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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. 

France: Left Demonstrates Against ‘Socialist’ Austerity Today.

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The Front de gauche, the  nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA), the left of the Greens (EELV) – against their party’s official refusal to participate, many trade union bodies, and civil society organisations (over 200), are marching today against the Austerity policies of Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President François Hollande.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the radical left Greek party, Syriza, will be present

While the recent local elections were marked by divisions within the main French left alliance, the Front de gauche, these have not prevented this unified demonstration.

The March is  “contre l’austérité, pour l’égalité et le partage des richesses” – against austerity, for equality, and sharing wealth.

Specifically it is opposed to the government’s “pact” with employers and plans to cut spending.

Leading forces behind the event stand for an “alternative left majority”  as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the Front de gauche puts it. 

According to Pierre Laurent, (of the French Communist Party, PCF) the “living forces” of the left must unite and construct an alternative capable of winning a majority of the French people to its side. The demonstrations of the 12 April could be the starting point of a new assembly, one that will find expression in during the polls for the European elections on the 25th of  May.

L’Humanité.

Maintenant ça suffit ! 

For a European Movement Against Austerity!

Alec Callinicos and French Communist Party on the Ukraine.

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US State Secretary lays flowers to Ukraine’s heroes from the Heavenly Hundred on March 4 in Kyiv.

Alex Callincios on the Ukraine.

Russia’s seizure of military control over Crimea has brought Ukraine to the brink of war.  This crisis represents the coming together of three distinct conflicts.

First, there is the struggle that has been going on for more than a decade among the corrupt and thuggish bunch of oligarchs who have dominated Ukraine since independence in 1991.

Secondly, there has been a genuine popular movement against the now exiled president, Viktor Yanukovych. This has expressed anger at the corruption of the entire political elite in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, this movement harbours illusions in the European Union (EU). Moreover, thanks to the historic weakness of the left in Ukraine, the far right has played a significant role in the “Euromaidan” occupation in Kiev.

Nevertheless, those who claim Yanukovych’s overthrow was a “fascist coup” are parroting Moscow propaganda. He fell because the section of the oligarchy who had previously backed him withdrew their support.

Third, and now most important, is the inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia and the West over Ukraine. In this conflict, Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it does to the United States or the EU.

A Ukraine that was fully integrated into the EU and Nato would be a step towards Moscow’s worst nightmare of being encircled by the West. President Vladimir Putin went to war with Georgia in 2008 to prevent this nightmare being realised.

He adds,

“Putin is engaging in an inter-imperialist power play.”

And,

“Socialists in the West must of course oppose any military intervention by the US or NATO in Ukraine. But the crisis reminds us that imperialism can’t be reduced to American domination. It is a system of economic and geopolitical competition among the leading capitalist powers.

Rather than tail any of these powers, we must fight this entire system. This means opposing Russian intervention in Ukraine. Never has the slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism” been more relevant.”

This is a seriously thought-out analysis and, despite all the temptations to contradict the SWP, many of us will agree with comrade Callinicos.

The Stop the War Coalition says some of the same things.

This is highly relevant.

We should also take no lessons from those who have supported intervention in the past in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and who proposed major air strikes in Syria as recently as last August. Nor should we believe concerns about national sovereignty from countries which have launched drone attacks on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

There are many political differences in Ukraine that can only be resolved politically and by respecting the language and civil rights of all concerned. But the background to this lies far beyond the borders of the Ukraine in terms of conflict between major powers.

They observe,

The expansion of the EU and Nato eastwards has led to the growth of a neoliberal and militarised agenda in the region.

We disagree with this to the extent that it tilts towards exonerating Putin and other Russian leaders from their own responsibility for the crisis.

But, to those who do not instinctively bristle at the lectures on democracy given by American and European politicians,not to mention the show of U.S. support for Ukraine’s new leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry,   we observe.

  • Has the US “freedom agenda” achieved stable political liberty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?
  • Did the US’s support for the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution”(2004 -5)  create a solid democratic foundation for the country?

