Discover more from Inhabit: Territories
"Eco-Terrorism"? The Minister of the Interior Targets Ecological Struggles
On new environmental tactics in France
In recent months, the environmental movement in France has adopted new strategies and tactics which have proven both popular and effective—the mass disruption of fossil fuel infrastructure. In these innovative actions, thousands descend on sites of extraction and production, bringing operations to a halt through collective force. The enthusiasm these demonstrations have catalyzed has apparently terrified the government, which recently characterized the actions as “eco-terrorism” masterminded by hardcore activists. In response, hundreds of participants and sympathetic community groups signed an open letter affirming the decentralized nature of the movement and stating the clear justification for their acts. When institutions have failed to address the causes of the climate crisis, it is high time we do it ourselves.
Originally published in lundi matin and translated anonymously.
On December 20, 2022, at the start of the warmest holiday season ever recorded in France, Le Parisien published a selection of excerpts from a mysterious report written by the Renseignements Territoriaux government agency and which had been intentionally leaked with an eye-catching title: "the worrying radicalization of ecological activists."
Once again, French security services have displayed the strange habit of ambiguously communicating their intentions, in order to test the waters before launching a new wave of repression. This test is aimed at every one of us who have taken part, in one way or another, in the ecological struggles of the past few years.
According to the report, the "worrying radicalization" of ecologists is the result of the undercover maneuvering of an ultra-leftist group which recently converted to the ecologist cause, sneakily acting under the label "Les Soulèvements de la Terre" (“The Uprisings of the Earth”) rather than a sign of the radicalness of the situation which concerns all of us. Thus the multiplication of ecological and rural resistance actions over the past few years is supposedly caused by a few historic activists of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, guided by their insatiable need for "violent" actions rather than by a common need for dignity when faced with the crushing evidence of the catastrophe. If the report is to be believed, this also has nothing to do with the obvious complacency of successive governments towards the identified culprits of this catastrophe, nor with the deadly inflationist logic of cement industries and agribusiness lobbies.
The calls to action signed and circulated by hundreds of ecologist organizations, NGOs, farms, citizen associations, local struggle collectives, and public figures that have sprung up alongside recent grassroots movements against land and water grabbing and soil artificialization—what do they matter? According to the report, this constantly growing and boisterous political profusion is nothing but a smokescreen protecting a handful of radicalized activists, determined to bring down with them the "legitimate movement for the preservation of the Earth."
Maybe the tired technique could still be useful: identifying a fraction of the current movement, isolating and pointing to it as the infectious agent, which one must avoid at all costs or risk being crushed along with it. The eternal return of the sinister Sous-Direction Anti-Terroriste in investigations surrounding social, rural and ecological struggles—in this case concerning a collective action against cement industry giant Lafarge, which was condemned in the US for collaborating with ISIS—is an absurd rhetorical inversion. With his declarations about "eco-terrorism," the Minister of the Interior has paved the way for this shift, but is unable to conceal the unease of his strategists, who are in over their heads and looking for an easy victim.
"The government's weapon is dissolution" claims Le Parisien, based on its not-so-covert sources. But what is there to be dissolved?
Of course, thanks to its recent achievements for the concrete defense of land and water, the Soulèvements de la Terre movement is an ideal culprit, because this hereto-unforeseen movement bringing together farmers, young city-dwellers, ecologists, and union activists has a name, a website, a Twitter account, organizes regular public meetings, and even has a bank account, according to the report.
By signing this column, however, we want to signal that we do not believe this fable, and we know what we're talking about. We've taken part in some demonstrations, we've organized others, we've signed calls and columns, we've hosted meetings, helped with the logistics of camps and forbidden demonstrations, sometimes we've even happily taken up box cutters, hammers, and pruners for more than just home improvements, sometimes we've simply smiled at the idea of using them—therefore, we know that there is no need for a central committee or a group of seasoned strategists to recognize the utmost urgency of the situation and the criminal inaction of those who have the power to stop the machine.
We also know that we are not afraid of the people wearing white or blue overalls who have started appearing on TV, after years of governmental unresponsiveness to ecological struggles. In fact, we can only agree with them when they declare that their "disarmament" actions are a crucial part of any consistent strategy aiming to slow, halt, or completely stop the projects that are covering soil with concrete, monopolizing land, and poisoning rivers. Furthermore, we sometimes wish we were with them, if we could—if our jobs, health, or family situations allowed; because their actions, their precision, their joyful determination inspire us immeasurably more than the Minister of the Interior's grimacing face when he sheds crocodile tears about the broken barriers of a construction site, the temporary interruption of a highly polluting industry, or the economic damage suffered by some ecocidal multinational company.
We've already started seeing summons, indictments, beatings, and trials rain down on the activists of Bassines Non Merci, the Confédération Paysanne and the Soulèvements de la Terre, on some demonstrators who were even fetched as they lay in hospital beds to be placed in custody. In this respect, the first trials aimed at anti-basin activists (November 28, 2022 and January 5-6, 2023 in La Rochelle and Niort) are paradigmatic. The investigation files are up to 1500 pages long, bearing witness to the surveillance, particularly through telephone monitoring, that hundreds of people are subjected to, in addition to stakeouts, video surveillance devices hidden in front of activists' homes, dozens of custodies, and around fifteen hearings. We now clearly see what the next step will be—since the information has even been printed in newspapers. Simply taking part in these demonstrations, meetings, and gatherings will not only be illegal but punishable. Yet these actions, and the transformations they make possible, are the very moments that define a viable future.
From all over, we are preparing to show our solidarity, to declare that we too are part of this, even if in spirit only, and that those whose sky has grown darker from the shadow cast by incipient repression will not be alone, because we are with them already.