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Socialisme ou Barbarie: Complete Run Now onLine.

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Socialisme ou Barbarie (“Socialism or Barbarism”) was a French-based radical libertarian socialist group of the post-World War II period whose name comes from a phrase Friedrich Engels used, which was cited by Rosa Luxemburg in the 1916 essay The Junius Pamphlet. It existed from 1948 until 1965. The animating personality was Cornelius Castoriadis, also known as Pierre Chaulieu or Paul Cardan.  Writes Wikipedia (English Entry).

To those familiar with the French left, intellectual radicals, and postmodernism, it’s worth also pointing to the names  Claude Lefort (as Claude Montal) (1924-2010). SouB until 1958.  and Jean-François Lyotard (1924–1998). SouB: 1950- 1963 (PO). Edgar Morin, b. 1921 (some sources have him as a member in the early 1950s). Henri Simon, b. 1922. SouB: 1952- 1958. And the ‘situationist’  Guy Debord (1931–1994). SouB: One year from 1960 to 1961. Programatic statement, with Daniel Blanchard.#

The Holocaust denier and leading figure in the Vieille Taupe Pierre Guillaume, b. 1941 (or 1940 ?). SouB: 1960- 1963 (PO) was also a member

The British group, Solidarity, published many of ‘Paul Cardan’s’ texts. I bought them – in my (very) early teens – from the Collet’s Bomb Shop in Charing Cross Road.

They played a key part in my early political development.

Solidarity’s best-known figure was Chris Pallis, some of whose pamphlets (written under the name Maurice Brinton) continue to be worth reading, notably The Irrational in Politics.

The first biography of Castoriadas, Castoriadis, une vie  Francois DOSSE (2014) is winging my way.

Now La Battaile Socialiste signals that you read online, and download, the complete run of the review Socialisme ou Barbarie.

Un projet de numérisation complète est sur http://soubscan.org (let’s hope the link is working…)

 

 

Enjoy!

Films and Books of the Year.

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Film of the Year.

Films.

Leviathan.

A “2014 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, co-written by Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, and starring Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, and Vladimir Vdovichenkov. A modern reworking of the Book of Job, the film is set on a peninsula by the Barents Sea and tells the story of a man who struggles against a corrupt mayor who wants his piece of land.”

It is profound, shot with enormous clarity, disturbing, deeply moral and political. Vladmir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church must loathe it from the bottom of their hearts.

Deux Jours, une nuit.

A social drama by the Dardenne brothers – with great fineness: Ken Loach without the didactic miserablism. 

“In Seraing, an industrial town of Liège in Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is a young wife and mother, who works in a small solar-panel factory. She suffers a nervous breakdown and is forced to take time off from her job. During her absence, her colleagues realize they are able to cover her shifts by working slightly longer hours and the management proposes a €1,000 bonus to all staff if they agree to make Sandra redundant. Sandra later returns to work and discovers that her fate rests in the hands of her 16 co-workers, and she must visit each of them over the course of a weekend to persuade them to reject the monetary bonus. However, most of the co-workers need the proposed bonus for their own families and Sandra faces an uphill battle to keep her job before the crucial vote on Monday morning.”

Grand Budapest Hotel.

The film is ” written and directed by Wes Anderson and inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig.

“Located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka,[ a European alpine state[ravaged by war and poverty, the Young Writer (Jude Law) discovers that the remote mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Writer encounters the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Mr. Moustafa tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.”

The colours and decor alone are worth the viewing.

Ida.

“Polish-Danish drama film directed by Polish-British Paweł Pawlikowsk.”

“In 1960s Poland,Anna, a young novice nun, is told by her prioress that before her vows can be taken, she must visit her family. Anna travels to her aunt Wanda, a heavy-drinking judge and former prosecutor associated with the Stalinist regime, who dispassionately reveals that Anna’s actual name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her parents were Jewish and were murdered during the war. Ida decides she wants to find their resting place. She and Wanda embark on a journey that both sheds light on their past and decides their futures.”

Agata Trzebuchowska as the Nun, Ida, is luminous.

Pride.

“Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign.The National Union of Mineworkers was reluctant to accept the group’s support due to the union’s public relations’ worries about being openly associated with a gay group, so the activists instead decided to take their donations directly to Onllwyn, a small mining village in Wales — resulting in an alliance between the two communities. The alliance was unlike any seen before but was successful.

Succeeds in showing everything that is good about this country and our labour movement. Memorable.

Books.

Out of Time. The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. Lynne Segal. Verso.

“Perhaps one of the most affecting portrayals of love ever filmed is that of an elderly couple in the film L’amour (2012). The scenario of the aftermath of a beloved’s stroke unfolds with unbearable tenderness. Lynne Segal also sings of the wonder and warmth of friendship, touching, of sexual intimacy, and of sadness. Out of Time pleads for communication between generations. Its pages transmit a wealth of feeling, knowledge and reflection…”

(From, Tendance Coatesy.)

