A few notes on the following: erudite and isolated, this ‘free electron’ offered a few days ago (french original) a few thoughts on the material reality of the media-construct ‘casseur’ (literally ‘breaker’, meaning hooligan, vandal, parasite, almost psychopath) in the current moment. The following text isn’t so much a document of the current movement as a real-time critical assessment of its scope and possibilities. Since the ‘vandal’ has been such a central figure in the English-language reportage of events in France, we thought it’d be useful to circulate. So: PDF(nothing special) and plaintext after the break.
(we didn’t translate the title: ‘front commun’ means something like ‘shared front’ but the echo of ‘communisme’ was worth too much to take out. ‘casseur’, as will become clear, means almost nothing. There were two things that we couldn’t translate, too: one sentence left in French, in full, in the text body; and the acronym ‘SO’, some sort of mainstream leftist body. Corrections welcome.)
LE FRONT COMMUN DES CASSEURS
It’s not unreasonable to offer a small preamble: the form’s not the essence. So there’s no question here of idealising the practices for whatever they may be ‘in themselves’, but to see them in a utterly particular context.
Violence isn’t ever something to romanticise, to idealise. It’s just necessary to every act of revolt, every slightest revolutionary effort. And not for anyone lead down through the filth of authoritarian strategies.
One marks a nice difference with this social movement in comparison with its most recent precedents. The entry of the lycéens isn’t being accomplished in tranquil way: that’s the least one can say. The radicalisation isn’t lead by a minority for the sake of the movement [en fin de mouvement] but translates itself directly into acts, and even these are undertaken in a diffuse way. Reading the notices from one of the last few days gives us a precise, unequivocal indicator: they’re confronting the police, they smash, they burn, they sack etc, whether in the big towns or a little village. The contagion’s there, the machine’s getting going.
And it’s there that a second specificity comes into play: the figure of the urban youth of November 2005 – who during the lycée movement of 2005 or during the anti-CPE movement of 2006 went on the demos but not, really, with the same end in mind as the demonstrators themselves (and, indeed, several “antagonisms” made themselves felt on that terrain) – are finding themselves this time on the same side of the barricades. A certain reconciliation is, in effect, underway. This isn’t class unity, but it’s a nice start to association. Which – the egg or the chicken – provoked it? That’s not too interesting to know. What’s sure is that two phenomena shall, from now on, reproduce themselves: the lycéen blockaders adopting more offensive strategies (or at minimum reactions); the urban youths, not all of whom are necessarily disciplined school-goers (it’s not interesting to add nuance to or develop this point, it’s not the basis of the argument) coming to join the blockade or its environs, to help out during/to take advantage of the confrontations and for that matter bring a few rocks … and so it continues.
One meets with a series of acts of violence where even the media, no longer end up saying that the events are uniquely due to “infiltrated casseurs”. And the teachers of lycées recognise with compassion that the casseurs are also their lycéens. Oh shit! the figure of the barbarian’s coming apart. [On se retrouve avec des témoignages qui ne faisaient pas de doute mais qui là sont encore plus explicites : la reforme des retraites, certes personne n’en veut, mais on s’en fout aussi un peu beaucoup. ] It’s also – and above all – a great pretext to throw up whatever’s in one’s stomach, which one ordinarily retains for the most part. And as certain lycéens say, that follows the movement. I start to break stuff or to chuck stones at the cops because the others do it. And there’s no doubt that that’s a fine act. Since in general the same guys disport themselves with much more docility towards the system (at school or more generally.) They break, in the end, a few of their own chains.
The significant difference here is that it’s not a question of a chain of reactive, violent events after, for example, a police “blunder”, as was perhaps the case in November 2005 or more recently in Greece. Rather, an opportunity has been seized. And even if one could say the same stuff (the famous tale of the ‘pretext’) when it’s a question of reactive riots, one finds in this case a cute little specificity: that reactive outbreaks have more obvious reasons to try and confront the direct cause: the figure of the cop. Here, the cop isn’t particularly the cause of the pension reform. Even if he disposes himself offensively/repressively during the movement, it isn’t essentially for this, that contrary to what the nice leftist democrats would have us think (the famous “police provocations”), that we want to fuck him up, him and his colleagues. It’s a little personal vengeance for those who know the daily humiliations which put them in their place: those who protect capital, the State, those who put the bridle on us each day, those who were authorised to put us away in the past and to smash today’s revolts. So it’s altogether sensible that the first reaction on seeing them isn’t to blow kisses or stage a sit-in in front of him, but to really go at it. The more people turn up, the better it’ll be.
But let’s not simply place the cop at the centre of everything. (As a little aside, the union’s stewards should receive their own dose of the everyday…) The armed wing of capital should definitely get a smack in the face, but it certainly doesn’t end there. There’s stuff left over: what must be blown up, pillaged, what must be burnt. Every material thing which each day humiliates us in our efforts to live, all the frustrations and one way streets which this fucking society offers have to take a few blows, get sent flying (which may only mean that we should have an immediate and pragmatic spirit, and line our pockets.)
In the current state of things, it’s no use to tell oneself that this or that could serve effectively or not this or that grand purpose. A busted shop window or a burnt-out car have never changed anything and won’t change the world in itself, that’s for sure. It’s just that these last few days already give the indicators for tomorrow, whether within this movement or in another future. More and more guys have nothing to lose, and more to gain from seeing the world croak. And when most of these people take to the streets they’ll set to committing a course of actions lacking a route back. When there aren’t 10 but 1000 windows smashed simultaneously and without consultation, e
In the current state of things it makes no sense to mark out what could serve effectively or not for anything. A busted shop window or a burnt out car have never changed anything and won’t change anything such as it is, that’s for sure. One could justifiably say that these last days give indicators for tomorrow, be it in this movement or another. More and more people have nothing to lose and more to gain from seeing the world smashed. When the majority of these people take to the streets they will set to commiting a series of actions with no return. When it’s no longer 10 but 1000 windows put in, simultaneously and without consultation – everything shall have begun.
When’ll we get the first burnt refinery?
-A free and revolting electron who hopes for a very high-tension current in order not to have to sleep at night … too long.
PS: a note to the democratic conspiracy theorists: comrades, in order no longer to have any doubts whether or not there are cop-provocateurs who bust shop windows and commit all sorts of violent acts, notably around the Parisian black blocs, next time get your hands on an iron bar and bust it first. It’s the only shock therapy which you have available. Other than that you can still rejoin the ranks of the SO [?] or, further afield, those militant Stalinists forming up. But pay attention, you’re going to get one bang in the face, because even if we know that the SO don’t have cops embedded in their ranks (oh shit, yeah, there are sectoral branches of cops and prison guards in a fair few unions) we also know that those guys have cops well-embedded in their heads. So they’ll be treated as such. Pigs to slaughter.