Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Alt-Left Blogs Face Left Critics: the Canary, Skwawkbox, Novera.

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Phil’s latest merits a wide audience.

The Alt-Left: A Critical Appreciation

Among the big winners of the general election are the wave of new blogs collectively dubbed the “alt-left”. You know who I’m talking about. The Canary, Skwawkbox, Novara, Evolve Politics and Another Angry Voice have been singled out by the mainstream as the authentic voices of the new socialism that has seized hold of the Labour Party and powered it to its highest number of votes for 20 years. Despite these blogs being around for some time (AAV since 2010, Skwawkbox 2012) they constitute part of the third age of blogging, which saw outsiders seemingly appear from nowhere to muscle in on online comment. In a short period of time, they have all carved out serious audiences, according to Buzzfeed’s in-depth feature (itself a product of the third wave). How, and why is it – Novara’s Aaron Bastani aside – they are all outsiders? Why didn’t established radical journalists, other socialist blogs, or the regular output of the far left become key artefacts of the Corbynist zeitgeist? It’s because of how this “outsiderness” relates to their content which, in turn, has found substantial audiences.

Novera, Phil comments,  operates in the more traditional field of political analysis. The present Page offers on article that suggests that present outage over Grenfell Tower and the issue of housing, has something in common with the Spanish mass movement, the Indignados,or Movimiento 15-M or which involved millions of people, in protests against the ruling parties’ corruption, incompetence and formed the groundwork for Podemos, although  how the “current wave of indignation will crystallise” in the UK is left open (Britain’s Indignant Moment? Grenfell, Neoliberalism and the New Common Sense).

One can, with regret or not, say that last week’s Day of Rage,  was not much of a sign of such a movement.

Novera also includes a piece by Richard Seymour that offers a sober and pretty decent analysis of the rise of Corbyn in conditions where such protests were absent, or marginal. After the Miliband defeat, “he had an analysis not only of the grimly familiar litany of austerity’s failures but also of Labour’s crisis. He understood it as a crisis of the roots, a failure to connect to the activists and movements without whom Labour was just a professional political elite obsessed with psephology and spin.” Leaving aside the contentious claim that it was “he” Corbyn rather than Team Corbyn, that propelled the successful campaign for the Labour leadership, Seymour points out rightly, that there emerged a “protest movement in itself, attracting enormous rallies of the angry and disaffected Labour base in that  that post-election, “

Unfortunately there is a lot of speculation – wishful thinking would be a better term – in Seymour’s conclusions,  “He (Corbyn) has found hidden reservoirs of support and strength for the Left, raw materials for social transformation. In doing so, he has also exposed the inherent fragility of the supposedly indomitable, terrifying Tory machine, accentuating its inherited crises and long term decline, and potentially hastening the end of its role as a viable party of government.” (Where We Go From Here.)

These examples perhaps pass the line between taking the time to grasp political reality and expressing hopes and wishes for the future, but optimism is often welcome even if the will may overreach itself. One might ask, were one from these quarter, the radical left, if a movement focused on elections, and creating a mass party with some social activism,  is really something new and path breaking in European social democracy? Labour’s programme that while offering a series of reforms and nationalisations, is some respects to the right of this year’s unfortunate French Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, 6,4%, which offered Basic Income, a Europe-wide minimum wage, and the legalisation of cannabis amongst its policies

The Canary, strikingly,   passes well beyond the reality principle, “In one sentence, Corbyn drops a truth bomb that should have the Tories running for the hills.

The phrase is, apparently, “Yes, the £10 an hour living wage, real living wage, is correct and also should apply to all workers, because I don’t think young people eat less than old people – that’s my experience anyway.

Other stories, again from the Canary, live up to the point that, “What they all share is a default (and correct) assumption that the system is rigged and the powers-that-be will conspire, collude, and collaborate to forever gerrymander privilege for themselves and their cronies. The stock-in-trade for the blogs are stories that reinforce this healthy scepticism.”

Witness, the headline, “We’ve been investigating the evidence about the Grenfell fire. And what we’ve found is numbing. 

It is hard to find anything in this article that is not common knowledge, broadcast in the MSM.

Another Angry Voice is  simply what its name gives, enraged:  “Taking back control” by handing control of HS2 to one of three foreign governments.

Evolve Politics is a front for a nationalist ideology, called ‘sovereigntism’ which considers that the British Parliament ‘taking back control’ from the EU, Brexit, is a step forward.

Leaving the single market will unleash the full potential of Corbynism, no wonder the Blairites want to stay in it.

In this version of National Parliamentary Socialism the EU is an obstacle to the left and those who want a ‘soft Brexit’ with the UK in the single market are out to stab Corbyn in the back.

Yet what of the fact that young people and most Labour members backed the EU, including the radical left who supported Another Europe is Possible?

This is is the answer: Brexit, when backed by anti-EU ‘progressives’ is really ‘internationalist’.

Those who claim that the majority of Labour’s new membership backed remaining in the EU so Corbyn had to follow suit fail to grasp the complex dynamics of the situation. If Corbyn had put forward a socialist leave position, it would have reconstituted the party membership on different lines, possibly winning back much of UKIP’s voter base to a progressive position. Many of the progressive remain voters as well, who see the EU in terms of their own feelings of internationalism, of solidarity with workers and young people in other countries, could also have been won to a socialist leave position.

Against the ‘Blairite’ supporters of the EU who “will use the single market as a tool to sabotage Corbyn’s programme”  action is needed.

 This means campaigning for mandatory reselection of the Blairite MPs and a Brexit in the interest of the working class

Now it is not generally a good idea for other bloggers educated in the school of hard-blows that was the UK Left Network – whose ‘style’ makes any of the above look tame –  to comment critically about those  trying to make original points, from the left, about politics. That is the function of Blogs and the wider democratisation of news and opinion that the Web encourages. But Third Age bloggers are no more above criticism than the MSM. We could explore other sites, such as We demand UK, Britain is the People, Little Britain First. PigGate 2, Jeremy Corbyn The People’s PM, Mock the Right, The Daily Politik, Red Labour, Walking the Breadline, The Ragged Trousered Philanderer, Nye Bevan News.

But the ones we have singled out, from Phil’s list have the clearest  ambition to be something that resembles the 1960s and 1970s underground press, to be alternative media. In present conditions they aim as high as to offer their own news.

It’s in this respect that Phil points us to some substantial points made by one Bob Pitt, well-known in this parish.

It is an exceptional, and as Phil says, “forensic” demolition of one site, Skwarkbox.

Skwawkbox — an embarrassment to the Left

The almost uniform hostility that Jeremy Corbyn has faced from the press and broadcast media since his election as Labour leader (only slightly mitigated by the party’s impressive showing in the general election) has given a boost to alternative news media whose declared aim is to defend Corbyn’s politics and nail the lies of the “MSM”. Novara Media, The Canary, Evolve Politics, Another Angry Voice and The Skwawkbox are notable examples.

The influence of these alt-left sites shouldn’t be underestimated. In the run-up to the general election BuzzFeed News reported that they were attracting “enormous audiences”. The Skwawkbox, a one-man operation apparently run by a Labour Party member from Liverpool, featured in a BBC News At Ten report, which stated that “many of his articles go viral, with some achieving hundreds of thousands of readers”.

Comrade Pitt registers this impact on the wider media,

On Saturday, Skawkbox also made the front page of the Daily Telegraph, where it was presented in a rather less favourable light. Taking its cue from the Guido Fawkes website, the Telegraph ran a report titled “Corbyn-backers spread ‘fake news’ about blaze toll”, which attacked Skwawkbox’s coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire. The story was then recycled by the Sunday Express which similarly accused Corbyn supporters of misreporting the tragedy.

Without recounting the full story we note.

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

When the tale fell apart this was the reaction,

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Nowhere, he complained, did he claim that the government had imposed a D-Notice on media coverage of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He insisted that he had merely raised the possibility that a D-Notice could have been issued. Did he not write “if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice”? Well, yes, he did — but that was immediately followed by the words “and every instinct is screaming that it is”! The author then proceeded on the basis of that assumption to outline his theories about the government’s motives for imposing a media gag.

The former Editor of What Next? and Islamophobia Watch,  covers a few more tall tales and concludes,

But I stopped following Skwawkbox last September after it published ludicrous claims based on dodgy maths about vast numbers of people being excluded from the Labour leadership election (“no fewer than 67,000 eligible voters have not received a vote — over 16% of the Labour electorate”), followed by the baseless accusation of a cover-up by party officials.

That, unfortunately, is how Skwawkbox operates — hyping up stories in order to generate clickbait headlines, with little or no concern for accuracy, often combining this with unsubstantiated claims that the authorities are involved in some sort of conspiracy. The evident purpose of this is to whip up hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn’s political opponents in order to bolster his leadership.

Skwawkbox’s approach is entirely counterproductive. Far from defending Corbyn against right-wing attacks, this irresponsible nonsense just provides ammunition for his enemies, allowing them to portray the Labour leader’s supporters as a bunch of liars and political fantasists. It also degrades the political culture of the left, by sidelining serious analysis and debate in favour of false polemics and crackpot conspiracy theories.

Skwawkbox has a featured post that includes a tweet from an admirer: “This blog is journalism as it should be. True, fair, accurate and in the public interest.” The reality, however, is that Skwawkbox functions as a sort of left-wing mirror image of the right-wing tabloid press, or of alt-right sites like Breitbart News. It employs the same unscrupulous, sensationalist journalistic methods, but for opposite political ends. Skwawkbox appears incapable of grasping that socialist aims cannot be achieved by such anti-socialist means.

Phil by contrast remarks of the alt-left Blogs,

The size of their audience is one reason why they cannot be dismissed with a flick of the polemical wrist. The other is their impact on the political process. Despite the conspiratorial thinking, they have proven effective in cohering armies of social media activists around the Corbyn project. During the election, they inspired and encouraged thousands of peoples to get active in campaigns independently of the herculean mobilisation efforts of Momentum. Those activists are not disappearing either. They’re turning up to constituency meetings in increasing numbers and are steadily making their presence felt. In short, the new blogs top the collective propaganda efforts of established left activism and are helping touch off a mass radicalisation, and that is not to be sniffed at.

This Blog tends to agree with cde Pitt’s critical stand

Conspiratorial thinking, of the kind painfully exhibited in Skwawkbox, and just plain sloppy playing around with facts, is not just to be sniffed at: it is to be opposed.

The Canary gave space to this Opinion in February this year:

Donald Trump is trying a move from Hitler’s playbook, and the media gifted it to him Ben Janaway

At the end is this sentence: We actively invite you to question what you read at The Canary, to follow the hyperlinks we reference, and to search for more information.

Hitler’s playbook is not available on-line.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 25, 2017 at 11:50 am

The End of the French Socialists?

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The End of the Socialist Party? Not so sure….

The French Socialist Party (PS) is still in the throes of its historic rout in this year’s Presidential and Legislative elections.

While some of its representatives have switched sides and now support centrist President Macron, others are calling for a ‘refoundation’ of the party.

The PS will not support a vote of confidence in the government of Eduouard Phillipe, although sufficient ambiguity has been left open for those who will abstain instead of actively voting against.

For former First Secretary of the PS,  Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, interviewed in Libération today,  the party must remain socialist, green and pro-European. Its future lies in resisting both the “bonapartisme social-libéral” of  d’Emmanuel Macron  and the (leftist) “gauchisme autoritaire de Jean-Luc Mélenchon”. He floats the idea of “Launching a movement that will lead to a new party.” (Il faut déclencher un mouvement pour déboucher sur un nouveau parti.)

Former Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon – 6,36 % in those elections, he lost his seat in the Parliamentary contest – has created a new movement. This “transpartisan” body, which aims to draw in support and debate from the whole left, will hold its first meeting on the 1st of July. Also on the PS left, Arnaud Montebourg, has called for the party to adopt radical policies, an internal shake-up rather than an approach outside its organisation. His proposals, centring around ‘Inventing a new left”, have so far  attracted 700 PS supporters (PS: des proches d’Arnaud Montebourg veulent inventer “la gauche nouvelle”.

The Parti Socialiste’s National Council meets today (Saturday).

Some commentators suggest that, given its long existence, structural roots in civil society,  and  no obvious signs of internal collapse, that the Parti Socialiste, despite its reduction to 34 MPs and  7,44% of the vote in the Legislatives, is not going to disappear. Re-branding, negotiating a new ‘synthesis’ of ideas, or reaching out to other parts of the left, or a further haemorrhageing  to Macron, will take time. To begin with. Where they will end up is very far from clear.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Tariq Ramadan’s ‘Debate’ ‘Within the Islamic Tradition’ on Female Circumcision.

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Ramadan Faces, “campaign by far-right circles, fundamentalist secularists, inveterate Zionists, lying ex-Muslims…”

Tariq Ramadan (Arabicطارق رمضان‎‎; born 26 August 1962) is a Swiss academic, philosopher and writer. He is the professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. He is a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies (Qatar), the Université Mundiapolis (Morocco) and several other universities around world. He is also a senior research fellow at Doshisha University (Japan). He is the director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), based in Doha.[3] He is a member of the UK Foreign Office Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief.[4] He was elected by Time magazine in 2000 as one of the seven religious innovators of the 21st century and in 2004 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world[5] and by Foreign Policy magazine (2005, 2006, 2008-2010, 2012-2015) as one of the top 100 most influential thinkers in the world and Global Thinkers. (Wikipedia)

To get an idea of why this Blog has nothing but disdain for Ramadan his reaction to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher is a good place to start,

Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme earlier this morning, Prof Ramadan condemned the attack on the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying that, “these are very difficult times and a very sad situation” and expressing his “deepest sympathy for the victims’ families.”

“We must start by condemning what happened and what was done in the name of Islam… what they did in fact was to betray our principles, our values and the overall message of Islam,” he stated.

Prof Ramadan also outlined the need for a more nuanced reaction to the atrocities, and for there to be a real attempt to understand the grievances that might lead such people to commit such extreme acts of violence.

The Oxford Don is perhaps best known for calling for a “moratorium” – not the abolition – of some  Sharia law penalties as stoning people to death (An International call for Moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World. 2005)

A new controversy about Islamic Legality  began last week (June the 14th).

It has not stopped growing.

Tariq Ramadan Defends Female Genital Mutilation: ‘Part of Our Tradition’ and an ‘Internal Discussion’ for Muslims Only.

… on Monday, influential Islamist thinker and activist Tariq Ramadan released a 10 minute video on Facebook expressing support for Elsayed staying on. Ramadan stated Muslim leaders who advocate for FGM should be understood as “brothers,” part of “our community” and Muslims who disagree should engage them with “internal discussion” and are instructed “not to expose them.” Here are some of the highlights from this video.

The author continued,

First Ramadan starts by framing opposition to FGM as a critique coming from “outside the community” and stating that he opposes the calls for firing Elsayed:

“I’m reacting to what I heard and some questions that I had about what happened in Washington with this controversy round a shaykh who was not yet fired – I hope he is not going to be, but he was asked to stop preaching and to stop being active within the community or within the mosque in Washington. And I think that some of the brothers and the sisters even wrote a letter after the controversy around female genital mutilation and excision asking for him to be fired from the mosque and reacting to a video that was posted about what he said in the gathering with Muslim students, men and women. Let me say three things about this because I think this [sic] are critical times and we have to be quite serious about the way we are reacting to controversies and the way we are reacting to some critiques that are coming from outside the community and we have to ask ourselves what we are doing.”

Next Ramadan makes his argument that because FGM is defended by some Muslim scholars it qualifies as “part of our tradition” and is therefore worthy of being “promoted”:

“My position as a Muslim scholar, my position: it’s wrong that we should not promote this because I think that first, it’s not in the Koran and second, it’s part of the Sunnah that we have, and it’s something that is done in African countries, among the Christians and the Muslims and it’s not religious. Having said that, I cannot deny the fact that some scholars at the highest levels of their institutional position are supporting the fact that this is possible that you can go for excision, not to go up to the mutilation and infibulation as it is known in African countries, but we have this in our tradition and it’s part of the internal discussion that we need to have. So to please people who are attacking Islam by saying ‘Oh no, no, no, this is not Islamic. It’s illegal,’ it’s not even faithful to our tradition. We need to have an internal discussion… So, once again, we have to be serious. Any one of the six months of any basic Islamic training, no one can say it’s not part of our tradition. It’s controversial, it’s discussed… you need to take a position, but you then cannot deny the fact that this is something which is part of our tradition.”

Then Ramadan shifts to attacking opponents of FGM, decrying them as Islamophobes, attacking MEMRI by name, and criticizing Muslims for wanting “to be perceived as moderate, open-minded”:

“You need to ask yourself: who are these people who are using videos, putting them and creating controversy? If you are reacting only when Islamophobes – and the people, MEMRI, we know who they are, we know what they want to do, we know in which way they want to make Islam problems, not only in the United States of America but around the world through the translation, distorting and covering in ways that are very specific, they have a very specific objective, they have a very specific way of dealing with scholars, intellectuals, and Islam. These are Islamophobes, and you react to them by just exposing one of your leaders, a shaykh that has been serving the community for more than 30 years and you ask for him to be fired so quickly just to be on the safe side of the political discussion in the United States of America by saying ‘Oh, we have nothing to do with this’ while your tradition is there and it’s discussed within your tradition and whoever is attacking you at least you have to be cautious with the people who are using this and are putting you in a situation which is yes, problematic, but you have to stand for your rights to have opinions, and at least to have internal discussion and not to react so quickly to these issues… And the last thing that I wanted to say: we disagree. I don’t agree with the statement. I don’t with one brother, I don’t agree with one leader. Can’t we take the time to have an internal discussion? To say ‘Look we are not going to respond to the controversy, we are not going to fire the people just to be on the safe side and to be perceived as moderate, as open-minded.'”

Ramadan’s concluding comments are perhaps the most revealing [emphasis added]:

At least we take the time and we let the people know these are internal issues, these are discussions that we want to have among ourselves and it’s not for you to decide when we have to fire somebody or even what are our priorities, because at the end of the day the context is now deciding for us, and people around us are deciding for us what are our priorities, what are the main principle of Islam, and we are not able to come with dignity, with consistency, with confidence and say, ‘Ok, this is who we are, we don’t have all the same opinions, there are discussions, there are internal discussions, we will take our decision, we will have our Shura, our deliberation with it, and it is for us to decide, not for Islamophobes, not for racists, not for people who have political agendas that are now deciding for us… The way you have to be dignified as a Muslim is to rely on him [points upward] to be consistent with yourself and to respect your brothers, not to expose them, not to expose your sisters, even though you disagree, even though you don’t agree. And no double standards, no selective indignation, or selective rejection of some of our brothers because they are exposed outside. And as to our internal business, we talk about it but we let the people, we let the brothers say whatever they want to say.

This insistence on “no double standards” is loaded with irony, as double standards are inherent in Ramadan’s worldview. He advocates for one moral standard for his Muslim “brothers” and “sisters” to engage in “internal discussion” and for imams to “say whatever they want to say.” But for non-Muslims who oppose the barbaric (and illegal) practice of FGM – that makes one a racist and “Islamophobe.”

The international religious authority has tweeted,

Ramadan’s further  reply:

I thought it was not needed as I repeated three times in the video that I do not support either excision or FGM. In any way and I have been involved around the world against both practises. I disagree as well with the comments made by Shaykh Shaker about hyper-sexuality. Yet, this was not my point and I made it clear in the video. To say this discussion has no ground within the Islamic tradition is wrong : it has been debated and still is. Even though I am against these practises as I think it is not the right Islamic interpretation, it cannot be denied that it was condoned by some Muslim scholars (even contemporary ones). So let us be clear about it and address the issue the way it should be, in a clear, wise and scholarly manner. My other point was about our reactive way to deal with issue when vicious islamophobic agencies, such as MEMRI, are attacking people and leaders within the Muslim community. This is the time where we should be wise and decide for ourselves how we have to deal with these issues and prioritise our struggles. Instead of exposing people, let us have an open internal debate even if it has to be heated, tough with no compromise. This is where I stand and I hope it is clear enough by now.

 

In a more forthright vein, in French the scholar talks of,

A new campaign by far-right circles, fundamentalist secularists, inveterate Zionists, lying ex-Muslims, and propagandists from all sides…claims that I am a defender of female genital mutilation! Not satisfied with altering my remarks and twisting their meaning, these imposters are waging a campaign in all directions, at Muslims, at Africans, and my self…I have campaigned for 30 years in Africa, and across the world against female circumcision, and all forms of mutilation. These claims are abject smears.  But there is no greater deafness than the deafness of liars, racists and the dishonest.

 

One assumes that the erudite savant was referring to this report in French language media,

Après la lapidation, Tariq Ramadan voudrait avoir une discussion « interne » sur l’excision : « Elle fait partie de notre tradition » toute l'information et l'actualité sur Israel, sur l'Europe, les news sur Israël et le Moyen Orient

Ramadan’s response is, one might observe, in just the kind of tone which we need in the present climate.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Day of Rage, UK Right-Wing Press Goes Hysteria.

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Day of Rage campaign poster

This is happening today.

Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessaryshared their event.

17 June at 15:32 · 

#JusticeForGrenfell #Justice4Grenfell

We returned to the site today, speaking with people who live locally, people who came from all sides of London & outside. All races and ethnicities, all faiths and none, migrants and citizens, ALL of us coming together to grieve, to connect, and to fight so this never happens again. ALL of us are London, we are ALL Britain.

This government has presided over thousands of deaths from 7 years of austerity and anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant racism and bigotry. THEY NEED TO GO. NOW.

* MARCH * STRIKE * WALK OUT *
21/06/17 Queens speech – march on Parliament. We march from Shepherds Bush to Westminster.

We have came out and shown in the last elections what society we want: progressive, equal, just, hopeful. And we will fight for it by any means necessary. May’s coalition of millionaires & bigots must go, if we are to win a progressive hopeful future for all.

On Wednesday 21st
Bring your rage, bring your anger, bring your hurt, we will be loud and bold, speaking the only language the rich and powerful understand: a mass integrated movement in the streets.

#DayOfRagehttps://www.facebook.com/events/1490621807662608/?ti=icl

#BringDownTheGovernment

The Daily Mail boils with its own rage,

If Jeremy Corbyn truly believed in democracy, he’d roundly condemn today’s ‘Day of Rage’, organised by the storm troops of the hard Left to bring London to a halt and help overthrow the Government.

Leave aside the sickening way his Marxist supporters have exploited the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire to promote their hate-filled agenda – ‘hijacking our grief’, in the words of local residents and churches.

The very thought of a revolutionary mob seeking to overturn an election result should horrify anyone who cherishes our constitution and rule of law.

Yet from the Labour leader, deafening silence. Worse, he has pandered to protesters’ thirst for class war by echoing their demands to seize the empty homes of the rich.

As for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, yes, he has said half-heartedly that he ‘repudiates’ the Day of Rage. Yet as the Mail reveals, he has given his backing in the past to the protest’s organisers from the chillingly-named Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary.
Meanwhile, this man who would be chancellor has egged on union militants to topple Theresa May in a ‘Red October’, with mass protests and a summer of strikes that could do untold harm to the economy.

During the election, Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell presented themselves as misunderstood idealists. How quickly the mask has slipped. And what a warning to anyone tempted to give them power.

The Evening Standard adds,

Stand Up To Racism has organised a demo for 6pm called: “Protest the Queen’s speech – no to May/DUP racism & bigotry!”

London Socialist Party is hosting a Facebook event called “May Must Go! Protest the Queen’s Speech” which is scheduled for 4pm.

One assumes they are both going to protest against the Queen’s Speech, unless they are organising the event from Washington DC.

Grenfell Tower fire: Local residents do not want their ‘grief hijacked’ by ‘Day of Rage’ protest

This report is more significant, from Get West London.

“They’re angry, they’re grieving but they are working to bring about positive change”

Some of the residents who have been affected by the fatal Grenfell Tower fire , have talked about having their ‘grief hijacked’ following the announcement of the ‘Day of Rage’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament.

According to the Clement James Centre, a local educational charity which has provided temporary shelter for residents, those affected by the fire do not support the planned protest.

Posting on Twitter, the Clement James Centre said: “There has been a ‘Day of Rage’ announced for Wednesday, trying to bring London to a standstill.

“We cannot emphasise enough how against this many of the affected residents we’ve spoken to are and they do not want their grief hijacked for any violent or destructive means.

They’re angry, they’re grieving but they are working to bring about positive change and action through conversations with the right people.

“They want their voices about this to be heard just as loudly.

“If the streets are closed, we cannot effectively continue our aid operation in the area, and if any violence ensues, the issue takes a whole new direction.”

The charity also spoke of a #peaceforlatimer trend, where the local community are trying white ribbons around their wrists to ensure their message is heard.

