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Tag: France

Documents of the Paris Commune (1871)

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Ephemera from the collection in the Bibliotheque nationale de france, translated from the French by Mitchell Abidor.

See also: The Paris Commune [PDF]


1870

The Republic is Proclaimed, September 4, 1870
The Fatherland is in Danger!, September 6, 1870
Make Way for the People! Make Way for the Commune!, September 1870
To the Democratic Socialists, September 1870
Republican Central Committee of Paris, September 20 1870
The State … is Abolished, September 25 1870
To the Citizens of the 193rd Batallion of the National Guard, 9 October 1870
Circular of the International Workingmens Association, 1870
To the Social Democracy of the German Nation, 1870
Address of the Positivist Society of Paris, November 1870

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Catastrophism, disaster management and sustainable submission (Riesel and Semprun, 2008)

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In this book first published in 2008, Jaime Semprun and René Riesel examine the attempt by predominantly First World governments and NGOs to utilize the specter of an environmental apocalypse as an alibi to save “industrial civilization” by imposing a rationed form of “survival”, justified by a terroristic propaganda campaign based on fear, enforced by an expansion of the state’s coercive powers, and facilitated by the mass conformism and resignation that “industrial society” has induced in the population by creating an “anxiogenic environment” of “insecurity and generalized instability”; “[f]or the fears proclaimed by the experts … are in reality nothing but orders”.

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The Roundabout Riots

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Contribution to the Rupture in Progress

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A Translation from France on the Yellow Vest Movement

The following text appeared December 6th on the French platform lundimatin; they describe it as the best sociological and political analysis to date on the yellow vest movement. Although we are no more optimistic about the “non-ideological” character of the first phase of the yellow vest phenomenon than we are about the antiquated methods of organization it supplanted, the movement itself has become a battleground to determine what form the next wave of opposition to neoliberal austerity will assume—and no one can afford to stand aside. This text concludes with a cool-headed appraisal of the risks and possibilities before the gilets jaunes and all who will follow in their wake.

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The Double Heritage of Communism to Come: 1917-1968-2018

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by Bini Adamczak

Crisis & Critique Vol. 5 Issue 2 Nov 2018: 50 Years After May 68

Communism does not exist in the singular. The common is no unity that would encompass everything by subordinating it to an idea, will, or central committee. The common is rather that which the many share with one another, as equals and free in solidarity.

At the same time, communism was repeatedly understood like this: a final sublation of social divisions into an overarching harmony. Thousands of communist parties and factions of the past dreamt in this way of the future: the troublesome dispute with enemies as well as with comrades would finally find an end when the whole world would see that just this one, one’s own party program is the right one. To be signed by everyone. Even, and especially, the Communist Party of the SovietUnion (Bolsheviks), for a long time the largest and most influential communist party, followed this dream. In a spiraling movement that begins even before 1917 and finds its climax in the Stalinism of the late 1930s, it combatted initially the monarchist and bourgeois parties, then the allied social-democratic, social-revolutionary and anarchist parties and ultimately, when all other parties were prohibited, the oppositions, fractions, currents and platforms within itself. As it had, according to its own conviction, a privileged insight into the truth of the social, it believed itself able to represent the common in all its parts: the population was represented in the working class, the class in the party, the party in the central committee, the central committee in the general secretary. The party line that was issued by the latter would lead into the communist future, no matter however much zigzag it would entail. Whoever would deviate from this deviating course was guilty. The counter term to identity was thus not difference, but opposition. “Other” became synonymous with “inimical”. Until its demise, the Soviet leadership saw itself surrounded by inner enemies. Wherever social initiatives cropped up, it was safer to oppress them. This mistrust worked as self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, the protesting people did (preponderantly in fact) not want a more democratic, more humanist or more friendly socialism, as was still the case in the 1920s, 1950s and 1960s, but rather no socialism at all.

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Next Stop: Destitution

tumblr_pj6uqh5cFj1tvr0q1o1_1280.jpgPublished on Lundi Matin, Dec 3, 2018 – Translated by Ill Will Editions

Contrary to all that we’re hearing, the real mystery is not that we revolted, but the fact that we didn’t do it sooner. What’s abnormal is not what we’re doing now, but all that we’ve put up with until now. Who can deny the bankruptcy of the system, from every angle? Who still wants to be shook down, robbed, and left precarious for nothing? Will anyone weep as the wealthy avenues of the 16th arrondissement are plundered by the poor, and the bourgeois watch their gleaming SUV’s go up in flames? As for Macron, he can stop complaining; it was he who asked us to come to him. A state can’t keep legitimating itself by reference to the corpse of a “glorious revolution” and then denounce the rioters as soon as a revolution gets going.

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On the Gilets Jaunes: Dispatches from France

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The following is a collaborative effort of translated analyses from France focused on the Gilets Jaunes movement between Agitations, Carbure, Otto Mattick & Ediciones inéditos. More texts will be translated in the coming days.

In the last few days, the Left has struggled to politically apprehend a new phenomenon called the “Yellow Vests” [“Gillets Jaunes »], since it does not emerge directly from traditional forms of protest. Consequently, any critical analysis of the movement is forsaken in favour of a blissful support without questioning anything (who mobilizes itself? why? how?) or a blatant contempt for “beaufs” who do not demonstrate for “good causes”, as if class consciousness should magically impose itself on the proletarians. In the same time, we cannot summarize the events as a gross manipulation of the far right based on nothing but wind and creating a completely artificial social discontent by means of Facebook videos.

The craze for “yellow vests” is a symptom of the political sequence in which we find ourselves, a sequence bred by a capitalism in crisis and the dissolution of any recognizable and commonly shared workers’ identity. This loss of landmarks has been brutal, and some debates within the radical left (sometimes more attached to a fantasized past than to the understanding of the complex class composition of current social struggles) have consisted in questioning the proportion of proletarians using a car and are thus directly affected by the rise of the price of diesel. They very often return to the reactionary fantasy of a good old rural peasant France where the majority of the “poor” would live (the concept of the proletariat quickly slipping through the cracks). In our opinion, it is more relevant to focus on the political content of this movement and on what it practically translates.

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The Tarnac Verdicts: Unraveling the Logic of Anti-Terrorism

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After Ten Years, the “Tarnac Affair” Concludes in France (crimethinc)

In 2008, the state of France accused the Tarnac Ten of terrorism, charging that they had formed “a group of the ultraleft, of the autonomous type, maintaining links with international extremist movements.”1 After a decade-long ordeal, the remaining defendants received their final verdict on April 12, 2018.

All of the defendants were found not guilty of the charges of sabotage, rioting, and conspiracy; the terrorism charges had been dropped much earlier. Christophe Becker was sentenced to six months of probation for possession of fake IDs and a fine of 500 euros for refusal to give a DNA sample to the authorities. Julien Coupat and Yildune Lévy were also found guilty of refusing to give DNA, but face no sentence on account of the amount of time that has passed. Considering how many resources the French state had invested in this court case, this represented a massive victory for the defendants.

What can we learn from this passage of a few people through a rather long trial for terrorism? Let’s review the background of this story, the details of the case, and its implications for the future.

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Now

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THE INVISIBLE COMMITTEE, NOW (2017)

Full book, translated into English by Robert Hurley.

Economy rests on a pair of fictions, therefore, that of society and that of the individual. Destituting it involves situating this false antinomy and bringing to light that which it means to cover up. What these fictions have in common is making us see entities, closed units and their relations, whereas what there is in fact are ties. Society presents itself as the superior entity that aggregates all the individual entities. Since Hobbes and the frontispiece of Leviathan, it’s always the same image: the great body of the sovereign, composed of all the minuscule, homogenized, serialized bodies of his subjects. The operation which the social fiction depends on consists in trampling on everything that forms the situated existence of each singular human being, in wiping out the ties that constitute us, in denying the assemblages we enter into, and then forcing the depleted atoms thus obtained into a completely fictitious, spectral association known as the “social bond.” So that to think of oneself as a social being is always to apprehend oneself from the exterior, to relate to oneself as an abstraction. It’s the peculiar mark of the economic perception of the world to grasp nothing except externally.

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Politics is Nothing But the Reign of Feints and Shenanigans

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An interview with Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel

Le Monde | April 20, 2017.  Translated by Ill Will Editions. 

Editor’s note:   The trial of Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel, known as the “Tarnac affair”, has dragged-on for over eight years now. On the 10th of January, the Court of Appeals deemed that it was no longer to be classified as a terrorism case. Assumed by many to belong to the Invisible Committee—whose first opus, The Coming Insurrection (2007), was a resounding success—they here take a critical look at the presidential campaign. Their newest book, Maintenant [Now], is due to hit the shelves next week.

***

Le Monde: What do you make of the presidential campaign?

What campaign? There was no campaign. There was a soap opera, a fairly worn-out one at that, to tell the truth, full of twists and turns, scandals, dramatic tension and suspense. Much brouhaha, a tiny frenzy, but nothing that managed to pierce the wall of generalized confusion. Not that there is any lack of followers for each candidate, tossing-about with varying degrees of fanaticism in their virtual bubbles. But this fanaticism only deepens the feeling of political unreality.

A graffiti that went up in Place de la Nation during the Mayday demonstration last year stated: “There will be no presidential election”. It suffices to project ourselves ahead to the day after the final round of the election to grasp what’s prophetic in this tag: whatever happens, the new president will be as much a puppet as the current one, the legitimacy of their governance will be just as lacking, just as minoritarian and impotent. This fact isn’t solely due to the extreme withering of politics—to the fact that it has become impossible to believe honestly in all that is done and said there—but is likewise due to the fact that politics is a derisory means of confronting the depth of the current disaster.

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When Protesters Strike Back: 2016

 

From the “Fishball Revolution” in Hong Kong to the massive labour reform protests in France, 2016 was a riotous year. The counties included in this edition are Greece, France, Belgium, Italy, Chile, Turkey, Bahrain and South Africa. Music: Funky Shit by The Prodigy

 

Rèpublique Absurd

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Rècit of the Spring 2016 French Uprising  by Asja Crise

The following account, necessarily incomplete and perhaps also imprecise in places, will attempt to describe the recent struggles in France as they developed over the course of four months, from late February to the middle of June. It is based both on translations of material at the time and first-hand experiences. These struggles understood themselves as challenging not only the “labor law [loi du travail]” handed down by the Socialist government of Manuel Valls and François Hollande, but also—as one key slogan had it—“against its world,” that is, the conditions that have made it possible but that are also left wide open in the slogan. Is this world the capitalist one? The “neoliberal” one? That of E.U.-imposed austerity? Or just that of a routinely treacherous Socialist government? And then there is the more radical, let’s say constructive, slogan that circulated among younger demonstrators, borrowed from the title of the Parisian hip-hop group PNL’s hit the previous summer: le monde ou rien, the world or nothing. While I will proceed more or less chronologically, there are a couple of points to make here at the beginning. I choose to start with a short account of the November 13th attacks aftermath and the context of the state of emergency, leading up to the beginning of mobilizations in late February and March, spearheaded by highschoolers. This account moreover will focus on the Paris metropolitan area, where I was living, with minimal reference to other cities.


Accounts of the different phases of the struggle typically break down like this, as the movement mutates from month to month: March is the month of high school mobilization (picking up from last year’s movement against a different version of the law, this one proposed by Emmanuel Macron, the Economics minister), while April saw the occupation of République by the so-called Nuit Debout movement and May was the month of strikes and blockades, as the key French labor union, the CGT—traditionally aligned with the French Communist Party—found itself forced to enter the fray, in part from pressure from its own restive rank-and-file. Throughout this sequence, we encounter the notorious casseur (“wrecker”) who is an entirely ambiguous figure within the movement (that’s the point). The hooded proletarian—high school student? radicalized union rank-and-file? youth from the suburban housing projects, eager to fight the police? “anarchist” or “autonomist” militants?—is targeted and denounced by all the respectable actors of the movement, from Socialist ministers to the CGT leadership, and even by voices on the “revolutionary” Left. At the same time, the figure operates as a unifying point of identification for the movement itself: “we are all casseurs” was a chant often heard in demonstrations, in particular during pitched battles with police.  . . [read more]

On the anti-Islamophobia ideology

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(translated from the french)

The intention of this text is to reply to those among the anarcho-communists who are engaged in the fight against “Islamophobia” and who, for that reason, bar all criticism of Islam and endorse a theory of race as a social class, in an atmosphere of increasing tension, accusations of racism, and even actual physical attacks.

The term “Islamophobia,” which probably dates back to the early twentieth century, only recently came into widespread use to designate racism against “Arabs.” This corresponded to a shift from racism against North Africans to terror or horror aroused by the Muslims’ religion. Immigrants and their descendants, formerly rejected for “ethnic” reasons, are discriminated against today for their supposed adherence to an original culture identified with one of its dimensions—the Muslim religion—which many do not even practice, although some observe certain traditional customs.

Through this artifice, religion is assimilated to “race” as a cultural matrix in what amounts to a “cultural mystification (…) by which an entire cross-section of individuals is assigned, on the basis of their origin or physical appearance, to the category of ‘Muslims,’ silencing any criticism of Islam, which is perceived, not as a critique of religion, but directly as a manifestation of racism.”[1] While Claude Guillon sees “contempt” in this “antiracism of idiots,” [2] we mainly recognize the specter haunting the left—third-worldism. According to this ideology, which entails uncritical support of the “oppressed” against their “oppressor,” those who saw the “colonized” as the exploited people par excellence during the Algerian war unconditionally supported the NLF. Or take the Vietnam committees during the Vietnam war, for whom denunciation of the Americans meant supporting the Viet Minh and the politics of Ho Chi Minh, chanting his name and waving his picture at every demonstration. This scenario was repeated with the Iranian revolution in 1979 and with the pro-Palestinians. Today, taking the Kurds’ defense usually implies supporting the PKK and waving Oçalan’s picture. Such was the process by which, little by little, the third-worldist perspective abandoned the proletariat as revolutionary subject and replaced it with the colonized, then the immigrant, the descendant of immigrants… and finally the believer. While at first, third-worldism promoted cultural relativism, its successors adopted culturalism, which posits cultural differences to explain social relationships. SOS Racisme’s great manipulation in the 1980s made this shift a doctrine that ultimately engendered all the excesses we’re witnessing today, in particular the Muslim identity assigned to “Arab” immigrants and their descendants as a whole.

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à l’assaut du ciel

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diary of the paris riots by laserveuse

May 9th – 19th (Manifestations, Paris)

The previous two weeks were just as enervating as the ones preceding, if not more, since the French police have newly discovered nasses (net, like fishing net), also known as ‘being kettled’. Several heavy tear-gassings and nullifying kettlings converged with an extremely low-pressure system, a lot of rain, and many people who were already under slept from April and May. Tuesday the 10th, for example, began with a 7am call for blockades, a word of the week. The plan, it seems, was to block Bercy, the train and bus terminus, since there was a strike from Sud, a rail workers’ union, the same day. This was well organised and began at Opera, where early risers boarded the metro, going on several lines, and in several directions, before ending up in a wild chase – in the station, out of the station, back in the station. The cat and mouse dispersed around the station of Dugommier at about 8.30am, which was encircled by gendarmerie. Manuel Valls passed the law sometime around lunchtime using a special decree 49-3, which was brought in during the instability between the 3rd and 4th republics.

The weather all week was so low pressure, so as to invite serious, lingering headaches, rain with no relief. Assemblée Nationale at 18h was obscured by mist, flares and smoke. A heavy CRS and Gendarmerie presence gradually pushed everyone back, split them. One manif sauvage, a little naively, since there were only 50 people, set off around 19h, after which the rest were kettled on the quayside, forced down next to the water, where the windows of luxury boats displayed Parisians? tourists? serenely lindy hopping or swing dancing in a top window. Police blocked the quay, letting only fluorescent runners through, then fired off tear gas. Protesters ran, stopped, since there was nowhere to go. River police – how mobile they are, in any circumstance – passed on speedboats as kids threw what they could: missiles, pieces of scaffolding. The gas continued for several hours, as, completely trapped on the road above the quay, unable to breathe, or to descend, lungs filled over and over with acrid gas.

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Build the hacienda, burn down the palaces

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Translated from the French by edicioneschafa, revised by ill-will
Original text found at Lundi Matin.
  1. What we’ve been living through is new. It is certainly not just another “social movement.” “Social movements” have a frame, so that everything escaping it is defined as a boiling-over or a break-away [débordement]. Yet what we’ve experienced since March 9th has been an uninterrupted series of such boiling-over breakaway moments, with the old forms of politics chasing after them from behind. The call to demonstrate on March 9th was a breakaway from the unions by the YouTubers. The demonstrations since then have seen constant breakaway marches led by the “youths”: the traditional image of union marches headed up by the various union bosses was systematically replaced by hooded youths defying the police. Nuit debout overflows every recognized political frame, while the “wild marches” that leave from its site at place de la République are themselves a breakaway from Nuit debout. We must continue to begin—or in other words, continue to break away, to remain on the move, to surprise.
  2. Attempts to assimilate the new into the already-known are part of the arsenal of neutralization. Just as the demonstrations against this new Labor law have little to do with the struggle against the CPE, Nuit debout bears very little relation to the Indignados of Puerta del Sol [Madrid, Spain]. Whereas [the occupation at] Puerta del Sol declared itself pacifist, [the occupation at] Place de la République had, last Friday, hours-long clashes with the police. “Everyone hates the police” has become a noted chant hit. Whereas [the occupation at] Puerta del Sol called itself “apolitical,” we have lost count of the calls by unions and the speeches by unionists at place de la République. However, Puerta del Sol was really occupied, which is not the case with place de la République. At Puerta del Sol food was made for thousands, people stayed day and night, the police were not making daily evictions, nor ordered to takedown this or that, or to stop folks from cooking. This last difference indicates a path to follow: if we want to make place de la République more than just an interminable general assembly where curious on-lookers are giving a first-hand look at its powerlessness and the inconsistency of its “decisions,” then we must really occupy it; this means building real spaces and defending them from the police.
  3. What place de la République really constitutes is a public counter-space. Since the public, political and media space that exists has become an integral lie, we have no choice but to desert it. Not by falling back into silence, but to positively desert it by constructing another. And speech is like freedom: when you first take hold of it you start to say or do some dumb shit, but that’s not what’s important. What matters is to not to dwell on that first fuck-up. We must instead say that we have a long way to go, that these past weeks comprise our first few breaths. It’s been years now that a coalition of forces have made the situation unbreathable, between the “threat of the National Front,” “war on terrorism,” “crises”of all kinds, the state of emergency laws, climate apocalypse and the permanent campaign for the next presidency. What characterizes the reigning public space is that it offers a space for nothing but contemplation: what we witness, what we hear, what we learn never becomes an act or bears any consequence because we face it all alone. As was made evident in exemplary fashion the night of the ‘nightcap at Vall’s place’, what is vibrant and powerful about a counter-space is the capacity for acts to follow speech. Consciousness and the capacity to act are not disjointed. This is the way that a counter-space can positively destitute the existing public space. Hence the great curiosity and jealousy of the media.
  4. The conflict around the El Khomri law is not just a conflict around the “work” law, it’s a conflict around the possibility or not of governing, which is to say, a political conflict in the true sense of the term. No one can stand to be governed any more by the puppets in the [National] assembly, which is why, in our point of view, the law cannot pass; yet the government itself cannot afford not to pass this law—this means, it has been factually destituted [destitué de fait], and can no longer govern. This refusal is even seen in a union like the CGT, whose rank-and-file can no longer can bear to be governed as it had previously been by its management. If one listens to the speeches people give at place de la République, most fall into either one of two camps regarding this question of destitution: some wish the moment of destitution to be followed by a constitutive moment where they a new constitution could be written and a new society founded, where as others think the destitution should be without a conclusion because it is first of all a process of construction, and that  for fiction of a single society we must substitute the reality that there exists a plurality of worlds, each of which express and incarnate their own idea of life and of happiness. Those of us writing here share the latter position.
  5. Let’s be pragmatic: no one’s going to be able to write a constitution until this regime has been overthrown. And being that you do not overthrow a democratic regime democratically, i.e. that it will defend itself against any fundamental challenge until its very last riot cop, the only path leading to a new constitution is an insurrectional path. However to lead a successful insurrection, like that of Maidan for example, place de la République must be really occupied, barricaded, guarded, etc.; also, all political and existential sensibilities favorable to insurrection must be able to find each other; to this end, for the desperate search for a consensus never to be found in the middle of Paris, a consensus of a more or less frightened metropolitan petty bourgeoisie, we must substitute the material existence of a plurality of spaces, of “houses,” where each of the sensibilities of the insurrection could come aggregate themselves and enter into a fusion. Those who are passionate about writing a constitution are welcome to build their own house where they can write up as many drafts as they like. And as for those who want to put the constitution into place, well we’ll discuss this when Valls and Hollande will have already taken their jet to take refuge in the USA, Africa or in Algeria.
  6. A poster in the Parisian metro a few years ago declared, “Who organizes spaces, rules over them”; it was decorated with a majestic lion supposedly representing the sovereignty of the RATP Group [management of Parisian state-owned transport]. What is the power to be found in place de la République? It resides the management of the place itself, and the forces of order who impose respect thereby. Power is thus this grand empty esplanade; the flux of cars and their din; and the anti-police vans posted on all sides. How can an assembly seriously claim to be sovereign which then debases itself by respecting the real sovereignty that dictates its every move? Impossible to take it seriously. But we would not have gathered together, nor been as numerous and determined as we’ve been, if we weren’t very serious. By serious, here we mean that we have taken it upon ourselves to manage this place, to  express our intention to hold out by constructing the means for doing so, to refuse to be added to the list of mediatic flashes in the pan that let themselves be swept away at the first attack. We we are going to be able to welcome comrades from all over, we have to escape the precarity that imposed on us by the current forces of management, and to arrange things as we see fit – we have to be constructive, in other words.
  7. We are in the middle of a ford, at the heart of peril: there are too many of us to simply return home and not enough of us to throw ourselves into an insurrectional assault. We must “shift into second gear” as some say. To hold out till the end of April is already not bad. We cannot count on the union bosses, because even if a few strikes that can be re-directed spring up here and there, by nature these strikes will be against their will. However we know the danger that awaits us if this situation closes up again, a danger we already struggle against even now: that of the electoral system, the democratic blackmail of having to choose between the plague and cholera, between Alain Juppé and Marine Le Pen. Those who are apt to join us are precisely those whom are disgusted by such a reality, those who cannot bear for politics to be reduced to the insignificant process of voting. Politics is in what we plan, in what we build, in what we attack and in what we destroy. Shifting into second gear means: build the hacienda, burn down the palaces.

The Construction Commission

Paris /  April 2016

France: uprising against the labour law

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riots, looting, blockades & sabotage

(via rabble.org)

It’s been kicking off all around France against the government’s attempts to introduce the so-called ‘El Khomri’ labour law, or ‘loi travail’. This piece of legislation is an all-round shit deal for workers, and involves such policies such as extending the working week up to 46 hours, from the current official 36 hours, and enabling companies to sack workers with minimal justification. Since protests began, the government has backtracked on a number aspects of the law, like a proposed cap on the amount of compensation an employer must pay to unfairly dismissed workers.

It seems that the students, who have played a major part in the resistance to the law, know very well what it takes to achieve results. Not a-b marches or shortlived occupations, but disorder, chaos, sabotage, property damage, disruption to transport systems, reprisals for state repression, joining the dots between apparently separate ‘issues’, and sustained struggle.

Here’s a bit of a run down of what’s been happening in France this past month in response to the ‘loi travail’, translated from Cette SemaineAttaque and Paris-Luttes.

9th March

In Bordeaux, dozens of people opted for immediate and direct action following a student assembly, and trashed a Bordeaux University building. According to the mainstream media, all the computers were destroyed, the doors had been kicked in and the walls graffitied. The instruments in the music hall were also destroyed. Money and files had been taken, damage in total estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of Euros. This action was part of a wave of demos that took place across the country that day.

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22nd March

In Paris, an action was carried out on the Centre Pierre-Mendès-France de Tolbiac, at Paris-I-Panthéon Sorbonne university. The following translation of their communiqué comes fromInsurrection News:

University of Tolbiac, March 22, an occupation of the N lecture hall is planned to hold a general assembly, but cops, security guards and management are all here to prevent it. In a wink, all of them disappear and the door of the lecture hall opens miraculously. We now understand that opportunists of the movement negotiated behind the backs of all. Like what, there are no miracles. It is precisely for this reason that, pissed off, we decided to sabotage these power games.

While students were getting sloshed in their supposedly occupied lecture hall, we decided to have fun in a whole different way. We climbed the 7th floor to ransack administration offices, cutting cables, throwing various liquids on various electronic devices, administrative papers are destroyed and two computers are stolen to be quietly destroyed.

This is the realization of a precise will to not be limited to speaking out, to general assemblies, or demos (whether at 11 or 13:30), but to counter any form of collusion with power, all powers.

Let’s prevent the law from working.

Some enraged of another 22 March.”

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Submission

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Cultural pessimism is as old as human culture and has a long history in Europe. Hesiod thought that he was living in the age of iron; Cato the Elder blamed Greek philosophy for corrupting the young; Saint Augustine exposed the pagan decadence responsible for Rome’s collapse; the Protestant reformers felt themselves to be living in the Great Tribulation; French royalists blamed Rousseau and Voltaire for the Revolution; and just about everyone blamed Nietzsche for the two world wars. Though a minor work, Soumission is a classic novel of European cultural pessimism that belongs in whatever category we put books like Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. [nyrb]

Was all this refinement, all this decadence, this misanthropy and disillusionment, were all these religious agonies and scruples merely the sublimation of a longing for the sedate pleasures of a bourgeois life? [Knausgaard]

The Other France

Fouad Ben Ahmed never paid much attention to Charlie Hebdo. He found the satirical magazine to be vulgar and not funny, and to him it seemed fixated on Islam, but he didn’t think that its contributors did real harm. One of its cartoonists, Stéphane Charbonnier, also drew for Le Petit Quotidien, a children’s paper to which Ben Ahmed subscribed for his two kids. On January 7th, upon hearing that two French brothers with Algerian names, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had executed twelve people at the Charlie Hebdo offices—including Charbonnier—in revenge for covers caricaturing Muhammad, Ben Ahmed wrote on Facebook, “My French heart bleeds, my Muslim soul weeps. Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, can justify these barbaric acts. Don’t talk to me about media or politicians who would play such-and-such a game, because there’s no excuse for barbarism. #JeSuisCharlie.”

That night, Ben Ahmed left his house, in the suburbs outside Paris, and went into the city to join tens of thousands of people at a vigil. He is of Algerian and Tunisian descent, with dark skin, and a few white extremists spat threats at him, but Ben Ahmed ignored them—France was his country, too. On January 11th, he joined the one and a half million citizens who marched in unity from the Place de la République.

Ben Ahmed’s Facebook page became a forum for others, mostly French Muslims, to discuss the attacks. Many expressed simple grief and outrage; a few aired conspiracy theories, suggesting a plot to stigmatize Muslims. “Let the investigators shed light on this massacre,” Ben Ahmed advised. One woman wrote, “I fear for the Muslims of France. The narrow-minded or frightened are going to dig in their heels and make an amalgame”—conflate terrorists with all Muslims. Ben Ahmed agreed: “Our country is going to be more divided.” He defended his use of #JeSuisCharlie, arguing that critiques of Charlie’s content, however legitimate before the attack, had no place afterward. “If we have a debate on the editorial line, it’s like saying, ‘Yes—but,’ ” he later told me. “In these conditions, that is unthinkable.”

Ben Ahmed, who is thirty-nine, works as a liaison between residents and the local government in Bondy—a suburb, northeast of Paris, in an area called Department 93. For decades a bastion of the old working class and the Communist Party, the 93 is now known for its residents of Arab and African origin. To many Parisians, the 93 signifies decayed housing projects, crime, unemployment, and Muslims. France has all kinds of suburbs, but the word for them, banlieues, has become pejorative, meaning slums dominated by immigrants. Inside the banlieues are the cités: colossal concrete housing projects built during the postwar decades, in the Brutalist style of Le Corbusier. Conceived as utopias for workers, they have become concentrations of poverty and social isolation. The cités and their occupants are the subject of anxious and angry discussion in France. Two recent books by the eminent political scientist Gilles Kepel, “Banlieue de la République” and “Quatre-vingt-treize” (“Ninety-three”), are studies in industrial decline and growing segregation by group identity. There’s a French pejorative for that, too: communautarisme.

After the Charlie massacre—and after a third terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, gunned down a black policewoman outside a Jewish school and four Jews at a kosher supermarket—there was a widespread feeling, in France and elsewhere, that the killings were somehow related to the banlieues. But an exact connection is not easy to establish. Although these alienated communities are increasingly prone to anti-Semitism, the profiles of French jihadists don’t track closely with class; many have come from bourgeois families. The sense of exclusion in the banlieues is an acute problem that the republic has neglected for decades, but more jobs and better housing won’t put an end to French jihadism.

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Towards a materialist approach to the racial question

Repin_Cossacks-e

a response to Indigènes de la République

The following text, a critique of the Parti des Indigènes de la République by three of its former members, originally appeared in the French journal Vacarme. A radical anti-colonial party, Parti des Indigènes came to wide attention among the English-speaking Left for their sharp critiques of secularism and racism on the French Left following the Charlie Hebdo attacks of 2015. While they seem to have attained great respect from certain sectors of the Left, the translator of this document believes such respect is mistaken; that PIR’s identitarian politics seeks an alliance with the identitarian far-right of Le Pen, Dieudonné, and Soral; and that such an approach to politics poses a great threat to the Left.

Secondarily, this document provides a much-needed insight into the problem of antisemitism. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the media hysterically speculated that Europe was on the verge of a pogrom, to be carried out by its numerous Muslim immigrants; Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu took up the hysteria, calling for French Jews to emigrate. The backlash among certain leftists, whom the present translator otherwise respects, was perhaps equally hysterical. Some questioned whether antisemitism was even extant in contemporary Europe; others seemed to blame antisemitic acts on crimes of the Israeli state, rather than the perpetrators. As this document’s analysis shows, antisemitism is not only a threat against Jews, but against any movement of the working class.

Towards a materialist approach to the racial question: a response to INDIGÈNES DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE

by Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb & Léa Nicolas-Teboul

[translation by puyraveau]

Les Indigènes de la République have helped to shed light on racism within the Left, supported by the racism of French society at large. But are they also prisoners of racism? We propose a systematic analysis of the forces exercised upon the most precarious: a critique of the erasure of race and gender; while escaping the identitarian project of the extreme right; remaining anchored in critique of political economy.

From the dead refugees of the Mediterranean, to the Baltimore riots, to the events of everyday metropolitan life, we are constantly drawn back to the question of race. It seems necessary to propose an analysis of the foundations of racism, which will not be merely a shallow response to current events.

Today, we observe mounting Islamophobia and antisemitism. These two are a pair – in a context where social segregation is becoming stronger, and the logic of all-against-all becomes uncontrollable, we must work to think of these things in conjunction. That means to reject the logic of competition between different racial oppressions; but also to examine Islamophobia and antisemitism together in all their specificity. And in all this, the general context – growing social violence, a hardening of class segmentation, and effects of structural racism (in housing, work, and so on). It is harder and harder for the poor, and for those who are the most precarious (racial minorities and women).

With the [Charlie Hebdo] attacks in January, the left was hit with its own denial of the issue of racism. It made a specialty of denouncing the victimization, and of dismissing racism as a massive structural phenomenon. Institutional feminists’ obsession with the veil functioned as a spotlight on the racism of a Left clinging to an abstract and aggressive universalism.

This was why we were enthusiasts of the great work of exposing the racism of the Republican left – a project in which the Parti des Indigènes de la République has participated since 2004. There are many of us who worked to undermine this “respectable” racism, under which the indigènes were never truly equal. [1] If the Left was never explicitly against racialized people, its arguments were dismissive of the great values meant to emancipate them. An entire history of the condescension and paternalism of the French Left remains to be written. Such a history would note the way discourse of class was used to stratify the hierarchies of the workers’ movement itself.

Nevertheless, it seems to us that PIR is slipping. Riding the gathering wave of identitarianism, it proposes a systematic cultural, almost ethnocentric, reading of social phenomena. This leads to the adoption of dangerous positions on antisemitism, gender, and homosexuality. It essentializes the famous “Indigènes sociaux,” the subaltern it aims to represent. It is as if the racialized working class, who face the most violent racism, are being instrumentalized in a political strategy which basically plays in the arena of the White left and à la mode radical intellectuals.

For us, descendants of Muslim and Jewish Algerians, to lead the critique of the PIR, just as we led the critique of the Left, is a matter of self-defense. We believe we have nothing to win from a political operation which subsumes all questions under that of race. For us, not only the question of race, but also those of political economy, and the social relations of sex, are the order of the day.

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