No, this has nothing to do with the Denver motorshow nor the generally healthy state of carmakers (with the obvious exception of Das Auto). Not even with the unfortunate passing of Ziggy Stardust aka David Bowie after a run of well over 100 singles and nearly as many albums. No, today marks the first anniversary of the January 11, 2015 Paris march that followed the Charlie Hebdo killings on that same january 7th – an event that was the topic of the first in this series of chronicles (1). And the topic is how the current french regime is trying to maximise political mileage from terrorism, using and abusing “security” for political advantage in view of the 2017 presidential elections.
One year ago, the regime organised a massive march that brought together some 4 million people to the streets of Paris, in two distinct groups: a small group of politicians including a number of murderers, despots and fascists walking hand in hand in the name of freedom of speech which none actually support, and a very big group that basically marched nowhere, as the place was packed, but voiced their support for that very french ideals of secularity and, indeed, freedom of speech.
Yesterday, french president François Hollande headed yet another Charlie Hebdo – related ceremony at Place de la République in Paris, emblematic starting point of last year’s march. This time, few turned up. Comemoration fatigue has clearly set in, or was it the fear of some new spelling mistake of a hero’s name? (2)
The regime is clearly milking “terrorism” to the very last drop, treating the subject as some kind of sacred cow well beyond any kind of questionning: in the words of prime minister Manuel Valls, attempting to understand the cause of terrorism is not acceptable as “explaining (terrorism) is tantamount to excusing it”. Yes, you read well. And nobody in the power circles is calling for his dismissal. That is how far things have fallen apart in french politics, a dash to the bottom shovels at hand. We are seeing the rise of politically-motivated fetishism, the abuse of a symbol to legitimate an abuse of power.
That abuse is central to the Security State now in place in France, and which the regime plans to render permanent through modification of the Constitution. Not that all security measures are necessarily bad in an environment where the threat of terrorism is real, but effective counter-measures need to be taken on a ad-hoc basis – which implies understanding the problem, which the regime isn’t interested in.
What we are facing is police domination as a way to protect a power structure facing such as significant loss of legitimacy (as measured in terms of voter turnout) that its survival will depend on its ability to cut down the oppostion. Not the farcical opposition within the grand theater of party politics of course, but the real oppostion from those pointing out the double-talk, ineptitude and corruption of the political structure itself, and calling for a “new deal” without, obviously, the current self-serving “elites”.
A social researcher called Mathieu Rigouste has just come out with a new book on that very topic, called “La Domination Policière” (3), introduced as follows: Police violence is not accidental, it is produced rationally and regulated by the state apparatus. The theory and practices of the french police are rooted in the colonial system. We’ll see in this book that between the north-african brigades in the townships of the 30’s and the modern anti-crime brigades (BAC) in our suburban areas, the same mecanics are at work. The point is always to maintain order amongst the colonised and to contain the territories of socio-apartheid. The development of non-lethal weapons (Flashball, taser…) also fuels the private industry of coercion.
Rigouste places this book in the context of imperialism, described as a specific phase in the development of state-approved capitalism. According to him we are in a phase that resembles the accumulation phase of early capitalism through the deposession of resources, territories, cultures and autonomous lifestyles. Which is what we are seeing through Western agression of large parts of the arab world, but also through the expansion of metropolitan areas such as Grand Paris, Grand Toulouse and Nantes Métropole. Rigouste says, in a recent interview, that “This expansion is directly supported by police-driven tension and aims for the capture and the “petit-bourgeois” restructuration of neighborhoods, the industrialisation of imprisonment and the massification of prison-based neo-slavery. The police is the iron tip of this internal crusade.”(4)
That may sound a bit over the top, or more a description of the USA than France, but Rigouste is a credited social researcher working from the field rather than from academic libraries. The point is that in the new Security State setting made possible by the terrorist attacks of 2015, the police has freed itself from some of the shackles previously imposed on it by post-war human rights and freedom of speech. This opportunity for the state power structure to increase the instrumentation of police for its own protection against dissent could obviously not be missed, and wasn’t.
Given how well-prepared the regime was to grab this opportunity, one may ask how much of that opportunity was in fact accidental. Rigouste’s previous book is called “The Ennemi Within”, where he describes how the italian regime of the 70’s used the secret services to lure the fascists to commit terrorist attacks which were then attributed to the anarchists, thus justifying the regime’s attacks against labour and revolutionary movements. The ease with which the perpetrators could organise and arm themselves for the Paris events, the dodgy details surrounding both attacks – which deserve a full article for their own sake, and the swift political recuperation point to a suspiciously laxist attitude reminiscent of the “coincidences” surrouding the 9/11 events in the US, the CIA’s “weapons of mass destruction” hoax and the swiftly introduced Patriot Act.
François Hollande is obvioulsy intent on maximising terrorism mileage before the upcoming presidential elections in 2017, trying hard to make everybody forget that he promised, back in 2012, that he would not run for reelection if he hadn’t done anything good against unemployment. Well the unemployment front looks quite bad, not to say hopeless, so reinventing himself Bush-style as top warrior should clearly help. Except that some, on the left, are not taking the bait so easily and are now asking for a primary election on the left, at the same time the conservatives hold their own, very first primaries.
Normaly, the incumbent is the automatic candidate for his side for a second term, and the fact that this is being challenged is a sign that not all is quiet on the leftist front. How the regime will try to quash this may be the next chapter in the story of the rise of 21st century french fascism.
(2) A plaque laid last week by François Hollande to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo victims contained a spelling mistake on Wolinski’s name, spelt “Wolinsky”.