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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ils sont des nôtres

by Patrick Apel-Muller

They Are One Of Us

Translated Thursday 8 January 2015, by Henry Crapo, Isabelle Métral

The editorial board of l’Humanité is deeply shocked by the odious attack that decimated Charlie Hebdo’s team in Paris yesterday morning. Most of the cartoons published by l’Humanité are by Charlie’s cartoonists. We followed the same path in work, and in friendship.

They are one of us. A long companionship has grown, over the years, between the teams of Charlie Hebdo and of l’Humanité. Its conductor was Charb, communist, insolent, and a rigorous professional, who obtained from his crew of rebels the delivery, flawless and on time, of the cartoon that enlivens our daily’s last page. Jul, Luz, Babouze, and Charb himself never missed the weekly appointments, nor did Coco and Besse, who draw for l’Humanité Dimanche. On the eve of the Fête de l’Humanité,
one year, Charlie’s editorial team took over the entire iconography of the next day’s issue, spreading over the pages an invigorating and harmless insolence, and their priceless creations that clarified, in a few strokes, the day’s events.

Charb was even one day’s editor-in-chief for l’Humanité. He arrived, accompanied by the policemen who assured his security. The director of Charlie shouldered by two policemen! The paradox was merely apparent, since a relation of mutual trust had been established between the anti-conformist rebel and his two shadows. The three of them knew that they were targeted. Char had decided not to be guided by fear, not to engage in self-censorship, nor to be ruled by the the law of the most stupid and most brutal.

Charb also provided discreet help to this daily paper, advising young correspondents who were making a start as cartoonists, for one entire Saturday at l’Humanité’s offices in Saint-Denis, and by putting pressure on radio and television channels, to which he was invited, to give l’Humanité, the newspaper founded by Jean Jaurès, its due place beside the other dailies cited — with varying degees of success. It was he who recommended to us two young cartoonists, Coco and Besse, full of talent and inspiration — thus breaking with the idea that drawing cartoons is a man’s job.

Over an extended period, the impertinence of Charlie was well attuned to the rebellious fiber of l’Humanité. We should also mention Siné and Tignous who enlivened l’Humanité Dimanche. To revive memories of the work we shared is also to unwind a reel of friendships that only death could, and did, terminate.

l’Humanité could not have done without Wolinsky, Charb, and Tignous

They were one of us, and we have raised our glasses together more than once. On the weekend of the Fête de l’Humanité at the Courneuve, where their booth, each year, was shared with Cuba Si, it was a question of mojitos, with Havana cigars hanging from the lips. Or better, yet, the parties over a flaming plum brandy with an ribald and tender Wolinski, Patrick Pelloux, between bursting into laughter and grumbling, or Luz, with his little touches of irony. Georges Wolinsky for such a long time brightened the front page of l’Humanité! In two sketches and three words he would untangle a situation, reveal an hypocrisy, ridicule the powerful. In fabulous osmosis with the people, readers who cut out his cartoons in order to glue them on their handbills.

l’Humanité could not have done without Wolinsky. The cartoonist had found there a new space of liberty, and perhaps of usefullness. But also friends, like René Andrieu, Roland Leroy, José Fort, who shared memories of joint travels, cultural passions, and the same appetites for life. A few months ago we lunched together with Georges on Boulevard Saint Germain. He evoked the possibility to make cartoons for l’Humanité from time to time: to reclaim a new space of liberty, as a gesture of friendship, not untinged with nostalgia.

They were so much of us that the emotion that overcame the editorial team at the announcement of the slaughter was deeper than the shock upon a major and traumatic event. Each of us here felt it as a personal and intimate wound. For many of us, brotherhood is not merely rooted in ideas. We know how we can rely upon one another.

This personal history, which I refuse to let slip into the past, was not without friction, digs, fits of anger. Newpaper cartooning is a demanding and effective mode of journalism, often more demanding than writing editorials or long analytic pieces. Consequently, this space of liberty is particularly menaced by tyrants and fanatics. At times the scratching of their claws irritated some readers: "too heavy", "too disrespectful", "offensive to good taste", ... But laughter, even if it had a bitter taste, overcame good manners and reticence. The difficulties for the papers, those which Charlie encounter, as well as those facing l’Humanité, had brought the two teams closer together. It’s not easy to resist, face-on, the full blast of orthodoxy [1].

My last exchange with Charb was last Monday. He had sent us seven drawings made during the holidays, for a special issue opposing the Loi Macron [2] that will be published on 15 January, distributed with l’Humanité Dimanche. We hoped also that he would draw a cartoon for the cover. He didn’t have time. We will publish his preliminary sketches, in form of an homage. Charb never hid his political views and commitments, a scrupulous militant communist, and unbridled cartoonist, able, some years ago, to stand up to Phillip Val, the former director, who wanted to domesticate the wild duck [3] and to impose a strict discipline on a team of strong-headed professionals.
His newspaper had taken deep roots in the cultural soil of several entire generations, with a series of cult front page images --- those which appeared on the front pages of this newspaper, as well as those we let slip by --- by way of thumbing its nose at ambient drowsiness and in eternel contradiction with ready-made ideas. In this, they are one of us, but they are part of everybody in this country.

[1the pensée unique, uniform mind-set

[2The "loi Macron", a package law soon to be debated in parliament, is designed to break the institutions that guarantee labor rights: the labor courts, workplace medical controls, workplace inspection, and, among other provisions, liberalises nightime and Sunday employment.

[3possible reference, by comparison, to the famous satyrical weekly, the chained duck, Carard Enchainé,


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