‘There is possibly only one type of business that is carried out to perfection in the course of dictatorships: it is the holding of political prisoners’
Stendhal, ‘La Chartreuse’. chap.xvii.
Four weeks after our arrival, the only ones left of the detainees from the Breton Movement in our section of the prison are Yann Puillandre, Gérard Coriton and I. Yves Gourves and Ronan Kerhousse have just been released: they will be able to represent us all at the big public meeting of the Committee for the Support of Brittany, which is to be held in Pontivy on Sunday 23rd November. All of activist Brittany will be there to reaffirm the determination to continue the struggle for the recognition of our national rights. Erwan has just brought me the news that a message of support and solidarity from three Welsh Nationalist deputies to the House of Commons, Gwynfor Evans, David Wigley and Ellis Thomas will be read out.
David Wigley, who was at my side in Brussels for the opening of the Bureau of Unrepresented European Nations that we jointly founded, is himself coming to Paris next Wednesday. He is planning to go to the Ministry of Justice to obtain authorisation to visit us in La Santé. With the help of Yann Choucq, the lawyer who is representing several of us, it has been decided that David Wigley be received by the two Breton socialist deputies, Le Pensec and Josselin, and is to hold a press conference with them to protest against the repression being wrought on the whole of the Breton Movement.
The support committee in Brussels availed of an opportunity at a concert given by Alan Stivell in Brussels, to call for the collection of signatures to a text requesting the release of Breton political detainees. Alan Stivell read the text over the microphone and was immediately applauded, receiving a unanimous ovation. One thousand five hundred signatures were collected at the end of the concert. David Wigley is bringing these along with him to officially present them to the Ministry of Justice. At the same time, signatures of personalities have been collected by friends and activists from all the unrepresented European Nations, coordinated by J.J. Mourreau, asking for the liberation of Yann Fouéré, the author of ‘L’Europe aux cent drapeaux’ and ‘La Bretagne Écartelée’. I go through the list with a mixture of joy, emotion and pride. They are all there: they have all answered the call, friends, activists and defenders of their own people. Alsace is strongly represented, as is the Basque country and the Flemish Westhoek, Occitan, Corsica, Normandy and Savoy. The French friends are also there, ahead of their time, who know that our struggle is just, lawful and necessary. All the kindred movements are represented by the best ones amongst them. I know that their sympathy and friendship surround me: I am from their movements just as they are from mine. We are recreating a unity of hearts and willpower against artificial, inhuman and frigid unity of the State. We are the constituents of our homeland. We all know our struggle is the same, for freedom against servitude. Europe of a hundred flags is no longer just a dream, no longer simply a projection of the future. It is being built under our very eyes and we are building it. It is becoming a reality which all the great historical States of Europe will henceforth have to take into account. I know that one day they will yield under the assault of all our assembled nations, all the dominated and forbidden Stateless Nations. Today, with that hope of all our nations, a breath of fresh air has penetrated the walls of the narrow prison cell where I am locked up.
Many things can be learned in prison, in the corridors of the C.R.S.19 ( State Security Police), as in those of Fort de l’Est and in the enclosed universe of the prison world. The information I have been able to obtain has confirmed what the Breton movement’s enquiries had already led me to believe. The attacks against the parliamentarians appear to be the work of groups of anarchists, probably from international branches, one operating from the centre of Brittany, and the other from Rennes. Once again the F.L.B. has to shoulder the blame and be used as a pretext for overall repressions against activists of the Breton movement. It is easy to create confusions that play into the hands of those in power. In view of the notoriously numerous spies and police infiltration of anarchist and leftist movements, who knows in fact, in using the old practice of amalgamation, if this is not a deliberate provocation, calculated and premeditated to once again attempt to discredit not only the F.L.B., who today enjoys the complicity, if not the approval, of the great majority of the Breton population and also of the Breton movement on the whole as embodied by its activists? In fact is it not in order to avoid this confusion that the groups of F.L.B. appear to be observing a type of break in their struggles? Had they not already voluntarily done so in May 1968, to assert the specificity of their action? They have not made any moves for nearly six months. Also it is well known that they always leave their mark in one way or another, whatever actions they undertake.
They are therefore being prudent. They are aware that attacks on people does not belong, and hopefully never will, in the context of their active violent strategy that must carefully measure up to the acceptance and understanding of public opinion, and to the precise point in time of the liberation struggle that the Breton public has reached today. All of this also confirms that in order to maintain its character, the struggle we are all engaged in must remain specific to our people, adapted in its psychology, and to their own land which no one else has the right to rob them of. It should therefore not get bogged down in the search for a theoretical and ideal society, universal and perfect, but impossible to achieve in any case by men who will always be imperfect. ‘Ni-hon-unan’, we must be true to ourselves. We are the only ones able to preserve and develop the specificity of our actions, the only ones that make our raison d’être distinct as a people and a nation. Aside from all tactical motives, we must not allow our forces to be diverted, or lost in pursuit of other objectives, which in the end can only set us apart from the others and render our struggle ineffective by diluting it. National liberation, which also dictates cultural and social liberation, must remain our primary objective. It must take precedence over all the others.
The rally held in Guingamp in support of cultural freedom was attended by several thousand people earlier this month. The one in Pontivy, organised by the anti-repression Breton Committee, held the day before yesterday, 23rd November, was equally well attended. Brittany is surprised, a little fearful also, but with much hope by the younger members of the population, labourers, students, workers, employees, the rise of a new generation of activists, rooted in the heart of our people, who will change the passive and traditional image that French opinion and the world have held of it. It is a leap forward that is in question and not a step backward. After the Corsican shootings and bombings, after the F.L.B.’s symbolic attacks, their enthusiasm, their support, the clear expression of their will for change, have once more placed the struggle for freedom of our people in the forefront of the news in Breton and French opinion.
Le Monde has opened its columns to articles by Alain Peyrefitte, calling for ‘a provincial power’. This is the expression that I used at the time of Maréchal Pétain, thirty years ago. We have passed that stage, Monsieur Le Ministre, and if the State is not careful, if these kings from the ENA(Ecole Nationale d’Administration) old boys club persist in their criminal lack of understanding, even regional power will be outdated. The accumulation of delaying tactics and the continued striving for the survival of centralism and colonialism, will simply serve to increase, intensify and spread our people’s claims for freedom. Already our claim for a ‘special status’ for our stateless nations, broader than that which could be granted to ordinary French ethnic regions, is gaining ground every day in Brittany and Corsica. I can find only one reasonable proposal in the propositions made by General de Gaulle’s ex Minister: the banning of cumulative electoral powers of the regional and local authorities with those of the State’s assemblies and those on a European level. I also find one phrase particularly apt as it summarises, by synthesising the very essence of the problem, the fundamental reason for our struggle – “The French Revolution”, he says, “simply replaced a King who considered himself the State, by a State that considers itself King”. When necessary, it was possible to reach the king, but try reaching these anonymous, irresponsible and faceless kings from ENA who have taken over all the avenues of power! They have made them into fortresses, into Bastilles, where they have succeeded in locking in the people.
The daily papers, for their part, are more than ever analysing the ‘regional’ problem. There are numerous polls. The ‘Nouvel Observateur’ has made an attempt to analyse one of them, which specially deals with Brittany, under the title, “What do the Bretons want?” – if according to this poll only 22% of Bretons claim to feel Breton before French, there are only one in four Bretons who feel French before Breton. Even so, the psychological aspect must be taken into account, with the kindness of heart of our people being the dominant quality. One must not upset the French too much! We are fond of the French! – as long as they do not consider themselves conquerors in our country. It is their State and their system of government that we hate. They suffer nearly as much as we do from this system, even though they are not as aware of it as we are. Violence?- of course everybody or nearly everybody is against it, but in the generation of eighteen to thirty four year olds, there are only 45% who condemn it unconditionally, 4% approve of it, 14% do not approve but consider it useful and 32% understand it. The proportion would have been even higher if instead of having the survey done after an attack against people, on this occasion certain parliamentarians, it had been done after an attack against a police station, a tax office or a C.R.S barracks. The young Breton generation think that to have recourse to certain controlled forms of violence is one of the few means our people have left to shake the indifference and hostility of the State. Has any movement with social claims, any conquest for the rights of man, any struggle for people’s rights, for political autonomy or national freedom ever succeeded without at some stage having recourse to a certain form of violence? Has the F.L.B.’s ‘terrorism with a smile’, as Jean Bothorel calls it, any other ‘raison d’être’, and does it need any other justification?
And when even the majority of the Bretons claim to be against violence, 54% of them, whatever their age bracket, approve the Breton movements struggle for Brittany and its people, seeing their lives improving and their freedom increasing. This applies even though in their opinion, these movements can hardly be classified within the range of French politics, as the Breton claims obviously transcend all the ideological divisions that divide French opinion. The Bretons clearly demonstrate the result of this opinion when 57% of them rightly realise that the advent of the left to power in France will not bring about any improvement in their lot. A simple change of government means nothing to them if the French left, as it has always done before, takes on the mantel of the Unitarian Jacobin, which is the backdrop for all traditional French politics and governments since the first empire and which transcends all parties.
The only danger of this poll done by the Nouvel Observateur, a very specific danger, which was confirmed by another poll organised by Le Point, is that it demonstrates the fact that the Bretons cannot really see how there is any hope of an improvement in their lot. They seem, somehow, to be ‘resigned’ to a situation where underdevelopment, underemployment and cultural alienation are the dominant characteristics. Only 28% of them blame the French State for this situation, whilst 50% think that it is due to the ‘lack of raw materials and the geographical position of Brittany’. This demonstrates to what extent the Bretons have been ‘conditioned’ by the incessant propaganda of the State and the mass media, called upon for more than a century to convince them that it is economic and geographical reasons that prevent Brittany from fully sharing in the economic and social progress, and which are responsible for the underemployment and the endemic emigration it suffers from. In other words, the calculating propaganda of the French State has succeeded, beyond all expectations, in putting a noose around the necks of these proud people, who were once independent, used to thinking for themselves and taking into consideration their own particular national factors. Not as it is done today, according to its present situation as a submissive and colonised nation. The French State has succeeded in convincing it, just as it has done in all the old and present French colonies, that nothing else was forthcoming aside from the manna distributed by the master, that salvation could only come from there, that the Breton nation was incapable of saving itself, or of sorting out its difficulties in its own way.
Yet none of this is further from the truth. Our first task, therefore, is not so much to engage in pure politics, but more to convince the Breton public that they have been betrayed. Our movements and parties today should be less inspired by theories and making attempts at justifying their position with any philosophical or ideological arguments than the need to engage in an exercise of practical and down to earth information. But this exercise is essential as it is what will restore our people’s confidence in itself, its pride and its independence of spirit, to become accustomed to think for itself again, and not to accept at face value what is repeated every day to try and justify the unjustifiable, in view of the fact that official propaganda has been nothing but lies.
Lack of raw materials? – but Brittany lacks far less than Switzerland, Iceland or Denmark, who are considered to be some of the countries where the standard of living and the gross national product are the highest in the world? Geographical Position? – but its position is far better than that of Norway, who possesses one of the most important merchant fleets in the world, also better than Holland, whose commercial potential, thanks to its waterways, is unequalled. All of these small countries, in population or size, are really no different to Brittany. The geographical position of our country is in reality quite exceptional, one of the best in Europe and the best on its western side. It is situated on one of the world’s greatest sea routes, half way from Northern Europe to central Europe and is their natural link. At the same time it is the launching platform from Europe towards the New World. The position of Brittany is only peripheral and bad if, as the centralised French state has done, it is locked into a political and economical continental system. Encompassed in such a system, Brittany is imprisoned. It cannot breathe through land borders only, and the closure or lack of use of its sea borders completes its paralysis, separating it from the open sea where its destiny lies. Should one of these borders be closed, it should preferably be the one to the east, as long as those to the north, west and south remain open to the ocean. Brittany’s handicap is not economical or geographical, it is political. Its paralysis began the day that it was annexed to France, as demonstrated by the gradual deterioration of its economic prosperity since then, of its balance of trade with the loss of its commercial outlets, the impoverishment of its human potential, the gradual draining of manpower, of its assets and of its products towards the one single centre of power.
