Julien Coupat: “Isn’t there greater risk in not taking any risks?”


(by Aude Lanceline(1), from http://www.notbored.org/coupat.pdf (image source: http://members.chello.nl/j.seegers1/situationist/si.html)

Though his troubles have started up again, Julien Coupat, the
principal defendant in the Tarnac Affair,(2) responds to our questions
about his legal future, the laws about spying, and France after the
Charlie Hebdo shootings.

He hasn’t expressed himself through the press since 2009.(3)
After having been incarcerated for six months due to accusations of
“terrorism,” Julien Coupat became for the Left one of the most
powerful symbols of the authoritarian downward spiral of Sarkozyist
power, which was accused of over-exaggerating the sabotage of the
catenaries of a high-speed train line in an attempt to create [the
spectacle of] an “domestic enemy.” The intellectual leader of the
radical-Left group “from Tarnac,” Coupat didn’t stop denouncing
manipulation by the police, leading a tough legal battle alongside the
other defendants.

As we know, the Socialist government of the last five years has
not reversed the [Sarkozyist] trend. Just two days after the Assembly
voted upon the law on spying, on 7 May [2015], Julien Coupat, 40
years old, received a summons to appear in court for “criminal
association in relation with a terrorist enterprise,” alongside two
young women, including his companion, Yildune Lévy. One François
Hollande, then the President of the General Council of Corrèze,(4) the
area in which Tarnac is located, had, in the Spring of 2009, taken up
his pen to mock the description of the acts in question as “terrorism”
and to denounce it as a “political affair.” Today Julien Coupat breaks
his silence. What follows are excerpts.

“In any other European country, a case such as this one would have been
dismissed with the authorities’ discreet excuses long ago.”
“Ever since our arrest, we have always found hilarious the charges that have
weighed upon us. And we also think it’s hilarious that the public prosecutor’s
office, in order to prop up the accusations of ‘terrorism,’ relies in its indictment on
a book that is widely available through FNAC,(5) L’insurrection qui vient,(6) and on
the anonymous testimony of a compulsive liar who confessed on French television(7)
to being manipulated by the anti-terrorist police. The prosecutors are the authors of
failed crime stories.”
“We haven’t fought, and we aren’t fighting now, to have some of kind of
innocence be recognized or so that the justice system in its great goodwill deigns to
give up its unfounded legal proceedings. We fight because they have tried and are
still trying to destroy us, to definitely remove the political possibility that the State
has made us an example of from the map.”
“The fact that, 15 years after the Patriot Act,(8) after the American Senate’s
report on torture,(9) after Snowden’s revelations,(10) they are adopting such exorbitant
measures [as the spying law of May 5] speaks to both the inflexible cynicism and
the pathetic mimicry of the French rulers. They truly believe that, 15 years later,
they will be able to renovate warlike neo-conservativism and that we are all too
stupid, too cowardly and too passive to rise up against it.”
“The current Social-Democrat regime, as everyone can see, is in the process
of successfully doing what Nicolas Sarkozy wasn’t able to do when it comes to
‘austerity,’ anti-terrorism, the right to work and the repression of everything on its
“Long ago, the political line of Charlie Hebdo became so right-wing that it
was, I believe, the only publication that had its offices trashed during the
demonstrations against the CPE.(11) On the other hand, if Cabu(12) was Hara-Kiri11
and L’Enragé(14) for the 1968 generation, for my generation he was Récré A2.(15)
How crazy would the world have to be if there were an armed attack against Club
“In the past, the Internet and social networks acted like pressure-release
valves, but today they’re becoming advanced police tools. Incrimination for
‘supporting terrorism’ exists so that any audacious expression produces the
required terror. (…) The facts that Snowden has been forced to take refuge in
Putin’s Russia and that [Julian] Assange, whom we went to London to meet, has
no hope of leaving the tiny embassy in which he is cloistered say a lot about what
the word ‘democracy’ really means.”
“We live in radical times. This state of things cannot last; the choice
between revolution and reaction becomes clearer. If the on-going decomposition
essentially profits the fascistic forces, this isn’t because ‘people’ are spontaneously
inclining towards them, but because the fascists speak up, make bets, take the risk
of losing. We revolutionaries, on the other hand, are held back by the invisible
strings of a tradition that we continually fear that we will betray. (…) But in the
current situation, isn’t there greater risk in not taking any risks?”


1 Published in the 11 May 2015 issue of L’Observateur. Translated from the
French and footnoted by NOT BORED! 21 May 2015.
2 For background information, cf. http://www.notbored.org/tarnac.html.
3 Le Monde, 25 May 2009. Translated into English here:
4 A “Socialist” and currently the President of the French Republic.

5 Féderation nationale d’achats des cadres, a huge chain of French retailers.
6 Translated as The Coming Insurrection (Semiotexte, 2009).
7 The 20-Heures show on FT1.
8 English in original.
9 Issued in December 2014.
10 June 2013.
11 The Contrat Premiere Embauche, which was violently opposed by French
youths in March 2006.
12 Jean Cabut was a caricaturist who participated in Hara-Kiri and Charlie Hebdo.
He was one of those murdered on 7 January 2015.
13 Satirical French magazine founded in 1960.

14 Short-lived satirical journal founded in May 1968 by Jean-Jacques Pauvert.
15 Children’s TV program (1978-1988) on which Cabu worked.