Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Reasons to like the Berlin wall: ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Wall’.

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 Anti-Fascist Protection Wall Says Leading CPB Member. 

Just in case you thought the Sparts were the maddest group around… from here - close to the Communist Party of Britain.

 

Amidst the storm of propaganda surrounding the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall it is worth taking a step back and reviewing the circumstances in which it came to be built.

The following is the text of a 1962 pamphlet from the German Democratic Republic.

Newspapers, radio and television report daily about Berlin and West Berlin in many languages throughout the world. They often speak or write of a state frontier, or of a wall.

It may be very difficult for you to form a valid picture from all these reports which frequently contradict each other. We want to help you to do so.

We tried to imagine what would be the considerations of a citizen of a foreign state if he wanted to gain clarity about the problems in West Berlin. And we would like to reply to these considerations.

1st CONSIDERATION. Where, exactly, is Berlin situated?

A glance at the map suffices: Berlin lies in the middle of the German Democratic Republic, exactly 180 kilometres (112.5 miles) to the east of its western frontier. A quite normal locality for the capital of a state. Only one thing is not normal at all: that a hostile, undermining policy and disruptive acts have for years been carried on from the western part of this city against the surrounding state territory. West Berlin Mayor Willi Brandt called West Berlin a “thorn in the side of the GDR.” Would you like to have a thorn in your side? We don’t either! But Brandt even proclaims quite frankly: “We want to be the disturber of the peace.”

2nd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall fall out of the sky?

No. It was the result of developments of many years standing in West Germany and West Berlin. Let us recall preceding events: In 1948 a separate currency reform was introduced in West Germany and West Berlin – the West German reactionaries thereby split Germany and even west Berlin in to two currency areas.

The West German separatist state was founded in 1949 – Bonn thereby turned the zonal border into a state frontier.

In 1954 West Germany was included in NATO – Bonn thereby converted the state frontier into the front-line between two pact systems.

The decision on the atomic armament of the West German Bundeswehr was made in 1958 – thus, Bonn continues to aggravate the situation in Germany and Berlin. Repeatedly the annexation of the GDR is proclaimed as the official aim of Bonn policy, most recently in a statement of the Adenauer Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on 11 July 1961.

Thus did the anti-national, aggressive NATO policy create the wall which today separates the two German states and also goes through the middle of Berlin. The Bonn government and the West Berlin Senate have systematically converted West Berlin into a centre of provocation from where 90 espionage organizations, the RIAS American broadcasting station in West Berlin (Radio in American Sector) and revanchist associations organize acts of sabotage against the GDR and the other socialist countries. Through our protective measures of 13 August 1961 we have only safeguarded and strengthened that frontier which was already drawn years ago and made into a dangerous front-line by the people in Bonn and West Berlin. How high and how strongly fortified a frontier must be, depends, as is common knowledge, on the kind of relations existing between the states of each side of the frontier.

3rd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall have to come?

Yes and no. We have submitted more than one hundred proposals for understanding, on the renunciation of atomic armament, and on the withdrawal of the two German states from NATO or the Warsaw Treaty. If things had gone according to our proposals the situation in Germany would not have been aggravated and, consequently, there would have been no wall. Especially since 1958 the GDR and the Soviet Union have repeatedly told the West Berlin Senate, the Bonn government, and the western powers: Be reasonable! Let us eliminate the abnormal situation in West Berlin together. Let us start negotiations. Why did Bonn and West Berlin reject these proposals? Why did they, instead, step up agitation to an unprecedented degree before 13 August? – The wall had to come because they were bringing about the danger of a conflict. Those who do not want to hear, must feel.

4th CONSIDERATION. What did the wall prevent?

We no longer wanted to stand by passively and see how doctors, engineers, and skilled workers were induced by refined methods unworthy of the dignity of man to give up their secure existence in the GDR and work in West Germany or West Berlin. These and other manipulations cost the GDR annual losses amounting to 3.5 thousand million marks.

But we prevented something much more important with the wall – West Berlin’s becoming the starting point for a military conflict. The measures we introduced in 13 August in conjunction with the Warsaw Treaty states have cooled off a number of hotheads in Bonn and West Berlin. For the first time in German history the match which was to set fire to another war was extinguished before it had fulfilled its purpose.

5th CONSIDERATION. Was peace really threatened?

