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<nettime> Interview on Tarnac
onto on Fri, 29 May 2009 00:37:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Interview on Tarnac


LeMonde | 5.25.09 â Here are the responses to the questions that we
[Isabelle Mandraud and Caroline Monnot] posed in writing to Julien
Coupat. Placed under investigation on 15 November 2008 for âterrorism,â
along with eight other people interrogated in Tarnac (Correze) and
Paris, he is suspected of having sabotaged the suspended electrical
cables of the SNCF. He is the last one still incarcerated. (He has asked
that certain words be in italics.)

http://tarnac9.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/interview-with-julien-coupat/


Q. How are you spending your time?

A. Very well, thank you. Chin-ups, jogging and reading.

Q. Can you recall the circumstances of your arrest for us?

A. A gang of youths, hooded and armed to the teeth, broke into our
house. They threatened us, handcuffed us, and took us away, after having
broken everything to pieces. They first took us into very fast cars
capable of moving at more than 170 kilometers an hour on the highways.
In their conversations, the name of a certain Mr Marion (former leader
of the anti-terrorist police) came up often. His virile exploits amused
them very much, such as the time he slapped one of his colleagues in the
face, in good spirits and at a going-away party. They sequestered us for
four days in one of their âpeopleâs prisons,â where they stunned us with
questions in which absurdity competed with obscenity.

The one who seemed to be the brains of the operation vaguely excused
himself from this circus by explaining that it was the fault of the
âservices,â the higher-ups, all kinds of people who want [to talk to] us
very much. Today, my kidnappers are still free. Certain recent and
diverse facts attest to the fact that they continue to rage with total
impunity.

Q. The sabotage of the SNCF cables in France was claimed [by someone] in
Germany. What do you say about that?

A. At the moment of our arrest, the French police were already in
possession of the communique that claimed, in addition to the acts of
sabotage that they want to attribute to us, other simultaneous attacks
in Germany. This communique is inconvenient to the police for a number
of reasons: it was mailed from Hanover, drafted in German and sent to
newspapers in the Outer Rhine area exclusively; but it is especially
inconvenient because it does not fit the framework of the mediatic[1]
fable about us: a small nucleus of fanatics bringing the battle to the
heart of the State by hanging three iron bars on the cables. From then
on, they took care to not mention this communique too much, either in
court or in the public lie.

It is true that the sabotage of the train lines lost much of its
mysterious aura as a result: now it would be a matter of simple protest
against the transportation of ultra-radioactive nuclear wastes to
Germany over railroads and denunciations (made in passing) of the great
rip-off known as âthe crisis.â The communique concludes with a very
SNCF-like âWe thank the travelers on the trains concerned for their
understanding.â What tact there is among these âterroristsâ!

Q. Do you recognize yourself in the phrases âanarcho-autonomous circle
of influenceâ and âultra-leftâ?

A. Let me resume what I was saying. In France, we are currently living
through the end of a period of historical freezing, the founding act of
which was the accord reached in 1945 by the Gaullists and the Stalinists
to disarm the people under the pretext of âavoiding a civil war.â The
terms of this pact can be formulated thus: while the Right will renounce
its overtly fascist accents, the Left will abandon all serious
revolutionary perspectives. For four years, the advantage of Sarkozyâs
clique has been the fact that it unilaterally took the initiative by
breaking this pact and renewing âwithout apologiesâ the classics of pure
reaction concerning the insane, religion, the West, Africa, work, the
history of France and national identity.

Faced with a power at war that dares to think strategically and divide
the world into âfriends,â âenemiesâ and ânegligible quantities,â the
Left remains frozen, as if sick with tetanus. It is too cowardly, too
compromised and, more than anything else, too discredited to offer the
least resistance to a power that it doesnât dare treat as an enemy and
that, one by one, snatches away the sly devils [les malins] among its
ranks. As for the extreme Left (Besancenot, for example): whatever its
electoral results, and even if it has emerged from the groupuscular
state in which it long vegetated, it hasnât a more desirable perspective
to offer than Soviet gray that has been slightly retouched in Photoshop.
Its destiny is to deceive and disappoint.

