Bernard Maris, the Fury of Capitalism and the Fury of Terrorism

Bernard Maris, an economist at the Bank of France, was at the meeting of editors of Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015 in Paris. He, too, died under the bullets of the killers – Oncle Bernard, author of a column in the satirical magazine, in which he explained the mysteries of finance.

He was not a cartoonist, but he shared with Charb (the director), Wolinski (the best known cartoonist) and the other victims an impatience for mainstream ideas and an antipathy for power.
He was an old-style French intellectual, a scholar of Keynes and a public figure. He had been active in Attac France and was now a friend of Michel Houllebecq, the writer whose new controversial novel ‘Submission’ imagines a Muslim president for France. A frequent guest on radio France Inter, he clashed regularly with journalists of the French business newspaper. His books include the two volumes of “Economics, an Antimanual” (Éditions Bréal, 2003, 2008), demolishing free market dogmas.

For what convulsion of history Islamic extremists at war with Western power kill one of the voices who denounce it? Which cognitive dissonance – even more than ideological blindness – prevents them to understand the internal conflicts of capitalism?

Obviously, for those who want to cancel freedom of expression, there are no differences that matter within Western ‘infidels’. Likewise, for the new European fascism all Muslim citizens and immigrants are potential terrorists. Have we come back to the ‘clash of civilizations’ where, in the name of security, a state of emergency forces all to close ranks in the imaginary conflict that is staged – and all possibility of dissent is erased?

The conflict that matters, the trench in which Oncle Bernard was writing, is not this one, he worked to denounce the ‘fury of capitalism’. Similarly, in the Islamic world – in the Middle East as in Europe – the key conflict is an internal one, the clash between opposing ideas on society and politics, even more than on religion.

The senseless death of Bernard Maris brings us back to our duty to oppose injustice, first of all the one produced by our countries, our power, our consumption.

His death brings us back to a commitment to political debate – he voted yes to the French referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty, but now he had changed his mind, he thought the euro should be abandoned.
His death may help us look ahead – he thought that the future was beyond markets and commodities, in a sharing economy with meaningful jobs, cultural commons and social solidarity. Between the ‘ants’ and ‘cicadas’ who were on the covers of his “Antimanual”, his sympathy went to the latter. He was born in Toulouse and was 69 years old.

First published by OpenDemocracy on 11 January 2015.