Suffering under a political system, and not from any economic or geographical disadvantage, Brittany cannot emerge from its present situation without a complete change, no other than the overthrow of this political system within which it has been imprisoned. The only solution, and there are no others, is to bring back to Brittany the centres of decisions and power that have been confiscated and monopolised by Paris. A political decision, but without which no improvement can be enduring, without which we will always remain simply a region of France, proportionately underdeveloped, trailing behind it in the same way as to a certain extent it is trailing behind Europe. The day that the centres of political, administrative and financial decisions are returned to Brittany, when the people of Brittany have recovered the power that was taken from them, thus giving them back control over their own destiny, inevitably there will be a Breton miracle, just as for exactly the same reasons there was an Icelandic miracle, a Puerto Rican miracle, a Formosan miracle and a Danish miracle. I hope that the book I prepared with the economist Léopold Kohr will, in the coming weeks, bring a decisive contribution to this essential aspect of our struggle. (‘Une Bretagne libre est-elle viable?‘ Cahiers no.1 de L’Avenir de la Bretagne, Editions Nature et Bretagne, Quimper).
Today, Wednesday 26th November, I was called to the parlour and found Erwan with David Wigley, who is one the three Welsh nationalists Deputies in the Chamber of Commons and the Deputy for Caernafon, last Welsh port of call by sea before Dublin. The Plexiglas separation has disappeared. I can embrace Erwan and warmly shake David’s hand. A special small room has been reserved for us, where we can freely converse for an hour. They have just come from a visit to the Ministry of Justice, where they were well received by the Director of Prison administration. They submitted the petitions for us that were collected in Brussels. In order to facilitate Dafyd’s visit here, an official car was placed at his disposal to take him to Fort de l’Est, where M. Gallut gave him the necessary authorisation to meet with me. The car then drove them to the prison. After which it will take them to the Palais-Bourbon, where the Breton socialist deputy, Le Pensec, awaits them. A joint press conference had been impossible to organise and Y.Choucq could not be reached.
A comfort to be able once again to talk of the old bonds that unite me with Wales and the main champions of its freedom! Many of them I still do not know, in spite of the long period I spent in Wales thirty years ago already, during which Gwynfor and Rhianon Evans were an unforgettable source of comfort to me and mine. The Bureau of Unrepresented European Nations is developing and broadening its action, and the meeting in Aberystwyth, which I was prevented from attending by the Minister of the Interior’s police service, will soon have its consequences. I could only thank Dafyd and Plaid Cymru effusively, for the active part they are taking in our liberation and in particular mine. Erwan also advised me that this same day, a request for bail had been lodged with M.Gallut by J.L. Bertrand for me. Once again the only thing to be done now is to summon up one’s patience. The positive or negative reply should reach me within five days.
A buzz of excitement is starting to spread through the prison. Some members of an anarchist group, G.A.R.I. (Grupos de Accion Revolucionaria Internacional), specialising in the violent revolutionary anti-Franco struggle, who have been imprisoned for many long months without trial, which is unacceptable in any case, have started a hunger strike to recover their status of political detainees, and which was more open than the special treatment they now share with us. They have asked the Bretons to join them in the hunger strike – some have already done so. Yet our problem is entirely different from theirs, firstly in the specifically Breton nature of our struggle, and secondly because we are still at the stage of preliminary investigations and arrived here only after the application of the new special treatment, apart from Pierre Loquet and his two companions. Once again the Bretons are being asked to fight for others before thinking of themselves – the Bretons have big hearts and the spirit of sacrifice. The generals of the 1st World War thought nothing of sending them on ahead to be massacred. It is impossible for us all to meet in order to adopt a common reasoned position. I do not believe that this hunger strike is advisable at the moment – we must conserve our strength for our own struggle, which has nothing in common with international revolutionary groups or with their methods. Our struggle is certainly revolutionary, but not in the absolute sense of the G.A.R.I. who, like many groups of this nature, has no roots in history or land, and hence will rapidly disappear, whilst the Breton struggle is a continuous age-old one that is deeply rooted in our soil.
Yet, out of solidarity, whilst keeping my distance, I decide to refuse only every second meal.
This episode has probably brought to a head our enforced isolation, as this morning, Friday 28th November, Puillandre, Denis and I are transferred to division I, where we are allowed to meet for two hours each day in a small private room, and the other Bretons arrested with us, Le Breton, Lalluyaux and Le Gall are allowed to join us during the walks. But we are still without Pierre Loquet and his two companions, Coriton and Crochard: we therefore decide to continue our symbolic hunger strike until the examining magistrate has responded to the request for our three friends from Guerande to be allowed to join us. They have been there since the end of July and it is unacceptable that the preliminary investigations of their cases have dragged on for so long.
I have again been moved to another cell. The décor does not vary much and the move is quickly done. I notice that I have accumulated quite a few books and papers – all rather heavy. The slices of cheese shapes have disappeared. The new yard is large and it is easier to do the usual kilometres without having to turn about too often. Now that we can talk to each other as we walk, it feels much more like the yard of a seminary, of a Napoleonic Lycée or of a convent than the yard of a prison. My new cell is no.38 of division I.
Skoazel Vreizh in Paris has just sent us all the Kendalc’h calendar with pictures of Brittany which I stick on the walls.
It is now the 3rd of December, five days since I submitted my request for bail, and now I receive notice that it has been rejected, the prosecutor and the magistrate have put forward the fact that I live in Ireland where no probation is possible. The plot has been well structured. The Minister of the Interior refused to renew my passport in 1971, “in order not to facilitate my travels abroad”. With the progress in the construction of Europe making it no longer necessary for travel in Western Europe, this refusal has not bothered me so far in my travels. This time these gentlemen, through the prosecutor for the State Security Court, want to ensure via another method, a round about one, that I will not be able to travel at all. It would be very convenient for the State if I lived in a glass house under the watchful eye of its political police. There are therefore two solutions, to remain in prison indefinitely, or agree later on to be confined to a residence in Brittany, as long as there has been no trial or any legal decision to finalise the proceedings.
It is difficult to know if an appeal should be made to this decision or not: to appeal would mean blocking the inquiry procedure to a certain extent. Dr. Simeoni, who has been imprisoned in Fresnes since the Aleria affair in August last year, has just joined us here at La Santé. We meet up during our walks and I discuss the problem with him. He advises against this procedure, which on the advice of his lawyers, he has not adopted. J.L. Bertrand is in Rennes, and I am unable to consult with him before the expiry time for an appeal, which is in twenty four hours. How unjust and arbitrary is this procedure, obliging a Breton imprisoned in Paris to employ a lawyer in Paris!
After careful consideration, but with some regrets, for the struggle always tempts me, I have decided not to appeal, but will request that the procedure for the enquiry be speeded up. It is unacceptable that since being imprisoned and charged on 25th October, I have only appeared for two hours on 20th November before a magistrate, and that the date for the next appearance has not been fixed. My companions are also practically at the same stage. L’Abbé Le Breton has not even appeared once, although he was summoned twice, it was postponed each time. Now Gallut has been put in charge of the ‘demoralisation of the army’ case, which resulted in fifteen young soldiers being charged. Two of them have joined us and accompany us on our walks: they certainly do not appear to be dangerous plotters. One of them is Breton and already aware of our problems. The State Security Court has become an essential apparatus of the State, and a method of governing like any other in the hands of these gentlemen. Why not convert it to a Ministry? To what lengths of hypocrisy and contempt for the rights of man will France go? My prolonged stay here will at least seriously damage their image abroad. The French Ambassador in Dublin has already felt it necessary to protest in person to the chief editor of the ‘Irish Times’ for the terms employed by Irish journalists, outraged by the base political and police manoeuvrings that we are victims of: the method is as old as the hills! It is not the first time that France uses the amalgamation method in trying to discredit and condemn those who are the most effective in their opposition to its politics of genocide in Brittany and who struggle for the rights of their nation:1675, 1720, 1793, 1945, these dates are remembered by all – for us these dates mark the imperialist history of the French State.
According to the newspapers, the French Council of Ministers has decided on appropriate measures making more room for the teaching of ‘local’ languages (read Breton, Basque, Occitan, Corsican etc.). The educational system should ‘make more room for the study of the linguistic, historical, artistic and social facts that form part of the local cultural heritage’. The government, being perturbed by the call for protests against its centralist policy of linguistic assimilation, has decided to make some concessions. Authentic or just for show? These measures have hardly been decided upon, their practical application being as yet unknown, when they are already overtaken by events. Does it not specify that the teaching of ‘local’ subjects remains ‘optional’? Yet in other countries where there are similar problems, the national minorities’ language and history have long since held an equal place in the educational system: a Welsh person is able to do all his or her studies from nursery school to university in Welsh, if they wish to do so. Not like the extra few miserable minutes for the Breton language on radio and television. The Welsh have eight hours a day of radio and television in their language.
As usual, this is all just to impress: at the same time, the President of the Republic, subjected to pressure from his right wing Jacobin majority, such as Debré, Chirac and Sanguinetti, closes the door on an improvement to the existing law, refuses the election of Regional councillors by universal suffrage even though he had advocated this reform before his election, wants to favour the obsolete framework of the department at the expense of that of the region. His repressive policy and violation of the rights of free speech are accentuated by his Minister of the Interior – policies of indecisiveness, cowardice and muddling. We have gone back to the worse days of the 3rd and 4th Republic, aside from the Parliament’s intervention, drifting along following the flow of events and trying to stay afloat for as long as possible at the mercy of winds and tides. Giscard is clearly going back on Pompidou, who was already going well back on de Gaulle, we are moving backwards. The hardening of the peoples’ struggle is therefore not surprising: even the C.E.L.I.B is protesting. The apolitical and pacifist ‘Fédération des Amicales de Bretons’ in the Paris region is protesting against the repressions and violations to the rights of man of our presence here. The committees of support are spreading to other movements and trade unions who had until now stayed out of it, but are now gathering together in all the towns, as happened in Corsica, under anti repression committees. What a good shake up there would be if elections were held now! Giscard is quite right, from his point of view, to ‘play up’ to the PS (Socialist Party) but that does not compensate for the other.
The press of 6th-7th December have printed the text of the speech given by the President of the Republic. A good third of the speech was devoted to his explanation of the reasons why he had decided to postpone the necessary improvements to Pompidou’s 1972 regional reforms. A true monument to hypocrisy! Increasing the powers of the communes is normal and necessary. In view of their frequently reduced size, there is no guarantee on whether they can implement these decisions, which are not often permitted by the administrative supervision, without having to constantly hold out its hat to the State. But to postpone for another ten years the necessary choice between the departmental and regional echelons only hides a simple refusal to govern and decide. It is widely recognised that in a modern region, an intermediary level is needed between the region and the communes, even more so than the department – born from a geometrical consideration rather than one of shrewdness – it is a more reduced echelon that is needed and this can only be the district or the country, a combined human, social and cultural reality.
Political observers remarked on the fact that the President of the Republic had avoided calling on the concern to maintain the sacrosanct and intangible national unity, to put aside all regionalism apart from the strictly economical and purely advisory. This is nothing else than a further hypocrisy to its credit. The examples he used of the size, area and population of Ukraine, California or provinces of China, in order to set aside any appeal to the regional and federal structures in the French framework, were only used to conceal the reality of the true problems confronting our nations and our regions. It simply distracts the attention from related solutions that are in every way comparable to the ones that would apply to France, such as the successful experiences of Italian regionalism and German federalism. To insist on setting aside these examples in order to use those in other continents and in other states far larger and far more populated than France can only be a display of insincerity. In addition it is the same as comparing France to a continent, and claiming a place and a status in the world, which it no longer has. It could be expected that the tale of the ox and the frog (one of Aesop’s fables) would have come to the mind of this intelligent man, but it is clear that his only interest is in retaining power and really, like many other French politicians, as he does not merit being called a statesman, he has no other convictions or programs than those that stem from purely political tactics and electoral arithmetic. This is of course very convenient for those of the ENA old boy network who jealously guard the keys and doors to the kingdom that belongs to them, and only to them. As far as they are concerned, Ministers and Presidents are simply interchangeable and temporary parties whose complicity and benevolence is bought at that price, compared to the privileges and permanent power they hold over the citizens.
10th December: Erwan arrives to visit me after a Press conference organised by the French support committee, which was presided over by Paul Serant and hosted by J.J. Mourreau, with personalities from all parties joining their names and signatures to a request for my liberation: Alexander Marc, Robert Lafont, Guy Héraud, D.de Rougemont, J.P. Sartre, J.Mabire, H.Brugmans, Y.Joannon … amongst the over three hundred who responded to the call.
The Press conference was mainly called to set the record straight regarding allegations made by certain majority parliamentarians, during debates and speeches last week at the National Assembly and in the Senate, regarding me and my actions. The Abbé Laudrin, a questionable priest, who Brittany does not include amongst its representatives in the French parliament, is an old hand at parliamentary manoeuvrings, accustomed to the underhand and cunning tricks that are freely practiced between colleagues from different parties in that den of villains, and for the past couple of decades he has always been one of the executors of the Gaullist majority’s dirty work. He was the one, after the elections of 1962, who took charge of calling the C.E.L.I.B.(Comite d’Etudes et de Liaisons des Interest Breton) into question – he was expected to scupper it. He is a typical ‘janissary’. He took advantage of David Wigley’s visit to me in order to embarrass his socialist colleagues Le Pensec and Josselin. The latter had prepared a speech on the conditions of my arrest, and to question the Minister of Justice on this.
Laudrin tried to cut the ground from under their feet, and succeeded by beating them to it, quoting my name and implying that as a man already condemned for collaboration I was consequently unworthy of any regard from the socialist deputies. Le Pensec and Josselin, newly elected and novices on the job were not as yet familiar with the unsavoury manoeuvres practiced by Laudrin and others who are specialists in this field, fell into the trap and were not immediately able to regain their ground. Also, maybe not sufficiently well informed, they did not think of putting Laudrin in his place by replying that the man in question had been acquitted and was not condemned for collaboration at the time of the Liberation, and that it was not the place of a deputy, a member of the majority, to make slanderous statements, thus showing his contempt for a case that had been judged by the French courts. They merely stated that their statements seemed to them to be necessary for all detainees and not just this one, even if “Yann Fouéré because of his past, could not expect any sympathy from the socialists”. An added faux pas that they should not have made, is that my past as an imprisoned Breton militant acquitted by the French courts has nothing to do with preventing the socialist party from expressing their sympathy for my, and all the others, present ordeal.
In addition, it is widely known that if there is another socialist deputy in Brittany since the last elections, it is thanks to me. René Pleven has himself stated that he would have been elected in the first round in Dinan had I not also been a candidate, and that it was largely due to the transfer of a large number of my Breton votes to Josselin that the socialist candidate was elected in the second round with only 65 votes more than Pleven.
Fréville, the deputy mayor of Rennes, used a similar manoeuvre in the Senate, with sly pieces, underhand methods and hypocrisy characteristic of this false great man from Ille et Vilaine, responsible for bringing ugliness to Rennes. He succeeded at the Liberation, of eliminating his more threatening political rivals and cleared the way by dint of ineligibility and authoritarian dismissals, in being elected mayor of Rennes, the necessary springboard for the political career he wanted. He was far from being the only one to use these methods at the time. Thus you had the large drop in the level of parliamentary representation between the third and fourth Republic. It could be said that the shady characters made the most of the vacuum they created by the arbitrary purges of the Liberation.
This non-Breton, responsible, through the important role he played in the purges at the time, for the pursuits against me at the Liberation, had taken my subsequent acquittal as a personal failure. In particular as he had made a mistake with regard to my case and had not the basic honesty and even less the courage to recognise the fact, even going as far as being a witness for the prosecution against me at my first trial. As ever faithful to his Jesuitical slyness, much more stealthy than that of Laudrin, a peasant from the Danube in comparison, he took advantage of a senate debate on the educational budget to intervene on the subject of the teaching of local languages, and to recall that in August 1940, in the company of J.M Perrot (later horribly, unjustly and cowardly murdered by the French resistance), I had signed a request to the German authorities asking for the teaching of Breton to be made obligatory in the schools of Basse-Bretagne. I was the only one he mentioned although there were six or eight of us. I do not see why I should regret this gesture I made at a time when the collapse of France had left the Breton population defenceless and unprotected in the hands of an occupying force. For centuries the Bretons defended Brittany against invasions from France and England. One has to admit that in 1815, 1871 or 1940 France did not fight to defend Brittany from Germany. Even worse, in 1871 it refused to provide arms to the Breton army that had risen to defend them.
Who today could reproach us for this gesture! In addition, what Fréville deliberately forgets to say, even though he was informed of it, is that we sent similar requests at approximately the same time to Marechal Pétain, and by me to General De Gaulle, to whom Fréville at the time had not yet seen fit to pay court. All this is not mentioned by Fréville, since this rogue is also a small minded person, lying once again through omission. He had already done so on numerous occasions before at the time when the M.R.P. (Mouvement Republicain Populaire) and the P.C.F. (French Communist Party) had been a party to putting their political rivals in prison.
Masters Laudrin and Fréville will not lose out by waiting, as there will be a debate in the European parliament proposed by Tom Ellis, of Welsh nationality but an English socialist deputy, which will revive the debate and put the French government’s repressive policies towards us all and towards me in particular in the political hot seat. The lack of understanding by France of the terms of the Convention for the Rights of Man, which it signed but in fact does not implement, will also be on the table. Our imprisonment and the arbitrary extension of our detention on remand are examples that are easily brought up. Our friends in the European Parliament will not fail to do so. Who knows in fact what personal roles people like Laudrin and Fréville may have played in the unjust duration of our imprisonment? Fréville is a political friend of Lecanuet, ex.M.R.P. and presently Minister of Justice, who supported his candidacy when he ran against De Gaulle in 1965 for the presidency of the Republic. Do we not also know that Fréville has repressive tendencies? Faced with the rise in claims for autonomy, did he not publicly request the government to send large police force reinforcements to Brittany? It was certainly not prompted by considerations of administering justice. He had already demonstrated these thirty years ago – therefore let it not be said that Bretons are treated in exactly the same way as French citizens. A French citizen, not Breton and not Corsican, would have long since been set free had he been imprisoned on such grounds as those that have been brought against most of us.
The small circle of prisoners sharing our daily walks increases every day, and it seems that the administrators of the prison are working towards concentrating most of those charged by the State Security Court into division1. In addition to the G.A.R.I. anarchists who have shared our yard since the beginning, and with whom Denis was quickly getting on with, were gradually added three young soldiers, three Corsicans, two or three spies, two Trade Unionists, one Italian and one Bulgarian. C.Gallut, the examining magistrate, has charged forty people since the beginning of the month. Those charged by the State Security Court will soon fill all the cells in our division. However, Loquet, who has once again been transferred to the hospital in Fresnes, Coriton and Crochard have not rejoined us. Why?
The time table in the division is now more or less fixed. Thanks to our eight day hunger strike, longer for the four from the G.A.R.I., we can meet for the whole morning in a special room. There is a room for the six Bretons, one for the four G.A.R.I. and one for the young soldiers with the addition of the three Corsicans. There will no doubt soon be a room for the spies and a room for the Trade Unionists, not to mention a room for those who will be arrested for other reasons. M. Le Directeur should look into preparing a private room for the Corsicans and another for those from Occitan. In the meantime we will keep those from Alsace, Normandy, Savoy and the Basques informed!
We are locked in to these private rooms, together by some sort of affinity, if not nationality. We make use of these few hours spent together to exchange information and news, read the papers that some of us receive, discuss tactics for the Breton movement or the broad outlines of our defence, on the off chance of an eventual trial. We have decided to write a collective letter from the Bretons to the Minister of Justice requesting the speeding up of the procedure for the inquiry and the reduction of our time in detention on remand.
Around eleven we make our way back to our individual cells for the midday meal. At 14.30 we are brought to the yard for the daily walk, which can be prolonged until 16.30. In the yard the occupants of all the private rooms are reunited. A ball and a net are placed at our disposal for volley ball, and also a Table Tennis table. There is plenty of space left for walking, and every day I do my usual kilometres at a fast walk. This outing in common also provides us with an opportunity to broaden our field of news. Our talks with Simeoni give us the opportunity of hearing more detailed information on the Corsican national movement and on the actions he carried out. Naturally, the spies have nothing to say for the moment.
“We can find absolutely nothing against you“, said Gallut one day to one of these spies who has been imprisoned for eight months! “You are therefore obviously the perfect spy”.
Admirable! At that rate, all the French can only be spies. The young soldiers have nothing much to say. None of them can make out how the State considers the measure of guilt in something as vague as the so called ‘demoralisation of the army’. One of them is a lawyer and the son of a general. It is surprising that his father has not been arrested, on the basis of the principle ‘Like father, like son’ considering the repressions are as stupid as that! In any case, the soldiers’ morale is good, even if the army’s is not. The system in La Santé is not much different to that of the barracks, apart from the possibility of the odd outings.
Once the walk is over we are brought back to our respective cells. The evening soup follows at 17.30, and we are then left to ourselves again until the wakeup call at 20.30 the following morning. In general, I devote the evenings to my correspondence. Retiring to bed early, I read in bed until around 10.30. Since my arrival here I have renewed my acquaintance with Stendhal. I do not have the courage to overcome the boredom of Nouvelle Heloise, and have therefore set aside Rousseau. We pass around the last book written by Le Mercier d’Erm, Une armée de Chouans and La Voie Bretonne by Mordrel, also the latest Breton publications. Thomas Molnar, the Annales de Bretagne, Denis de Rougemont, Michel Deon, Hannah Arendt and some detective stories are some of my evening reading material.
I nearly always sleep well until around 6.30. If my sleep at night has been interrupted, I have always been able to catch up during the day if I so wish. This capacity for sleeping has always been my life saver. “You do not realise how lucky you are to be able to sleep so well“, my wife often tells me. She is right.
Nonetheless, in spite of the number of occupations one has, time often passes slowly. The only sounds we hear from the world of the living are those of a bolt being pushed across, of keys turning, of the night rounds in the inner courtyards and the sirens of the police cars. Life is just a succession of monotonous grey days. The cooing of the numerous pigeons, pecking at the extra bits of bread thrown into the courtyards is practically the only ‘human’ sound that reaches us, the only one to link us to the ‘real’ world, which is already beginning to lose its reality for us.
For the past week, I have neglected this report in order to write a new preface for the 2nd edition of ‘La Bretagne écartelée’. It is time for a new edition of this book which has been out of print for some time. The various manoeuvrings carried out by Laudrin and Fréville have demonstrated the need for it. The young generations of Bretons recently involved in the Breton struggle should be correctly informed of the circumstances of its involvement before and during the occupation, and also of the repression it endured at the time of the Liberation. The French State’s biased propaganda has presented public opinion with a distorted version. It is not possible to understand events of that period in Brittany without restoring the true light of these events. This was and continues to be the object of this book, which was the first, in 1962, to break the conspiracy of silence.
In spite of this work, as Christmas approaches, the days are becoming harder and longer. For all those of us who have families, the separation at this time of year is difficult to bear. At the same time our indignation increases against a frozen State, which does not hesitate to violate not only the most elementary of the rights of man but also its own laws in order to maintain us in a detention on remand that they have repeatedly stated should be exceptional and not the rule, provisional and not prolonged, as indicated by the law of 17th July 1970.The State cares nothing about all this. Whatever laws are voted by Parliament, none are applied that displease the administration or the political manoeuvres of the ‘princes that govern us’. It is obvious that those in power seek to keep public opinion busy, through manoeuvres and repressions against soldiers and against us, to make it forget or pass over to second place in the news, the economic and social problems that it is incapable of solving, and the weight of which are increasingly felt. “In France,” writes one of my correspondents, “those that light a fire are left alone, and it is those who sound the alarm that are persecuted and arrested”.
In France the same standards are not applied to everyone, not only according to whether you are powerful or poor, but according to purely subjective criteria which the owners of the French State reserve the right to define. I have already said that in the eyes of the administration, of the justice system and in the application of the laws, a Breton or a Corsican do not enjoy the same rights as the French. How can there be any doubt about this when you compare our treatment here to that of the nine ‘pieds-noir‘ from Algeria imprisoned in Marseilles at about the same time as we were imprisoned here. It cannot be denied that they are French. They are even more so and certainly have cause to complain of the manner in which they have been treated by France, and it is understandable that the French State, who should have protected its citizens and failed to do so, has a guilty conscience where they are concerned. They have all been charged with “attempting to destroy public buildings with explosives”, a charge which is as serious as for some of us, a minority, that are charged for the same thing. The ‘pieds-noirs’ have just been released on bail, but all the Bretons are still here, three of them since five months, the others since two months, including those who are charged with far less serious offences.
One of the released ‘pieds-noirs’ is Eugene Ibanez who, before he was imprisoned, had taken refuge and barricaded himself for several weeks inside a private property protected by an armed commando. But Dr.Edmond Simeoni, imprisoned after the Aléria affair is still here…and there appears to be no question of releasing him. The Minister of the Interior could not bear the fact that the Corsicans occupied the cellar of a winery for three days and felt he had to organise an assault with a great show of armoured vehicles and arms of war with cartridges and grenades that were far from being blank ones. But he does not blink an eye when other citizens, fully French in his eyes, occupy under the same conditions a private property for an unlimited period, or a factory, or a University. Can one still say that Bretons and Corsicans in France have the same rights as others, and that there is no discrimination where they are concerned?
