26 05 2011
After 24 years in prison, former Action Directe member Jean-Marc Rouillan began his partial release period on May 19. Rouillan is in good health, physically as well as psychologically, and he never abandoned his ideals. He suffered over 10 years of solitary confinement, seven of which were consecutive, among other humiliations denounced over the course of his imprisonment by family, friends, and the support groups that can now celebrate his release. For years, the French judicial system and mass media demanded that Rouillan show remorse and abstain from talking about his past, but they never achieved those demands.
Rouillan won’t have to sleep in prison, but he will wear an electronic control bracelet and be obligated to work and compensate the widows of General René Audran and Renault president Georges Besse (both of whom were assassinated by Action Directe) with a portion of his salary. He also won’t fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression, as he is prohibited from talking about what he did over two decades ago and why he did it. This ridiculous amputation of freedom of expression—one of the most elemental human rights—is indicative of the French government’s atavistic fear of armed insurrection or the resurgence of armed groups that take vengeance against bankers, businessmen, politicians, generals, and other miscreants. The French judicial system is expressly prohibiting parts of Rouillan’s speech under the threat of returning him to prison, which they did in 2007 after he told a L’Express reporter: “I can’t talk about the past, but the simple fact of not being able to talk is a response in itself. If I wanted to show remorse or spit on our past, they would certainly allow me to speak.” For those words, he was sentenced to two years in prison. That’s how things go in France!
What he can’t say
What Rouillan is prohibited from talking about is that he promoted, established, and encouraged armed groups and numerous violent actions against capitalism. He is not allowed to say he believed that “capitalism wouldn’t yield to change unless that change was defended by force of arms” or that “armed struggle was a way to incite a popular insurrection against the dictatorship of capitalism.”
They won’t let him talk about his experience in armed groups that fought a capitalist system that causes countless deaths and wars, plunders and steals wealth, and whose agents are the real terrorists. They won’t let him say that he was a militant and member of the Iberian Liberation Movement (MIL), Autonomous Combat Groups (GAC), Internationalist Revolutionary Action Groups (GARI), and Action Directe. All those groups were rooted in anarchist affinity groups, the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), or the maquis, and Rouillan is one of their heirs and successors.
Action Directe was perhaps the only French group that consistently and persistently engaged in armed attacks on the incipient neoliberalism of the 1980s. For that, they have not been forgiven. The attacks, assassinations, and sabotages were directed at symbols of capitalist power, like banks, stock exchanges, Israeli institutions and businesses, U.S. multinationals, IMF and NATO headquarters, every type of police, courts, and the mass media. Subversion, sabotage, and clandestinity were Action Directe members’ daily bread.
Who he is
The 59-year-old Rouillan is a Frenchman with strong ties to Cataluña and the Spanish revolution. He fought against the Franco dictatorship and committed himself to the anticapitalist struggle as a man of action who stood in solidarity with prisoners and the oppressed. He was one of the few who coherently took responsibility for continuing armed struggle, a struggle that inevitably led to prison or death.
Rouillan has also written several books, many of which have been translated into Spanish, like Odio las mañanas (Barcelona: Llaüt), about French prisons, and Paul de Épinettes (Barcelona/Logroño: Llaüt/Pepitas de Calabaza), a philosophical account of the destructive and murderous function of prisons. Virus, a publisher in Barcelona, has released Spanish translations of the first two parts of Rouillan’s memoirs: De memoria (I) is about the first stirrings of his political consciousness, anti-Franco protests, communal living, the exiled Spanish anarchists living in Toulouse, the counterculture, and his first expropriations; De memoria (II) covers the period from the formation of a MIL guerrilla commando by Rouillan, Salvador Puig Antich, and Jean-Claude Torres to Puig Antich’s arrest, telling the story of the guerrilla group’s experiences in Barcelona and arguing in favor of the theory that Puig Antich killed one of the police officers who attempted to arrest him. De mémoire (3) will be released in French by Marseille publisher Agone in October, and is about the GARI and their most prominent action—the kidnapping of banker Angel Baltasar Suarez.
Rouillan once said that “fascism erases and destroys memory.” His books are an attempt to rescue history from silence and distortion.
In De memoria (II), Rouillan tells the story behind the attempt to assassinate Juan Creix, which was one of the MIL’s few exclusively political actions. Puig Antich had good information on where the Creix brothers—who led the hated Brigada Politico Social (BPS), which brutally tortured political arrestees—lived. They were like another version of the Badía brothers (during the Republic, Miguel Badía was chief of the infamous Mossos d’Esquadra, which also persecuted and tortured anarchists). During Creix’s location and pursuit, Rouillan wanted to liquidate him in the middle of Urquinaona Square, without waiting to do it in a more favorable place, like in front of the Creix family home in Pedralbes.
All the anarchist media outlets that spread information about Rouillan and his Action Directe comrades should be recognized. Thanks also go out to all the collectives, entities, and people that clamored for Rouillan’s release, especially the Tokata group in Valencia, which translated and disseminated Rouillan’s writings, carried out actions demanding that the French government release him, and held a series of talks and presentations on his books.
The French mass media has already announced the release of “dangerous terrorist” Jean-Marc Rouillan, spreading much fear and panic when the real terrorists are Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama, and NATO. They always mislead us by getting things backward!
—Txema Bofill; La Bisbal d’Empordà; May 17, 2011