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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.”

Ex-Front National Candidate Gets 9 Months Prison for Racist Facebook Post.

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Far-Right Racist Attacks on Socialist Minister Taubira.

This was a major story on the French media this morning.

A former French local election candidate for the far-right National Front (FN) has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s black justice minister to a monkey. (1)

The court decision has sparked controversy in France, with anti-discrimination associations welcoming it as a reminder that racism should not be allowed to flourish but the party itself denouncing the move as “grotesquely disproportionate” and politically motivated.

Anne-Sophie Leclere provoked a storm last year when she compared Christiane Taubira to a monkey on French television and admitted to posting a photo-montage on Facebook that showed the justice minister, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby chimpanzee.

The caption underneath the baby monkey said “At 18 months,” while the one under Taubira’s photograph read “Now”.

Leclere had been an FN candidate in Rethel in the northeastern Ardennes region for 2014 local elections, but the party soon dropped her and went on to do well in the March polls.

On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne — the capital of French Guiana — sentenced her to nine months in jail, barred her from standing in elections for five years and fined her 50,000 euros ($68,000).

It also slapped the FN with a 30,000-euro fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party founded by Taubira.

Daily News.  AFP.

On France-Inter it was suggested that the absence of the accused (in French Guiana – South America) played a role in determining that there was a prison sentence.

Leclère said,

«Je n’ai pas tenu de propos racistes, j’ai juste reçu un photomontage sur Facebook dont je ne suis pas l’auteur. Je ne suis pas raciste», a affirmé l’intéressée, d’un ton empreint de colère contenue. «C’est une injustice, c’est un jugement partisan et politique», a-t-elle ajouté.

«On n’a trouvé aucun avocat pour nous représenter à Cayenne et je n’avais pas les moyens de me payer le billet d’avion», a expliqué Anne-Sophie Leclère au sujet de son absence au tribunal de Cayenne, saisi d’une plainte du mouvement guyanais Walwari destinée à «dénoncer le fond idéologique d’extrême droite du parti de Marine Le Pen».

I did not make racist remarks, I just cut and pasted a photomontage on Facebook (which I did not create). I am not racist” she asserted, her voice marked by anger, “It’s not right, it’s a politically biased decision.”

“I couldn’t find a lawyer to represent me at Cayenne, and I don’t have the resources to pay for a plane ticket there.” Anne-Sophie Leclère went on, explaining why she did not attend the Court in Cayenne, which was dealing with a complaint initiated by the Guianese movement, Walwari, which was aimed at “denouncing the basis of the extreme-right ideology of Marine Le Pen.”

Libération.

There will be appeals.

(1) The insult was truly vile: Taubira/guenon (female ape).

Reactions here.

Ex-President Sarkozy Detained for Interrogation over Corruption Charges: Sarkozy Nous Voila !

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Arrivée de Nicolas Sarkozy à l'Office anti-corruption de la Police judiciaire, le 1er juillet à Nanterre.

Arrivée de Nicolas Sarkozy à l’Office anti-corruption de la Police judiciaire, le 1er juillet à Nanterre. (Photo Dominique Faget. AFP)

The Guardian reports,

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into police custody for questioning as part of an inquiry into alleged abuse of power.

The unprecedented step followed the arrest of Sarkozy’s lawyer and two magistrates who are under investigation for allegedly using their influence to obtain information about legal cases against him.

Detectives are trying to establish whether the former leader promised a top-level job in Monaco to a magistrate in return for letting him know whether corruption allegations against him would go to court. Sarkozy denies any wrong-doing.

The police move on Tuesday represents a blow to Sarkozy’s hopes of making a political comeback in 2017. The former president is said to have been hoping to profit from the disarray and lack of leadership in his centre-right UMP party, which is itself also mired in legal investigations, to stand for president again.

(Note: This has been a major story in the French press.It’s often forgotten in the UK that the success of the Front National has affected the classic Right as much as the left).

It is alleged that information obtained from tapping the former leader’s phone conversations with his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, a controversial and unusual step, suggested there had been what was referred to as a “traffic of influence”.

Police were listening in to Sarkozy’s calls as part of a separate investigation into claims he accepted illegal donations from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for his 2007 presidential election campaign. Sarkozy served one term in office before being beaten by the Socialist candidate François Holland in 2012.

When he discovered his phone was tapped, Sarkozy allegedly obtained another phone under the pseudonym Paul Bismuth, to talk to his lawyer.

In the taped conversations, detectives allegedly heard information that Herzog had been tipped off by a magistrate about a legal decision over yet another police investigation into whether or not Sarkozy also accepted illegal campaign funds from France’s richest woman, the L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Comment: in France traditionally these cases, or ‘affaires’,  become so involved and intricate  that they recall the famous remark by  Lord Palmerston,

The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.

I simply remember this,

Sarkozy Nous Voila !

 

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 »

French Socialists Divide on Austerity Plan Vote as Front de Gauche Faces its own New Rows.

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Manuel Valls  Faces Socialist Opposition. 

France’s lawmakers Tuesday voted narrowly in favour of a plan to slash €50 billion from the country’s budget deficit by 2017, but a high abstention rate underscored discord within the Socialist majority.

The plan, designed to allow the eurozone’s second-largest economy to meet deficit-reduction commitments, passed with 265 votes in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, with 232 voting against and 67 abstaining.

The programme can now be submitted for approval to the European Commission, which has already granted France two extra years to bring its deficit below EU-mandated limits.

It is the brainchild of recently appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls and targets the country’s generous welfare system in an aggressive drive to cut state spending.

More than 40 percent of the savings will come from cuts in social benefits and healthcare, another 18 billion is to be trimmed from the budgets of government ministries and the remaining 11 billion will come from restructuring local government.

“It’s a decisive vote that deeply emphasizes the advancement of our country,” Valls told parliament before the vote.

The plan has divided the ruling Socialist Party, however, and 41 of the party’s members abstained from the vote – a high rate pointing to resistance ahead as Valls tries to push through reform to revive the economy and spur growth while also meeting deficit-cutting goals.

While the Greens party and the left-wing Front de Gauche voted in the majority against the plan, the centrist UDI party mostly abstained.

A few members of the opposition UMP party, which overwhelmingly voted against the plan, also abstained.

The party’s leader Jean-François Copé denounced the plan as an “optical illusion”.

Economists are also sceptical as to whether the plan will allow the Socialist government to meet its goal of lowering its public deficit to three percent of output by the end of 2015.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Today Valls has defended his cuts plan,

«J’assume ce réformisme, j’assume cette social-démocratie ou, au fond, cette gauche profondément moderne, qui regarde la réalité en face et qui, en même temps, veut répondre à l’attente de justice sociale»

This reformism, that I have taken on, this social democracy, is a deeply  modern left,  one that faces up to reality and at the same time, wants to meet the expectations of social justice.”

Libération.

Christian Paul (close to the moderate social democratic Martin Aubry) , amongst the Socialists who abstained, said that it was the result of “politically mature, considered policy by a group wounded by the results of the local election, and the feeling that the first 2 years of the (Socialist_) Presidency have not held to their promises.”,  This was “Un vote d’alerte, pas un vote de défiance » a wake-up call, not an open challenge, he added.

Humanité

Meanwhile news reaches us (thanks EY) that leading figures in the French Communist Party are concerned by the difficulties of  working with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Front de Gauche and are re-thinking their whole approach to the bloc.

More :

PCF : avec ou sans le Front de gauche ?
Par Roger Martelli
 
And (l’Humanité)
 
Des communistes pour une refondation ambitieuse du Front de gauche 
 
 

French Prime Minister Valls Booed at Vatican Canonisation.

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Ils étaient une vingtaine a dénoncer l'attitude du Premier ministre, à Laval.

The attendance of French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, at the Vatican, during the canonisation of two previous Popes, has created controversy.

“Twice, some of the thousands of French Catholics present at the Vatican ….booed the Prime Minister when his image appeared on the giant screens. The cries rang out once while Manuel Valls approached the podium Piazza Farnese, before the start of the ceremony.”

 Manuel Valls was present at the ceremony, he claimed, “«pour représenter la France et son gouvernement (…) un État laïc mais respectueux de l’Église». “”to represent France and its government (…) a secular state but respectful of the Church.”

Not only the Catholic hard-right – still angry over Gay marriage and hysterical about an alleged plot to teach  “gender studies” and homosexuality  in schools – were annoyed.

L’Association des Libres Penseurs de France (ADLPF), and other secularist organisations, have protested at this official recognition and support of Christianity. 

The Fédération Nationale de la Libre Pensée states, “C’est la soumission pure et simple de la Républiqueà l’Eglise catholique, apostolique et romaine !”

This Tuesday the rightward leaning  Socialist Prime Minister faces a crucial  Parliamentary vote on his plans for cuts and a “pact of responsibility” with employers, reducing charges and encouraging “enterprise”. Members of his own party are known to have raised objections, and the outcome could be close. Valls has denied that he will seek the support of right-wing deputies to push his proposals through (le Monde).

France: Left Demonstrates Against ‘Socialist’ Austerity Today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’Humanité.

Maintenant ça suffit ! 

For a European Movement Against Austerity!