How have others on the left reacted to the issues the Ukraine  face-to-face raises?

James Bloodworth provides a summary of the position of British left groups on Shiraz Socialist.

It would appear that few organised groups (apart from the Communist Party of Britain) hold the idea that the Ukraine has undergone  a “fascist coup.”

James manages to find some statements by individuals, such as the flatulent Gorge Galloway, who rave against the “fascist and ultra nationalist coup in Kiev”.

But is this (Left Unity) part of making a “moral equivalence” between unwanted Russian military intervention in Ukraine and economic assistance requested by the Ukrainian government to support its ailing economy”?

Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.

Whether under the flag of US, NATO, Russia or the European Union, military intervention only ever makes the situation many times worse. So it is in Ukraine. The West’s hypocrisy in condemning Russia for breaking international law is breathtaking: nevertheless, Russian troops hold no solution to the crisis.

A different reading would suggest that this about right. That there is no “political solution” worthy of support that encourages further steps on the neo-liberal road. Plans for drastic austerity in the Ukraine tend to demonstrate Left Unity’s point. It would be said that this is a position which represents the majority of the Left.

The majority of the left’s generally even-handed position contrasts with the hysteria whipped up by intellectuals such as Timothy Synder (Moscow is in thrall to a far-right Eurasian ideology), Anne Applebaum (Russia heads a new conservative International )  and  Bernard-Henri Lévy (Putin is playing a Sudetenland over the Ukraine).

It is interesting that comrade Callinicos’ own even-handed stand has received a warm welcome from members of the Novueau Parti anticaptialiste (NPA). (Forum des marxistes révolutionnaires)

Their party has inclined to the opposite error: too great enthusiasm for the new government in Kiev and too much emphasis on the faults of Russia’s leaders in creating the crisis.

The French Communist Party has launched a declaration “Solidarité avec les communistes ukrainiens” against the country’s far-right – which has attacked their members and offices.

The PCF also declares in a formal statement,

For the last three months the Ukraine has been ablaze with a mercilessness struggle for power between oligarchs, all as corrupt and venal as each other, and who have been made wealthy thanks to neo-liberal policies backed as much by the European Union as by Russia.

The European Union, Russia, the USA – via NATO, or directly – have been engaged in outbidding each others, threatening the us of  force, or military escalation. The Ukrainian people have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The French Communists warn of the danger of “groupes néo-nazis.” But they empathise that the need now is for all for immediate measures to be taken in the Ukraine to ensure that the people of the country take their own destiny in hand.

They call for an end to the “Logic of war” and the cynical “tête-à-tête” between the West and Russia.

It’s hard not to agree.

“Ukraine, New American Frontier” – Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

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Denounces Ukrainian Neo-Nazi US Hirelings. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the Ukraine (25th February).

This time it’s a coup! And once again, as one expects, propaganda is in full swing.  The challenge is enormous and geopolitical. The offensive against Russia , led by the North Americans, in competition with the Germans in full swing. As is always the case, France has no independent policy….”

“Those in Europe and the United States who validate coups and insurgencies are preparing the way for tomorrow’s conflicts cross the continent. Russia will not let them get away with it. This is quite in order. Nor will the Ukrainian people let themselves be had.  The healthy part of the Ukrainian people, freed from the tutelage of the corrupt elite, who had emerged as their spokesman and their government will take the initiative. You can count on a popular reaction against the  extreme right coup that  holds power today to the cheers of “the West.” The danger is that this violence may  trigger the risk of a partition of the country that the “Western” offensive could cause. Without forgetting the traditional domino effects…..”

Mélenchon has since added – over the weekend -  this observation,

The leader of the Left party said it was “absolutely predictable” that Russia would take “protective measures” in Crimea against the new “neo-Nazi” power and “coup”in the  Ukraine.

…………

The former candidate for President believes that “NATO and North Americans have been engaged for months in a provocation against Russia”. This was possible because of “the corruption and brutality” of  the previous Ukrainian government. According to him, “thanks to the legitimate discontent of Ukrainians, the North Americans infiltrated people in their pay, including those who count amongst  the most despicable and dangerous , especially the so-called Svoboda, which is  a National Socialist Party that has engaged in  multiple anti-Russian provocations “

A huge row on the French left has erupted around these comments: Politis.

Amongst the reactions are accusations that Mélenchon is culpable of aligning himself with Russia’s President Putin and has insulted those killed by the Ukrainian riot police. His party, the Parti de gauche, as been called a “sect”.

The Fourth International has reproduced this  declaration over the weekend,

This statement was made by the Central Committee of the Russian Socialist Federation on 1 March 2014. [1]

War has begun. With the aim of protecting and increasing the assets of the oligarchs in Russia and in Yanukovich’s coterie, Russia’s leadership has undertaken an invasion of Ukraine. This aggression threatens catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian and Russian peoples — most especially for the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Ukraine’s southeastern industrial regions.

For Ukraine, this will also mean an escalation of ethnic conflicts; for Russia, a consolidation of dictatorial power, repression, and chauvinist hysteria, with which the ruling elite will be able to neutralize mass anger against a backdrop of deepening economic crisis. We share the concern of residents of the southeast over the nationalistic tendencies of the new authorities in Kyiv.

It is, however, our firm conviction that freedom will be won not by Putin’s tanks, but by self-organization and the people’s own struggle for their civil, political, and socio-economic rights.

It goes without saying that the peoples of Ukraine have a right of self-determination, of full autonomy and independence. But what we are seeing today has nothing to do with the democratic will of the masses. It is a brazen and cynical act of Russian imperialism, aimed at annexing foreign territory and converting Ukraine into part of Russia’s protectorate.

Today, the struggle for freedom in Russia is a struggle against the foreign policy adventurism of the current regime, which seeks collusion in forestalling its own end. The RSD calls on all sincere left and democratic forces to organize anti-war protests. Our demands:

NO RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN WAR! NO PROVOCATIONS TO BLOODSHED IN UKRAINE!

NO PITTING AGAINST ONE ANOTHER OF THE PEOPLES OF UKRAINE AND RUSSIA!

NO INTERVENTION BY THE ARMIES OF RUSSIA OR ANY OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE AFFAIRS OF CRIMEA!

FREEDOM FROM DICTATORIAL ACTS AND PEACEABLE SELF-DETERMINATION FOR THE PENINSULA’S RESIDENTS!

YES TO THE UKRAINIAN WORKERS’ STRUGGLE AGAINST OLIGARCHS AND CORRUPT OFFICIALS! NO TO ETHNIC CONFLICTS!

Front de Gauche: Break up over European Elections and More.

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In Deep Trouble. 

Eric Coquerel of the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, writes today,

The turmoil this week has unfortunately confirmed that the contradictions of PCF makes it impossible to stay together, despite everything, for the launch of the European election campaign.

(Les soubresauts de cette semaine ont malheureusement confirmé que les contradictions du PCF rendent impossible de démarrer ensemble, malgré tout, la campagne européenne. )

There is a lot more, about the disagreements with the French Communist party over the local elections. The PCF has, in some cases, formed agreements with the ruling Parti Socialiste.

The sticking point is Paris where the PCF have put the Front de Gauche logo on a list arranged with the Socialists (see heavily over-written and wordy statement by the PdG).

The key part of this otherwise impenetrable text (backed by 97% of the party) is that the Parti de Gauche have issued an ultimatum to the Communists, to swear loyalty to them and that they will not form any alliance with the Socialists for the two elections of 2015, the cantonal and regional.

Those close to  Pierre Laurent, the head of the  PCF ,who is not on speaking terms with the PdG leader,  say that  Mélenchon, now decides everything – on his own – in the party. They comment that they, the Communists, are now expected to agree to whatever he says as well.

Nothing is clear about what will happen.

On France-Inter this morning it was reported that Mélenchon is flailing around, meeting with dissident Greens and Socialists, as well as the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA).

More in le Monde today.