Indian journalists R. K. Karanjia shall give you the answer to the question. He published a sensational report from Berlin in the biggest Indian weekly,Blitz in which the world public is warned against the West Berlin powder-keg. K. R. Karanjia wrote:

“It (the protective wall of the GDR) served the cause of world peace since it halted the advance of the German neo-Hitlerites toward the East, forced the world to recognize the reality of the division of Germany and thus supports negotiation.” (retranslated from German)

If further evidence of the aggressive intentions of the West German government is needed it is provided by the authoritative West German employers’ newspaper, the Industriekurier, which regretfully wrote, exactly 19 days after 13 August 1961: “A reunification with the Bundeswehr marching victoriously through the Brandenburg Gate to the beating of drums – such a reunification will not take place in the foreseeable future.”

Bonn heads were really haunted by ideas of such a victorious entry. That would have meant war.

6th CONSIDERATION. Who is walled in?

According to the exceedingly intelligent explanations of the West Berlin Senate we have walled ourselves in and are living in a concentration camp. But in that case why are the gentlemen so excited? Obviously, because in reality their espionage centres, their revanchist radio stations, their fascist solders’ associations, their youth poisoners, and their currency racketeers have been walled in. They are excited because we have erected the wall as an antifascist, protective wall against them.

Does something not occur to you? West Berlin Mayor Brandt wails that half of the GDR, including the workers in the enterprise militia groups, is armed. What do you think of a concentration camp whose inmates have weapons in their hands?

7th CONSIDERATION. Who breaks off human contacts?

Of course, it is bitter for many Berliners not to be able to visit each other at present. But it would be more bitter if a new war were to separate them for ever. Moreover, when the GDR was forced to introduce compulsory entry permits for West Berlin citizens on 23 August in the interests of its security we at the same time offered to open up entry permit offices in municipal railway stations in West Berlin. In fact we opened them and issued the first permits. Who closed them by force? The same Senate of that Mr. Brandt who is today shedding crocodile tears about “contacts being broken”! The GDR has maintained its offer. If we had our way Berliners could visit each other despite the wall.

8th CONSIDERATION. Does the wall threaten anyone?

Bonn propaganda describes the wall as a “monstrous evidence of the aggressiveness of world communism.” Have you ever considered it to be a sign of aggressiveness when someone builds a fence around his property?

9th CONSIDERATION. Who is aggravating the situation?

The wall? It stands there quite calmly. Former French Premier Reynaud said already on 19 August 1961, according to UPI: “The sealing-off measures of the East Berlin government did not increase, but lessened, the danger of a third world war.”

In reality, the situation is being aggravated by persons who play at being the strong man on our state frontier, who are turning West Berlin into a NATO base and daily inciting West Berliners against the GDR. Municipal railway cars are being destroyed, frontier guards attacked and brutally shot, tunnels dug for agents and bomb attacks made on the GDR’s frontier security installations. Does that serve relaxation? One must really ask why attacks on the GDR state frontier in West Berlin are not subject to court prosecution as in other states. The Brandt Senate even presents “its respects” to the provocateurs.

10th CONSIDERATION. Is the wall a gymnastic apparatus?

The wall is the state frontier of the German Democratic Republic. The state frontier of a sovereign state must be respected. That is so the world over. He who does not treat it with respect can not complain if he comes to harm. West German and West Berlin politicians demand that “the wall be removed.” We are not particularly fond of walls, either. But please consider where the actual wall runs in Germany, the wall which must be pulled down in your and our interest. It is the wall which was erected because of the fateful Bonn NATO policy. On the stones of this wall stand atomic armament, entry into NATO, revanchist demands, anti-communist incitement, non recognition of the GDR, rejection of negotiations, the front-line city of West Berlin.

So, make your contribution to the pulling down of this wall by advocating a reasonable policy of military neutrality, peaceful co-existence, normal relations between the two German states, the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany, a demilitarized Free City of West Berlin. That is the only way to improve the situation in Berlin, to safeguard peace, a way which can, one day also lead to the reunification of Germany. The wall says to the war-mongers:

He who lives on an island should not make an enemy of the ocean.

Decide in favour of the recognition of realities. don’t join in the row over the wall. Perhaps YOU don’t want socialism. That is your affair.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Islamist Genociders Destroy Memorial to Victims of Armenian Holocaust.

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Islamist Genociders Destroy  Memorial to Armenian Holocaust. 

