The Road to the Bastille
In March on Brussels on 14 September 2011 at 22:53
In the early days of the revolution I had great fun translating the solemn manifests of the French indignados which had assembled in Place de la Bastille, inspired by what was happening in Puerta del Sol. It was all real, and it was all a game. Together with the people who happened to be there in the Communcations tent at that same particular moment in history, and who spoke better French than me, I answered with resplendent comunicados full of historical and revolutionary winks. “Salut Paris! Ici Madrid! Avez-vouz pris la Place de la Bastille?“
They had, it turned out. But they were never able to hold it. The General Assembly in Puerta del Sol fell silent when the news broke that police were clearing the square with tear gas.
Now, almost four months later, I am camped at three days from Paris with the March on Brussels, and together with my general staff we are gathered around a map of the city and its surroundings. We’re going to plan the road to the Bastille.
The fact is that comrade Cowboy has left the Route commission. He gave up after people had repeatedly ignored his routes to go their own way. The vacuum was filled by comrade Polacco, comrade Vladimir from the Toulouse march, two reconassaince bikers freshly in from Spain, and me. I am the only one who speaks both French and Spanish.
When the map is unfolded, my eyes light up. I quickly note the various possibilities. The original idea is to enter Paris straight from the South and be at Bagneux, at eight kilometres from the center, on Friday evening. We are going to change all that. And we’re going to tell nobody about it until the last moment. It’s going to be a complete surprise. We’re going to Versailles.
Secrecy is of the utmost importance, and I repeat it. We’re going to camp in front of the castle, and we don’t want police to know about until we’re there. Everyone who joins in on the meeting agrees. Complete secrecy. The people from Etampes who are monitoring us from a distance seriously nod. The scene is filmed by two people from Canal +. “Not a word! We’re going to Versailles. It’s going to be fabulous.”
“Is it possible?” someone asks. “Sure it’s possible. We’re the March on Brussels. Look, we’ll take these roads, we cross the fields, we take the paths. We’ll be there before anyone knows what’s happening.”
“Right. You’re in front of the castle. Then what? The day after we are expected in the Universitary City at eleven in the morning. The distance from Versailles is over 25 kilometres. We should get up at five and be marching at six. If we arrive, people will be exhausted.”
It’s true. If we want we can do it. Versailles is a great symbolic photo opportunity, but little else. We have to be practical. In the southern banlieues of Paris we can do actions, hold assemblies, incite the workers. And apart from that, when I look around, I start to have doubts about the effective secrecy of the plan.
We return to the original plan. Bagneux in two days. Comrade Waldo will be waiting there with the local indignados. Then Saturday we march into the city to the rendez-vous point near the Gare d’Austerlitz. In the afternoon, we take the Bastille.
Where do we enter Paris? I look at the names of all the city gates. ‘Oh yes’, I think, and I place my finger down on the map. “Here. We will enter Paris through the Porte d’Italie“, I say, “for sentimental reasons.”
That’s it. Nothing to be proposed to the assembly, because if we do, we’ll never make it to Paris. We will still be here discussing on the route in three days time.
I translate the general idea to comrade Vladimir in French. “If we don’t take Versailles” he says, “we should do something else, something symbolic.” And he comes up with a brilliant idea for a decoy. Something to disorientate the authorities. For obvious reasons I cannot reveal it now. It’s really secret, and it has to be communicated to our people in Paris as fast as possible. But we can’t use mobile phones or email. All our communications are at risk of being intercepted. The only way is to go there in person. Someone will have to jump on a horse and ride to Paris through the night, to bring the dispatch to our liaisons as quickly as possible.
“Who’s willing to do this?” I ask. No-one volunteers.”You can do it”, says someone.
I think about it for a second. I know that the horse won’t be a horse, and it would mean abbandoning the march. I can’t do it. At that moment, enter a messenger. Our people from Paris will be here tomorrow. There’s no need to warn them. We can talk it over in the group and continue as planned.
“Good”, I say, and the map is folded. I’m content. I love this game. “Tomorrow I want a detailed map of the center of the city.”