“The ultra-left is playing a decisive role in spreading violence”

Interview by Alexandre Devecchio (“Le Figaro”) with Eric Delbecque*, France

jpv. On Saturday 16 March 2019, extreme acts of violence were perpetrated on the margins of the demonstration on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The media spread images of a multitude of broken shop windows, robbed shops, burned houses, restaurants and kiosks.
Various Swiss media have sweepingly spoken of violent yellow jackets. This does not correspond to reality. In the French media, a clear separation was rightfully made in the reporting between the yellow vests and the groups of the Black Block and of the extreme left (also having come from neighbouring countries) who had temporarily been in hiding in the demonstration. The published analyses were almost unanimous in their opinion that the police leadership had failed because the police had not been able to prevent the massive destruction. The opposition parties have therefore demanded the resignation of Christophe Castener, the politically responsible Minister of the Interior. President Macron decided not to withdraw his confidence in him, but he dismissed the head of the police prefecture and another police chief. In the interview below, a French expert on internal security has his say.

Alexandre Devecchio: Did the violence perpetrated during the Paris demonstration [Act XVIII of 16.3.19] come from radicalized yellow vests, or do they bear the signature of the ultra-left, which you describe in your book?

Eric Delbecque: The ultra-left plays a crucial role in the spread of violence. I believe that the expression “radicalised yellow vests” does not correspond to reality. We are currently confronted with three types of violent people: ultra-left troops, violent people wearing a yellow vest in order to be wrapped up in a political cloak and plundering vandals [“casseurs”]. There are probably also individual elements from ultra-right groups, but they are marginal.

Are there also Zadists¹ and representatives of the Black Blocks? What is the difference?

Black Blocks are not a movement, but a mode of operation. Their aim is to challenge the police and to conduct a genuine information war, the primary strategic objectives of which are: to prove their fighting power, to provoke the police and the gendarmerie in the hope of slip-ups that can serve as justification for the unfair thesis of “police violence”. Let us take this opportunity to point out that this concept makes no sense in our democracy. Sometimes, the code of conduct is violated (and punished then too): but calling policemen and gendarmes violent thugs is an enormous stupidity. Under the hoods and the black face masks there are militant ultra-leftists, who may be or used to be Zadists, violent anti-speciesists [from the animal liberation movement], autonomous anarchists, intellectual heirs of revolutionary syndicalism, and supporters of the diverse currents of the ultra-left protest galaxy.

Why aren’t these small groups known to the police forces arrested and detained?

Some are identified, others succeed in not getting caught by the “radar”, others are new recruits. This political propensity to violence should be recorded much more precisely. The whole thing suffers from that: In recent years we have concentrated on Islamist terrorism, which is quite understandable, but at the same time we have underestimated the damage potential of other radical groups, especially the ultra-left. We must realise that any political radicalism (radical Islamism, ultra-left and ultra-right) is a great threat to our country.

How do you define these groups ideologically? You call them “ungovernable” or “hipunk”². Why?

Their first characteristic is the rejection of any authority, including that of the state itself. They reject not only capitalism, but any “dominance”. They do not want to “obey” anyone. This is how the Zadist project can be explained: The “autonomous zone to be defended” is a “zone of temporary autonomy” that is to become definitive … This space is about escaping the laws of the republic. It is a dream of extreme self-government. Everyone has his own myths! The problem is that some of these activists are willing to use violence in order to achieve their goal: the multiplication of the ZADs and the weakening of the state or of power in general.

For these people their grouping or “community” is more important than the individual or the nation?

This happens inevitably when one rejects the foundation of the nation state. The absence of the state, anarchy, is not synonymous with emancipation. The “ungovernable” finally succeed in forming groups that place their conceptions of the collective above the individual parts of society and the individual people.
Riots in Grenoble, violence in Paris ... The “lost territories of the Republic” and the “autonomous zones to be liberated” (ZAD) seem to be multiplying? In your book you mention the spectre of a “spotted France” [“France leopard”]. What does that mean?
The territories no longer controlled by the Republic [the State] tend to become more and more “autonomous”. We’re gradually giving up our right to take them back one day … The released message is: “If you are able to keep the republican [state] authority in bay long enough, you can ultimately become independent of general law.” “Spotted France” is the future of a nation that accepts that its territory will become a socio-political and ideological Emmental cheese: a Salafi enclave here, a Zadist community there and a district that will become a criminal “no-go area” outside the legal system. The very opposite of the civilisation of which Europe has dreamed for centuries …     •

*    Eric Delbecque is a historian, internal security expert and author of the book “Les Ingouvernables, de l’extrême gauche utopiste à l’ultragauche violente” [The ungovernable – from the utopian extremist left to violent ultra-left] (2019).

Source: © Le Figaro from 18.3.19

(Translation Current Concerns)

1    Zadists: ZAD is the abbreviation of “zone d’autonomie à défendre” [autonomous zone to be defended], which means urban or rural areas occupied by militant forces (zadists). [translator’s note]
2    Hipunk: The convergence of romantic hippie utopia and of punk radicalism. This direction renounces the Marxist revolution from above – the dictatorship of the proletariat – and uses a new offensive tactic: undermining state authority from below by multiplying “lost territories of the republic” (no-go-areas). [translator’s note]

jpv. According to the information from the French Minister of the Interior, Castener, [reported to] the parliamentary Commission of the Senators, the following damage was done in the surroundings of the Champs-Elysées on Saturday, 16 March 2019,
–    27 businesses were robbed,
–    more than 130 stores were more or less destroyed,
–    fires were started in 79 places and 5 buildings burned,
–    30 police officers, cops (constable on patrol) and firemen were injured, which was the highest amount of injuries since the beginning of the Saturday demonstrations of the Yellow Vests.