While the “Benalla Affair” has dominated French public discussion since July, the country’s police force’s mingling with private militias has not stopped there, as border police have supported ultra-right gangs in violent actions against refugees, according to information gathered from solidarity networks in the area.
Although Emmanuel Macron was elected primarily due to a desire to defeat Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front, under his rule the police have stepped up cooperation with extra-legal “thugs.” MediaPart, a French socialist website, noted that “because the police are happy to have reinforcement…..they know how to find allies.” These allies can be both ideological or purely practical.
In the case of the Benalla Affair, the official police and private militias effectively merged. In a parliamentary session, the Interior Minister, Gérard Collomb, essentially admitted that there had been cooperation due to the alleged threat posed by the Black Bloc and other demonstrators on May 1.
Collomb, however, has more personal and unsavory links with private militias. In a photo posted by refugees’ rights activists, he is seen hugging an alt-right organizer from “Generation Identity,” a white nationalist far-right organization similar to Identity Evropa in the USA and the English Defence League in Britain.
Generation Identity has, according to a former spokesperson for the group, been “working in good agreement with the police” to track down, identify, and help catch migrants and refugees. The group has also provided information on pro-migrant and solidarity groups to the government, according to Marseille Autonomous Info, an anarchist website.
Although many of the group’s actions- including the ransacking of a mountain and the chartering of a boat to block the rescue of refugees – are against the law, the state chooses not to pursue them. On the contrary, the highest levels of government actively protect them.
One far-right militant named Logan Djian, a wanted criminal who led the fascistic GUD-Bastion Social, lived peacefully 100m from the home of Collomb in Lyon even as police were allegedly searching for him. One of Collomb’s own best friends is father of a spokesperson for alt-right militias active in attacking refugees on the Alpine border.
In July, just before the scandal broke, Benalla established a “private security” company. This is a segway into an overall broader and more dangerous trend: the privatization of state functions including deportation and repression generally. The merger of state and corporate power has long been recognized as the key aspect of a fascist state. Indeed, some on the French left have been calling the Macron project itself a ““start-up” for agile repression.” Such developments, along with another recent attack on the ZAD by police forces (on August 10), show the increasing convergence between “centrist” liberalism and the policies andactions of the most fringe identarian groups.
As in the United States and Britain, contractors working for the French government have made millions of dollars setting up “controlled centres,” surveillance technology, and other services for the capture of migrants.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged from various French detention centres of refugee escapes, many of which read like stories of flights from the concentration camps of the 1940s, with migrants fleeing through roofs and skylights or by creating diversions. Although many have been captured, some remain free.