Fatherland. Nina Bunjevrc. Jonathan Cape.

A ‘graphic novel’, though since I first came across the form in France I will always think of them as ‘bandes desinées.” It is a tale of a Croatian nationalist father, the former Yugoslavia, Canada, family strife, and terrorism. It is personal, thought-provoking and sharply illustrated.

Jean Jaurès, Gilles Candar & Vincent Duclert. Fayard.

On the 100th anniversary of assassination of the founder of modern French socialism, Jean Jaurès, this is a welcome biography. Candar and Duclert have due reverence for the ‘legend of Jaurès’ – he showed great courage and political inspiration, the research that clarifies the historical and intellectual background (French republicanism and the splintered socialist left) of his life and political career, as a journalist, an activist, a leading member of the Second (Socialist) International and a Parliamentarian.

The authors are not afraid to look into Jaurès’ hesitations at the beginning of the Dreyfus Affair, his highly traditional cultural approach (including towards his wife and family), his “patriotic internationalism”, and his belief (bizarre for a democratic socialist, in modern eyes), that in the French Revolutionary Assembly he would have say “au côté” of Robespierre.

There is a chronology and bibliographical list and guide.

The founder of the (still published) daily l’Humanité and the first united French Socialist Party (1906 – section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO) cannot, naturally, be resumed in one single study. I am still working through literature by and related to Jaurès.

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane

“As its mostly favourable reviewers have described it, The Establishment is a thoughtful and through exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.”

(From,Tendance Coatesy.)

Boyhood Island. Karl Ove Knausgaard. Harvill and Seeker.

The third instalment of Knausgaard’s autobiographical panorama it marks a change of scene. Growing up on an Island off the coast of Norway, it is, as readers of the previous novels would expect, not an always joyful romp. It is very far from the experience of Holden Caulfied (or at least what I hear about Catcher in the Rye – I’ve not read it), and certainly François Sorel (le Grand Meaulnes – which I did read as a teen). If the novel is to be believed Norwegian young people seem to have an awkward adolescence close to the British one (and no doubt many of us in modern Europe).

A bonus is that Boyhood Island is translated into colloquial British English – which is appropriate given the previous sentence.

Worst book of the Year:

Revolution. Russell Brand. Century.

Everyone that matters has already torn this to shreds. I would add that not only does he refer to the Situationist Guy Debord as a “clever clogs”, to the wisdom of Swamis and God’s fairy chains in the stars, but that Brand employs (once, but it’s enough) the abomination of abominations – the verb got in the present perfect with the American participle “gotten”.

You can read more about Tendance Coatesy, Coates and all of his works on this,

Saturday Interview: Andrew Coates

France: Mélenchon’s new hope: alliance with the Greens (EELV).

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Mélenchon for Citizen Revolution with French Greens.

The Front de Gauche (FdG) held a national general meeting (Assemblée générale) last weekend on the 7th of December.

The splits between the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and (largely) Jean-Luc Mélenchon remain unresolved.

The latter judged – after the local and European elections this spring – that the Front de Gauche was in a “pitiful state” ( en piteux état). That is the score of 6,33% and three seats for the European poll looked poor compared to, above all, the Front National’s 25% and 20 MEPs.

Mélenchon has not ceased reproaching the PCF for making electoral agreements with the ruling Parti Socialiste (PS) in order to keep hold of council seats and control of municipalities. As a counter-strategy the leader of the small Parti de Gauche, has not stopped vaunting the merits of an electoral alliance between his group, the French Green party ( EELV, Europe Écologie – Les Verts ) autonomous citizens groups  and ecologists and the radical left which took control of the small town of Grenoble (population 156,659 , about the size of Ipswich).

The point is that this list, the Rassemblement Citoyen de la gauche et des Ecologists, stood and won against an alliance of the PS and the PCF.

L’Humanité has reported on the weekend meeting.

After these disagreements over the municipal elections of 2014 a common declaration on the next electoral challenge is still being studied. There is a consensus for a broad alliance that goes beyond that of the Front de gauche (FdG), which breaks with the liberal economic policies of the government, and on the need for “citizen participation” and citizen assemblies at the grass-roots. There is a need to have a coherent selection of candidates at a national level. Other issues remains in dispute, notably on the position taken on the ‘second round’ of elections. That is the policy of, notably the Communist Party, of supporting Parti Socialiste candidates as part of the unity of the left. To the supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon any policy of supporting the governing Socialists – above all any agreement on common slates before the second round for local elections – is treason.

