ANDREW HUSSEY – THE FRENCH INTIFADA – GRANTA LONDON 2014
Before discussing the ideological
content (and the content is always ideological, extremely rarely
historical and hardly sociological) let me evacuate an irritating surface of
There are very numerous mistakes
at the level of the spelling, the plain syntax, the general proofreading that
was sloppy and careless. Apart from misspellings, some words are missing, some
words are in excess, some words are misplaced. The author has a real problem
with his articles. You will learn that someone “was born in THE Isère.” (p. 270) That must have been a very wet
delivery. I just wonder if it would be possible to be born in THE Thames
. That would be very muddy indeed. For a Britisher,
what’s more working for the BBC, he should know better: it is a typical mistake
performed by “continental” British expatriates. But what about these other
cases: “the real masters of THE Bagneux” (p. 32), “taking his cue from THE Iran
Those were petty remarks. But the
following is not. He systematically uses the word “deputy” for a French Member
of Parliament as if “deputy” did not have a meaning in English that makes it
quite different from what an MP is. He could if he wanted use the French word
in italics, député, or in single
quotes, but he translates the word as if it were a transparent word. It is not.
It is irritating to use that Franglish that means NOthing in NO language NOwhere
in NO world. We could of course go on with such mistakes. The book is full of
them, literally as stuffed with them as a Thanksgiving turkey.
Let’s move to the content.
The book starts with the famous
2007 “Gare du Nord riot” in Paris
(page 1). He obviously has had indirect and edited (I mean biased) information.
The “riot” was a cover-up for a totally different act. The LTTE (The Tamil
Tigers) were at the end of their life span in Sri Lanka since for two years
they had been confronted to a winning and advancing offensive from the Sri Lankan
armed forces supported, equipped or simply technically aided by the Chinese,
the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Americans, plus a few smaller ones (the
American support was only revealed a year ago). And two years later in 2009
they would be completely wiped out.
In 2007 they organized or
prompted this racial incident in Gare du Nord, second level underground at the
exit of the various metro and RER lines to make all the police personnel
available in the station come down to contain it, which meant the underground
level of the stores was open to anything. All those stores have insurance
contracts covering looting. Most of them were in the hands of Sri Lankan Tamils
and these had to accept what the LTTE decided for them to do, under the
blackmail of possible duress and repercussions on their families and relatives
in the island.
The stores were emptied of all
merchandise that was transferred to the trucks that were waiting in Rue du
Faubourg Saint Denis, a one-way outgoing thoroughfare getting “lost” around Stalingrad Square.
When loaded the trucks disappeared. The Tigers had calculated that the closest
police reinforcements had to come from Gare de l’Est and that it would take them
about 20 to 25 minutes to arrive. In that lapse of time one million euros of
merchandise disappeared to be thrown onto the black market and to provide an
urgent mass of cash for the LTTE and their last though doomed war efforts.
We are very far from a purely
racial riot of Muslims against France.
In one word that is a horrific opening for the book.
And all along a real string of
mistaken praying beads are used as mantras to hammer in an opinion that is at
least debatable, that is nothing but that, an opinion far from history and far
from reality, at least some helpful understanding of reality.
Let me give some of these.
The 1961 putsch in Algeria (page 197). On April 22, 1961, the planes
of the putschists were planned to fly into France in the night. One of the
main targets was Bordeaux
and its major armory and ammunition depot. It did not happen because in Algiers the planes were
supposed to be refueled by the draftees and the draftees refused to do it. The
planes were grounded.
I was a student in the boarding
school across the road from the ammunition depot. All night long trucks were
loaded and the ammunitions were taken away. In the morning, at daybreak, the
depot was empty. That depot was next door to the two airports of Mérignac
(commercial and military) and particularly the air force base. And the planes
Michel Debré, the Prime Minister at the time,
had called for all citizens to go to the airports in the morning brandishing
their empty hands to block the putschists. They did not do it. No one went to
the airports. But the Communists and the unions (particularly the CGT) had
called for a general strike, and the country was grounded against the putsch
leaders. De Gaulle was obliged to move.
Then we have the demonstration of
February 8, 1962 (page 201) with eight French citizens killed in Charonne’s
tube station. There is still a plaque on the station to prove and commemorate
it. His presentation is so sloppy that the demonstrators must run from La
Bastille square to Charonne tube station to be killed. Unluckily there are some
three or four kilometers between the too. In fact Charonne is next to Nation Square on Voltaire Boulevard,
and that’s where the demonstration started getting repressed by the police. He
does not seem to know the layout of things in Paris very well.
The book speaks of the famous
hundreds of Algerians who were thrown into the Seine
on October 17, 1961 by Papon’s cops (page 200) and the helping hands of some
demonstrators. The text of the book says a graffiti was written on the bridge
where this happened and the author says it read: “This is where we kill
Algerians.” But the book also gives the photo of the bridge and the graffiti
and it reads (in French of course) “Here we drown Algerians.” And that is what
happened. The Algerians were simply thrown into the Seine
and they drowned because most of them did not
know how to swim, and that detail was well known of the cops and the French.
This discrepancy in the book is bad work. And his editor – if he had any – was
very cheap if not illiterate.
He has a strange sense of French
EVEN MORE HISTORICAL MISTAKES
The “Déclaration des Droits de
l’Homme et du Citoyen” becomes the Declaration of the Rights of Man,
expurgating the Rights of the Citizen and using a very awkward phrasing. It
would have been a lot better to speak of the Declaration of Human and Civil
Rights. His translation word for word is typical of Brussels
That leads us then (page 110) to
the “restoration of the third republic” in 1870. Apart from the fact the
Republic was voted back into existence in 1875, it was not the “restoration of
the third republic” but the establishment of the third republic since the
previous one, before Napoleon III was the second republic from 1848 to 1851 or
1852 (the election of Napoleon or his instating the Second Empire under his
rule as Napoleon III). Of course he meant the restoration of the republic. But
such mistakes are sloppy historical knowledge or sloppy proof reading. Probably
both of them on the part of the author and on the part of his editor (English
meaning of course because I am not going to make the type of mistakes the
author does page after page, speaking Franglish).
A last instance will suffice. “The
paid holidays,” in my language paid vacation, he asserts were passed by the
Popular Front. They were for sure voted in by the French Parliament and its
Popular Front majority in 1936, but they were not in the program of that
Popular Front. They were imposed by the general strike that hit the country
after the elections and the concept itself seems to have come from the
Christian Unions and the various Christian Youth Movements (dixit the
psychiatrist Lucien Bonnafé in a private interview in 1986). He says it was the
first time ever in the history of humanity and here he is completely wrong.
A LAST BATCH OF IGNORANCE
First of all, days without any
work were introduced by the religious reform of the 9th
imposed the total absence of work on all Sundays and during the three main
religious week long festivities (Nativity, Passion and Assumption) altogether
some 75 days of NO-WORK-FOR-ALL. Hence the Christian inspiration behind the
concept. Then it is wrong to say the French here were the first. Hitler had
done it in 1935: two weeks off for workers, either on Cruises on the Baltic Sea
or in various vacation camps. Mussolini should
be checked and Stalin had done something along that line too. It is a French
myth, I mean a totally illusionary belief, that the Popular Front in France
the concept and the reality of paid vacations, and first of all that Léon Blum did
it as the Prime Minister. This is a pure mistake, just as much as it would if
we said the Americans were the first to fly a man into the cosmos. Andrew
Hussey has the Internet at the tip of his fingers. It would be good if he
checked his information or if he paid someone to do it. A second or third year
history major in any university could do it very easily for a pittance.
These were some cases. There are
many others like his information about Papon and the Jews; He connects him with
the Vel’ d’Hiv’ “evacuation of Jews” though Papon was tried late in his life for
anti-Semitic deeds during WWII, he was for the deportation of Jews from
Bordeaux in 1944, just before the departure of the Germans at the beginning of
June 1944 after a negotiation between Papon and the Germans for the latter to
leave the city before the arrival of the communist resistance who, when they
arrived, found Papon in the “prefecture,” Chaban Delmas in the Kommandantur in
the “Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux” and the Germans in Poitiers. My parents were
there and admired the blowing up of all German ammunitions in Cenon from their
fourth floor apartment Quai des Chartrons across the Garonne
I am the son of this event, nine months later.
Now what is the main idea of the
conquered Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in the most violent and
colonial way possible. The only way out of this mess was independence 150 years
later, more or less, after total devastation, destruction, destructuralization,
deculturation, etc., or at least the attempt of all these since Islam was
something impossible to eradicate. It left though only one choice to the
locals: submit, either in poverty and famine, or in poverty and expatriation-emigration.
Then these masses of people
deported to France
and living in squalor in some suburbs or urban areas find themselves totally
abandoned, rejected, segregated against. The deculturation is never compensated
by any acculturation, which makes the Post Traumatic Stress (Colonial) Syndrome
enormously more powerful, especially since the deculturation of their religion
was impossible and this religion became the main corner stone of their
resistance. Their religion was and still is their stronghold.
Unluckily the author does not
refer to this colonial version of this famous PTSS and he can only verbosely
speak of some kind of alienation and the search of stability and compensation
in jihadism, Islamism, extremism, just like for him the proletariat of old
found the same compensation in Marxism, communism, Leninism, Stalinism or
Maoism. He quotes Franz Fanon, the West Indian psychologist who fought on the
side of the FLN in Algeria,
but Fanon died very early and young. His approach of the heritage of
colonialism could not know PTSS since this concept in its general form, or in
the PT Slavery Syndrome or PT Slave Disorder did not exist yet. Quoting people
from the past or referring to people from the past can, and it is obvious in
this case, block your understanding of the present. Same thing when he refers
to Michel Foucault and his writings of the 1960s or 1970s. Yet he could have
quoted Louis Althusser who had to be known by Foucault, particularly his study
of State Ideological Institutions (Appareils Idéologiques d’Etat, AIE) and that
could have made him understand that Islam is such an AIE and when it becomes
such a harness it is very close to a mental straight jacket especially when it
is based on centuries or generations of deculturation and segregation,
colonization or slavery. It is the ideology of these institutions that can best
become the core of the mental resistance that will animate the material,
physical and social resistance later on.
This the author does not see
because of his extreme anti-communism and his absolutely blind agnosticism. He
cannot understand that a frustration, alienation and exploitation accompanied
by violence and extreme humiliation when it is long and reaches five or more
generations is going to produce in the next two or three generations, at times
even longer, the violent compensation that leads to destructiveness.
The treatment – and I do say
treatment because it is a “transmissible disease” – cannot be repression or any
war on terror. This PTS(Colonial)S is based on a double mentalcide. A mental
suicide on the side of the colonized that either makes them consider themselves
and behave as inferior submissive non-entities or rebel and hence justify their
elimination. A mental homicide on the
side of the colonizers that either makes them consider the colonized as
inferior and subhuman and eventually treat them as less than human beings. We
come to the following double reality. Only violence can liberate the repressed
energy of the colonized and only violence can keep the colonized in order and
within submissive limits. In the USA the Nation of Islam is heftily
working on such concepts to enable the descendants of slaves to come out of
their slave heritage. The author would be very much inspired if he tried to get
into such logic.
HOW CAN WE GET OUT OF THIS IMPASSE?
But it has to be a collective
process that first of all reconstruct the past for every descendant to rebuild
his or her ancestry and the positive and negative aspects of this ancestry of
these ancestors. It also has to be a collective process because this
recollected heritage has to be shared with other descendants of the same historical
event. It finally has to be collective too because it has to involve the people
of both sides and on both sides, the descendants of the colonized and the
descendants of the colonizers, without forgetting the descendants of those who
were neither colonized nor colonizing any one. The author might then have come
to the idea that all members of our societies have to remember the past in both
what good or bad it brought, reconcile with their past and all their neighbors,
and finally recommit themselves to basic human and civil values.
Then we come to this final
assessment of this book. It is not helping anyone in the present strife and in
fact it justifies both violent sides by pretending the descendants of the
colonized have only one option, violence and terror (in one word intifada), and
by pretending the descendants of the colonizers and of those who were neither
have only one option, to wage a war against terror.
Not only is this book bad as for
history, but what’s more it is ideologically negative and dangerous, evil some
would have said one or two generations ago. He is blowing on the embers of destructiveness,
of the death instinct, the Thanatos that is glowing in all human beings.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU