The Red Flag and the Tricolore by Alain Badiou

VersoBooks has up an English translation of his recent Le Monde piece on Charlie Hebdo and French laïcité:

So at root all this isn’t so new. In this war of identities, France tries to distinguish itself by a totem of its own invention: the ‘secular democratic Republic’ or ‘Republican pact’. This totem glorifies the established French parliamentary order – at least since its founding act, namely Adolphe Thiers, Jules Ferry, Jules Fauvre and other stars of the ‘republican’ Left massacring  20,000 workers in the streets of Paris in 1871.

This ‘republican pact’ to which so many former leftists have rallied – including Charlie Hebdo – has always suspected that trouble was brewing in the suburbs, the factories on the periphery and the gloomybanlieue hang-outs. It has always sent big police battalions into these areas, and under countless pretexts filled its prisons with the suspect, ill-educated young men who lived there. It infiltrated its snitches and grasses into these ‘gangs’ of youths. Moreover, the Republic carried out a vast array of massacres and implemented new forms of slavery in the interests of keeping order in its colonial empire, torturing ‘suspects’ in the smallest African or Asian village police station. Indeed, it was Jules Ferry – who was without doubt, a fighter for the republican pact – who outlined the programme of this blood-soaked empire, exalting France’s ‘civilising mission’.