Nothing but “Bureaucratized Anarchy”

While everyone gets excited about the crisis of the day – perhaps a colonial war of liberation or a terrorist threat, the real threat to the democratic society of the homeland comes from within. The near collapse of French democracy in the 1950s as a result of the cleavages within French society between those insisting on retaining oppresssive French rule in Algeria and those willing to contemplate a compromise with the Algerian Arab public is a case in point with vast lessons for today. Consider these remarks  by Albert Camus on one tiny event, the imprisoning of one Jean de Maisonseul on the classically vague authoritarian charge of having committed “imprudences” (surely more than enough reason to toss a man in prison without, in the case, trial or access to lawyers) by advocating an agreement by both Algerian independence fighters and French colonialists that the two sides would cease killing women and children. Note that the imprisoned person was French, not Arab. Chickens come home to roost.

…il faut dire que cet esprit civique a disparu d’abord de nos milieux gouvernementaux, ou le service public est en passe d’oublier s dignite. L’entrainement, l’indifference due a l’usure, la banalite des caracteres, parfois, y ont fiat prevaloir une conception diminuee du pouvoir qui traite alors l’innocent avec desinvolture et le coupable avec complaisance. L’Etat peut etre legal, mais il n’est legitime que lorsque, a la tete de la nation, il rest l’arbitre qui garantit la justice et ajuste l’interet general aux libertes particulieres. S’il perd ce souce, iul perd son corps, il pourrit, il n’est plus rien qu’une anarchie bureaucratisee. [Albert Camus, Chroniques algeriennes 1939-1958 (Gallimard, 1958), 194-195.]…

…les seuls hommes fermes sur leurs devoirs sont ceux qui ne cedent rien sur leurs droits. A plus forte raison, ne pouvons-nous rien ceder sur le droit de l’innocent emprisonne. [p. 196.]


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