There has been a spate of articles and ‘reports’ in the media over the last few days trying to excuse those who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamist genociders.

Bunch of lads, high spirited youth, idealists……

Well this is the latest jolly jape of their mates,

“Islamists’ destruction of a shrine to the victims of genocide marks the latest chapter in a tragic national history. Robert Fisk reports from Qamishli, north-eastern Syria

In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, built in dedication to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins.

Independent. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Thoughts on the LRC Conference.

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Bruther Miffed Me Forty  Years Ago.

Well over forty years ago a young Tendance Coatesy was denounced in a ‘self-criticism’ session (this is not made up by the way) as a ‘negative element’ at a Woodcraft Folk International  Camp.

The person who said this, Ken Keable, was well known for ‘fiddling’ – waking us at the crack of dawn with his tuneless melodies played on his ‘fiddle’ – outside the tents of us who got off with girls.

The stalinist shite who  did the denouncing was one Stan Keable – a sosie for an East German Youth.

His brother Stan Keable was prominent at the weekend meeting of the LRC.

Well he may have defended Graham Durham, the Cricklewood Pauper, born in a tin bath, brought up with the Four Yorkshiremen, but we say:

Rebuild  the Woodcraft Folk anti-Revisionist Front!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm

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Labour Representation Committee Backs Kurdish Struggle.

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Kurdish Fighters: Our Kith and Kin. 

Yesterday the Labour Representation Committee AGM voted to back the Kurdish struggle.

Cagdas Canbolat from the Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre made a moving speech describing the current situation of the Kurds in Northern Syria. He talked of the importance of the heroic struggle of the people of Kobane against Isis (Da’esh). Warning against the manoeuvres of the Turkish state and the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia (all (implicated in allowing the jihadists to flourish),for he stressed the need to be wary of the actions of the Western powers. But, with the common socialist objectives of his organisation and the British left, our priority must be support the Kurdish people’s fight.

In the afternoon the LRC’s views on international affairs were debated.

There was no full resolution on the Kurdish issue, although comrade John McDonnel (MP) has held a welcome meeting in the House of Commons on the topic.

There as however a general declaration in support of the Kurds’ fight, and for their right to self-determination.

During the discussion the Tendance regretted that the LRC had not had time to adopt the very recent Fire Brigades’ Union resolution ,

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

FBU

Afterwards I interviewed comrade Cagdas Canbolat.

He reiterated the importance of Kobane, the Kurdish defence of diversity in a region where this is threatened, and the role of women in leading their struggle against the genocidal Islamists.

Back in Ipswich that evening – at nearly ten o’clock – I went into a Kurdish run Newsagents/Off Licence on my way home.

Having already in the recent past already discussed the Kurdish fight with the people there I mentioned the debates at the LRC Conference.

Immediately the proprietor grasped his mobile and showed me pictures of him and his wife at last Saturday’s London day of Solidarity with Kobane.

He began talking about the bravery of the women fighters of the YPG – People’s Protection Units.

I asked if he had seen the video of the Kurdish comrades with the Italian Partisan Song, Bella Ciao.

He sang the first words!

I said that what I liked about the Kurds was that they are “normal people”.

By this I meant – and was understood to mean – that they are simply ordinary decent people.

He liked that expression and repeated it.

A phrase I used in the LRC debate was that these are our “kith and kin“.

That is, people who know, people we feel at ease with, not a special ‘heroic’ ‘victim’ group.

They are friends, neighbours – in my case a number of allotment holders, those who come to the Ipswich Trades Council May Day events, and those I have taught English to.

Nothing special – just plain decent people.

We in the labour movement and left do know the Kurdish organisations – they have supported us, they are part of us.

Ordinary or not the Kurds of Northern Syria are called on to do extraordinary acts.

As our flesh and blood they must be supported to the hilt.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

Spartacist League Backs Isis Against US Imperialist “Main enemy”. Denounces Kurds as “US Adjuncts”.

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Imperialist ‘adjuncts’ Says Spartacist League. 

If ever there was a more bizarre example, and distasteful vile and foul,  at that, of ‘dialectical’ excuses for genociders it would be hard to find.

“It goes without saying that we internationalist communists are die-hard enemies of the ultra-reactionary social and political program of ISIS, whose methods of rooting out “apostates” amount to mass slaughter. We condemn communal atrocities on all sides. ISIS is itself the imperialists’ creation, having emerged out of the intercommunal slaughter triggered by the U.S. occupation.”

Workers Vanguard.

But (there’s got to be a but..) 

“But ISIS today is in battle against the local tools of U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people. A setback for the U.S. in Syria might give pause to Washington in its military adventures, including by encouraging opposition at home. Such opposition adds to the tinder that must be ignited in class struggle against the capitalist rulers who, in their quest for ever greater profits, beat down the workers, black people and immigrants.”

“We uphold the right of national self-determination for the Kurdish people, who are oppressed by the bourgeois regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.”

However (there’s got to be a howeverr)

“However, in Iraq and Syria today as in Iraq after 2003, when the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan enrolled as adjuncts of the U.S. occupation, the nationalist parties have subordinated the struggle for Kurdish national rights to their role as imperialist proxies. Championing the Kurds in the current conflict can only mean lending support to imperialist plunder.”

“Protests called by Kurdish nationalist groups in Germany, Australia and elsewhere have backed U.S. airstrikes in Syria and demanded that the imperialists supply the Syrian Kurds with arms. These calls have been echoed by many reformist leftists around the world, giving credence to the “humanitarian” cover for the imperialist onslaught. Thus, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and some leaders of the Left Party in Germany (not to mention the bourgeois German Greens) have called on their respective capitalist governments to arm the Kurds in Kobani.”

 “By selling their souls to the imperialists as well as to various regional bourgeois regimes, Kurdish leaders help perpetuate the divide-and-rule stratagems that inevitably inflame communal, national and religious tensions and serve to reinforce the oppression of the Kurdish masses.”

Yet all ends happily…..

“The goal of Marxists in the belly of the imperialist beast is to instill in the U.S. proletariat the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within, through socialist revolution. To realize this task requires forging a revolutionary workers party committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 7, 2014 at 6:40 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.

Belgium: National Trade Union Protests.

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Belgium: Unions Protest Against Right-wing Government. 

Tens of thousands of people have responded to a united call from Belgium’s trade unions ( FGTB, ACLVB/ACVCSC ,  ABVV/CGSLB – socialist, Christian democrats and liberals)

together and have gathered at the Gare du Nord in Brussels to express their opposition to the agreement of Michel government.Unions expected 100,000 people in the streets of Brussels. A goal that could be achieved if it is based on the number of special tickets sold by SNCB (National Railway service)  for the occasion: 80,000.

Marc Goblet, secretary general of the FGTB, confides: “We will probably be well over 120,000 people. And if this plan is not enough, we will hold another march in January “

Many of the protesters, from the Flemish speaking north and the French speaking south of the country, have assembled together. A degree of  tension prevailed at the location of the gathering. Some traffic lights were damaged. So far these are isolated incidents.  

The transport system (apart from trains carrying marchers) is severely affected by solidarity strikes Le Soir.

The country’s public radio station, La Première reported this morning that support was strong in the Flemish north, with dockers from Antwerp joining in, and the Flemish Socialist Party directly  participating in the demonstration.

Many ordinary people, interviewed in Brussels, backed the march even if they themselves were unable to join in.

The four main reasons for the protest are the end of indexing salaries and welfare to keep up with inflation, later retirement age (67), enhanced flexibility and a lack of contribution of the very wealthy.

That is, put simply, budget cuts.

These policies are being introduced by the right-wing government Coalition of Flemish nationalists (N-VA), the Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V) and the liberal parties (Open Vld/MR) . Only one member party of the Coalition is Francophone – the liberal  Mouvement Réformateur (MR)

Nationale betoging start chaotisch

Update: Violence at end of March (le Soir)

Incidents broke out in the afternoon. “Several hundred protesters – led by dockers from the port of Antwerp and Ghent, and engineering workers from Liege were joined by hundreds of left-wing youth. They faced the police. Paving stones were launched  and vehicles were torched. The police responded with tear gas and water cannons.” There are reports of serious injuries.

© Belga.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

More: Manifestation nationale: La police charge les derniers manifestants à la Porte de Hal. (Libre Belgique)

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Au moins 100 000 personnes défilent contre les coupes budgétaires en Belgique (le Monde)

Des dizaines de milliers de manifestants ont défilé jeudi 6 novembre sur les boulevards du centre-ville de Bruxelles.

Mashable: Labour Protests Turn Violent.

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Belgium Protest Crowd

IMAGE: GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Belgium Protest

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm