Subversion's New Clothes[1]

(The Anarchists Burn Their Reputation)

The merit of a social conflict[2] is the fact, among others, that it makes appear in all clarity what is defended and what is really thought by those who, in normal times, affect the opposite.

For example, an organism that calls itself the "Anarchist Federation" has thought it good to sign the declaration[3] of the National Federation of Autonomous Unions, in which one finds the unstated [positions] of these dangerous revolutionaries, the cadre at the heart of which is deployed the "subversive" and "critical" thought of the "libertarian movement." The implicit bases that one encounters in it merit some attention.

According to this appeal, the evil resides in "inequalities and discrimination": here is a first finding that is immediately enriched by the addition that "governments haven't known or haven't wanted to combat [them] effectively." These are strange anarchists,[4] who are surprised by an inequality that capitalist governments can and must combat, and who think that the existing scholarly institutions should "reduce segregation." How are these anarchists different from the coterie of M. Hollande?[5] One wonders.

"The preventive actions" have supposedly failed. Thus, it is a question of preventing, that is to say, in good, pre-technocratic French, of hindering the actions of the poor people and of advising Power in this effort. Our anarchists do not fail to regret the absence -- in the first rank of preventive measures -- of "neighborhood police officers." This is no doubt a first, rather notable, in the history of the "anarchist movement." Here we thus have anarchists who demand the reinforcement of the school and the police, so that they can be more efficient! These are anarchists who want to return to the status ante quo by vituperating the "rolling back of social rights."

For these anarchists, the urban proletariat is a "population that legitimately aspires to calm" (as during the Paris Commune, no doubt); and the hellions who have troubled this calm are thus outside this population and the proletariat. Here one is not very far from the Muslims, the drug traffickers and the polygamists.[6] Faced with such an approach to the problem, "stopping the violence is obviously necessary" and "the actions of the forces of order" are perfectly legitimate. One only adds that these actions must not "be the only responses." It is a shame that the saber is no longer accompanied by the sprinkler of holy water.

The hellions would be "internal enemies"; and thus one thinks -- at the heart of the Anarchist Federation -- that we live in a system that does not produce its own "internal enemies" and that this system merits not encountering them. All this unfortunate violence involves "the risk of serious injury to liberty" -- a liberty that, for example, consists in not having the right to revolt, being represented by politicians and delivering pizza [for a living]; for these "liberties" and to protect them, it is fitting to use "all democratic means," having as the "objective the re-establishment of civil peace and democratic dialogue."

A peak of radicalism is reached, alas, when it is a question of "restoring speech to the inhabitants." Parliament did not intent to go that far. But this audacity, which might border on the unacceptable, is immediately tempered by the idea that here it is a matter of a restitution, that is to say, a restoration of a state that already existed, as it is also a matter of proceeding towards the "re-establishment of equality" -- cherished equality, which had already existed, in a past of which one nevertheless hardly gives us any information.

Thus, here is a very instructive picture. To believe that the anarchists do not know anyone in the banlieus and are only informed by the television news: seeing that they regurgitate all of its litanies without the least hesitation. Have the "people in charge" of this groupuscule been frightened by the idea that the new barbarians will set fire to their headquarters? And that this lost youth is crazy enough to create a kind of suburban holocaust? Doctor, the case is serious, if not desperate.

For those who will conclude from reading our text that we are unconditional apostles of a violence that would sink the country into fire and blood, we will add that they are making a mistake. If we are unconditional about anything, it is above all not simulating the qualities that have never existed in our society, that (on the contrary) must be instaurated here for the first time, and that are incompatible with this social form. And we think that if one does not even understand this much, one certainly is not likely to understand the flare-ups of violence, which are a brutal, sudden and ephemeral reminder. Here is an indispensable preliminary to any dialogue and one that thus excludes any dialogue with this type of anarchist.

Likewise, must we remind these "anarchists" that they scorn all that they have thought and defended for the last 150 years when they demand "participatory democracy between the representatives of the inhabitants, associations, unions, local elected officials and representatives of the State"?

The rioters of the banlieus have perhaps burned -- more or less indiscriminately -- whatever was around them, but the Anarchist Federation, by co-signing an appeal such as this one, have burned -- in a very focused fashion -- everything that has defined generations of libertarians.

-- 20 November 2005

[1] A detournement of the title of Simon Leys' book President Mao's New Clothes (Editions Champ Libre, 1972).

[2] In this case, the sustained and widespread rioting of French youth in early November 2005.

[3] The Banlieus: the Real Emergencies (UNSA-Infos, Number 317, 15 November 2005):

One doesn't respond to a social crisis with a state of exception. The fundamental responsibility for this crisis actually weighs on the governments that haven't known or haven't wanted to effectively combat the inequalities and discrimination that accumulate in the neighborhoods of social relegation, imprisoning their inhabitants in the logic of ghettoization. It also weighs upon the governments that have introduced and ceaselessly intensified the security politics that stigmatize these very populations as new "dangerous classes," particularly in what concerns the youth of these "neighborhoods."

Put into question are the years of politics centered upon total security. The sabotage of preventive actions, the asphyxiation of the associational world, the demolition of the neighborhood police forces, the tolerance of daily discrimination, notably with respect to foreigners or those supposed to be foreigners because of their faces, [and] the state of a school [system] that cannot reduce segregation allow us to today measure not only the failure but the frightened noxiousness of this politics. This isn't only the language of the Minister of the Interior, but also the acts of the entire government that reveal the logic of the sorcerer's apprentice.

In addition, it is also the inability of successive governments over the course of decades to roll back massive unemployment, the explosion of precariousness [among the employed], the systematization of racist and territorial discrimination, as well as the politics of weakening the public services and the roll back of social rights, that are brought to light today.

Violence is self-destructive. It essentially harms those who denounce their exclusion. To stop the violence, which weighs upon the populations that legitimately aspire to calm, is obviously necessary. In this context, the actions of the forces of order, which must be inscribed in a strictly legal framework and cannot led to more serious repression, cannot be the only response. From now on, we must upon another road if we do not want to continue or renew the violence. Only collective action can permit us to define the conditions of another politics.

In the first place, we cannot accept the pursuit of a state of emergency. To resort to a [legal] text that comes from the Algerian War with respect to people who are often French descendants of immigrants is to tell them that they still are not French. To use the symbolism of a state of emergency is to reduce tens of thousands of people to the category of internal enemies. In addition, it makes the risk of serious attacks on liberty weigh upon all of France and each of its inhabitants, especially the foreigners whom the government has already designated as scapegoats.

We solemnly affirm that, if the state of exception is be prolonged, we will put to work all of the democratic means at our disposal to oppose it.

We wish to open up another perspective than that which has led to the current impasse. This will happen if we make four fundamental demands the order of the day: truth, justice, equality and respect.

Neither the recourse to expedited judicial procedures, especially "mass condemnations" [une "justice d'abbatage"], nor the marking out of zones according to a map of the state of emergency are reconcilable with the objective of the re-establishment of civil peace and democratic dialogue.

The Republic must recognize, publicly and by the highest authorities, that the lot of these populations, the discrimination that they are subjected to, are our collective responsibility and constitute a violation of republican equality.

This demand also implies that the truth is totally ascertained concerning the conditions in which the two young men were killed in Clichy-Sous-Bois.

To restore the situation in these neighborhoods, one must first of all restitute speech to their inhabitants. The grievances must be discussed, town by town, according to the principles of participatory democracy between the representatives of the inhabitants, associations, unions, local elected official and representatives of the State. They must be made public.

We must then open a collective negotiation, regrouping the same participants, so as to program the actions that will re-establish equality, which implies that national representation is tasked with passing a real law and that the powdering measures and, even worse, the marks of scorn such as the transformation of apprenticeship into the relegation of precocious students, are ended. An authentic national solidarity must involve the reconstruction of the social tissue in the banlieus.

We must especially put to work, in reality, a real national politics of struggle against discrimination and for the equality of rights. We must, without delay, put an end to all the unsupportable and devalorizing speeches that portray the inhabitants of these neighborhoods as "riffraff," "barbarians," "savages," or "foot soldiers of an extremist conspiracy."

We affirm that there is a real national emergency: it is necessary to substitute a state of social emergency for the police's state of emergency, so that the acts of the government cease to contradict the motto of the Republic.

[4] Perhaps they are, in reality, neo-anarchists or citizenists. Other co-signers of the declaration in question include ultra-Leftists (the French Communist Party, The Movement of Young Socialists, the Trotskyist group Lutte Ouvriere) and "citizenist" groups (Alternatif citoyenne, ATTAC, the Greens, UNEF).

[5] Francois Hollande, chairman of the French Socialist Party.

[6] That is to say, "the usual suspects" blamed by the French government and French press.

Written by Les Amis de Nemesis (the Friends of Nemesis). Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 29 September 2007. Footnotes by the translator.

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