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The Case of the Tarnac 9

November 10, 2009

On November 11 2008, French Anti-Terrorism Police arrested around twenty people, mostly in Tarnac, a small village in the Corrèze region of central France. Nine were subsequently accused of “criminal association for the purposes of terrorist activity” in connection with the sabotage of train lines which had caused delays on the French railways. Very little evidence has been presented against them, but central to the prosecution is their alleged authorship of a book, The Coming Insurrection, and their association with what a scare-mongering French government and media have termed an “ultra-left” or “anarcho-autonomous movement.”

They and others are the victims of a witch-hunt in which the word “terrorism” is applied to any ideas and practices which challenge the status quo. An international movement is emerging in their support.

The Coming Insurrection by ‘The Invisible Committee’ is a 45 page booklet that is definitely worth checking out. It is clearly written by and for youth. It came out in France a year or two ago. It’s very European/French philosophical and practical also. 4SM might have more to say on it in issue 15 and we will print readers thoughts as well, if we receive them. In English you can find this online
Confronted by an Ever More Absurd State Power, We Shall Speak No More

March 16, 2009

For four months now, the legal and media spectacle titled “The Tarnac affair” won’t come to an end. Was Julien Coupat to come out of prison for Christmas? For New Year’s Eve then? Or would Friday the 13th be his lucky day? No. In the end “we” will keep him a bit longer in jail, locked into his new role as “leader of an invisible cell.”

Since a few people in power appear to have an interest in letting this charade go on, even beyond the limits of the grotesque, for the sake of collective clarification, we will have to take once more the garb that has been knit for us (“the 9 from Tarnac”).

Well then.

Firstly. As journos were burrowing into our garbage cans, the cops were fingering our assholes. Not the funniest of experiences. For months you have been opening our mail, eavesdropping our phones, harassing our friends and video-tapping our homes. And you delectate in these actions.

We, the “nine,” we endure them, like so many others. We have been atomised by judicial procedures, nine times one single individual, whereas you are one administration, one police force, and the one and whole logic of one system. As we stand now, we have been double-dealt, and the stake is already erected. So please don’t expect us to play cricket.

Secondly. Of course you do desperately need “individual suspects” making up “cells” belonging to a “movement” relating to a certain “fraction” on the political chessboard. You need all this, because it constitutes your last and only handle on an increasing part of reality, which cannot be longer reduced to “the society” you pretend to protect. You are right, there is something happening in France, but it is definitely not the rebirth of the “ultra left” [*N1]. We are merely symbolic people, a, rather rustic, crystallisation of the conflict that crisscrosses our times. The media-police edge of a ruthless conflict opposing an order that is collapsing against everything and anyone who dares pretend to survive it.

It is rather obvious that when looking at what is going in Guadeloupe, Martinique [*N2], in the banlieues (big cities’ suburbs) and in the universities, among the wine-growers, the fishermen, the railway workers and the sans-papiers (undocumented immigrants), you will soon need more judges than teachers to control the mess. You don’t get it – and don’t bank on the sleuths of DCRI (French home security intelligence service) to enlighten you – they’re just as clueless.

Thirdly. We can but notice that there is much more joy in our friendships and our “company of miscreants” than in your offices and court houses.

Fourthly. Whereas it would appear entirely appropriate to you, given the seriousness of your employ, to question us regarding our political thoughts and our friendships, for us, we do not feel a duty to talk to you about these matters. No life will ever be entirely transparent to the State and its judicial apparatus. You wanted to shed some light on certain things? You have rather managed to spread obscurity. And as rumour has reached us, in order to escape your glance, the numbers are growing of those who go to demos without mobile phones, who encrypt their messages, and who take the long winding way home to reach their homes. As the saying goes: makes sense.

Fifthly. From the start of this “affair,” you appear to have deliberately given great credence to the statements of a mythomaniac witness, heard under the cover of anonymity. And you persist, a brave stand we admit, to somehow believe this heap of lies, reviving a practice, delation, that “honoured” France a few scores of years ago [*N3]. It would be almost moving, if this did not mainly frame the prosecution of Julien Coupat, and hence his ongoing detention. And as if this kind of “witness statement” was necessary to make arbitrary arrests, like in Villiers-le Bel (Paris suburb) after the riots there.

And finally. given the fact that the margin of liberty left to us is henceforth rather limited, and that the only moments we can escape your clutches are actually the ones in which you subject us to questioning, what you do regularly; and that Julien Coupat has now for the fourth time seen his request for release denied; and that he is our friend; and that he is no more than we are: We are to state that from this day onwards, following the heroic tradition of Bartleby, “we would rather not.” Meaning roughly: That we will speak no more till you liberate him, that you abandon the qualification of “leader” for him, and of “terrorists” for us all. In one word, that you drop the whole case.

For all those, wherever they are, who fight and do not resign. For all those who are not suffocated by resentment, and make joy their line of offensive. For our friends, our children, our brothers and sisters, and the support committee. Have no fear, harbour no commiseration. We are not heroes, we are not martyrs. It is precisely because this “affair” had no legal standing from its very inception that we need to bring the conflict in the realm of politics. What the ever increasing number of attacks launched against us by an ever more absurd political power calls for is a generalisation of collective practices of self-defense everywhere where it becomes a necessity.

There are no nine people to be saved. There is a regime to be felled.

Aria, Benjamin, Bertrand, Elsa, Gabrielle, Manon, Matthieu, Yldune are, together with Julien Coupat, indicted in what has become known as “The Tarnac Affair.”

“Q ‘n’ D” translation by Patrice Riemens
Bangalore, St Patrick’s Day, 2009
Translator’s notes

[*N1] “Ultra-gauche” in French. A neologism of sorts coined by interior minister Michelle Alliot-Marie in a bid to distinguish it from traditional extreme left (extreme gauche) of old. The “ultra gauche” was deemed to be “anarchist,” “autonomous” and, of course “violent.” The “9 of Tarnac” were arrested and lengthily detained after a number of sabotages of hi-speed (’TGV’) train lines last autumn, which have not at all been elucidated yet, let alone materially linked to “the 9.”

[*N2] Add Reunion to the list. The French “overseas departments” in the Carraibic and the Indian Ocean are boiling at the moment, as the chickens come home to roost after years of a colonialism without name, an artificial “motherland”-oriented economy, ill-mitigated by a pretense of welfare and a reality of increasingly unmanageable clientelist hand-outs culture.

[*N3] Authors refer to the collaborationist (with the Nazis) government of Vichy France (1940-45) where the “citoyens” engaged in settling their private scores with their neighbours by denouncing them to the regime’s police or the Gestapo with gay abandon. Official France long time choose to and still would rather like forget this unsavoury page of history.
Letter from the Parents of the Tarnac Nine

When all the media come together in a cacophony of lies to slander a handful of young people currently languishing in jail it is very difficult to find the right tone with which to call an end to this racket and make room for a little truth.

Many journalists bent over backwards to confirm the statements of the Minister of the Interior, even while the raids were still taking place. Those arrested were assumed to be guilty from the outset.

No one could miss the sensationalist reality cop show that our children have been forced to star in throughout the last week. The anguish, fear, and tears have submerged us and continue to do so. But probably what has hurt us the most, destroyed us the most, is the flood of lies that have been let loose. Today it was our children, tomorrow it could be yours. We are still stunned, but we are no longer paralyzed. The various facts which follow are an attempt to reestablish the truth and to silence the public condemnation.

Our children have evidently benefitted from a special treatment, locked in darkness for 108 hours, some of them without any charges, and to justify this we are told that they must be very special people, the kind that one doesn’t find on any street corner. Yet at the same time we are reminded that they are actually very normal, for everyday they become more numerous, and take up positions at every one of your street corners.

The police reproach our children being too organized, attempting to provide locally for their basic needs, reopening a village grocery store which had closed down, cultivating abandoned lands, organizing the distribution of food to old people in their area. Is it evil to self-organize for your basic needs? Here, when we have heard wind of crisis? Our children have been categorized as radicals. Radical, in the dictionary, means: taking up the problem at its root. In Tarnac our children planted carrots without bosses or leaders. Because they naively think that life, intelligence and decisions are more joyous when they are collective.

We are concerned to learn from the Minster of the Interior that simply reading the book The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee can make someone a terrorist. As a result of the free publicity the Minister has given the book through speaking of it in the media she risks soon counting 25,000 of them on her territory. For those who take the time to read it, this book is not a “terrorist catechism,” but a political essay which attempts to open new perspectives, and one of last year’s best selling social science books according to the Nouvel Observateur and Libération.

Our children are accused of going to a demonstration at Vichy on November 3rd. Some among us are the children, the grand children, of those deported by the Vichy regime. That our own children have taken the decision to go and physically oppose the functioning of a summit on immigration in this city of such symbolic significance, this fills us with pride, but also with hope and courage.

Let us return to the suspicions leveled against our children. Contrary to what has been said, and what we might think, the sabotage of railway lines did not terrorize the population or put anyone in danger. It simply caused the population to lose or kill time. What did terrorize the government was not the fact that it had to reimburse a thousand or so train tickets, but that an idea of politics, which was also an idea of action, ceaselessly reproduced itself. Sabotage, whether one employs it or rejects it, has never been an arm of terror, but always an arm of social change. There was a time when the CGT [France’s main trade union] called for it.

Bankers are responsible for the biggest economic crisis of the last 80 years. This will not fail to cause millions of people to starve. And we continue to cordially greet our bankers in the street. Our children are only suspected of causing the delay of a few trains, and for that they face 20 years in prison.

The most impressive police operation in the last week was not bursting open doors in balaclavas on a sleeping nine-month-old baby, but rather convincing people that the desire to change such a perfect world could only emanate from the heads of the mentally deranged, of powerful assassins.

When doors slam we feel fear that it is the balaclavas returning. When they open we dream of seeing our children return.

– the parents of Bertrand, Mathieu, Elsa, Aria and Yldune

PS: We salute and offer our thanks to the inhabitants of Tarnac who prefer to believe what they live than what they see on TV.


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