskins in Paris, and footage of their confrontations with police at student demonstrations and violent actions against fascists was shown on TV. The above reportage discusses the violent conflicts between redskins and boneheads. The bonehead featured speaking at the beginning of the report is “Batskin” (aka “Batshit” aka Serge Ayoub), leader of the Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnaires (Nationalist Revolutionary Youth), a neo-Nazi groupuscule linked to the FN.
- Like Dr James Saleam, Ayoub — born in 1964 to middle class parents — is of Lebanese descent. He is also known for his relationship with French porn * Tabatha Cash. After leaving the boneheads, Ayoub became a biker, and in 2006 — after having two previous venues forcibly closed — opened a bar in Paris called Le Garage.
Following Ayoub is the redskin Julien, one of the founders of the “Red Warriors”. Julien is also featured in the 2008 documentary ANTIFA Chasseurs de skins:
The Red Warriors and other redskin crews were also, obviously, heavily influenced by UK band The Redskins (1982–1986); a small portion of their song ‘The Power is Yours’ is featured in the TV report. The band was formed by members (Chris Dean and Martin Hewes) of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and espoused a variant of Trotskyism.
At the end of the eighties, boneheads didn’t dare to walk on the streets of Paris for fear of being bashed. Further, their principal organising bases, fascist squats, had all been forcibly closed. Simon, a Red Warrior, comments:
“The tactical advantage of the Red Warriors was that we never stopped in the same place. We were less numerous than the nazis, and because of this our actions had to be very well-organised. We studied the terrain and took other measures to avoid problems. Meetings that happened before actions were quick and discreet, and generally took place at our houses or in squats. For direct actions, we were able to gather together approximately 60 people. All of us practiced some combat sport, but we also used weapons, such as baseball bats; there were four occasions on which we used firearms. Politically, each member of the group had different opinions, but we were all dedicated anti-fascists, and militancy was not an issue: there was simply a visceral hate for the far right and fascism. We fought against the Division St. Georges, Juvisy, Bunker 84 and JNR. We caught them unawares, and demonstrated that boneheads are not supermen. Our intention was to make the nazis afraid to walk the streets in all their paraphernalia (French flags, Celtic crosses, swastikas, etc.). Little by little, other groups which also practiced nazi hunting appeared…