french letter 2

Letter on the attacks, the question of the estates and of religion, addressed to some English-speaking friends

Translated from here

2nd December 2015:

I fully agree with the content of the letter of André Dréan (whose critical contributions on a range of topics in recent years seem to me essential), as with the fact that criticism of radical Islam is necessary, beyond the eternal economistic and purely geopolitical pitfalls 1 and without abandoning the critique of religion, including Islam.

The texts disseminated by the media and anti-authoritarian organizations since the attacks, with few exceptions, are really bad, when not purely and simply disgusting. And it is surprising that one of the few articles 2 which dares to undertake a critique of religious development in France was written by “Arab militants,” a rather reformist group (whose perspectives I do not particularly share), with examples taken from a critical observation of reality. These examples, if they do not necessarily concern all the “banlieues”/”suburbs” of France, still fall within the context of the development of Islam where people from the Muslim culture live. And so, of course, of the conservatism that it essentially comprises.

Who can deny, for example, that the wearing of the veil has exploded breathtakingly in recent years? In La Paillade and other major poor districts of Montpellier, this probably involves half the girls from Muslim cultural backgrounds (even though in other places it is sometimes a lot less). Of course, the girls in question “choose” to wear it sometimes for other than purely religious reasons. But we are still very far from the emancipatory logic of a confrontation with what oppresses individuals. As for religious references, they are now ubiquitous in everyday conversations amongst the young from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The merit of the article is to analyze the reasons for this development, without the wooden language and the good conscience that prevails in leftist and anti-authoritarian milieus (which nowadays merge to a great extent) where considerations of this kind are rare. Whereas, for example, Hafed Benotman3 already provided, a few years ago, a valuable analysis of the development of Islam (radical version) in French prisons in an interview4, which still gives us some keys to our understanding of the current situation. [note: He basically says that the French administration of prisons was not against the fact that many prisoners turned Muslim: they stopped fighting against their incarceration or getting involved in prison movements, as they were supposed to accept their sentences as fate]

For some time, in the anti-authoritarian milieu, it has been fashionable to criticize a certain tendency supposedly showing disinterest in the life of the “suburbs” and “estates”. The problem is posed in the following terms: the lack of presence of anti-authoritarian activists in the “suburbs” in question.

Reflections of this type are often the fruit of leftist and activist visions, whose clear objective is to seduce from the outside these people who are basically seen as different, and to do this based on the lowest common denominator (anti-imperialism, the struggle against “specific” forms of discrimination, partial critiques of the state of things, the valorisation of collective identities and of a pretence of belonging to a community, etc.). This is what demagogy and populism are about.

This approach often assumes that young people on the estates should “politicize” their revolt. Whereas, of course, many inhabitants of poor neighborhoods (estates and others), immigrants or of immigrant origin, are involved in struggles – in the workplace and other social spheres of daily struggle – pretty much everywhere. And it is among small groups of young people from the estates that direct confrontations with the police are the most developed (with attacks every day) 5

The groups and organizations which I have spoken about of course find it difficult to supersede their quantitative activist logic. And they ignore the fact that for many comrades (generally outside organizations) life in the “neighborhoods” and the references to what estates are associated with are nothing extraordinary: either because they come from these places or are close to them. It’s logical, and it is nothing new: see the texts of Os Cangaceiros from the 1980s 6

It can be embarrassing that individuals claiming to fight against existing misery are unfamiliar with certain rather basic proletarian realities. But the guilty conscience they have shown vis-à-vis some of the population, which contributes towards closing them up in the categories promoted by the dominant system, is even more so. Emphasizing the realities which are allegedly “specific” to such and such a group, they affirm above all a fragmented and victimist discourse (which is also unrelated to themselves) via a hierarchy of suffering, which is then, in turn, used to valorise a particular category, whose alleged members suffer more because they’re victims of more discrimination than others. And it is these arguments that form the basis of the new “racialist” wave [SF note: “racialist” – a term indicating a perspective that still divides people according to “race” without supporting the dominant – white – “racial” hierarchy and without being racist in the normal sense of the word; it’s often a concept produced by  “whites” who feel guilty] with its “theory” of so-called “white privilege”, its “social races” and other nebulous concepts. Moreover, if one’s going to use categories, why not create new ones? Reality provides us with the basis for doing so, almost without limit: disabled people, those with unhappy childhoods, incarceration, addiction, illnesses, etc.

The result of this demagogic approach is the maintenance of a stereotypical segmentation (which like all stereotypes have some truth), which is very common in France, namely the difference between the estates and the rest of the country, coming historically from, at one and the same time, a fear of crime, racist clichés and class prejudices.

And in speaking the words of the enemy, we necessarily end up adopting its language.

Estates, suburbs, etc.

To clarify the matter, it is quite common to consider that there exists a “normal” France and a France of the estates. The generic terms used in French – “estates” (referring to public housing) and “banlieues” (suburbs) – are also very imprecise.

Nice estates

Nice 1

(East Nice)

It often makes an amalgamation of poverty, immigration and crime with council house estates, which implies their location is on the outskirts of towns. And it therefore prevents a more complex understanding of reality. With nuances like the following:
– The poor neighborhoods of France are not limited to estates;
– Estates are not always located in the suburbs (there are rich and poor suburbs, and estates in the centre of towns, in villages, etc.);
– The size of estates or of popular neighborhoods varies greatly (some large districts, which are commonly called “estates”, such as La Paillade in Montpellier or L’Ariane in Nice – with about 40,000 and 30,000 inhabitants respectively – are in fact sets of estates and of residential housing);
– In the estates, the proportion of inhabitants originating from immigration varies (they may even be a minority);
– The origins of the inhabitants vary greatly from one place to another; there are many multicultural estates where no origin is really dominant (La Noue in Montreuil and Bagnolet), just as there are some where there’s a norm (in La Paillade the majority are Berbers from Morocco; in the estate of Gély, also in Montpellier, the vast majority are Spanish gypsies);
– ‘Immigrants’ are not all from poor countries, and not all of them live in estates or in poor neighborhoods;
– There are miserable neighborhoods or homes in large, medium and small towns and even in rural areas.

la paillade

La Paillade, Montpellier, with local Mosson football stadium in the background

Also the estates and suburbs are associated with culturally specific stereotypes, elements and references (including rap, graffiti, the influence of foreign cultures, a typical accent), particular phenomena (delinquency, gangs, gang rape, hash dealing). And all this is meant to form a separate reality from the rest of France, where the “French” live, although recently and under the influence of theories from American universities the term “white” is used. 

Incidentally, each of these terms are as absurd as the other: quite a large amount of French people have foreign origins which are more or less recent, many individuals called “immigrants” are of French nationality, and as for what are termed whites – they aren’t limited to Europe because many people from Kabylia, Armenians, various Middle Easterners (Syrians, etc.) and Asians are all more white than anything else, as are most of the Kosovar, Bosnian and Chechen immigrants, or the Yenish “nomadic” people, etc. It would be ludicrous to attribute special privileges/preferences to them, except perhaps in terms of the possibilities of revolt the rather disadvantaged place offered to them within French society could provide them with (and isn´t it the only “privilege” that directly interests us). But then again it seems that these realities are more or less unknown to some anti-authoritarians.

Of course, the main generalisations here are not entirely false, but they are mostly overgeneralised. It is true that estates are socially homogeneous: their inhabitants are poor (albeit with different nuances: for example, that between workers and unemployed people or those on social benefits); in towns they are often located outside of the centre; in general, many “immigrants” live there (of which a significant proportion come from Maghreb countries).

One cannot deny that life on the estates has particular aspects, which gives their inhabitants a certain identification with their living conditions and common social practices.

But when one wants to generalize from this and draw an accurate outline of what is specific to estates, we quickly fall into schematic caricature. For it is not easy to distinguish what concerns life on the estates from what are particular cultural aspects (Arab culture, etc.), from the habits of youth, from references to petty delinquency, from social difficulties common to “immigrants” or to the proletariat in general, etc.

These phenomena have contact points, but taken altogether they form in the imagination a vision of those who are the “people of the estates,” stuffed full of clichés, frozen and reductionist.

It is obvious that young people from the estates, living in places where there’s a heavy concentration of population and poverty is important, are more exposed to certain phenomena (exclusion, crime, unemployment, prison). Or for those of foreign origin, sometimes torn between the norms of their cultures of origin and those of France and facing racism, identity problems are often complex.

No need to be a sociologist to know that most youths on the estates are found in the vocation-oriented high schools, with other youths from proletarian backgrounds, immigrants or not, and that the daughters and sons of the poor tend to become poor themselves.

Since our logic and our goals don’t have much to do with those of the specialists, it might be interesting to analyze some of these phenomena, but mainly in order to put forward perspectives that enable us to end separations (real or exaggerated). In short, that these reflections inform our practice, rather than serve as a way of maintaining specialized disciplines, which are doing very well without us. Although we know that social problems and academic theories increasingly tend to get confused, to the entire benefit of the latter.

The issue of allegedly belonging to the world of “estates” and “suburbs” is of no interest, nor is splitting things up (into estates/other types of areas), since it’s necessary to supersede these things, both from now on and in the long run in a definitive manner, through the negation of the existing social order and its practice.

Contrary to the cliché promoted by budding sociologists from the “libertarian” milieu, many rebels come from estates or poor areas, regardless of whether or not they’re of (more or less recent) immigrant origin. It’s enough to just look a little beyond the milieus most invaded by academia, or just simply beyond activist circles.

And the rebels in question often take care avoid being equated with categories: why would they want to be identified according to the place where they grew up (with all the stereotypes that that implies), or some alleged ‘racial’, cultural or community sense of belonging. Society, family and the community have already pushed them enough: it’s better to leave them to play this tune – and the same goes for the recuperators. From the rapper Rost to the comedian Djamel Debbouze via Lilian Thuram or the Indigenous of the Republic 7, those who claim to represent others know perfectly well how to use them.

Traditions, religion and Islam

It’s this which has made us, S [girlfriend of author] and me, sick to the stomach for several months hearing what the populist anti-authoritarian milieus say about Islam – they divert attention from the attitudes of individual revolt against the family, the traditions and pressures of all sorts (direct and indirect) suffered by individuals from a Muslim culture within their homes and their “community” (as in all homes inspired by religion, in most other homes in different ways, and within what is generally called “communities”).

But obviously, when one wishes to seduce and mobilize, it is best to base oneself on what is likely to gather people together beyond classes and beyond concrete struggles: for example, based on pseudo-communities (most young people of immigrant origin, except for 2-3 annual festivals, don’t give a toss about them any more than they do about the good old days, if indeed they recognise their existence). Belonging to an alleged community, when it is accepted, often involves marriage in the community, submission to its rites, traditions and community standards, and more generally to multiple forms of conditioning, of which the family is a fundamental conveyor. It is the critique of all this that can and should help to connect us, just as it has connected communities of struggle (the only ones that potentially interest us) and the individuals who have participated in these over decades.

Any notion of existing community (national, ethnic, religious) is reductionist, and plays a policing role: to stay only amongst people from Cape Verde, from Corsica, from Tunisia etc. according to the needs of managers, representatives and spokespersons. And anyone who has a minimal knowledge of the logic of the communities at work around us can only be alarmed at the idea that they could be integrated into an anti-authoritarian logic.

All are criss-crossed with various forms of particularism, of chauvinism, of internal separations (by region, ethnic groups, castes of origin, skin color, religion, etc.). Amongst Laotians: differences between Lao and Hmong and Thai Dam; amongst Algerians between Kabyle, Arab, “Harkis” (and their sons and grandsons); amongst the Malagasies, the Merina and “those from the coast”; amongst gypsies from Spain, the Catalans and the Andalusians… to name just a few concrete examples of separations and divisions I know of. If the logic of community does not exclude links of solidarity between their “members” (that’s the least one could expect), the other side of such a logic is too problematic for us to form valid bases for struggle and recognition between individuals.

As for Islam, its recent boom shows us the obvious. You need a helluva demagogic discourse to accommodate yourself to its consequences, or to pass over them in silence (which is what a lot of anti-authoritarians do behind their discourse about struggling against Islamophobia).

Barely a teenager, and whilst society was still far from the current influence of religious phenomena, what I observed in areas of Nice (which mainly concerned close friends), I’d already found unbearable. The same goes for S. in the various neighborhoods of Toulouse where she grew up and lived, like Bourbaki or Les Izards (the latter having made the headlines in March 2012 with Mohamed Merah 8, then in 2014 for the series of murders that happened).

I am talking here about extreme forms of sexual repression, of masculine domination, the emphasis on virginity and marriage, and everything that religious phenomena can generate in the way of frustration, false consciousness and manipulation in order to force individuals to conform to the standardized image religion advocates that its followers reflect.

All this has greatly contributed to developing in us a rage against this world, even if it was posed in more basic terms at that time in our young minds. But it is true that the manifestation of a rejection of this internal control in addition to that of the state were still fairly common. And our visions of things were less polluted by the conspiracy theories in vogue today, like the crass stupidity of current rappers (with a discourse tinted with a despicable religious morality such as Medine’s, which coexist in such an a priori contradictory manner alongside the beauf” meathead/bumpkin mentality of Gradur, Jul or Kaaris 9).

Could it be that anti-authoritarians ignore these realities, which are an integral part of our immediate social environment? Have they forgotten the content of a text like “Minguettes Blues”, which was widely circulated, and already in the early 80s hinted at some of these issues? Today, the publication of a similar text would provoke hysteria. People would shout “sacrilege!”, shout about phobias.

But in the 80s, when culturalist and ethnicising interpretations and perspectives were less fashionable, expressions of a refusal of submission to religious and family morality were certainly less taboo. And in other parts of the world such expressions were already getting people killed (see Bab el-Oued at the end of the 80s) just as today it does a bit everywhere.

The examples taken from the field of culture are interesting because “culture” (often in a recuperative form) echoes with issues that run throughout society and our lives. We could mention Rachid Taha 10 from his beginnings, dozens of rap texts from the 90s, Fellag’s11 shows, etc. And the same requirements of emancipation went through the literature of the Muslim culture of countries (and their diaspora) throughout the century: from MF Farzaneh 12 to Abdel Hafed Benotman [see footnote 3] (with his magnificent “Dustman on scaffold”) via Mohamed Choukri 13, and many others. Same in the cinema, theatre, etc.

Influence of radical Islam in the slums?

As for the jihadist phenomenon, it would be an exaggeration to say that it has a decisive influence in the poor neighborhoods of France. We also know that those who go off for jihad enrol via the internet more than through attending mosques, whose moderation they despise.

But it is problematic to deny that penetration of a basic Islam in popular areas and more radical currents are not as isolated as all that. Just as the young, ultra-connected to the internet, are increasingly susceptible to the conspiracy theories that abound there, and exposed to anti-Semitic propaganda and to the very dubious anti-imperialism of some Arab TV channels. Given that all this is adding to the alienation produced by the current forms of entertainment (reality TV, etc.) and intensified passivity in terms of social confrontation, it is not surprising if the cocktail , in extreme cases, becomes explosive.

In Bon-Voyage and other districts in the east of Nice that I know, several dozens of youths have gone off to fight jihad over the last two years (some say a hundred or more, but it’s hard to verify).
In Lunel, a town of 25,000 inhabitants a few kilometers from here, eight young people have already died as “martyrs” in the Middle East.

Attributing the responsibility for these types of behaviour to the personality of a recruiter like Omar Diaby, to capitalism or to the French state … seems reductionist to say the least, when we know about the influence of the currents of political Islam which exist a bit everywhere that there are people of Muslim culture. And when we hear that there can be no link between the allegedly soft version of religion and the “hard” version (and that saying otherwise smells of Islamophobia), it is normal to be angry, knowing many Muslims’ take on marriage, virginity, intimate relationships, contraception and abortion, the family, the respective roles of men and women, etc. Which essentially coincide with those of Catholics and of other religious people.

To be convinced of all this and to see it clearly, nothing stops us from focussing on the content of imam sermons, on the affiliations of Muslim associations, on the conferences, and “debates” they host, etc. And I refer again to the aforementioned text of the Lieux Communs [Common Places] collective.

This is not to say that Muslim structures are riddled with radical Islam and jihadism. They are simply the vector of eternal forms of conservatism, and in some cases of very self-interested confusion, and this can lead to tolerance for the most extreme forms.

The current capitulation of many anti-authoritarians to religion and and their avoidance of the urgent necessity of a critique of it by everyone allows people to ignore other phenomena, on a larger scale. As happens vis-a-vis the atheist movement in the Middle East, the development of anti-authoritarian thought and practices in Muslim countries (including those outside the Middle East: Malaysia, Indonesia), or more broadly of the episodes of class struggle and of breaks with normality in these self-same areas – all these hold more emancipatory possibilities than all the various kinds of tolerance for religion.

One also becomes indifferent towards, among other examples, the kind of recent implementation of the strategy of the Algerian central power in Kabylia, a region which has been historically defiant towards organized religion and the state (and where lots of immigrants from Algeria come from), which is now using a very precise way of implanting it: the construction of mosques.

I put the new interest in Islam in France at starting in around 2001 14. It was at about this time that religious discourse began to hold the attention of many young people, and behavior began to change. Previously, it was quite usual to make fun of it: we did it without major problems in our multicultural teenage groups, such as jokes about our origins and those of others, often indicating a tenuous sense of identification with any religious or ethnic community (this being, of course, not something one could generalise about). But today all this has become almost taboo, and indicates precisely the opposite: the state of tension.

It was at around this time that the rapper Kéry James (from Ideal J), a personality appreciated because of the element of revolt contained in his discourse (and his “street cred reputation”), announced his conversion to Islam, and the new precepts that he was following, both in his personal life and in his recording sessions which were also expressed in these sessions (not shaking hands with women, not using string or wind instruments).

This kind of discourse, and the moralism they contained, had a deep effect on people: even if rap has always conveyed some elements of conformism, here it had been taken to a whole new level.

They have become commonplace since, including an increase in talk condemning the sexuality of girls from the “neighborhoods”. 15

Then female friends – all of them the most heathen – began to wear the veil. And mates adopted an ascetic discourse virulently condemning what they themselves did not stop doing daily, in an increasingly schizophrenic logic (and which is found to the power of 10 in a Mohamed Merah or a Salah Abdeslam 16) .

The phenomenon of jihadism clearly has mixed origins, that cannot be reduced solely to the political or economic situation in France (and thus make only the French State or international capitalism responsible, as the specialists in reductionism, the on-duty Marxologists and the anti-authoritarian leftists do). It comes at one and the same time from the poverty of living conditions, the specificities of the place of “immigrants” and those who are similar in France (exclusion, discrimination, racism), the recent development of religiosity here, and of course from political Islam in the world (especially via certain Arab TV channels). And also from modern forms of alienation, like from the confusion increasingly present in the understanding and critique of society, which is far from touching only the estates and poor neighborhoods.

That youths (a few hundred or a few thousand), have today come to the point of “wanting” to die as martyrs, should really make us question things, encourage us to broaden the scope of critique and make a stand against the atmosphere of populism, such as the cynicism of poseurs and their tolerance for the despicable 17.

Just a few years ago young proletarians who were moving most extensively onto the path of violence took the path of gangsterism, with the first links between certain estates and the French forms of mafia (ie big gangsterism). Still, in general the traffic in hash allowed them to keep their distance from the logic of the ultra-violence of professional crime (one does not last long in the Corsican, Rivieran or Parisian mafia). Today, the new gangsterism which is more or less specific to the “neighborhoods” (with the cliché “go fast” – spoken in English) 18 is a little bit in between, and co-exists, at least in some places, with a few cases of religious fanaticism.

It is tragic, but not really surprising for those who have not jumped over episodes in the observation of the nuances of the reality of recent years.

It’s not by spreading the libertarian Word on estates which will bring about the project of emancipation, but the deepening, by those concerned, of existing antagonisms and critique (in words and in practice) of what oppresses them daily: norms, traditions, religion, the state, their own relation to capital, confinement in pigeonholes and identities of any kind, racism, alienation.

We are far from all this!




Unless otherwise stated, footnotes are by the author.

1 Without necessarily sharing the political outlook of the “communiste ouvrier” (working class communist) Nicolas Dessaux, his interview on Daesh is one of the few recent contributions combining these aspects. Link in French. A translation of most of this is below in appendix 2.

2 We, Arab immigrants, faced with our political choices”, by the collective “Lieux Communs”. Link in French.

3 Benotman: a comrade from an Algerian background who died recently and who’d been a thief, spent years in prison, wrote powerful books, and founded L’Envolée, an excellent monthly publication focussing on prisoners.

4 See the answer to question 14 of the interview here (which begins with « Dans ce film, la prison est montrée… »). Link in French.

5 It may be useful to recall that some old radicals have, in the past, said particularly silly things especially about the “youths from the estates.” Without doubt, the prize goes to the adjective “barbaric” given to them by Encyclopédie des Nuisances’ member Jaime Semprun in The abyss repopulates itself.” For some idea of the extent of small-scale confrontations with the state on estates, see the chronology here.

6 See eg Minguettes blues, published and introduced on the non-fides site.

7 Rost : Togolose-born French rapper from Paris. From a very poor family, he was the leader of the once underground street rap and graffiti crew CMP Familia. He made money with an independent label (like other street entrepreneurs) and titles such as “Money and the mafia” (1997), and after the 2005 riots started lots of caritative projects in estate environments, promoting the vote and social success through studies, with large public funds. He now collaborates with Hollande’s government.

Djamel Debbouze : French comedian, probably the first one to come from an estate, immigrant background. Raised in Trappes, a very isolated and poor suburb of Paris. He became very famous and popular at the time of the “black blanc beur” wave, which started after the 1998 soccer world cup victory of a very multicultural French team, with lots of jokes about cultural particularities and a kind of a critique of French racism and exclusion. It then became a trend in France, which he himself supported by opening his own theatre. He started promoting the vote and social success (termed social equality) not long after. He sided with the Socialist Party in several elections, and became a friend of Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI.

Lilian Thuram : famous soccer player from Guadeloupe (region in the West Indies, still a department of France) who became famous after the 1998 French team’s famous for his support of voting and his promotion of black identity. He occupied positions in governments, on themes such as integration.

Some excellent recent articles – such as this by Cassandre – now make it possible to dispel any illusion (for those who have them) concerning the alleged will of the leaders of a party like the Indigenous of the Republic to end racism and the system that produces it.

8 Mohamed Merah : French terrorist responsible for three attacks in 2012, that killed 7 persons, including three Jewish children in a synagogue. He had travelled to the Middle East during the previous years, and was in touch with some French secret service members. This article in English – describing the attitudes of various Arab youth in Toulouse towards this terrorist – is rather spectacular and exaggerated.

9 Medine : French rap star, who mixes street-entrepreneur lyrics with strict religious moral stances, sometimes bordering on integrism ( His famous “Don’t laïk” contained a critique of the French republican concept of secularism (laïcité), but calling for crucifixion of those who promoted it, and other delicacies such as “for Women’s day, I’ll wear a burqini – burqua, no?” or. He calls himself an “Islamic thug”.

Gradur : French gangsta rapper. Kind of famous despite his particularly incoherent lyrics, a characteristic that became a tendency or even a norm in rap around the middle of the 2000’s, and which now includes “forms” similar to US trap music.

Jul : probably today’s most famous rapper among southern French youth. He comes from a poor Marseille estate, and bases his popularity on all the clichés and stereotypes associated with estates, the promotion of the petty delinquent and mini-entrepreneur mentality, and lyrics sometimes reaching high levels of stupidity, even in terms of present standards. His video clip for his national hit Sors le cross volé” (French for “Take the stolen motorbike out”) ends with young adolescents repeating his chorus “Don’t undress, I’m gonna rape you”. The song can be heard all day long in the popular neighborhoods.

Kaaris : French promoter of gangsta rap, with lyrics constantly expressing one thing and its opposite. The street cred he boastfully proclaims took a few blows recently, which fans of “beef” between rappers (read: self-promotion) know a lot more about than me.

10 Rachid Taha : famous Franco-Algerian singer, who mixed traditional Arab music with modern styles such as rock or punk. He was one of the first celebrities from a Maghreb background. He had socially and class conscious lyrics in the 80’s (his hit cover for “Douce France” caused positive controversy) and to some extent after that, though not that subversive anymore.

11 Fellag : Algerian comedian who denounced the reactionary politics of Algeria and French politics towards the Maghreb migrants. His shows also contained lots of comments about individual freedom and good critiques of various forms of conditioning, including religion.

12 Maxime-Féri Farzaneh : Franco-Iranian writer inspired by Iranian surrealist Sadegh Hedayat. His book “Four aches” has been banned by all Iranian regimes. 

13 Mohamed Choukri : Moroccan author whose For bread alone” described his life of extreme misery at the time of French colonialism. It has been banned in lots of Arab and Muslim countries, and still is to this day.

14 SF note: The author, in a conversation with me, said that he noticed this before 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. It might be connected in some way to the development of the 2nd intifada in Palestine (which began in September 2000) or just the general retreat from class struggle and the increasing atomisation coming from the repression of these communities of struggle – though in France this was far less developed than in the UK or elsewhere.

15 It is very fragmentary to quote just one example … but, anyway, take rap star Rohff’s renowned couplet in the song “Pour ceux” [“For those”] in 2003, an explosive mix of imbecilic virilism and machismo, in the form of a dedication for social losers who make you afraid / who make cheese / always on time for transactions / and end up on a lounger in Pattaya / Big fuckers whose dicks are always hard, who go on trial [wordplay between french terms for “dick” and “trial”]…… For the virgins / those whose pussies and armpits don’t stink / Who take care of themselves, do the cooking, and the dishes/ Who had a halal wedding … ” For some other reflections on French rap see the section: “The politics of French Rap” here (written in 2005).

16 Salah Abdeslam: Belgian-born French terrorist, suspect in the Paris attacks. He became Europe’s number 1 suspect after his escape. His friends all insist on how much he liked girls, cars and parties not long ago…the same is said about Merah.

17 It’s surely the Tiqqunians who, on their website Lundi Matin (“Monday morning”) , broke all records in this way with their spectacularly anti-intelligent” paragraph in the article “The real war” concerning the attacks in Paris (the brave can look here – link in French).
For a critique of this text and its authors, see here.

18 SF note: “Go fast” was a term used for the mode of transportation of drugs in France, when they’d buy the drugs, say in Spain, and drive at ridiculously high speeds to, say, Marseille to re-sell or distribute them in some way. Although the practice no longer takes this form – the cops quickly recognised it for what it was – the term is still used for the transportation of large amounts of drugs for distribution.[SF]

Links to other parts of this text:


1st letter: Open letter to the libertarian site  “Beneath the Ashes”

Brief notes on French racism 

What is the Islamic State?

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