At the same time the government admits that for the needs of its political police, this police that only exists in totalitarian countries, certain of its members can become procurers and receive sums of money from the prostitutes it protects … what a way to behave in order to obtain information! Information that is frequently very useful to senior civil servants in power for the purpose of blackmail and putting pressure on political enemies as well as criminals. What country are we in, what corrupt State with corruption in high places? It is a fact that some of these high profile personalities of the State no longer even have the respect of their office. How can they then have the respect of honest people? Is it because the latter do not know, or do not want to know, or because they would do the same if they were in their shoes?
Thursday 18th December – Erwan arrives for his last visit before Christmas. He will be in Dublin tomorrow evening and on Sunday in my home on the seashore with its harmonious scenery, swept by the open sea winds. For the first time in many years, the family will be present, children and grandchildren gathered around the Christmas tree and the crib without me. I have a heavy heart and tears in my eyes when he leaves. It is only the third time that I spend Christmas away from them, the third time that my absence will cast a shadow over them, the third time that I will be filled with sorrow at being away from them. Christmas 1944, I was in prison in Rennes, 1946 in solitary exile in Wales. I did not expect to have to add Christmas 1975 to those dates.
Yvonne Guellec has thoughtfully written to me on the eve of this Christmas. She, like me, was in prison in Rennes for Christmas 1944. Her husband, a fine Breton nationalist activist, was being hunted by the State police. They had therefore simply arrested her when they could not find him. For this reason she had already spent eight or nine months in prison, without any trial of course – she was not even brought before a court. During this imprisonment, she had been one of those with me in the convoy brought under guard by train from Rennes to Quimper. We were the only two that had not been handcuffed. The memory of our misfortune has been a link between us since, despite the brevity of it. “In spite of the thirty years that have passed since then,” she says, “I am not about to forget that Christmas in prison and my three young children at home …”. The state cares nothing about these deep human sufferings that remain unforgettable. It is a frozen monster! It has no heart. Even worse, it makes those who serve it insensitive. It robs them also of their heart. It has succeeded in replacing their heart by a false sentiment of duty to it, even though the first duty should be towards other men. In the quiet comfort of their offices, their ministries or their head office, the members of the ENA old boys club and our bureaucrats, with the stroke of a pen, make decisions that can affect the lives of millions of men. They do not for a moment reflect on the human tragedy caused by these decisions on those they force into unemployment or emigration, who are ruined or imprisoned. They do not think of the families they are breaking up or of the children deprived of their fathers. These unconditional servants of the State have forgotten that the State also has a duty to its citizens, forgotten that it has not fulfilled this duty towards us.
Meanwhile the radio and the press have announced that the F.L.B. attacks have started again in Brittany. How can one not appreciate the anger these have conveyed? The offices of the CID in Brest and the law courts in Saint Brieuc are the targets this time. The latter has been burned down. The people of Trebrivan and Plourivo will undoubtedly be celebrating tonight. Many of them were sentenced in that court for having violently opposed the authoritarian and arbitrary re-allotment that was decided on by those in power and their profit seeking technocrats of rural engineering. This news, although a negative one, will light up their Christmas. Ours will remain dark and solitary. We know that we are here because we have sounded the alarm. It is those who tried to prevent us who are to blame for the fire. They must therefore not be surprised when it spreads.
During these few days before Christmas, a few trade unionists and a few soldiers have been released. The latter, still charged, are merely exchanging their cell in La Santé for the obligatory confinement of their barracks. But the requests for release on bail submitted by Simeoni and his two compatriots have been refused. Like us, they are not ordinary French citizens. Their names acclaimed in Corsica, are the object of hatred by the State, its prefects and its police. Tom Ellis has submitted his written question to the European Parliament protesting against the continued detention without trial of “Yann Fouéré and other Breton activists from non-violent political and cultural movements”. The European Commission presided over by Ortoli, one of Pompidou’s ex Ministers, a Corsican renegade and a creature of the French Government in spite of his senior international position, replied that they did not want to interfere in the internal affairs of a member State. Tom Ellis has questioned this response. France being a member State has a duty to have its internal legislation comply with the principles and rights that form the international legislation. Detention without trial is against these rights. Imprisonment for political reasons is prohibited. He will take up the matter again and provoke a broader and longer debate at the European Parliament’s session in January.
Jean-Louis Bertrand informs me that in view of the silence on the inquiry, he has submitted another request for release on bail. This gentle, calm and courteous man, whose work is inseparable from a form of vocation, but who bristles when faced with injustice, lies and insincerity, has now become incisive and harder. Having drawn attention to the weakness of the indictment – “why then”, he asks, “this prolonged imprisonment? I am forced to believe that it has nothing to do with the charge, but with another context that goes beyond the person of M.Fouéré. If that is the case, then I am very concerned, as it indicates that the maintaining of an innocent person in prison facilitates the arrest of the guilty and the non-renewal of events that have nothing to do with him. I have spoken sharply but the matter warrants it”.
At the same time, the mayors and town councillors of Gommenech and Tréverec have lodged their protest at the prefecture, the bishop’s house and the Ministry against the length of detention of their priest. The examining magistrate has not seen him once, in spite of keeping him waiting for a full afternoon, handcuffed, in the waiting room of the State Security Court. Since the inquiry into his case had not begun, he was refused permission to go home for Christmas. It was granted to those that were sentenced but not those that are charged. Those that are sentenced have rights; those that are charged have none. They are only subject to the State’s pleasure. Although they are innocent according to the law, they are treated worse than those that are guilty.
It is therefore not surprising that for the first time Amnesty International has intervened with the President of the Republic, requesting the release of all those imprisoned in France who are only guilty of defending their ideals in a non-violent manner. It added that their imprisonment is a violation of the freedom of expression contained in all international conventions in force. Officially, publicly and irrefutably France joins Spain, Chile, Soviet Russia and the authoritarian popular democracies on the list of states violating human rights. It will lose face by condemning them for something it tolerates. But these contradictions have long since ceased to bother the masters of the state. They live in a closed world, believing that they are its sole masters. They are convinced, in their self-importance, that by definition they cannot be mistaken, that France through them is always right and the rest of the world is always wrong. They accept Europe, on condition that it is to their advantage, but they do not want it to impose certain duties on them. Yet there are no rights or privileges without duties.
If our imprisonment and prolonged detention without trial result in forcing France, under pressure from international opinion of the free world, to finally observe the rights of man, it will have been beneficial. In addition to our dignity as Bretons, will be the recognition of our human dignity. That is what I will pray for on this day of Christmas, its symbol of peace forgotten by our masters.
I spent this Christmas day typing the preface to the second edition of ‘La Bretagne écartelé’, thanks to Le Gall’s typewriter, as I still have not been able to obtain permission to have one brought in. A mechanical task that occupies my mind and my hands, and stops me thinking too much of my wife and children reunited today in Cleggan around the Christmas tree and the crib. It is difficult to control my feelings and my eyes mist over as I think of them, feeling the pain of my absence, just as I feel their absence. Here it is a dark wet day; is it the same over there? Are the waves breaking in white flurries on the rocks, or are they calmly sweeping onto the beach? Is the wonderful horizon of islands and mountains visible, or is it hiding behind the drizzle of a day like today? The wind is surely blowing. Does the soft rain bring a mild and warm day, or is the bright winter sunshine brightening up a cold morning? On one Christmas day the children swam in the Pond. It was a calm dry morning, filled with sunshine and crystal clear air like the kind that is often found on the mountains at high altitude. The local people in the farms and villages were enjoying the sunshine on their doorsteps, savouring the extraordinary purity of the air and the quality of silence. Another year, a terrible storm had broken on Christmas Eve; the windows of the house were covered in spray from the open sea, with the salt drying on them and clouding the view; the rocks separating the beach from the sea were no longer visible, covered by the white boiling mass of the waves. The roof of the pond had been blown away, and our boat had broken its moorings. Debris floated in piles of foam. All you could do was to bend forward when you went outside; the wind took your breath away. Opening the outside door facing the wind, you had to hang on to the door as best as you could; it would have knocked you down by violently closing on you.
The administrators of the prison had wanted to mark the day by making an effort and serving more generous portions than usual at meal time. The morning coffee was replaced by hot chocolate, and at lunchtime a slice of turkey in béchamel sauce was very well prepared. A little Christmas log completed the meal; in the afternoon a large orange reminded us of Christmas in Brittany. My father frequently told us that a simple orange, an exotic fruit rarely seen, was the traditional Christmas gift for children in the Breton rural areas.
“After eating the orange,” he told me, “for a long time we would keep the peel in our handkerchiefs, perfuming them and keeping for as long as possible the scent of that special day”.
Yann Puillandre, who is twenty years younger than I am, tells me that for him and his siblings the orange was also the traditional Christmas gift in the rural areas of Plonevez. “Tradition is being respected”, he said on seeing the orange in his cell when he returned from the walk.
The prison’s chaplain and his assistant had decorated our common room with a few streamers. We assisted at Mass there in the afternoon, concelebrated by the Abbé Breton. The traditional record of Stille Nacht, which for my children always accompanies the opening of presents around the shoes left under the tree, practically reduces me to tears as it brings them close to me. This Christmas Eve there has been no suicide in the prison; it happens around this time far more often than is admitted. There was one a few days ago however. None of the managers went out of their way to visit the body. Only the doctor came to witness the decease of this victim of life in prison, before he was sent off outside like an ordinary package. In here, man and the respect due to his remains do not exist. The very meaning of humanity disappears. The Catholic Aid society has done its best for the prisoners to make the separation from their loved ones less painful. We all received a parcel of cakes, sweets, chocolate, dried fruit, tobacco and other nice things from them, bringing testimonies of friendship, reminders of the solidarity of men for those who share their sadness and their misfortune.
TThe 27th December brings the news of the second refusal to the request for release on bail submitted by Jean-Louis Bertrand. The decision was made on the 24th December; the director of public prosecution to the State Security Court remained deaf to the call for justice and charity on the eve of this day of peace for all men in the West. The reasons for the refusal this time are worth their weight in gold; “considering that the accused boasted in his interrogation of 20th November of being one of the most well known and most heeded activists of Breton nationalism, there are grounds to fear that his release on bail while investigations are being made could prove a risk to the retaining of proof and bring about a renewal of the offence”.
It is a joke to have such a precise, direct and naively candid testimony on the true motive for keeping me in prison. Our masters appear to think that it is important I remain in prison, not for any precise deed, but because of the ideals that I defend and the opinions I express. The friends we have in high places, as we do have some, were right when they told me that those in power considered me to be simply a ‘hostage’ in their hands. But ideals cannot be locked up like men can be locked up. They continue their path without me; in fact, they spread even faster by the very fact that I continue to be the victim of a ‘Lettre de cachet’, (a letter under the sovereign’s seal, often authorizing imprisonment without trial).
I therefore immediately appeal to the Supervisory Committee of Inquiries regarding this decision to refuse. Not with any illusions however, as the magistrates of the public prosecutor attached to the State Security Court definitely seem to be under orders from those in power. In my letter of appeal, I clearly indicate that as the inquiry appears to be blocked, I am surprised at the new motive indicated in the refusal order. I also added, in accordance with conventions, “Should I conclude from this that it is the Breton nationalist and European federalist ideals I defend since the past forty years in writings and in speech, through my articles and books, are now the motives for my being maintained in prison? I am therefore held, not because of any specific act, but because of opinions I have never attempted to hide and am therefore simply a hostage in the hands of the State’s government?”.
It is unlikely however that this new appeal will be heard. Prime Minister Chirac is at present on a tour of France’s last colonies, after Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guiana; he is to finish off his tour in Brittany middle of January. It is obvious that those in power are anxious that the main figures in opposition remain in prison during his visit. I am known for my patience and determination. I will renew the request and the appeal a hundred times if necessary. On the outside, our friends continue to inform public opinion. On an international level, the protests will also continue. I am now preparing the information to fuel them.
Over a hundred letters and Christmas cards have arrived for me over the past few days. The analyses made by our friends outside have confirmed my reply to the Public Prosecutor of the State Security Court. A Breton friend from Brazil has written, “I have learnt that that the Gauls have taken you under their highest protection. You are the victim of a frame up, as you are too much in their way. I do not know if this letter will reach you, for you are very dangerous for these gentlemen from the State Insecurity Court. J.J.Mourreau writes, “Strange kind of democracy – from outside everything seems to point to the fact that the government is keen on keeping you as their hostage”, and Guy Héraud writes, “What evil genius has got into the French who can only do one thing, with a perseverance worthy of better things, persecuting the most honest, reasonable and moderate of speakers?”.
