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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.

Another French Left Group (Ensemble) Backs Arming Kurds.

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What is at Stake in the autonomous Struggle of progressive Forces against the Islamic State. (Extracts – Adapted)  

The announcement of an “international coalition” to fight the “Islamic state” is the latest act in a string of disasters caused by Western imperialist interventions in the Middle East. This – a reminder –  is not part of any genuine anti imperialism,  but allows us to understand the dynamics at work, which have been reshaped since  the US intervention in 2003,  in the current situation.  As with 2003, Western imperialism produce disasters, then intervenes to “fix” the consequences of these catastrophes, and then creates further disasters of an even greater magnitude – a succession of links in an endless chain.

Thus, we cannot admit that there are  “humanitarian” motives at work inside the US  administration or support the coalition that they seek to put in place in order to maintain their hold. Nevertheless, it is impossible to denounce, simply, American imperialism, and remain indifferent to the devastation caused by the Islamic State, IS (mass killings, persecution of religious minorities, Sunni disagreements, the tens of thousands of Yazidis left to die in the Sinjar). This would equally be to ignore the actions of the reactionary and authoritarian and regional powers. We need not simply to react to the massacres and repression perpetrated by the IS but also to stem the wave of disasters engulfing the region. Indeed, imperialism finds its strongest basis in  these religious confessional and national divisions..

Faced with these obstacles, it is necessary to defend movements of  local self-defence rather than increasing the stranglehold of imperialism. This implies, therefore  support (including weapons) for progressive forces in the region to combat the Islamic State.  That is, for the Popular Committees in Syria who have been abandoned to their fate, and for the broad movement around the Kurdish PKK.

…..

(There follows an analysis which lays the blame for ISIS’s rise in Syria on Assad’s willingness to foment divisions in his opposition, and on Turkey, which is charged with “complaisance” towards the rise of the Islamists.)

Kurdish forces and issues

The main armed resistance opposed to the Islamic State  is represented by various  Syrian opposition movements and the PKK, the main Kurdish political-military organization of Turkish forces.

The PKK was born in the social and political ferment of the 70s Turkey, created by Kurdish leftist students. Its historic leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is held in prison in Turkey but still leads the PKK and the movement that revolves around it.Following a tradition that can be termed “Stalinist” the PKK has managed to supplant other Kurdish organizations in Turkey and has a mass base in the bulk of Turkish Kurdistan. The  PKK “mouvance” (broad movement)  can often have a very opportunist line – but retains a  military capacity, is the political representative of the large Kurdish minority in Turkey. Note also that the whole movement around the PKK is highly feminised (both in recruitment and in access to positions of fighting and political-military leadership).

……

..an essential part of fighting is taking place in Syria where this movement already existed. However, it is true that the PKK stepped onto Iraqi territory in the mountains of Sinjar to fight IS and to rescue tens of thousands of Yezidi (a Zoroastrian religious minority from Kurdish-speaking areas).  In keeping with its normal practice, the PKK has sought to create a local sister organization, with the Yezidi, the Resistance Units Kirkuk-Mexmour. In northern Syria, the PYD unilaterally declared independence in the territories it controls (the Rojava, that is to say, the Western Kurdistan). It  has been criticised by other Kurdish organizations in Syria gathered in the Kurdish National Council. This tension between the PYD and CNK is only a reflection of the broader opposition among the Kurds between the PKK and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) of Massoud Barzani, the “feudal” political leader who heads the autonomous Kurdish regional government Kurdish in northern Iraq (and which is bound by the CNK in Syria).

Briefly, the PKK reproach, rightly, to Barzani and the Kurdish autonomous regional government in northern Iraq with having links with the Turkish government, leaving the Islamic State free to continue their progress  progress in northern Iraq, and, as a  result of this alliance, to be so directly responsible for the progress of EI and the fall of Mosul. Conversely, Barzani accused the PKK-PYD of having links with the Assad regime. …

(There follows detailed analysis of these ties, claims and counterclaims.)

The important points of the Ensemble analysis are these: they back “active local defence “, that they regard this as a “medium-term challenge ” to ” imperialist logic” and believe that will contribute towards the “healing” (assainissement) of the Kurdish national question” which is one of  “the elements of division between the most important people of the region.” 

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC)  warns against US-led intervention in Iraq and Syria.

It has yet to offer any comment on demands for “support (including weapons) for progressive forces in the region.”

By contrast  Socialist Worker said in August, Arming the Kurds won’t stop Iraq’s brutal civil war.

More recently (September 16th) they found nothing to say on the Kurdish struggle against the Islamist genociders.

Instead they warned  US missiles will worsen Iraq crisis.

Apparently one of the main dangers is that, “This will be a green light for targeting Muslims and increasing Islamophobia as all Muslims are portrayed as a terrorist threat.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 21, 2014 at 11:24 am

Danish Leftists Back Military Aid to Iraq.

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Danish Revolutionary Socialists Says: Arm Kurdish Freedom Fighters!

Danish socialists voting for a parliamentary decision to send a military plane to Iraq under US command is not usual. Even more unusual is the fact that I – considering myself a revolutionary Marxist – voted to support that decision. Nevertheless, that is what happened a few weeks ago.

The parliamentary group of the Red-Green Alliance (RGA – Enhedslisten) voted together with all out parties for sending a Hercules airplane to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. The plane will transport weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).”

Reports Michael Voss (of the Danish  Red-Green Alliance, Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne), known as Enhl, and SAP (Socialistisk Arbejderparti) in International Viewpoint (journal of the Fourth International).

The nightmare of some ‘anti-imperialist’ hipsters has had a real political impact…..

Why Danish leftists supported military aid to Iraq Monday 15 September 2014

Comrade Voss  made the honest point that,

In that way there is a temporary coincidence of interests between imperialism and socialists on the simple issue of fighting IS. We want to supply the Kurds with weapons, and US imperialism want to supply the Kurds with weapons – for the time being. Not supporting it, only because of the US command, would be as if Lenin had refused to travel in the sealed train supplied by German imperialism through imperialist Germany to Russia in the middle of the Russian revolution, as another NL-member said.

And that,

I don’t think that much argument is needed to back the fact that revolutionary socialists also want to fight and stop IS, a murderous, sectarian and deeply reactionary force. A victory for IS will set back any social, democratic, pro-women or anti-imperialist development that may have taken place in parts of Syria and Iraq.

But that their MPs made sure that,

  • that the Danish Hercules plane cannot be used for any other purpose than delivering arms to the forces fighting IS
  • that this decision does not allow any other Danish military activity in the region;
  • that whatever happens, a new parliament decision is necessary if the government wants to prolong the activity of the airplane after 1 January 2015

As a follow up to the decision the RGA have taken other initiatives to stop military and financial supply for IS, to popularise the fight for the Kurdish peoples’ right to self-determination and to have the PKK removed from the US and the EU list of so-called terror organisations. A special Danish aspect is the fact that the TV-station of Kurds for all Europe was based in Denmark until it was recently banned, and 10 people from the Kurdish community face trial for collecting money for organisations that – according to the police – transfer the money to PKK.

When the first shipment of weapons to the PKK/YPG by a Danish airplane under US command has taken place, it will be hard for the authorities to explain that they are supporting a terror organisation.

This decision took place in mid-August (reported in International Viewpoint on the 15th of Septmeber.

 Danish arms to support Kurds in Iraq

25. aug. 2014 13.14 

The Red-Green Party’s central committee has agreed that its parliamentary group may vote yes to send Danish arms to support Kurds fighting in Iraq.

However, final approval by parliament on Wednesday is needed before a Hercules transport aircraft containing a consignment of light weapons can be sent as Denmark’s contribution to the USA’s action in Northern Iraq, where Kurdish fighters are being hard-pressed by the militant Islamic State (IS).

“I’m pleased that the central committee has approved the parliamentary group’s proposal for Denmark to support the campaign by sending a transport aircraft with weapons and ammunition to the hard-pressed Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq,” said Nikolaj Villumsen, spokesman on defence for the Red-Green Alliance.

Proposal today

The government received the final support of all parliamentary parties on Sunday after the remaining parties had acknowledged their approval at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Committee on Thursday.

Today, the government will present its proposal to send the aircraft to Iraq as soon as possible with a consignment of weapons and solders to protect the aircraft.

“The Islamic State is one of the most perfidious movements the world has seen for many years and must be forced back before it commits new crimes against humanity.

“It must be emphasised, however, that our support for this limited action will not entail any Danish military intervention in Iraq and is purely intended as support for the Kurds to help them defend themselves against the Islamic State. We are not entering into a new war in Iraq,” said Villumsen.

Put in their place in 2011

In March 2011, the Red-Green parliamentary group was quickly put in its place by the party when it wished to support the use of Danish F-16 fighter aircraft to support the Libyan Army.

At the party’s AGM, a procedure was established for how the parliamentary group could support Danish military action, when it was made contingent on approval by the central committee.

The authorities are indeed concerned,

Some Danish politicians, however, are sceptical that the Danish involvement could inadvertently support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the European Union (EU) labels a terrorist organization.

Since IS captured about a third of Iraq in June, the PKK, which is based in Iraqi Kurdistan, has become part of the war. The PKK’s affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, are fighting IS alongside the KRG’s Peshmerga troops. Rudaw.

The Red-Greens are noted for their support for a foreign policy based on human rights.

Enhl initially backed plans for UN-led intervention in Libya but pulled back, after party protests, once the campaign got underway.

The Red-Green Alliance currently has 12 seats in the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) with 6,7 % of the vote.

Wider Backing for Military Action Against Islamic State/Daʿesh

Support for the Kurdish and other democratic fighters against Islamic state is widespread on the European left, a stand that contrasts with the isolationist Stop the War Coalition in Britain.

As the Guardian prints Richard Seymour’s hipster take on ISIS the StWC has just published the weighty reflections of Russell Brand: Will Obama’s bombs stop the ISIS beheadings?

By contrast over the weekend one of the Editors of the French Communist Party daily l’Humanité, and MEP, Patrick Le Hyaric, said of  the Islamic State, Da’esh, , “il faut briser les reins à ces égorgeurs.” – we must break the backs of these murderers.

He continued, “Nous avons, à cet instant, une pensée particulière pour nos frères et pour nos sœurs kurdes qui combattent en première ligne contre la cruauté sauvage de l’Etat islamique, en Irak comme en Syrie..” We have a special place in our thoughts for our brother and sister Kurds who are fighting in the front line against the savage cruelty of the Islamic State,in Iraq as in Syria.

Le Hyaric emphasised however that military action should be decided by Parliament and endorsed by the United Nations, and not take place through the channels of NATO.

The French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, NPA,  (the largest group associated with the Fourth International) has yet to publicly take a position on their Danish comrades’ decision.

Other articles in International Viewpoint, such as one by David Finkel published on the same day as the above contribution, repeat the well-known refrain that, “the global terror of imperialism generates its ugly local and regional counterparts from Taliban to the “Islamic State.” The terrorist forces arising in shattered societies can’t be eradicated without uprooting the global system that inevitably breeds them.”

The British FI group, Socialist Resistance has shown deep sympathy for the Kurdish struggle and the fight against ISiS.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: France Commits Treason by not Delivering Warships to Russia.

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Mélenchon: Denounces President Hollande’s “Treason”. 

France has suspended the first of two controversial Mistral-class warship deliveries to Russia, saying “conditions” were not in place as the crisis in Ukraine deepens.

The announcement comes a day before the start of a NATO summit and after months of pressure on France from allies to suspend the sale amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

President François Hollande’s office, in a statement after he met with top defence advisers, called the fighting in eastern Ukraine “grave”, and said Russia’s recent actions harm “the foundations of security in Europe”.

France 24.

The Guardian adds,

France is to suspend delivery of a state-of-the-art Mistral warship to Russia in protest at Moscow’s continued role in unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Following a defence committee meeting in Paris on Wednesday, a statement from the Elysée Palace said the government could not go ahead with the planned delivery of the warships, citing Moscow’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has taken a blatant military role.

“The president of the republic has concluded that despite the prospect of a ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place,” the statement said.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has responded by calling this action « trahison insupportable »  (intolerable treason)

“In deciding to halt the delivery of vessels acquired by Russia, François Hollande has committed an intolerable betrayal that completely devalues ​​the promises given by our country. It  It France as  independent provider of defensive armaments. This is a decision which has no bearing on the military side of the present conflict, demonstrates our country’s subjugation to the USA and the war policy of NATO . “

 Le Monde.

Navires : François commet une trahison insupportable – Communiqué – http://bit.ly/1nx3Z0p pic.twitter.com/ydnppHjnB3

Mélenchon has opposed the threats of NATO, led by the USA against Russia. He has (rightly) criticised the pro-Ukrainian bias of most of the French Media – the hysterical anti-Moscow tone of some of the articles in le Monde alone have to be read to be believed (see: Médias français en campagne ukrainienne. Mathias Reymond.).

You can see more of his views on the topic here, Retour au clavier (Le blog de Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

Many of these points are valid – there is little traction for the left in lining up behind a crusade against the Kremlin any more than there is in one to defend it.

But in Mélenchon’s reactions one cannot help feeling a patriotic timbre ringing throughout this declaration.

Compare…..

Marine Le Pen has also criticised the decision, on commercial grounds (the amount of compensation that will have to be paid, loss of a sale), and because it shows that France lacks “independence”.

The decision, above all,  “is very serious because it reveals our submission to American diplomacy.”

25,000 Demonstrate Peacefully for Gaza in Paris.

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Picture from L’Humanité.

Pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of Paris once more on Wednesday to march against Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip, the first authorised demonstration since a July 13 rally ended in clashes.

There had been fears of further violence ahead of the march, particularly after ugly scenes at two banned demonstrations over the weekend that saw protesters hurl rocks at police, who responded with volleys of teargas.

More than 1,000 undercover and uniformed officers were deployed along the march route, carrying riot gear and teargas in case trouble broke out.

But the march passed largely without incident, as the protesters made their way from southern Paris towards Invalides in the centre of the capital.

Police said around 14,500 people attended the rally, while organisers put the figure at 25,000.

France 24.

There were hundreds of CGT stewards (‘service d’ordre’) present to prevent  trouble and any expression of anti-Semitic views. The stewarding  on the day was carried out by activists from the CGT, NPA, Parti de gauche and the PCF (up-date from PD – Paris).

Libération reported this comment,

A l’avant du cortège, des jeunes crient «Israël assassin, Hollande complice». Un membre de l’Association France-Palestine solidarité (AFPS), appelle à la mesure :«Nous sommes tous des enfants de Gaza. On ne doit pas instrumentaliser la cause palestinienne pour propager l’antisémitisme. On se bat contre une politique agressive. Pas contre un peuple tout entier.»

At the head of the march youths shouted, “Israel – Murderer, Hollande – Henchman”. A member of the Association for France-Palestinian Solidarity called for moderation, “we are the children of Gaza. We must not use the Palestinian cause to spread anti-Semitism. We are fighting against aggressive policies. Not against a whole people.”

The march was organised by the “ Collectif National pour une Paix Juste et Durable entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.”

This group demands:

Pour l’arrêt immédiat des bombardements sur Gaza – an Immediate end to the bombardment of Gaza.

- Pour l’arrêt de l’agression israélienne en Cisjordanie et à Jérusalem For an end to the Israel aggression in the West Bank  and in Jerusalem

- Pour la levée du blocus, illégal et criminel, de Gaza Lifting the illegal and criminal blockade of Gaza.

- Pour des sanctions immédiates contre Israël jusqu’au respect du droit international For immediate sanctions against Israel until it respects international law.

- Pour le soutien au peuple palestinien et au gouvernement d’entente nationale. Back the Palestinian people and for a national unity government.

La cause palestinienne n’a rien à voir avec l’extrême droite et n’accepte aucun soutien de leur part – the Palestinian cause has nothing to do with the far-right, and (we) will accept no support from that quarter.

Left groups, le NPA, le PCF, le Front de gauche, the Ligue des droits de l’homme, and the ‘altermondialiste’ Attac, backed the march. (1)

A decision whether to permit a planned demonstration on Saturday – organised by the same people who led the Barbès march marked by violent incidents the previous weekend – has yet to be reached (Libération).

 

(1) Full List: Agir Contre le Colonialisme Aujourd’hui (ACCA) – Alliance for Freedom and Dignity (AFD) – Alternative Libertaire (AL) – Américains contre la guerre (AAW) – Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France (ATMF) – Association des Tunisiens en France (ATF) – Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) – Association Nationale des Elus Communistes et Républicains (ANECR) – Association pour la Taxation des Transactions financières et pour l’Action Citoyenne (ATTAC) – Association pour les Jumelages entre les camps de réfugiés Palestiniens et les villes Françaises (AJPF) – Association Républicaine des Anciens Combattants (ARAC) – Association Universitaire pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP) – Campagne Civile Internationale pour la Protection du Peuple Palestinien (CCIPPP) – Cedetim / IPAM – Collectif des Musulmans de France (CMF) – Collectif Faty Koumba – Collectif interuniversitaire pour la coopération avec les Universités Palestiniennes (CICUP) – Collectif Judéo-Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (CJACP) – Comité de Vigilance pour une Paix Réelle au Proche-Orient (CVPR PO) – Comité Justice et Paix en Palestine et au Proche-Orient du 5e arrt (CJPP5) Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) – Confédération paysanne – Droit-Solidarité – Ensemble – Europe Ecologie les Verts (EELV) – Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives (FTCR) – Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU) – Gauche Unitaire (GU) – Génération Palestine – La Courneuve-Palestine – le Mouvement de la Paix – les Alternatifs – les Femmes en noir – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) – Ligue Internationale des Femmes pour la Paix et la Liberté, section française de la Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) (LIFPL) – Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP) – Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF) – Organisation de Femmes Egalité – Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA)) – Parti Communiste Français (PCF) – Parti de Gauche (PG) – Participation et Spiritualité Musulmanes (PSM) – Une Autre Voix Juive (UAVJ) – Union des Travailleurs Immigrés Tunisiens (UTIT) – Union Générale des Etudiants de Palestine (GUPS-France) – Union Nationale des Etudiants de France (UNEF) – Union syndicale Solidaires

Mélenchon to take a Back-Seat on French Left?

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Now to Take a Back Seat? 

The co-President of the Parti de Gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has expressed his weariness, and his wish to take some distance. He estimates that the Front de Gauche has suffered a setback.

(Interview à Hexagones,Exclusive Interview with Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The leader of the Left Party announces his willingness to take a step back,  recharge his batteries, and says that it is time for him to pass the baton of leadership to others. He also noted the failure of the Left Front, and denounced the role of the media in the electoral breakthrough of the National Front.)

Mélenchon cited the need to escape from the pressures that his intense political activism, over the last five years, have brought.

He expressed the view that as a “big tree” he risked stunting the growth of the others in the left political “forest”  from growing.

It is time, the former Presidential candidate for the Front de gauche said, for new faces inside the Parti de gauche (his own group inside the bloc) to take a more prominent roles.

Mélenchon offered a critical balance-sheet of the Front de gauche, notably against the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and their electoral arrangements with the Parti Socialiste (PS).

He did not hesitate to criticise the “functionaries” who had attempted to isolate the great man. (1)

concluded that his time would be spent in giving a detailed content to the general ideas of the left. Above all, “La question pour nous n’est pas de faire un parti révolutionnaire, c’est d’aider à la naissance d’un peuple révolutionnaire». The issue for us is not to build a revolutionary party, but to help a revolutionary people be born.

Adpated from Libération.

This follows troubles inside the Parti de Gauche earlier this month.

A small number of leading figures resigned their posts, protesting at the “centralisation” of the small party.

Tensions et démissions au sein du parti de Jean-Luc Mélenchon 3.7.2014.

The set-back of the European elections has produced a number of responses.

The Parti Communiste Français has talked of building a “people’s front”, (Passer du Front de gauche au front du peuple.)

It is known that dissatisfied members of the ruling Parti Socialiste (‘frondeurs’) are upset above all with plans to cut spending and toe the line of budgetary ‘rigour’.

Ensemble, the third force in the Front de gauche (grouping a number of left currents), has proposed expanding to a broader  “anti-austerity” front.

Is something like a French People’s Assembly on the cards?

(1) Les Echoes fills in the dots,

“Sans les nommer, il met en cause Pierre Laurent, le secrétaire national du Parti communiste ainsi que Ian Brossat, adjoint communiste d’Anne Hidalgo, responsables d’une stratégie d’alliance qui a « complètement décrédibilisé ce qu’était le Front de Gauche, explosé entre ceux qui ne voulaient pas d’alliance avec le PS et ceux qui se sont vautrés dans cette alliance.»

Se montrant très critique sur la ligne adoptée par le Parti communiste « plus institutionnelle, plus traditionnelle, où on continue à penser que la gauche est une réalité partiaire, organisée et qu’on peut rectifier le tir du Parti socialiste »,

 

France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde.