Socialist sociology after Charlie Hebdo
Je Suis… de la classe politique
The indomitable furtiveness of the human spirit, Paris, January, 2015.
What were they all about, the mass march and the politicians’ shepherded, wooden stroll? Neither the Parti socialiste nor Charlie Hebdo are notable defenders of free speech. In 1996, Charlie Hebdo gathered over 173,000 signatures to petition the then Interior Minister, Jean-Louis Debré, to proscribe the Front national, on the grounds that its political goal was to overthrow the Republic.
Malek Boutih is the Deputy (Parti socialiste) for the Department of l’Essonne, in the French National Assembly. After the lethal attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Paris supermarket in January, 2015, he was charged by the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, with the task of analyzing the phenomena of radicalization and jihadism, and formulating a policy response. Soon after the attacks, the French government allocated substantial funds for ‘deradicalization’ programs in the country’s prisons. Here in full is the introduction to M. Boutih’s report, which was submitted to the Prime Minister on 2nd July, 2015.
Génération Radicale, Malek Boutih, Député de l’Essonne, Juin 2015
« C’est une folie de haïr toutes les roses parce qu’une épine…… It is folly to hate all roses because one thorn pricks you, to abandon all dreams because one is not realized, to renounce all attempts when one fails. It is folly to condemn all friendships if one is betrayed, no longer to believe in love for just one infidelity, discard all chance of happiness just because something has gone awry. There will always be another occasion, another friend, another love, a new force. For every finality, there is always a new departure. …….Pour chaque fin il y a toujours un nouveau départ ». Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince, 1943.
The 11th January or nothing !
« Depuis quelques années, plusieurs signaux nous ont alertés…. For some years now, several signals have alerted us to the erosion of confidence in our republican values. From the proliferation of special demands from communities, regions, and corporations, to the popularity of Dieudonné* with his banalization of racist remarks, the fissures at the heart of our society have become obvious. With the events of January, they have become gaping wounds. The nature and magnitude of the attacks, perpetrated by French nationals, at first staggered our fellow citizens, then produced an unprecedented mobilization. Many have wanted to become engaged, but without knowing how to do so usefully, for in order to act, it is necessary first to understand. It is from this perspective that the report is written: to analyze clearly the progression of radicalization—jihadist in particular, in our society, in order to bring to it appropriate responses.Is there a spirit of 11th January? Does our country have the capacity not only to defend itself but to handle all the dangers, all the fault-lines revealed by these events? The answers are not to be found in the analysis or the interpretation of the huge and historic reaction of the French, who expressed their unity, their rejection of violence, their support for republican institutions faced with this test. Faced with an event such as this, mere statistical data, charts and graphs, are insufficient basis on which to construct a political analysis. If a ‘spirit of 11th January’ exists, it will be perceptible only in the collective capacity of our people to draw the proper lessons from these events, from what has gone before, and above all in the capacity of the republican state to meet the greatest political challenge with which it has been confronted in the post-war period.Through the choice of targets and with their public discourse, the perpetrators of the attacks of the month of January, 2015, have in effect struck at the heart of our republican model of government in threatening freedom of speech, secularism [laïcité], and national unity. Our enemies could have targeted diplomatic, military, or economic interests, but they chose more symbolic subjects. The team at Charlie Hebdo represented freedom of expression, the right to blaspheme; the murdered police officers were symbols of French diversity in the service of all; the Jewish citizens symbols of a country that fights antisemitism and guarantees liberty of [cultural] identity.France itself has been menaced in this attack, but it is precisely the Republic, her secular and liberating model, that was the target. From the standpoint of the aggressors, the weak point of France is not so much her economic decline, as her undermined republican model.The government’s first responses were designed to assure the security of our fellow citizens. Legislative measures provided supplementary means to the security services, and budgetary support to increase their deployments and improve equipment. However, as the Prime Minister said in his speech of 14th January, 2015, before the National Assembly, the challenge to be met is of the greatest magnitude. The crisis affects our country at its heart. Not just because all the killers were French, but because it is in the fault-lines, the tearing of the republican fabric, that their hatred, without which they could not have acted, swelled and prospered.Through the work of our diplomats, of our intelligence services, of our experts, and through that of the press, we know more and more about the jihadists and those who threaten us. Two parliamentary commissions have been convened to consider jihadist channels and networks, advocating various changes to the security and surveillance apparatus. But what about the motivation to commit the deed? How to explain why children of the Republic should turn against her? Issues of identity and religion are present, but are not full explanations. How to understand the instability of young women and men of all backgrounds, from all regions, who share this ‘hatred’, when their paths are so dissimilar?A large part of the answer to jihadists of all types, to those who wish to impose their views through violence, rests therefore on our capacity to identify the main driving forces that have led to this situation and to bring structural responses to them. The history of the Republic shows that, without national cohesion, without patriotism, without the will to live together, we are weakened and exposed to danger. National unity, allegiance to the Republic, lie at the heart of our collective project, indispensable to our security.This report seeks to identify the essential dynamics that promote radical and violent action: in order to understand, of course, but also to anticipate and forestall the dangers that weigh on our society. To protect the Republic, we must first clarify everyone’s responsibilities. Our national defence, our intelligence services and police operate within their respective boundaries. Their effectiveness is incontestable, but they cannot respond to the totality of challenges posed by jihadism. Democratic states have experience of terrorism, they know how to combat it and neutralize it. The danger with current developments is that they will go beyond the category of terrorism by virtue of the sheer number and diversity of candidates for the jihad. The responsibility of our national institutions is therefore not only to participate in and support the operations of our security forces. Everyone should be at the front, not militarily, but in the matter of defending the Republic. From government to village level, we are all responsible for the future of our country.To respond to the question whether a ‘spirit of 11th January’ exists, is to choose thoughtful and determined action to nurture this ‘spirit’. The alternative is defeat, the denial of our history. For the Republic, it is the spirit of 11th January or nothing ! ….. Pour la République, c’est l’esprit du 11 janvier ou rien ! »
*Dieudonné M’bala M’bala
French commedian, author of the quenelle ‘salute’, a mysterious gesture variously interpreted as anti-establishment or anti-Semitic. Quenelle is the French word for ‘dumpling’.