Why should this surprise us? France learns nothing – the narrow minded society the ENA old boys club lives in has no opening onto the world. Their offices are too air conditioned and their windows too closed for them to be able to know what the weather is like outside.
They have not remembered any lessons from the decolonisation experience or the rise in nationalism – they have learnt nothing, preferring to forget everything that does not fit into their plan and into their framework, carefully worked on from above to retain everything and not innovate, keeping everything and not giving. They have lost their common sense together with their sense of proportion. Their State will have to be destroyed. What else could we do? How can we avoid the tragedies and the violence that this new decolonisation will lead to, if those concerned do not agree to it? There will come a time when raising the alarm will not be sufficient. They are already trying to silence them, indicating that the spark has already been set off. Maybe they think they can still contain it or drown it. I have no doubt that they are wrong. Their millions, should they be preparing to spend them in Brittany, will be of no use. You cannot buy a nation like you buy a cow at the market.
Once again I had to neglect this chronicle; it is nearly two weeks now that I have not added anything. I was mainly taken up with research for the planned publishing of a ‘Livre Blanc’ (See the text in ‘Archives’ of French site) by the International Support Committee with the advice and help of J.L.Bertrand. The latter came to see me on the last day of December to express his indignation at the show of bad faith which he has come up against, in view of the worthless motives opposing my requests for release on bail.
“There can be no doubt of political intrigue”, he told me. “The public denials published in the press, which I prepared in response to Laudrin’s slanderous statements, are not sufficient. We must write a ‘Livre Blanc’ that will expose the facts and set the record straight. My colleagues in charge of defending the imprisoned soldiers and the trade unionists have declared that in view of their clients’ weak cases they are released from the obligations of secrecy in relation to the inquiry. I have decided to do the same with regard to your case. The case must be publicly aired in order to expose the manoeuvres and interventions distorting the proceedings.”
Thus the International Support Committee will take on the publishing of the ‘Livre Blanc’ with my help. I have used most of my free time to assemble the documents and facts for the text. I have just posted it.
This exercise I have just completed has further demonstrated the extent of the manoeuvres of those in power trying to convince the public of the existence of a sort of ‘Breton plot’, in order first to maintain in prison and then attempt to condemn some of those activists most involved. It is probably a case of wanting to make an example, but before making the example the right climate has to be created. This is what those in power have devoted their time to, in active collusion with the Prosecutor of the State Security Court, Jean Jonquères, for they should be named, has recently replaced another magistrate in this post. The Court president, M.Romerio, has also been replaced. The information I have obtained indicates that both these magistrates were replaced because the upper echelons of those in power had not found them to be sufficiently repressive. The Bretons charged at the F.L.B. trial in 1972 had nothing but praise for the impartiality shown by the president Romerio during the course of the proceedings. He did not interrupt the accused nor the witnesses when, during the course of the trial that went on for a week, they proceeded to explain the political motives for their acts. Our ENA kings and those in power at the time had found the verdict to be too lenient. They would have been quite happy that the accused be condemned without a hearing. Methods of tolerance such as these do not suit Cesar Chirac, or Prince Ponia, or Basile Lecanuet. These gentlemen wish to be hard, and emphatic, which is in fact, the only way they can hide their weaknesses. Since the arrival on the scene of Giscard, the feline has been replaced by rhinoceros. It is certainly not as elegant or as well bred, but it does the same work and is more noticeable. It is mainly a question of making an impression. It is known that the Minister of the Interior does not conceive of any judicial authority other than one completely under his orders! The only good magistrate in his eyes is the one who justifies the underhand deeds of his political police. It is solely a question of conferring on the latter a kind of blessing similar to the apostolic blessing the inquisitors in the old days gave to the brutes from the princes’ armies, whose massacres and conquests were carried out under the noble guise of rooting out heresy. Are not the Bretons and the Corsicans the archetypal heretics?
It was not an easy task, as there are not that many interested in the office of prosecuting attorney for emergency political judgements. Only a lack of promotion could induce the acceptance of such a post, particularly that of Director of Public Prosecution. Nonetheless Jean Jonquères was finally identified; he is the one directly responsible for the vast police operations in January and October 1975, launched against the advice of the regional police in Brittany, who knew very well that they had no hope of succeeding. They were not in possession of the facts that would have enabled them to do so. As for the Court President, he was even more difficult to find; impartiality is hardly compatible with the manner in which those in power perceive these positions. Alain Simon, who agreed to replace Romerio, actually preferred not to carry out this presidency. He quickly took refuge in the cabinet of the Keeper of the Seals. André David, a magistrate nearly at the end of his career was found just recently and it was too soon to judge him as yet.
For the moment it is Jean Jonquères and his assistants Ribière and Dowrling Gartner; he does what is asked of him and reigns. He likes to have some guilty parties, and is furious when his police find none. They have only managed to arrest political activists and three or four people who can only be blamed for ‘attempting’ attacks. Although this may seem like a scant few, the Director of Public Prosecution values his guilty, having succeeded in charging sixteen people during the year with far-fetched motives, many of whom are only guilty by definition. That is as may be, this worthy magistrate plays his role and his promotion. He has to satisfy his minister. He is a true magistrate of the special sections, for whom the end justifies the means. He will invent the whole thing if he has to find the numbers of guilty the State calls for. He is typically French. He builds up a theory in his head, a logical plan that suits him, and makes the reality fit into his theory, forcing the facts to justify the plan. Is that not the manner in which all our ENA behave, and not only them, but also many French minds in all circles of administration, philosophy, politics, letters and education?
The Public Prosecutor keeps to his plan. Abbé Le Breton’s declaration about me, although he emphasised its extremely hypothetical character, appears to have affected the Prosecutor like a flash of lightning in the night. Am I not the guilty by definition where the State is concerned? Ever since then, the Prosecutor is determined that I must be the supreme leader. He pretends that he believes it. He would award me the cross if I agreed to recognise it. He would appoint Le Breton a cardinal if he confirmed it. His own promotion would then be secured. He would be destined for the highest position in the private world of the judicial authorities dressed in ermines. Of course, there is no proof, nothing in the file that can justify the plan. But it is so satisfying for the mind, so useful for his career, so pleasant for those in power who consider me an enemy to be put down, that the Prosecutor cannot be mistaken. Is not everything much clearer in the light of his theory? The Prosecutor is carried away as he speaks, he convinces himself. In the written conclusions that he submitted to the Chamber of Inquiries for the refusal of my release, he is not able to refer to a single fact, the case file is slimmer than it has ever been. Therefore he increases the unwarranted affirmations and incorrect insinuations, he goes ‘crescendo’, he improvises. I go up in grade with every sentence. “F.L.B. activist” in the middle of the page, I become “one of its main leaders” in the last paragraph, and “supreme leader” on the following page, where the F.L.B. is even described as “my” movement! All of this even though it is recognised that I am settled in Ireland for the past “few years” , it is of course twenty five years! I must be ubiquitous. But these contradictions and unwarranted affirmations, these distortions of the truth and this forgetfulness of the facts does not seem to bother the Director of Public Prosecution in the least.
I realise I can expect anything from a dictatorial state who does me the honour of considering me one of its enemies. I do not have much faith in the independence of the Ministry, especially if it belongs to a special court that is hardly different from the one I have already had to face. However I must be incorrigibly naïve as in spite of everything such lack of honesty staggers me. I can hardly believe it. There is nothing in the file about all this. It is true that, at a pinch, the Prosecutor’s police can organise to fabricate witnesses at the last minute. Jean Louis Bertrand in his documented and reasoned statement of the case in reply, keeping to the contents of the file, tried calmly to throw cold water on the hysterical repressiveness of the Prosecutor. “The reasoning is pure assumption…” he points out, and finishes off “In accordance with the last precedent of the Court of Appeal, a refusal of release is not sufficiently motivated by general considerations. It must be in relation to motives included in the file.” It seems that the Prosecutor has, from A to Z, completely forgotten this!
In addition, I discover during the course of the next few days that false information is being given to people inquiring about me. Is the cabinet of the Minister of Justice deliberately lying? Has Poniatowski found, thanks to Jonquères, a further way of planting traps in the path of Lecanuet? Is there not here a way of making the latter shoulder the responsibility for the political mistakes and blunders that can only backfire on him? The well-known quarrels between the two men can only confirm this hypothesis. It is a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, of hiding the successive failures of the police set in place by Jonquères, of creating a climate, not only with regard to me, but to all, of discouraging all those who might be tempted to intercede for us. I am not prepared to accept this. The publication of the ‘Livre Blanc’ is definitely necessary. This political operation must be dismantled, and the political judiciary farce, simply concealing vengeance, must be denounced. If I have to remain in prison, at least let it be known why.
On the instructions of the Prosecutor, the police continue to carry out investigations in Brittany. They are arresting, holding in custody and conducting house searches. Press reports cleverly arranged refer to the ‘discovery’ of stocks of explosives in ponds and quarries. one would think that Brittany was a vast storehouse at the service of an F.L.B. unknown to anybody. After all, the police are quite capable of inventing it and of fomenting the attacks themselves. Since July, most of these actions were not signed or claimed. It is, as we know, a case of making the most of open-ended information to create an anti-Breton climate, capable of justifying, or allowing without too much trouble, sanctions and detentions, and even sentencing of Breton activists picked out from the most active and well-known members from political movements operating within the law. It is also a question of intimidating all those that are not imprisoned. It is an obvious way of discrediting the latter, preventing their expansion by employing the well-known practice of ‘amalgamation’ at which French governments have always shown they are masters of in the past.
A timely wave of anonymous threatening letters, signed F.L.B.-L.N.S. in areas where the left wing undercover police in the service of the Ministry of the Interior are well known, continue to be received by political personalities in Brittany. This comes very much at the right time to ‘magnify the plot’.
How can our legal national movements, who have long analysed the motives and dangers of spontaneous violent phenomena, whether under the banner of the F.L.B. or not, be considered responsible for them? As long as the French State continues to victimise, and silence the aspirations of people, groups and nations to breath, exist and participate, this violence the State carries out can only generate violence in return. I have frequently expanded on this subject over the past few years. But does the French State know how to read anything other than what comforts it?
(Bottom page 161 in book)
This aspect of the repression and its true nature has not escaped anybody in Brittany, France, or in Europe. Nobody is taken in. Our cases are so slim that certain newspapers even go as far as to suggest that some of us have only allowed ourselves to be arrested in order to use the State Security Court as a platform! Without going that far, the most impartial observers, and public, know well how to uncover the heart of the matter. Of the numerous testimonies of solidarity that I receive from young people, Breton or not, I recall these sentences from Marie-Céline Lautredou, in her final year who, after expressing her indignation, writes ;
“In Brittany as in all countries maintained in a state of underdevelopment, materially as well as culturally, to work towards an improvement in the standard of living of men and their original culture is synonymous with committing a sin… Let us hope for a fruitful new year for Brittany in her awakening and revival, that it may steer even more men towards the secret ways of the rebels and the bards, that they may meet together in ever more numbers, overflowing with fervour, at the crossroads Tolerance, Rejoicing and Sharing”. Also from Gwynfor Evans; “Everybody here realises that your imprisonment is simply an attempt at breaking down your resistance in order to intimidate the Breton patriots…But it will go a long way towards accelerating the progress of Breton nationalism. The thoughts and prayers of thousands of men are with you in your solitary cell, and through the link that ties you to the great invisible army of all those, now gone, which preceded you in the history of your country…Here we fear that France will follow the same path as fascist Spain”. From Alexander Marc;“Be assured that your ordeal encourages us, more than ever, to condemn the monstrous Jacobin centralisation. All oppressed nations will soon rise up against the coldest of all the cold monsters: the Nation State”.
For me as for all of us, the situation is clear, but the truth is not what the State believes, and what the public prosecutors under its orders try to declare. To imprison, repress and punish causes like ours has never succeeded in uprooting them, but resulted in implanting them more firmly in the minds of people, unless by resorting to massacres and genocides, and to the physical elimination of all opponents. France did not succeed any better in Algeria, although it started on that path, nor was Franco able to do so in Spain. These thoughts entertain my solitude here and that of my companions. The rejection of my appeal, as to be expected, by the Chamber in control of inquiries following the lyrical considerations of the Director of Public Prosecution, without even taking the trouble to read the statement in defence, can only reinforce these fundamental beliefs. It is no longer a case of being imprisoned or detained ‘on remand’, but it is ‘in captivity’ that we are, victims of reasons of State. The plot continues and the act. Just as well that I am not a prosecutor in France. I nearly was, since the prison administration used to be under the Ministry of the Interior which I joined in 1943. I would have been ashamed to wear the robes bordered with ermines, tainted by some. I would have remained a humble forgotten magistrate with no promotion, glory or career, like our friend H.Corbes who, under the occupation and also at the Liberation, refused to preside over the courts of vengeance, qualified as exceptional. Men sometimes have to pay dearly for wanting to remain pure, honest and just. Only the humble and the poor, or those whose mind can remain so, and who chose this difficult path, have the right to our respect, our esteem and our love.
Meanwhile time moves on. It is already mid-January; the third month of our imprisonment is coming to end. No spark of hope, no prospect of change reaches us to light up the dark days in our narrow cells. The inquiry is still blocked and the examining magistrate still invisible. He is undoubtedly awaiting orders from the Prosecutor, who in turn is awaiting orders from his minister Lecanuet or from Prince Ponia. How attractive the Bastille under the old regime, with its few feasting prisoners! It is seldom in the history of nations that prisons are destroyed and emptied. As long as the French State maintains its centralist and unjust system, La Santé will not be destroyed. It will double it, triple it. No longer having any true citizens, its only ambition is to have slaves and subjects. These cannot be controlled without the whip, without prisons and watchtowers. Gwynfor Evans is right to fear this development of France towards becoming a totalitarian regime. It threatens from the right as from the left, in spite of the recent turnaround of the P.C.F.(French Communist Party) in respect of the freedoms they had long qualified as bourgeois. These freedoms however are not only positive, they are fundamental, essential and inseparable from a free society, whether it is a socialist one or not. On the list of the seventeen countries where individual freedom is most guaranteed in the world, a list recently publicised by the U.N., France already no longer features.
We are now approaching the end of January. The number of political prisoners waiting to be dealt with by the Security Court has stabilised in the past ten days. There are still seventeen of us, of which the Bretons and Corsicans form the majority. Of the 45 or 50 charged in the affair of the ‘demoralisation of the army’ only two, Yann Houssin and Bertrand Julien are imprisoned with us, the first is a philosophy professor from Nimes (it would have been surprising if ‘philosophy’ had not played a role in this affair), the second is assistant to the Reverend Father Cardonnel in the publication of a monthly journal, ‘Le Soldat’, with antimilitarist tendencies. Does one not have the right to an opinion? Yann Houssin on his mother’s side is of Breton descent, and on his father’s side he tells me he is of distant Arab descent. He is also a poet under the name of Tristan Cabral. It is certainly from his mother that he has inherited an intense sensitivity, mood swings, imagination and fancifulness. He knows Brittany, but he feels most at home in Ireland, a country he loves and appreciates with a humane atmosphere that delights him. He is a Celt with the colourful accent of ‘Occitanie’. He has however the fine features of certain Arabs I saw in films and photos that my eldest son took in Yemen where he spent nearly two years. Houssin goes back in his paternal ancestry to the legendary country of the Queen of Sheba. He is also familiar with its high mountains, terraced cultivation, red soil, villages nestling in the eyrie and tall houses of distinctive architecture where white and ochre blend so harmoniously. He sometimes comes into our common room and we often walk together in the courtyard.
Julien and he are here, just as we practically all are, simply because of our beliefs. They are guilty of supposedly subversive writings and activist actions in favour of the conscripts’ incorporation in the French army. By refusing their release on bail, the examining magistrate can find no other motive than the need to verify “the existence of facts and laws to determine if an offence has really been committed“. In other words, you also are presumed guilty like the Bretons and Corsicans. It is possible of course that it may not be possible to demonstrate that you are guilty. Everything possible will be done to discover something. A way is being sought. In the meantime, you are imprisoned, as at least during you are not able to continue your legal unrest! Lawyers for the accused respond to this by pointing out that it is in fact a “prolonged holding in custody…The publication of articles in newspapers, the compiling, holding and distribution of pamphlets are public demonstrations of opinions…The interpretation of the examining magistrate leads to giving those in power the possibility of opening criminal proceedings against all those who have expressed opinions”.
I presume that Jean Jonquères, in trying to justify the unjustifiable, is reading the enormous file of my articles held by the Criminal Investigation Department in Rennes. I am honoured to count him amongst my readers. But will the public prosecutor’s department have the courage, or the insolence, or stupidity of reproaching me outright for my opinions? If the indictment is to proceed on those grounds, I will willingly follow. Above and beyond the cause I defend, that of the freedom of Stateless Nations under domination, it is also a case of knowing whether the French state assumes the right or not, of punishing citizens for the opinions they express and the ideas they defend. We could then at least emerge from the hypocrisy of an unnamed repression, searching for any pretext that appears to be punishing for other than the expression of ideas. They can be subversive. Defending them openly does not as such constitute a plot.
It is essentially on these grounds, on the blatant illegality of a prolonged holding in custody and detention without trial in the face of the most elementary rights of man that Tom Ellis places his interventions and that of the European parliament’s socialist group. The conservative group, comprised mostly of British, just as concerned as the socialists in defending individual freedom, joins the latter on this point. They were particularly indignant that France has not recognised the individual’s right of appeal to the Commission for the Rights of Man. The Gaullists, who were not supported by the Fianna Fail Irish deputies although they are part of their group in the European Parliament, were the only ones this week to oppose the placing on the Agenda of a debate on my prolonged detention and that of my companions. This debate will therefore be held at the next session of the European parliament starting on 9th February. By then the ‘Livre Blanc’ will have been published. It is time that France be blacklisted by Europe and that those in power in that State see the deterioration of the special image they continue to assume.
Of course more hypocrisy is not a problem for them. Cesar Chirac has just returned from a two day visit to Brittany. He was welcomed by lively demonstrations everywhere he went. The shadow of the F.L.B., which simply personifies the ‘old rebellious’ spirit of Brittany, hung over his visit. A pamphlet found in Lorient on the premises of the fire that ravaged the headquarters for U.D.R.party (Union for the Defence of the Republic) quite rightly indicates that “All Bretons are potential revolutionaries”. The roads, bridges and strategic points were under surveillance day and night, eight days in advance of the visit. Cultural centres, holiday and rest centres were requisitioned to provide accommodation for the troops in charge of maintaining order. Armed men occupied the roofs and windows along the route. In spite of this massive deployment of police force, the voice of the old rebel made itself heard. The Prime Minister distributed tens of thousands for nothing, made the usual promises, and stated that the Bretons should develop their culture. But aside from not giving them the means of doing so by refusing the ‘pluralism’ and diversity of universities and education, he again stated his hostility to all forms of political regionalism which ‘would be a factor for dismemberment causing suffering for all’. Certainly not for the Bretons anyway. The ENA kings maybe, wanting to preserve their absolute power and for whom Chirac, just one of them, is the spokesperson by indicating that ‘ Brittany is an essential factor of national unity’. Questioned on the nine imprisoned Bretons, with bomb attacks still continuing in Brittany, he merely replied that he could not interfere in the course of justice, which everyone knows is false, at least where the Security Court is concerned. He knows very well that he just needs to say the word for Jean Jonquères to go underground! At the same time he would have his promotion in the bag, guaranteed. But the hypocrisy of the State knows no bounds and its prison walls are thick!
(Top page 167 in book)
It certainly seems like this State only functions through hypocrisy. The Bretons should develop their culture says Chirac, but the ENA kings from the Ministry of National Education refuse to go any further than the so called Deixonne law, over 25 years old (1951 law authorising the optional teaching of French regional languages), proved to be insufficient, and was only voted in because René Pleven was then President of the Council. The Breton language cannot be rescued and the Bretons cannot develop their culture unless they are able to organise and manage their education system at all levels. They are forbidden to do so as it would imply the relinquishing of it by so called national education, and the dictatorship that these gentlemen in Paris hold over the programs and exams. Yet the failure of their system is obvious. Their universities no longer produce good minds, but minds full of vague and nebulous theories, unsuited to real life and incapable of understanding concrete problems. The ‘Journal Officiel’ of the 4th January published the text of a new law that forbids the publishing in French newspapers of adverts in a foreign language or containing any foreign text or foreign expressions. Until such time as the President of the Republic imitates his friend Juan Carlos, King of Spain, who is better advised and has just proclaimed Catalan, Basque and Galician to be national languages of Spain, equal to Spanish, any obscure pen pusher from the ministry can decide to forbid all publications in Breton, Basque, Occitan, Flemish and Alsatian by invoking this law, in view of the fact that they can now be considered foreign languages.
The French Minister of Education has just returned from a visit to Louisiana, where he extolled the benefits of bilingualism and the teaching of French. Just as well that the United States government had not made a law like the one the ‘Journal Officielle’ has just published. Paris would have immediately called it genocide, obscurantism etc. But a few days earlier that same Minister of Education, trying to justify before the Senate the insufficiency of the measures he had just taken to facilitate so called local languages such as Breton, Basque, Corsican and Occitan, claimed that “he had found no answer to this problem of bilingualism in any serious studies. One must be prudent in this matter”. Starting with king Valéry and Cesar Chirac through to the last ENA, there is no shortage of hypocrites in the French court. Its central administration is full of them. France is governed by its administration, but does the administration know how to govern?
As far as it is concerned bilingualism can only be bad and ‘ removes a child from the national community’ when it is applied in Flanders, in Brittany or in Corsica, but it is of course excellent in Louisiana. As long as it is French that is in question, it can only broaden the horizon of the speakers. And it is said that the French are Cartesian. In our ministries as at the head of the State, these kind of contradictions are no longer an embarrassment. They can be staring them in the face, but they are no longer noticed, as France does not live in the world, it is the world. The further humanity’s horizons spread, the more the world diminishes in size, but the more France withdraws, isolates and limits its horizons. On leaving Dublin for her first flight, my daughter aged three at the time asked me why France was in the sky, and when I expressed my surprise she replied ‘It is in the sky since we have to take a plane to go there’. It is Benig who was right.
( Bottom page 168 in book)
We are now in the last days of January. Instead of decreasing, our small group is growing. Pierre Loquet, Gérard Coriton and Dominique Crochard have just joined us, as the inquiry into their affair is practically finished. Although it was a simple matter, it has lasted 6 months. To the nine Bretons we are now, has been added two Corsicans accused of being members of the F.P.C.L. (Front Paysan Corse de Liberation), dissolved by the Council of Ministers on the 29th January 1974, at the same time as the various F.L.B.. That now makes five Corsicans – two others were imprisoned in Fresnes. Those in charge of the cases are much the same as ours.
J.L.Bertrand informs me that I must appear before the court again on 3rd February, before M.Seguin, the judge replacing Gallut. It seems however that those in power are not prepared to soften its repressive policy. In spite of having reached the end of their inquiry, Loquet, Crochard and Coriton have been refused another request for their release. But the accomplice of Carlos the terrorist, Silva Masmela, accused of possession of arms and explosives, of being an accomplice in several murders and collusion with agents from a foreign power, is released! It was not considered necessary to refer her case to the State Security Court – she has only done five months of detention on remand, less than Loquet and his two friends.
The Breton cultural movements and general counsel of Brittany have again protested against the blatant deficiency of the measures for the teaching of Breton and Breton History, in spite of the hypocritical affirmations of those in power. As for `regionalisation’, the loosening of the State’s hold, the strengthening of powers of regional bodies, all this is buried, as the socialist deputies have not hesitated to point out after the prime minister’s visit. On the contrary, the direction is towards a strengthening of state centralisation; the regions resources must remain limited in order to make it impossible for them to take
any initiative.There is no question of any election of regional assemblies.
In contrast with this ‘Caesarean’ attitude of the French prime minister, the attitude of the Spanish prime minister is open to radical changes. Their policies of regionalisation will be furthered by ‘the creation of institutional organisations’ set-up through ‘the initiative of the regions themselves’. It seems like a dream. Valery should offer the French crown to Juan Carlos., thus realising Louis XIV and Napoleon’s wishes. It would be an advantage to us all at the rate things are going. This new attitude of the Spanish monarchy is today realistic, attached to the way things are and not to what we want them to be. It is going about it slowly as it does not want it to turn into a revolution. It is the people themselves who must be called on to choose their political and institutional status within an overall unity. It is aware of this. It knows that a type of Bonaparte dictatorial centralisation is no longer appropriate in today’s Europe. France does not know this: it refuses to know it. Giscard, Chirac, Ponia and all the government want to ignore it. They are even more frightened of reforms than of revolution. Francois Dausset tells me that when he was with the departmental staff of Minister Michelet, at the time of De Gaulle, he implored him to abolish the E.N.A. He was unable to do so: was it not Debré, ‘the sacred monster’ of Gaullism who had set it up? Today, E.N.A. is the State. Those who emerge from it have invaded the corridors of power, blocked off all the top posts. They own the State. They have learnt to use it. To some of them they are the State. There can be nothing without them. It will need more than a revolution to dislodge them. Only multiple regional ‘coups d’état’ could do it, by dismantling the institutions of the caesarean state. There is no other way out. But for this to happen, there must be regional power set up in all our dominated nations and submissive regions. The struggle can only become tougher in order to conquer. Later on the French themselves will thank us for having struggled for them while struggling for ourselves, to have liberated them at the same time as we liberated our nations.
On this 3rd of February, two and a half months after my one and only hearing, I appeared before our new examining magistrate, M.Séguin: a young dark haired man with glasses, courteous, distinguished in his dark grey suite. He has replaced Gallut who is overworked with the avalanche of indictments he has issued on the ‘demoralisation of the army’ affair. He has lost count of them, there are so many. I had expected that the affair we are charged would have made some progress at least. Disappointment! There has been so little progress that Séguin advises me he is not able to interrogate me in depth. The ‘checks’ dear to Jonquière, Ribière and their ministers, a modest term simply hiding an eagerness, as yet unsuccessful, of amplifying a squeleton file, have not been completed. This is an empty pretext that does not fool Séguin, irrespective of what he says. However, in order to respond to the numerous interior and international pressures that are beginning to have some effect on the Minister of Justice and the government, they must be seen to be doing something. Séguin therefore spends over two hours going over my life from the lycée onwards. It turns out that like me he was also at school at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand. But regarding the affair, not a word is mentioned. J.L. Bertrand and I refer to the unacceptable length of our detention on remand. I complain about the obstruction exerted by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution. Séguin can do nothing about it. The obstructions such as they are, he says; stop at the door of his office.
“As it is, it took a month for my appointment to be approved and for me to take up my duties”, he told us.
He was undoubtedly reluctant to take them up. On the following day, he told another prisoner that he could not take sole responsibility for releasing him on bail. It is also clear that in order to justify their presence and proliferation, the State’s civil servants do not want to be rushed. During my time in the Ministry of the Interior, I had suggested that my salary be doubled, three of my colleagues be dispensed with and that I be allocated two good shorthand typists, as I could thus have easily done the work of all four. One of them did not work more than an hour a day. In the afternoons he received female visitors and tea was served in his office. It was one of the last places where a salon was held for discussions. There were bawdy old engravings on the walls. The other dabbled in writing popular songs, at a time when pop music had not yet replaced the ‘caf’conc’, or café music hall. The other watched over his files, like Cerberus at the doors of hell, piling up on his desk for months without opening them. He undoubtedly thought that the number of files and height of the pile were a testimony of his work for M.le Directeur; but nothing was ever dealt with and it was at times necessary to spirit away one in order to deal with it. Work must be dealt with even more slowly at the Ministry of Justice. In any case, the more civil servants there are, the less work is done. The principle of more is less applies here also: the bigger an administration becomes, the less efficient it is, the more a town spreads the more it becomes congested and impossible to live in. The State Security Court grows, but the more it grows the more it is overworked: the senior civil servants gage their importance by the number of people they have authority over. The essential is not that they work but that they be numerous. Today they go all out. Out of every five new jobs that are created, four are office jobs, the last one only going to the primary sector. The working class is decreasing in the labour world, without even taking into account the reduction of their role in output. Here is a fact that should incite the theorists of class struggles to modify their diagrams. It is true that it is much easier to conform to established doctrines!
All the same, on principle we inform M.Séguin that another request for release will be lodged by the end of the week. As usual it will undoubtedly come up against the repressive zeal of the Prosecutor and the Minister of Justice. It is therefore against this obstruction that one has to aim. If M.Séguin is immune to pressure, which is as it should be according to the ethics of his profession, the Prosecutor for the political special courts and his appointed Minister are not. I know that in this affair the Prosecutor is afraid of losing face. It would suit him very well if the Security Court were abolished, and it is being discussed, he would thus be able to hide the emptiness of the files and the lack of evidence of his cases. He would then be able to negotiate his appointment to another post, since the Security Court is not well thought of. The lawyers of those that are charged in the affair of the army have no trouble in pointing out that its procedure is incompatible with the European Convention for the Rights of Man. On Monday 9th February, the European Parliament will use as an example my case and that of the other Breton political detainees and will hear a number of English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Dutch deputies explaining this point of view for an hour. It is essential that the French State realise it is not the only one in the world and that its citizens have rights that have to be respected.
In the meantime, however, the superstars from U.D.R. (Union des Démocrate pour la République), continue to vituperate against the progress of institutional Europe. The hilarious Sanguinetti maintains he sees a deadly peril there “for the only three nations that merit to be called nations in Europe”! – Great Britain, Spain and France. He is not very kind to the others and his aim is usually true! Yet he is unlucky, as these are ‘par excellence’ the three States in Europe that are not uniform nations but simply States. Each of these States is composed of several nations. Great Britain knows that and recognises it. Spain is beginning to accept it, but not France. Sanguinetti and Debré are there to watch over that. But this French Corsican or Gallicised Corsican adds that there are no free nations that are not independent! He was not forced to say it. If the Bretons, Corsicans, Basques, Catalans, Welsh and Scottish want to be free, they know therefore what they have to do. Yet as far as we are concerned, we have never confused autonomy and independence. What State today can be totally sovereign! But Sanguinetti would not be in agreement with the logical consequences of his declarations with regard to our nations. He does not think it through, although this is in fact useless. It is sufficient, like Bigeard or Massu, to forge ahead. When will there be psychiatric prison hospitals for the care of ‘deviationists’, of which the Ukrainian mathematician Plioutch, now a refugee in Paris, has just indicated the horrors? Is that not where the Ukrainian, Baltic and Tartar nationalists are locked up? Sanguinetti must dream of these, and Prosecutor Jonquères, Ribière and their ministers also.
Now for some good news! The government and the prosecutors for the Security Court must have noticed that it is ridiculous to seek out ‘factual information’ when what is in question is the expression of opinions. Yann Houssin has been released and has just left us; Bertrand Jullien followed two or three days later. We are all happy for them. Houssin will not be able to continue the philosophy studies he had started during his time. There is nothing like a spell in prison to make one appreciate the relativity of time. In here the days go by all the same as the next; their sameness confused in ones memory. Does time really exist if there is nothing to fill it with, if nothing distinguishes the hour just passed from the one preceding it, itself similar to the one following it? Had I not written down my thoughts and a small part of my doubts and certainties day by day, how would I remember the days gone by? They are a single block, a wall as solid and compact as the walls of my cell, but with no fissure, no window, no daylight, since they are so confused in memory. Facilitated by the relative solitude, one looses the sense of reality: the mind is dulled, and even more serious, the urge to struggle is lost: this urge without which life is no longer lived, and to which one is frequently obliged to cling to in order to face up to the difficulties of daily life. Here everything or practically everything is done for you. One realises how easy it is to live like a plant: simply by losing the sense of time. It is true that many undoubtedly do so outside, in the cosy comfort of forgotten houses.
The hours in prison seem long, but the days after all are short: few events or incidents define them: nothing interrupts their monotony. One becomes dulled. One can understand how some prisoners, condemned to long terms, become lethargic to the point of being incapable of adapting to the outside world when they return to it, particularly if they are without a family circle or friends who could help make the transition less perilous. That is how it will continue to be unless prisons try to recreate a framework and conditions of living, working and semi-freedom for the prisoners that could resemble the normal world. Some experiments have already been tried. I will undoubtedly not remain long enough to go into it further.
There are so many things in which a free and open mind can become interested in, so many causes to defend in order to uplift oneself beyond the general spinelessness and daily mindlessness that characterises the consumer and the couch potato of our industrialised society, purely interested in his holidays with the herd, his car and his television. Are most of our contemporaries aware of the enslavement their minds are held in by society today? Whether it is capitalist or socialist, the consequences are similar; in both cases becoming simply a bureaucratic state capitalism, and both becoming materialistic, egoistic, cowardly and indifferent to freedom, which is confused with licence.
It is ironical to hear Cesar Chirac say that the French are the freest men in the world, when you are behind the walls of a prison because of the cause you defended. “Every citizen of this country,” he says, “experiences every hour of the day the freedom to say, write, read and listen to whatever he wishes to read, say and listen to”.
As far as I am concerned, I have certainly not noticed this. There are of course degrees of application of the fundamental principles of freedom. I cannot compare my fate and that of my companions to the fates of Plioutch, Soljénitsyne, Sakharov or Grigorenko, or thousands of others, amongst them my fellow nationalists in Ukraine, the Baltic countries and Georgia. But, I have said and I maintain that French citizens have much less freedom than they think. If they had, why would Chirac blow the official propaganda trumpets that are those of the French State for the past two centuries? Freedom is not proclaimed, it is lived: for us Bretons, Basques, Alsatians or Corsicans, although all French citizens, it is restrictive. There has always been someone in the upper echelons of the French government who has stated that there is no freedom for the enemies of the State. We are by definition enemies of the State, rebels to its dictatorial principle, to its all powerful and absolute reign over our nations. Within the French territory we are the only ones it can be held against. The opposition to the government whether left, extreme left or right are in another category. It is well known that they would not call into question the very principle of the unity of the state, if they in turn were to take over its government.
Every day, the French opposition is allowed to make bold statements that are quickly forgotten when it comes into power. Lecanuet, who is now the Minister of Justice, is badly advised by the false Bretons he listens to, who are personally opposed to the release of Breton detainees. He is far worse than Chirac, who at least learnt some lessons from his visit to Brittany. Has he not, when he was in the opposition, proclaimed principles that are opposed to the ones he practices today? Was it not in the Charter of the Democratic Centre (at the Congress in Lyons in 1966) that he contributed to the writing of the declarations, which are in contradiction to his present behaviour? In fact one reads as follows; “Introducing in the forming of the Habeas Corpus, a procedure that will no longer permit arbitrary detentions and will eliminate special courts”. Not to mention the “regional councils to be elected by universal suffrage”, a principal against which M.Durafour, who like Lecanuet is now a minister, stated; “It is necessary to elect a regional assembly by direct universal suffrage, with its own executive, answerable to it, with civil servants it will have trained. What is the meaning of these deputies, members by right? They have not been elected for that. The extension of their mandate is a fraud”. A ministerial posting after all is worth recanting on a few statements. And as regards recanting, the Minister of Justice, ex M.R.P., knows all about that. It is true that the example comes from the top as in fact Giscard does the same thing.
Today one can read admirable declarations of the same kind in documents presented to us by the socialist and communist parties, in their joint manifesto, in the charter for freedom, etc. How can one have confidence that having acceded to power they will respect these admirable principles and programmes any better than the others? That the communist party is to be a champion of liberty? When it has eliminated or reduced it in all the countries where it acceded to power, and far from respecting pluralism, it does not rest until it has monopolised it? Freedom is admirable when in the opposition, just as the Republic was admirable under the Empire. We should all, Bretons, Basques, Alsatians and Corsicans beware of thinking that we have allies in any French party. The question is however, if we can use them more than they use us. At the moment it looks very much like the left and extreme left are the ones that are taking us over more than we are taking them over. In all this there is simply a balance of power where the sentimental, sincere Bretons that we are, run the risk of being the losers.
At the end of this last week of February, Le Monde announces: “In Dublin the campaign in favour of the liberation of Yann Fouéré intensifies“. In Ouest-France: “M.Fouéré’s family hold a protest in front of the French Embassy in Dublin”. The Irish newspapers dedicate headlines and photos to the press conference that Jean and Erwan had organised on the eve of the protest being held at the moment in front of the French embassy in Ireland. The radio and the British press have picked up on it also. I have just received the Irish Times and see on the front page the familiar faces of all my children with their mother together on the rostrum for the press conference. What emotions this picture evokes for me! This small, free and democratic country, in spite of tragic events in Northern Ireland, where the concerns of every man, every family from every parish and every region can express themselves without being absorbed in the crowd, and can make society aware by gaining the attention of the press, and influencing the government of the state! A country where administration, state, trade unions or big business are not yet big enough to become anonymous, insensitive or indifferent to the fate of men and citizens, and where the exercise of their fundamental rights always awakens a profound response. Wisdom, liberty and harmony are found in smallness, not in massiveness, in economic and political societies of a reduced size, not in the large states, vast conglomerates and inhuman concentrations.
At this press conference, held in a large Dublin hotel equipped for this sort of gathering, it was impossible to read out all the telegrams, letters and messages of sympathy there were so many. There was a delegation from my parish there, led by the parish priest, representatives from the fishermen and fisheries cooperatives with whom I deal with during the fishing season. There could have been no better response to those in Brittany who, with no other object than to discredit the bothersome man of politics that I am, claimed that I was “exploiting the Irish fishermen”. Present also, aside from friends and their families, were personalities from the world of politics and letters, some of whom had been my pupils when, in 1950, I had taught French in Benedictine abbey of Glenstal, whose Abbott was also present. Deputies and Senators from all the parties, particularly those from the West of Ireland who had publicly interceded for me in the Dail, the Irish parliament, had come to show their support.
At the same hour in another hotel nearby, another press conference was being held with far less people present, called by a group of European parliamentarians named ‘Democratic Europeans for progress’, on the occasion of a study meeting held in Dublin. A group oddly formed, comprised of only French Gaullist deputies until the arrival of some representatives of Irish Fianna Fail party, the old party of de Valera, today in the opposition. They came to join them less out of sympathy than because they could not really join in with the liberal group, their opposition parliamentarians from Fianna Gael, forming the coalition government in power with the socialists. Most of these Irish deputies had in fact already interceded before the parliament on my behalf and that of the Breton detainees. Harassed by questions from the press on the Fouéré case, this Breton of dual, French and Irish nationality, the Gaullists found they were again singled out. One of them, Kaspereit by name and an obscure deputy from Paris, who had been one of the henchmen of the police parallel to Gaullism, and had been mentioned frequently in the book ‘Dossier B comme Barbouze’ that did not hesitate to reveal this character, felt he should deputise for Laudrin and repeat the slander the latter had uttered against me before the French Chamber, protected by parliamentary immunity. After the first surprise, his speech fell flat: so much so that when publicly threatened with prosecution by my children, on his return to Paris, he thought it best to deny his defamatory statements reported by the press.
The press conference over, my children settled down to a three day vigil in front of the French embassy in Dublin. The Irish newspapers of the following day also carry photos of this protest to me. Even my grandchildren are there in the arms of their mothers. Also posters designed by Olwen, the artist of the family, ‘France violates the Convention of the Rights of Man’ – ‘Trial or Freedom for Yann Fouéré’ – ‘Free the Bretons in prison’ etc. in English and in Irish, and a request to sign a petition, which in spite of the distance of the French embassy from the centre of Dublin, is rapidly filled with hundreds and hundreds of signatures.
(Bottom page 181 in book)
Monday 9th February J.L. Bertrand informs me that my third request for release, composed in a far more curt tone than usual and simply referring to all that has already been said in the other requests, is being submitted this evening. The delay of five days that this procedure allows for the examining magistrate to make a ruling will therefore start from 10th February. I have started to prepare the appeal that I will send to the Court controlling the inquiry after my request has been refused a third time. Why should captivity come to an end? I stress the collective considerations based on the Rights of Man. The latter has effectively become community legislation through analogy, since it was adopted by the nine States composing the ‘European Community’. It therefore takes precedence over internal laws of each state. The fact that France and Italy are the only member states who have not recognised the individual’s right of appeal to the Commission of the Rights of Man makes no difference to the principle. Detentions without trial are categorically contrary to this convention, as are special courts and the State Security Court. But France carefully avoids the subject: its legislators, as well as its politicians and ministers, draw a veil over it.
It is in an attempt at lifting a corner of this veil that on the 9th February the debate, instigated by the socialist deputy Tom Ellis before the European Parliament, drew attention to my detention without trial and that of my companions. This violation of the Rights of Man formed the basis of his intervention. Mrs.W. Ewing, Scottish Nationalist Deputy, supported his intervention as did the Irish Senator Yeats, son of the well known poet, who is in the same European group as Laudrin. The latter takes the opportunity to renew his personal calumnies and attacks against me, under cover as usual of parliamentary immunity. In spite of several attempts to trap him, he carefully avoided repeating these in public or in writing. He is an old fox in politics. One can be cunning without being intelligent; all it needs is to be insincere. He is a past master in the art of frightening the chickens in his hen run. Bourdellès, another deputy from Brittany, belonging to the liberal group, sees fit to add a few words against the attacks in Brittany. He carefully avoids referring to my case; he has known me for a long time, but under these circumstances he prefers not to remember. Courage is not the strong point of our noteworthy politicians from Brittany. In addition, as De Gaulle said of de Massu, (a French general) this one will never set the world on fire, which could also be said of Laudrin. When Bourdellès was questioned the next day on Radio-Bretagne about my case and the debate in the European Parliament, he simply said that he did not see why the European Parliament had dealt with the matter. Was it not a simple French internal problem? Laudrin went further by lacing his statement with spicy incorrect information as usual, a sign of his confused mind and his usual lack of correct information, on my journalistic role during the occupation. This obliged Radio-Bretagne to set the record straight with a broadcast by Lucien Raoul who wrote ‘Histoire de la Presse bretonne‘ and knows the facts.
Obviously these gentlemen do not consider it the duty of all men to denounce injustice wherever it takes place. Intoxicated by the constant propaganda of the centralised State, they also undoubtedly consider that France is above and beyond the laws of humanity. Is it even conceivable that they might be wrong? Violating the Rights of Man is for the Russians and people’s democracies if one is from the right, for Franco’s Spain, for Greece and Chile if one is from the left. I have no doubt however that all these protests will carry weight. They keep the leaders of the State and those most directly responsible for our detention on tenterhooks.
(Top page 183 in book)
Thursday 12th February, and it is seven o’clock in the evening. Supper is well over. This evening is the day that I shave. I shave every second day, but always in the evening as the mornings are short and when I like to do my writing. Before going ahead I have decided to sit at the typewriter and answer a few letters. The prison is calm and already settled down for the night.
The door opens and the guard on duty comes in with a paper in his hand.
“Do you know that you are being released?” he asks.
He repeats. Astonishment!
“Are you sure it refers to me and that you are not making a mistake?”
“No, no, it is definitely, it is your name and your number”.
He hands me the copy of the order for my release on bail, signed on that day by M.Séguin. No mistake.
After the initial surprise, it takes me some time to gather my things together. As usual there are a lot of papers and books. I will not be able to carry them all on my own. I am allowed, although the locked doors are not opened, to say goodbye to those of my Breton companions who are closest. My suitcase is returned to me at the search office, as also the objects and identity papers that had been confiscated. At the clerk’s office I sign the release register. My cheque books and any cash credited to my account are returned to me. I cross the yard with a Tunisian who is being released at the same time and helps me carry my parcels. It is after 9.p.m.
Another guard, the kind one who collects stamps, opens the street door for us. It is pitch dark; the café across the road is closed. I welcome the soft Breton like drizzle that is falling. The Tunisian and I get to the nearest café that is open on boulevard Saint-Jacques. I phone Francois Dausset who arrives a few minutes later.
It always happens this way, the releases are done on the sly and at nightfall. They do not want crowds at the door of the prison. Even J.L. Bertrand knew nothing about it. I make a few phone calls. Erwan, my wife, two of my daughters, my grandson and a certain number of friends will arrive on Saturday.
“They were beginning to burn their fingers on your case”, commented many of them, familiar with the corridors of power. “Obviously, your detention on such feeble motives was a serious political error, even from the government’s point of view. Certain badly advised government leaders were responsible. Your case was discussed at the highest levels…”
Were those ‘Responsible’ reprimanded? Too bad if they were! I do not wish them ill. Brittany and our cause have certainly benefitted from my detention and the issues that were raised as a result. There are now no European government circles unaware of our struggle. The problems arising from it cannot help but be resolved some day.
But the struggle must continue. There are still, and tomorrow there will be other, Bretons in prison. We will obtain nothing without a struggle and it can only become tougher. This is simply historical logic.
“It is a victory for the European Parliament”, cried Moschenross, the friend from Strasbourg responsible for the Alsatian Autonomist Liberation Front, who had organised a reception on the evening of the 9th February in honour of all those who had interceded in our favour during the European Parliament debate.
“Do not forget”, I reminded them all, “that other battles await us. There are still eight Bretons in prison. Although we have won a battle, we have not yet won the war”.
(Page 185 in book)
BY WAY OF CONCLUSION
Good old F.L.B.! I have a fondness for you – did I not, or practically, hold you over the baptismal font over ten years ago, when good old Lecoq, hairdresser in Saint Brieuc and a first rate old nationalist activist, jealous of the Gwen Ha Du incident’s success and wanting to rekindle the tradition, placed in the cellar of the internal revenue offices of Saint Brieuc a harmless devilish machine. It had been made to look as threatening as possible, with the three letters of your name F.L.B. on it.
But the contraption did not go off. A deliberate mistake or a malfunction? There was a massive police raid after a muffled anonymous voice on the telephone warned the town’s police station. Colonel Lainé, who was then head of civil defence for Côtes du Nord, stationed at Charnier barracks, was called. Lainé? – but you must know him, Colonel Lainé whose one brother is an admiral, and the other a distinguished chemical engineer from Central, a prestigious engineer’s training college, leader of Gwen Ha Du who in 1932 organised the blowing up of the monument in Rennes that celebrated the ‘union’ of Brittany with France, and has since then done many other things! With a straight face, as he always had a sense of humour, Colonel Lainé declared that the contraption, which he carefully examined, seemed to him to be a serious matter as it could be very dangerous and should not be taken lightly. The revenue office building and part of the town hall were therefore evacuated amidst great confusion and crowds of people whilst awaiting the arrival of top mine clearing specialists from Paris.
Ever since that memorable event the three little letters of your name, F.L.B., have considerably grown. In the following years over fifty people, amongst them all the social classes of our nation mixed in brotherly solidarity have been arrested and imprisoned at your service. Then it was thought you had disappeared, paralysed and discouraged. But like the phoenix of the legend, it seemed that you had multiplied and had numerous children. Some of them, who declare that they are fighting for our independence, appear to have followed directly in your footsteps, along the lines as laid out in your first manifesto, remaining both ‘socialist and independent’, ‘opposed to private capitalism as much as to State capitalism, incorrectly called socialist.’ These have remained efficient and discreet. Some of your children, or who at least claim to be affiliated to you, have followed the trend and have become ‘extreme leftists’, in the same way as others let their hair or beard grow. Adopting the obscure gibberish in fashion, they talk a lot, issue numerous declarations and manifestos,, forgetting that action is comprised of few words. Are they really the enemies they claim to be to those in power and declare to be fighting against? Your disciples have also aroused other vocations, just as the church in full expansion usually does, but these seem to have lost sight of their roots in our land, which is inseparable from our struggle.
May your children and disciples never forget that the weapon you use with perseverance, ability and care, is not a weapon to be placed in the hands of children, the irresponsible or the weak. It is like the antibiotics and remedies of the chemist in the old days, only to be used with precaution.
Your thinking, inevitably ahead of the frame of mind of our nation, must take care not to be too far ahead, as you must not become detached from it. Without its calm strength, which it is your duty and your purpose to lead in the struggle by awakening and sweeping it along towards freedom, you would be nothing more than a lost soldier, a child astray, or a solitary activist. You therefore need to keep a cool head, with plenty of imagination and courage, moderation also in the inevitable escalation of violence. In short, you must have a sound political policy, fully committed to the future and unmoved by the passing attractions of the present. You must also maintain a sound discipline. Your calm and efficient strength must enable you to strike hard against those who dare to use your name or your reputation in order to perpetrate acts of provocation that can only damage you and the cause you defend. It is in the interests of many that the nation you serve should cease to understand and accept the struggle you are engaged in for it.. You must therefore avoid being won over and corrupted by agitators, visionaries and prophets that live in a world detached from reality, and want to clothe us all in a mantle of universal trappings. The Breton nation would lose its name under this borrowed mantle. It would lose its image and even its sense of community, forged by ties of blood, ideals and history, which unites and assembles it, making it different from others, a distinctive and precious flower in the garden of creation.
The door of La Santé has opened again – I am free because the door is open and has been closed behind me on the dark street where a grey February rain falls. I do not forget that this freedom is on bail, restricted and limited as is that of the whole Breton nation in search of one that will no longer be so. I know that for me and for others, many others who do not suspect it yet, the door that I have just crossed can again be closed. This episode is over. The trial, if there is one, will be another. Watch this space.
La Santé Prison
24th October 1975 – 12th February 1976.