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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

French Appeal in Support of Kurds, Communist Party Backs Kurdish Fighters.

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The Parti Communiste Français (PCF) declared in July,

ISIL’s offensive force: solidarity with the Syrian Kurds

The Islamist terrorist organisation Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which decreed the creation of a Caliphate which straddles Iraq and Syria, has launched a military offensive against independent Syrian Kurdistan.

Taking advantage of the disintegration of Iraq and seizing heavy weapons, they have taken their fight  to Kurdish districts in Syria, areas in which the population has for months waged a heroic struggle against these obscurantist forces  – supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The “West”, including the United States and France bear a huge responsibility in this regional disintegration and in the violence against civilians. Turkey has also shown a benevolent attitude towards this offensive, which fulfils their aim of breaking the democratic experience of the (autonomous Kurdish) town and surroundings of Rojava.  

With the Kurds threatened with new massacres indifference is shameful and inhuman.

The French Communist Party expresses its solidarity with the Syrian Kurds. It calls the French government and the European Union to use all their power to stop these crimes.

French Communist Party
Paris July 7, 2014 (adapted)

The PCF has since that date issued numerous appeals.

Iraq: Call for solidarity and political intervention by France and the UN (12th of August).

Support for the Kurds  is a priority. Anything that can help, such as the withdrawal of the PKK’s designation as a ‘terrorist organisation’, should be encouraged.  France could, as a member of the Security Council initiate a regional conference to help reconciliation, rebuild the Iraqi state and preserve the unity of the Middle East. There is still time to contain the conflagration sweeping the region.

The PCF  expresses its support and solidarity with the Kurdish forces and commits itself on the side of the democrats and Kurdish forces against the Iraqi ISIS.   In this terrible ordeal,  Communists will spare no efforts to ensure that peace and democracy can win out.

Stop the cruelty and persecution against the Kurdish people and minorities in Iraq (August 23rd) called for support for a demonstration in Marseille that day in support of minorities in Iraq.

 Marseille Demonstration.

The Kurdish News Agency RUDAW reports (Thursday 12th September)

PARIS, France – High-profile French politicians are urging greater international support for Iraqi Kurds in their fight against jihadists of the Islamic State (IS), saying the autonomous region is fighting for Western democratic values and should be helped in its protection of Christians and Yezidis.

“The Kurds are fighting also for our democratic values and for our safety,” said a petition published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

“Let’s help Kurdistan protect the Yezidis and the Christians. Our values depend on it,” said the appeal, an initiative of the Kurdish Institute of Paris.

It was signed by former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Michel Rocard, former ministers of foreign affairs Bernard Kouchner and Hubert Vedrine, the current mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, and former ministers Cecile Duflot,  Francois Loncle and Pierre Lellouche, among other high profile academics and intellectuals.

……

Their statement referred to the grave situation faced by the Kurdistan Region, which has received hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping the war by Islamic jihdists.  Erbil also is having to protect over 1,000 kilometers of its border against the highly armed forces.

“Since June, Iraqi Kurdistan has been receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people fleeing the massacres committed by the jihadists of the Islamic State. Among them are tens of thousands of Christians, Yezidis, Shabaks and members of other religious minorities,” the statement said.

“Coming after the first wave of 250.000 Syrian refugees, this massive flood far exceeds the Kurdistan Regional Government’s hosting capacities,” it noted. Kurdistan “does not have, on its own, the material means to provide for the accommodation of this additional population of over a million people,” it added.

It noted also that, as the KRG struggles against this deluge, Baghdad has cut monthly budget payments to Erbil over an oil row, cutting deeply into Kurdish finances.

The Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been the toughest line of defense against the jihadis, backed with air support by the US and Iraqi air force.

Erbil has also allowed refugees to cross into its borders, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

“Such a rare example of democracy in the Islamic world not only deserves encouragement but it also needs active and massive solidarity of the citizens and the governments of the Western Democracies,” the French appeal said.

The group called for the intensification of humanitarian aid by the UN agencies and the European Union, implementation of promised arms supplies and measures to enable the KRG to protect minorities in the frontlines. It also called for action to encourage oil-rich Gulf countries to finance the ongoing relief efforts in Kurdistan.

“An international air protection should be provided to Christian and Yezidi areas of the plain of Nineveh in order to enable the return of these vulnerable peoples,” it pointed out.

The petition also urged France, which took the initiative of mobilizing the European Union, to propose a resolution at the UN Security Council to force Baghdad into restarting the constitutional budget payments to Erbil.

Finally, the petition asked the European Union to appoint a special envoy to ease direct mediation, and re-establish dialogue among Iraq’s Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites.

Original, Le Monde 8.9.14. “Aidons le Kurdistan à protéger yézidis et chrétiens, nos valeurs en dépendent.”

A sceptical approach to arming the Kurdish Regional Government and others, which argues that they will use them, “pour affirmer l’autonomie grandissante de leur région, voire leur volonté d’indépendance, ce qui serait un pas décisif vers l’éclatement de l’Irak.” , Questions sur l’armement des Kurdes d’Irak. Alain Gresh. (Blogs, 18th August. Le Monde Diplomatique)

France, “A Social Democratic Compromise of a Third Kind” ? Henri Weber.

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Henri Weber (far-left) in Happier Days.

Henri Weber is a former member of the Trotskyist Fourth International.

He played an important role in the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) in May 1968 and the decade that followed. This included a stint at the “special operations” section of the LCR (Commission Très Spéciale, CTS) and editorship of their weekly Rouge.

An intellectual, whose writings were known in the UK through New Left Review and International Marxist Group publications, he was a sympathetic critic of Eurocommunism and a defender of radical democratic socialism.

After leaving the Ligue he became an academic, conducting further research into Eurocommunism, and German Social Democracy. His book  Le Parti des Patrons : le CNPF (1946-1986),  1991 is a sociological and political account, some might say a rather plodding one, of the French bosses’ organisation (their CBI).

Weber has been a member of the French Parti Socialiste since the mid-1980s,  was a  Senator (1995 – 2004) and is now a European Deputy, MEP, (first elected 2004).

He has moved considerably to the right, even within the moderate terms of European social democracy.

The former revolutionary Marxist is best known these days for defending the idea that  one can broadly (extremely broadly) outline three modern types of “compromise” that define post-War social democracy (Nouveau compromis social -démocrate.18.3.2014)

The first was the ‘post-war’ compromise between the labour movement, the left, and the states and societies of the West . Full employment, growth, expanding social and workers’ rights and the welfare state marked this period.

The second, that followed the late 1970s crisis of the Welfare state and Keynesianism, was defensive. It accepted that redundancies and wage restraint had to take place, but offered increased social spending and more social rights.

A third type of social compromise took shape at the turn of the century: the compromises to adapt to globalisation, and more broadly , the changes in capitalism. That is, the digital revolution, the emergence of new industrialising  countries, the internationalization of production have required  a restructuring of of Western economies. These are axed towards  high-tech industries and services with high added value.

The new social democratic compromise is based on mobilising the social partners for to specialise and adapt to this role. Unions and socialist parties agree on the deregulation of the labour market (flexi-security), the stagnation of real wages, a reduction in  the level of social protection. They demand in return the defence of employment and preservation of national economic power.

In Germany, for example, the SPD and the unions accepted the Hartz accord: unemployment compensation is reduced from 32 to 12 months (24 for over 50 years); the age of retirement is pushed back to 67 years (in 2029 …) the unemployed are forced to take a job……..public health care provision is being reduced……

The German Hartz agreements loosened strong social protection and created so-called “mini-jobs” (at extremely low pay), subjected welfare claimants to stringent “contracts”, lowered benefits, and undermined many of the fundamental aspects of the welfare state.