Thus, in the sphere of political representation, the established power
has nothing to fear from anyone. And certainly not the union
bureaucracies, which are more corrupt than ever and now importune power
[for help]. They do this, they who have danced an obscene ballet with
the government for the last two years! In such conditions, the only
force that can put a check on the Sarkozy gang, its only real enemy in
this country, is the street, the street and its old revolutionary
penchants. During the riots that followed the second part of the
ritualized plebiscite of May 2007, only the street knew how to rise to
the occasion. In the Antilles, during the recent occupations of
companies and factories, it alone knew how to make another voice heard.

This summary analysis of the theater of operations was soon to be
confirmed in June 2007, when the intelligence agencies published â under
the bylines of journalists working under orders (notably for Le Monde) â
the first articles bringing to light the terrible peril that is placed
upon all social life by the âanarcho-autonomes.â To start, one
attributed to them the organization of spontaneous riots, which, in so
many towns, saluted the âelectoral triumphâ of the new president.

With this fable of âanarcho-autonomes,â one has sketched out the profile
of the menace to which the Minister of the Interior is docilely
committed to give a little flesh and a few faces by organizing targeted
arrests in mediatic police raids. When one can no longer contain what
overflows, one can still assign it a case number and incarcerate it.
Thus, the case of the ârioter,â in which the workers of Clairoix, urban
youths, student blockaders and anti-summit demonstrators are dumped
pell-mell â this is certainly an effective move in the current
management of social pacification â permits the State to criminalize
actions, not existences.[2] And it is indeed the intention of the new
power to attack the enemy, as such, without waiting for him to declare
himself. Such is the vocation of the new categories of repression.

Finally, it hardly matters than no one in France recognizes him or
herself as âanarcho-autonomousâ or that the ultra-left is a political
current that had its moment of glory in the 1920s and that,
subsequently, never produced anything other than inoffensive volumes of
Marxology. Moreover, the recent fortunes of the term âultra-left,â which
have permitted some journalists to catalogue the Greek rioters of last
December without striking a blow, speak to the fact that no one knows
what the ultra-left was nor even that it ever existed.

At this point â and in the anticipation of outbursts that can only be
systematized in the face of the provocations of a hard-pressed global
and French oligarchy â the utility of these categories to the police
must no longer be debated. Nevertheless, one cannot predict whether
âanarcho-autonomousâ or âultra-leftâ will finally carry off the favors
of the Spectacle and relegate a totally justified revolt to the
inexplicable.

Q. The police consider you the leader of a group on the point of tipping
over into terrorism. What do you think about that?

A. Such a pathetic allegation can only be the work of a regime that is
on the point of tipping over into nothingness.

Q. What does the word terrorism mean to you?

A. Nothing allows one to explain why the Algerian Department of
Intelligence and Security, suspected of having orchestrated â with the
knowledge of the DST[3] â the wave of attacks in 1995, is not classed
among the international terrorist organizations. Nothing allows one to
explain the sudden transformation of âterroristsâ into heroes in the
manner of the Liberation, into partners suitable for the Evian Accords,
into Iraqi police officers and âmoderate members of the Taliban,â
according to the most recent sudden reversal of the American strategic
doctrine.

[It means] nothing, if not sovereignty. It is the sovereign in this
world who designates the terrorist. He who refuses to take part in this
sovereignty will take care not to respond to your question. He who
covets a few crumbs will comply [with the question] promptly. He who
doesnât suffocate from bad faith will find instructive the case of the
two ex-âterroristsâ who became the Prime Minister of Israel and the
President of the Palestinian Authority, respectively, and who â to top
it all off â were both given Noble Peace Prizes.

The fuzziness that surrounds the designation âterrorist,â the manifest
impossibility of defining âterrorism,â does not affect several
provisional lacunae in French law: terrorists are at the source of this
thing that one can define very easily: anti-terrorism, for which
âterrorismâ forms the pre-condition. Anti-terrorism is a technique of
government that thrusts its roots down into the old art of
counter-insurrection, so-called âpsychological warfare,â to be polite.

