Pierre Goldman 1974

Our Friend, Pierre Goldman

By Marc Kravetz

Source: Liberation, December 9, 1974;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2007.

This afternoon Pierre Goldman’s trial begins in Paris. He’s accused of three aggravated burglaries, which he has recognized, and of a double murder and a double attempted murder, committed during an attack against a pharmacy on December 19, 1969, Boulevard Richard Lenoir (Paris, 12th arrondissement). Pierre Goldman, in prison since the month of April 1970, has always denied having participated in that aggression.

It’s difficult to speak of a friend when the news makes of him the involuntary hero of the news clips. For the three aggravated thefts he recognized, for the crime of which he is accused and which he denies, the jurors of the Assize court will have to pronounce sentence on the accused, Pierre Goldman. It is obviously not up to his friends to judge him. Our conviction of his innocence is the result of a rational process. His friends are unanimous on this point; Pierre is not the man who, on December 19, killed the two pharmacists, wounded a client and a policeman on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. There are many who saw Pierre regularly at that time, up to the day preceding his arrest. Their opinions are formal and convergent on this point. Incidentally, the police could have enriched their inquiry by interrogating them, but they didn’t do this. They had a ‘guilty man’. There weren’t going to risk weakening the fragile construction they’d elaborated by going deeper into an investigation that could have undermined its basis. But if it’s essential, in the eyes of justice and for the immediate fate of Pierre Goldman, that this innocence be affirmed, it isn’t, for Pierre’s friends, the essential thing. Even if he were truly guilty of what he is accused of nothing would really be changed.

Pierre’s itinerary – from the struggles at the Sorbonne in the ‘60s, to the Venezuelan maquis at the time when Ernesto Che Guevara proclaimed that “two, three, many Vietnams” were necessary, to the aggravated thefts he committed during the fall of ‘69-’70 – has something exemplary about it. An itinerary in which Pierre’s friends – those who today have the same age or who participated in the same struggles, but also the same dreams and fears of those years – cannot help but recognize themselves. Unlike many among us, Pierre simply carried that itinerary to its most rigorous consequences. If one must, as a point of reference, identify him with more famous names, those of Paul Nizan and Andre Gorz come to mind. Because of the intransigent rigor in refusal and the obsession with death of the one, and the acute consciousness of exclusion and difference of the other (what Gorz and Goldman sometimes call their “Jewishness,” which Gorz’s beautiful book “The Traitor” is dedicated to). Incapable of submitting to the scholastic exercises that took the place of the teaching of philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1963 – things had hardly changed since Nizan wrote ‘The Watchdogs” – Pierre “failed” at his studies. Which didn’t prevent him from following with passion the discussions at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, where they didn’t wait for it to be fashionable to “re-read” Marx, Hegel, or to know Marcuse. Nor did it prevent Pierre from participating, through texts of a surprising quality, in the theoretical debates of the UEC (Union of Communist Students) or the ultra-leftists of the era.

“Take things to their farthest extreme,” in thought as in action: for Pierre this wasn’t a conventional formulation. It remained true to the point of despair.

His obsession with Latin America was shred by thousand of other militant at the same time. The soft and confined atmosphere of the years that preceded May 68, Che’s “call,” the feeling that the revolution’s destiny was being played out in Vietnam and in the Guatemalan, Colombian, and Venezuelan guerrilla “focos” which Regis Debray was a passionate witness of, was, for many of us, something to painfully dream of. We had to break all ties, join a combat where were combined revolutionary intransigence and a sense of human fraternity that our self-proclaimed “revolutionaries” were only a pale shadow of. Error, “petite-bourgeoise deviation”; let us leave it to the judges and the just of the extreme left to judge. Pierre, in any event, lived nothing but that obsession. And he didn’t content himself with dreaming.

May ‘68. The end of the tunnel for all those who had for years seen the earlier combat fall apart. An occupation of the Sorbonne was prepared on February 21, 1964 with Pierre. Obviously, it failed. The students of 1968 materialized the aborted and distant dreams of a few hundred.

Pierre was in Paris in May ‘68, passing through. A draft dodger, he had to take precautions in public, but this doesn’t explain everything. We had waited too long to think of anything but what was happening here. Pierre had for a long time stopped waiting. Having failed in a first attempt, he applied himself to succeeding this time in his departure for Latin America, and he met in Europe Venezuelan revolutionary militants.

When he returned a year and a half later the failure of the guerrilla war gave him cause for thought. There was also much bitterness in this return. For our part, we had begun to live the après gauchisme. We didn’t know this yet. And many of Pierre’s former friends didn’t know how badly they’d live this. Some were even to die. Would they leave, wouldn’t they leave? What is to be done? This question, which Pierre asked everyone, could be answered by no one. He chose a response in his manner: the three hold-ups that we know about. A response of despair, a suicide in its manner. He alone can say.

We all lived this disorder, this anguish, this refusal of the social rolling mill that followed May. Pierre couldn’t bear it physically and intellectually. The rest, the facts as it is said, belong to the judicial chronicles.

It is a bit frivolous to say – from where we are and there where he is – that his combat is ours and we recognize ourselves in his wanderings. And yet it must be said, for him, for us, and for those who judge him, that the man who appears today at the Assizes of Paris is a friend and a brother.