Reports (Libération) indicate that the Parti Communiste Français considers that the left of the Parti Socialiste, PS (the ‘frondeurs’)  is moving towards the FdG politics. This is, their strategy of drawing them leftwards has had an effect. The PS is certainly severely divided and its left has come to the fore with some important counter-proposals to the present right-wing course of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Mélenchon  has offered an alternative approach (it is too broad to label a ‘strategy’). Based on his own idea of mobilising the ‘people’ against the ‘oligarchy’ he has called for a new 6th Republic. ( l’Ère 
du peuple 2014) The left is ‘dead’ he has announced – echoing similar declarations made by the Spanish Podemos. Launching the Mouvement pour la 6ème République (MSR) he evoked the French Revolution and the its struggles for popular sovereignty. The leader of the Parti de gauche declared, ” c’est le peuple qui prend la place qu’occupait hier la classe ouvrière révolutionnaire dans le projet de la gauche ” – “The people now take the place of the revolutionary working class in the project of the left” notes a very critical assesment  L’ère du peuple, selon Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Not much has been heard of the MSR.

Now Mélenchon has popped up again.

Calling for a mass campaign against the ‘Macron’ reforms, which will weaken labour legislation, expand Sunday working and allow large shops to open, he has suggested that there are grounds for an alliance with the French Green Party – the EELV. (le Monde)

Talking of his future projects he states,

Nous avons un modèle : la victoire lors des municipales à Grenoble. La preuve est faite qu’il est possible de gagner avec un accord entre Europe Ecologie et le Parti de gauche – qui ne demande qu’à s’élargir au reste du Front de Gauche – contrôlé par un rassemblement citoyen à la base. La situation bouge chez les Verts. Cécile Duflot met des choses en mouvement, elle leur montre une issue possible. Je fais tout ce que je peux pour favoriser ce mouvement. La gauche est en train de se reformater. Mais la clé reste dans l’implication des citoyens.

We have a model: the victory in the local elections in Grenoble. The proof is that we can win with an agreement between the Greens and the Parti de Gauche. -which asks for this to be broadened to include the rest of the Front de Gauche – controlled by citizen participation at the grass-roots. Things are changing amongst the Greens. Cécile Duflot (former leader of this party) is pushing for change and shows a way out. I am doing everything I can to back these development. The left is reforming itself But the key remains the participation of citizens.

Le Monde

EELV is not, in most people’s view, a radical left-wing party.

Meanwhile we see (amongst many many examples) Mélo’s way of arguing.

Maul zu, Frau ! Frankreich ist frei. Occupez-vous de vos pauvres et de vos équipements en ruines !

Kobane: a fight for Democracy (L’Humanité).

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Photo : Frédéric Lafargue

In their Hour of Need Progressive Humanity is with the Kurdish People.

Editorial of l’Humanité Jean-Paul Piérot. 1st December. (Extracts)

The latest news…

“Self-defence groups of men and women, lacking arms and munitions, continue their battle. They are engaged in a fight, against all odds, and with heroism, to drive out, house by house, the terrorist forces. The town of Kobane has become a symbol of popular resistance against obscurantist barbarism.”

…….

“The Town has held out – its defenders have forced the aggressors to abandon their positions – courage and solidarity have changed the course of events. Victory is not assured, there remains a degree of anti-Kurdish complicity between Erdogan (Turkish President) and Isis which could still permit dangerous developments.The Turkish government is strongly suspected of having let a Isis commando attack a Syrian border post. In these decisive hours, the Kurdish people, who have lived for years under a repressive dictatorship, and who today oppose this criminal “caliphate”, are fighting for democracy –  a value all too rare in this region of the world.

The French Communist daily, l’Humanité,  has a special reporter on the ground, Pierre Barbancey.

This week the dispatches from this comrade, from Kobane itself, are essential reading.

They merit the attention of the whole world.

Kobané : des combats rue par rue, maison par maison

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

From one French left to another: President Hollande and Manuel Valls.

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French President: Laughing-Stock?

“Il s’est présenté comme l’homme qui n’aime pas les riches. En réalité, Le Président n’aime pas les pauvres. Lui, l‘homme de gauche, dit en privé ‘les sans-dents’, très fier de son trait de humour”

He puts himself forward as somebody who doesn’t like the rich. But in fact, the President doesn’t like poor people. The ‘man of the left’, proud of his joke, calls them, in private,  the “toothless”.

Merci pour ce moment. Valérie Trierweiler. 2014

Valérie Trierweiler’s account of her life with President François Hollande remains a best-seller. Its portrait of the former Paris Match journalist’s love, her saintly devotion to public life and her deep left roots, his ruthless pursuit of power, his cheating, her shattered private life, and his (alleged) disdain for the less well off, is not widely accepted as reliable political history. But on Page 179 one thing stands out. An opinion poll in May this year registered 3% who wanted the partner of France’s First Lady to stand again in the Presidential elections of 2017.

