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Étienne Chouard, Alain Soral, The Far-right, Political Confusionism and the Gilets Jaunes.

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Face au fascisme on ne pense plus; il ne faut plus penser – c’est tabou. L’antifascisme est une forme plus évoluée, plus subtile que l’antisémitisme, mais pas moins contre-révolutionnaire. Il crée une attitude de réflexe et de haine.”

Faced with Fascism, one stops thinking; one mustn’t think any more – it’s taboo. Antifascism is the more evolved form, subtler than anti-semitism, but no less counter-revolutionary. It creates a reflexive attitude of hatred.

Groupes radicaux pour l’abolition de l’argent et de l’État

From, Précieuses pépites. Étienne Chouard.

(citations of his cherished nuggets, 1031 pages long, from the Situationists, James Madison, Gandhi, Pastor Neimöller, Edmund Burke, George Orwell……)

Alain Soral has been condemned to a year in gaol for Holocaust denial. As the would-be sorcerer’s apprentice of a Red-Brown alliance, his balance-sheet has until recent years largely been a negative one. The most public initiative, the ‘anti-Zionist’ electoral list he helped organise with Dieudeonné, with the support of a few former leftists, and Tehran inclined Islamists, was a failure.

Égalité et Réconciliation¸ trumpeting the cause of workers and peoples, with right-wing national values, against globalist elites, appeared submerged in the malestrom of populism. As part of a “conspi” turn it could be said that Soral, who never fails to inject anti-semitism into the public domain, helped set out some markers, but little more. His site has had a small, if real, (according to reports) echo amongst the anti-gay marriage and anti-‘genre theory’ movement, which combined the traditional far-right, Catholic ‘ultras’ and some conservative Muslims. To escape from this impasse Soral has recently tried to engage – before his imprisonment has temporarily cut this short – with the Gilets Jaunes…with more success, if still limited.

It is the fashion in some quarters to look at the Gilets Jaunes through rose-tinted spectacles. After all, what could be more heartening than to discover, as perhaps prophesied by Jean-Claude Michéa, the work of those “en bas” in revolt against the neoliberal elite. The left which has, since, apparently the Dreyfus Affair, sought to integrate the left into a world ruled by finance is shaking. Woven in the by those who have been “solidaires depuis toujours”, acting through the heart of their “idenitité populaire la plus spécifique”, the French People have arisen…. (Notre Ennemi le capital. 2017)

No doubt there are worthy projects to wrestle inside the Gilets Jaunes movement, and fight for leftism and below within it. Reports, though not those broadcast by the professionals of tinting roses, the SWP, if their most recent General assembly (not universally recognised) indicate that they have decided to not offer any recommendation to vote for the coming European elections. A victory of sorts, though one finds it hard to imagine the good faith of any leftist sitting in a room with those who argued for supporting for a variety of hard-right lists – as happened..

Instead we have Étienne Chouard, a teacher, whose Mother worked for the – some might say – elitist Tel Quel literary and theoretical journal of Philippe Solars,  known for its 1960s structuralism, ultra-Maoist phase, and violent ‘anti-totalitarian’ turn in the 1970s. He says he is “a seeker of the original cause of social injustices”. The blogs he runs, such as Plan C, and his own personal site, advance the cause of “une Constitution Citoyenne, écrite par et pour les citoyens.”

Chouard is popular amongst the Gilets Jaunes – significant enough to be cited at length in the media, the latest appearance being in Saturday’s Le Monde (13.4.19). His audience on social networks is astronomical. He is probably the best known promoter of one of the Gilets Jaunes central demands, direct democracy through the idea of government by referendum. “référendum d’initiative populaire”. A one-time leftist, who dabbled in anarchism and the ultra-left, and who claims inspiration from  Cornelius Castoriadis he has expressed sympathy for Nigel Farage, yet voted Mélenchon in the last Presidential elections. The life-long grass-roots activist has now declared that he will back François Asselineau, a hard-right Frexit (French Brexit)  campaigner who runs the small UPR. It is also opposed to NATO. Le Monde notes he is far from alone amongst the Gilets Jaunes in backing this far-right party.. (12.4.19. Gilets jaunes » : François Asselineau et le « Frexit » font recette sur les ronds-points) that the UPR is known for promoting “conspiracy” ideas. (1)

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Chouard is the ideal type of “ confusionism”, melding together the far-right ideas with leftism. But this rhetoric does not stop at issues such as the European Union. As the reader of (one can believe this, see above) over 3,500 books on philosophy, politics and stuff, he has views on many areas. His freethinking has led him to express opinions doubting the official version of 9/11, and to express interest in the conspi site, Réseau Voltaire. Chouard has also had ties, notable ties, with Alain Soral over the years. His notorious description of Soral as a “resistant” did not go down well. He has stood back, preferring the calmer waters of the UPR, for his own red-brown alliance, from aligning himself with the sulphurous holocaust denier.

Despite the jolly film (judging from its trailer…) J’veux du soleil, by François Ruffin, there seems, as yet little indication of the français de souche amongst the Gilets Jaunes, reaching out to minorities, the “urban nomadic proletariat”.  But he doubtless found somebody prepared to listen to Michéa when it comes to official left and liberal anti-fascism.

