Hutchinson: Kaunas on Les Coureurs des Bois org structure

Published by @piggymouse1 on 2019-09-25

From Dave Hutchinson’s “Europe in Winter”, Part II, Chapter IV:

“I don’t care about that any more. We can discuss it later. I need Central to put me in contact with Crispin.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Kaunas told him. “Because Coureur Central doesn’t exist.”

“Oh, fuck off. I’m tired of this.”

“The natural assumption everyone makes about an organisation is that someone is running it,” said Kaunas. “But that assumes that there is an organisation. Les Coureurs des Bois is not an organisation. If you really need a metaphor, I suppose the closest I could come would be to say that Les Coureurs are an anarchy. Oh, I don’t doubt that once upon a time, back in the misty distance, there was a group of individuals sharing a common aim, but that hasn’t been true for many years.”

“So who’s giving the orders?” asked Rudi.

“Nobody is.” Kaunas shrugged. “Or rather, everybody is. Everyone is part of everyone else’s operation; the people you employ are part of your operation, you’re part of someone else’s operation, they’re part of someone else’s, and so on. It’s a perfect, self-sustaining whole, a nation without a figurehead, without borders.”

“There’s a hierarchy,” Rudi insisted.

“No, there isn’t.”

“What about you? What about Bradley?”

“We have an overview, of sorts. We fight fires. Someone has to. I expect it looks as if we’re quite high up in the hierarchy, and from time to time it suits us to pretend we are, but really we’re not. We just go where we’re needed, to keep things running smoothly. We’re… diplomats, if you like; a point of contact between Les Coureurs and governments.”

“Where does the money go? Who does the book-keeping?”

“There are some centralised accounts, and Coureurs assigned to maintain them, but mostly everything runs itself. You’d be surprised. It’s quite a sturdy edifice, but massively distributed. The mythology surrounding Les Coureurs has become hugely rich and complex; it’s impossible to know where it ends and History takes over.”

“History,” Rudi said, a great bleakness overtaking his heart like an oncoming snowstorm. “That’s a grey area.”

“It depends who you ask.”

“Whose operation am I part of?”

“Now, that is the interesting question. May I?” Rudi nodded, and Kaunas stood and went over to a corner table, on which stood several bottles of mineral water and some glasses. He opened one of the bottles. “Les Coureurs des Bois are highly compartmentalised. Partly that’s for operational security, but mainly it’s because that’s all there is. Compartments. Doing what they do, which is move things across borders. Everyone’s freelance, working only when they have to.” He filled a glass with water, recapped the bottle, set it down, turned to face Rudi. “Then you started to use those resources for something else. You started giving orders, started coordinating things. For all practical purposes, you’re Coureur Central.” He took a sip of water.