Weber’s assertion (echoed on the European Right and Business) that their focus on industrial competitivity and growth, are the basis for the country’s economic success, is by no means universally accepted. It is pretty obvious that it’s unlikely that many on the French, or the German non “social democratic” left (except for the Die Grünen, who are often to the right of social democracy) would agree.

But the fact remains that in Germany there has been an economic upturn, unemployment has gone down, and if there is a very heavy downside to these reforms, they are now backed by the population, and represent for the present the basis of Angela Merkel’s popularity.

One can see what the French Socialists would look with envy at the German Chancellor’s ratings in the opinion polls (even if a hard-right anti-European Party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), did well with 9.9.% in a regional election in Saxony,  this Sunday –  Taz).

The assertion that a progressive slant to this new compromise, depends on growth, and the weight of employees (that is, workers), within a European structure remains to be tested. At present the Socialists have simply gone for what they believe is a strategy for growth.

Last weekend Weber addressed the Parti Socialiste’s Summer School at La Rochelle.

These are some extracts from what he said, 7 moyens de refonder la social-démocratie.

Weber outlines the reasons for the change towards a new compromise.

The principal backdrop is that the globalisation of the economy is changing the balance of power in favor of the owners of private economic power – entrepreneurs and financial operators – at the expense of employees and governments. Markets, companies, production have become global; States, parties, trade unions remain, essentially national actors. The result is a growing disjunction between the political and the economic spheres

The ‘third industrial revolution’, the rise of digital and biotechnologies, the fragmentation of  social classes based on production and the working environment, the rise of individualism, social insecurity, and mass migration, have eroded the basis of traditional socialism and communism. Global warming and other ecological challenges pose further questions to the left.

Weber offers seven principal axes for a renewed social democracy which I present in a slightly adapted form.

1 European social democracy must reconnect with its original internationalism.

2. Social democracy must break with the focus on producing more and more and discover an eco-socialist alternative .

3. European social democracy must find ways of using people and companies’  savings to finance future industries and services with high added value.

4 European social democracy must assert, more than it has done so far, a’ project of civilisation’ (a vision of society).

5 European social democracy must be resolutely feminist .

6 European social democracy has to invent a renewed twenty-first century form and structure of democracy

7 Social democracy should promote an ‘alternative’ globalisation (that is, not be simply ‘anti’ globalisation, but find a different way of globalising). 

The substance of Weber’s contribution seems to be this:

European social democracy should become a continent wide political actor through the mechanisms of the European Socialist Party and the European Confederation of Trade Unions. It should endorse environmentally friendly policies. It should promote investment. It should advance a communitarian project that would promote social values, including feminist ones. It should back democratic reforms. And, finally, it should attempt what regulation of globalisation it can.

A pretty stodgy set of idées reçues  that would appeal to those in the UK, from Will Hutton to Jon Cruddas, who have not the slightest intention of mounting any radical challenge to austerity – and that’s just to start with.

Meanwhile…..in the real political world…..

Prime Minister Valls was received coldly by many delegates at the same La Rochelle Summer School.

Communist and Green speakers, critical of the government’s turn rightward, were well received at fringe meetings (Libération).

In the main hall when the Prime Minister appeared some shouted Vive la Gauche! – the name of the new left ‘frondeur’ alliance (you can see more about them here).

Why?

Well, there’s the talk about ending the 35 hour week and a whole raft of measures designed to weaken workers’ rights. His Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron,has gone out of his way to appeal to business, not the left. More and more austerity remains on the cards. A few words about he also loves the Parti Socialiste won’t change this.

It is unlikely that French unions, even the ‘social liberal’ CFDT,  are overjoyed at the prospect of having to defend what little remains of ‘social democracy’.

The idea that anything approaching the Hartz measures will go down well in France.

One might question the assertion that this “third type” of compromise is anything other than a series of concessions, made in different European countries in different ways, to neo-liberal anti-left policies. One wonders where Brown and Blair fitted into the Second Compromise, or were they part of the Third?

Far from being a social democrat it appears that Manuel Valls and his team are economic liberals.

 It would be interesting to see if he tries something resembling the Hartz reforms.

Hah!

A second’s thinking shows that this is extremely unlikely to happen.

Note: Weber’s own site is here.

On it we learn this fascinating information:

Etat civil: Marié
Enfants: 3
Icône: Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Pierre Desproges
Hobbies: La marche à pied
Livre préféré: “La Promesse de l’Aube” de Romain Gary
Film favori: “Les Enfants du Paradis” de Marcel Carné (1945)
Groupe de musique favori: Les Beatles
Emission TV préférée: Thalassa
Plat local favori: La potée auvergnate

Some might comment that this shows a profound mediocrity.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

France: New Government in Love with Bosses, Bosses in Love with New Government.

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Manuel Valls accueilli sur scène par le patron des patrons, Pierre Gattaz.

Bosses Applaud the ‘Valls Show’.

Yesterday the Parti Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, wowed the French employers’ federation (the MEDEF) summer get-together.

«Moi j’aime l’entreprise !»  he said – I love Business.

Libération reports that in response to his speech bosses applauded wildly.

They said “there’s no question, he’s better than the Right” .

L’Humanité notes that Valls told the audience,

France needs you. The return to growth will come above all by supporting businesses, “said the Prime Minister to the cheers of hundreds of entrepreneurs. He wanted to reassure them about their future profits, repeating, as he had done the day after the announcement of the composition of the new government, that he was confident of getting the support of the majority to vote  for his “pact of responsibility.”(1)

The is intervention comes just after France’s President, François Hollande, and PM Valls, formed a new Cabinet – just a few months after they launched one after disastrous local (losing control of 150 towns) and European election results in which the Front National topped the polls at 24.86%.

Valls own present popularity stands at 36% in opinion polls, with his own chief, Hollande, gets around 17% of favourable responses.

The New Cabinet is dominated by those aligned to the ‘social-liberal’ wing of the Socialists.

A principal reason for the  switch-over was that left-wingers, notably former Economy Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, and one of the education Ministers,  Benoît Hamon refused  to back austerity measures.

A group of Socialist “frondeurs” (rebels) had emerged earlier this year when the Pacte de reponsabilité (which essentially makes concessions to employers’ demands for ‘flexibility’ in the labour market) was first put forward by President François Hollande. Battles inside the government led nowhere.

“I will follow the example of Cincinnatus,” Mr. Montebourg said, in reference to the modest Roman statesman, “who preferred to quit power to return to his fields and plows.”

It will not have escaped many people’s attention that Montebourg received 17,19 % of the Vote in the  2011 ‘primaries’ to decide who should represent the party as a presidential candidate. (2)

The present Prime Minister, Manuel Valls got 5,63 % in the same contest.

Montebourg’s ideas include proposals for a more democratic “sixth republic”, and a critique of globalisation (more, in English, here).

In response to the star-reception of the PM by the MEDEF Thierry Lepaon the leader of the left-wing union federation, the CGT, denounced the way the new government was “mixing” the role of the State and that of the bosses’ federation.

Criticising the MEDEF’s claims that its own plans would create a million new jobs he noted that the state already gave extensive grants to companies without proper control, and that many firms had given big dividends to shareholders at a time when they were pleading fir more public help. By contrast there seems little attention paid to the needs of young people, the retired, the unemployed and workers in the government’s plans.

This morning news emerged  from new Minister of the Economy,  Emmanuel Macron, that the government intends to consolidate its rightward shift  by loosening the laws regulating the length of the working week (based on a 35 hour standard). The regulations on Sunday working will also be liberalised.

France 24 paints the economic backdrop to the crisis of the French Socialist-led government.

The labour ministry said there were now 3.424 million people out of work, an increase of around 26,000. It was the ninth consecutive rise in the monthly unemployment figures.

“This rise reflects zero growth in the eurozone and in France,” Labour Minister François Rebsamen said in a statement.

France, Europe’s second biggest economy, is battling a political and economic crisis seen as the worst since Hollande took power more than two years ago.

Growth has ground to a halt in the first six months of the year and Hollande has been unable to live up to his promise to bring down unemployment.

His strategy for pulling France out of the mire is his much-vaunted Responsibility Pact, which will cut social charges for businesses by 40 billion euros ($53 billion) in exchange for them creating 500,000 jobs by 2017.

(1) Le pacte de responsabilité , an agreement to reduce social charges in companies (that is, to cut employer contributions to social insurance), ‘modernise’ taxation, and ‘simplify’ labour laws. It’s reported today that the employers’ federation,m the MEDEF, is already working on a plan, France 2020, with the agreement of the  ‘social-liberal’ union, the CFDT, to weaken labour legislation on companies with more than 50 employees.

(2) He was in third position, behind  François Hollande  and Martine Aubry.

 

Summary of the 8–9 and 15–16 October 2011 French Socialist Party presidential primary
Candidates Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes  % Votes  %
  François Hollande Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 1,038,207 39.17% 1,607,268 56.57%
  Martine Aubry Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 806,189 30.42% 1,233,899 43.43%
  Arnaud Montebourg Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 455,609 17.19%  
  Ségolène Royal Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 184,096 6.95%
  Manuel Valls Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 149,103 5.63%
  Jean-Michel Baylet Radical Party of the Left (Parti Radical de Gauche) PRG 17,055 0.64%
 
Total 2,650,259 100.00% 2,860,157 100.00%
 
Valid votes 2,650,259 99.59% 2,860,157 99.34%
Spoilt and null votes 11,025 0.41% 18,990 0.66%
Total 2,661,284 100.00% 2,879,147 100.00%
 
Table of results ordered by number of votes received in first round, complete results on resultats.lesprimairescitoyennes.fr.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 28, 2014 at 10:52 am

Jean Jaurès: The Anniversary of his Assassination, July 31st 1914. A Tribute.

with 2 comments

Jaurès was killed blindly, yet with reason:

‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice’.

The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill.

A hundred years ago today, Jean Jaurès the leader of French socialism (SFIO, Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), and Editor/Founder of l’Humanité were preparing an article against the coming war. Jaurès had supported the call of the Socialist International, launched by Keir Hardie and the Frenchman, Édouard Vaillant, to launch a general strike if armed fighting broke out.

By 1914 Europe was on the brink of war. At the end of July an emergency meeting of the Socialist International was held in Brussels, which endorsed a call for peace. On the 29th of July Jaurès spoke with Rosa Luxemburg, at a rally of seven thousand people against militarism and the coming confrontation at the Cirque Royal. He had already warned that fighting would lead to a catastrophe, “Quel massacre quelles ruines, quelle barbarie!” (Discours de Vaise. 25th July 1914) Now he talked of his “hatred of our chauvinists” and that we would not “give up the idea of a Franco-German rapprochement”. This looked less and less probable. Jaurès’ newspaper column (published after his death) would describe of the climate of “fear” and “anxiety” spreading across the continent.

Jaurès paused from his journalism and went to the near-by Café du Croissant to eat. At 20.45, the nationalist student Raoul Villain approached him and fired two bullets. One stuck his neck and was fatal. Villain claimed to have acted to “eliminate an enemy of the nation.”

The assassin was associated with Alsatian nationalists close to the far-right Action française. But hatred of Jaurès had been whipped up across the political spectrum. The Catholic libertarian socialist, poet, critic and Dreyfusard, Charles Péguy had been baying for his blood. Péguy described the Socialist leader as the representative of “German imperialism” in France, a “traitor” to the motherland in the service of “bourgeois parties”. (1)

Geoffrey Hill asked if Péguy had effectively incited the killer. (2) But there were many, many, others – not least amongst the ranks of the Action française and the ‘terre et ses morts’ nationalists like Maurice Barrès  – who loathed the inspirational clarity of Jaurès internationalism.

Today, as commemorations of the murder take place in France, Jaurès remains a moving figure for many people, in his home country, and in the socialist movement across the world.

The ‘Jaurésian synthesis’ has in many respects outlived the historical record of Jaurès the founder of the first united French socialist party. That is, his ability to capture and bring together ideas from Marxism, above all the ‘class struggle’, the understanding of capitalism and its historical development, with “social republicanism”, support for democracy and human rights.

One of his most celebrated campaigns was to back Dreyfus, a combat that led him into conflict with anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance. Jaurès advocated strongly secular public institutions, above all in education, a position which has still to make headway in countries like Britain where religious authority still holds sway over a large part of the left – with pretensions today to “multi-culturalism”. Secularism, he argued, does not mean imposing atheism, it is to free our common institutional life from the hold of any particular faith. Absolute freedom of personal belief was his watchword. These views, backing the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, reflected the importance of the issue in France during the first decade of the 20th century. They were opposed, with venom,  by nationalists and the majority of practicing Catholics.

Above all Jaurès, while perhaps inclined to a romantic vision of the universalism of the French Revolution and its enduring influence inside French institutions, was equally prepared to fight with all his might against chauvinism, nationalist hatred….and war.

This, all of this, should be remembered.

On France-Inter this morning it was noted that the French Prime Minister, Michael Valls, claimed this year that Jaurès would have supported his deal with the employers, the ‘pacte de responsibilité”. Former President Sarkozy claimed him for his educational ‘reforms. Even Marine Le Pen’s party organiser, Louis Alio,  has hailed his patriotism, suggesting during one European Election that the SFIO (the French section of the Workers’ International) would have backed the Front National. (3)

It is fitting that Jaurès should have made his last major public speech in the company of another martyr, the beloved Rosa Luxemburg. One doubts if any of the figures cited above would have felt comfortable in her company.

Reformist, compromiser, agent of German imperialism, able to bring people together, or to divide them, there are as many judgements of Jaurès as there are books and articles.

The war that broke out in earnest in the first week of August 1914 redrew the political map, as socialist parties across Europe rushed to support ‘their’ governments in the battle. It is worth recalling that some of his most virulent critics on the left, such as Gustave Hervé and Jules Guesde became rabid nationalists during the Great War, the latter joining the Union Sacrée  as a Government Minister.

Villain was put in gaol  and stayed there during the war. He was brought to trial in 1919. The murderer was acquitted in a jury trial on March 29.  Jaurès’s wife, plaintiff, was convicted in costs. Villain  later fled to Spain where he was killed by Republican soldiers during the Spanish Civil War.

Jaurès, above all the controversies, continues to loom large, and for many of us, flaws included, remains greatly honoured.

(1) Notre Partie. Vol. ll. Oeuvres en prose de Charles Péguy. La Pléaide. 1959

(2) “Did Péguy kill Jaurès? Did he incite the assassin? Must men stand by what they write as by their camp-beds or their weaponry or shell-shocked comrades while they sag and cry?” The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill. Collected Poems. 1985.

(3) This use of Jaurès, which extends right through the French political spectrum, was recently analysed in L’art de tuer Jaurès. Jérôme Pellisier, Benoît Bréville. Le Monde Diplomatique. July 2014. See also Le Monde. Mélenchon, Valls, Aliot, Sarkozy… tous jaurésiens !,  Jaurès, un héritage très disputé. L’Humanité « Jaurès, un être engagé, complexe, comme chacun d’entre nous »

This is the FN’s claim,

Update.

Le président François Hollande signe des autographes lors de la commémoration du 100e anniversaire de la mort de Jean Jaurès, à Paris.

Le président François Hollande signe des autographes lors de la commémoration du 100e anniversaire de la mort de Jean Jaurès, à Paris. | AP/Yoan Valat.

