To Our Judges

For four months, the mediatic-judicial serial[1] entitled "The Tarnac Affair" has not wanted to come to an end. Will Julien [Coupat] come home for Christmas? For New Year's? Another chance on Friday the 13th. No, in the end, they kept him in prison for a little while longer, locked up in his new role as leader of an invisible cell. Since it seems that several people are still interested in perpetuating this masquerade, even beyond the point of being grotesque, it is once again necessary for us to take on the responsibility of the role that they have tailored for us ("The Tarnac 9") and make a necessary collective clarification. Here it is. . . .

First: while the journalists have gone as far as combing through our trashcans, the cops have gone as far as eyeing our rectums. It has been quite disagreeable. Over the last few months, you have read our mail, eavesdropped on our telephones, tracked our friends and filmed our houses. You get off on it.

We, the nine, have been subjected to these means, as have many others. Atomized by your procedures, nine times one,[2] while you are an administration, a police force, and the logic of a [certain] world. From our point of view, the dice are loaded, the pyre is already built. And so, do not ask us to be good sports.

Second: of course you need to have "individuals," constituted into a "cell," belonging to a "circle of influence" among a faction on the political chessboard. You need all this because it is your one and only and last hold on a growing part of the world that is irreducible to the society that you claim you defend. You're right, something is happening in France, but it is certainly not the re-birth of the "ultra-left."[3] Here we are only figures for a rather vulgarized crystallization of a conflict that traverses our entire era. [This crystallization is] the mediatic-judicial spearhead of a merciless confrontation that leads an order to collapse in the face of all that claims to have the ability to survive it.

It goes without saying that, in the context of what is going on in Guadeloupe, in Martinique, in the banlieus and the universities, among the fishermen, rail workers and undocumented immigrants, it will soon need more judges than profs[4] to contain all this. But you understand nothing of these things. And don't count on the clever sleuths in the DCRF[5] to explain it to you.

Third: we have found that there is more joy in our friendships and our "associations of evil-doers" than in your offices and courtrooms.

Fourth: if it seems self-evident to you that the seriousness of your jobs allows you to question our political thinking and our friendships, we do not feel the duty to speak to you of them. No life will ever be absolutely transparent to the eyes of the State and the justice system. There, where you wanted to see the clearest, you have instead propagated opacity. And they tell us that, henceforth, so as to not come under your surveillance [votre regard], there will always be more people who will come to demonstrations without cellphones, who encrypt the texts that they send and who cleverly take detours before they arrive. As one says: it's easy to see.[6]

Fifth: since the beginning of this "affair," you seem to have wanted to accord great importance to the testimony to a mythomaniac, also called "X." You are obstinate; it is courageous of you to have some faith in this pack of lies and in the practice that has honored France for several centuries: paid informants. This would almost be touching if it did not justify the accusation that Julien [Coupat] is the leader and thus [justify] his continued detention in jail; if this kind of "testimony" did not justify arbitrary arrests -- for example, arrests for allegedly sending bullets through the mail to the police stations in l'Herault and Villiers-le-bel.

Finally: it being understood that the margin of liberty that remains to us is henceforth greatly reduced, the single place from which we could extricate ourselves from your control[7] resides in the interrogations to which you will subject us at regular intervals. Julien has already had four demands to be released denied. He is our friend. He is nothing more than what we are. We have decided that, from now on, in the heroic tradition of Bartleby "we prefer not to."[8] In sum, we will say nothing more and will stay silent until you free him, stop calling him our leader, and stop calling all of us terrorists. In short, until you abandon these persecutions.

For all those who, wherever they are, fight and do not give up. For all those who haven't been suffocated by resentment and who make joy a question of attack. For all our friends, our children, our brothers and sisters, [and] the support committees. No fear, no pity. No heroes, no martyrs. It is precisely because this affair has never been legal that we must transport the conflict to the terrain of politics. What the multiplication of attacks by an always-more-absurd power calls upon us to do is nothing other than generalize the collective practices of self-defense everywhere it is necessary to do so.

There aren't nine people to save, but an order to bring down.

Along with Julien Coupat, Aria, Benjamin, Elsa, Gabrielle, Manon, Matthieu, and Yidune have been questioned in the "Tarnac Affair." Monday 16, March 2009.

(Also published in the 17 March 2009 issue of Le Monde. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 15 May 2009, corrected version.)

[1] The French here is le feuilleton mediatico-judiciare. A feuilleton is a serialized show. There is no adequate equivalent in English for mediatique, which not only refers to the media, but the spectacle, as well.

[2] The French here is neuf fois un, which might also be rendered as "one nine times."

[3] Despite what Patrick Marcolini says about them.

[4] Short for professors?

[5] Direction centrale du renseigement interier (DCRI) is the French domestic-intelligence agency.

[6] The French here is c'est ballot, perhaps so obvious that even an idiot could understand (cf. Homer Simpson's "d'oh!").

[7] The French here is emprise, which can also be rendered as "expropriation."

[8] An allusion to Herman Meville's short story "Bartleby the Scrivener" (1853-1856) and, no doubt, the commentary upon it made in 1989 by Gilles Deleuze's essay "Bartleby, ou la formule" and in 1993 in Giorgio Agamben's "Bartleby, or On Contingency."

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