Something very important is happening in France at the moment.
The immediate catalyst for this historical turning-point has been the murder, by gendarmes, of a young environmental protester, Rémi Fraisse, near Albi on October 26.
The 21 year old, studying at nearby Toulouse, was supporting a campaign to stop a dam being built in a local valley. This dam, at Sivens near Le Testet, was only ever designed to help local agri-business and had been pushed through by local representatives of the ruling Socialist Party.
Unsurprisingly, the pros and cons of the scheme were suddenly exposed to the full spotlight of national publicity once the news eventually got out that Rémi was dead and that he had indeed been killed by a sound-grenade fired into his back at point blank range by the military-run police.
Some of the massive media attention has been diverted on to the usual party-political level of internal criticism and a deepening gulf between different groupings on the Left.
But it has also forced into the French public consciousness in a big way the fact that there is serious resistance being mounted against industrial capitalism. This has long been apparent with the Notre Dame des Landes ZAD (zone à défendre) against the proposed new airport for Nantes, but with Brittany in a general state of rebellion this was perhaps dismissed as an exception.
Now attention has been drawn to the fact that these kinds of battles are being fought all over the country, many of them going unreported in the corporate national media.
These protests are reminiscent of the wave of anti-roads protests in the UK in the 1990s. Traditional local opposition has successfully merged with a more radical approach, to the extent that a diversity of tactics does not prevent a unity of purpose.
Much was made by right-wing media of the fact that Rémi was killed during or after a full-on night-time attack on the dam building site by mostly masked-up comrades, in which molotovs were apparently thrown at the cops – this had followed a 7,000-strong protest march that afternoon.
But the manner in which he was killed has exposed the far greater violence deployed by the authorities in their policing – campaigners have reported weeks of constant physical intimidation by gendarmes, long before protesters finally tried to fight back.
And, of course, the violence of the police is just an echo of the violence against nature of the dam project itself, of the violence inherent in the entire ecocidal industrial system.
The astonishing thing is that people saying this, and calling for increased resistance, have actually been given a voice in the mainstream media, on the wave of public shock at Rémi’s death.
No doubt this will only be a temporary blip and the usual propaganda will be restored as soon as possible, but in many ways that will be too late. The can of worms has been opened. The public now knows that there are thousands of people – many of them very young – across France who consider themselves at war with the industrial machine, all its political parties, its hired uniformed thugs, its lies and assumptions.
If France is ahead of the UK in this respect it is perhaps because there is a lot more countryside here – France has about the same population as the UK, but is twice the size. People dropping out of the rat race tend to flood into cheaper remote rural areas in a way that is not possible in England, where land prices ensure the countryside is often the preserve of the rich.
Many of those fleeing to the countryside are aiming to escape modern industrial life rather than combat it. But once they get there, they inevitably come across the latest local tentacle of the global greed-monster destroying our planet. And they stand and fight. When, as ever, the capitalist system treats them like criminals for daring to dissent, they are radicalised. And they increase their resistance, deepen their solidarity with others.
It is significant that it is the so-called Left that is in power, both locally and nationally. Because what is happening has very little to do with outdated notions of Right versus Left, in which all are agreed on the need for “economic growth”, for “progress” and for “jobs”.
The opponents of the dam are in favour of “décroissance” (“de-growth”), of “anti-productivisme” – a philosophy which flows easily into the decentralism and anti-capitalism of specifically anarchist currents.
This is the war which is already being fought all over the world, but can only become clearer and more intense as time goes on. It’s humanity against the machine, nature against profit, the life-force against the industrial death-sentence.
The murder of one of our comrades by henchmen of the capitalist system (in France this time, but it happens everywhere) confirms again in a sickening way that this war is real and their intentions are ruthlessly lethal.
We must take this knowledge on board, gain a clear and uncluttered overview of what is happening and communicate this understanding to others, so that we can mobilise all that is good and strong in humanity to ensure that the foul forces of darkness do not prevail. The stakes could hardly be higher.
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