Interview conducted and published by Barricata n° 20. Translated from the French by NOT BORED ! 12 October 2009.
An interview with Claude Guillon
Q : You will soon publish Democratic Terrorization (Libertalia), which analyzes in detail the French and European legislative arsenals concerning anti-terrorism. Can you develop the thesis of your book and compare the situations in 1986 and today ?
Claude Guillon : The word « thesis » is too solemn ! The purpose of the book is to clarify the nature and history of the so-called « anti-terrorism » laws at the national and European levels. A large part of the public, including the activist milieus, have discovered the existence of and certain details in these texts because of the « Tarnac Affair. » The most common reaction has been to say, « But this isn’t important ! He [Julien Coupat] wasn’t a terrorist, just a guy who was accused — without proof — of having delayed a high-speed train for several hours ! » This is a naive and poorly informed point of view. The texts that were first adopted by the European Union after September 11, 2001, and then, later, by the different States, permit the authorities to describe all crimes as « terrorist », including political or union-based actions that are marginally legal. The so-called « anti-terrorism » laws have broken with common law. In France, during the mid-1980s, they created what is today called common law. The rule is simple: the State decides what merits being described as « terrorist » and repressed as such. It is important to understand the evolution of the last 20 years, because today it isn’t a matter of repealing the anti-terrorist texts, as if they were a kind of excrescence that could simply be cut off. There is a logical ensemble of texts on « terrorism », immigration, and delinquency, especially among youths. I call this logic « terrorization ». In their pretense to control all aspects of life, these texts are often delirious, often piled together without concern for coherence or even « efficiency ». In the case of the « Tarnac Affair », for example, this can give the false impression of being a crude and ridiculous shambles, some kind of « blunder ».
Q : In the last chapter of your book, you mention the many databased files at the disposition of the forces of repression. Besson has abandoned the DNA tests. Will the government retreat, now that is it faced with a post-Tarnac rebellion ? Or will it be a question of a simple economic and strategic retreat ?
Claude Guillon : The appearance of the book comes too soon to confirm this retreat, but I noted that no one wanted to publish the application decrees for the text. … Moreover, at the moment when the tests were [first] introduced in the law, there were a few quite strong critiques in the ranks of the Right. To say this in class terms, a fraction of the bourgeoisie, and not the least Rightist, cried « daredevil », because this proposal unfortunately recalls somber periods, as one says, and no doubt especially because it touches one of the fundamentals of the bourgeois order: the family, parental lines, and thus inheritance.
To respond to your question, I think that this [practice] will be put in play, one day or another, because it is in the logic of the market for « biological security » — one can already buy paternity tests on the Internet — and because there is another logic that ceaselessly produces new regulations. These two logics obviously feed off of each other: when a technical means of control exists, one [must] legalize and commercialize it.
Q : With respect to terrorization, you evoke two « dangerous combined figures » : the youth and the foreigner. What about the worker who makes demands ?
Claude Guillon : The worker in struggle, as well as the political activist, are quite involved, but at the end of the line. Though they are each involved, they do not feel that they are involved, at least not yet. The dangerous figures (the young delinquents and foreigners, who are thought to be delinquents due to the sole fact of their « illegal » presence) have been very closely associated with the figure of the terrorist. This all becomes a caricature in the actions of someone like Sarkozy, back when he was the Minister of the Interior. In 1986, one started to introduce the notion of « subjectivity », that is to say, elasticity, from the point of view of power, into the legal definition. After September 11, 2001, European authorities bluntly drew up a list of acts that could be classified as « terrorist ». One finds in them almost everything, including the activist repertoire: occupations, sabotage, etc. It is « terrorist intentions » that count and, of course, it is the cops and the judges who decide what your intentions are !
Q : Can you tell us how the European Mandate of Arrest, which is still hardly known, functions in this mechanism ?
Claude Guillon : This mandate falls within the logic of repressive harmonization that prevails over a larger and larger geographic space. It presents itself as an exchange of favors between the various « democracies » ; it is a form of legal recognition, in the same way that one speaks of diplomatic recognition. Concretely, the mandate means that any judge in any country in the E.U. can issue an arrest warrant for any national citizen of another country in the E.U. An example : I have participated in a demonstration in Genoa ; I return to Paris, where I live ; an Italian judge, who thinks that I am the one in the hood in a blurry photo, can have me arrested three months later by French cops. French justice, or my lawyer, can only oppose the execution of a warrant in a limited number of cases. The first targets of these European mandates were Basque autonomists. These legal measures, which the French Left encouraged and regularly congratulates itself on, are an important instrument of political repression, but the measure of their importance hasn’t yet been taken.
Q : You have recently published two other books. The first concerns the notion of body critique [corps critique] ; the other is about the Enrages. How do you articulate your reflections ? What is the link between the body, political history and anti-terrorist legislation ?
Claude Guillon : Your question points in the direction of « My life, my work ». I will try to be brief ! First of all, I consider myself to me an anarchist activist. For me, writing is a privileged tool, because it is the one I use the least poorly. In short, this is what they made me believe at school !
From my first publications, I have placed myself within a current of reflection upon the importance of the body in politics, which was an immediate translation of the struggles of the era (the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s) in favor of freely available abortion and contraceptives, and feminist and homosexual struggles. It was also an immediate antecedent of radical tendencies in psychoanalysis, especially Wilhelm Reich and his German Sexpol, and, further back in time, Fourierist amorous utopias. The efforts of Reich during the 1930s turned upon the articulations between the body, the unconscious and politics, most notably through erotic fleshing out [l’épanouissement érotique]. In the recent book that you mentioned, I tried to give flesh to the notion of « body critique », as one speaks of « mental critique », at the moment when scientists, avant-garde artists and enlightened activists were attempting to put a « supercession » of the body into practice, which is the goal of libertarian utopias.
OK the French Revolution. Along with many others (Kropotkin, Guerin, etc), I hold that it is a matrix that still hasn’t produced all of its effects. Despite a superabundant historical production on the subject, the Revolution is still poorly known and poorly understood. I have chosen to focus on the Enrages, the faction that seems to me to be the most radical and the least studied. One must always remember that many of the most interesting figures among the Enrages were women and that they posed, in actions, a certain number of questions that we are still exploring today. Furthermore, I think that the study of the French Revolution is indispensable for anyone interested in direct democracy.
With respect to these fundamental questions, the analysis of the « anti-terrorist » arsenal can seem anecdotal, although it isn’t without connection to history, because during the period of the Terror, the actions taken against the conspirators were centralized in Paris, just as the anti-terrorist measures of today are. And they are certainly connected to the body, since it is more and more the very locus [le support] of identification and the target of biometric surveillance. We can say that my arrangement with Libertalia has allowed me to re-state the point, but concerning a contemporary question, upon which I started working after the [French] riots of 2005 and the state of emergency, which, as I have said in passing, have not caused many more reactions than the anti-terrorist laws.
Q : To finish: have you any advice to give us ?
Claude Guillon : I can mention the forthcoming republication of E. Armand’s The Sexual Revolution and Amorous Camaraderie by Gaetano Manfredonia (Editions Zones). And, from my own recent reading: the passionate Desorceler, by the anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada (L’Olivier), and El Indio, a crude novel, not well written, but praised by Jules Celma, the guy who published the Journal d’un éducastreur through Champ Libre in 1971.