This may be an extreme result. But at present Hollande’s personal unpopularity stands at over 70% of voters. 80% of French electors are unhappy with his policies. Only 15% have any confidence in him. The traditional right is engaged in a battle for control of their party, the UMP. Ex-President Sarkozy, despite the ‘Bygmalion’ scandal over corrupt election funding that makes anything in the UK look pretty small beer, has returned to the scene. On the far-right, Marine Le Pen, continues to figure prominently in the opinion polls. Nobody on the left – least of all Jean-Luc Mélenchon now calling for a ‘Sixth Republic’ – offers a serious electoral alternative.

It is no coincidence that in this climate of frustration recent weeks have seen violent protests following the death of the young botanist, Rémi Fraisse during protests at a dam project in Sivens. The new wave of autonomists and those involved in the “Zones à défendre’ – Zadists – may be attracted by a spectre risen from the grave: the Comité Invisible. The authors of the post-Situationist L’insurrection qui vient (2007) have just heralded, in a new pamphlet (À nos amis) revolutions ‘everywhere’ (discussion in English here). Perhaps. But the banlieue, if not exactly quiet, quieter than expected. The new French ‘Intifada’, announced from the predominantly (by no means exclusively) Muslim poor suburbs, has not, yet, happened (and with the example of the Da’esh its Islamist side looks less and less appealing).  (1) 

While waiting for them to become visible, and reluctant to pay for what should be free literature that offers details of the “soulèvement” (uprising) underway, we remain in mundane domains. The fate of the French left is being played out inside the institutions of the 5th Republic. The politics of the French Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) are at the centre. The PS in its Déclaration de principes (2008) dropped one half of its traditional Jaurèsian ‘synthesis’ – democratic Marxism and pursuit of the class struggle – and concentrated on the other – democratic and Enlightenment values. (2) In his electoral programme François Hollande appealed to equality and declared war on “finance”. But his attempts to ‘master’ financial markets, and influence the European Union to support pro-growth policies instead of continued budgetary ‘rigour’ soon ebbed away. We might say then that the leadership of the PS has drifted away from any social democratic reforms. That it now concentrates on promoting France as a “competitor” on the world market.

The details of this retreat are not hard to find. Since 2012, public sector workers have had their wages frozen, the minimum wage (SMIC) has only increased…minimally (0,8% since July 2012), it’s been made easier to sack employees, pension rights have been eroded, regressive indirect taxes (VAT ‘social’) have gone up, and the famous tax on Fortunes (Impôt sur la Fortune) adapted so that it has considerably less effect than its (rich) detractors asserted. (3) A vast recruitment drive for new teachers, that is, plans for 60,000 new posts, has so far resulted in 3,856 new jobs (Le Monde. 6.1.14). Despite some youth job creation unemployment has risen by half a million since May 2012.

Turn Rightwards.

After the disastrous local and European election results this year Hollande pushed out left-wing Ministers, Arnaud Montebourg and Benoît Hamon, the Greens (Europe Ecologie-Les verts, EELV) quit, and installed a new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. Valls, on the PS’s right. As Interior Minister Valls heavy-handed approach to law and order, Roms had already earned him the hostility of the Greens and the left. This is said to have hastened the departure of the EELV from their position as junior government partners.

Valls admired Tony Blair, and appears determined on emulating his ‘progressive’  pro-business policies. A marginal figure for a long period (he got a humiliating vote in the PS open ‘primaries’ for Presidential candidate) this choice appeared a desperate one. It was based more on his apparent popularity to ‘tough minded’ voters, not too fond of migrants or too scrupulous about how criminals are treated.

But Valls has also floated the idea that there should be a wide-ranging re-alignment in French politics. The idea of a ‘common home’ for the centre (by which is meant those who have backed right-wing governments and presidents in the past) and the (economically) liberal ‘centre-left’ (in Mandelson speak, ‘progressives’) is modelled on Italy’s Partito Democratico. It is aimed at ‘reform’ of the country’s ‘restrictive practices’ (employment protection laws – to begin with), balanced budgets (welfare cuts) and pro-business (tax cutting) policies. This may not be a viable strategy, (the idea extends to changing the PS’s name) but it has attractions for many sections of the French political scene. Eradicating any form of democratic socialism from mainstream Hexagonal political life would be an, intended, bonus.

Not surprisingly Valls has faced great hostility within his own party. Inside the National Assembly, the 41 ‘frondeur’ deputies, and outside, the Appel de 200, have attacked Valls. They have voted against his ‘reforms’ (such as on labour ‘flexibility’ such as Sunday Working). A new current amongst activists, Vive la Gauche has emerged. The ‘social democratic’ wing of the Socialists has rallied around the unlikely oppositional figure of Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille and a long-standing player in the PS. Long associated with the Rocardian reformist wing she has now called to drop the “old liberal recipes” for economic reform, for investment, not cuts. While some note a lack of clear ambition to lead the Parti Socialiste her criticisms have been widely heard. In the meantime there are reports of members’ disillusion resulting in a catastrophic loss of party membership. (Le Monde 30.10.14)

To the Socialists’ left the Front de Gauche (FdG) has not developed into a vibrant and attractive alternative. Jean-Luc Mélenchon now, apparently, considers that the real fight is between the People and the “oligarchy”. The PS and Hollande the “old” left have become pillars of this elite. The Parti Communiste Français (PCF), part of the FdG, have by making some municipal election agreements with the Socialists, are….the conclusion is obvious.

Demanding the real “sovereignty” (‘profoundly anti-capitalist’) of the People Mélencohon’s ambitions rise to the creation of a New 6th Republic. (Nouvel Observateur. 8.10.14.)In the meantime the (still?) leading public face of the FdG looks to the prosperous medium-sized town of Grenoble, where his small organisation the Parti de Gauche, allied with the EELV and local left-winger against the PS and the PCF, and now control of council.

The resulting Mouvement pour la VIe République (M6R) has not won over the masses, although parts of the FdG, such as Ensemble, have backed the project. Mélenchon himself has become associated with Green protests, like the one at Sievens already cited. One is reminded of the British left’s interest in democratic reform, and ‘new politics’ (of whatever stripe) which always seems to rise when there is little prospect of socialist policies being implemented by any government.

Economics first.

In reality it’s the conflict outlined above, over economics, which is redefining the nature of the French left. Does the left represent the working majority, and the ‘poor’ (sans-dents), equality and collective rights? Or is the ‘left’ iitselfan ‘outdated’ concept (as they said, way back in the 1930s) and what’s needed is ‘production’ ‘flexibility’ entrepeneuriship and growth before anything else can be achieved? Or is it impossible to get the latter without the labour (socialist) movement leading their direction? It must be said that the, formal, split between France’s Parliamentary and trade union left does not help weigh the outcome of the clash between these perspectives in favour of this latter possibility.

These are the terms of the political and ideological battles underway. They are not concerned with “culture wars”, like the one underway over Eric Zemmour’s Le Suicide Français (defending Vichey, battling ‘political correctness’), or the half-hearted dispute around Marcel Gauchet (an unoriginal theorist of ‘totalitarianism’ who’s apparently also got some rightist inclinations). It is not the “republic”, since there is no movement outside political enthusiasts, a declining constituency, for this ‘revolutionary’ change. It’s not even over Race and Ethnicity (important though these issues are). The root of the far-right Front National’s popular appeal is economic: a rejection of migration (like its homologue UKIP) and the effects of the market, unemployment and low wages (offering a ‘national’ economic policy as an alternative).

The Socialist Head of State is, we are informed, a great football fan. He does not believe that the score is final until the match is ended (Le Monde 5.11.14). If at the moment he might be a laughing-stock (as Trierweiler helpfully calls him, the object of “risée générale’), perhaps. But the “reforms” of his new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, may finally bear fruit. Enterprise will be set free, growth will return, and unemployment) will go down. Yesterday Hollande has – widely – stated that he will not seek re-election is he fails to cut the dole queue. 

We shall see on the 15th of November whether the French Trade Unions and left – who plan a day of action against government policies – if any serious alternative is emerging.

MOBILISATION NATIONALE LE 15 NOVEMBRE !

(1) The French Intifada. The Long War Between France and its Arabs Andrew Hussey. 2014.

(2) On Jaurés’ synthesis see: Jean Jaurès. Gilles Candar. Vincent Duckert. Fayard. 2014.

(3) Dossier.: Politique Française sans Boussole Le Monde Diplomatique. September 1014.

“Le Parti communiste organise, ce week-end, en Seine-Saint-Denis, une conférence nationale. Objectif : poser de nouvelles pierres à la construction d’une alternative aux politiques d’austérité, que le président de la République devait une nouvelle fois défendre jeudi soir. ” Humanité 7.11.14.

France, Demonstrator Killed Protesting at Sivens Dam Project.

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Photo : Florine Galéorn/AFP

 Death in Protest at Sivens Dam.

Opponents of  an expensive dam  project, which they will only serve to irrigate the lands of a small number of farmers practising intensive agriculture, gathered in force at Sivens over the weekend.

They included environmentalists, anarchists (autonomists)  and supporters of left parties.  Noel Mamere (Green Party) José Bové (Green and Confédération paysanne) , and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Parti de gauche),

The body of a man was discovered by police on the night of Saturday 25 to Sunday 26 October at the dam site, where clashes took place Saturday on the sidelines of the mobilisation.

“An investigation was opened under the authority of the Attorney Mr Albi to determine the cause of death and the identity of the victim,” a statement from the prefecture announced.

According to a source close to the investigation quoted by AFP, “a  man of around  thirty years old was one of those who were in the middle of the clashes”

The official, who managed onsite operations police during confrontations on Saturday night, said  seven members of the security forces were injured but firefighters had reported during in the evening that there had been no injuries i amongst the demonstrators.

According to Lieutenant-Colonel, “100-150 and hooded anarchists dressed in black threw incendiary devices” and other projectiles at police surrounding a mobilization of “2000” opponents. The majority of the protest remained peaceful, he stated.

“The police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets,” the officer added.

Since the beginning of works on September the 1st,  skirmishes and rallies have multiplied around the site of the dam – which will create a reservoir that should store  1.5 million m3 of water.  This water retention project is supported by the General Council of the Tarn, which asserts that it is necessary to irrigate the surrounding farmland and that another wetland will be recreated.

 

Adapted from today’s L’Humanité 

A critical official report on the construction project by the Ministre de l’Energie was made public this morning. (France-Info)

” The choice of a dam was made “without any real analysis of possible alternatives. And” this is all the more regrettable that the investment cost compared to the stored volume is high. “The assessment of its need was carried out on the basis of  ” old data and standards,” which led to “overstatements.” And the study presented of the dam’s impact was ‘very average’.

The least one can say is that the report,  written by two specialist engineers, is highly critical of the Sivens dam project.  Amongst other grievances, serous financial problems were raised, or rather the issue of the project’s  “compatibility with the rules of the EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and the regulations on  on state aid”. These could lead, the report suggests, to an even “more severe interpretation” (than this report) by the  European Union.

 A long article in Le Monde on Saturday (Tensions dans le Tarn, où le barrage de Sivens attise la guerre de l’eau) described the influence of the industrial agricultural lobby behind the dam project. It noted that the water will be used for the large-scale cultivation of crops such as maize.  The author suggested that nobody but these farmers would benefit.

Apart from denouncing the  immediate environmental damage (to several rare species of animals, plants and insects), opponents have been mobilised to protest at the Sivens dam as the symbol of an obsolete model of agricultural production.

Today the former minister of Ecology,  Delphine Batho (Socialist) has denounced (le Monde)  the violence of “certain groups” in the protests. But she has also called for a return to the “Moratorium” which she instituted on such projects.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. A Socialist Review.

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The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane 2014.

Last Tuesday supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly and the PCS trade union lobbied Ipswich Conservative MP, Ben Gummer. Part of the TUC campaign “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” we were there to raise concerns from the decline in the real value of public sector pay, the growing cost of living, declining working conditions, to the attacks on those receiving welfare benefits. Gummer, after admitting that he had the privileged background (Cabinet Minister dad, public school and Cambridge in case you ask) understood our worries. He knew “where we were coming from”. But tight budgets and a squeeze on spending had been needed to deal with the legacy of the last government. Now the country was on the mend.

The Honourable Member ended by evoking his recent visit to a local school Academy. Its intake includes many of the less than privileged. Yet these students were rearing to compete on the global market. Equipping them to stand up their counterparts on the East, to give them “opportunity”, was, Ben’s words suggested, a task his government had begun in earnest.

Right in the first chapter of Owen Jones’ The Establishment, one comes across Gummer’s other constituency: the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Jones meets it founder, Matthew Elliot, who founded this “unashamedly populist” campaign for lower taxation. Inspired by the American hard-right Tea Party, its influence began before the 2008 Bankers’ crash. The Alliance now boasts that it got the Tories from saying they wanted to “match Labour’s spending plans to talk about spending cuts”. The ‘shock’ of crashing banks gave them a golden opportunity to go further and further.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance awarded Ipswich MP Ben its monthly  ‘pin up’ status a couple of years ago for his attempt to rename National Insurance a Tax. (1) This is not the only link. Jones signals their campaign to end Trade Union facility time. Mr Gummer – the members of the PCS present at the lobby were well aware – has very publicly pursued this demand locally.

Needless to say the socially and (genuinely) caring liberal Ben, can quickly turn into a ferocious tigress protecting her young when the interests of one group of taxpayers, finance, are at stake. It was not so long ago that he floated the idea of reviving the ‘business vote’, an extra ballot paper for companies (no doubt with an eye on Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council).

Dig a little and what is the core of the up and coming Conservative’s politics? For Ben Gummer the City of London, which Jones describes as marked by a “reluctance to pay taxes and an acute hostility to any form of government intervention” (Page 241) is the foundation of UK prosperity. Above all he ducks the banks’ responsibility for the economic crisis, and the government’s deficit (critics might begin with the bank bail-out….), and loads it onto the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Blair and Brown.

It is not a long journey from The Establishment to Ipswich. The previous story is an illustration of how the author succeeds in showing “how they get away with it”. Activists on the left will find many similar echoes from their own experiences of contact with professional politicians (not just Conservatives and Liberals), and “movers and shakers” in the country.

Outriders.

As most reviewers, even if they might disagree with many of Jones’ views,  have said, The Establishment is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.

In their ‘heroic age’, Thatcherites could consider themselves as radicals sweeping away the old system. Now the free-market consensus has taken on a life of its own. It’s an apparatuses, helped by ‘hired hands’ and driven by the undoubted profits of financial institutions and, increasingly, a revenue flow from the state into private owners of public assets.

It is striking that “outriders”, from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, ‘free-market’ think tanks, still consider themselves to be living in this time when they had to fight off the remnants of the post-War settlement, beat down trade unions, and remove left-wing politics from the national life. The Daily Mail, Jones observes, still thinks it is battling away at a ‘Liberal’ Establishment.  Paul Staines (aka “Guido Fawkes”)  also on the hard right says of the the political class: “I hate the fucking thieving cunts.”

The first chapter of Jones’ book underlines the contrary. The hard-right have succeeded in defining ‘common sense’, from the media, much of the public, to the highest reaches of power. They have “shifted the terms of debate and softened up public opinion” with the willing collaboration of media outlets, the BBC at the forefront, which never loses an opportunity to provide them with a platform. “They have helped shift the goalposts of debate in Britain, making ideas that were once ludicrous, absurd and wacky, become the new common sense. In the terminology of right-wing political thinker, they have shifted the ‘Overton Window’.”(Page 44)

Overton, we learn, was the vice-president of a US right-wing think tank, the grandly titled Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His concern was to ‘shift’ what is reasonable, opening a new Window of opportunity. But for policies to be Policy the outriders, scouting out the way, have to find collaborators willing to work with them.

If The Establishment covers the ideological and economic conditions for the rise of the free-market ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s and 1980s it does not stop there. Blair and Brown were happy to go along with what the Conservatives, starting with Thatcher, had created. “The government of both Blair and Brown were instrumental in transforming Thatcherism into a permanent settlement.”(P 61)

Owen Jones is not afraid to confront the Labour Ministers who profited handsomely from this agreement on free-market foundations. Tony Blair, and his immediate followers, are probably the most notorious. But it’s the special merit of Establishment to focus on less well-remembered instances.

Former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt ended up as a lobbyist for private health companies. Perhaps even more startling in this particularly area is the case of Paul Corrigan a one-time activist in the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sociology lecturer, who is now deeply involved, a leading figure,  in the NHS privatisation process itself (see Wikipedia). Corrigan is married to Labour Peer,  Hilary Armstrong and is a  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Pride of place must go to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and subsequently in charge of the DWP. Jones meets the man himself. Blunkett can never resist the opportunity to re-enact the Monty Python Three Yorkshiremen sketch. After talking of a life existing on “bread and dripping” the former Minster bushes away how he personally profited from the largesse of the notoriously incompetent A4E (amongst his many other well-rewarded private posts, from News International onwards). There is no interrogation of how A4E’s exploitation of state revenue only happened because of his own legislation. The MP proffers only this, “I’m not living a flash lifestyle, but I’m very comfortable.”(Page 76) Though not quite as comfortable as David Miliband, reported by Jones to have made a million in two and a half years after his failed Labour leadership bid in 2010.

This ‘revolving door’, by which former Cabinet Ministers end up being rewarded by companies their legislation has helped, works for politicians of all parties. If the Tories do badly next year, and when the Liberals are drubbed, we will see another crop. Jones remind us that 46 of the top fifty publicly ranked traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as either a director or a shareholder.

The problem is not that politicians are especially venal as such – a pretty hollow claim given the opportunities for far easier money-making in other walks of life. It is that, as Jones says, “Mainstream politicians had been transformed by policies that once belonged to the dreams of the outriders. A mentality of greed had been promoted amongst the business elite, now this mentality had infected the political elite too. Politicians became unapologetic lobbyists for private interests both inside and outside Westminster.”(Page 83)

When one reads this it’s hard not to think of this, possibility, cited in Tomas Picketty’s influential Capital in the Twenty First Century. That some would “privatise all pubic assets. According to the national accounts of various European countries, the proceeds from selling all public buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, police stations, infrastructures, and so will be roughly sufficient to pay off all outstanding public debt. Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 –2 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. 2014).

In many respect we are paying rent to private owners for an ever-growing number of ‘public’ services. What this means is that wealth is transferred from the majority to this minority through the mechanism of taxation and charges for indispensable common goods (health onwards). If Picketty is right about the tendency of modern Capital to favour the transformation of entrepreneurs into the holders of such claims (‘rentiers’) the free-market system may be encouraging its own cannibalism. One could also investigate the way these profiteers are directly shaping a whole range of public social policies, for the institutions they themselves run.

Democratic Revolution.

There are many other themes brought up in The Establishment, covering the media, the increasing harshness of Law and  the Police, and their use to suppress protests, the demonisation of the poor, and an array of illuminating sections on the Oligarchy’s inner courts, the City, and the Tax-dodging Tycoons and corporation. I was impressed by the grasp – not common amongst political writers – of the last decade’s coercive and shambolic changes in the Benefit system and the obstacles and misery these have created for millions of people.

But it is the political alternative to the present system that should provoke the most attention. Is the ‘elite’ at fault for the way it’s recruited? There is one area where this appears blatant: professional politics. Jones, following many others, observes is that MPs are increasingly drawn from a narrow stratum of society, often with no experience of anything other than politics, and even fewer from working class backgrounds. That this is an international phenomenon can be seen in an article in Le Monde yesterday (16.10.14). It notes that only 2,6% of French MPs come from manual or ordinary clerical occupations. But can this be changed by the kind of “equality of opportunity” that the free-market’s supporters promote?

But, as he points out, we should start by considering the corporate influence on law, from the UK to the European Union. Jones is not clear on how the EU should be approached. If it inspires unbridled hatred form one section of the Establishment, in the area of Britain’s sovereignty, another endorses it, precisely because it is remote from any democratic control. He concludes, not very confidently, that, “It is the Establishment that really reigns supreme.”(Page 294).

This sounds as if he would, or is edging towards abstention on any conflict – that is the Referendum – on UK membership. The loudest yelps for liberty come from those who wish to follow the worst aspects of US policy and politics, including its boss class of slave-drivers.  What other vehicle for ‘internationalist ‘ ambitions could be offered, other that is than a refounded and transformed Social European Union, remains to be seen.

For a democratic revolution we need democrats. The grip of the free-market outriders has, Jones, considers, to be challenged by bringing the “fragments” of opposition together. One thing that implies is that more solidly organised left-wing think tanks should be formed, and backing existing ones such as the New Economic Foundation and Class. More fundamentally The Establishment advocates public ownership. But perhaps we need the kind of public owners who can run them democratically. That is, the creation of a counterpart to the ideal of dedicated public servants of the past, educated with a feeling for the common good – and kept under control by open public mechanisms. “service users and workers”.

There are plenty of other policies to develop. Probably equally ambitious is the demand that along with clamping down on tax Avoidance we should “drive the power of Big Money from politics” (Page 311).

Will these and other proposals shift the ‘Overton Window’ “away from the Establishment” and “open up been more radical possibilities”? Change Owen concludes is “not won through the goodwill and generosity of those above, but though the struggle and sacrifice of those below.” In Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2014) Jones has written of the weakness of Ed Miliband’s alternative to the Right, and even UKIP. The French Socialist government and President Hollande, for all their initial rhetoric about challenging ‘finance’ never tried these policies, and is now drifting  ever rightwards. Will those prepared to go out on the streets to act now help turn the tide to the left, or at least stem the headlong plunge to the right? Are the embers of socialism about to be relit? 

The struggle of those people in Ipswich who lobbied Ben Gummer and all those who will be at Saturday’s TUC demonstration indicates some who are doing their best to do so……

Photo: Ben Gummer was photographed outside his office last week, when supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and the Trades Council lobbied for the "Britain needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p>
<p>Ben’s smile seemed a little forced, possibly because the latest polls show Labour’s David Ellesemere is 7% ahead in polls for the Ipswich seat, with around 38% to Gummer’s 31%.   </p>
<p>UKIP are currently on 19% and the Lib Dems 6%.</p>
<p>(photo by Tony Dooley)” /></p>
<p class=Lobby of Gummer.

(1) Wikipedia. “Gummer first proposed annual tax statements to UK taxpayers, due for introduction in 2014. These will show shares of government spending in proportion to the amount of tax the taxpayer paid in the year. it was opposed by the Labour Party. Gummer’s proposal was favorably received by the press. He became The Suns Westminster “hero of the week” It was included in the 2012 Budget with George Osborne calling it “an excellent idea”. The TaxPayers’ Alliance subsequently honoured Gummer as their ‘Pin-Up of the Month‘. It also got the support of the Prime Minister.