Before discussing the ideological content (and the content is always ideological, extremely rarely historical and hardly sociological) let me evacuate an irritating surface of the book.
THE SLOPPY SURFACE
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” (p. 307).
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 never came.
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.
MORE HISTORICAL MISTAKES
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 history.
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 gibberish English.
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 century that 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 invented 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.
THE CORE OF THIS BOOK
Now what is the main idea of the book?
France 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.
WHAT IS HE MISSING?
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