Others have condemned the “Day of Rage” protest, Facebook user, Joanne Green posted on the event, saying: “Rioting will not work. It will destroy the last 2 years of hard work that we have done to get this close to a real Revolution as is possible.”

To which the event organisers replied: “Where exactly are you seeing that we are calling for a ‘riot’?

“We don’t let the fears of those who oppress us determine how we fight”

Activists will also take note of the following, which I agree wholeheartedly with:

Another post on the event, by London Black Revs, who describe themselves on Facebook as a “self-determined working class URBAN and strictly working class revolutionary organisation”, says: “Were residents consulted on this?

“They are really against having a demonstration without being told, asked or leading it, especially for other political agendas, which may or may not be important.

“There is a lot of anger locally that things are being done in Grenfell’s name and they’ve not had the time to even bury their family members.”

But,

The organisers replied by saying: “We have been in the community for several days now, speaking to hundreds of people, many who have friends and loved ones missing or dead.

“We’ve had tonnes of support, people taking flyers, saying they are coming, wanting to speak out about their experiences.”

*****

This Wikipedia account of the Movement for Justice is said to be broadly correct – according to our sources.

One should add that their site, Movement for Justice, does not seem to have been updated since 2013, and people indicate that they may have less than a dozen supporters.

Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary

“The Movement for Justice was set up in 1995 by people around the Kingsway College Student Union in the London Borough of Camden to tackle racism in institutional and established forms. The group confronted organised fascism as well as death in custody and wider racism to black people as well as travellers, refugees and asylum seekers. It is also the sister group to the American organization The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which has been accused of being a cult by former members. Movement for Justice is headed up by members of the Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL), a Trotskyist group.”

The origins of this group are obscure even by Trotskist standards<

“The Workers Internationalist League was a Trotskyist group in Britain founded in the summer of 1983 by the Internationalist Faction of the Workers Socialist League. It was the British affiliate of the Trotskyist International Liaison Committee until that body was renamed the International Trotskyist Committee.

Although a small group, it immediately moved to producing a paper which was called Workers’ International News in mimicry of the magazine of the war-time Workers International League. For a small group of no more than 35 members this was a major undertaking.

The main concern of the new group was to clarify its ideas and where to concentrate their work. Therefore the question of how to orient to the Labour Party was a major area of debate. On the one hand, comrades around Mike Jones, close to the views of the Workers’ Party (Argentina) (PO), were for working in the Labour Party Young Socialists and were hostile to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International forces then in the Labour Party. This was an important question for the group as the Italian section of the TILC moved to join the USFI group in that country. On the other extreme of the group, Chris Erswell was supportive of the Italian TILC group’s orientation.

Meanwhile the senior leader of the WIL, Pete Flack, found himself isolated when the rest of the National Committee opposed the Italian tactic of fusion with the USFI. The WIL was being pulled in different directions by other Trotskyist tendencies, with the TILC, PO and the Workers Power group all representing different poles of attraction. This became obvious at the first national conference of the group, held in December 1983.

The conference solved none of the problems of the group and in January 1984 eleven supporters of the TILC left the WIL to establish the Workers International Review Group. The TILC refused to make them their official British section, instead choosing TILC sympathisers still in the WIL. They formed a Tendency for Political Clarification which was itself clarified when 3 of its 5 members left to join Workers Power. The remaining two members of the tendency then formed a Liaison Committee with the Workers International Review Group which led to the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist League in November 1984,[2] which was the British section of the International Trotskyist Committee (formed that summer from the TILC) until its split in 1991. The rump WIL would seem to have expired in the meantime.

The WSL was originally a faction inside the Workers’ Revolutionary Party.

French Legislative Elections: A Victory for Social Liberalism against Populism?

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Seats in the Assemblée Nationale.

Nuances de candidats Nombre de sièges
Extrême gauche 0
Parti communiste français 10
La France insoumise 17
Parti socialiste 29
Parti radical de gauche 3
Divers gauche 12
Ecologiste 1
Divers 3
Régionaliste 5
La République en marche 308
Modem 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 18
Les Républicains 113
Divers droite 6
Debout la France 1
Front National 8
Extrême droite 1

 

Percentages of the vote and abstention (57,36%)

Nuances de candidats Voix % inscrits % exprimés Nombre de sièges
Parti communiste français 217 833 0,46 1,20 10
La France insoumise 883 786 1,87 4,86 17
Parti socialiste 1 032 985 2,18 5,68 29
Parti radical de gauche 64 860 0,14 0,36 3
Divers gauche 263 619 0,56 1,45 11
Ecologiste 23 197 0,05 0,13 1
Divers 100 574 0,21 0,55 3
Régionaliste 137 453 0,29 0,76 5
La République en marche 7 826 432 16,55 43,06 306
Modem 1 100 790 2,33 6,06 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 551 760 1,17 3,04 17
Les Républicains 4 040 016 8,54 22,23 113
Divers droite 306 240 0,65 1,68 6
Debout la France 17 344 0,04 0,10 1
Front National 1 590 858 3,36 8,75 8
Extrême droite 19 030 0,04 0,10
Nombre % inscrits % votants
Inscrits 47 292 967
Abstentions 27 125 535 57,36
Votants 20 167 432 42,64
Blancs 1 397 496 2,95 6,93
Nuls 593 159 1,25 2,94
Exprimés 19 176 177 38,43 90,13
Ministère de l'Interieur

interieur.gouv.fr  MINISTÈRE DE L’INTÉRIEUR Second Round.

This morning on the French radio the expected news of the triumph Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche was immediately followed by an announcement that  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would tolerate no pot-shots at his government from his own quarter. The fresh-faced majority would not see its own deputies becoming “frondeurs” – critics that the right-wing of the Parti Socialiste  now blame for their own crushing defeat, from the Presidential elections to the legislatives.

To one admirer of the new President,  Will Hutton, “Macronism is the emergence of a fresh grounded economic and political philosophy – a landmark moment.” (Macron has led a brilliant coup – could the British now do the same? Observer). In the grip of enthusiasm he continues, “An ancien regime of tired and corrupt conservative and socialist politicians, indissolubly linked to the immobilisme that has plagued France, has been swept away.”

As in Macron Minister Richard Ferrand (accusation of dodgy property deals) Justice Minister and leader of Macron’s allied party, the Modems, François Bayrou (alleged misuse of European funding)…..

Hutton’s 1995, The State We’re In, proposed a ” radical social democratic ” programme for Tony Blair’s Labour Party, with a strong dose of constitutional reform – apparently the key condition for  transforming the UK’s dominance by financial interests – as the answer to British economic difficulties. It drew support from a constituency that emerged at the end-tail of the ‘New Times’ politics of the disintegrating Democratic Left, the largest Eurocommunist tendency of the former  Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), some within the Trade Union Congress, and the liberal left. He has since sifted  through a variety of ever more diluted versions of these themes, ending up with a plea for “fairness” in Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society (2010), and others whose contents I defy anybody to remember anything about.

In the latest of the columnist’s band-wagon efforts his embrace of the glimmer of a new ‘progressive’ movement – it seems that Macron is keen on “social investment” is on very wobbly ground indeed.

Hutton rushes overboard to back the very measure which will raise the hackles of the French trade union majority – apart from the ‘negotiating reformists of the CFDT – ‘reform of the labour market’. This “loosening” of the Code du travail met with mass protests and strikes in 2016.

Will Macron’s priority for legislation in this area, apparently based on a (vaguely sketched) ‘Nordic Model’ though perhaps the ability to sack at will does not figure there, run into a similar storm?

The subject is not mentioned.

A Defeat for Populism?

Macron has been described as populist, in the sense that his idea of ‘progressive’ is ‘beyond left and right’ and is, well, popular. But there is little else to tie him to the debate about populism. He does not support the incarnation of the People in France, or pit the Nation’s sovereignty against Europe and Globalisation. He is not anti-pluralist, En Marche! does not promote  an exclusive form of identity, aim at actual or potential ‘occupancy’ of the state, the suppression of civil society and pluralism, or use any form of demagogy.

Macron’s policies on the European Union (pro, with the promotion of reform) and globalisation (pro- but moderated)  are anti-populist.

So how do we begin to come to grips with his politics?

Since the Referendum Campaign and the victory of Brexit, and Trump’s election, many commentators have talked up the ‘populist wave’.  David Goodhart (The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. 2017) talked of “values tribes”. The somewhere people – those rooted in a specific place or community –  were contrasted with the anywhere people, urban, socially liberal and university educated.

Macron’s party, with its strong support (up to 90% in Paris) in cities and amongst those with degrees, open minded on social issues, liberal on equal rights and  equality of opportunity is  anywhere placed and given a location. These French anywheres  have been beaten off the somewheres, the ‘periurban. the inhabitants of France’s ‘rust belt’ who voted for the Front National.

The constituency of En Marche!, one suspects, is less ‘socially liberal’ on policies  that cost money and taxes, real equality, or is social in the sense of engaging with the social struggles waged by trade unions.

The ‘freedom’ of the market come first.

But this is only the beginning of efforts to come to terms with Macron, and his party-movement.

The Basis For French Political Realignment. 

Thibault Muzergues (Le réalignement politique n’est pas vraiment idéologique, il est d’abord sociologique) fleshed out the sociology behind the changing French political scene.  First of all Muzergues  talks of “millennials“, white I find this claim goes against the observable pattern) , educated, frustrated at not finding a job, and one could add, at the cost of higher education, above all at the continued fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, austerity. They tend to back the radical left, Corbyn in the UK, Podemos in Spain, and La France Insoumise in the Hexagogne.

Then there is a “white minority”, the left behind, the inhabitants of the ‘rust belts’ in Europe (and the USA). They are the ‘losers’ of globalisation. They tend to back the Front National, supported Brexit, and, obviously, Trump.

Next is the  the “creative class”, the winners of globalization, cosmopolitan Bobos (bohemian bourgeois), from high-flyers to right-wing smug Hipsters (I add this latter bit off my own back) who are Macron’s constituency.

Finally, Muzergues sketches as those attached to their ‘somewheres’, “terroir’ et tradition’, They are the polar opposite of the Bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who like Macron. The “boubours” (bourgeois-bourrin, which comrade Google translates, as “philistine nag” and I would say something approaching Essex Man) are as much a part of this cohort as the French equivalent of Home Counties pious Tories. Unlike their British counterparts  included in their conservative values are the existing system of social protection (in France, and no doubt the UK – the Welfare state, notably for the elderly). These lean towards the classical right, Les Républicains onwards.

The game of identifying the constituencies in the new French political landscape will no doubt continue, with the addition of exploration of the largest body in this second round: the abstentionists, who included 4,2% who voted, blank or spoiled ballot papers.

For one person at least, Mélenchon  not voting was a form of “civic strike” “forme de grève civique) , a protest whsope negry can be deployed in futrue against Macron (France Culture)

But if Muzergues tends to work backwards, from the choices on the ballot, voting patterns, to constituencies, it is a better framework than the somewhere/anywhere couple. It  has the merit of outlining one group which appears distinct from the sterile distinction between populist salt of the earth anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation somewheres and the urbane creatives. The constituency of the millennials is an interesting one and has can be seen to have parallels elsewhere, in the United Kingdom and the basis of much support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to start with. A lot more needs to be added on the Front National, which I will postpone until the slew of  post-election books arrives.

End of Left and Right?

There has  clearly a game-changing series of changes in this election. Some argue that these new voting blocs are overshadowed by a profound transformations in French political topography.   This year’s elections have undermined the traditional blocs of left and right, as organised and  institutionalised parties, bodies with histories dating to the early years of the 20th century – Socialists, to the foundation of the  Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO, in 1905 – with origins still further back to the tumult and aftermath of the French Revolution.

An emerging political system which centres on personalities and their ‘movements‘ , as it is emerging in France, sidelining decades of a (complex) left-right party system, is without direct counterparts elsewhere. Even Italy, after the break up of the Communist Party, continues to cling to a  stem of organised parties, and the 5 Star movement looks well  past its peak.  (Pierre Rosanvallon : « L’élection de Macron redéfinit le clivage droite-gauche ». 17.6.17)

That the Parti Socialiste has managed to get 29 seats with a pitiful 5,68% of the vote, masks its own split between those who consider that they are “Macron compatible” and those hostile to him. One of them  Myriam El Khomri, in whose name the previous labour ‘reform’ was carried out, lost to the traditional right in the second round on Sunday. The Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, was also eliminated in the first round. As a sign of their divisions, Hamon then called for a vote for La France insoumise  in the constituency where his  PS rival, Manuel Valls, was standing.

Re-founding the Left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  La France insoumise (LFI) now has a parliamentary group. Apart from those primarily devoted to his own person it includes, François Ruffin, the author of the film Merci patron!, credited with inspiring the Nuit Debout movement, and Clémentine Autain, the independent minded spokesperson for the left alliance Ensemble (Législatives 2017 : La France insoumise de Mélenchon aura un groupe à l’Assemblée nationale.

How far they will fit in with the Left Populist leader’s plans to lead the People against the Oligarchy, and whether agreements can be reached with the 10 Communist deputies, pleased not to have erased from the electoral map, as once seemed possible (Législatives : le PCF retrouve quelques sièges historiquesremains to be seen.

Their priority will obviously be to defeat Macron’s plans to liberalise the labour market by weakening employees’ rights.

In the longer term many have called for a profound re-thinking of the basis on which the left has stood, and the future of all forms of socialism. (1)

Their debates will be of great interest to the whole European and international left.

As the ‘incarnation of the programme’ Mélenchon may not have to face people who might disagree with him inside his rally, La France Insoumise that Pablo Iglesias has found in  Podemos, or opponents of the statue of Íñigo Errejón.  But it may well be that he’ll find that he meets his equals in the new National Assembly, people who are more interested in this re-foundation of the left than in an individual’s plans for the French People.

*********

(1) The Parti Socialiste General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis in his resignation speech called for thoroughgoing change “La gauche doit tout changer, la forme comme le fond, ses idées comme ses organisations. La gauche doit ouvrir un nouveau cycle. Il s’agit de repenser les racines du progressisme, car ses deux piliers – l’État providence et l’extension continue des libertés – sont remis en cause. Il s’agit donc de repenser l’action publique, en mêlant principe d’efficacité et demande citoyenne. C’est le socle indispensable d’une nouvelle offre politique à gauche pour contrer à la fois le néolibéralisme et le nationalisme.”

More Information: France 24.

Record abstention

While Macron’s triumph paves the way for the sweeping reforms he has promised, it also comes with a number of important caveats, starting with the massive level of abstention that made it possible. For the first time in history, turnout in a legislative election has slumped to below 50%, in both rounds. On Sunday, a mere 43% of voters bothered to cast their ballots. This means the 42% of votes won by LREM candidates account for less than 20% of registered voters.

The record level of abstention underscored the widespread election fatigue accumulated over more than 12 months of non-stop campaigning, successive primaries, and a two-round presidential election. It also highlighted the imbalance inherent to France’s electoral system, in which legislative polls tend to be seen as a sideshow to the all-important presidential bout. With his hyper-personalisation of politics, Macron has dramatically increased this discrepancy.

Above all, the measly turnout reflected voters’ widespread disgust with the mainstream parties of right and left that have dominated French politics for decades. A few weeks ago, the conservative Les Républicains were still hoping to win a majority of seats. As results trickled in on Sunday, they were projected to win just 126, their lowest-ever tally. Reflecting on the debacle, their campaign leader François Baroin had little to offer, besides wishing Macron “good luck”.

Socialist wipe-out

As for the former ruling Socialists, they slumped to an all-time low of 29 seats. Last week saw the first-round exits of party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadélis and presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. More heavyweights fell on Sunday, including former education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who was seen as one of the party’s rising stars. As the scale of the defeat became obvious, Cambadélis announced his resignation, adding that “Macron’s triumph is uncontestable”.

Among the survivors from left and right, several have already pledged to support the “presidential majority”. They include former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, who saved his seat in the Essonne, south of Paris, by a mere 139 votes – and only because LREM chose not to field a candidate against him. His far-left opponent has challenged the result alleging voter fraud, and a recount is on the cards.

Indicative of the extraordinary realignment of French politics was a flashpoint contest in northern Paris, in which centrist Socialist candidate Myriam El Khomri enjoyed Macron’s support, while her conservative challenger Pierre-Yves Bournazel was backed by Macron’s prime minister. Victory went to the latter, marking a huge upset in a constituency that was once solidly left-wing.

Le Pen enters parliament

While LREM capitalised on the anti-establishment sentiment, other parties that had been hoping to ride the same wave fell way short of their objectives. It was notably the case of the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in last month’s presidential contest, which failed to translate its strong showing in presidential polls into a large parliamentary contingent.

British Far-Right Mass Media Baits the Left to Avoid Facing up to Grenfell Tragedy.

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Image may contain: one or more people and people standing
Far-Right Media has no answer to Tragedy but to bait left-wingers. 
MOB OF LEFTIES SLAMMED

Hard-left activists blasted for ‘hijacking’ the genuine outrage over the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. The Sun. 

Members of Corbyn fan group – Momentum – spotted at the invasion of  Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall.

HARD-LEFT activists were blasted for “hijacking” the genuine outrage over the Grenfell tragedy.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn fan group Momentum were spotted during the invasion of Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall.

Hundreds of people with placards reading “we demand an inquest” gathered outside.

But a separate group broke away from the other protesters and gained access to the building — within them one activist was spotted wearing red Momentum t-shirt.

And Corbyn-supporting popstar Lily Allen — who was slammed for accusing the media of a cover up over the disaster — was also photographed inside the town hall building.

Later Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party activists flooded a protest on Whitehall with pre-prepared placards and banners.

A group of hundreds of activists shut down Westminster and marched on Downing Street, demanding Theresa May resign.

Socialist worker placards read “MAY MUST GO” and “KICK THE TORIES OUT” and other signs said the Tories had “blood on their hands” and urged the public to “back Corbyn.”

Another banner unfurled was from the hard-left students union at London uni SOAS.

A dozen riot vans were on standby and a police helicopter circled above.

But one eyewitness slammed the Westminster protest as “a bunch of white middle class students, who were handed their signs.”

They went on: “These kids had nothing to do with Grenfell, it was just the usual suspects and the students turning up.”

Tory MP David Morris hit out: “This does not come as any surprise after the vile intimidation Momentum pumped out across the country during the election.”

He added: “It’s sad to see genuine anger and hurt hijacked for cheap political stunts and these people should be ashamed.”

This Blog dislikes the way the groups named turn up at demos with their placards, trying to give the impression of wider support than they have in reality, and attempting to impose their political agenda on other people’s campaigns.

The real left supports the campaign for justice led by the people from Grenfell Tower.

We do not have any agenda other than theirs.

But the people who printed and carried these placards did not burn people alive in the tower block and cause the  justifiable anger of the protesters.

This is a distasteful distraction.

It pales into insignificance at the the justified rage against those responsible.

The far-right British media  have mounted their own operation to take attention away from what is turning into the biggest catastrophe and political scandal in London of the new century.

This disaster was caused by free-market, loose-regulation policies, and the strategy of putting the working class and poor into substandard housing, above all those of  Conservatives Governments, and the specific responsibility of the Tory  Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

he people operating the printing presses did not burn people alive in the tower block and cause the very justifiable anger

Like millions in this country we can only endorse the demands of the campaigners:

1. Written commitment from the council on immediate rehousing of all the victims of Grenfell Tower fire, within the borough

2. Immediate release of funds to cover costs of welfare and all losses suffered by the victims

3. Commission investigation into the recent £10m refurbishment project of the same tower and bring those who failed to install adequate health and safety measures and equipment at the building

4. Release full list of victims of the tragedy so families can bereave their dead

5. Commission investigation into all other similar buildings in the borough to identify fire, health and safety risks and put in place immediate control measures

It is also hard not to agree with the ‘extremist’ views of Polly Toynbee (Guardian),

That tomb in the sky will be forever Theresa May’s monument. Grenfell marks the spot and her visit marks the moment the last vestiges of her career were finally rubbed out. She made it her own yesterday by that fateful “visit” to a handful of senior fire officers, guarding her from any contaminating contact with the bereaved and newly homeless. Dead to emotion or empathy, she sealed her fate.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm

The Disappearance of Émile Zola. Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. Michael Rosen. Review.

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Image result for the dia[pearance of emile zola Rosen

 

The Disappearance of Émile Zola. Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. Michael Rosen. Faber & Faber 2017.

The Dreyfus Affair, which began in 1894, was the supreme battle against a miscarriage of justice. The anti-Semitism of those who opposed the Dreyfusards is seen as the template for hostility to Jews ever since. The public polemics between defenders and opponents of the Jewish officer’s conviction are credited with the origin of the idea of an intellectual.Theodor Herzl said that the Dreyfus case turned him into a Zionist. For the left it was the moment when human rights, not without resistance and ambiguities, became an important issue within the socialist movement. The Affair continues to make its mark within French politics, on both the open-minded and the less tolerant sides of Republican orthodoxy.

There would appear little new to say about Dreyfus, although Ruth Harris’s The Man on Devil’s Island (2010) offers a fresh look alongside rigorous research. Yet Michael Rosen casts new light on an episode familiar to those acquainted with the history. He begins, “on the evening of Monday, 18 July 1898, Émile Zola disappeared”.

J’accuse.

The publication on the 13th of January 1898, in the daily L’aurore, of J’accuse had inflamed opinion. This immortal defence of Dreyfus was met by riots and attacks on Jewish homes and shops, as nationalists and the Ligue antisémitique railed at its author. The Minister for War, General Billot, brought charges of libel against Zola. In a Court, surrounded by hostile crowds and police, he was convicted to 3 years in gaol, and a 3,000 francs fine. Facing an appeal, which the writer felt was certain to fail, he had fled to London.

Over the pages of Disappearance of Émile Zola the writer’s London exile is brought to life with a fine touch. Zola was bemused and far from at ease in the British capital. He did not speak English. Boiled potatoes failed to work their charm on him. The housing, shops and surroundings in the South London suburbs were uneasily different. The houses lacked shutters, which we still seem to able to do without.

With his translated novels enjoying a mass readership Zola was already a celebrity. But this was infamy as much as fame. While religious figures and organisations such as National Vigilance Association had, a more than a decade previously, been hostile to “his odious indecency”. His translator Henry Vizetelly served time in Pentonville prison for publishing his more explicit works. Unabridged versions of books like Nana (1880), the story of the prostitute offspring of the alcoholic couple in l’Assommoir (1877), with its lesbian and sado-masochistic scenes, were only available, at £25 a copy and marked “For Private Distribution”. Rosen justly remarks, that this was not a simple moral or prudish issue; it was about social order “Those who were opposed to Zola’s fiction felt that he undermined that order”. Readers of Germinal, the epic of working class struggle in the Northern French mines, can only agree.

Zola’s Two Households.

Rosen excels in portraying one of the least appealing sides of Zola’s biography His two households, his wife Alexandrine, and the mother of his two children, Denise and Jacques, Jeanne Rozerot. Their correspondence, presence, and, for the latter, visits to England, are warmly and fully described. For many this set-up, like Dickens’s relationship with the Other Woman, Nelly Turnan, is less than attractive, but Zola’s two hearths dominated his life during the exile as much as the campaign for Dreyfus’s innocence.

The Disappearance of Émile Zola recounts that one of the activists for that cause, the Socialist Jean Jaurès, made the voyage to London to see the writer. In Les Preuves (1898) Jaurès had placed the duty of the working class movement to cast aside the questions about the class background of Dreyfus in the name of “humanity” and to take the side of the victim of injustice. In France’s Parliament the Deputy had defended Zola, and attacked a court case brought to defend the “honour” of the army (Discours du 24 Janvier 1898 devant la Chambre des députés).

Truth Will Prevail. 

Rosen signals that readers of the British The Social Democrat would have been aware of the link between left-wing politics, the Dreyfus case, and Zola’s protests. An interview with the British based German socialist, Max Beer, author of the pioneering A History of British Socialism (1919) illustrates Zola’s take on the left and anti-semitism. Held in Paris before the forced London stay, it was not published until 1902. At the start the novelist remarks that previously he had portrayed “despicable” Jewish characters – something that readers of L’argent (1891) with characters such as the swindling financier Gunderman, and Korb’s nose, “en bec d’aigle” (Eagle beaked) indicating his Jewishness, would not hesitate to endorse. Some socialists, he remarks, reproaching him for backing a “rich Jewish captain”. But, “he is for me only a symbol, a victim of terrible forgeries, a witness of the degradation of our republic, which inscribed on its portals the democratic trinity: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. But, after all truth is almighty. It will prevail.”

In Britain, a 120, 000 strong petition on behalf of Dreyfus and a demonstration in Hyde Park on 1899 attracting between 50,000 and 80,000 illustrates that the issue was also of burning concern to those in this country who stood by that “democratic trinity”.

Michael Rosen is, I confess, not an author I would have expected to bring new light on one of the important moments in the Dreyfus Affair, or on the life of one of its leading actors. Yet The Disappearance of Émile Zola does exactly that. It does not gloss over the less appealing aspects of Zola’s beliefs – his “natalism”, a wish for the growth of a healthy population, set out in the work he began writing in England, Fécondité, and published in 1899, not to say his fear of ‘hereditary degeneracy’ – once described by Philippe Muray as the idea that the dead are reborn in us. It resists the temptation to make facile comparisons with contemporary politics or 21st Century anti-Semitism. The book covers exactly what the title indicates, “love, literature and the Dreyfus case.” It is is a success and, one hopes, will encourage not just interest in the history but bring new readers to Zola’s path-breaking, and enduring, novels. Congratulations.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

The Grenfell Tragedy and Class War.

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https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/1267C/production/_96488357_tower_sequence.png

“Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.”

The Evening Standard has just reported,

Grenfell Tower estate residents: Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.

Distraught residents of the estate where at least 17 people were killed in a horrific tower block blaze have told how they believe safety concerns were ignored because officials “don’t care” about working class people.

Residents living in tower blocks close to Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West estate said they were now “scared” for their own safety, and that managers and the council had not acted on concerns raised in meetings.

It comes after it emerged a resident of the tower block had written a chilling blog post after a renovation in 2016, saying only a “catastrophe” would lead to changes being made.

…..

Scrawled alongside tributes to victims on a wall outside Latymer Community Centre were messages calling for “justice for Grenfell.”

Another referenced “poor people politics”.

Cye Elliot, 75, a visa adviser who lives close to the estate, said: “It’s just total neglect.

“It’s arrogance, disrespecting people. Because they were working class they can get away with it.

He added: “You see the block where all these people were killed and then you see the people coming along with the kids going to private schools. It’s poignant.”

 

The Grenfell Tragedy is Class War

Writes Phil, A Very Public Sociologist.

The victims of yesterday’s fire at the Grenfell tower in north Kensington are casualties of the class war. There is no other frame, no other explanation that can convincingly thread together the answers to questions about how this unnecessary and entirely avoidable tragedy happened, and why it was allowed to happen.

Shiraz Socialist posts,

Grenfell Action Group: “All our warnings fell on deaf ears”

It is becoming apparent that the residents of Grenfell Tower had made repeated representations to the (Tory) Council and the so-called Tenant Management Committee, about their fears over the safety of the building. But these were poor working class people, isolated within a prosperous borough. They were ignored, as the Grenfell Action Group’s blog demonstrates.

The Guardian carries this story,

Grenfell Tower fire is corporate manslaughter, says Labour MP

David Lammy, whose friend is missing after the blaze, calls for arrests, as confirmed death toll rises to 17.

….

Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, whose friend Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower and were missing, gave a voice to the growing anger in the community.

“This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. And there should be arrests made; frankly, it is an outrage,” he said.

“Many of us across the country have been caught up in an election knocking on housing estate doors, travelling up to the top floors of tower blocks and we know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable.”

….

The newly elected Labour MP for the area, Emma Dent Coad, said there was growing fear among residents made homeless by the fire that they would be rehoused outside of the borough, in cheaper housing in places far from London, such as Hastings or Peterborough, where the council has tried to rehouse tenants previously.

“I can’t help thinking that poor quality materials and construction standards may have played a part in this hideous and unforgivable event,” she said.

The Mirror says

Grenfell Tower fire shows that the poor and working class are once again left behind to live in danger

The face of Grenfell is like the face of so many tower blocks across Britain – residents rely on the state to keep them safe and I fear they have been failed

….

There are real questions about the viability of these buildings.

New high rises being built across the capital are largely luxury apartments and pent-houses, and of course they are equipped with sprinkler systems, fire-proof walls and fire escapes.

Yet again we have one rule for the rich and the poor are being left behind and left in danger.

There is also this claim (Vox Political): Outsourcing firm Capita runs ‘catastrophic’ dispatch system that delays firefighters.

The Tories outsourced the fire and rescue service dispatching system to outsourcing profit-maker Capita in 2012. As a result, it doesn’t work.

After the horrific scenes we witnessed there is great sadness and great anger across the country. There is little doubt that nobody is going to stop talking about the class issues involved; the simple reason is that it the contrast with the Tower bloc’s neighbours is so stark, as anybody who has visited the borough can see, feel and touch. The image of the burning building is imprinted in millions of minds. A kind of whirling machine of faults that surrounds the origins and response to the tragedy, and the response to it, incarnated in the gruesome figure of Theresa May, the Council and its outsourced companies.

More than anything, it’s that the residents will not keep  their rage to themselves.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Anti-Semitism in Europe Documentary Ditched Amidst Accusations of Censorship.

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Arte und WDR: Senden Sie die Dokumentation!

A comrade in Germany has told us that the controversy over the censorship of a documentary on anti-Semitism in Europe, Auserwählt und Ausgegrenzt. Der Hass auf Juden in Europa (« Un peuple élu et mis à part : l’antisémitisme en Europe » Le Monde), (Zensur einer Antisemitismus-Doku. Taz)   has not stopped growing.

It was due to be shown on the German-French channel, Arte.

Then it was withdrawn.

He comments, “WDR won’t let Arte send it because it is “anti protestant, and islamophobe” apparently “anti protestant” being the main problem, I presume i.e. they interviewed people at the “Kirchentag” (like the churches version of “Marxism 2017″ but much larger and funded almost completely by the German state) and they were clearly anti-semites.”

A French journalist, one of the authors of the film, considers however that Arte was embarrassed by the way the director tried to show a link between historic European anti-semitism, more recent anti-semitism amongst Islamists,  and the connection between anti-semitism  and anti-Zionism. Bringing in radical Islam was unacceptable for some at Arte, because they consider that this would feed hatred of Muslims. (Europe 24)

“”Ce qui gêne je pense, c’est que le réalisateur tente de montrer un lien entre l’antisémitisme d’antan et l’antisémitisme islamiste plus récent, et il fait aussi le lien entre l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme”, ce qui n’est pas acceptable pour une partie des gens d’Arte, car ils considèrent que cela alimente la haine des Musulmans, explique la journaliste.

The controversy already has its own – German language – Wikipedia page: Auserwählt und ausgegrenzt – Der Hass auf Juden in Europa

Arte defends decision on European anti-Semitism documentary

The Franco-German TV channel’s director has denied charges of censorship and anti-Semitism lobbied at the broadcaster. His defence also hinted at tensions between German broadcasters.

Arte Program Director Alain le Diberder  on Thursday defended his broadcaster’s decision to pull the documentary entitled “Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe” from its planned Arte airtime because the film did not meet approved project requirements.

He laid out the reasons for Arte’s cancellation in a letter to Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who had previously criticised the broadcaster’s decision in his own letter to Arte and German public broadcasters WDR and ZDF. Schuster had asked the Arte to reconsider the decision, saying he could not understand why formalistic considerations would derail a broadcast of the documentary.

In his response to Schuster, Diberder said he was deeply affected by accusations of censorship, although he could understand why the Jewish leader was perplexed by the decision. The Arte head reiterated that “honourable and good reasons” had formed the basis of the channel’s decision to pull the plug on the documentary’s broadcast.

RT continues,

RTE, a Franco-German public TV station, has been accused of censorship over its decision to remove a 90-minute documentary titled ‘Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe’ from its planned broadcasting schedule, saying the film lacks “balance.”

ARTE’s program director, Alain Le Diberder, said in a press statement that the film’s producers, Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, failed to make a documentary about anti-Semitism in Europe because they used too much footage from Israel and too little from European countries.

Schroeder told the Jerusalem Post on Saturday that “it is impossible to make a film [in Europe] today about anti-Semitism that shows a pro-Jewish perspective.”

Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic deputy in the German parliament (Bundestag), said in a written statement to the Times of Israel that “a documentary that aims to present the problem of anti-Semitism in a reflected manner has to consider the relationship between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. In order to do so it is necessary to refer to the situation in the Middle East.”

She said the public tax-funded German TV networks ARTE and its sister outlet in Germany, WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), “increasingly promote anti-Israeli narratives, while at the same time refusing to show a documentary on anti-Semitism that has been hailed by experts.” Volker Beck, a German Green Party lawmaker and president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag, said the decision not to show the documentary “is even more disturbing when considering that ARTE and WDR have shown programs which could be seen as criticizing Israel one-sidedly.”

Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of German Jews, urged Le Diberder, who previously rejected the film because it lacked “balance,”  to reconsider the decision, noting that the film is “highly relevant.”

Schuster’s request fell on deaf ears, however, with Le Diberder saying that ARTE has “like almost no other outlet in Europe, committed itself to education about the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” and that “the decision-making process was so as to ensure editorial quality and responsibility.

Diberder went on to stress in a statement to Deutsche Welle that ARTE had “good reasons” for its decision not to air the film. He said the documentary was a WDR production, approved by ARTE back in 2015. It was designed to focus on rising anti-Semitism across Europe, namely in Norway, Sweden, the UK, Hungary and Greece. But in late 2016, ARTE realized that the film “did not correspond to the proposal which had been submitted: it concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

This explanation did not satisfy Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Munich Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, who said that ARTE is on a “dangerous path.

German dailies Focus and and Der Tagesspiegel asked whether it was a case of censorship.

In the letter to the Franco-German public broadcaster, seen by the Jerusalem Post, Knobloch described the documentary as an “honest” presentation of anti-Semitism in Europe, saying that ARTE owes it to its viewers, who pay a fee for public programs, to show ‘Chosen and Excluded’ because it fulfills the outlet’s educational mission to “fight anti-Semitism.”

Historian Michael Wolffsohn told German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week that the feature is “the by far best, smartest and historically deepest documentary on this topic, while at the same time being very much up to date and true.”

The Jewish Chronicle:

Alain le Diberder, Arte’s director, said that “honourable and good reasons” had informed the network’s decision not to broadcast the documentary. He claimed the network had taken a “necessary procedural decision taken to ensure editorial responsibility and quality,”

According to the network, the documentary had been commissioned to focus on antisemitism in five countries – Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Greece. Arte claimed the documentary “concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

However, the documentary did look at antisemitism in Belgium, France and Germany.

It included an interview with François Pupponi, the Socialist mayor of Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris which has been a flashpoint for antisemitic incidents.

Mr Pupponi said that “French Jews think they have no future in France, that they have to leave the country to live in security and peace.”

He also said that hatred of Israel, encouraged by Pro-Palestinian groups, had led to some of the problems.

“For a certain number of young people ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ are one and the same so if you’re against Israel, you’re also against synagogues,” he said.

Here is the film:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

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Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Did Tory Ben Gummer Lose Ipswich to Labour’s Sandy Martin?

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Image result for ben in the pub ipswich

‘Mr Ipswich’ Off to Spend More Time in the Pub.

“Just 48 hours ago he was one of the most powerful men in the British government. Now Ben Gummer’s parliamentary career has come to an abrupt end – whether temporarily or permanently. Why did he lose?”

Writes the ‘Big Fella’ Paul Geater in the Ipswich Star.

During the campaign Ben Gummer always seemed supremely confident, talking confidently about Labour voters switching to him because they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. If this was all spin then he and his team were acting very well when they spoke to me!

Even after our survey suggested Sandy Martin was in the lead, they insisted all was well – but clearly things were not going as well as he hoped. Why?

Firstly many people voted for the first time. Turnout was significantly up and many of these appeared to be young people.

They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.

The number of people voting Conservative in Ipswich actually went up between 2015 and 2017 by about 1,600 – but Labour’s vote increased by more than 6,000 votes. The UKIP vote fell by 4,000 – but these votes appear to have been split evenly.

Some policies were not popular: workers said the confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments had worried some voters.

The lack of attention from big-name visitors also gave the impression that Tory High Command took Ipswich for granted. They seemed to think that a Cabinet minister with a 3,733 majority couldn’t need help.

Some voters appeared to feel that Mr Gummer’s focus was no longer on the town with his new ministerial role – and the fact that he did not have a home in Ipswich at the time of the election did not help.

Given his work in the town, this was probably unfair – but it created an impression his opponents could exploit by emphasising that Mr Martin had lived in Ipswich for decades.

And a number of small policy statements caused real problems – one of the most irritating for workers was the suggestion that the government could repeal hunting legislation. One of his team said to me: “Why couldn’t she (Theresa May) just shut up about that. It’s not a big issue but it could cost us a few hundred votes!”

Another series of explanations:

  • The Labour vote, as Geater notes, grew amongst young people. As he says, particularly of first-time voters, “They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.” This is a national trend. Most studies of voting behaviour in the UK underline that most people cast their ballot in line with countrywide trends. This would equally apply to people’s concern with “confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments”, a worry that  was reflected all over Britain. The Star and EADT’s political columnist could have added that young people’s interest in the issue of tuition fees was not just something ‘out there’. It was very evident on the ground. In my own street when delivering Labour leaflets a young bloke saw the Party sign and raised a clenched fist while saying “Up the Labour! I want Corbyn to sort out my tuition fees”. Others can confirm that this was very far from a one off incident.
  • If the Tory High Command “took Ipswich for granted” this was hardly the case for Ben’s own team. They have worked hard over the years to build up an image of the Conservative MP as Mr Ipswich, even putting on their web site a map of the town which you could click on to find what “Ben had done” to help, street by street.  When this Blog pointed out, in a kindly way,  that this may be seen as arrogant, the chart disappeared. But similar bold claims about the candidate’s actions “for Ipswich” continued.
  • The “focus on the town” is, as a result, a more complex issue than Geater’s comments reveals.  Ben’s constant efforts to portray himself as the Minister for Ipswich, and the Best Friend Ipswich has ever had, were not universally appreciated whatever the merits of the former MP’s efforts.  I could cite the the freebie Waterfront Life, which those of us who leave not far from the old Docks, receive. He gave – in two pieces, The Winerack and Non-Political Question Time  – the impression that it was the Right Hon. Gummer who was Ipswich Borough Council, The Right Hon who was the man pioneering the Town’s future. Those who know that the hard working Labour councillors who run Ipswich Borough were not impressed.  Nor were his ‘matey’ evenings, Ben in the Pub, appealing to everybody. Some would have welcomed his focus elsewhere, especially, as many remarked, as  Gummer does not live in Ipswich.
  • It was not just the Conservative Manifesto’s promises for future policies, such as bringing back hunting, but present ones that were unpopular. Locally voters would see that austerity affects their lives directly. Suffolk County Council is at present Tory run. It has ruthlessly cut services, including social care, and outsourced many of their activities. They are in a sorry state. To take one example, the massive cuts in provision for young people, particularity the disadvantaged, is storing up social problems.  To this one could add long-standing problems about the County Council. Many voters are aware of the mess their contracted out Highway Services  is in: the state of the roads in Suffolk is a standing joke.
  • Ben Gummer made much of his commitment to improved rail services. Those who use the trains to get to London will have noticed that his efforts have not affected the steadily deteriorating rail links, and the sky high ticket prices that privatisation has brought. Many will perhaps considered that Gummer’s claims, made since 2010 with no visible result,  are rubbing salt in open wounds. These are just some hard-to-ignore  examples of how Conservative rule has made people’s lives worse and have surely undermined the former MP’s support.
  • If there was one thing which sums up the results of Conservative government cuts, and mean-spirited welfare system, it is the constant presence of street-begging and rough sleepers in Ipswich. People in the town feel shame that in a wealthy country we have the homeless and destitute left to ask for money in the streets.

Then there is his opponent, Sandy Martin who ran an enthusiastic campaign, backed by an energetic team that included many young people.

  • Sandy Martin by  is known across the town as a man whose tireless work, not constantly flagged up as the acts of Mr Ipswich, have made a real difference. From case-work as a Town (until not that long ago) and (now) County Councillor, Sandy has built up a solid reputation as a reliable and likeable local figure. A broad constituency, from ordinary town residents, campaigners on a wider variety of issues,and labour movement activists know that Sandy is somebody who has stood on their side and contributed to their work.
  • Ipswich Labour Party has a well-organised network of supporters, from every walk of life, prepared to talk to and listen to Ipswich people. Sanday’s campaign reflected this. It was very obvious during the campaign that the party is deeply rooted in Ipswich. With a good candidate, the local party backing, the radical and democratic politics in Labour’s Manifesto  found an audience.

Finally,….

Not everybody likes ‘Ben’s Bridge’ either,

General election 2017: New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to ask for rethink on Orwell Crossing link

New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is to ask the Department for Transport to look again at the proposals for a large new bridge between Wherstead Road and Cliff Quay.

He is to ask the government to look at diverting the money to help fund the £100m project to a northern by-pass for the town.

It was one of his pledges during the election campaign, and he is planning to take up the issue when he travels to Westminster next week.

He said: “There are three bridges proposed as part of the Upper Orwell Crossing. Two of them – the road bridge to the island site and the footbridge over the lock gates – I wholeheartedly support.

“But the largest bridge does not have public support and I shall be speaking to the department to see if the funds can go to a more important strategic route, the northern by-pass.”

The crossings were strongly backed by former MP Ben Gummer – and are now a formal county council-managed project. The government funding is due to come through when work is about to start.

County council cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said it would be pressing ahead with the project. He said: “This is a full project, you can’t plan to have one or two of the bridges.

“And it isn’t possible to move the money from one Ipswich project to another in the town – if it is taken away from this then it would go to another part of the country.”

The crossing is also backed by the business community in Ipswich.

Catherine Johnson, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Greater Ipswich said: “Firstly, on behalf of the Chamber we’d like to congratulate Sandy on being elected as Ipswich’s MP.

“Secondly, as with the other six Suffolk MPs, we are looking forward to working with him on a range of issues of interest and concern to the business community.

“We note his comments about diverting funds from the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme to that of the northern bypass. We hope to listen in more detail to his thinking on this particular issue.

“We also look forward to a productive dialogue on the overall need for Ipswich to have a modern infrastructure that allows a much freer and more efficient flow of goods and people both within and to and from the town.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

George Galloway Fails to Turn up to Election Count as he’s crushed in Manchester Gorton.

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Related image

“I used to be George Galloway”. 

The victory of Sandy Martin and the defeat of ‘Mr Ipswich’ and a key author of the Conservative Manifesto (Headline in Le Monde, “Défait de ‘l’homme de l’ombre de Theresa May) , Ben Gummer in the Suffolk County Town, has meant that  we are only just now catching up with the results elsewhere.

Our old friend George Galloway is down in the dumps – 5,7% of the vote.

Labour kept hold of Manchester Gorton following the death of veteran MP Sir Gerald Kaufman after the by-election was overtaken by Theresa May’s snap election.

Afzal Khan romped home to victory with a majority of 31,730 – comfortably defeating a challenge by George Galloway.

The seat had been up for grabs before the General Election following the death of Sir Gerald, the party’s longest serving MP secured 67pc of the vote and a 24,079-strong majority in 2015.

Former Labour MP and Respect Party leader George Galloway had tried to win back his Westminster pass by standing as an independent in Gorton this time around.

Despite a flurry of hype when he announced his candidacy, he failed to turn up on the night. Labour activists shouted ‘where’s George?’ as the candidates took the stage for the result.

Mr Galloway came third.

Instead the seat went to former police constable, solicitor and Manchester councillor Mr Khan elected as an MEP for the north west in 2014, romped home to victory with 35,085 votes – on a turnout of 61pc.

Manchester Evening News.

The detailed result should be available (but is not yet when I checked) on the BBC site here. Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency

Update: Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

2,615 _vote_share

There is also this, (Yorkshire Post)

Labour MP Naz Shah increased her vote by just under 10,000 votes after a bruising campaign in Bradford West she said was worse than the one she fought against George Galloway two years ago.

Ms Shah polled 2,944 votes compared with 19,977 in 2015 in one of the largest increased majorities seen so far in this election.

Ms Shah told The Yorkshire Post: “The level of misogyny I received in this election was incredible, I didn’t think there was anything that could have topped Galloway. “But here we are. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. “The people of Bradford West were very clear about what they wanted to see. They chose hope over division. “Bradford West is one of the poorest constituencies in the country, that is not the sign of a prosperous nation.

George Grant, Conservative candidate, came second to Ms Shah and ahead of the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob who polled 6,345. Mr Grant said he was proud of the clean campaign he had ran but said the “personality-based” campaign had been as bad as 2015.

He also declined to criticise Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election.
“The time frame of the snap election meant we had very limited resources and very little time to build a team. And not having a network of local councillors on the ground makes for a tough time. But we have had a positive impact and pushed the Respect candidate into third place.”

The seat of Bradford West has been one of the most hotly-contested and controversial in modern political history. A solid Labour seat from the early 1980s, it was the location of the so-called ‘Bradford Spring’, in which Respect candidate and former Labour MP Galloway won an unexpected by-election in 2012 caused by the resignation of former Labour MP Marsha Singh.

Mr Galloway’s party went on to gain seats on the council, including that of Labour leader Ian Greenwood. However infighting among Respect candidates quickly set in and Mr Galloway was defeated in 2015 when Ms Shah won just shy of 50 per cent of the vote in a contest that was mired in acrimony. Mr Galloway made accusations regarding Ms Shah’s forced marriage in which she disputed her version of events. He also found himself in hot water for tweeting the results of an early exit poll, prohibited under the Representation of the People Act.
Despite the crushing defeat inflicted upon him by Ms Shah which saw him lose 34.7 per cent of the vote, he indicated his willingness to contest the result. However he would fail to file the relevant papers within the three-week window required of candidates to contest results.

Naz Shah (Labour) 29,744

George Grant (Conservatives) 7,542 

Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem) 712

Celia Hickson (Green Party) 481

Muhammad Hijazi (Independent) 54

Derrick Hodgson (UKIP) 885 

Khadim Hussain (independent) 65

Salma Yaqoob (independent) 6345

Written by Andrew Coates

June 9, 2017 at 4:38 pm

On the Fundamentally Flawed Stop the War Coalition Statement on the London Attacks.

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StWC: Deeply Flawed Response to London Atrocities. 

The events on Saturday have left millions deeply saddened.

It is to be welcomed that the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has responded to the murders with a serious  statement.

Nevertheless, it is deeply flawed. 

Enough is enough: the government must change course.

The Stop the War Coalition is unequivocal in its condemnation of the latest terror attack in London which has left 7 innocent people dead and many more injured. We extend our sympathy to the relatives of the dead and injured.

For those that committed this crime killing was a means to an end. Like the Manchester attack which preceded it, these murders aimed at disrupting the election, at inflaming racial and religious divisions, and at provoking the government into repressive measures. Theresa May and her ministers show every sign of doing exactly what the terrorists hope they will do.

There is a cycle of violence here in which the role of successive governments is a central part. To destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria by military intervention and not expect that these ruined and abandoned societies would spawn killers and provoke violent responses was always a policy blindness bordering on the perverse. And of course, UK military forces remain deployed in all these countries to this very day.

Nor will repression based on religious or racial profiling work. The Prevent programme has not prevented terrorism. Internment in Guantanamo did not work. France has continued to suffer racist attacks despite a State of Emergency that has lasted from 2015 to the present and has seen protests banned and tens of thousands arrested.

We urgently need a serious and in depth discussion of the causes of terrorism, not knee-jerk, populist rhetoric.

What is needed is an end to the failed wars abroad; an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a major international incubator of terrorist ideology; an end to racial and religious profiling which so often ends in the demonisation of Muslims.

This, and only this, will begin to drain the swamp in which the terrorists thrive. Anything else perpetuates a mutually reinforcing cycle of violence.

The difficulties with this statement centre on  the sentence that as a result of Western interventions,  ” ruined and abandoned societies would spawn killers “. The West is to be blame for having sown dragon’s teeth. The dragon is fearful, but its the sowers who are the ones responsible.

But who are the people who aim at inflaming racial and religious hatred and disrupting the election?

Not a word.

Islamic State.

 A genuine debate on these issues has to begin with this: who are the Islamic State and what are their aims?

Daesh, ISIS, the group which has claimed that its supporters carried out the killings is a Salafist jihadi group, as Gilles Kepel has called them (for a discussion of Kepel’s. Le Prophète et Pharaon 1984. and  La Fracture 2016 see here) That is, they are rigorist pietist Islamists who, in distinction to some ‘quietist’ (inward looking) Salafists  are engaged directly in violence to impose Sharia law, an Islamic society, fitted out with a totalitarian state, to impose their views. Daesh is also highly sectarian, in the original religious sense. They are marked not just by their hatred of non-Sunni Muslims but for all Sunnis who do not accept their particular ‘line’ of Quranic literalist  interpretation.

Daesh is only the most notorious Salafist Jihadist organisation. If it is, at present, within a broader mouvance, the leading group, there have been many predecessors and their continue to exist competitors. Amongst the best known early example of Salfist jihadis were the Groupe Islamique Armé  (GIA) which slaughtered  thousands during the 1990s Algerian civil war – a conflict that does not fit at all into the “Western intervention causes Terrorism” pattern. Think about it. Just ask this question: what Western military presence was there during a conflict that cost several hundred thousand lives?

At present part of the GIA forms Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the first part of whose name, Al-Qaeda leads us to a group which needs no further introduction.

The rise of Jihadi Salafism is not doubt the result of complex conditions. But once formed it has a concrete existence. Its development can outlined, from “Micro-powers” centred around ultra-pious Mosques, attempts to create ‘zones’ where Sharia law becomes part of everyday life, to efforts to capture state authority and the means of repression that guarantee religious ‘law’ and function in the total absence of any form of democracy.

At present the most visible  material form of this Salafist Jihadist  ideology, that is a power, with its military and political presence in Iraq and Syria, is ISIS.

The Islamic State is the proximate cause, the inspirer, if not the commander, of the London bloodbath. Daesh is at present the immediate cause of these attacks.

There are is much more to discuss. Whether, as many people believe, the ground for this totalitarian entity was prepared not just by the civil war in Syria and the US-allied occupation of Iraq, but by the finance of Wahhabist Islamist teaching by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States (which formally support Al-Nusra in Syria and not ISIS), is open to discussion.

What is not open to debate it that religion not international politics, still less “imperialism” plays the major part in Daesh’s  strategy and actions.

How should we look at this? One false route is to ignore the role of faith and simply dismiss their ideas as a “perversion” of Islam.

In the Way of Strangers  Encounters with the Islamic State |(2017) Grahame Wood observes,

The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.

“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.”

As the Blog you are reading commented,

As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.

Attacks by ISIS inspired, or organised, individuals and groups did not start in Britain.

In 2014 a man opened fire in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, leaving four people dead. On 30 May, Mehdi Nemmouche, who in 2013 had fought for Islamists in the Syrian Civil War  was arrested at a bus station in Marseilles and admitted to the shooting. This was the first incident of a European jihadist committing an act of terrorism after returning from Syria.

Without continuing this list, marked by the heart-rending terrorist murders that have been inflicted in France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and elsewhere, the common cause is the existence of the Islamic caliphate, Daesh, in Syria and Iraq (Islamic terrorism in Europe (2014–present)

StWC confuses  one of the conditions for the rise of Daesh, military intervention in the Middle East, with the existence of ISIS, the immediate causal force behind these atrocities.

It does not mention explore in any detail the all-important regional and religious and inter-state  aspect to the war in the Middle East, between Iran and its Shia allies and the Saudi backed forces, a division from Syria all the way to Yemen.

It does not mention the Syrian civil war, with its own internal causes, either out of a deliberate wish to avoid its own failure to oppose resolutely the Assad regime or back the only forces consistently fighting against ISIS, the Kurdish armed militias of the YPG, their Arab allies or their  internationalist brigades.

Many will say that this absence is more than “policy blindness”. It is a sign of moral cowardice.

The Statement does not mention the StWC’s leaders (in the groupuscule Counterfire)  own past reactions to terrorism, notably during the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher to ‘explain’ the murders in terms of a ‘blow back’ against the “West”, nor the vile suggestion by people such as George Galloway, Alex Callinicos, Tariq Ali and  Seumas Milne, that Charlie Hebdo “had it coming to them”.

Nor does it even begin a “serious and in depth discussion of the causes of terrorism.”

Let us have one.

The Present Terrorist Wave.

France is perhaps the place where such a discussion has taken place.

Gilles Kepel’s Terreur dans l’Hexagone, Genèse du djihad français,, with Antoine Jardi. 2015) just now out in paperback, traces how Jihadi Salafism gained an audience in France.

In a narrative that closely parallels  Kenan Malik‘s writings the authors portray a generational shift from a Muslim community in which secular anti-racism had an audience (in France, La Marche des Beurs 1983), to the present day inflection of Salafism and religious intolerance  in the banlieue. Social conditions in these quarters are perhaps fertile ground for the religious ideologues.

Does this explain the way they have taken shape?

Kepel’s critic, Olivier Roy, by contrast talks of the “Islamisation of radicalism” and the growth of a nihilistic ‘death cult” (Le Djihad et la mort. 2016). Roy considers that the historical sequence, from SOS-racisme, to increased pious observance,  to present day genocidal Islamism ignores a fundamental break in ideology. Salafism is not ‘one’ thing, a continuum from ultra-orthodox to violence. There is a new dimension: the willingness to kill and die.

Roy asks, “why, for the past 20 years, have terrorists regularly chosen to die? “

Roy has written (Guardian April 2017) of this “youth movement”,

My argument is that violent radicalisation is not the consequence of religious radicalisation, even if it often takes the same paths and borrows the same paradigms. Religious fundamentalism exists, of course, and it poses considerable societal problems, because it rejects values based on individual choice and personal freedom. But it does not necessarily lead to political violence.

The objection that radicals are motivated by the “suffering” experienced by Muslims who were formerly colonised, or victims of racism or any other sort of discrimination, US bombardments, drones, Orientalism, and so on, would imply that the revolt is primarily led by victims. But the relationship between radicals and victims is more imaginary than real.

Those who perpetrate attacks in Europe are not inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Libya or Afghanistan. They are not necessarily the poorest, the most humiliated or the least integrated. The fact that 25% of jihadis are converts shows that the link between radicals and their “people” is also a largely imaginary construct.

It is less sure that his conclusion will be accepted, but it ought to be debated,

The systematic association with death is one of the keys to understanding today’s radicalisation: the nihilist dimension is central. What seduces and fascinates is the idea of pure revolt. Violence is not a means. It is an end in itself.

How does the StWC propose to deal with Jihadi Salafism, if Roy is to be believed, a death cult? That is a group prepared to kill the ‘kuffer’ the mecreants not just aimed at (as the StWC mind-readers claim), “provoking the government into repressive measures” but because they wish everybody who does not agree with them to submit or be murdered.

They start by asserting that Guantanamo Bay, the French state of Emergency and the Prevent Programme, have had no success.

This may well be the case.

StWC Proposals.

But what does the StWC offer?

Let us untangle their proposals.

  • What is needed is an end to the failed wars abroad.

Clearly this will not affect the armed forces of ISIS nor its blood-thirsty supporters. There is only way one can begin to defeat them, by physical force against their ‘Caliphate’.WHy not back, if the StWC is so reluctant to back the West, with support for the YPG, the Kurdish armed groups?

  •  an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a major international incubator of terrorist ideology

If arms sales are stopped how will this alter the Saudi’s finance of Wahhabist hatred?

  • an end to racial and religious profiling which so often ends in the demonisation of Muslims.

It is hard to take this seriously.

How is not doing something – I had no idea that “profiling” was the cornerstone of anti-terrorist policing in the first place – going to stop terrorism?

The StWC statement offers a paradigm of radicalisation-attack-repression-radicalisation, the “mutually reinforcing cycle of violence”.

Or to put it more simply: the more you repress a radical group the greater its support and radicalisation.

Perhaps instead of not doing things – that is, not repressing – the StWC might consider that that, regardless of what the State or the government does, they could begin by making allies with secularist forces, like the Kurds cited above, and with liberal secular voices in the countries they express such concern about.

They could also make a far more effective reply to Theresa May’s appeal to ‘British values’ by stating support for universal human rights.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

International Bolshevik Tendency Endorses Labour to Break with Reformism and Build Revolutionary Party.

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Massed Forces of IBT Back Corbyn 

The IBT, deadly rivals of the Spartacist League, (The International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) is a revolutionary socialist organization founded by former cadres of the international Spartacist tendency (today the International Communist League). The following text is excerpted from the document “For Trotskyism!,”) announces,

Corbyn’s anti-austerity and anti-war message has resonated with millions of working people, but poverty, social inequality and imperialist war are inevitable features of capitalist rule. They can only be eliminated by expropriating the capitalist class and bringing production and distribution under the control of the working class organised as a new state power. The only way to realise this objective is to build a revolutionary workers’ party armed with a consistently Marxist programme, diametrically opposed to social-democratic reformism.

Vote Labour! Break with reformism! Build a revolutionary party!

The IBT is stern towards their former comrades of the Sparticist League.

The Spartacist League, regretting their previous enthusiasm for Corbyn, confesses that ‘our own newspaper accommodated to Corbyn by prettifying his line on the reactionary EU’. They claim that ‘Corbyn betrayed when it mattered by crossing the class line and serving the bourgeoisie in campaigning for the EU’ (icl-fi.org).

There is no class line between Leave and Remain. It is abundantly clear that neither the capitalist EU that has viciously attacked workers in Greece and elsewhere nor a xenophobic ‘little England’ wing of the ruling class offer anything positive for British workers.

Here are the Spartacists:

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The IBT continues,

We advocate a vote for Labour in this election to expose the contradiction between what Corbyn’s working-class base expects him to do and what his reformist, pro-capitalist politics will actually mean. The key task for British revolutionaries is to break the most class-conscious workers away from social democracy and win them to the perspective of building a workers’ party committed to smashing capitalism, rather than endure the endless futility of tinkering with it.

Meanwhile the Downingites (Liaison Committee for the Fourth Intentional) are made of sterner stuff:

Why do we say Corbyn is an imperialist politician?

We are pleased to see Corbyn’s Manchester speech has put many leftists on the back foot. Although it was no more than a pacifist speech nonetheless it exposed the USFI, the South American groups like the LIT, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, Workers Power/ the Fifth International, the Austrian RCIT and all the Grantites groups like the CWI and IMT, the British and US SWPs and international co-thinkers as pro imperialist stooges now because they are all to the right of Corbyn’s pacifist speech which has proved very popular with voters because it contains a modicum of truth against all the pro imperialist left.

Wall Street based global imperialism and its allied transnational corporations and subordinate imperialisms in Europe and Japan etc are the central enemy of all humanity and their defeats strengthens the oppressed everywhere. The liberation of Aleppo was the father of Jeremy Corbyn’s linking “failed policy” in Libya to the Manchester, pacifist though it was.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2017 at 11:59 am

Tunisia: Protests at enforcement of Religious Law as 4 get 1 month prison for eating in public during Ramadan.

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RAMADAN

“We are not forced”: Tunisian campaign against making everybody obey religious law during Ramadan. 

Tunisians get jail terms for eating during Ramadan

A court in northern Tunisia handed one-month jail terms Thursday to four men for eating in public during the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, a spokesman said.

The four had been “eating and smoking in a public garden, a provocative act during Ramadan”, which started last week, Chokri Lahmar, prosecution spokesman at the court in Bizerte, told AFP.

He said the four men had 10 days to appeal against their one-month sentences before the terms take effect.

Their sentencing, which followed complaints from other local residents, comes ahead of a call circulated on social media for a June 11 demonstration to protect the rights of those who decline to take part in the Ramadan fast.

Although the state has the role of “guardian of religion” under the constitution, Tunisia has no specific law banning eating in public during Ramadan, a controversy which resurfaces each year in the North African country.

Most restaurants and coffeeshops remain shut in Tunisia during daylight hours over the holy month, but some establishments open behind closed curtains to prevent customers from being seen.

More in LibérationQuatre Tunisiens condamnés à un mois de prison pour avoir mangé en public pendant le ramadan.

There is a campaign in Tunisia to respect the rights of those who refuse  to fast during Ramadan and against the (forced) closure of cafés and restaurants during the day to make people conform to religious ‘law’.

#MouchBessif: La campagne qui appelle au respect des libertés des non-jeûneurs.

A Collectif pour la défense des libertés individuelles, bringing together a number of ONGs, states that this enforcement of religious obligations on everybody is an attack on personal freedoms and  contrary to Tunisia’s constitution.

A demonstration is planned on Sunday the 11th of June.

More background in Huffpost Tunisie: Fermeture de cafés et restaurants durant ramadan: La société civile tunisienne se mobilise.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Emmanuel Macron faces first “affaire” – Richard Ferrand.

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French Legislative Election Campaign Overshadowed by Ferrand Affair. 

By tradition you wait for at least a year before French politics becomes embroiled in a complicated ‘affair’ involving links with private companies, influence, and, let’s put it more clearly. pocketing large sums of dosh.

Not so for Emmanuel Macron who’s already got himself stuck in this one a few weeks (it all seems a bit of a haze…..) into his shiny new Presidency.

Bear in mind that legislative elections loom on the 11th and 18th of June.

Libération reports that the public prosecutor has now opened a formal enquiry into what is now known as the ‘Affaire Ferrand’, a lot of dodgy dealing by a newly appointed Minister and renegade member and key ally of the  Socialist Party (for example, chair of SRC socialiste, radical et citoyen).

After pissing on his former comrades he became Secretary of Macron’s movement, En Marche!

At present he is a Minister for Macron’s first cabinet under PM Édouard Philippe  (title: ministre de la Cohésion des territoires).

Affaire Ferrand : le procureur de Brest ouvre une enquête préliminaire.

For those who care to plough through the details (and believe me these ‘affairs’ get more complex not to say to labyrinthian  by the hour, so it’s best to begin now) Le Monde publishes a handy-guide: L’affaire Richard Ferrand en cinq points.)Basically it involves Property dealing, Parliamentary employees not being declared legally, contracts for his mates, conflicts of interests between his position as a MP and his private business. That’s where the complicated bit begins…..

Or you can read this: 

With critical legislative elections looming in June, French president Emmanuel Macron could have done without allegations of impropriety against a close associate – and cabinet minister – splashed across newspaper front pages. Reports France 24. 

The new French leader, after all, won power with his upstart political movement on pledges of probity and made pushing through a new law on ethics in politics a top priority of his fledgling term. That legislation is due to be presented to his cabinet on June 14.

But Richard Ferrand, 54, Macron’s newly named minister for territorial planning – an early Socialist supporter of the political neophyte’s presidential bid who became Macron’s right-hand man during the winning campaign – is now facing a raft of disparate allegations on his activities both in the private sector and as a member of parliament. After initially announcing he had not found legal grounds for an inquiry, a public prosecutor announced on Thursday morning that he would indeed open a preliminary inquiry.

..

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told French television on Tuesday night that Ferrand would keep his cabinet post. “I am saying yes, after having perfectly understood, being perfectly conscious of the exasperation of the French, of their emotion, of their annoyance,” Philippe said. The prime minister also noted that any minister who faced criminal charges (which is not the case currently for Ferrand) would have to resign immediately. Philippe’s entourage told Reuters on Thursday that the preliminary inquiry does not change that rule.

The PM had said last Friday that there was no legal affair, but a debate. “That debate is political and it will be decided by those most qualified and best qualified to judge such political debates, voters and French citizens,” Philippe said. Ferrand is one of several government ministers running for a seat in the legislative elections on June 11 and 18. The Élysée Palace has said from the start that any cabinet member running in that race who loses at the ballot box will have to step down.

The BBC is more explicit,

A French prosecutor is investigating alleged financial misconduct by Richard Ferrand, a minister in President Emmanuel Macron’s new government.

Mr Ferrand’s partner, Sandrine Doucen, allegedly profited from a property deal while he was head of a health insurance fund renting office space from her.

He denies wrongdoing. Separately, one of Mr Macron’s junior ministers is also suspected of financial impropriety.

The timing is awkward for Mr Macron, as he launches an ethical standards bill.

He has made clean government a flagship policy, after financial misconduct allegations hit his main rivals in the presidential election – National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen and conservative Republicans candidate François Fillon.

His new centrist party, La République en Marche (Republic on the move), wants to win convincingly in key parliamentary elections this month.

Polls suggest the party can win, but the well-established party machines of the Socialists and Republicans are formidable rivals.

Latest polls for coming legislative elections.

Note Macron’s party at 320 5o 350, and the ‘classic’ right bloc at 140 to 155.

The Parti Socialiste stands at around 40 to 50 seats, and France Insoumise-Parti Communiste, at between 20 to 30 deputies.

That is, the left will be totally marginalised.

As projections indicate, so will be the Front National at 10 to 15 MPs.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 1, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Ipswich Tory Candidate, Benedict Gummer, Goes Poet: After “Marxist Hell”, “Beauty matters, because people do”.

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Tory Propaganda: “Punative” (sic) Hell that Ben Gummer is Determined to Reject.

Posted under the rubric ‘News’ Benedict Gummer, Ipswich Tory Candidate, writes,

Beauty matters, because people do.

Ben is a bit of an expert on the former Eastern bloc.

He once spent a short holiday there with his dad the Right Hon John Gummer, after the collapse of Communist, oh, and over two decades back.

On this basis he declares:

It was a Marxist hell...

Ben’s anfractuous account of this short trip is the occasion for a cantillation on the Orwell Bridge, Ipswich and ends with an eucatastrophe.

He states, “Why do I bring this now?”

” I was struck recently by one of John Norman’s many excellent pieces for the Ipswich Star, in which he described the creation of Alton Water and the complicated way in which water is moved about Ipswich to ensure that when we turn a tap, something fresh and potable comes out.

We learn,

One detail I did not know: that through the middle of the Orwell Bridge is a large pipe, that carries water from Alton to the Felixstowe peninsula.  It was a good reminder of the hidden services that are all over the place, without which modernity would be finished.

From the Marxist hell to the heaven – “simple and beautiful”  – that is the Orwell Bridge but a logical step in the mind of a man of poetic depth.

Benny concludes,

“If you value beauty in our built environment, you value people too. “

Yet, “If you accept poor design and an ugly environment, you also implicitly condemn the people who must live and work in those places to a life less happy and contented than they would otherwise enjoy.”

“…as our town rises from its own long period of neglect, it will show its resurgence by its recovery of beauty and charm.”

Modestly his web site contains a picture where you can click showing how his efforts, street by street,  are bringing pulchritude and delightfulness to Ipswich

Ben’s Biggest Achievements for Ipswich so far

Click here to find out what Ben is achieving in your local area.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 31, 2017 at 3:49 pm

“That’s Bollocks”, Man Sums Up Theresa May’s Answer to Question as GIFs go Wild.

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People used GIFs to characterise May’s performance as hopeless and self-damaging.

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Audience member mutters ‘that’s bollocks’ at Theresa May’s answer on funding for the NHS.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

Don’t be ‘Savages’, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the ‘left’ La France Insoumise ‘calms down’ black children…

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‘Savages’, that is a word used by  Mélenchon, the hero of the left on Facebook and the subject of various fan articles in various anglophone ‘left’ journals like the oddly named Jacobin. He employed it to to ‘calm down’ a group of young ethnic minority children in Paris.

“Calm down, you look like barbarians. Once filmed you will look like savages. Your parents will not be happy with your behaviour . Back home now.

Calmez-vous, vous passez pour des barbares. On vous filme et après, vous passez pour des sauvages. Vos parents, ils ne seraient pas contents de vous voir faire ça. Tout le monde à la maison, maintenant.”

There are serious questions about the sanity and political judgement of the sovereigntist.

More here.

I need hardly emphasise what using the words ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’ mean about young black people ‘. They mean exactly the same in French as they do in English.

I pass by his following loony bins comments about Joan of Arc.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2017 at 11:46 am

Egypt launches air raids on Libya after Christians killed.

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Nile News TV showing the remains of the bus.
By Ahmed Aboulenein | MINYA, EGYPT
Reuters.

Egyptian fighter jets carried out strikes on Friday directed at camps in Libya which Cairo says have been training militants who killed dozens of Christians earlier in the day.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he had ordered strikes against what he called terrorist camps, declaring in a televised address that states that sponsored terrorism would be punished.

Egyptian military sources said six strikes took place near Derna in eastern Libya at around sundown, hours after masked gunmen attacked a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29 and wounding 24.

The Egyptian military said the operation was ongoing and had been undertaken once it had been ascertained that the camps had produced the gunmen behind the attack on the Coptic Christians in Minya, southern Egypt, on Friday morning.

“The terrorist incident that took place today will not pass unnoticed,” Sisi said. “We are currently targeting the camps where the terrorists are trained.”

He said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out further strikes against camps that trained people to carry out operations against Egypt, whether those camps were inside or outside the country.

Egyptian military footage of pilots being briefed and war planes taking off was shown on state television.

East Libyan forces said they participated in the air strikes, which had targeted forces linked to al-Qaeda at a number of sites, and would be followed by a ground operation.

A resident in Derna heard four powerful explosions, and told Reuters that the strikes had targeted camps used by fighters belonging to the Majlis al-Shura militant group.

Majlis al-Shura spokesman Mohamed al-Mansouri said in a video posted online that the Egyptian air strikes did not hit any of the group’s camps, but instead hit civilian areas.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the Christians, which followed a series of church bombings claimed by Islamic State in a campaign of violence against the Copts.

Islamic State supporters reposted videos from earlier this year urging violence against the Copts in Egypt.

At a nearby village, thousands later attended a funeral service that turned into an angry protest against the authorities’ failure to protect Christians.

I leave it to ‘anti-imperialists’ to protest against the Egyptian action.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm

‘I ❤ MCR’.

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‘I ❤ MCR’: thousands gather at Manchester attack vigil

 

Thousands of people waving “I heart Manchester” placards gathered in the city’s centre on Tuesday evening to show the victims of the arena atrocity that wherever they are from, “they are Manchester too”.

Albert Square, usually packed by Mancunians celebrating Premier League victories or national holidays, was filled with supporters of the city who came to show their defiance against the terror sown at a Ariana Grande concert less than 24 hours earlier.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

Posted in Anti-Fascism

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Psychedelic Bolsheviks.

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Psychedelic Bolshevik.

This important letter, in the latest Weekly Worker, amongst many others from esteemed figures in the workers’ movement, such as Steve Freeman (League Against the Corn Laws) , and less esteemed figures, such as the  anti-‘Zionist’  and anti-International ‘Jewish’ bourgeoisie, Gerry Downing,  caught our attention,

 

….we’re living through an election campaign where increasingly the act of thinking has been banned. Even when Corbyn expresses a desire to deal with poverty he is treated as if he has started a George Galloway on Big brother tribute act. The look in the journalists’ eyes seems to suggest the substance of his campaign has been to lap milk out of John McDonnell’s pocket. Words are never neutral and we have become trapped in a whirl of concepts that only serve to mask reality. Middle England is a cage on British politics – nothing but the wet dream of centrists.

Defending Corbyn is a defence of the simplest of all ideas – the idea things could actually be different. This seems banal, but in a world where it is recommended that anyone mentioning taxing the rich should be sent to have their brain bleached with liquid aspiration, and any mention of Marxism is cause for a lobotomy, it seems the only way forward.

But at the same time sowing any illusions in left reformism is a road to despondency, so the idea of a ‘critical vote’ for Labour needs serious consideration. That is why the Psychedelic Bolsheviks will be spraying the walls of Sheffield with posters declaring: “It’s better to rub dog shit in your carpet than rub dog shit in your eye”. Corbyn should don his catsuit and endlessly move his bins, because this is a clear sign of his humanity.

We will be making a poetry-heavy defence of thinking on June 17 with our second annual day school from 12 noon onwards in Norfolk Park, Sheffield – six meetings over one long picnic in the park. We will consider CLR James, the migrant crisis, situationism v surrealism, the election, organisation and spontaneity in the wake of 1917 – all rounded off with some sweet, improvised music.

Psychedelic Bolsheviks
Sheffield

Apparently they have a web site,

Comrade Ronksley of Sheffield Trades Council,

You think that meeting Picaso at Sheffield Fucking Train Station for the 2nd world peace conference gives you the right to have a 4min youtube video… well maybe it does, but who the fuck is Tim Newton and why are they obsessed with you, Art Party and The Human Factor? And while we are on Picaso was it an honour or was he just a self-righteous, wannabe radical? Have you seen this speech, it says nothing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya7jkFrvc7k. Of course you’ve seen it you were there.

Picture of a Dove how cliché!

I have been unreliably informed that you believe Sheffield’s trade council is “on it’s arse” and so it is not necessary for us to inform you that this is indeed the case. Your inability to adapt to the victory of the ruling classes neo-liberal ideology, has gutted Sheffield Trades council of any real clout leaving it in the same dead end cul-de-sac the rest of the left is in.

The new left movement can not be born out of the broken fractures of the current left, it must be born out of new resistance while aiming to learn from the mistakes of the old. To put it another way, we refuse to fuck-up in the same way you did, we will find our own way to fuck up.

Having said this we wish to affiliate to Sheffield Trades Council. So allow me to introduce ourselves. We are the Psychedelic Bolsheviks (PB), we believe in classless society, and that abolishment of class must be an act of the working class, we believe that the left has failed to take the link between culture, art and politics seriously, we dream of a society where drugs will be used not as a form of escapism but for pleasure and/or spirituality alone and we believe in WHALES, one of which is called Trollidarity (to troll in solidarity).

We believe that those who do not appreciate (but not necessarily enjoy) Jazz are some of the most backward and reactionary elements of the class, so fuck them.

To conclude, we the Psychedelic Bolshevik (PB) are a historical materialist, pro choice , anti-zionist , ultra – left sympathizing  class conscious organisation of wreck heads.

We believe that our affiliation to the trades council will be beneficial for both parties, we can bring a fresh, if often irrelevant, perspective to a dying organisation. You can provide us with lessons you have learnt from all your fucking mistakes. And together we can end our collective sobriety, and temporarily escape (if you wish of course, this part is not compulsory we understand there a multitude of reasons why people may chose to remain sober, and we respect those).

I hope you have a lovely birthday on the 7th of May.

Solidarity,

Mushroom Watcher of the Psychedelic Bolsheviks (MW-PB)

Written by Andrew Coates

May 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

You are “Death and Nothingness”, Says Mélenchon of Left-wing ally, Pierre Laurent

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 Image result for Jean luc melenchon caricature

Mélenchon :Hero of the Sovereigntist Left who likes to call people ‘cunts’.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has long been known as somebody who likes to call people he does not like ‘connards’ (cunts, I am being precise,  this it not the word ‘cons’ which means prats) and indulge in, not in private  but publicly, in the language that would have him tossed out of a trade union meeting, in France or in the UK and made him a pariah.

Or indeed in  any normal democratic party.

His latest is a mad diatribe which includes  this:  Vous êtes la mort et le néant”, a notamment écrit le chef de la France insoumise à Pierre Laurent. Publié le 18 mai 2017 à 20h24

That is against the well respected leader of the French Communist Party, Pierre Laurent he had  has launched an wild barrage of insults.

Notably, “You are Death and  Nothingness.”

More colloquially, you are Dead and Buried.

 I cannot retain myself from remarking that this Man of Destiny does our French comrades our great disservice.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Labour’s Policies on Social Security and Workers’ Rights: Pillars of a Sound Manifesto.

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Many people have commented, and will comment, and, who on earth  knows? will comment defavourably  on Labour’s policies .

Two areas stick out to me on this very sound Manifesto (full text here).

Both because they affect our people and because they are just.

Poverty in Britain is rising due to the Conservatives’ attempts to balance the books on the backs of the poorest. They have slashed social security over the last seven years, leaving more people in poverty, subject to a punitive sanctions regime, and reliant on food banks.

Labour will act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Conservative government’s changes. We will:

  • Scrap the punitive sanctions regime
  • Scrap the Bedroom Tax
  • Reinstate Housing Benefit for under-21s
  • Scrap cuts to Bereavement Support Payment.
  • The cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit (UC), and the decision to limit tax credit and UC payments to the first two children in a family, are an attack on low-income families and will increase child poverty. Labour will reform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment and the ‘rape clause’.

With nearly four million children currently living in poverty, the majority in working families, we will commit to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy.

The Tories have completely failed on their promise of making work pay and on tackling the barriers to work faced by people with disabilities.

Labour supports a social model of disability. People may have a condition or an impairment but they are disabled by society. We need to remove the barriers in society that restrict opportunities.

A FAIR DEAL AT WORK

Work should provide people with security and fulfilment. But for too many people work is insecure and does not make ends meet.

The Conservatives boast about the recovery of employment, but our labour market is failing. Real-terms pay is still lower than before the crash, and jobs are increasingly low skilled and insecure.

A Labour government will invest in enforcement through a new Ministry of Labour, and empower workers and their trade unions – because we are stronger when we stand together.

So we will review the rules on union recognition so that more workers have the security of a union.

RIGHTS AT WORK

The next Labour government will bring in a 20-point plan for security and equality at work:

Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that working conditions are not driven down.
Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week.
Legislate to ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another.
Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining – because the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is collectively through a union.
Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces – so that unions can speak to members and potential members.
Propose four new public holidays – bringing our country together to mark our four national patron saints’ days. These will be additional to statutory holiday entitlement so that workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries.
Raise the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – for all workers aged 18 or over, so that work pays.
End the Public Sector Pay Cap – because public sector workers deserve a pay rise after years of falling wages.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Socialists Stand Against Jeremy Corbyn.

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Mayoral Candidate Silberman. One time leading figure in the IMG.

Refuting Tory claims that Jeremy Corbyn is left wing:  Knigel Knapp (Monster Raving Loony), Bill Martin (Socialist), Andres Mendoza (Communist League). (General Election 2017: Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North seat attracts record number of candidates)

The position of the Monster Raving Greenstein Party is not at present known.

“The Communist League is presenting a working-class perspective in contrast to all the other parties — from Labour to the Tories. All these parties seek to prop up capitalist rule over a declining Britain and the little left of its empire.”

““Those clamoring about Trump’s visit celebrate ‘our’ — i.e. British — values. But there is no ‘we,’” Clifford said. “There are two classes — the working class and the propertied rulers — with opposite class interests.”

““We need a movement of millions of workers to make a revolution to end capitalism,”

Meanwhile…

Islington Election Street Stall (North London)

  • Saturday, May 13, 2017

  • Nag’s Head Shopping Centre

    402 Holloway Road, London N7 6PZ (map)

  • near Burger King
  • Organised by North London Branch as part of the SPGB’s campaign in the forthcoming General Election when it will be standing a candidate in the Islington North constituency

The full list of candidates is as follows: Keith Angus (Lib Dem), Susanne Cameron-Blackie (Independent), James Clark (Conservative), Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), Michael Foster (Independent), Keith Fraser (Ukip), Knigel Knapp (Monster Raving Loony), Bill Martin (Socialist), Andres Mendoza (Communist League) and Caroline Russell (Green).

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2017 at 11:49 am

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Mélenchon’s Mates wage Legal Challenge against French Communist Party.

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Rends-moi mes images ! Elles sont à moi !

Le fan club de Mélenchon porte plainte contre le PC 

Rends-moi mes images ! Elles sont à moi ! “: une dispute entre deux gamins ? Que nenni ! La revendication, fort sérieuse, des partisans de Mélenchon qui, faute d’obtenir satisfaction, envisagent de poursuivre le PCF devant les tribunaux. Jusqu’où ira le fan club de Jean-Luc dans le ridicule et le discrédit ? L’union de la gauche est mal engagée pour les législatives…

 

Without going into, extremely boring, details, they do not want the PCF to get any deputies elected.

 

Sectarian shite does not even begin to cover it.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Marine Le Pen: Filth.

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Comrade Cabu, spat on by New Left Review after his murder. 

I have nothing add this this, which is relevant for today,

Written by Andrew Coates

May 7, 2017 at 11:03 am

French Communists Stand Firm in Anti-Fascist Front as Macron Faces Hacking Threat.

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French Communists Stand for United Front Against Fascism.

 

This is the latest in the foulest election campaign in recent memory.

En Marche! movement says posting of massive email leak online ‘clearly amounts to democratic destabilisation as was seen in the US’

..

On Saturday morning, France’s presidential electoral authority, the CNCCEP, asked the media to avoid publishing information from the leaked documents and reminded them of their responsibilities given the seriousness of the election.

“The publishing of false information falls under the law, particularly criminal law,” it wrote.

Neither candidate could comment on the hacking because of the ban on communications and polls before the polling stations open at 8am on Sunday.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

Anti-Fascism Betrayed? The Left and the French Presidential Elections.

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The End of the United Front Against Fascism?

The French Presidential Elections: Anti-Fascism Betrayed?

“qui’il n’y pas de hiérarchie dans l’inacceptable entre le Pen at Macron. Entre la xénophobie et la soumission aux banques.”

There is no difference of degree between the unacceptability of le Pen and Macron, between xenophobia and surrender to the banks.

Emmanuel Todd.

“Last year I wrote in the struggle against fascism the Communists were duty-bound to come to a practical agreement not only with the devil and his grandmother, but even with Grzesinski.”

Leon Trotsky. 1932. The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany.

The 2/3rds majority of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise who support abstention, or a blank vote, in the second round of the French Presidential elections is echoing across the hexagon’s already divided left. In Wednesday’s Le Monde Jean Birnbaum wrote of the burial of the “united front” spirit of anti-fascism (le 4 août de Mélenchon, ou l’antifascisme trahi). There are those who argue that not only is Macron beyond the pale, a banker, a globaliser with a sorry Ministerial record as a hard-liner pushing liberal labour reform, but that his election would prepare the way for a future Front National triumph. Hence ballot spoiling, blank votes, for abstention are the only possible choice in an election where there is no choice. Birnbaum argues that this, amid smaller (indeed, very small) leftist groups and some public intellectuals refusing to “takes sides”, shows that the  unity of the left against fascism, which has been a cornerstone of its politics since the mid-1930s, is breaking up.

This is not, then,  a debate about abstention as such. This position, a very old one on the French left, going back to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809 – 1865),  which argues for self-organising outside of Parliamentary institutions, is not at the centre of the debate. Alain Badiou early intervened in favour of a re-establishing a “communist vision” outside the “depoliticising” ceremony of the ballot box. Badiou’s recommendation not to vote because it only encourages them has not caught many people’s attention. (Alain Badiou. Voter renforce le conservatisme).

The Le Pen versus Macron duel has raised more serious issues. For Birnbaum, who has written on the blindness, if not indulgence, of a section of the left faced with Islamism (Un Silence Religieux. 2016 Review), some on the French left, many formed, like Mélenchon, from the Trotskyist tradition, have forgotten the need, which Trotsky (for all his acerbic attacks, and his loathing of the German Social Democrats, summed up in the figure of the Prussian Interior Minister, Grzesinski, demanded, faced with the prospect of Hitler’s rise, to defend democratic institutions.

No New Hitler.

It would be indecent to have to say that France today is far from the Weimar Republic. A new Hitler in power is not in prospect. There are no street battles between the Front National and the left. The FN does not offer a genocidal programme. Birnbaum’s argument that those who propose the view that Macron and Le Pen are politically twin-evils does not flag up the posthumous victory of the worst years of Stalinism, the Third Period. But, as many convincingly demonstrate the French far right is the vehicle for illiberal democracy. From leaving the Euro, Frexit, clamping down on immigration, including the expulsion of ‘suspect’ individuals, “national preference” (jobs first of all for French citizens), and tightening the borders, economically and socially, requires authority beyond normal Parliamentary democracy. The not-so-secret ambition of the extra-parliamentary wing of the far right, which would be emboldened by a FN victory, remains to fight the left violently, from the city pavements, civil society, education, and the workplace. (on this see the excellent: The Front National and fascism. Martin Thomas).

Yet Marine Le Pen’s party is, apparently, ‘normalised’. It is a refuge, Pierre-André Taguieff describes it, for those excluded by globalisation, a “pathological form of self-defence”, confronted with the erosion of nation states and the rule of elites. National-populism, he argues, reflects a “need” for identity and belonging. (La revanche du nationalisme. 2015)

There are doctors who claim to be treating this disorder. On the same page of le Monde, Henri Pena-Ruiz, Jean-Paul Scot and Bruno Streiff defend La France insoumise and refuse to be blackmailed into supporting Macron (Insoumis, osons penser librement!). They claim that their movement is at the forefront of the battle against the FN. On the one hand they have waged the “battle of ideas”, defending the role of immigrants n producing French national wealth, and the duty of “universal hospitality” to strangers advanced by Kant, a refusal to divide the world into “us” and “them”. On the other hand their “révolution citoyenne”, a 6th social, ecological and economic Republic, offers a message beyond short-term election battles. Federating the people, it can equally capture the best traditions of the left and those marginalised by globalisation.

Henri Pena-Ruiz has himself helped avoid faults that Birnbaum’s Un silence religieux attacked. That is the incapacity, mixed with an opportunistic eye to new recruits against ‘globalisation’ and ‘imperialism’, of some of the left confronted with Islamism. His Qu’est-ce que la laïcité? (2003) stands as a significant defence of secularism, and a rebuke to groups like the British Respect, and the Socialist Workers Party, who allied with the Islamic far-right.

Yet it does not help Mélenchon’s supporters that they choose to deny the accusation that they mirror 1930s sectarianism to cite the role of the German SPD in preparing the way for Hitler by, between 1924 and 1929, accepting a policy of austerity through their alliance with the centre (Catholic) party. This transparent attack on the Parti Socialiste, by Macron interposed, and its (mild) fiscal austerity indicates that in some way it holds  responsibility for the le Pen, and the far right. This is can easily be interpreted as indicating that the Macron ‘finance’ class are not only an enemy, but the real foe, beside which the Front National is a ‘diversion’.

Some readers may also consider that one could have done without the text’s references to their movement’s remarkable “intelligence collective”. Their is a feel of the courtier when they talk of the “honneur” of “non-guru” Mélenchon for organising a “consultation” of his supporters to know their views on voting in the second round. Others might wonder why there is no reference to the 15-16% of voters for this candidate in the first ballot that, polls indicate, who are ready to vote Le Pen on Sunday.

Populism and Sovereignty.

One problem remains. If those who refuse to ‘choose’ between Macron and Le Pen reflect a French debate, the underlying issues affect the left across the world. In Europe particularly ‘populism’ is not the preserve of the far right. Mélenchon’s intellectually ambitious advisers may look to Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s efforts to theorise contradictions between the “power bloc” and the “people”, and as the a handbook for constructing a force, filling the “empty signifier” of the People with a voice that articulates the needs and feelings of a broad constituency, against the ‘oligarchs’. In doing so their own demands for ‘national independence” to “produce French”, not to mention lyrical rhetoric about the French revolutionary tradition, or references to Kant’s universal principles of right, have been criticised as nationalist. Their ‘movement’, La France insoumise, which lacks any serious democratic structure, has claimed to be “beyond” traditional political divisions, while falling back into one of the most traditional oppositions of all: the Nation against the other Nations. If Macron represents economic liberal policies, for them he embodies something more: the Cosmopolitan European project. They have, in short, entered the orbit of Sovereigntism.

La France insoumise at an impasse.

After pursuing this path, Mélenchon and la France insoumise won a strong vote but a position as Number Four in the poll. They look less like a force that has abandoned the anti-fascist front, than a movement unable to offer anything more than continued protest. Instead of attempting, as Birnbaum and many others argue, to mobilise against Le Pen, for the unity of democrats against illiberalism, with the prospect of future social conflicts against Macron in mind, they are marching in disorder, a third abstaining a third voting blank and a third for the representative of ‘globalisation’, and their own “excluded” voters still set to back le Pen. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to gather together enough strength to gather together with those they now pour scorn upon to reach agreements on the left for the June legislative elections.

Anther US Leftist Backs “pro-working class and anti-imperialist” Marine Le Pen – James Petras.

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Petras, now Backs “Pro-working class and anti-imperialist” Marine Le Pen.

The political confusion created by the entry of ‘Sovereigntist’ language and ideas into the left has not stopped echoing across the world.

Tendance Coatesy has sketched some of the origins of this confusion in France itself, where after the refusal of some on the left to join the Republican Front against the far right,  the latest addition to the ‘anti-anti’ Le Pen camp includes the ‘sovereigntist’ Emmanuel Todd – admired by British Guardian liberals  for his book length rant against Charlie Hebdo.

Todd who voted Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, though was tempted to support the far right, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, now says that he will abstain on Sunday’s run off.

He refuses to “submit” to servitude. That is, to a Power system run by remote control by financial nu financial inspecteurs, top civil servants and the bankers, all gripped by a spirit of total submission to Germany. (“un système de pouvoir téléguidé par les inspecteurs des finances, la haute administration et le système bancaire dans un état d’esprit de soumission absolue à l’Allemagne. France Soir).

No prizes for  guessing which banker Todd has in mind.

A handful of US leftists far far outdo this.

They are explicit admirers of Le Pen.

After the notorious Diana Johnstone spoke up for Marine Le Pen’s  ‘left wing’ politics on the ‘left-wing’ site CounterpunchJames Petras, has joined the ranks.

The academic, professor of Sociology, active in many leftist causes,  begins an article published on the 1st of May, Twenty Truths about Marine Le Pen,  with this,

Every day in unimaginable ways, prominent leaders from the left and the right, from bankers to Parisian intellectuals, are fabricating stories and pushing slogans that denigrate presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. They obfuscate her program, substituting the label ‘extremist’ for her pro-working class and anti-imperialist commitment. Fear and envy over the fact that a new leader heads a popular movement has seeped into Emmanuel “Manny” Macron’s champagne-soaked dinner parties.

We learn this,

Macron has been an investment banker serving the Rothschild and Cie Banque oligarchy, which profited from speculation and the pillage of the public treasury. Macron served in President Hollande’s Economy Ministry, in charge of ‘Industry and Digital Affairs’ from 2014 through 2016. This was when the ‘Socialist’ Hollande imposed a pro-business agenda, which included a 40 billion-euro tax cut for the rich.

And this,

Le Pen is above all a ‘sovereigntist’: ‘France First’. Her fight is against the Brussels oligarchs and for the restoration of sovereignty to the French people. There is an infinite irony in labeling the fight against imperial political power as ‘hard right’. It is insulting to debase popular demands for domestic democratic power over basic economic policies, fiscal spending, incomes and prices policies, budgets and deficits as ‘extremist and far right’.

And indeed this,

Despite the trends among the French masses against the oligarchs, academics, intellectuals and political journalists have aped the elite’s slander against Le Pen because they will not antagonize the prestigious media and their administrators in the universities. They will not acknowledge the profound changes that have occurred within the National Front under Marine Le Pen. They are masters of the ‘double discourse’ – speaking from the left while working with the right. They confuse the lesser evil with the greater evil.

Ending on a lachrymose note the former leftist, states,

If Le Pen loses this election, Macron will impose his program and ignite popular fury. Marine will make an even stronger candidate in the next election… if the French oligarchs’ judiciary does not imprison her for the crime of defending sovereignty and social justice.

It is only because some people think that rhetoric against “elites”and “global finance”, not to mention “globalisation”, and for national sovereignty and ‘independence’ that anybody could describe the Front National, which is economically pro-business, pro-French national interests, normally on the left described as “imperialist”, laced with vicious cultural nationalism, also normally called racist, that anybody could call them “left-wing”.

Perhaps this is what he means by the  FN’s ‘anti-imperialism’…

t comes as no surprise to learn that Petras has this on his shoulders.

Allegations of antisemitism

In a 2006 article entitled “9/11 Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories Still Abound,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) criticized Petras’s assertion that there was evidence that Israelis may have known about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks but withheld the information from the United States government. The ADL also noted Petras’ assertion that “The lack of any public statement concerning Israel’s possible knowledge of 9/11 is indicative of the vast, ubiquitous and aggressive nature of its powerful diaspora supporters.”[12][13]

In a 2009 article, the ADL again criticized Petras, alleging that he blamed the ongoing economic crisis on “Zionist” control over the U.S. government and world events, and alleged that Petras argued that pro-Israel Americans had launched a massive campaign to push the U.S. into a war with Iran. The ADL also alleged that Petras’ allegations included the antisemitic accusation that the American Jewish community controls the mass media and is “bloodthirsty” in its appetite for war.[14] The previous year, Petras alleged that “It was the massive infusion of financial contributions that allowed the [Zionist Power Configuration] (ZPC) to vastly expand the number of full-time functionaries, influence peddlers and electoral contributors that magnified their power – especially in promoting US Middle East wars, lopsided free trade agreements (in favor of Israel) and unquestioned backing of Israeli aggression against Lebanon, Syria and Palestine…No economic recovery is possible now or in the foreseeable future…while Zionist power brokers dictate US Mideast policies.[15][16]

The ADL also cited a 2008 interview in which Petras stated that [U.S.] presidents are at the disposal of “Jewish power” [17] and maintained that Jews represent “the greatest threat to world peace and humanity.”[18] In the same 2008 interview cited by the ADL, Petras stated that “it’s one of the great tragedies that we have a minority that represents less than 2% of North American’s population but has such power in the communications media” and that the reason “why the North American public doesn’t react against the manipulations of this minority…[is] because the Jews control the communications media.”[19] In an 2010 article published in the Arab American News, Petras stated that “For the U.S. mass media the problem is not Israeli state terror, but how to manipulate and disarm the outrage of the international community. To that end the entire Zionist power configuration has a reliable ally in the Zionized Obama White House and U.S. Congress.”

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

La France insoumise: 2/3rds of Mélenchon’s Supporters Will Abstain or Vote Blank in Choice between Far-Right and Macron.

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Charlie Hebdo on the “prats” who will Abstain or Vote Blank Faced with Le Pen. 

Two-thirds of far-left ‘Unsubmissive France’ movement to abstain or cast blank ballot in presidential run-off France 24.

This “consulatitve vote” – since La France insoumise is a rally, not a democratic party, is apparently intended only as an “Indication” of what activists think.

S’abstenir ou voter Macron ? Les militants de La France insoumise de Mélenchon optent aux deux tiers pour le vote blanc ou l’abstention

Nouvel Obs.

La France insoumise a dévoilé ce mardi après-midi le résultat de la consultation de ses militants sur la conduite à tenir au second tour, entre vote pour Emmanuel Macron, qui refuse toute concession à Jean-Luc Mélenchon, et abstention.

Seuls 243.128 militants sur les 430.000 inscrits de la plateforme internet La France insoumise se sont prononcés. La consultation s’est close mardi midi et leurs votes se répartissent ainsi : 36,12% appellent à voter blanc ou nul, 34,83% à voter Emmanuel Macron et 29,05% se disent favorables à une abstention. Le communiqué précise : “Il ne s’agissait pas de déterminer une consigne de vote mais d’organiser la prise de parole des insoumis.es au sujet de leurs choix de second tour.”

Only 243,128 activists out of the 430,000 who belong to the Web Network of the La France insoumise voted. The consultation closed on Tuesday at mid-day. The voting was as follows: 36,12% for a blank-spoiled ballot, 34,83% for Emmanuel Macron, and 28,05% said they backed abstention. The communique added, “It is not a question of deciding how we should vote, but to give a voice to the choices that the ‘insoumis’ will make in voting during the second round.

The choice of voting Marine Le Pen was not available during the consultation, although over 15-16% of voters for  Mélenchon in the first round may vote for the far-right in the second (BFMTV).

Libération comments that Mélenchon did not have the courage to take a clear stand because he knew how divided his ‘movement’ was, “On comprend mieux la distance de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, qui a refusé de se prononcer publiquement, de peur de perdre des militants en route.” ( la France insoumise est divisée.)

From the French Communists, the PCF, the reaction was not favourable.

Alors que Marine Le Pen est aux portes du pouvoir le résultat de la consultation de la France Insoumise n’est peut être qu’une photographie mais c’est une mauvaise nouvelle », a réagi sur Facebook Igor Zamichiei, secrétaire départemental du PCF à Paris et membre de l’exécutif national.

When Marine Le Pen is at the gates of Power the result of the consultation of la France insoumise is only a photo-shot, but it’s bad news, remarked on Facebook  Igor Zamichiei, the regional secretary of the PCF at Paris, and a member of the party’s National Executive.

Le Monde. 

More comment unfolding: that the vote indicates a state of mind in some circles on the French left (se Charlie cartoon above….)

This  contrasts with those more directly affected by Le Pen:

 

 

See also: 

Why we support Macron in the second round – op-ed in Le Monde (English original) and DiEM25 France in Mediapart YANIS VAROUFAKIS.

In today’s Le Monde I call upon French progressives to vote for Macron in the second round of France’s Presidential election. The article explains my recommendation to French voters and finishes off with the following promise to Emmanuel:

“I shall mobilise fully to help you beat Le Pen with the same strength that I shall be joining the next Nuit Debout to oppose your government when, and if, you, as President, attempt to continue with your dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism.”

For the full article, in the original English, can be read below. (See also DiEM25 France’s collective position published earlier in Mediapart.)

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Will not Vote Marine Le Pen, but Refuses to Say How he Will Vote.

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Marine Le Pen Launches Appeal to Patriotic Mélenchon supporters and their bleu-blanc-rouge flags. 

As the far-right gains support, the  sovereigntist, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Debout la France (4,7% of the vote in the first round),  announced his backing,

Dupont-Aignan, who garnered 4.7 percent of votes in the first round, said he would vote for Le Pen in the second-round ballot on May 7 and would immediately join her campaign.

“I will vote Marine Le Pen and I will support her;” he said in a prime-time interview on French television, denying she was a far-right politician.

He said he had signed an agreement on the future government with Le Pen, who would incorporate some of his policy proposals into her election platform.

Earlier in the day, Le Pen’s National Front announced it was removing Jean-François Jalkh as interim party chief.

He allegedly made questionable remarks about Nazi gas chambers during World War Two. He has denied the allegations.

France 24.

This is the latest, if elected she will nominate Dupont-Aignan as Prime Minister.

Si elle est élue présidente, Le Pen nommera Dupont-Aignan premier ministre.

Dupont-Aignan is a Sovereigntist, anti-immigrant, law and order fanatic who is anti-EU, anti-globalisation, anti-feminist,  pro-Assad, anti-Israel,  homophobic (see more: Wikipedia).

Some polls show Le Pen rising at  41 % to Macron’s 59 %.

41 % of voters for  Jean-Luc Mélenchon  will vote for Macron’s En Marche !, while 18% have said they will vote for Marine Le Pen. (Sondage. Marine Le Pen réduit l’écart avec Emmanuel Macron).

The  Man of Destiny Jean-Luc Mélenchon hath – finally – spoken.  In a Youtube his – hours late – broadcast the Number 4 candidate in the first round stated that will vote, but will not say for whom, “though one not need to be a great scholar (and a gentleman – I just added that bit) to guess what I will do.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon “Moi j’irai voter. (…) Ce que je vais voter, je ne vais pas le dire. Mais il n’y a pas besoin d’être grand clerc pour deviner ce que je vais faire.”

Nevertheless the high number of his voters (18%) who will cast their ballots for Marine le Pen lends force to the argument now gaining an audience that once he had adapted to nationalism – “sovereigntism” – it is easier for them to transfer their allegiance to the far right.

Marine Le Pen is appealing to his voters to support her against the ‘banker’ Macron and his free market policies (Marine Le Pen lance un appel aux électeurs de la France insoumise)She noted of his meetings that she was touched to see that red flags had been replaced by the French national flag and that the ‘beautiful’ Marseillaise has been sung by supporters of La France insoumise.

J’ai été comme vous sensible au fait que les drapeaux rouges aient été remplacés par les drapeaux bleu-blanc-rouge et que de belles marseillaise aient été entonnées par les partisans de la France insoumise», débute la candidate frontiste.

Further emboldened by his ambiguities she remarked today,

Marine Le Pen : “Comme Jean-Luc Mélenchon, je suis une Insoumise.

“Comme lui, je suis une Insoumise. Comme lui, je ne veux pas que Monsieur Macron soit élu président de la République car il porte une vision que je ne partage pas, et qui est rejetée par notre électorat. À savoir : transformer la France en une salle de marché.”

Like him I am an Insoumise. Like him I do not want Mr Macron to be elected as President of the Republic because he bears a vision that I do not share, that is rejected by our voters. That is, he wishes to make France into a marketplace.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Miguel Abensour. 1939 – 2017. Radical Left ‘Insurgent Democracy”.

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Miguel Abensour. 1939 – 2017.

The radical left-wing political philosopher Miguel Abensour passed away on April the 22nd. From a Jewish family, and a childhood spent hidden from the Vichy regime in the countryside, Abensour began to teach political science in 1962. The young teacher, who had early discovered the division between “friends” and “enemies”, remained haunted not only by the experience of Nazism, but also by Stalinism. (1)

The Algerian war of independence and de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic saw the young university teacher’s involvement in the anti-bureaucratic and anti-capitalist left. Abensour’s ideas were influenced by Castoriadis and the review Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949 – 1967) During the sixties he was as founder of Utopie, whose other best known figure was Jean Baudrillard. The title of the journal could stand for a life-long interest in utopian thought, from Thomas More, William Morris, Walter Benjamin the anthropologist Pierre Clastres who speculated on societies without states, to Ernst Bloch and the Frankfurt School. He admired Hannah Arendt, her critique of totalitarianism, the destruction of pluralism, and her writing on the “hidden treasure” of the direct democracy of the workers’ councils. Unlike those, who in the wake of François Furet’s Penser la Révolution française (1978) saw in all radical revolutions the germs of totalitarian tyranny, he continued to defend a Marxist inflected “insurgent democracy”.

Tributes to Abensour have described his contributions to other journals, such as the 1970s anti-totalitarian Textures (to which Castoriadis and Claude Lefort contributed), and his publishing work in the collection, Critique de la politique.

La Démocratie contre l’État

Abensour’s La Démocratie contre l’État (2004) remains his most significant contribution to the independent critical left. Subtitled Marx et le moment machiavélien it is a reflection on Marx and Machiavelli. The work is informed by J.C.A Pocok’s account of how the Florentine’s idea of political Virtue might impose on Fortune and the form of the republic and Fortune, with sociology of liberty (The Machiavellian Moment. 1975). In the discussion of Marx Claude Lefort’s reading of Machiavelli come to the fore. For Lefort the description of the class divisions in Italian city-states, perennial conflicts, a refusal to be commanded or to be oppressed, were the foundation of liberty (Le Travail de l’oeuvre Machiavel. 1972/1986).

But Lefort, Abensour observed, had not stayed there. The former Socialisme ou Barbarie member’s defence of “démocratie sauvage”, heterogeneous movements for human rights, fights for legal rights in the sense also advanced by E.P.Thompson. After the 1970s vogue for ‘anti-totalitarianism’ in France Lefort had moved further into considering that “democratic revolution” could be focused around the “lieu vide” of power, the acceptance that there is a way of institutionalising contestation, pluralism, in a political place that remains “empty. That is, unoccupied by individuals, forces or ideas that impose a single social order. In other words, democratic societies are grounded on the acceptance of division. By contrast Abensour defended Marx. Against the charge that he wished to end this ambiguity in a society of total transparency and harmony. Marx did not imagine a return to ancient republicanism, a world of public lives under constant surveillance and ‘unity’. Insurgent democracy fuelled by such as sense of class conflict, closer to the spirit of anarchy, the “withering away of the state”, not only refuses totalitarianism, but also the structures of the state. Abensour thus rediscovered the possibility of radically new “espaces d’invention, d’évasion” – disorder that Lefort had turned away from. (2)

At a time when National Sovereignty is brandished by those who wish to occupy the space of democratic power, when the ‘federated’ People replaces for Class, and some would wish to claim the ‘independence’ of the Nation against the ‘Elites’ and ‘Oligarchs’, Abensour’s insurgent democracy stands as a rebuke to the narrow goals of populism, right or left. Yet perhaps there is some virtue in keeping the reins of power out of the hands of a single General Will. Those on the British left, now offering to fight to the last French person against Le Pen and Macron, might also reflect on those, like Michael Abensour, who have had more fecund dreams of a utopian future without domination and Sovereignty. He deserves to be as widely read as possible.

****
(1) Les guerres d’Abensour.

(2) Page 184. La Démocratie contre l’État le Felin. 2004

,

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 11:45 am

As Marine Le Pen Rises in Polls Criticism of Mélenchon’s Silence Grows.

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Nothing to say on how to fight Marine Le Pen at 41% ( +1).

France 24 reports,

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon forfeited the opportunity to play kingmaker on Sunday night by declining to back centrist (and onetime banker) Emmanuel Macron over anti-immigration europhobe Marine Le Pen in the run-off on May 7.

Heady with the 7 million votes he scored in Sunday’s first round – or disappointed that he fell only 618,609 short of beating Le Pen to a spot in the presidential run-off – Mélenchon took no clear stand on election night, leaving his voters to hash out their choice for May 7 online. Third-place finisher François Fillon, of the conservative Les Républicains party, and Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon both used their concession speeches on Sunday to immediately back Macron for the presidency.

However, Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France (France insoumise) movement launched a voter “consultation” he promised on its website on Tuesday evening. It gives the 450,000 supporters who signed up on the platform before 10pm on April 23 – when Mélenchon gave his speech, and two hours after polls closed – a chance to express their choices among three options: voting a blank ballot, voting Macron or abstaining. Pointedly, voting Le Pen is not provided as an option “because it is clear to us that the National Front is a danger for the workforce”, Mélenchon spokesman Alexis Corbière explained on Wednesday.

The straw poll will continue until next Tuesday at noon, after which the results will be announced. But Unsubmissive France said on Wednesday that Mélenchon himself would not make public how he will vote personally, even after the results of the survey are released.

A sensation who rose like a shot in polls in the month before the first round, Mélenchon managed the feat of relegating the Socialist candidate to an also-ran. A former Socialist himself who cut ties with the party in 2008 to establish his own movement farther to the left, Mélenchon scored more than three times more votes than Hamon, largely on the back of two charismatic TV debate performances on March 20 and April 4. In those clashes, the 65-year-old political veteran came off as lively, confident, witty and frank. The contrast between his showman flourishes then and his post-election-night silence now is jarring.

Calls to abstain

Mélenchon voters have taken to social media to air their misgivings about voting for Macron, a onetime banker and economy minister under Socialist President François Hollande who quit last year to mount his own independent presidential bid. Many, using the hashtag #sansmoile7mai (“May 7 without me”) have said they simply cannot vote for “le capitaliste” Macron, even against Le Pen; they would rather cast a blank ballot or abstain.

This position, whose ambiguities  we have already outlined is opposed to that of  whole trade union movement. All of the union federations have called for a  vote against Le Pen and the National Front on Sunday May 7. The CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires, the CFDT, FSU and even the Christian CFTC, which only once before, in 2002, have all called on their members to ‘stop the National Front’.

The left, the PCF, Ensemble (in a rather contorted fashion, no doubt to avoid offending the Great Man),  and the French Socialists  have also done so.

Not everybody in La France insoumise is happy with the silence of the Man of Destiny.

Mélenchon’s  stand has raised a storm of protest on the left which has been reflected inside the rally itself.

Monsieur Mélenchon, que diable allons-nous faire dans cette galère ? Libération.

Par Baudouin Woehl, étudiant dans un conservatoire à Paris

Un militant de la France insoumise s’indigne de la non-prise de position de Jean-Luc Mélenchon contre Marine Le Pen.

An activist of La France insoumise is angry at the failure of Jean-Luc Jean-Luc Mélenchon to take a stand against Marine Le Pen.

Dire non au FN, c’est se donner les moyens de poursuivre la lutte, c’est éviter de transformer ce «matin tout neuf qui commence à percer» dont vous parlez, en une nuit toute longue et incertaine.

To say No to the FN, is the way to get the means to continue the fight, that is, to avoid that the “new dawn which has begun to shine”, which you speak about, becomes a long night of uncertainty.

This is in a similar vein: Lettre à mes ami.e.s de gauche qui ne voteront pas contre Le Pen le 7 mai.

This demands that Mélenchon takes off the Red Triangle, sign of solidarity with victims of the Nazi, from his label.

Monsieur Mélenchon, ayez la décence de retirer ce triangle rouge de votre veste.Par Didier Daeninckx, écrivain.

On the British far left, amongst the professional dilettantes (the inevitable Tariq Ali) cheering on Mélenchon  is Kevin Ovenden,  who has been a leading figure in Respect and now appears close to the groupscule Counterfire, with influence in the Stop the War Coalition.

France: an historic moment for the left

He argues against the Vote Contre Le Pen campaign,

The Socialist Party and the Communist Party, in the false name of anti-fascist unity, are aiming to restore their own fortunes at the National Assembly elections, over the corpse of this radical breakthrough by the insurgent left last Sunday.

In endorsing Macron, they do three things. They give political support to someone who will launch an offensive against working people. They help Le Pen – for she wants this political constellation of her against all the old party machines. And they do Macron’s bidding in trying to rip away a part of the “insubordinate left” back to the centre, in return – if they are lucky – for some local pacts to deliver some parliamentary seats.

Instead, willing to share his successful strategy  in Respect Ovenden argues  to back an independent la France insoumise, do not vote against Le Pen in the polling booths, and to for those who supported Mélenchon to start  “providing them with the tools to maintain this insurgency.

For, “This is actually the moment of the fighting left. The agency for rupturing into a half century political settlement has been someone whose politics are actually closer to the patriotic social democratic left than they are to anti-capitalist revolutionaries.”

Ovenden  seems to be relishing the idea of street fighting if Le Pen approaches power, and no doubt afterwards.

He will no doubt offer his strategic skills to the French Left.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2017 at 1:10 pm

The Ambiguous Silence of Mélenchon on the Front National.

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2002, The Left United Against the Front National.

Time was when Jean-Luc Mélenchon has no words hard enough against the Front National.

He even called, repeatedly, for it to be banned. As in Jean-Luc Mélenchon : «C’est le Front national qu’il faut interdire». 17th April. 1997. And Mélenchon veut interdire le FN 23rd of January 2010.

Now he is ‘resting’ in initially in silence while his supporters decide on-line whether to vote against Marine Le Pen, that is, vote for Macron, in the Presidential run off.

After Sunday’s election the choice between Macron and Le Pen is the only one present in the ballot box.

An on-line vote by supporters of La France insoumise, the rally with 440,000 ‘members’ (Many of whom give a nominal sum and Web involvement), is taking place on their stand on the Second Round on the 7th of May.

On voting choices they will be able to recommend that the movement advocates one of these options:

A blank vote (or spoiled ballot as we would say), abstention or a vote for Macron. 

There is no option to vote for Le Pen.

Je vote blanc ou nul», «Je vote Emmanuel Macron», «Je m’abstiens».

Note the way this is posed: the second round will set against each other, “the candidate of the extreme right and the candidate of extreme finance” (the latter reads as oddly in French as English).

It continues, “none of us will vote for the far right. Even so, should one give a voting recommendation? We said during our campaign that our votes could not be used by anybody else for the second round. Our candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has loyally respected this commitment. Having indicated this since the beginning of our campaign, therefore we have organised this to give a voice to la France insoumise on what position they personally (my emphasis) take on the second round. This  will not be a voting recommendation; the (aim) is to know the position of those in la France insoumise.

La consultation des militants de la France insoumise a commencé. Libération.  More in  Le Monde.

At a Press Conference today speakers for La France insoumise began by emphasising, quite rightly, that they had an exceptional voting score, which reached nearly 20% (nearly as many as the candidate who came 3rd François Fillon).

On the consultation above they noted that already 50,000 people had taken part, and that it was to give supporters an opportunity to express  an opinion, not a voting recommendation. (“n’a pas pour but de donner une consigne de vote mais de permettre aux insoumis de donner leur avis). They then announced,  amongst other things, that they are not a traditional political party but a movement (Nous ne sommes pas un parti politique traditionnel. Nous sommes un mouvement) and that neither Macron nor Le Pen represented their ideas.

Waxing lyrical, if perhaps in a tone some would describe as  shouty if not hysterical, Alexis Corbière stated that they were they only political force to emerge in the Presidential elections (La seule force politique qui émerge dans cette élection, c’est nous”) and that they were also the only people capable of really standing up to the Front National (“La seule force en capacité de tenir tête à l’extrême droite, c’est nous”) and they were the only ones (again!) fighting the FN consistently and convincingly,  while everybody else was chattering away (“Nous, nous combattons le FN sur le fond et nous convainquons. Les autres font du baratin !).

La France insoumise intends to stand alone, against all other left parties, in the June legislative elections.

More from here: .

In the media, the médiacrates as Mélenchon calls them, have been asking his supporters what they think. 

Some are said to agree with Philippe Poutou, the candidate of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NP), who, with a score of 1,09% (1,15% in 2012) advocates going onto the streets to shout against the FN but to stay away from the polling booths.

Others, will what may be called a firmer grasp of reality, will respond as the rest of the non-marginal French left has done, Voter for Macron, with a heavy heart, “« Tout sauf Le Pen. ». The ‘populist’ movement remains divided. (Macron « à contrecœur », vote blanc ou pour Le Pen, pour le « choc » : les électeurs de Mélenchon tiraillés).  More here: Silence de Mélenchon sur le FN : colère, démocratie ou «faute» ? Libération.

As in:

One of the main reasons for their confusion is that the supporters of La France insoumise are said to be bitterly disappointed that they were not able to reach the final round. Apparently they believed, perhaps alone, that they would face a straight Le Pen Melenchon battle. (L’armée en ligne de Jean-Luc Mélenchon à l’heure de la désillusion. Dans le café virtuel où 20 000 militants ont porté sa campagne en ligne, le débat est intense sur l’attitude à adopter pour le second tour.)

Media which are no friends of the French left – happy to ignore that from the Communists to others on the left of the left will vote against Le Pen (Le PCF appelle à voter Macron, puis à le battre aux législatives) – have seized on the ambiguities of La France insoumise and the Man of Destiny,  Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The New York Times reports,

The National Front is delighted. The party has extended a welcome mat to Mr. Mélenchon’s supporters, pointing out similarities between the candidates.

The Front’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen — kicked out of the party by his daughter partly over his racism — hailed Mr. Mélenchon’s position warmly in an interview on French radio Tuesday.

“This seems very worthy to me, coming from a candidate who made a remarkable breakthrough, and who was — it must be said — the best orator,” Mr. Le Pen said.

His daughter’s top lieutenant in the far-right party, Florian Philippot, said “many voters” for Mr. Mélenchon may now join Ms. Le Pen in the second round, adding that there was a “a kind of coherence, after all” in his refusal to endorse Mr. Macron.

“Among his voters, many will refuse to vote for Macron, and many could vote for us,” Mr. Philippot said on France Info, tying the former economy minister to “finance,” as Mr. Mélenchon does, and to the unpopular government of President François Hollande, in which Mr. Macron served.

“Lots of voters in the electorate that chose Fillon, Dupont-Aignan” — two candidates on the right — “and even Mélenchon are open to a number of our themes,” another top National Front official, Nicolas Bay, said in an internal memo quoted by Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

The coming vote would be a contest between “fans of Mrs. Merkel and the unsubjugated,” he wrote — an apparent reference to Mr. Mélenchon’s movement and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is criticized on both the far left and the far right as pursuing policies that have impoverished European Union states.

One of Mr. Mélenchon’s top aides derided the candidate’s critics in a telephone interview Tuesday. “You’ve got to look at where the criticism is coming from,” said Éric Coquerel, a member of the Paris regional council.

“It’s coming from those whose policies have favored the development of the National Front, from the Socialist Party,” said Mr. Coquerel, referring to the quarrel that divided the French left for five years: the governing Socialists’ mild pro-market turn, seen as a betrayal by France’s far left.

“We don’t want to help Marine Le Pen, but we don’t want to endorse Mr. Macron,” he said.

“He’s the candidate of free trade,” Mr. Coquerel said. “He’s going to assist in the Uberization of society. Everything we are going to fight against in the coming months. There’s no possible rapprochement.”

Farage Gushes over Marine Le Pen; US Left Counterpunch’s Diana Johnstone Praises Front National “patriotic socialist left”.

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Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks in Lyon, France. (Michel Euler, AP)

Attracts ‘Anti-Globaliser’ Fans from UKIP and from US left journal Counterpunch.

Leading contributor to Counterpunch, Diana Johnstone is the best known figure in a would-be ‘red-brown’ alliance.

Against the “global elites” she likes both Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen.

French Elections: Macron versus Le Pen in Run-off. Discredited Socialist Party. A Vote against Neoliberalism Diana Johnstone

The results seem to be just what the polls have predicted from the start: Emmanuel Macron versus Marine Le Pen.  As if the whole campaign brought us right around to the point of departure.

I would add that a significant result of this campaign is the substitution of a new left represented by Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the totally discredited French Socialist Party, which has betrayed all the hopes of its followers by totally adopting the neoliberal economic policies dictated by the Europe Union. This is a renewed and much more vigorous and original left.

The leaders of the failed Socialist Party are rushing to find a place in Macron’s ill-defined movement, “En Marche!”

So now we are faced with the choice between a fake left – Macron – and a fake “extreme right”: Marine Le Pen.

The plain truth is that Marine Le Pen, of a younger generation than her notorious father Jean-Marie, is simply not the same politically.  She has enthusiastically adopted as her main political advisor and number two in the National Front which she inherited, Florian Philippot, who comes from the patriotic socialist left represented by France’s best statesman of the past generation, Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

This difference seems impossible to explain to people who are stuck in the categories of a past that is not longer pertinent.  Emmanuel Macron is an agent of the globalizing elite, from NATO to Goldman Sachs.

As President, he will confirm French subservience to European Union rules which are destroying the French economy as well as to NATO’s policy of war in the Middle East and hostility to Russia.  Marine Le Pen prefers a policy of peace.  I am waiting to learn from my critics how she is the “fascist” whom we must all oppose.

Then we have this:

NIGEL FARAGE: Well, it’s very interesting. The way the international media are portraying this Macron is a centrist. He’s nice. He’s cuddly. He’s the really good guy. Quite why he’s called centrist when he was minister in a hard left, socialist government, I don’t know. And then Le Pen is painted out to be far right. Now, let me just tell you something. The origins of the French Front National may well have been far right, but she’s dragged them, I think, a long way from that. And, in terms of security, in terms of believing in sovereignty, in many of those things, she has a huge amount in common with firstly the Brexit campaign and secondly with President Trump.

“This is a big battle of two huge cultural ideals: one, the globalists who believe in open borders, and the other, those who believe in nation states and protecting their people,” he told the US network.” (from Here).

 

Macron Versus le Pen: Will Left Unite to Defeat Far-Right?

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Unite to Beat Le Pen in Ballot say French Communists.

Nos rêves d’avenir sont désormais inséparables de nos frayeurs.

Our dreams of the future are henceforth inseparable from our fears.

Histoire et Utopie Emil Cioran.

The French Presidential elections were earth-shaking, “In just one year, we have changed the face of French politics,” said a triumphant Macron, whose centrist pitch and so-called “progressive alliance” precipitated the country’s great political shake-up. Equally jubilant, his rival Le Pen said it was “time to liberate the people of France from the arrogant elites that seek to dictate their conduct”. Reports France 24.

Macron came first with 23.75% of the vote. Le Pen second, with 21,53%. Fillon third with 19,91% and Mélenchon fourth at 19.64%.

The Socialist Candidate, Hamon, at 6,35%, a score only slightly higher than their historic low (when they were called the SFIO), Gaston Defferre 1969 5,01 %  represented a party which is now starting disaster in the face (Après la déroute de Hamon, le PS au bord du gouffre).

The last time the Front National reached the run off for the Presidential election was in 2002, when Chirac faced Marine Le Pen’s Father Jean-Marie.

Much of the left was swept up in a country-wide mobilisation to the far-right from winning power.

Chirac won with 82,1 %  of the votes

This time both Fillon and Hamon have called for a Macron vote in the Second Round.

Mélenchon’s supporters, who had hoped for a duel between their candidate and Marine Le Pen, vented their spleen at the “« Médiacrates » and « oligarques ».

They have yet to say what to do in the second round.  Mélenchon preferred to announce that he would be consult his movement, by Internet (“Il n’a donné aucune consigne de vote pour le second tour et a expliqué que les 450 000 insoumis voteraient sur ce point.)

There are voices within la France insoumise  calling for a blank vote.

It has become common on the British left, and more widely in the English speaking world, to draw inspiration from Mélenchon and La France insoumise.

There is little doubt that the movement’s candidate is capable of inspirational, lyrical and rigorously argued speaking.

This sour post-election tweet offers a less attractive side to his public personality.

The US publication, Jacobin, has finally published an article which expresses doubts – familiar to readers of this Blog over the last couple of years –  about La France insoumise.

The Meaning of France Insoumise by

Bekhtari is a member of Ensemble, a major component of what was the Front de gauche. Ensemble’s majority  backed Mélenchon by 72%, but did not accept dissolution into the ‘movement’ La France insoumise (Ensemble ! soutient Jean-Luc Mélenchon sans intégrer La France insoumise. November 2016. ). This alliance of left socialist, Trotskyist, green left and self-management currents  has published both supportive and – minority – critical views on the candidate and the structure of this rally.

The following paragraph are particularly worth signaling,

Jean-Luc Mélenchon explicitly draws inspiration from the theories of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe – an official supporter of his – adopting the formulas already used by Podemos, defining the ‘people’ against the ‘caste’ or the ‘oligarchy’. His adoption of this approach is clearly expounded in books such as L’ère du peuple [The Era of the People] or Le Choix de linsoumission [The Choice to Rebel]. Mélenchon no longer uses the term ‘left-wing’, which in his view has been corrupted by the PS’s record in power and unattractive to the wider public. This discourse is also apparent in the position he has taken as a politician who directly addresses the population without the intermediary of a political party and its decision-making structures – not even the party of which he is still a member, the Left Party (PG). He has instead privileged the creation of France Insoumise, a new movement without elected structures whose base unit is the local ‘support group’ backing his candidacy.

…..

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy struggled to unite forces to the Left of the Socialist Party. His Left Front partners did not appreciate seeing him proclaim himself a candidate, or indeed the mechanics of his campaign, which only afforded a consultative role to the parties committing to his cause – thus preventing their leaderships from being able to shape his program and the line he put forward. As well as this anti-pluralist modus operandi, some of his politically problematic media sorties were also a turn-off for PCF and Ensemble! militants, for instance when he spoke of detached workers ‘stealing the bread’ of the French; with regard to migrants, when the first idea he expounded was that he had ‘never been for freedom of movement’; with regard to the war in Syria, seeing Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil faced with Da’esh; or in terms of his refusal to recognise the existence of a Russia imperialism, itself at work in this conflict. Despite his repeated defensive claims – which have consisted of responding that his arguments and his positions were being mischaracterized in order to damage him – we cannot totally dismiss the argument that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has sought to deploy buzzwords able to attract the attention of disoriented voters tempted either to abstain or else to vote for the Front National.

After noting the breakthrough in French TV debates – it worked for me – Bekharti unfortunately speculates,

He came out of the debate as the most effective left-wing vote among all the ‘big candidates’. Even beyond the Left, he exercises a certain force of attraction among former right-wing voters seduced by his integrity and his calls for a clean break, which are interpreted as a promise to put an end to a system that today profits only the ‘political class’ and the ‘oligarchy’. Thus just days before the election he finds himself in third place in the polls, tied with Fillon. The possibility of Mélenchon reaching the second round – and even winning a run-off against Le Pen – is thus coming into view, against all expectations.

This has not happened.

The following exercise in wishful thinking looks even less connected to reality,

The strategy of social transformation via a revolution at the ballot box leaves a lot of room for doubt. We can expect a violent reaction by the bourgeoisie to protect its power and privileges. But in the current context, the hope of the step forward that could come from France Insoumise taking power, and the possibility that a period of radicalisation would follow, appear better able to mobilize the masses than any abstract warning of the future betrayals that may come from Jean-Luc Mélenchon once he is elected president.

One might still ask if fourth position is still a strong one – though not much of a hope for those who would wish Corbyn to follow this path.

But at present it’s the issue of voting in the second round that dominates the left.

Today the French Communist Daily L’Humanité calls for a united struggle against Marine Le Pen. The ballot box is the central means to stop her.

Nothing that Macron represents “financial circles” and liberal economic policies that have harmed France for decades the Parti communiste français nevertheless states that the immediate task is the following:

To block the road to the Presidency of the Republic of Marine Le Pen, to her clan, and to the threat that the Front National represents for democracy, for the Republic and for peace, is to use the ballot, unfortunately the only way to do so.

Le Parti communiste appelle à battre Le Pen.

The Socialists have just endorsed the same position, putting centreplace the need to beat the far-right, (à battre l’extrême droite).

Ensemble  calls to make May the 1st a Big Day of Action against the NF and for an anti-Le Pen vote, “Le mouvement Ensemble! appelle à la mobilisation, dans la rue le 1er mai, en votant contre Le Pen le 7 mai, pour empêcher l’arrivée au pouvoir de l’extrême droite.”

The FN remains a party of the extreme-right and not just for France, but for the European left and labour movement, it is important that the PCF’s call is heeded.

This does not mean that the problems their vote and deep political roots in France pose is solved by such a vote.

Yet…

Mélenchon is fond of citing Victor Hugo.

On wonders if Hugo would have backed abstention had it been possible to vote as freely as one can in the present French election to stop LouisNapoléon. 

Then we have the legislative elections….June….

And the Mail is jubilant…

 

*****

 

Official first round result

With 106 of 107 departements counted | At 04:49 CEST
Macron 23.75%
Le Pen 21.53%
Fillon 19.91%
Mélenchon 19.64%
Hamon 6.35%
Dupont-Aignan 4.75%
Lassalle 1.22%
Poutou 1.1%
Asselineau 0.92%
Arthaud 0.65%
Cheminade 0.18%.

Second-round projection

Pollsters Ifop asked voters for the main contenders who they would opt for in the second round, if the remaining candidates were Macron and Le Pen. Using the actual first-round votes cast, this would imply a second-round result along the following lines:

Macron 60.63%

Le Pen 39.37%

Macron inherits

43% of Fillon’s voters

70% of Hamon’s voters

50% of Mélenchon’s voters

Le Pen inherits

31% of Fillon’s voters

3% of Hamon’s voters

12% of Mélenchon’s voters

Counterpunch – Diana Johnstone – Defends Marine Le Pen Against “Racism” charge and Rallies to the Cause of National Sovereignty.

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Johnstone: Cannot “reduce” Marine Le Pen’s anti-Immigrant stand to “racism”. 

Diana Johnstone is a columnist for the American left site, Counterpunch.

She has, to put it mildly, ‘form’ on French Politics saying that the Front National is “basically on the left”. And indeed on British Politics, where she warmed to UKIP’s views on European immigration (Diana Johnstone’s poisonous nativism) (1)

In her most recent contribution (21st of April)  to the favourite journal of ‘wise-guys’ who want the ‘low down’ on politics, this is her view on tomorrow’s French Presidential election.

The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty 

Johnstone is torn in the French elections,

A most remarkable feature of this campaign is great similarity between the two candidates said to represent “the far left”, Mélenchon, and “the far right”, Marine Le Pen.  Both speak of leaving the euro.  Both vow to negotiate with the EU to get better treaty terms for France. Both advocate social policies to benefit workers and low income people. Both want to normalize relations with Russia. Both want to leave NATO, or at least its military command.  Both defend national sovereignty, and can thus be described as “sovereignists”.

Left-wing internationalists may protest at this side of Mélenchon’s politics (La chevènementisation de Jean-Luc Mélenchon Philippe Marlière).

She ignores such critics

The main divide appears to be racism.

But…

In a country suffering from unemployment, without jobs or housing to accommodate mass immigration, and under the ongoing threat of Islamist terror attacks, the issue cannot be reasonably reduced to “racism” – unless Islamic terrorists constitute a “race”, for which there is no evidence. Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion. She is certain to get considerable support from recently nationalized immigrants, just as she now gets a majority of working class votes. If this is “fascism”, it has changed a lot in the past seventy years.

So that’s all right then.

Human rights bleeding hearts and internationalist globalisers  might remarks that giving national preference to the French in jobs and housing, chanting “on est chez nous”, claiming that the French have fewer rights than foreign residents(“les Français ont parfois moins de droits en France que des étrangers, même clandestins”) restricting free schooling to French citizens, and systematically linking terrorism to immigration is about as racist as you get.(Immigration et terrorisme : Marine Le Pen multiplie les intox.)

Then there is this,

The globalist media are already preparing to blame the eventual election of a “sovereignist” candidate on Vladimir Putin. Public opinion in the West is being prepared for massive protests to break out against an undesired winner, and the “antifa” militants are ready to wreak havoc in the streets. Some people who like Marine Le Pen are afraid of voting for her, fearing the “color revolution” sure to be mounted against her.  Mélenchon and even Fillon might face similar problems.

Against the views of the “globalist media” Johnstone concludes,

By far the most fundamental emerging issue in this campaign is the conflict between the European Union and national sovereignty.

 That  Counterpunch claiming to be on the left, publishes Johnstone’s  defence of the ‘nation’ against the EU is, well, not unexpected.

A section of the former French ‘republican’ and anti-EU  left has moved from  ‘sovereigntism’ to active involvement in the Front National. From the “regulation” heterodox economist Jacques Sapir (a former supporter of the Front de gauche) who has called for a “common front” against the Euro with the FN ( J’ai dit, et écrit, que, dans la lutte contre l’européisme, il faudrait faire front commun et que, sous certaines conditions, le Front National pourrait y participer) to Thibaut Garnier (former youth secretary of the  Mouvement républicain et citoyen (MRC) and many others, they have found in Marine Le Pen a defender of National Sovereignty (Ces chevènementistes séduits par le FN).

This little gang obviously has its admirers in the US.

*******

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity Against Terrorist Violence.

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Universal Values: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Peace, and Secularism, Against Islamist Terror. 

After the indecent claim earlier in the week by the Front National leader Marine Le Pen that if she was in power there would have been no terrorist attacks (“LE FN AURAIT ÉVITÉ LES ATTENTATS” : MARINE LE PEN RECYCLE SON INTOX FAVORITE) , how did the candidates react to the killings on the Champs-Elysées?

The 11 candidates were appearing on a television program ahead of the first round of voting in the two-part election when the attack that left one officer dead happened Thursday night.

Conservative contender François Fillon said on France 2 television he was cancelling his planned campaign stops on Friday.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen took to Twitter to offer her sympathy for law enforcement officers “once again targeted.”

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron offered his thoughts to the family of the dead officer.

Socialist Benoît Hamon tweeted his “full support” to police against terrorism.

Of particular interest is the reaction of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

His policies on the root causes of terrorism include ending any alliance with the Gulf States, and engagement in destabilising wars. For French domestic legislation and practice he has promised to strengthen the fight against terrorism, under independent legal control to ensure that civil liberties are protected (ATTENTAT DES CHAMPS-ELYSÉES : COMMENT LES CANDIDATS COMPTENT LUTTER CONTRE LE TERRORISME).

Mélenchon also favours an international coalition under UN mandate, associated with Kurdish fighters, to eradicate the Islamic State and establish peace and stability in Iraq and Syria (Mettre en place une coalition universelle sous mandat de l’ONU pour éradiquer Daesh et établir la paix et la stabilité en Syrie et en Irak , associant les combattants kurdes. Mediapart).

The candidate of La France insoumise took a firm line after the attack on the  Champs-Elysées, evoking the Republic’s device of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 21, 2017 at 12:19 pm

World of Culture Mobilises for French Election: Pamela Anderson Backs Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

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Anderson has always had keen interest in Progressive International Politics. 

 

 

“Le Pen et Mélenchon ont tous les deux été espionnés par les États-Unis et les deux sont d’accords pour accorder l’asile ou la citoyenneté à Julian Assange”, a d’abord écrit Pamela Anderson sur son site internet. “Mr Melenchon for President! S’il vous plait”

Le Pen and Pamela Andersonhave both been spied upon by the US, and both agree on giving asylum and citizenship to Julian Assange” wrote Pamela Anderson, on her Internet site. “Mr Mélenchon for President! ! S’il vous plait.”

The candidate for La France insoumise has also impressed Ms Anderson by his work for animal rights (un défenseur de la cause animale) and the cause of climate change.

Huffington Post.

Her grasp of French politics has been, unfairly, criticised:

As Theresa May Sets out Hard Brexit Stall, Left Brexiters Want to Reform, not Oppose Her Plans.

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We have only to Wait for Him to Comment on UK Election Vote…..

The Daily Mail reports,

Tory manifesto will guarantee end of free movement, UK to leave single market and no more meddling by Euro judges as May issues her cast-iron Brexit pledges.

Theresa May will place a triple lock on Brexit in the Tory manifesto to stop obstruction by diehard Remainers. Tory sources say she is set to include specific pledges to overcome opposition within her party and in the Lords. The manifesto is expected to commit the Conservatives to ending EU free movement and pulling out of both the single market and European Court of Justice. Senior Tories see the three measures as essential in delivering last year’s referendum result.

Socialists should oppose these plans.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty speaks for a much wider constituency when they say,

Even on the basis of its existing policy, Labour could argue for opposition to the Tories’ Brexit plans, for defence of free movement and migrants’ rights, for remaining in the single market. We should fight for this. Otherwise Labour will go into the election echoing, or scarcely contesting, the Tories’ main message.

By contrast the remains of the Brexit left claim that they can reform these Brexit plans and harness them to their own ends.

Jeremy Corbyn must fight the election with socialist policies

It is clear that much of the pro-capitalist cabal at the top of the Labour Party will be secretly welcoming this election because they think Corbyn will be defeated and they can then replace him with some pro-capitalist pro-austerity leader. However, they could rue the day this election was called. If Corbyn fights on a clear socialist programme – for a Brexit in the interests of the working and middle-class – he could win the general election.

Or so, instructs the Socialist Party (ex-Militant)

The SWP states,

To win a Brexit that serves the interests of the majority rather than the bosses means dumping the Tories.

Some of the Labour right would prefer the Tories to win than to see Corbyn in Downing Street. They will have to be pushed aside.

Socialist Worker helpfully reminds us,

“Moderation” is the enemy. Labour would be in a better position if it could raise slogans such as—“For the NHS, not Trident missiles”, “Chuck out the parasites, take over the banks”.

And the union leaders should be stepping up strikes and protests, not holding them back in the false belief that such resistance harms Labour.

We want Corbyn to win—but that means more struggle not less.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

Counterfire calls for Corbyn to Follow Jean-Luc Mélenchon and “denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU as “capitalist con trick”.

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Rees explains to Corbyn how to follow Mélenchon’s book.

What, the masses, okay, John Rees and the groupuscule Counterfire, ask, should we do about Theresa May’s “gamble”, her all-too-evident desperation.

Well, they reply, to themselves, it’s proof of that agony the Tories are facing.

She has called a General Election.

You can’t get more desperate than that!

So,  Bring it on

Rees is a-buzzin’ at French politics,

Only weeks ago, Marine Le Pen was destined to be stopped only by a Blairite candidate. Now the far-left candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has upset all predictions and, even if he doesn’t make the second round, he has rebuilt the French left.

Jeremy Corbyn should be aiming to make good the poll deficit by similar methods because Melenchon was at least as far behind in the polls when the French Presidential campaign began as Corbyn is now.

So,

….audacity is the order of the day. Corbyn should take a leaf from Mélenchon’s book and denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU, for the capitalist con trick they are. He should unashamedly run as the establishment’s unbending opponent and as the outspoken champion of working people, the unions, and the social movements.

Then, if he fails, at least it will not be by his own hand and at the cost of demoralising the left and working people, their organisations and their hopes.

Yup, Mélenchon’s strategy of replacing the Socialist Party, that is Labour’s sister party, and his struggle for French “independence”, waving of tricolors an all, is just the recipe for a Labour victory.

He could also try a few of the poems Melenchon likes to stud his speeches with,

Mes frères, c’est dans la Paix que nous respirons à pleins poumons
L’univers entier avec tous ses rêves…
Mes frères, mes sœurs, donnez-vous  la main…
C’est cela la Paix.

Yánnis Rítsos.

Or this:

Rees is resolutely upbeat.

There may or may not be a majority Labour government, but that is not the only bad outcome for the Tories. There may be a minority Labour government supported by the SNP. There may be a Tory government with a reduced majority, and that would be a huge disaster for the whole UK ruling class and a huge opportunity for the left.

Those majority Tory governments are surely always an opportunity……

We need to make Theresa May’s election gamble her last, argues John Rees

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Criticism, the Programme, and ‘Federating the People’.

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L’avenir en Commun. Le programme de la France insoumise et son candidat, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Seuil. December 2016.

Before introducing this we have to put the small fraction of our leftist readership who are unaware of this out of their misery.

Mélenchon’s Trotskyist past was as a ‘Lambertist‘, that it the most ‘orthodox’, not to say stultified tradition of French Trotskyism, at the time in the shape of the Organisation communiste internationale (OCI), at the time run by its thuggish leader  Pierre Boussel, best known under his pseudonym Pierre Lambert. 

This is perhaps misleading.  Mélenchon’s real political debts, he would be the first to thank us for pointing out, lie towards former president Mitterrand -(Jean-Luc Mélenchon, le dernier mitterrandiste).

This is equally not a background which endears him to everybody on the left.

The below sketches some reasons to be sceptical about Mélenchon.

Unlike  in today’s Guardian we concentrate on the published programme of his Presidential candidacy.

A critical overview of the main axes of the programme of La france insomouise.

This programme, for the 2017 French Presidential elections and for the legislative elections that follow them, addresses the state of France, “note pays”, our country, in a vibrant call to action. Ecological issues, the land’s social disasters (unemployment, poverty and ethnic and religious divisions, ‘communautarismes’) are, writes Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Introduction, three aspects of the same reality, “We are suffocating under the rule of Finance.” Finance governs the world. Its greed, and the free-market, are destroying human beings and the planet.

For the candidate of La France insoumise the priority is to give power to the people (“donner le pouvoir, tout le Pouvoir, au peuple’). Mélenchon calls for an assembly, made up of those who have never before been elected to Parliament, to write a new constitution that will replace the “monarchie présidentielle”. With “ecological planning” a new model will be created. France will become a “universalist nation” (nation universaliste), conquering its “independence”, outside of NATO, acting to create a new alter-globalisation” alliance of the world’s peoples. France will bring a special contribution to green maritime development, to space exploration, and information technology.

Down with the Oligarchy!

The programme begins by observing that citizens’ power is thwarted in the present French politics are dominated by the “oligarchy”, the “collusion between politics and finance”, run by a “caste of the privileged”. The programme proposes a series of measures to stem corruption, to end the connivance between politicians and business, and the influence of lobbyists to break the influence of this financial-political elite. Infringements will be punished with the full force of the law.

The Universalist republic will then be in a position to defend an open approach to French nationality, advance a patriotism that is opposed to racism and all forms of discrimination, and abolish “state and social patriarchy”, including the abolition of prostitution (“abolir la prostitution”, this claim is made on Page 29).

The platform calls for new citizens’ initiatives, referenda, rights to recall MPs, guarantees of media pluralism, the constitutional embodiment of the rights of people at work, protecting common property, “air, water, food, health, energy, the means of life, the currency (..) For young people, after, lowering the voting age to 16, la France insoumise, proposes an obligatory “ service citoyen” (including a military option) or the under 25s, paid at the minimum wage, for nine months.

Particular attention is paid to France’s overseas territories, from the Caribbean to the other ‘confettis of the empire’ in the Pacific, South America and the Indian Ocean, whose equality will be established within the French administrative domain. They will become “pilots” of the ecological planning. In this respect the “économie de mer” from aquaculture onwards, will spearhead development.

L’avenir en Commun promises to out an end to the economic “pillaging” of the Nation (capital letter in original, Page 45). Not only are privatisations and ‘public-private’ partnerships targeted, but the effects of social dumping. In “défense de notre souveraineté industrielle”, “protectionnisme solidaire” is proposed. Trade agreements have to be revised and other measures taken to project social rights and employment, against multinationals and international finance. Production must be re-localised. To fight against unemployment there will be investment in green infrastructure projects…

Fiscal Revolution.

The programme has drawn particular attention for its “révolution fiscale” and other ideas in the industrial/economic field (a more detailed account here) A rise in the minimum wage (16%) parallels a maximum salary for company bosses, on a ratio of 1 to 20 of the lowest wage, restrictions of redundancies, and a return to the contract protection pre-Loi Khomri are amongst measures proposed. There are plans to restore retirement at 60, a continued reduction of the working week, increased holidays, and a wish to ‘eliminate poverty’.

Critics focus on the cost, hidden by a slight of hand in which spending is transformed into a way cost-free boosting the economy (without major tax rises on the ordinary person or indeed much directly on most businesses). Others ask how the economy is going to be radically transformed by government legislation. There is no specific mention of independent working class or social movement initiatives outside of the political framework of the new 6th Republic, or to be exact, how they might engage in working through, from the grass-roots, independent forms of  new economic and social life.

Dead Europe.

Mélenchon prefaces the section on Europe by asserting that the “Europe of our dreams is dead”. The present European Union has become reduced to a single market in which people are submitted to the rule of the banks and finance. Our “indépendance d’action et la souveraineté de nos décisions” must not be subjected to the ideological obsessions of the Commission which have led to this anti-democratic impasse.

La France insoumise intends to renegotiate existing European Treaties. In Plan A it is proposed, amongst other measures, to end the independence of the Central European Bank, devaluation of the Euro, a halt to extending market mechanisms to public services (railways, energy and telecommunications), and a European conference to settle member states’ debts. If this fails, Plan B, a halt to French contributions to the EU budget, and for the Banque de France to take back monetary control and prepare the way for an alternative monetary system to the Euro. It is not specified what will happen if this fails, other than extreme pressure will be put. Potentially, France may leave the Euro and, could possibly exit the EU itself.

What will happen if they try all of this, draw back to the Franc, there is a financial crisis of staggering proportions, and the economy starts to crack, is not explained.

Let us imagine, as some have done, how the various scenarios  for A and B would play out.

As Frédéric Lordon explains,

I think that comrade Mélenchon, if he did reach power and if he really intended to combine words with actions, would find himself facing very great adversity indeed. For over the last thirty years, capital has got comfortable and has no intention at all of letting all the freedoms it has conquered, all the comfort it has secured, being taken away again. We have to understand what entering into confrontation with capital again means. There we really have political battles…

Himself not immune to dreams of establishing national sovereignty Lordon imagines,

So both to protect Mélenchon and to keep watch over him, his election must be just the beginning of a political process of a whole different dimension, necessarily proceeding by way of popular mobilisations. I do not know if that means re-awakening the old memories of the Popular Front or whatever… but all the same…

This ends up, for the moment,  in an interminable argument about a possible exit of France from the EU.

Or not.

As perhaps his hero Mitterrand realised in the early 1980s, exiting European , not to mention global financial and commercial constrains is not so easy…..

Perhaps he should consult Jean-Pierre Chevènement….

As more recently noted, (FRÉDÉRIC LORDON CRITIQUERAIT-IL LA STRATÉGIE DE JEAN-LUC MÉLENCHON ?)

Quand Jean-Luc Mélenchon dit qu’il veut « sortir des traités », cela a un sens. Ça ne peut signifier qu’une seule chose: si on sort des traités, on sort de fait de l’UE.

When Jean-Luc Mélenchon says he wants to leave the Treaties, that has a meaning. It has only one sense: if we leave the treaties we leave, in fact, the European Union…

Or not.

And so, on and on, in ever expanding and revolving  circles.

French Independence.

As part of his wider plans for sovereignty, and keen to assert the “indépendence” of France in the world, the platform, as cited, envisages not just renegotiating existing EU Treaties (or annulling them) but leaving NATO, but the IMF and the World Bank.

Yet we are promised that French overseas territories will join organisations for regional co-operation such as the Cuba and Venezuela ledAlliance bolivarienne.

In place of the existing military alliance, which drags European states behind the USA, France will be able to defend herself and act freely. In this sense a “coalition universelle”, UN mandated, to eradicate Daesh in Syria, has a part to play in establishing peace in that land, with free elections and a negotiated end to the civil war. Perhaps the reintroduction of military service will help France fulfill its part in the forces needed to meet this aim.

The programme wishes to continue to support the ‘two states’ solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict which is welcome.

The idea of France, a country which is a pillar of the international economic and military system, with a heavy colonial past, is an odd place from which to claim ‘independence’. One might say that the above objectives appear to give priority to a leading role in international affairs, not to freedom from overseas commitments.

There are many other measures in L’avenir en commun, on international co-operation to resolve the underlying causes of the different migration crises, for durable development, employees’ rights, a re-affirmation of secularist principles (laïcité), opening up education, and a ideas on health issues. The document includes a including a proposition to legalise, within regulated structures, cannabis. Asylum will be offered to freedom fighters (“combattants de la liberté”) such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Page 89).

These are worth discussing on their individual merits, some of which (green policies, workers’ rights, legalising cannabis) are shared by his Socialist rival, Hamon indeed are better expressed by him.

The People….

This is the most contentious element in the platform of La France insoumise. In contrast to traditional left wing programmes there are no proposals for large-scale nationalisations. Economic strategy, apart from its green and social inflection, is centred on production in France within an expanded regulatory citizens’ right-based framework. It is the role of the people’s, re-formed, 6th republic to transmit these into practice.

The ‘sovereignty’ of the People as translated into this Sixth Republic, with the “transition écologique, are at the core of L’avenir en commun, ideas which also stand out from past radical left platforms, which have affirmed the central importance of the labour movement, or the working class and oppressed. Critics have not been slow to point out that the “L’ère du peuple” is not the epoch of the proletariat. What is less than clear is what The People are made of. French socialism, in the shape of the SFIO,  was founded as a citizens’ party,  not a class one, but recognised the importance of class interest. Apart from being against the oligarchs and elites nobody seems sure what the people is, positively, for, other than the accumulated traditions all so often evoked, a stance that has something in common with the 19th century non-Marxist current around the Revue Socialiste of Benoît Malon which considered socialism a broad stream of progressive thinking that extended to all people of good will. 

In the construction of the People, its ‘federation’ into an ‘us’ against the Oligarchs, the ‘them’, this ‘humanist populism’ relies on some ideas, perhaps better described as emotions, that are open to serious question. The first is the claim to republican  ‘patriotism’.

recent interview with Raquel Garrido, one of their spokespeople, elicited this response.

We are patriotic, not nationalist. Patriotism is love for one’s own, while nationalism involves hatred for others. In fact, according to the literary and political definitions, that is the difference. The far right is nationalist. We are patriotic. And patriotism is an empathy, an affect towards one’s compatriots. We really think that, insofar as our nation has been a civic nation since the French Revolution, it is not defined by any religion or skin colour or even language, it is universal. Our homeland [patrie] is republican.

Our patriotism is universalist. It is a patriotism of the Enlightenment. We think that precisely what our patriotism allows is the affirmation of citizens’ right to govern themselves. That is what our national sovereignty is, first of all meaning a popular sovereignty. Before anything else it is the question of the people’s political power. And fortunately for us, in our national history these two things are linked. That is why we think that the far right is not truly for sovereignty, because it supports only national, not popular sovereignty. It is for Marine Le Pen having power, not the French.

Apart from being one of the hoariest definitions of patriotism going, love of one’s own is many things, but by definition it is not love of ‘others’.

In constructing the ‘figure of the People’, Mélenchon and his allies, apart from their fuzzy progressivism, also appear to have much in common with the mid-19th century “internationalist republicans”. They wish to free the land from the forces of global capital, not Kings but the aristocrats of finance. But national histories have been profoundly affected by globalisation and there is little evidence that tearing up its roots is an easy task. How can we talk of the ‘national’ economy in the world today? What exactly is French ‘independence’?  What is the ‘national’ culture in a multicultural reality, not a policy but a fact.

It is hard to find  more substance in the programme of La France insoumise, that clarifies the meaning of ‘popular sovereignty’. People’s Power is about as precise as the evocation of a national General Will.  Of, as Garrido asserts, ‘the French’….

If it has any meaning it is largely negative, a desire to be ‘free of’ outside institutions, from EU Treaties to NATO.

Such a goal, of national independence and sovereignty, now stamped with green and social measures, and raises many issues if any moves are taken towards the end.

If the people is Mobilised to confront the rule of the “political caste” ‘finance’, EU Treaties, and the Commission (not capitalism as such), what is its future?  If La France insoumise ever swept the “oligarchy” from the Republic, how they could ever bridge the gap between their ‘universal’ aspirations, those in France who oppose their plans for the People, and those of other Peoples? Who would ‘federate’ them? What kind of universalism  would negotiations with the ‘non-civic’ nations and institutions result in?

The other set of issues concerns leadership.

What is there perhaps a role for a Chief, the Lider Maximo, of this left populism? Laclau whose work is freely drawn upon in the political logic of the project of La France insoumise, explicitly placed this role at the centre of his later writing on populism (On Populist Reason. 2005). It is right to ask, as Joshua Samuel has done, if  this is not the explicit intention behind constructing a movement, not a party, to support Mélenchon’s candidacy. (La France insoumise – « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?)

This issue has not gone away, as this article illustrates, noting that the cult of the Man of Destiny is not part of French left-wing political culture, for all his claims to deny that he indulges it, while claiming to gather together the People and not the Left. “Le culte de l’homme providentiel accompagne le candidat sur son passage, ce n’est pourtant pas l’idée que l’on se fait de la politique à gauche, et dont il se défend lui-même. Certains parlent de césarisme, sinon de chavisme à la française. L’inquiétude est à son comble quand il prétend rassembler le peuple et non la gauche.”( Mediapart.  FRÉDÉRIC LUTAUD)

The author observes that  Mélenchon’ has a worryingly high number of fanatical, dedicated followers devoted to  his own personality…

There is plenty of evidence to back this up.

capture

Interplanetary Missions.

In the final chapter, La France aux Frontières de l’Humanité a sketch of some of the features of a “nouvelle ère” of international co-operation is offered. It only increases the suspicion that this programme is marked by national messianism. Space-exploration, including a European-Russian Moon Base, support for a publicly owned Arianespace, and interplanetary missions, including to Mars, feature prominently. The development of France’s role as a “maritime power”, creating 300,000 jobs, in such areas a aquaculture and the French merchant navy, as well as the French role in robot and information technology, are some of the ideas for a people with a “special and passionate responsibility” (une responsabilité particulière et enthousiasmante!” (Page 119).

These ideas make it hard to not to think of the jibe against such claims of French special universal responsibilities, “A particularism masked as a universalism”.

Other material: Excitement in the French elections: the meaning of Jean-Luc Mélenchon  John Mullen

…if myself and my Trotskyist revolutionary friends were to decide to build a perfect mass campaign out of Lego, there would be a number of Mélenchon’s priorities we would leave in the box. He goes in for a particular brand of left patriotism: Insubordinate France distributes French flags at some rallies and the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, is sung. The words of the anthem were written as a call to arms against tyranny during the French Revolution, and Mélenchon’s line is that the real France is the tradition of the fight for republican equality and fraternity, the Paris commune and the welfare state established after world war two by the national committee of resistance. In addition, he puts great store on the positive influence that he says France has sometimes had in international diplomacy, and the positive role France could play in the United Nations in moving against war and against the great imperialist countries. Moreover, he is not opposed to France retaining its nuclear arms. Obviously, these are positions which revolutionaries would contest, and there are more objections too. Though he regularly denounces anti-Muslim prejudice, he tends to think, wrongly, that a Muslim fundamentalist threat is widespread in French society, and he has joined in misinformed speculation about the “real meaning” of a Muslim headscarf.

Overhauling French Politics

“At stake in Sunday’s French election is the specter of the far right, the neoliberalism of the extreme center, and Mélenchon’s challenge to the system itself.”

A useful interview with    if  marked by the initial  claim about the world historical effects that French protests against the reform of the Labour code last year, “These spectacular strikes, blockades, and demonstrations, notably Nuit Debout, really rocked the world’s stage, but especially the French stage, just one year ago.” Not to mention the puerile term, “the extreme centre”…

there is the fact that he identifies with the French state in every aspect. He really sees the French state in its republican form as defending the common interests of humanity. On one philosophical level, this is a sort of extension of the French Revolution’s emancipatory gesture, but it also translates into an identification with the French state in its actual repressive form.

And a much less favourable analysis: Anti-German, soft on Putin – Mélenchon is no saviour of the left.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the Bolivarian Alliance, Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América.

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Mélenchon  wants French Caribbean ‘overseas Territories’ to link with Bolivarian Alliance.

Much has been made in recent days of sections of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s programme which proposes that France leaves NATO, renegotiates European Treaties and joins the “Bolivarian alliance” (L’Alliance bolivarienne de Mélenchon: tout, sauf un Eldorado.)

Set up originally in 2004 by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), is an intergovernmental organisation based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

It figures in the proposals of la France insoumise

 Dans le chapitre 62, «Construire des coopérations altermondialistes et internationalistes», où il est stipulé qu’il faut «instaurer une politique de codéveloppement avec l’Amérique latine et les Caraïbes en adhérant à l’Alba (Alliance bolivarienne pour les peuples de notre Amérique)». Mais aussi dans le chapitre 15, consacré à l’outre-mer, où il est prévu de «rejoindre les coopérations régionales dans une démarche de codéveloppement écologique, social et de progrès humain : par exemple l’Alba (Alliance bolivarienne pour les peuples de notre Amérique) pour les Antilles et la Guyane française, l’Afrique australe pour Mayotte et la Réunion, etc.». Dans son livret thématique consacré à outre-mer, il est précisé que ce sont la Guyane et les Antilles françaises qui rejoindront l’Alba, tout comme la Communauté d’États latino-américains et caraïbes (Celac).

In Chapter 62, “Building  internationalist alter-globalisation co-operation’ where it is stated that it is necessary to “create a developmental strategy of co-development in Latin America and the Caribbean by joining ALBA, the  Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America). It is also mentioned in Chapter 15, which is devoted to French overseas territories, where it is envisaged to “join regional co-operative agreements in the line of ecological, social and progressive co-development” – concerning the French Antilles, French Guyana, and with Southern Africa for Mayotte and la  Réunion. In the book devoted specifically to French overseas territories, French Guyana and the French Antilles who will join ALBA, as well the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC.

 

We are happy to say that we, like other readers of the French press, are now in possession of some clarifications on these proposals.

Mélenchon is above all concerned with the fate of France’s overseas empire, which he suggests should work closely with the body.

Le candidat de la France insoumise explique que sa proposition de rapprochement avec cette organisation d’Amérique du Sud concerne avant tout les territoires français dans les Caraïbes. Libération.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2017 at 11:33 am

Protests against Gay Concentration Camps in Chechnya.

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Hundreds of activists gather outside the Russian Embassy in central London in protest against the treatment of homosexuals in Chechnya.

Gay men are being held in “camps” in the Chechen Republic where they are subjected to torture and beatings, human rights campaigners have claimed.

The claims follow reports last week that 100 gay men had been rounded up and imprisoned in Chechnya, with at least three people allegedly murdered. The allegations were made by a Russian newspaper and human rights campaigners. “In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” independent newspaper Novaya Gazetaclaimed.

At the time, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson denied the claims on the grounds that no one in Chechnya is homosexual. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov told Interfax.

Independent.

 

Close the gay concentration camps.

Chechnya has opened the world’s first concentration camps for gay people and they’re as horrific as they sound. Men are being electrocuted, tortured until they reveal other names of gay people, and beaten so badly that some have died.

This is the first time we’ve seen camps like this since the Nazis. It’s both terribly upsetting and infuriating all at once, but we have a plan to stop it.

Avaaz will work with activists on the ground to help rescue the prisoners and set up a safe house, but first we need to show there’s a massive global outcry to end the crackdown. Join the urgent campaign and tell everyone – let’s get to one million.

Londoners protest against gay ‘concentration camps’, anti-LGBTQ violence in Chechnya

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday to protest after reports from human rights groups that up to 100 gay men are being held and tortured in “camps” in Russia’s southern region of Chechnya.

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported at least three of the men detained had been killed in secret prisons that were branded “concentration camps.”

More hereHundreds protest against ‘gay concentration camps’ in Chechnya outside London’s Russian Embassy.

 Amongst international protests this one will take place today:
DES HOMOSEXUELS ENLEVÉS, TORTURÉS ET TUÉS EN TCHÉTCHÉNIE
Appel au rassemblement le jeudi 13 avril à 19h00 – Place de Colombie, Paris 16e

Depuis début avril, les informations se multiplient concernant des homosexuels (réels ou supposés) en Tchétchénie : ils auraient été victimes d’arrestations, de détentions arbitraires, de torture et, pour certains, d’assassinats.

Amnesty International, l’Inter-LGBT, Russie-Libertés et SOS homophobie unissent leurs voix et lancent un appel commun au respect des droits humains en Tchétchénie.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

François Hollande “writes off” his party candidate, Hamon, and seems to call for Macron vote.

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Image result for francois hollande caricature mr flamby

Hollande: dumps his own Party’s Candidate.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get more confused in the French Presidential elections, this story erupts.

Si François Hollande n’a publiquement pris position pour aucun candidat à la présidentielle (ce que Manuel Valls ne juge “pas normal”), sa préférence semble aller à Emmanuel Macron.

If François Hollande has not publicly taken a position in favour of any candidate in the Prsidential elections (which Manuel Valls estimates is “not normal”) his preference appears to be for Emmanuel Macron.

Benoît Hamon accuse François Hollande de “pousser les socialistes à rejoindre Macron”

Now if there is one thing President Hollande was famous for, it was that he was a “party man”, a stalwart figure of the Parti Socialiste,  the Genial  First Secretary and all that.

Apparently not.

The story is developing:

 Sans vraiment le dire, François Hollande a discrètement appelé à voter pour le candidat d’En marche! dans un entretien à paraître jeudi 13 dans Le Point et dont le journal  Le Monde développe les principaux points dans un article paru ce mercredi 12.

Without exactly saying it François Hollande has discreetly called to vote for the candidate of En marche! in an interveiw which will appear on Thursday in Le Point (Note: hard line ‘liberal’ right wing weekly). Le Monde has outlined the principle point in an article which has come out today.

France Soir.

Le Monde,

François Hollande sort de son silence : « Cette campagne sent mauvais »

Sans appeler à voter Macron, le président s’inquiète de la percée de Mélenchon et semble avoir fait une croix sur le candidat socialiste, Hamon.

François Hollande  breaks his silence: this campaign reeks.

Without calling for a Macron vote, the President is worried about Mélenchon’s breakthrough, and seems to have written off the Socialist candidate.

This is the dilemma Hamon faces:

Four Way Race in French Presidential Election: Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck with François Fillon.

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Video Game, “Fiscal Kombat“: Mélenchon versus  Socialist Party Tax Evader Cahuzac.

France 24 reports, “Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck, or even ahead, of conservative candidate François Fillon.”

The  Independent states,

The first round in the French presidential election could turn into a four-way contest, after a leftist candidate’s unexpected surge in the polls.

Jean-Luc Melenchon is now 0.5 per cent behind conservative Francois Fillon, who sits in third place.

Mr Melenchon gained one percentage point in the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll, putting him at 18 per cent, while Mr Fillon was stable at 18.5 per cent.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is seen as leading the first round of the presidential election at 24 per cent, while centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is at 23 per cent.

The Independent points to this,

Ms Le Pen has drawn protests from her election rivals bydenying the French state’s responsibility for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during the Second World War.

Her comments appeared at odds with years of efforts to make her once-pariah National Front (FN) more palatable to mainstream voters.

“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” Ms Le Pen said, referring to the Nazi-ordered roundup by French police in the Velodrome d’Hiver cycling stadium of 13,000 Jews, who were then deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1942.

“I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France,” she said in an interview with media groups Le Figaro, RTL and LCI.

Other polls give Mélenchon 18% and Fillon 17%.

The left socialist, and anti-‘Third Way’ candidate of the Parti Socialiste,  Benoît Hamon, is now below 10% in the opinion polls.

With an audience of 70,000 in Marseilles on Sunday Jean-Luc Mélenchon spoke of peace and in defence of “métissage” (cultural and ethnic mixing). He called a minute’s silence to respect those who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe (A Marseille, Mélenchon à bon port)

 

Meanwhile Macron’s latest backer is unlikely to bring him much joy:

Glory to the Martyrs! We won’t forget the Palm Sunday massacres! Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists.

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Glory to the martyrs
We won’t forget al-Qaddisayn
We won’t forget Maspero
We won’t forget Peter and Paul
We won’t forget Arish
We won’t forget the Palm Sunday massacres

YET ANOTHER bloody holiday for the Copts of Egypt. Once again churches are bombed and dozens of churchgoers are killed on a religious holiday. Once again the corpses of Copts lie with the debris of their icons and what is left of their churches. Once again, al-Sisi’s regime, its military rule and its police state fail to protect Coptic lives and churches.

Al-Sisi took power promising the Copts of Egypt that the days of fear, terror and sectarian violence were gone, and his regime would protect them from dark terrorism. Here we are in the fourth year since the coup, the third year of Sisi’s presidency, and the last four months alone saw the bombing of the Peter and Paul church, the killings and displacements of Christians in Arish and the two latest massacres in Tanta and Alexandria.

When a terrorist was allowed to go inside the Peter and Paul church and blow it up, the Coptic youth raged at the flagrant security failings and demanded the sacking of the interior minister. But al-Sisi intervened to prevent any talk of failings and naturally did not sack his interior minister. And now terrorists were able to attack a church barely a week after a bomb was discovered outside that same church! Here the security failings and the lack of accountability have become complicity with the crime.

We must remember that the few weeks before the January 2011 revolution saw large demonstrations of Coptic youths against the burning and bombing of their churches and the complicity of the security services. One sign of the political bankruptcy of the Mubarak regime was the abhorrent sectarian “deal” that counted on the Coptic Church to support the regime and contain the anger of Copts while giving free reign to the sectarian agitation of al-Azhar and the Salafists. Mubarak’s state was a particularly sectarian one, and al-Sisi’s state is based on the same sectarian principle.

The January 2011 revolution shattered this sectarian “deal” and saw, for the very first time in modern Egyptian history, unity between the Christian and Muslim masses, not around hollow nationalist slogans like “Religion is for God and the Nation is for everyone,” or police-sponsored superficial alliances between the Coptic and Muslim religious leaders, but around a common revolutionary struggle for democracy, freedom and social justice.

But this unique revolutionary moment did not last long. The Muslim Brotherhood betrayed the revolution by siding with the Military Council (SCAF), which exploited sectarianism and inflamed it with the Maspero massacre. The secular opposition has also allied itself with the military to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, paving the way for al-Sisi’s 2013 coup.

Al-Sisi restored the bases of the Egyptian sectarian state and re-established the very sectarian and securitarian deals that Mubarak’s regime had set up; the Copts are once again paying the price with their blood. The security services’ incompetence and complicity are only part of the picture, and we must of course join the Coptic youths when they demand that the interior minister be sacked and put on trial for criminal negligence.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BUT THE security failings are part and parcel of the political bankruptcy of the al-Sisi regime. Not only did the military rule and its security forces fail to protect the Copts and their churches, but this regime’s policies can only lead to more violence, bloodshed, terrorism and sectarianism. A regime that is based on tyranny, dictatorship and the suffocation of the political arena. A regime whose economic policies impoverish the majority for the sake of the same big businessmen who monopolized the country’s wealth in the Mubarak years and shared it with the generals. A regime that is based on sectarianism and uses the religious institutions, from the Coptic Church to al-Azhar Mosque, to gather support for the dictatorship. A regime that hasn’t made a single step to dismantle the systemic discrimination and persecution that the Coptic masses suffer, but on the contrary reinforces the discrimination and persecution, exploiting the sectarian card along with tyranny and repression in order to remain in power.

Once more, al-Sisi and the al-Azhar Imam will present their condolences to Pope Tawadros. And once more, they will talk of national unity and the evil plots against Egypt and other nonsense.

It is about time that we built an opposition that rejects all forms of sectarianism, be it coming from al-Sisi’s regime or groupings of political Islam. An opposition that doesn’t content itself with condemning terrorism and the terrorists and the failings and complicity of the security forces. An opposition that puts the struggle against sectarianism and the persecution of Copts at the center of its priorities.

Revolutionary Socialists.  (Egypt).

More from Socialist Worker (US).

Written by Andrew Coates

April 10, 2017 at 11:59 am

Islamists Massacre Egyptian Christians on Palm Sunday.

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A bomb exploded in a church north of Cairo that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers, killing at least 21 people and wounding 50 others, officials said. France 24.

The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt‘s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. It comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed confirmed the toll from the attack in interviews with local and state-run media.

No one immediately claimed the attack (Blog Note, but there is little doubt that they were Islamists).

A local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.

A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for an April 1 bomb attack targeting a police training centre in Tanta, which wounded 16 people. The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.

Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.

This tragedy cannot be blamed on Western intervention.

This tragedy cannot be blamed on ‘the West’.

There responsibility lies with those violent Islamists and jihadists whose hatred of Christians, and other non-Muslims, has already led to a mass exodus in the Middle East.

Our love and solidarity to all those suffering after this attack.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2017 at 11:35 am

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Rise of a French Patriot.

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Will Submit Young People to Re-introduction of National Service.

As Jean-Luc Mélenchon rises in the French opinion polls  with the latest even putting the leader of La France insoumise 19%, neck and neck (Un sondage donne Jean-Luc Mélenchon et François Fillon à égalité dans les intentions de vote) with the scandal-riven right-wing candidate, he is attracting a lot of new support.

One is of particular interest.

The veteran extreme right group, Action française (that is, the group which continues to identify with the organisation), has called to vote for a Presidential candidate who will help Frexit, (on the model of Brexit) (1).

Action française appelle à voter, au premier tour, pour un des quatre candidats – Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen ou Mélenchon.

« Frexit ! » est le mot d’ordre qui doit présider au choix de tout patriote. C’est pourquoi, considérant que seuls les peuples libres peuvent décider du sens qu’ils donnent à leur histoire, l’Action française appelle à voter, au premier tour, pour un des quatre candidats – Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen ou Mélenchon – qui se prononcent pour une dénonciation des traités européens existants, tout en privilégiant ceux qui envisagent clairement la sortie de l’Union européenne et le retour au franc.

Frexit, that’s the guiding line which must guide the choice of every patriot. That’s why, considering that only free people can decide their own history, Action française calls for a vote, in the first round, for one of these four candidates, Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen or Mélenchon, who have denounced existing European treaties, giving priority amongst them to those who have clearly called for France to leave the Europe Union and for the return of the Franc.

L’Action Française appelle à voter pour un candidat du Frexit

Mélenchon is not responsible for this recommendation from the ultra-nationalist and racist far-right.

Indeed he has gone out of this way to deny that he is a nationalist.

« Mme Le Pen et moi sommes séparés par le fait qu’elle ne croit pas à la nation républicaine comme moi. Elle croit à la préférence nationale. Je ne suis pas un nationaliste, je suis un patriote, ça n’a rien à voir. Je propose le protectionnisme solidaire. Je négocie avec les autres pays, je ne m’enferme pas. Je ne crois pas à la nation ethnique. Un Français sur quatre a un grand-parent étranger.

Madame Le Pen and myself are separated by the fact that she does not believe in the Republican Nation as I do. She believes in ‘national preference’. I am not a nationalist, I am a patriot, something quite different. I propose protectionism based on solidarity. I will negotiate with other countries, and will not cut myself off from them. I don’t believe in an ethically based nations. One French person out of four has a foreign grandparent.

Le Monde.

Those who look at his proposal for a compulsory 9 month ‘citizens’ service for the under 25s, including  military training, will have little doubt that he is indeed a French ‘patriot’.

This is a key proposal of La France insoumise: a return to national service.

Créer un service citoyen obligatoire pour les femmes et pour les hommes, par conscription, avant 25 ans proche du lieu de vie, en limitant le casernement aux fonctions qui l’exigent réellement. D’une durée totale de 9 mois, comprenant une formation militaire initiale incluant un droit à l’objection de conscience, rémunéré au Smic, affecté à des tâches d’intérêt général

The creation of a compulsory  citizens service for the everybody under 25, by conscription, this will take place near to their homes, limiting quartering in barracks to functions which really require this. It will last 9 months, with an introductory military training – to which the right of consciousness objection is recognised, and will be paid at the minimum wage, and will consist of community work of public utility.

Other candidates also propose similar measures. Marine Le Pen offers a minimum 3 months military service, and Emmanuel Macron, a short period of national service, structured by the army and the gendarmarie.

The Socialist Candidate, Benoît Hamon, has called compulsory schemes ‘paternalist’, inefficient, and unwanted by the armed forces.

There is already a national and voluntary “service civique” for the under-25, in which up to 100, 000 people have participated.

In the eyes of people in many countries the idea of returning to a form of national service looks, frankly, bizarre, flag-waving, and.. nationalist.

Latest opinion polls summary (from Stephan).

Le Pen (Far-Right) 23% ↓
Macron (Centrist, Pro-EU) 23% ↓
Melenchon (Left-Wing, Souverainism) 19%↑
Fillon (Conservative) 19%↑
Hamon ( Parti Socialiste) 8.5%↓
Dupont-Aignan (Right-wing, Souverainism) 3.5% ↓
Poutou (Far-left) 1.5%↑
Arthaud (Far-left, Trotskyism) 1% =
Lassalle (Centrist) 1% =
Asselineau (Souverainism, Euroscepticism) 0.5% =
Cheminade (Souverainism, Conspiracy Theory) 0.5%↓

 (1) “The AF movement still exists as the monarchist and anti-European UnionCentre royaliste d’Action française” and publishes a magazine called Action française 2000. Its leader was Pierre Pujo (Maurice Pujo’s son), who died in Paris on 10 November 2007.[6] The student movement, called Action française étudiante, has approximately 15 local delegations (in places such as Paris, Normandy, Rennes, Bordeaux, and Forez) and a newspaper, Insurrection. Its President is Oliver Perceval.” Wikipedia.

More (French)

“En octobre 2011, le CRAF, ainsi que l’AFE, prennent une part importante dans des manifestations contre une pièce de théâtre jugée christianophobe250, Sul concetto di volto nel Figlio di Dio (« Sur le concept du visage du Fils de Dieu ») du dramaturge et metteur en scène italien Romeo Castellucci, puis participent à la « marche contre la christianophobie » qui suit251.

Le Printemps royal défile au Jour de colère le 26 janvier 2014.

L’AF entretien des relations de grande proximité avec le Printemps français. En 2013, dans le cadre de La Manif pour tous, le secrétaire général du mouvement, Olivier Perceval produit une tribune proclamant la création du Printemps français à la suite de laquelle le mouvement apparaît effectivement252. L’Action française revendique la formation de cadres de Printemps français, ce qui se vérifie sur le terrain ou les dirigeants régionaux de l’AF y sont souvent impliqués253. À la fin des mouvements de La Manif pour tous, le Printemps français sert de succursale de recrutement pour l’AFE en prenant le nom de Printemps royal254. Le Printemps royal tient en 2014 un cortège à la manifestation Jour de colère du 26 janvier.

Depuis le mouvement fait parler de lui à de nombreuses reprises, faits dénoncés par Edwy Plenel, le directeur de Mediapart : « L’Action française. Ce laboratoire idéologique de la réaction, hélas non dénué de talent, qui poursuit son travail de subversion255. » Jean-Yves Camus pour sa part constate dans La Provence « une nouvelle génération plus activiste et tapageuse »256.

L’AF fait l’objet de menaces de morts régulières : en 2013 une grenade explose dans les locaux parisiens, en septembre 2015 une grenade et des balles d’AK-47 sont scotchées sur la porte des locaux marseillais257,258.

Les différentes actions du mouvement, notamment son regain d’activité dans le sud-est, conduisent le député Jean-David Ciot à redemander sa dissolution le 4 décembre 2015259.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm