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France: the Left, the Future of a Disillusion – Eric Fassin

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Un manifestant, le 1er mai 2014.

Hollande: ‘Sarkozy with a Human Face’? 

Eric Fassin sociology professor at  the ’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) has written a new book, Gauche : l’avenir d’une désillusion (The Left: the future of a disillusion).  It offers a highly critical balance-sheet of Hollande’s presidency.

Interview with CÉCILE DAUMAS

Two years ago François Hollande was elected President of the Republic. Have these been two years of economic realism or of a long disillusionment?

Hollande is “Sarkozy with a human face”, you say in your book: the issue  is no longer whether it is still socialist or has passed over  to the Social Democracy … you think he is the gravedigger of social democracy . Is this not exaggerated?

The President “admitted” to being a  ” social democrat”. The press applauded, starting with Libération . But the “pact responsibility” (Hollande’s key measure this year AC)  has been arranged with  the employers, not the unions. Social democracy implies a trade-off between capital and labour. Holland has reason to reject those who use the term “social-liberal” (about his policies. AC): his government is hardly “social.” It may well be  true that in policies, “the State will take the initiative”; but it is at the service of companies, banks and markets. This is not a liberal but neoliberal state. “Holland has got rid of socialism,” Alain Minc has announced with joy, just  as “Mitterrand  got rid of communism” .

But Holland hasn’t he proved that the left  can be realistic about the economy, something the left is often accused of being incapable of?

It’s an odd kind of economic realism that turns its back on the analyses of economists. We are told that “too much tax kills tax”. It would be better to remember that austerity kills prosperity, except for a few. It reduces purchasing power, boosts precarious employment and promotes … the incomes of rentiers. Who can believe that the money given to companies benefits employment, and not  shareholders? What  the socialist leaders call realism is a renunciation of the values ​​and intelligence of the left, as if reality was necessarily fixed on the Right.

At Le Bourget, the candidate Hollande called his enemy (“finance”) and declared: “There has never, I mean never, been only one possible policy, regardless of the seriousness of the situation” . Today he says the opposite – as François Mitterrand did in 1983  (when he turned to the Right, AC).

This is the posthumous triumph of Margaret Thatcher and her assertion that “There is no alternative” In other words, there is no policy: the illusion of ‘realism’  ” kills democracy.

Because if there is no alternative, voters choose either abstention or the Front National which has  denounced the “UMPS” (the Right-Left’ consensus in power, AC).

**********************

You imagine in your book a scenario in which the  second round of the Presidential elections (2017)  is a duel between  UMP  (Right) and the FN  (far-Right). .. This strategy (by the Socialist Party) of refocusing its goals,, or (as critics allege) its drift to the right,  is it doomed to failure?

There are certainly reasons to be frightened ! Since 2002, the direction of endless Socialist Party changes has been always  rightward … However, if the government imitates the right in the same way that  the right imitates the extreme right, the result is that voters often prefer the original to the copy. We are on this slippery slope towards this.  Hollande, for once realistic, has already mentioned that he may well not stand as a Presidential candidate in the 2017  election.

 Adapted extracts from Libération.

More on Fassin’s book, and his, call to rebuild links between the Left and the People,   Éric Fassin : « Il faut peser plus que notre poids, devenir des minorités agissantes »

Les Renards Pâles. Yannick Haenel. Situationism Reborn?

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Les Renards Pâles. Yannick Haenel. 2013. Situationism Reborn?

“The memory of Guy Debord and the Situationist International went through me like the flash of a flaming comet: they were the last, in France, to give life to the word ‘revolution’, and to live that out as true freedom.” (Page 26)

Jean Deichel, the narrator of Les Renards Pâles (the Pale Foxes), is 43 years old and unemployed. Rent unpaid, living in a kind of stupor, he leaves his flat and goes to live in his car, a Renault 11 Break, in one of the last streets in Paris where parking is not metered.

Turning the radio on Jean finds that a new French President has been elected – he had chosen not to cast his ballot. As he listens he keeps hearing the word “work”. Work? It destroys people’s lives. After having slogged his guts out in the Parisian suburbs, he has decided that he simply does not want a job. Jean imagines what would happen if everybody refused to be docile, to obey the “republican duty” to labour, a general strike against work…

A very different story to the man who loses his post and pretends to go out to the office every day follows. Jean roams Paris, guided by his ‘I Ching’, En attendant Godot, found in the glove compartment. He is unconcerned with current events, sensitive only to the changing “clouds and overgrown weeds that cover the last empty spaces of Paris.”

Something of a psychogeographer and a cousin of Walter Benjamin’s Flâneurs Jean does not linger in the modern Arcades, les Halles, or the luxury elsewhere but remains outside, often in the 19th and 20th Arrondissements. He sees the phantoms of the Commune rise, thinks, at Tourelles, of an Internment Camp for ‘undesirables’, refugees and resistance fighters, in 1941. Jean is aware of the hidden civil war that continues in France right till today. It was if the “blood of revolutionaries had never ceased flowing in France.” (Page 95)

A Belleville encounter with an acquaintance, and his circle of rebellious “artists” (the inverted commas are Haenal’s) rises into an intoxicating debate about confronting the “nouvel élu” (the President). Jean announces that he had voted for Max Stirner, the author of the Ego and His Own, (1844). Is this an affirmation of his “uniqueness”? One, Bison, is a veteran of the Genoa 2011 protests. He does not stop talking about the G8, that it crystallised the world split into the resistance and the repression. Corned about his own politics, Jean admits, to the disdain of his questioner, that he voted for nobody. He finishes by thinking that the phantoms of the state take a life of their own, “politics eats the body of those who have the weakness to believe in it.” (Page 43)

Two of this group leave to join the Tarnac Group (L’inssurection qui vient). Yet Jean’s own itinerary leads to perhaps a more radical end.

The Dogans and Les Renards Pâles

Fascinated by a wall slogan, La Société n’existe pas, Jean ponders the idea that there is no place for him, or us, in a society that talks of “re-educating” the unemployed through compulsory labour. He meets Malian migrants, working as dustmen, “picking up France’s shit to feed Mali.” A mysterious woman, nicknamed ‘La Reine de Pologne’ who visits the swimming pool he uses to keep clean, takes him to a Griot (Malian Sorcerer) who explains the story of the Renards Pâle, a creature of their cosmology, “cet animal anarchiste qui s’étatait rebellé contre la Création” (page 109) The cruelty of this anarchist animal, inspiring divination, could come to Paris and in an insurrection that could overturn our world.

The novel unfolds into that tumultuous uprising: “un spectre hante la France, c’est L’Afrique”. Treated as slaves, massacred under colonial rule – as “brutes” in the Heart of Darkness – Africa has come to France as the ‘sans papiers’ (‘illegals’). The deaths of two Malians, Issa and Kouré, set the wheels of rebellion in motion. An “Insurrection of masks”, abolishing the very of countries, and…at the conclusion, masks and identity papers. “Cette nuit à travers les flames qui la consacraient, la place de la Concorde reprenait son ancien nom: elle était à nouveau la place de la Révolution.” (Page 173) The old name, Revolution, is restored, and, in a world where nobody has identity papers any more, the conclusion left just beyond the tips of our tongues. That may well be a world without borders, and free from the “republican duty” to toil in misery.

André Breton spoke of. “convulsive” beauty. He would have been stunned by Les Renards Pâles. The novel’s pages are studded with agitated movement (a frequent word is ‘tituber’), and glimpses of the majestic beyond. The past weighs in both through nightmarish revenants, and reappears through more kindly Furies. Heanal has made a political and artistic intervention that breaks the boundaries of what appears possible – and impossible. In this sense it is truly in the line of all that was best in Situationism. That is not all. The prose and delivery of Les Renards Pâles stands muster with the best contemporary world literature.

Le Monde critic Jean Birnbaum is amongst many who have fallen for Haenel’s “hypnotic charm” and “sublime voice” (le Monde des Livres. 23rd August 2013) This book is important: it must be read.

* The Tarnac group’s ideas are clearly referenced by Haenel, “S’organiser par-delà et contre le travail, deserter collectivement le régime de la mobilisation, manifester l’existence d’une vitalité et d’une discipline dans la démobilisation même est un crime qu’une civilization aux abois n’est pas près de nous pardoner; c’est en effet la seule façon de lui survivre”

L’insurrection qui vient. 2007.

Account in English here.

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Gérard Depardieu: Boycott this Tax Traitor!

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Boycott Greedy Gérard!

Gérard Depardieu, one of the best-paid French cinema actors, now lives in Belgium in the village of Néchin, near the French border.

This place, it is said, has all the charms and cultural attractions of a South Essex hamlet.

The Bourgmestre (Mayor), Daniel Senesael, openly admits the new resident is there for financial reasons.

That is, to avoid French taxes and benefit from a more favourable regime that the wealthy (and only them) enjoy in Belgium.

27% of the village’s inhabitants are ‘tax exiles’.

Earlier this year, when he was not pissing himself on planes, Depardieu,  gave his public backing to Nicolas Sarkozy.

At a public rally with the Presidential candidate at Villepinte he said,

“Since my friend Nicolas Sarkozy came to power, I only hear bad things about this man who does nothing but good,”

Libération reports, that the French left has taken a serious dislike to the man once proud of  his working class roots.

“Minister  Benoît Hamon has said that Depardieu has decided to avoid paying his due in a time of economic crisis. That is “anti-patriotic”. “

The PCF has compared him to a miser.

“It’s shameful” says Nathalie Arthaud, of Lutte Ouvrière. “It doesn’t surprise me, when somebody gets millions every year to get tired of paying tax. Meanwhile workers, those on the minimum wage, the unemployed, they have to.” She called for a crack down on tax evasion.

On France-Inter this morning there were strong suggestions that the French state will not take Depardieu’s efforts to avoid giving something back for the money he makes from the country lightly.

They will be watching his every move for ways to get him to pay up.

Meanwhile we support this: Boycott every film Gérard makes!

What of Depardieu’s future?

We imagine him, in his Néchin Mansion.

Dressed in a giant nappy, barely able to contain his girth,  he is  watching DVDs of his past triumphs.

Gérard is eating his tenth Horse steak and washing it down with a pail of wine from his Château de Tigné.

Next to him is  a bucket of chips swimming in mayonnaise.

Sometimes he breaks into lonely sobs.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

French Parliamentary Elections: Joy Mixed with Sadness.

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There was no «vague rose» but the French Left won the basis for a comfortable majority in yesterday’s first round of the Parliamentary elections.

Party First round Second round Total
seats
+/–
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Socialist Party 7,617,996 29.35 22          
Union for a Popular Movement‎ 7,037,471 27.12 9          
National Front 3,528,373 13.60 0          
Left Front 1,792,923 6.91 0          
Europe Ecology – The Greens 1,418,141 5.46 1          
Miscellaneous right 910,392 3.51 1          
Miscellaneous left 881,339 3.40 1          
New Centre 569,890 2.20 1          
Centre for France 458,046 1.76 0          
Radical Party of the Left 429,059 1.65 1          
Radical Party 321,054 1.24 0          
Extreme left 253,580 0.98 0          
Ecology 249,205 0.96 0          
Centre Alliance 156,026 0.60 0          
Regionalists 145,825 0.56 0          
Extreme right 49,501 0.19 0          
Others 133,729 0.52 0          
Invalid/blank votes 420,749  
Total 26,373,299 100 36          
Registered voters/turnout 46,083,260 57.23    
Source: Ministry of the Interior

From Wikipedia more Here. and Here.

This good result is unfortunately tarnished by this,

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon gambled and lost by standing against far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the deprived constituency of Hénin-Beaumont. He came third in the first round of the French parliamentary election, leaving Le Pen facing Socialist candidate Philippe Kemel.

 

Le Pen, standing for the Front National (FN), was in the lead with 42.36 per cent, Kemel won 23.50 per cent and Mélenchon, representing the Left Front, 21.48 per cent. (from RFI here)

On a personal note I was not happy when I heard the above on France-Inter last night.

Even less by this,

Le Front national s’est qualifié au deuxième tour dans 61 circonscriptions.

La présidente du FN, Marine Le Pen, a annoncé lundi matin à Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais) que ses candidats se maintiendraient dans la totalité des 61 circonscriptions où son parti a accès au second tour. Here.

Ridan (Nadir Kouidri): From Le Blues de Banlieue to the Front de Gauche.

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Ridan sings “le Blues de banlieue”.

“les chansons à textes entendues chez ses parents d’origine algérienne, celles de Léo Ferré, Jacques Brel ou Serge Reggiani, lui parlent davantage et prennent naturellement le relais. Face aux inégalités, au racisme ou face à l’hypocrisie de la société, il choisit les mots comme exutoire à sa révolte. Ceux qui parlent de notre quotidien, de nos désillusions, de la police, de racisme, d’injustice, avec une pertinence qui rappelle celle de Renaud à ses débuts. Ridan chante alors ce que Nadir écrit. L’écriture écorchée, réaliste, laisse transparaître le spleen de l’artiste.” More – Here and Wikipedia (French) Here.

In the Presidential elections Ridan backed the Front de gauche (interview here)

He performed at theFdG  Bastille Rally on the 18th of March.

Ridan against Fascism here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2012 at 11:13 am

Sarkozy Insults Hollande as UMP Prepares to Negotiate with the Front National.

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@DavidAzariaFR from Here.

Coming back from a UNITE meeting (we didn’t go to the pub) the French Presidential debate was still on the radio.

The BBC sums up what stuck in my mind,

The president called Mr Hollande a “little slanderer”, (Petit calomniateur TC) while his rival said Mr Sarkozy shirked responsibility.

Mr Sarkozy defended his record and said he had kept France out of recession. But Mr Hollande said France was going through a “serious crisis” and was struggling with slow growth.

The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt says it was a long, bad-tempered debate that left the impression that neither candidate liked each other.

There were plenty of angry exchanges, with both candidates accusing each other of lying.

Mr Hollande accused President Sarkozy of “ruining the French economy”, prompting his rival to say he had been unfairly blamed.

“It’s never your fault,” Mr Hollande responded, to which Mr Sarkozy said: “It’s a lie, it’s a lie!”impression of the debate.

The above, and a rather arid exchange of statistics and economics, was my central impression of the debate.

On Europe 1 this morning I heard an actress say that she was now voting for Hollande because only he could unite the French people.

That certainly was the pre-political impression you got of  how people would react to Sarkozy’s agitated, attack-dog, approach. Not to mention his obsession with ‘immigration’ and other far-right themes.

The capacity of the French Right to split the country is now accelerating.

This is the latest on a possible agreement with the Front National.

The outgoing Defence Minister,Gérard Longuet, gave an interview to Minute, an extreme right-wing  weekly . It called for a ‘dialogue’ with the Front National. This was widely interpreted as a call for political arrangements.

Capture de l'interview de Gérard Longuet dans le "Minute" du 02/05/2012.
 
Now he denies every intending this.
 
It’s a lie, a lie, etc, etc .
 
 Latest  on this story Here.
 
 

François Hollande: A Tranquil Force?

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Can François Holland Repeat this?

François Hollande has won the French Socialist Primary.

In next year’s French Presidential elections he will stand as the principle opponent of Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Guardian comments,

He was known as l’homme tranquille – the quiet man – an amiable, if shambling figure who liked to talk, but not about himself, and who was witty, well-meaning, normal and just a little dull. The Socialist Party’s eternal backroom boy, doing all the essential, worthy jobs, but keeping resolutely out of the spotlight. Here.

The reference to the ”l’homme tranquille” does not only have this connotation – leading back the film The Quiet Man.

For anyone who has French political culture (perhaps not the Guardian’s ), ‘tranquil’ refers immediately to 1981 when Francois Mitterrand became the first left President of the 5th Republic. “La force tranquille“, his campaign slogan, remains glued to that event.

Holland won the run-off with Martine Aubry. He is considered by some to be on the right of the Parti  Socialiste (PS) – though more accurately as part of its social democratic centre. She was sometime portrayed as on the left. Aubry runs Lille in coalition with the centre party, the MoDems, which blunts this image.

This right-left division (though they disagree on many issues, such as the details of the 35 hour week) is misleading.  Both are wedded to the PS late 90’s turn from support for state intervention to backing for its  ‘regulatory’ role. Both endorsed the 1998 PS’s déclaration de principes which dropped its remaining references to class struggle socialism for an appeal to republican and Enlightenment values.

Both are pretty decent human beings, whatever the very strong political differences a left-wing socialist would have with them.

The surprise 17% score of left-winger Arnaud Montebourg in the first round lost its own impact when Montebourg announced in a ‘personal capacity’ that he would cast his ballot for Holland.

Holland now stands against Sarkozy. If he is ‘normal’, that is capable of rational argument, with ordinary tastes and a calm manner, that will play to his advantage.

France’s President is not a decent human being. Nor is he ‘tranquil’ .  Described as “morpion  hystérique” Sarkozy is a bundle of nerves, whose ability to present a case rationally, or accept contradiction, is not immediately apparent.

Holland now leaves the way open to a challenge from the left. Those attracted to Montebourg’s call for measures against fiannce capital and for radical social change can look to another Presidential hopeful, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

With the outside left, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste and Lutte Ouvrière down at a low level of support (at respectively 0,5% and 1,5% in opinion polls) most the left is focused on Melenchon (uop to 9%) and the alliance behind him,  the Front de Gauche.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has announced his willingness to debate Holland.

We hope he is able to.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm