Freedom News

From the Land of Proudhon

Thom Holterman brings us the first of a regular series of news and book reviews from the French anarchist movement. 


I.          Tarnac affair

On the 11th of Novermber 2008 ten young people were subjected to early morning raids in the French village of Tanac, garnering widespread media attention. They were investigated under suspicion of sabotaging French railway lines and the Minister of the Interior at the time deemed it necessary to inform the country of a, “anarcho-autonomous clandestine structure,” that was,” focussed on committing violent acts.”


Now, nearly six years later, the police and other anti-terror organisations have failed to turn up any hard proof. The case appears stone cold and unsurprisingly clear records of police manipulating and falsifying evidence have come to light. The unmasking of undercover British cop Mark Kennedy has thrown the case into even further doubt as he stayed with some Tarnac activists during the summer of 2008.

The group supporting the Tarnac 10 reported on the 23rd of June this year that three judges will rule in the coming months on whether to take the case to court or drop it. Of course there is a hope for an acquittal, given the evidence. If that happens then a great party will be organised in the streets of Tarnac. In the event of a decision to take the case to trial, an even bigger party will be organised in the heart of Paris…


II.         Sport. What sport?

A special issue of the French anarchist weekly Le Monde Libertarie, is dedicated to sport. It concerns itself with the alienation in sport which has a led to everything from strong commercialisation to mafia practices such as gambling and bribery. Considering the recent spectacle of the FIFA world cup this issue couldn’t be timelier. The issue opens with an interview with Fabien Ollier, the editor of the French magazine Quel Sport?, a magazine that reports about the issue in a critical way. The following contribution, from Igor Martinache, does not deny that modern sport is in the grip of merchandising and exploitation that services the capitalist class. However he recognises that sport can also serves as a tool for the emancipation of the working class.


Le Monde Libertaire had previously delved into the topic of sport in a previous issue (no. 1718) Those in power off the people sport as a distraction (as in the ‘Bread and Circuses’ of ancient Rome). This is totally perverted by the development of capitalism as it became clear that the people’s distraction could also bring in a lot of money. Nevertheless sport has an emancipatory function that was illustrated with reference to the Catalan football club, Jupiter. The history of the club is closely linked to the CNT and the Spanish revolution. The special issue of LML finishes with an interview with two French ex-prisoners who express the value of sport and anarchism.



III.         200 Years of  Bakunin

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Michael Bakunin and has been commemorated by various studies and conferences, as was done on the 100th anniversary of his death in 1976. In that year a conference was organised in Venice entitled, “Bakunin between revolutionary syndicalism and anarchism.” Contemporary historian Maurizio Antonioli has written a comprehensive study on this very subject and his book has now been translated into French, with texts from Bakunin and an afterward by Bakunin scholar René Berthier added. A summary of the afterward is reproduced below:


“Across the anarchist movement there are various readings of Bakunin. These readings lead to a split within ‘bakuninism’. This split created a tension between out of this split emerged two groups: syndicalists and anarchists. Berthier situates the beginning of the split in the establishment of the anarchist International in St-Imier (Swiss,1872).


Berthier makes a distinction between anti-authoritarian and anarchic, and emphasises that the International was anti-authoritarian. What principles had Bakunin worked out in regards to the organization of the workers’ struggle against oppression and for social revolution? Bakunin thought the International had to retain the character of a mass organization. Workers should not be member based on an idea, a program, but based on the defence of their material interests.


Bakunin thought that the labour movement of his time had not developed into a united force and that what was required was a strong debate to reach this point. He encouraged these debates and wanted the International to avoid imposing a set program.”


Thom Holterman


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