Source: Chez Alice;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor.
Though France never knew armed groups on the scale of the Red Brigades or the German Red Army Fraction, in the mid-70’s, as the Maoist movement is France was disintegrating, small armed groups grew from the ashes of organizations like the Gauche Prolétarienne, which had dissolved itself in 1973. Among them were the “Noyaux armés pour l’autonomie populaire,” (Armed Nuclei for Popular Autonomy). The group carried out two actions of note: the booby-trapping of 119 cars at the Renault plant at Flins, and, more spectacularly, the assassination of Jean-Antoine Tramoni on March 23, 1977. Tramoni was the security guard at the Renault-Flins factory who, on February 25, 1972 had shot down, in cold blood, the Maoist militant Pierre Overney during a demonstration at the factory. Immediately after the murder, and in response to it, an armed commando of the GP, the Nouvelle Résistance Populaire, had kidnapped a Renault manager. Tramoni served only a short prison sentence, which the Maoists felt was criminally unjust. Five years after the killing of their comrade, the NAPAP decided to render their own version of justice.
Though the victim of several police roundups, the NAPAP was able to continue to carry out actions until the fall of 1977, by which time the entire leadership and most of its members had been imprisoned. Armed Maoism was dead France, and Maoism itself died soon thereafter.
WHO ARE WE?
We have nothing more to do with the label “Maoist” that the press so conveniently stuck on us.
If it’s true that former Maoists belong to the NAPAP, it wasn’t only after the liquidation of the Gauche Prolétarienne and Vive la Révolution that we were formed.
In addition, the strategic elements of our practice aren’t based on a theory of armed struggle as an end in itself.
The departure point of our practice is the balance sheet of gauchisme in general since ‘68, and on a precise reading of the revolutionary struggle across capitalist Europe.
Gauchisme since ‘68 is, above all, an accepting of flagrant failure at the strategic level, i.e., in the face of the objective number one that motivates its existence: destroying this rotten society and contributing to the construction of another,
And yet, this failure doesn’t extend to all of Europe.
When we compare the revolutionary situations in France and Italy in the same period (and this despite the obvious differences in context) we note that: on one side French gauchistes drowned themselves in countless sterile ideological quarrels; on the other side of the Alps, on the other hand, there has developed within a certain extreme left a militant experience rich in strategic teachings. For the first time, within European gauchisme, the need for a true anti-capitalist strategy carried the day over he classical ideological blah-blah.
Thus, the “strategy of the P.38” is better understood in its finality by the dual historic defeat of the PCI (with the wildcat strikes, the anti-historical compromise of the fall of ‘76 and the sacking of the Italian Séguy, lama of the University of Rome by the students) than by the simplistic shortcut of hard-line/not hard line, violent/non-violent). This reference to Italy is not for us a second trap of the “Great Helmsman” variety, the way China played the role here between ‘66-’72.
What we find striking and interesting in the Italian example are the real victories of the popular revolutionary forces in their way of thinking, acting, but also living in 1977. Far from falling into the traps of the closed group or ultra-coolness, these popular forces have set up in fifteen years a dynamic whose direction falls to the people themselves (and not to party or groupuscule bureaucrats). In France, the reign of the groupuscules from 1966 – 1977 contributed to breaking up any role for the PS/PCF in the mass struggles.
The list of the hopes crushed by the repeated stupidities of French ideological gauchistes would be too long: the liquidation of the autonomous factory centers, of the local groups of Red Aid, of the immigrant movement that set off the national strike of 1973, of the many experiences with the young since ‘68, of the offensive activities of workers and peasants often reduced to nothingness by internal quarrels, etc: all of this laborious liquidation is to be charged to the heavy debt of gauchisme.
In reading this balance sheet we have the impression that the leaders of the revolution promised since the shock of ‘68 placed more confidence in the books in their libraries and their travel logs than in the expression of popular autonomy. Aside from the remains of cultural gauchisme that are still fashionable, the traditional extreme left has nothing “living” to propose other than a critical support in 1978 for the united left.
As for the frustrated who are waiting for the revolutionary uprising, they’re naively told: “Afterwards we’ll see; maybe this’ll overflow,” undermining even more the (already rare) potential of the popular confidence that supports them.
But it would be absurd to reduce the revolutionary struggle in France to the shithouse noises of gauchiste groupsucules. In fact, there exist nuclei in factories that have begun to reflect upon what awaits them in the face of the winding and adventurist roads proposed by the patron saints of the future of “the French people” (social democrats of the PS, Eurocommunists of the PCF).
The struggle of the workers of SONACOTRA, despite the willful isolation the reformists of the left and the extreme-left kept them in, demonstrated that the new immigrant working class can express itself autonomously. And even more, that this is limited not only to minority sectorial struggles.
It is the same for the workers of Lip, and the farmers of Larzac, and the wine growers who progressively pass from revolt to a constructive and original reflection on the struggle to be carried out against capitalism in all its aspects.
It is clear that this popular force is still weak. It finds it hard to bandage the wounds from the blows to the face it has received since 1871 due to betrayals (from varied reformists and the disappointments of gauchisme).
But it’s by having reality as a starting point that we of NAPAP have decided to exist and fight.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF OUR FORM OF ORGANIZATION FOR STRUGGLE?
It is clear that we are not the fighting party of anything at all, and even less a new Baader-Meinhof Group.
We have drawn up a balance sheet of foreign politico-military practice carried out by fighters who are “specialists” in a solitary and suicidal fight in the face of the modern state apparatus.
Our practice fits into the strategy of the constructing of organized worker autonomy within the popular movement.
Our goal is not to call for the formation of 1, 10, 100 NAPAPs, headed by a central leadership, a kind of command staff of potential popular violence.
We are beginning another phase which consists in melting into the dynamic of the movement and not in seeking to take the head of it in an official or manipulative way.
We say this to affirm our determination to no longer be the delegates of violent action, be it applauded or condemned, as was the case with the Nouvelle Résistance Populaire and other similar groups.
Why worker autonomy as a priority?
Because despite the marginal salon philosophical chatter, the class struggle and the dynamic of the rebellious strata of the proletariat remain the major strategic keys for the blowing up of this social system.
It is obvious that the bosses have understood this.
It’s enough to read employer and governmental accounts of the European Community to discover that the European Convention on terrorism is aimed at the growing degree of popular violence and its political maturity.
But state terrorism is not only manifested in the heart of factories. All forms of life, of conduct, are touched by the repressive weight of carnivorous society.
At the level of housing, we can no longer keep track of the arbitrary evictions, the quasi-criminal operations of promoters who sack our old neighborhoods in order to make flow a river of sinister concrete. And yet, since the abortive experience of 1971 and the committees of the poorly housed, groups of squatters are attempting to live on occupied isles. But the cops barely allow them the time to profit by this. And the frequent change of place makes life crazy for said squatters. Is the solution for them to seek refuge in hard drugs or in a hopeless pacifism? The Molotov cocktail sometimes remains a more convincing argument than repressed resignation.
For those who have lodging the situation is hardly any better with buildings often unhealthy and rents constantly rising.
In the face of this state of affairs, civil disobedience is a timid and barely known practice in France.
The self-reduction of rent, gas bills, electricity; the attacking of stratified prices for transport, films, and theatres remains the sole possible and livable response in the face of the power of money. For, not content with destroying the individual through work, the bosses drain his last drop of energy via his rent, his taxes and his reassuring consumption of leisure and ads that make him stupid.
Young pot smokers, the elderly condemned to a slow death in retirement homes and to voting the right way: state terrorism gives a damn about the so-called generation gap.
Repressing from the school to the coffin, capitalism crushes the least freedom.
It even allows itself the luxury of imposing its panoply of drugs (alcoholism, horse racing, lotteries) , the moral support of the production line in order to counter those things that give the desire to never again destroy oneself in the workshop or the factory.
The time has come to impose our way of living in a way other than having as sole recourse the choice of a good lawyer.
For broke young people, students without a job, workers who hate their unions, immigrants in racial ghettos, and young thieves and rioters there will never be a “good lawyer,” but always filthy cops to fire a grenade or a .367 magnum at them as they leave a bank.
The evil is spreading, and nature itself, nuclear energy supported by the right and the reformist left (PS/PCF), is the latest gadget of the sorcerer’s apprentices of capitalist research. The fight against the implantation of nuclear reactors will not be stopped thanks to a non-violent gathering, however nice it might be, or by appealing to the government. It is clear that, caught in the contradictions of the energy crisis, European capitalism and its social democratic allies want to impose the nuclear choice (the first turn of the crank for the former colonialist countries, which today must assume in broad daylight the centuries long pillage of the Third World)
It is thus vital that the debate concerning the effective ripostes to state terrorism extend as much within the factory as outside it, including within ourselves; for it would be aberrant to fight, even with arms in hand, without combating the seeds that the dominant ideology has stuck in our heads (the forced passivity of “submissive” women, phallocracy, racism...)
WHY ARMED STRUGGLE? WHY TRAMONI?
The Tramoni affair revealed the cleavage created by the death of Pierre Overney.
In the history of the revolutionary movement in France until now we have known the old divide between reformists and revolutionaries. We now have to be more precise concerning the subdivisions.
A new category of thinkers has been born: that of the dandies of the “humanly possible revolution” (cf. the declaration of Geismar, Victor, Le Dantec.)
It is certain that, hidden behind a university desk or a publishing house, we’re not too afraid of the hazards of industrial restructuring or of being clubbed by the CFT.
It’s surprising that these elders remember nothing of this.
This current of empty talkers hid quite correct indictment of the history of socialism, the bunker for 20 million dead (its own victims), and on the absurdity of gauchiste activism.
This was the cause of its fleeting impact since 1972.
But once we look at the proposed recipes, we realize that their ghostly aspect, classifiable under the rubric “On Sale” under the title “Humanism at a reduced price.”
We killed Tramoni, Not as avengers, but because he was the symbol of unpunished employer terrorism. Because lowering our arms before this symbol meant creating others, but victims this time, with the names of Overney and De Maitre.
In order to combat this kind of “social peace” we must respond to state terrorism by means as convincing as theirs. The use of a rifle or of a P .38 is not a myth for Frenchmen who wish they were in Italy or South America. It remains the sole form of resistance and attack argument that the multi-nationals and the bosses can’t recuperate in their research centers.
The execution of the private cop Tramoni; the attempted destruction of the stock of strike-breaking vehicles at Renault-Flins; the bombing of the offices of the CFT; the shots fired at the administrative offices of Citroen,; the attack on the hiring hall of Simca-Chrysler: all of these acts are inscribed in the same schema:
1: Rejecting the legalist and so-called democratic theses of the unions and the Union of the Left, according to which once these people are in power everything will be fixed up for the best with the bosses and their strong-arm men. But the bosses will still be there, even if the factory passes to the control of the state. There will still be Tramonis and Lecomptes at their service (even if they change unions in the interim).
2. Denying that a petition demanding that dissolution of a bosses militia like the [yellow union, the] CFT has any other use than that of lulling popular anger. The same goes for having recourse to bourgeois justice as neutral guarantor of liberties... In this regard, the rape in Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1972 by a CFT commando inside the walls of the Citroen-Balard factory is revelatory of the powerlessness of legalism.
After five years of investigation no trial has taken place, despite the identification of the guilty and the judge’s search of the CFT office at the factory in Balard, during which thirty iron bars were found, which the CFT said were used to smash windows in the event of a fire.
The intervention of progressive judges in the area of work accidents and tax and financial chicanery by oil companies was a resounding failure, the guilty benefiting from charges being dropped or prison sentences with parole. Without denying the positive character of progressive judges, it is obvious that if their work isn’t assisted by illegal acts they are of no use (as was done by the comrades who beat Paul Gardent, director of Charbonnages à propos of the Lievin affair. )
This is why we decided to leave bourgeois and reformist legality behind and practice armed struggle, in order to establish a new type of life and human relations.
For this reason, the NAPAP will not have a “critical’ attitude” concerning the irresponsible men of the Common Program if they were to assume leadership of the government in 1978. Their legalist path of doubtful content will lead them to the same dead end as their Italian colleagues of the PCI: either having the poorest pay for the crisis and thus applying the same policies as Giscard/Chirac, or attempting the democratic socialist adventure à la Chile and Portugal under the amused gaze of Carter, Chirac, and Bigeard.
In the second case, it will still be the same people who pay the bill.
Given that the Common Program fundamentally changes nothing in the exploitation of man by man, or of women by men, the NAPAP will fight the future leaders of state capitalism with the same weapons that we are using against the liberal capitalism of Giscard.