(1) See also COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE : ÉTIENNE CHOUARD ANNONCE PUBLIQUEMENT QU’IL VOTERA POUR LA LISTE DE L’UPR AUX ÉLECTIONS EUROPÉENNES )

François Asselineau‘s ‘souverainiste‘ platform has two main targets, the European Union and the United States.[32] He insists that France should leave the Eurozone,[33] the European Union, and NATO.[32] According to Asselineau, the EU and NATO “as seen from Washington…are the political and military side of the same coin, that of the enthrallment of the European continent to their ‘buffer zone’ so as to surround and contain the Russian continental power”.[33] He says the process leading to European unification was launched solely upon orders from the American government.”

You can guess his views on Assange and Brexit….

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Counterfire, John Rees, So-called Marxists and Brexit.

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“Genuine Marxists” with their one-time Best Friend.

Amongst many other things Brexit has divided the left.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, and the large number of people in Britain who have left-wing politics, from social democratic ideas, left liberalism, green politics, and all the varieties of democratic socialism have seen different views on the European Union become the burning political issue of our time.

The Marxist left has also been split.

What seemed like the majority view of both the non-Labour Leninist left and – it was assumed – the Labour left was a position extremely  hostile to the EU. Tony Benn had even described the UK as a “colony” of the EU, and this flight of fancy was not his alone.

The Referendum showed that there was a strong section of the radical left, including those who identify with the Marxist tradition, who stood for a Remain Vote. Today many are organised in the campaign, Another Europe is Possible, whose support goes from the Labour grass-roots group, Open Labour not far from the Party’s centre, the Green Party, to the Party’s Left, the democratic socialist Chartist, supporters of Momentum, to more radical groups, such as Socialist Resistance and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Left Unity has also given its backing to Another Europe. From Another Europe there is equally Labour for a Socialist Europe, which produces valuable material relating to Party debate. The allied initiative, Love Socialism Hate Brexit, has attracted Labour MPs, like Clive Lewis and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

The Lexit, pro-Brexit, Left, has grouped around The Full Brexit, an alliance of Family Faith and Flag Blue Labour, sovereigntists, The Communist  Party of Britain, Spiked contributors , the odd maverick Green, and supporters of the Revolutionary Socialist Counterfire. The Full Brexit’s recent troubles over Eddie Dempsey, and, now Paul Embery, opponents of “rootless cosmopolitans” illustrate the difficulties many on the left would have in working with this body, let alone its anti-EU politics.

Now, from the above Counterfire, ignoring such mundane issues, John Rees offers the left a masterclass on Marxism.

Marxists, so-called Marxists, and parliamentary socialists

He begins by citing this,

The only sensible reaction to the accusation by the Tory right that Jeremy Corbyn is “a Marxist“ is the one that Karl Marx himself gave. In response to some of his own would-be followers in France he said: “all that I know, is that I am not a Marxist”.

Marx was referring to Jules Guesde the leader of the French ‘Marxist’ tendency which became the Parti Ouvrier, and, after another name change, eventually became, in 1905, part of the first substantial french socialist party, the : Section française de l’Internationale ouvrièreSFIO.

A little further down Rees gives another “famous quotation” from Engels, on French socialism to support his politics,

“We have never called you anything but ‘the so-called Marxists’ and I would not know how else to describe you. Should you have some other, equally succinct name, let us know and we shall duly and gladly apply it to you.”

He states of this (Engels To Paul Lafargue At Le Perreux. London, 11 May 1889)

What was it that produced such a scathing remark from Engels? It was the idea, current among Marx and Engels’ French supporters, that support for reforms was just a trick meant to lure workers into more radical politics once they had seen such demands fail.

Marx and Engels would have none of it. They took seriously the demands for reform that arose from the working-class movement and inscribed them as basic demands in their own programme. They wanted them achieved because they knew that both the struggle to attain them, and any successes that were achieved, would strengthen the working class movement in practice and ideologically.

Rees, to put it simply, is  misleading. The exchange had a meaning only within its time of writing and does not refer to “reforms” in general.

Engels’ letter was in the context of one of the divisions that marked, and still mark, French socialism, and international socialism. That is between those who stand for internationalism, what would now be called universal human rights, and those tempted by National Populism.

This arose during the “Boulangist Movement” and the letter is about the ambiguous attitude of Marx’s son-in-law, who had expressed sympathy  for this nationalist upsurge.

Mitchell Abidor offers and excellent introduction to this episode, a mass movement around Georges Boulanger, a former general in the French army, General Boulanger and the Boulangist Movement.

The movement that had grown around Boulanger’s name was perhaps the first of its kind, a combination of royalists, Bonapartists, Republicans, socialists, and Blanquists. If it resembles any movement in this strange mix of followers it is Peronism, which was also able to attract followers from all ends of the political spectrum around the figure of a general. And like Peronism, Boulangism was able to do this because it can justly be said of the man at the heart of it that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there was no there there.

It is hard not to see some modern parallels,

Populism, nationalism, defense of the rights of workers; everything was in place for the birth of the movement that would bear the general’s name.

And,

From 1888-1889 Boulanger went from victory to victory, winning elections in seven different districts. Blanquists, the most intransigent of revolutionaries (but who were not immune to the temptations of nationalism and anti-Semitism) , were to say that with Boulanger “the revolution has begun,” and that Boulangism is “a labor of clearing away, of disorganizing the bourgeois parties.” So close were the ties between the extreme left and Boulangism that the police were convinced that secret accords had been drawn up between the two forces. And though the official Blanquist bodies were split as to how far they’d go in following Boulanger, it is a fact that the Boulangist movement’s strongest electoral showing was in the Blanquist strongholds in Paris. Indeed, throughout France, it was in working class centers that Boulanger garnered his greatest successes.

The Engels text in full reads,

We have never called you anything but ‘the so-called Marxists’ and I would not know how else to describe you. Should you have some other, equally succinct name, let us know and we shall duly and gladly apply it to you. But we cannot say ‘aggregate’, which no one here would understand, or anti-Possibilists, which you would find just as objectionable and which would not be accurate, being too all-embracing.

It continues,

What we need are letters from Paris, sent direct to the Star, bearing the Paris postmark and refuting the Possibilist calumnies which appeared in Saturday’s and Tuesday’s editions, namely, that Boulé’s election campaign was run on Boulangist money, that Vaillant had acted as an ally of the Boulangists, etc. I should say that you could do this perfectly well without ruffling your newly-found dignity as the one and only Catholic Church in matters connected with French Socialism.

Apart from Engels notably not criticising Lafargue’s misguided enthusiasm for Boulanger, what else does this refer to?

It is first of all, about the Guesdist tendency’s war with the “possibilitists” of Paul Brousse leader of the  Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France and with Édouard Vaillant a former Commmard, and ‘Blanquist’  elected a Municipal Councillor in 1884 in Paris

Engels backed the desire of his friend for an independent workers’ party – unlike the Possibilistes, and by extension municipal socialists of all stripes,   who turned from intransigent socialism and  were ready to compromise with the Parliamentary (and Municipal)  Republican left in order to achieve reforms.

But this leaves open the issue of what position should have been taken to Boulangism, a view, which Lafargue  was, unfortunately, to clarify further in a far from progressive direction.

As Abidor says,

We can multiply the number of quotations from those on the left who either supported Boulangism or refused to openly or uncompromisingly oppose it. Paul Lafargue, the great socialist leader and theoretician, who in 1887 wrote a bitingly mocking article on Boulangism, also wrote to Engels that “Boulangism is a popular movement that is in many ways justifiable.” The followers of the other great Marxist if the generation, Jules Guesde, wrote that “the Ferryist danger being as much to be feared as the Boulangist peril, revolutionaries should favor neither the one nor the other, and shouldn’t play the bourgeoisie’s game by helping it combat the man who at present is its most redoubtable adversary.”

He continues,

But not everyone on the left was willing to go along with or refuse to block the Boulangist juggernaut. Jean Jaurès wrote that Boulangism is “a great movement of socialism gone astray,” and the Communard and historian of the Commune P-O Lissagaray was a motive force behind the Société des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, which was formed to combat Boulangism and defend democracy, uniting in the group socialists, republicans, students and Freemasons.

This episode is described in greater detail in Les Hommes Révoltés. Les Origines Intellectuelles du réformisme en France (19721 – 1917) Emmanuel Jousse. 2017. Pages 150 – 152.

The campaign against Boulanger “« empêcher la réaction césarienne. » (halt the Caesarist Reaction!) attracted the support not only Paul Brousse and Vailliant  but the radical left ‘Allemanists” of Jean Allemane a trade unionist,  and veteran of the Paris Commune exiled to hard labour in New Caledonia, and Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, the author of the still valuable History of the Paris Commune of 1871, an event in which he participated.

In other words, the salt of the earth.

After Boulangism dispersed, left supporters of Boulangism were still churning out books justifying their alliance.

Pàtil-Emile Laviron claimed that the anti-Boulangist campaign has meant an alliance with the parliamentary establishment and neglect of the class struggle (“Oubliant leur principe de la lutte des classes, ils entrèrent dans la coalition parlementaire des radicaux et des opportunistes. Boulangisme et Parlementarisme.” 1888)

In Les antisémites en France : notice sur un fait contemporain 1892  Mermeix (Gabriel Terrail) claimed that right-wingers and anti-semites were merely ‘infiltrators” in the movement. The General had popularised the ideas of socialism, (“Le général Boulanger a donc puissamment aidé l’esprit public à évoluer vers le socialisme”).

This may not help sort out the ‘genuine’ Marxist sheep from the reformist Goats, but it does raise some contemporary issues about national populism and anti-antisemitism…

In some respects one can that an alliance against a serious hard-right nationalist project, Brexit, springs to mind….means marching with, though not supporting, a variety of groups with this goal, though not others, in common.

It is hard to tell, but one could ask if more than one section of the Full Brexit would have had some sympathy with General Boulanger. who stood for the “real” France, the “real” workers” against the cosmopolitans.

What would Galloway have done…..?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Alain Badiou criticises the “réactionnaire” Gilets Jaunes movement: “tout ce qui bouge n’est pas rouge”.

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Something has kept me away from the movement of the Gilets Jaunes: it is the overwhelming presence, the constant return of the  cheerless tricolore  flag,..” Alain Badiou.

A few months ago it was announced that Badiou was to have an op-ed article on the Gilets Jaunes published in Le Monde.

We were watching out for it like ‘awks.

But it appears that the French Daily would not publish it, something about Badiou being virulently rude against Alain Finkielkraut in another article («Le Monde» a-t-il «censuré» un texte d’Alain Badiou sur les gilets jaunes ?)

In the weeks that followed we lost interest, largely because something was happening in the UK that readers may have heard of.

But now Cde Google informs us that the text had found a publisher.

ALAIN BADIOU : LEÇONS DU MOUVEMENT DES « GILETS JAUNES »

Alain Badiou, March 10, 2019

“Un proverbe d’autrefois dit que « tout ce qui bouge n’est pas rouge ». Et pour le moment, du « rouge », dans le mouvement des gilets, qui certes « bouge », il n’est pas question : je ne vois, outre le jaune, que du tricolore, toujours un peu suspect à mes yeux.

An old proverb says that “everything that moves is not red” (that is, not every political groundswell is on the left…Note). And for the moment, “red”, amongst the Gilet Jaunes movement, certainly “moves”. That is certain. But I see, in addition to the yellow, only the tricolore, which is always a bit dubious in my eyes.

Badiou considers the Gilets Jaunes’ upswell as a protest against the difficult lives of those in rural or sub-urban areas, the result of the erosion of public services,  the way that real incomes have not kept up with the times,  tax systems which weigh upon these parts of the population, and the hard lives of women who also have to raise a family.

In France there is are deep rooted reasons for discontent in the working middle and lower middle class, particularly in the provinces. Deindustrialisation and real pauperisation have gone along with the present, Macron-led, ‘modernisation’

The Gilets Jaunes are thus a reaction of classes threatened by Macron’s policies and the constant wavew of austerity/modernisation. They can be viewed in Marxist terms as the cry of despair of those threatened with losing their relative status in a ‘globalised’ world. But they are not forward looking. “The individual members of this class…. constantly hurled down into the proletariat ” look to the past, to their lost security, and demand that a better past be restored.

As traditional political organisations, of the left and the right, have not been able to channel this discontent, the Gilets Jaunes’ “spontaneous” response has been hard to pin down.

This is Badiou’s sketch:

..on pourrait appeler la subjectivité de ce mouvement un individualisme populaire, rassemblant des colères personnelles liées aux formes neuves de la servitude aujourd’hui imposée à tous par la dictature du Capital.

one could call the subjectivity of this movement a popular individualism, gathering together the personal anger related by the new forms of servitude today imposed on all by the dictatorship of Capital.

This does not mean the Gilets Jaunes are’ fascists’ (though one can remark that this reaction involves supporters of the far-right, from Marine Le Pen’s party to the ‘ultras). Badiou dismisses this talk from what he calls (with all the moral authority of a former apologist of Pol Pot), “renegade” intellectuals. This is just “infiltration”. Oh, and “crypto-fascist style of “the people against the elite” and, hey, the wild rumours (notably about The Media) circulating on social networks…

Which – all reports confirm – is widely taken for “truth” against “fake news”.

Yet the legitimacy of reacting to Macron’s neo-liberal policies does not make the Gilets Jaunes left-wing.

There are two fundamental tendencies in politics, those in favour of capitalism, and those, under the names of socialism and communism, which have challenged it.

In what sense are the Gilets Jaunes, harking back to the security of the post-war settlement, aligned with socialism or communism?

Les gilets jaunes « combattent la Bourgeoisie », comme le dit Marx, c’est vrai. Mais ils le font pour restaurer un ordre ancien et périmé, et non pour inventer un nouvel ordre social et politique, dont les noms ont été, depuis le XIXe siècle, « socialisme », ou, surtout, « communisme ».

“The Gilets Jaunes fight the Bourgeoisie”, as Marx would  say. That is true. But they do it to restore an old and outdated order, and not to invent a new social and political order, whose names have been, since the nineteenth century, “socialism” or, especially, “communism”.

Some further salient extracts when Badiou gets more serious and tackles those who would see in the movement a revolutionary challenge to the system:

“Of course, the ultra gauches, the anti-fafs, those who’ve woken up after (the movement) Nuit-debout, those who are always on the lookout for a “movement” to get their teeth into, the loud-mouths of “the coming insurrection”  (l’insurrection qui vient, the name of an ultra left neo-situationist  manifesto) , celebrate the GIlets Jaunes’  democratic proclamations (in fact, individualistic and short-sighted), introduce the cult of decentralised assemblies, and imagine that they will soon redo the capture of the Bastille.

“But this attractive carnival fails to impress me: these movements have led everywhere, for ten years and more, to terrible defeats, paid very dearly by the peoples. Indeed, the “movements” of the last historical sequence, from Egypt and the “Arab Spring” to Occupy Wall Street, from the latter to Turkish Squares, from this  to the Greek riots, from  the Indignados…Nuit Debout…seem to ignore the implacable  historical laws that govern the world today….

Nothing is more important, in the present moment, than to have in mind the lessons of this sequence of “movements”, Gilets Jaunes included. They can be summed up in a single maxim: a movement whose unity is strictly negative, either will fail, often giving rise to a situation worse than the one that at its origin, or it will have to be divided in two, by the emergence of a creative surge, and within it, an affirmative political proposition which is really antagonistic to the dominant order, and supported by a disciplined organisation.

Sticking the knife in further Badiou talked of the Gilets Jaunes as a reaction of “old France” under threat in a recent book, Méfiez-vous des blancs, habitant du rivage  reviewed, here: Alain Badiou. Changer de peuple.

One can genuinely see that the State, in the service of Capital, has deserted the old provincial world, ageing, suburban and colonial. One can understand  the nation-wide, archaic, reaction of part of society whose small privileges are menaced.

His  hostility to the demonstrators brandishing of the Tricolore  is strong,

 Quelque chose m’a tenu écarté du mouvement des « gilets jaunes » : c’est la présence massive, le retour constant du triste drapeau tricolore, dont la vue, à chaque fois m’accable, et d’une marseillaise que trop de nationalismes fascisants ont entonnée pour qu’on se souvienne encore de son origine révolutionnaire.

Something has kept me away from the movement of the Gilets Jaunes: it is the massive presence, the constant return of the  cheerless tricolore  flag, whose sight, always overwhelms me, and of the Marseillaise which too many fascistic forms of nationalism have bellowed out for us to remember its revolutionary origins.

Back to the Op-ed (above) Badiou’s counter-strategy looks in the line of radical socialism.

…without massive incorporation of new proletarians, the Gilets Jaunes can not represent, as such, “the people”. This people, would be reduced to the nostalgia for its lost social status of the poorest sections of the middle class. Today, in politics, “the people”, the mobilised crowd must have a strong and central contingent amongst the nomadic proletariat of our suburbs, the proletariat from Africa, Asia, Europe of the East, Latin America; it must show clear signs of breaking with the dominant order.

Change is above needed,

First in its visible signs, like the red flag instead of the tricolore…..and in its demands,  the minimum requirements that must be claimed, for example, include  the total cessation of privatisations and the cancellation of all those sell-offs that have taken place since the mid-eighties. The main idea is to have collective control over all means of production, the entire banking system, and all public services (health, education, transport, communication)….

LEÇONS DU MOUVEMENT DES « GILETS JAUNES is beautifully free from Badiou’s ontological speculation. If you can get over the attacks on everybody – and I enjoyed those against the ‘ultra-left’ those out to fish for souls for their revolutionary projects – Badiou has retraced the path to some fairly robust ideas about reviving collectivist and universalist demands…..

There is nothing of this in the just published interview on the Verso site:  Allegiance to Macron is largely negative! Alain Badiou interviewed about the Gilets Jaunes, Macron and future of the French left.

The explanation is simple: the  original date of the article was Interview with Julien Le Gros, 17 December 2018 Translated by David Fernbach.

Less explainable is why Badiou’s numerous fans in the English speaking world have not reacted to the wise words of the ‘post-Maoist’ sage, which many will be tempted to call undeniably sane.

A clue, again, may lie in the way he lays into  Occupy! and other movements.

A pitiful reply from admirers of L’Insurrection qui vient on the site Lundi Matin, which mixed sub-Badiou ‘metapolitical’ ontology and Jacques Rancière’s devotion to the role of the “part of those of no part” in generating ‘dissensus” to accuse him of pointless irrelevance,  was published at the end of March: Jacques Fradin. QU’AURAIT PU DIRE ALAIN BADIOU DES « GILETS JAUNES » ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2019 at 12:54 pm

Tariq Ramadan, still facing Rape Charges, Attends Meeting on Violence Against Women in Saint Denis.

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Still Facing Rape Charges Ramadan Attends Public Meeting on Violence against Women. 

Tariq Ramadan assiste à une conférence sur les violences faites aux femmes

Le Point today.

Tariq Ramadan, toujours mis en examen pour viol dans deux dossiers et sous contrôle judiciaire, a été aperçu hier soir à Saint-Denis lors d’une réunion « contre les violences faites aux femmes au quotidien », en présence de Danièle Obono et de Françoise Vergès. Cette réunion était organisée par Madjid Messaoudène, militant décolonial et conseiller municipal La France insoumise en charge de l’égalité et des droits des femmes à la mairie de Saint-Denis. Des femmes en désaccord avec sa présence ont quitté la salle.

Tariq Ramadan , still indicted for rape in two cases and under judicial supervision (that is, on remand), was seen last night in Saint-Denis during a meeting “against the daily violence women face”, in the presence of Danièle Obono and Françoise Vergès. This meeting was organised by Madjid Messaoudène, decolonial activist and city councilor for La France insoumise responsible for equality and women’s rights  the Saint-Denis Council. Women who disagreed with his presence left the room.

The Mayor of Saint Denis reacted strongly,

His coming into the room as a spectator of the debate is an unacceptable provocation,”  said the mayor of Saint-Denis (French Communist Party) His presence is “totally indecent.

She is reported to have also said,

 His ignoble provocations must stop, ” insisted the mayor, calling Tariq Ramadan to ” respect a minimum of decency by leaving in peace those who fight against violence against women .”

The story is also covered in Libération:

A Saint-Denis, Tariq Ramadan s’invite à une conférence sur les violences faites aux femmes.

The arrogance of the Oxford Don is not just astonishing, it is despicable.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2019 at 5:52 pm

Anti-Semitism and the Left: The Dreyfus Affair and Today.

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Open Anti-Semitism in the Dreyfus Affair.

Anti-Semitism and the Left: The Dreyfus Affair and Today.

 

“Many Socialists  – and Marxists in particular – view Jews not through the prism of race or religion but through that of class. Jews, in their eyes, are a white, rich powerful elite, unworthy have the solidarity or protection normally afforded to ethnic minorities.”

How Anti-Semitism Poisons Labour. Richard Verber. The ‘I’.

 

“Y a-t-il vraiment des races humaines? Je vois qu’il y a des homes blancs, des homes rouges et des hommes noirs. Mais ce ne sont pas là des races, ce sont des variétés d’une même race, d’une même espèce, qui forment entre elles des unions fécondes et se mêlent sans cesse…..  Les antisémites allument contre la race juive la colère des peuples chrétiens, et il n’y a pas de race juive.”

Are there really human races? I can see that there are white people, red people, and black people. But these are not races, but varieties of the same race, a same species, who between each other join in fertile relationships and who never stop mixing together. The anti-Semites spark the anger of the Christians against the Jewish race, and there is no Jewish race.”

Anatole France. Sur La Pierre Blanche. (1905)

Before The Protocols of the Elders of Zion there was Édouard Drumont’s La France Juive (1886), “Ever since the dawn of history the Aryan has been at odds with the Semite”. The book, which had 200 editions up to 1914, talked of the dream of the Jews to “reduce the Aryan into a state of slavery”, illustrated with figures such as the Rothschilds “tout puissant.” Before modern populism there was Boulangism (1880s), an anti-parliamentarian nationalist revolt, led by General Boulanger, with Drumont’s good wishes, and 48 MPS, including Boulanger for the Seine, elected in 1889. Absent from their official programme, in the Boulangist press attacks on Jewish financial figureheads, the Rothschilds and the Reinachs, flourished. The far-right anti-Dreyfus campaign of the next decades centred on claims of a Jewish-led ‘syndicate’ of treason manipulating politics, business and the affaire itself. It was a template of modern anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

 

The wrongful conviction for spying on behalf of the German army of a Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus in 1894, brought to the fore the issue of anti-Semitism in France. The French left reacted without glory. Jules Guesde, the leader of the self-proclaimed Marxist Parti ouvrier français (POF), has been accused of an “ambiguous” attitude towards Drumond. While waiting for the socialist revolution, he refused to defend the republic against Boulangism. Initially hailing Emile Zola’s J’accuse in 1896, and with some declarations against anti-Semitism, Guesde came to the conclusion that the innocence or guilt of Dreyfus was not a battle that “involved the working class.” Jean Jaurès in 1894 had talked of Dreyfus as part of “la caste des officiers de carrière”. He was not above attacking Jewish influence in finance, talking of the devastating effects of their “usury” on the country during a visit to French colonial Algeria in 1895. (1)

Both Guesde and Jaurès were embedded in the anti-Semitic climate of the time. They took it as an empirical ‘fact’ of the importance of “financiers juifs”; the “puissance juive” was part of capitalism. During the period, before Dreyfus marked out the rupture with nationalist anti-Semitism, there was little mention by either wing of the French socialist left, of poor Jewish migrants, or of the persecutions Jews suffered. If the capitalists were the problem, and there was no biological struggle between ‘Jews’ and ‘Aryans’, a fraction of capital was still marked out as Jewish. They were, as Verber puts it, part of an “elite”, the product of the capitalist system, but still agents within it.

Bernard Lazare.

The honour of the French left was saved the anarchist socialist critic, of Jewish origin, Bernard Lazare and his circle. Lazare’s l’antsiémitisme son histoire et ses causes (1894) talked of the economic bases of anti-Judaism, competition between a “non-assimilated” group and those in charge of industrial and financial capitalism. The Jewish community was described as a  ‘state within a state’ and their “facility at trading”. Yet this loose language was in the context of an atheist attack on religious exclusivity. This angle also explains why the author, noting a lack of certainty in the afterlife, praised the Jewish willingness to “fight tyranny” in this world. Above all in this work, and later, he began to defend humanity and internationalism against nationalism of all kinds.  Lazare sufficiently riled Drummont to fight a duel with him. He has been described as one of those who definitively classed anti-Semitism as an ideology of the extreme-right. (2)

Faced with the Dreyfus case Lazare took a stand, “They needed a Jewish traitor fit to replace the classic Judas” he  wrote, “a Jewish traitor that one could mention incessantly, every day, in order to rain his opprobrium on his entire race.” Working with Alfred’s brother, Mathieu Dreyfus, the critic badgered and cajoled every contact he could find to rally to the cause. Lucien Herr, the socialist librarian at the École normale supériere, became a notable ally and a bridge to the wider left. (3)

Jaurès was initially cold. But all this was to change. In speeches and, above all, in Les Preuves, (1898) the socialist leader stood with Dreyfus. This commitment was rooted in opposition to the nationalists of the right, and militarists, those who rallied to the army and the claim that its judgement against the Captain could not be wrong.

Defence of Dreyfus.

In defending Dreyfus Jaurès developed themes that continue to resound today.

The first of these is that the cause of socialism, based on class struggle against capitalism, is linked to that of humanity. In one of his most famous passages Jaurès said of Dreyfus, “I could answer that if Dreyfus was illegally condemned and if, as I will soon demonstrate, he is innocent, he is no longer either an officer or a bourgeois. Through the very excess of his misfortune he has been stripped of any class character. He is no longer anything but humanity itself, at the highest degree of misery and despair that can be imagined.”  (4)

The second is that Jaurès raised the banner of universal human rights and applied this to the legal system, “There are two parts to capitalist and bourgeois legality: There are a whole mass of laws aimed at protecting the fundamental iniquity of our society, and there are laws that consecrate the privileges of capitalist property, the exploitation of the wage earner by the owner. We want to smash these laws, and even by revolution if necessary abolish capitalist legality in order to bring forth a new order. But alongside these laws of privilege and rapine, made by a class and for it, there are others that sum up the pitiful progress of humanity, the modest guarantees that it has little by little conquered through a centuries-long effort and a long series of revolutions.” (Ibid)

Human Rights.

The defence of human rights, as part and parcel of socialism, illuminated by Marxist ideas of class, is illustrated – at length – in the Socialist History of the French Revolution. Could this historical event, a broad stream of thinking, the act of a specific people” asked Jaurès, “produce something of universal symbolical value? He noted the British conservative thinker, Edmund Burke’s scorn on such “metaphysics”, but that the fear of the British rulers was not of abstractions. Their worry was of the democratic reform that these ideas might inspire. (5)

The socialist daily that Jaurès founded was (and is) called l’Humanité. The title could be said to embody the ardent Dreyfusand Anatole France’s vision of anti-racism and Jaurès’ fight for justice. We have come a long way from that time, a century of greater injustices, including those carried out in the name of socialism, than Jaurès could have imagined. Yet there are those who believe that the fight for human rights, in a modern form, debated and rethought by thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Claude Lefort, Jacques Rancière and others, is at the heart of socialism. The Marxist influenced Étienne Balibar has talked of “égaliberté”, tying concrete equality and freedom together, and the “illiminated” extension of these rights. (La Proposition de l’égaliberté. 2010)

Fighting anti-Semitism today is part and parcel of that socialism. The left that keeps to the line set down by forerunners like Jaurès does not bend an inch in that determination.

On the eve of the First World War Jean Jaurès was assassinated in the Café du Croissant, Paris on the 31st of July 1914. Just before, as fictionalised in Martin du Gard’s L’été 1914, (1936) the socialist leader was desperately attempting to avert the conflict by appeals to European socialists at a meeting in Brussels. The nationalist Raoul Villain, a sympathiser of the anti-Semite Action française, murdered Comrade Jaurès.

 

 

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

 

  1. Chapter Four. Jules Guesde. Jean-Numa Ducange. Arand Colin. 2017. Chapter IX Jaurès Dreyfusand. Jean Jaurès. Gilles Candar Vincent Duclert. Fayard 2014. The Man on Devil’s Island, Ruth Harris. 2010.
  2. Lazare wrote, “À côté du patriotisme se place l’humanitarisme, à côté du nationalisme se place l’internationalisme, et la notion d’humanité acquerra bientôt plus de force que la notion de patrie, qui se modifie et perd de cet exclusivisme que les egoisms nationaux veulent perpétuer.” “Lazare fut ainsi l’un des artisans de la rupture qui marquera définitivement l’antisémitisme comme un positionnement politique d’extrême  Bernard Lazare, premier  historien de l’antisémitisme.  Jacques Aron
  3. Cited in Ruth Harris. Page 56.
  4. The Socialist Interest Jean Jaurès, Les Preuves. Paris, La Petite République, 1898. Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor.
  5. Page 390. Tome V. Histoire socialiste de la Révolution française, 1901-1908.“c’était la réforme démocratique de la Constitution, c’était la très large extension du droit de suffrage et l’abolition des privilèges.”

On the Anti-Semitism of Certain Gilets Jaunes against Alain Finkielkraut.

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Unity Against Anti-Semitism.

Yellow-vest protests: Macron condemns anti-Semitic abuse

BBC.

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned anti-Semitic abuse directed at a prominent intellectual by a group of “yellow vest” protesters in Paris.

Police stepped in to protect the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut after he was bombarded with insults and anti-Jewish taunts in the French capital.

President Macron said it was an “absolute negation” of what made France great and would not be tolerated.

Tens of thousands took part in anti-government protests on Saturday.

Prosecutors have now opened an investigation into the incident, and France’s interior minister said on Sunday that a suspect alleged to be the “main perpetrator” had been identified by the authorities.

It is significant that the French Communist Party was one of the first to react:

Ian Brossat, chief French Communist Party candidate for the European Parliament, said “We can hate Finkielkraut’s ideas”, but “nothing can justify attacking him as a Jew”.

The Local.

The anti-Semitic insults hurled at Alain Finkielkraut by certain Gilets Jaunes in Paris on Saturday continue to make waves in France.

This was on Europe 1 this morning.

Bernard-Henri Lévy : “On est dans un moment qui me fait penser à l’époque de l’affaire Dreyfus”

BHL’s scattergun polemics will leave many people cold.

But in some respects he is completely to the point.

In le Monde Diplomatique this month Serge Halimi & Pierre Rimbert defend the Gilet Jaunes as a manifestation of class war.

They cite an episode from the history of French socialism. In the debate, known widely as the “Two methods” held in the Hippodrome of Lille in 1900, Jules Guesde defended the sectarian ‘class against class’ against those socialists who had defended Dreyfus and no backed a government to ‘defend the republic’ against the far-right ‘reactionary’ threat

In Lille in 1900, the socialist leader Jules Guesde had already seen through this political game to which the capitalist class owed its longevity in power: ‘It is divided into progressive bourgeoisie and republican bourgeoisie, clerical bourgeoisie and free-thinking bourgeoisie, in such a way that a defeated faction can always be replaced in power by another faction from the same class, which is also [our] enemy. It’s a ship with watertight partitions which can take in water on one side without being any less unsinkable.’ But sometimes the sea gets rough and the vessel’s stability is threatened. In such a situation, squabbles need to be set aside to present a united front and keep it afloat.

The authors do not cite Guesde’s opponent, Jean Jaurès.

The exchange hinged on the participation of a socialist, Millerand, in the bourgeois (republican) government of René Waldeck-Rousseau. For  Jaurès defending Millerand was a matter of being against Nationalism and Reaction (“contre le nationalisme, contre la réaction”).

The disagreement,as mentioned, went back to Dreyfus.

Guesde refused to back the Jewish victim of anti-semitism on the grounds that the affair was “un conflit interne à la bourgeoisie “(an internal squabble within the bourgeoisie).

Comrade Jaurès replied to these arguments by asserting that the human rights at stake with the injustice against Dreyfus were a matter for socialists.

There are two parts to capitalist and bourgeois legality: There are a whole mass of laws aimed at protecting the fundamental iniquity of our society, and there are laws that consecrate the privileges of capitalist property, the exploitation of the wage earner by the owner. We want to smash these laws, and even by revolution if necessary abolish capitalist legality in order to bring forth a new order. But alongside these laws of privilege and rapine, made by a class and for it, there are others that sum up the pitiful progress of humanity, the modest guarantees that it has little by little conquered through a centuries-long effort and a long series of revolutions.

And among these laws the one that doesn’t allow the condemnation of a man, whoever he might be, without discussion with him is perhaps the most essential. Contrary to the nationalists who want to keep of bourgeois legality all that protects capital and turn over to generals all that protects man, we revolutionary socialists want, within today’s legality, to abolish the capitalist portion and save the human portion. We defend legal guarantees against the braided judges who smash them, just as, if the need arises, we will defend republican legality against generals in a coup d’etat.

Jean Jaurès 1898. The Dreyfus Affair

That  tradition, which sees the fight against anti-Semitism as part of the wider struggle for human rights, and socialism, is quiet but is now becoming more and more alive.

Yves Colman, one of many on the radical French left,  stands against this latest manifestation of anti-Semitism,

Quand des Gilets jaunes lancent des insultes antisémites et xénophobes contre Alain Finkielkraut ils ne font que suivre les traces de leurs prédécesseurs de Nuits debout

The fact that Finkielkraut is reactionary, hostile to Muslim immigration, is indeed an excellent reason to fight it politically. The fact that he does not understand the difference between Islam and Islamism, or between political Islam and jihadist terrorism, the fact that he defends Renaud Camus, the theoretician of the “great replacement”, does not make him particularly attractive.

But there is a wide margin between this and making antisemitic and xenophobic remarks about him when you come across him in the street. This is the step  that yellow vests made today.

Yves continues, comparing this incident to the outpouring of hatred that occurred when Finkielkraut made an equally provocative visit to the Nuit Debout movement’s spectacle at the Place de la Bastille in 2016.

The extreme left, denouncing Finkielkraut’s slightest gesture and systematically associating him with Zionism, could only have facilitated the creation of the current anti-Semitic climate. From this climate left and extreme left who claim to be “anti-Zionists” are partly responsible.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism go hand in hand. And we can not pretend to fight the second without fighting the first. Otherwise we play the game of the extreme right

 

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2019 at 1:34 pm

Gilets Jaunes (smaller) Demonstrations Continue, as Gilets Jaunes Lists for European Elections Splinter and Fragment.

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End of the World, End of the Month: the Same Struggle.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor

 

Photos from PR.

The moblisation for Act IV of the Gilets Jaunes was in delcine;

10,200 demonstrators in France, including 3,000 in Paris, according to the Ministry of the Interior

For the first time a majority of French people polled have supported to an end to the movement:

SONDAGE. 56% des Français demandent l’arrêt du mouvement des Gilets jaunes

(14th of February).

Despite criticisms from prominent figures in the movement, Eric Drouet , who are opposed to electoral participation on traditional lines, there are three Gilets Jaunes Lists for this year’s European Elections in France:

The “Rassemblement des Gilets jaunes citoyens“.

The “liste baptisée “Union Jaune”.”

And, the first, and best known, “Ralliement d’initiative citoyenne” (RIC),”

The latter has already suffered its own split. Two days ago their leading figure Ingrid Lavavasseur left the list. (Ingrid Levavasseur quitte la liste “RIC” des Gilets jaunes.

The presence of people using the election for their own political ends, and those who’ve been associated with Macron’s party on the slate is said to be as one of the reasons.

It is said that they are rapidly approaching the kind of divisions marking the French left, who have – at least – 7 different lists,  Lutte ouvrière, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste,  Parti communiste français, La France insoumise, Parti Socialiste, Europe Écologie Les Verts, Génération·s : le mouvement commun.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2019 at 5:03 pm