See also this,  generous, piece, “Jean Jaurès Leon Trotsky Kievskaya Mysl July 17, 1915.

France: 100 years after Jean Jaures’ murder, his name still inspires. Dick Nicolas. Links.

Gauche Unitaire à la commémoration des 100 ans de l’assassinat de Jean Jaurès

Paris Pro-Gaz Demo and the ‘Informal Collective’ behind it.

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Thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris on Saturday despite a police ban on the rally. Scuffles broke out between a hardcore element throwing projectiles and police, who said they made around 50 arrests.

The demonstration got under way at around 3pm at Place de la République amid a tense and uncertain atmosphere after rioting erupted at a similar protest last week.

Despite a calm start to the demonstration, which had attracted upwards of 4,000 people, by 6pm police were using tear gas to disperse 200 to 300 hooded youths throwing projectiles at police. France 24

It is hard not to endorse the view of the Parti Communiste Français that the march should not have been banned.

But there remain concerns about the groups behind the demonstration.

The ‘informal collective’ is composed of (according to Le Monde) members of the  l’Union générale des étudiants de Palestine (GUPS), the Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens (PYM France), de Génération Palestine, from the Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP), du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

To this collective the struggle in Israel is ” la lutte contre colonialisme”, indeed the last fight against colonialism.

The NPA, according to the same article, is sometimes concerned by the religious slogans of some of the groups that associate with these protests, notably the pro-Hamas, Collectif du cheikh Yassine

But for the leading figure of the Collectif, , Omar Al-Soumi, ( Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens) the essential is that,

« Cela ne nous dérange pas dans la mesure où nous soutenons toutes les résistances et la lutte armée. La diplomatie et la négociation n’ont jamais abouti. »

That does not upset us, in so far as we back all resistance and the armed struggle. Diplomacy and negotiation have never led to anything. 

There were a few incidents on the day (41 People arrested).

Libération reported,

 Un groupe de supporteurs du PSG de la tribune Auteuil scande des slogans de soutien à Gaza et reprend une parodie du Chant des partisans popularisée par Dieudonné («la sens-tu, qui se glisse dans ton cul»).

A group of PSG (football) supporters from the Auteil stand, shouted slogans backing Gaza, and sang  Dieudonné’s parody of the Chant des partisans (do you feel ‘it’ (the cock) slipping up your arse-hole).

 Le Monde reports, « On va rue des Rosiers pour casser du feuj », entend-on.

We’re off to the rue des Rosiers (Jewish quarter in central Paris) to beat up the Jews (in ‘verlan’), one heard.

We would not wish to exaggerate these – troubling –  incidents. Little happened apart from stone-throwing and a heavy-handed police response. One could add that there are also definite problems caused by the interventions of the far-right ‘Ligue de défense juive’ (Jewish Defence League). But the fact that the incidents represent something about the people behind the march is undeniable.

Le Parti des indigènes de la République (cited as one of the organising groups) this April  received favourable publicity from ‘anti-racist’ Richard Seymour (here)

Houria Bouteldja, a leading member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République is published saying, in explaining her attitude to Dieudonné, 

 Now, the trouble is that we are not integrationists. And integration through anti-semitism horrifies us just as much as integration though White universalism and national-chauvinism. We abhor anything that seeks to integrate us into whiteness; anti-semitism being a pure product of Europe and the West. As a decolonial movement, it is self-evident that we cannot support Dieudonné. Yet we could not condemn him in the manner of the white Left, because there is a certain dimension that has escaped the Left, but one that is clear to any indigène with a modicum of dignity.

At the same time, I feel ambivalent. I would start by saying that I love Dieudonné; that I love him as the indigènes love him; that I understand why the indigènes love him. I love him because he has done an important action in terms of dignity, of indigène pride, of Black pride: he refused to be a domestic negro. Even if he doesn’t have the right political program in his head, his attitude is one of resistance.” I now add that in the eyes of the indigènes, this is what they see in him first and foremost, rather than seeing the nature of his allies. A man standing upright. Too often were we forced to say “yes bouana, yes bouana.” When Diedonné stands up, he heals an identitarian wound. The wound that racism left, and which harms the indigènes’ personnality. Those who understand “Black is beautiful” cannot miss this dimension, and I emphasize, this particular dimension in Dieudonné.

Jacobonism replied,

As I’ve argued before, Left-wing apologetics for the far-Right frequently rest on an appreciation of complexities, ambiguities and nuance the rest of us apparently lack. Either Seymour has not understood what he has posted and endorsed or he has accepted the sophistry of Bouteldja’s meaningless distinction between malevolent and virtuous anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is what it is: a hatred of Jews, and whether it appears in the pages of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of ZionMein Kampf, the Hamas Charter, or on Richard Seymour’s Leninology blog, it is always justified in the name of the same thing: the struggle against domination, oppression and conspiratorial power.

If Seymour believes that Bouteldja’s narrow disavowal of an anti-Semitism “that seeks to integrate us into whiteness” inoculates her against charges of racism, he has missed something even more sinister and obvious: that while she demonstrates a bottomless capacity for self-pity, her solipsistic contempt for the Holocaust and its victims demonstrates a complete absence of ‘out-group’ compassion. It is in the pitilessness of this kind of chauvinism that we find the germ of fascism.

The following reply holds for those who cooperate with the Indigènes de la République

Undeterred, Seymour has accepted the challenge presented in Bouteldja’s opening four-point preamble. He has opened up his Eurocentric mind and deferred to her experience “as a colonial subject”; he has prostrated himself before the scorn she has heaped on the hypocrisies of the white, radical Western Left, of which he is a privileged representative; and he has looked her prejudices in the eye and he has not flinched. She has dared the white Left to join her on the far-Right and Richard Seymour – persuaded by her rhetoric that to do so would be an act of radical political courage – has obliged.

 I’m not entirely sure what he expects to get in return. If it’s the respect of people like Houria Bouteldja, he can think again. She holds the politics of self-abasement to be beneath contempt. On this she could hardly be more clear. It is the virility of unapologetic fascists like Dieudonné M’bala M’bala that she values.

In the present context, it is undeniable (as Seymour’s Blog cited on the 18th of July) that, “certain pro-Palestinian groups, some of which supporters(sic)  of Dieudonné and Alain Soral” – Holocaust deniers –  exist.

How far the involvement of the indigènes contributes to isolating them may be judged from the – small – incidents cited above.

But more significantly the ideological climate is moving away from the ideas of self-important, and self-appointed, defenders of the “indigènes” ‘(‘Natives’). 

Since this exchange Le Monde Diplomatique has published the important article by Vivek Chibber criticising “post-colonial studies”, L’universalisme, une arme pour la gauche. (May 2014)

It was originally published in the Socialist Register 2014, Capitalism, class and universalism: Escaping the cul-de-sac of postcolonial theory (full text here).

Chibber criticises ‘post-colonial’ critiques of the left’s ‘universalism’ and its rejection of Marxism. He points out that capitalism has become  globalised , so a universal interest in social rights, “for liberty, for dignity, for basic well being” has developed. Anti “Eurocentrism” has resurrected particularism, essentialism, and the denial of any universal politics. Against this Chibber argues for “affirming two universalisms – our common humanity and the threat it to it posed by a viously universalising capitalism.” ( see also, Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital by Vivek Chibber 2013)

The Le Parti des indigènes de la République could be said to be a politicised version of “post-colonial studies.”

 It seems odd that a Marxist group from the Trotskyist tradition like the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste should be so closely associated with them.

What does this imply for their engagement in the protests over Gaza?

They back the reactionary Hamas movement and other “resistance forces”  uncritically and  to the hilt.

No doubt informed by that special “appreciation of complexities, ambiguities and nuance the rest of us apparently lack.”