by Sam Fanto
Linked below are my translations of 2 open letters following the massacre in Paris, both written by 2 different friends. They cover some of the reactions to it, the contradictions of the “anti-authoritarian” milieu in France in part highlighted by the massacre, and some aspects of Islam and Islamophobia, and of the French “banlieus” and estates. They emphasise, above all, the need to renew the critique of religion in this epoch. The 2nd letter is particularly interesting as it develops some of these topics, including a look at aspects of music culture, in particular rap. Also included are 2 appendixes, the first being some sketchy notes on racism in France, the second being a translation of some excerpts of an interview with a marxist analyst about the Islamic State/Daesh and its history.
I read about the (predictable*) massacre early in the morning of 14th November, a bit before going to work in a flea market. At work, people were spouting crap about closing the borders, although sometimes this was tempered with the desire to end the intervention in Syria as well. Stating the obvious – that many of these jihadists come from the EU or from France itself, didn’t make people question their false “solution”. Over the working weekend, the bullshit spewing from the dominant media (or, at least, the bits of it I could bring myself to read) mixed me with disgust and depression. Monday, 16th November, I saw the text (in French) “Neither their war nor their peace”. Though I realised it was basically banal, a kind of standard reflex, I thought it was at least a valid counter-response to the dominant bullshit. So in the late afternoon I downloaded and photocopied about 100 of them before setting off to meet some friends in a bar. On the way there, in the main square of Montpellier, near where I live, a candle-lit shrine to the dead was surrounded by a few dozen people looking silently on (or sometimes, whispering). I was about to move on when I saw at the centre of this improvised shrine a fairly large drawn French flag tricolour with the words “Proud to be French” written on it. This made me feel pretty sick and angry – so I carefully stepped over the candles and placed one of the leaflets right next to it, though apart from the title, the leaflet would have been unreadable to anyone other than someone who picked it up. I then got into loud and angry mode – “What a load of shit – proud to be French! Proud to be Arab? Proud to be English? Huh!” . A woman came up to me and spoke softly saying all opinions should be respected here, asking me to keep my voice down. Nobody else said anything, apart from one who told me to keep quiet, so I shouted – “In this country of liberty of expression you have nothing to say, just silence – you should get angry”, and after an awkward moment when the woman said a friend of hers’ had been killed on that Friday, I stormed off with something like “all states are the enemy, including would-be states like Daesh”, slightly embarrassed by what she’d said and feeling I’d been kind of insensitive towards her and yet feeling it had been better to say something than nothing. Though I started to realise I’d been a bit “leftist”.
When I met my friends, we obviously talked about all this and one said I should read the intro to “Ni de leur guerre, ni de leur paix!” on non-fides before putting it out on the site, adding quite rightly, after I’d said it was written very quickly within 24 hours of the massacre, that it was often best to be patient and wait after such things and not just immediately respond. Later, on the way home, I bumped into a couple of friends and handed them the leaflet. A bit later, passing the candle-lit shrine, I noticed that the leaflet was still there, but turned round, so only the blank side was showing. The next day someone who knows one of the friends I’d bumped into earlier, phoned up and said he liked the leaflet and wondered if he could distribute it at the University. I said that there was no copyright, that it wasn’t my leaflet anyway and that he should read the non-fides intro. The guy was obviously very new to radical ideas, naive even. After reflection, I later decided not to distribute the 80 or so leaflets I had left. And on 18th November I sent this to Anarchist News in the thread with their translation of the leaflet.
The reason I’m saying all this is that the first “open letter” here, written by a friend, is in part a response to the leaflet. The second was written by another friend.
Comments in square brackets are mine, as are some of the footnotes.
PS See also: France: a reader (updated regularly)
*About 36 hours before the massacre, the following was written here, at the time of a failed attack on the military base in Toulon: “France is in an unprecedented situation. Attempts will become increasingly regular. What’s looming is a large-scale attack in France.”
Links to other parts of this text: