Warning : please be indulgent for the possibly weak English in what follows. The matter is urgent and important, so I had to translate quickly, which involves some chance in the process.
On Sunday, February 17th, at 4 a.m., Lyon's bookshop "La Plume Noire" was burnt down.
WHAT WE DO KNOW :
Two oil jerricans were lit in the bookshop and in the exit corridor of the attenant block. The fire grew immediately and it would have resulted in numerous dead people if ever the firemen had been less efficient.
The bookshop is destroyed.
THE CONTEXT :
On Saturday, the Lyon groups of the French Anarchist Federation demonstrated in favour of our weekly, Le Monde Libertaire. As you may know from previous posts, Le Monde Libertaire is sued by the National Front (extreme-right wing) because of a picture that did not please Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In the very evening, bookshop La Plume Noire, which is the Lyon bookshop of the French Anarchist Federation, was overlaied with sticks from the Youth organization of the National Front.
In the night, the fire...
WHAT NOW ?
The reaction is organizing ! -----------------------------
Gathering this evening at 6 p.m., place Bellecour, Lyon.
Meeting in what's left of the bookshop on Wednesday 19th at 8 p.m., 19 rue Pierre Blanc , LYON.
Demonstration on Saturday, 3 p.m. place Bellecour.
Solidarity is organizing ! ---------------------------
You can already send solidarity messages (and money...) to
La Plume Noire 19, rue Pierre Blanc 69001 LYON FRANCE
Please warn us of any initiative of yours !
We will have you informed of the forthcoming events.
Francois COQUET, for the International Relationship of French Anarchist Federation
The ressurgence of the extreme right has continued unabated in France since the 1994 elections, when it gained nearly 20% of the votes in the presedential poll and captured three town halls. Recent events have combined to give the fascists a surge in confidence. October 96 saw the first reading of the Debre law, a bill aimed at restricting immigrants right to stay in France regardless of their length of residence. The inclusion of such xenephobic legislation in the platform of the constitutional 'Republican' right-wing government demonstrates the extent to which the racist tactics of the National front(FN) have entered the political mainstream. Furthermore the national front has succeded in manipulating state institutions in the municipalities which it controls. In Orange the FN mayor has been able to ensure that the selection of books in the municipal library meets with the cultural approval of the fascists, while the mayor of Toulon has colluded with the region's police prefect in dismissing the fiercely anti-fascist director of the national theatre of dance and image. These insidious manipulations have underlined the fact that the fascists have sympathisers in many areas of state administration espacially within the security forces. Finally the FN's victory on February 9th in the Vitrolles municipal election, easily defeating the socialist incumbent, gaining for the first time an overall majority demonstrates that their electoral popularity has not ceased to grow.
Bouyed by their recent victories it seems that the fascists have now passed onto another plane of activity, one unseen in France for over 30 years: now bookshops have started to burn. Lyon, early Saturday 15th February the 'Plume Noire' anarchist bookstore and regional headquaters of the French Federation Anarchiste (FA) was plastered with some 50 fascist stickers. On the stickers was inscribed the slogan 'FN youth, the rebel wave the, LePen wave' clearly identifying the perpetrators: the fascist youth wing, modelled on the Hitler Youth. This had never happened before in the area, a bastion of the extreme left and the next night the significance of the act became clear. At around 5 a.m. the next day the bookshop was completely destroyed in an obviously well orchestrated incendiary attack. The windows were smashed, cans of petrol were poured in and set alight and the wooden interior, stacked with books caught flame quickly. The perpetrators also set fires in the only exit doorway to the residential block above the bookshop and when the firebrigade arrived a human catastrophe was just averted. The fascists not only attempted to burn down the bookshop but also attempted to murder the buildings occupants (mostly immigrants), thus probably hoping to create an atmosphere of fear and hostility towards the FA and a reluctance to welcome it into the area as it could again be the target of such murderous attacks.
The significance of the target must be recognised as the anarchists have been the frontline of the opposition to the racist and nationalistic politics of the FN. In the defense of abortion rights, divorce and especially illegal immigrants where the anarchists have been often deserted by the traditional left wing parties who insist on differentiating between 'good and bad illegals'. In refusing to accept any controls on freedom of movement the anarchists have formed the only political pole which has refused to entertain any of the FN's racist ideas. The current centre-right government as well as their predecessors the Socialists have been particularly complicit in the rise of fascist ideology in France. By saying that the FN has 'bad solutions to good questions' they have allowed the fascists to set the tone of political debate. In introducing ever more xenephobic immigration laws both governments hoped to steal the FN's thunder. On the contrary the FN has been able to control policy, maintain its popular image as anti-establishment and avoided the blame for the failure of the racist policies, based as they are on simplistic, ignorant and false analyses.
The response of the FA and other libertarians and extreme-leftists to this damaging attack will be crucial to the anti-fascist struggle as well as to the growth of anarchist ideas. The FA is facing a double pronged attack from the fascist ranks. The following day of the attack was coincidentally(!) the date set for the start of a court-case taken by Jean-Marie LePen against the FA's weekly newspaper Lemonde Libertaire. The apparent motivation was a caricature of LePen carried in the journal. However it is clearly a subterfuge attempting to ruin the FA financially as it obviously cannot afford the same level of legal support as the FN with its big business backers. Furthermore the rebuilding of the bookshop and regional organisation will be difficult and expensive. Thus it is possible that the fascists have embarked on a crusade to destroy the FA. The anarchists are particularly dangerous to the FN as they offer alternative solutions to the problems which have led to the rise of the extreme right rather than simply opposing fascism as many other groups such as ras l'front do.
However this attack can be turned to the anarchists advantage. The sight of burning bookshops is so reminiscent of Hitler's Germany and so odious to the idea of freedom of expression that in the demonstration that followed the attack many groups of 'respectable' leftists which would normally disdain contacts with the FA came out to pledge their support and solidarity. Moreover in the demonstration of unity which has been set for Saturday 22nd February at place Bellecour in Lyon, we shall see the unusual sight of the red and black flags leading a procession which will include trade unions, the green party and other respectable elements. The outrage will also serve as a rallying point for a nationwide anarchist mobilisation with demonstrations of solidarity in other towns as well as, hopefully, a convergence of libertarians on Lyon for the demonstration. The timing of the demonstration also coincides with the final vote on the Debre law in the Asemblee Nationale which has faced an unprecedented mobilisation of the artistic and intellectual opposition. Thus the time has never been riper for the anarchists to push their ideas to the forefront of popular debate.