Anti-terrorism, contrary to what the term itself insinuates, is not a
means of fighting against terrorism, but is the method by which one
positively produces the political enemy as terrorist. By means of a
wealth of provocations, infiltrations, surveillance, intimidation and
propaganda; by means of the science of mediatic manipulation,
âpsychological action,â the fabrication of both evidence and crimes; by
means of the fusion of the police and the judicial; and by means of the
annihilation of the âsubversive menaceâ by associating the internal
enemy, the political enemy â which is at the heart of the population â
with the affect of terror.

In modern warfare, the essential aspect is the âbattle for hearts and
mindsâ in which blows are permitted. The elementary procedure here is
invariable: individualize the enemy so as to cut him off from the people
and from communal reason; display him in the costume of a monster;
defame him, publicly humiliate him, incite the vilest people to heap
their spit upon him; encourage hatred of him. âThe law must be utilized
simply as another weapon in the arsenal of the government and, in this
case, represents nothing other than a propaganda cover to get rid of
undesirable members of the public. For maximum efficiency, it would be
suitable that the activities of the judicial services are tied to the
war effort in the most discrete fashion possible,â advised Brigadier
Frank Kitson (former general in the British Army, theoretician of
counter-insurrectionary war), who knew something of the subject.

Once is not a pattern: in our case, anti-terrorism has been a flop. In
France, one isnât ready to let oneself be terrorized by us. The
prolongation of my detention for a âreasonableâ period of time is petty
revenge, quite comprehensible due to the means mobilized and the depth
of the failure; as comprehensible as the petty fury of the
[intelligence] âservices,â which since 11 November [2008] have through
the press attributed to us the most fantastic misdeeds and stalked our
comrades. How this logic of reprisals has seized control of the minds of
the police and the small hearts of the judges, this is what the cadenced
arrests of those âclose to Julien Coupatâ will have had the merit of
revealing.

It is necessary to say that certain people are using this affair to
extend their lamentable careers, like Alain Bauer (a criminologist), for
example; others are using it to launch their latest ventures, like poor
M. Squarcini (the Central Director of Domestic Intelligence); while
still others are trying to rehabilitate the credibility that theyâve
never had and never will have, like Michele Alliot-Marie.[4]

Q. You come from a very well-to-do background, which oriented you in
another direction. . .

A. âThere are plebes in all classes.â (Hegel).

Q. Why Tarnac?

A. Go there, you will understand. If you donât, no one could explain it
to you, I fear.

Q. Do you define yourself as an intellectual? A philosopher?

A. Philosophy was born like chatty grief from original wisdom. Plato
already heard the words of Heraclitus as if they had escaped from a
bygone world. In the era of diffused intellectuality, one canât see what
âthe intellectualâ might make specific, unless it is the expanse of the
gap that separates the faculty of thinking from the aptitude for living.
Intellectual and philosopher are, in truth, sad titles. But for whom
exactly is it necessary to define oneself?

Q. Are you the author of The Coming Insurrection?

A. This is the most formidable aspect of these proceedings: a book
integrally versed in the case histories of instructional manuals, in the
interrogations in which one tries to make you say that you live just as
described in The Coming Insurrection; that you protest[5] as The Coming
Insurrection advocates; and that you sabotaged train lines to
commemorate the Bolshevik coup dâEtat of October 1917. Because this idea
is mentioned in The Coming Insurrection, its publisher was questioned by
the anti-terrorist services.

In French memory, one hasnât seen power become fearful of a book for a
very long time. Instead, one had the custom of believing that as long as
leftists were preoccupied with writing, at least they werenât making
revolution. Assuredly, times change. Serious history returns.

What founds the accusation of terrorism where we are concerned are
suspicions about the coincidence of thought and life; what founds the
accusation concerning the association of evil-doers is the suspicion
that this coincidence couldnât have been the result of individual
heroism, but communal attention. Negatively, this means that one does
not suspect any of those who sign their names to so many fierce
critiques of the system of putting the least of their firm resolutions
into practice; the insult is strong enough. Unfortunately, I am not the
author of The Coming Insurrection, and this whole affair will end up
convincing us of the essentially repressive [policiere] character of the
authorâs function.

On the other hand, I am a reader. Re-reading it, just last week, I
better understood the hysterical bad temper that, from high up,
motivates the State to hound its presumed authors. The scandal of the
book is that all that figures in it is rigorously, catastrophically true
and it does not cease to prove itself true, little by little, each day.
Because what proves itself, under the outward appearance of this
âeconomic crisis,â this âcollapse of confidence,â and this âmassive
rejection of the ruling classes,â is indeed the end of a civilization,
the implosion of a paradigm, namely, that of the government, which rules
everything in the West â the relations of beings to themselves no less
than to the political order, religion or the organization of business.
At all levels of the present, there is a gigantic loss of mastery that
no word-games [maraboutage] by the police will be able to remedy.

It is not by skewering us with prison terms, microscopic surveillance,
judicial supervision and prohibitions upon communication because we
might be the authors of these lucid findings that one will make what has
been found disappear. The characteristic of truth is that it escapes,
barely enunciated, from those who formulate it. Governments: it doesnât
accomplish anything if you send us to jail; quite the contrary.

Q. Youâve read Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault. Does this
analysis still seem pertinent to you

A. The prison is indeed the dirty little secret of French society, the
key to and not the margins of the most respectable social relations.
What is concentrated in the prison is not a pile of wild barbarians, as
it pleases some people to think, but in fact the ensemble of the
disciplines that weave together so-called ânormalâ existence outside.
Supervisors, the canteen, soccer games in the courtyard, oneâs use of
time, divisions, camaraderie, fights and ugly architecture: one has to
have been in prison to take the full measure of the carceral in the
school, the âinnocentâ schools of the Republic.

Envisioned from this impregnable angle, prison isnât a pit [repaire] for
societyâs failures; instead, current society is a failed prison. The
same organization of separations, the same administration of misery
through shit,[6] TV, sports and porno reigns everywhere else, but much
less methodically than in prison. To conclude: these high walls only
hide from view this truth of explosive banality: there are lives and
souls, entirely equal, who drag themselves along on both sides of the
barbed wire, and because of it.

If one avidly tracks down the testimonies âfrom the insideâ that finally
expose the secrets that the prison conceals, it is done to better to
hide the secret that the prison is: the secret of your servitude, you
who are reputedly free, while its menace weighs invisibly on each of
your gestures.

All of the virtuous indignation that surrounds the black hole [la
noirceur] of French prisons and their suicide rates; all the crude
counter-propaganda of the penal administrators who bring on camera the
disciplinarians [des matons] devoted to the well-being of the detainees
and the metal-plated directors who are concerned with the âmeaning of
the penaltyâ; in sum, all of the debate on the horror of incarceration
and the necessity of humanizing detention is as old as the prison system
itself. It is part of its efficacy, which permits the State to combine
the terror that the prison must inspire with the hypocritical legal
status of âcivilizedâ punishment. The little system of prison-based
spying, humiliation and violence [de ravage] that the French State uses
more fanatically than any other State in Europe isnât even scandalous.
The State pays for it a hundred times over in the banlieus, and this,
from all the evidence, is only a beginning: vengeance is the hygiene of
the plebes.

But the most remarkable imposture of the judicial-penal system certainly
consists in pretending that it exists to punish criminals when, in fact,
it only manages illegality. Any boss â not just the boss of Everything â
any president of a general council â not just the President of
Hauts-de-Sein â any cop knows that illegality is necessary for the
correct performance of his or her trade. In our time, the chaos of the
laws is such that one would do well to not seek to make the laws
respected too much and the drug enforcements agents [les stups] should
stick to regulating trafficking and not repressing it, which would be
social and political suicide.

The discussion is not â as the judicial fiction would have it â between
the legal and the illegal, between the innocents and the criminals, but
between the criminal whom one judges suitable for prosecution and the
criminal whom one leaves in peace, as the general powers of society
require. The race of the innocents was wiped out long ago, and the
penalty is not what condemns you to justice: the penalty is justice
itself; thus, it isnât a matter of my comrades and I âclaiming our
innocence,â despite what is ritualistically repeated in the press, but
trying to derail the hazardous political offensive that these vile
proceedings constitute. These were some of the conclusions to which the
mind is brought by re-reading Surveiller et Punir in prison. Of course,
one isnât suggesting, given what the Foucaultians have done with the
works of Foucault for the last twenty years, that they should spend some
time in jail.

Q. How do you analyze what has happened to you?

A. Enlighten yourself: what has happened to us, to my comrades and I,
will also happen to you. This is the first mystification by power: nine
people are prosecuted in the framework of a judicial proceeding against
an âassociation of evil-doers in connection with a terrorist
enterprise,â and they must be particularly concerned by these grave
accusations. But there is no âTarnac Affair,â no âCoupat Affair,â no
âHazan Affairâ (Hazan published âThe Coming Insurrectionâ). What there
is, is an oligarchy that is very wobbly and becomes ferocious like any
power when it feels itself to be really threatened. When his views no
longer elicit anything among the people other than hatred and scorn, the
prince has no other support than the fear that he inspires.

What there is before us is a bifurcation that is both historical and
metaphysical: either we pass from a paradigm of government to a paradigm
of living, at the price of a cruel but deeply moving revolt, or we allow
the instauration at the planetary level of an air-conditioned disaster
in which â under the yoke of a âsimplifiedâ management â an imperial
elite of citizens and marginalized plebeian classes coexist. Thus there
surely is a war, a war between the beneficiaries of the catastrophe and
those who are accustomed to a less skeletal idea of life. One has never
seen a dominant class commit suicide willingly.

The revolt has conditions, but not causes. How many Ministries of
National Identity, lay-offs, raids of those without proper papers or
those who are political opponents, young people beaten up by the police
in the banlieus, and ministers threatening to deprive diplomas from
those who dare to occupy their schools are necessary before one decides
that such a regime â even if installed in power by an apparently
democratic plebiscite â has no reason to exist and only merits being
brought down? It is a matter of sensitivity.

Servitude is the intolerable thing that can be tolerated indefinitely.
Because this is a matter of sensitivity and this sensitivity is
immediately political â not that it wonders âWho should I vote for?â but
âIs this incompatible with my existence?â â it is, for power, a question
of anesthetizing the response [to the second question] through the
administration of ever more massively distracting doses of fear and
stupidity. And there where the anesthesia no longer works, this order,
which has united against it all the reasons for revolt, tries to
dissuade us by stuffing us into a small, tight-fitting [ajustee] terror.

My comrades and I are only a variable in this adjustment. One suspects
us like so many others, so many âyouths,â so many âgangs,â of having no
solidarity with a world that is collapsing. On this one point, one
doesnât lie. Fortunately, this heap of swindlers, impostors,
industrialists, financiers and prostitutes; this entire Mazarinâs court
full of neuroleptics, Disney versions of Louis Napoleon, and Sunday
shows that grip the country for an hour lack an elementary sense of
dialectics. Each step that they take towards total control brings them
closer to their fear. Each new âvictoryâ with which they flatter
themselves spreads a little further the desire to see them defeated in
their turn. Each maneuver that they figure comforts their power ends up
rendering it detestable. In other words: the situation is excellent.
This isnât the moment to lose courage.

(Published in Le Monde on 25 May 2009 and translated by NOT BORED! 27
May 2009.)

[1] There is no adequate English equivalent for mediatique, which not
only refers to the media, but to the spectacular, as well.

[2] There could be typos in or words left out of the original French.
The context suggests that the case of the âcasseurâ allows the State to
criminalize existences and actions.

[3] The French FBI.

[4] Minister of the Interior.

[5] vous manifeste can also mean âdemonstrateâ and âreveal yourself.â

[6] English in original.


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