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Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Brice Couturier. The Anti-Populist Progressive? Review.

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Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Aucun des ses mots n’est le fruit de hasard. Brice Couturier. Editions l’Observatoire. 

An interview which broke with the deferential traditions of the 5th Republic made the French headlines all week. On Sunday the 15th of April the journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel questioned the head of state for two hours on the balance-sheet of his administration. Elected with a sweeping majority for the party La République en marche, he defended a policy of immediate reforms, from the rail service, to higher education. Macron “listened” to the anger of opponents – the railway workers, students, aeroplane pilots, functionaries, and the squatters occupying the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. But republican norms had to be respected. Universities were victims of “professionnels du désordre” (le Monde 17.4.18).

As the exchange got underway Plenal, the anti-Macron founder of the independent Mediapart, and a former member of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, interrupted. “You are not our Teacher, and we are not your pupils”. An Editorial in Le Monde the previous day talked of Macron as a pedagogue ready to lecture, regardless of the wishes of his audience, until he had completed his lesson. (Macron au cours préparatoire. 14.4.18) Excluding the possibility that the President was unaware of his interlocutor’s troublemaking potential one assumes that a snappy put down far from a chance part of the course.

The Anti-Populist Progressive? 

But what syllabus is France’s President instructing us from? This is far from an issue limited to the Hexagone. There are policies on the European Union. Macron’s “camp progressiste” has stimulated interest amongst homeless supporters of the Third Way, Die Neue Mitte, and the liberal centre. For many of these people Macron represents a successful ‘anti-populist’ unifying force.  Much of the French left, which saw many transfers from the right of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and allied figures, to the new President’s camp, by contrast, announced immediately after his victory that this was a Presidency for the wealthy, for the ‘elite’. For former Socialist Minister Anicet Le Pors, he is “mandated” by international finance, the ruling circles of the EU, the bosses, the administrative technocracy, show business, and nearly all the media. (April 2018. Le Monde Diplomatique)

With the present unrest attracting attention the English-speaking left has been quick to label Macron a neo-liberal, a spin of Tony Blair and Thatcher, out to attack the labour movement and impose markets on the public sphere. The ‘bromance’ with Donald Trump over Syria adds force to the comparison with the former British Prime Minister.

Perry Anderson, in a peremptory post-election account, went deeper. Adorned in best periodic style, he suggested that the “neoliberal reformation of France”, attempted for over three decades, had been impeded on different sides by the constituencies of right and left. Macron, in effect, cut through the various knots tiring up the centre left and right, and formed a real “bloc bourgeois” ready to carry out a liberalisation of the economy, and free up entrepreneurial energy. (1)

But some clarity is needed about the beast in power. There are already plenty of books about the President, and the electoral campaign that swept him to the Élysée. But what is his ideology, beyond carrying out his neoliberal “mandate”? ‘Macronism’ appears a less promising candidate than Thatcherism or even the rebarbative Blairism. A suggestion by Régis Debray that – the reader will have guessed this – that the Head of State represents Americanisation, with a ‘Protestant’ twist (see below), this does not take us far. It might be better said that his ideology is something picked up and stuck together as the result of an academic, administrative, business and political career.

In Macron, un président philosophe, Courtier who has a solid academic, and media background, and a less firm commitment to a form of left wing liberalism, offers us a series of insights into this broad picture. As he indicates, the former assistant to the philosopher Paul Ricœur, graduate of French elite Political and Administrative colleges, Finance Inspector, Rothschild Banker, and Minister under François Hollande, offers rich intellectual pickings. Blair, the erudite few may recall, had the lecturer Peter Thompson at Oxford, and the lessons of reciprocity from John Macmurray, behind his Christian socialism. Macron has somebody, Ricœur, a thinker with a Protestant backdrop, whom people have often heard of, if not read.

The President, we learn, has many many more figures in his hinterland. French books have a vexing lack of indexes. It would be hard work to list every sage cited in un Président philosophe, they range from Hegel, Marx, Carl Schmitt, Nietzsche, Peter Sloterdijk, Joseph Schumpeter, Michael Young (meritocracy), to Jürgen Habermas. This only follows the reference-laden writings and speeches of the book’s subject.

From Ricoeur to Saint Simon. 

It would be useful to boil this down to the essential. To begin with here is the debt to Paul Ricœur. For Courtier he offered the germs of an “identitié narrative” from the individual to the nation, to history. The use for a President of certain ideas about France, recently indicated in recognition to the importance of the legacy of Catholicism, is obvious. Macron has, in other words, considers cultural legacies, the presence of memory, to hold the country together – a view whose originality or interest is not immediately apparent.

Next Macron can be compared to Saint-Simon, the prophet of a society run by “industrials” and “intellectuals”. In this vein he is said to consider globalisation as a system of fluxes to be organised and regulated (Page 253). Finance, the mark of neo-liberalism, is to be channelled to the long-term greater good.

If Macron is a believer in capitalism he acknowledges it is not a system that works smoothly, if with great effort, like some building a planetary network of Saint-Simonian canals. There are moments of creative destruction (Schumpeter), clearing out the old inefficient enterprises, bureaucratic burdens and the “corporatism” of organised labour. ‘Progressive’ states, and the transnational European project, are needed to both facilitate and harness this process. .

Finally, there is building European Sovereignty, and the problems that globalisation creates. Courtier refers to David Goodhart in outlining the problems France faces. (3). Can Macron bring together the France of the “zones péripheriques”, the old working class far from the elite, and the metropolitan “gagnants de la mondialisation” (winners of globalisation), regarded as Macron’s core backing, if not electorate, together? (Pages 291 -2)

The difficulty of reconciling the “somewhere’ salt-of-the-earth folk and the – scorned – “nowhere” cosmopolitans would appear hard for somebody identified with the (however misleadingly) with the latter “bobos”. The task of bringing integration against the ‘identitarians’ of the far-right and those who assert the absolute right to multicultural difference, by the “modèle republican français” appears equally arduous. The often reverential, if not hagiographical tone of Un président philosophe, does not help resolve the difficulties. The use of Goodhart to bolster his opinions indicates a rightward slant with no countervailing force. 

The philosophical commentator Alain famously declared that when somebody says that they are neither right nor left, he is sure of one thing – that they are not of the left. Macron is always careful to declare that he is of the right and the left. But there is a little indication of the latter. Pierre-André Taguieff has represented him as the herald of “successful globalisation”, a Europe in which France would be a “nation-start up” and the “État-enterprise”. To decipher the business-talk Anglicisms that pepper Macron’s speech is to confirm this view.

Managerialism, Saint-Simon, Schumpeter, both far from any conception of “bottom up” democracy, political or economic, and a homeopathic communitarian philosophy suggested by Courtier’s reading of Goodhart, do not make an attractive picture of France’s President. If this is what “progressivism” has become in Europe, than it is doubtful if it will attract many enthusiasts beyond France, and certainly not from left-wingers (3)

The European Project and the left.

In the article cited above Anderson pins the ultimate root of this strategy on the European Project. In the trickle down from his approach, others seize on every obstacle to the EU – Brexit included – as an advance against neo-liberalism. Today’s French strikes and protests – regardless of their specific causes or aims – are considered part of this movement.

But the real issue for the French left, in the aftermath of their defeat, may be said to have been whether Macron could be opposed by the “left populist” strategy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), to ‘federate the people” against the “elite” or by a new “left bloc” based on alliances between the parties (now stretching from the remains of the PS, Benoît Hamon’s group, the PCF, LFI and its allies, what is left of Les Verts, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA) with the social forces presently fighting the wave of Macron reforms. This, as Stefano Palombarini suggested last June, would require an internationalist strategy towards changing the EU that breaks from the populist drift to ‘sovereigntism’. (4)

It is said that with his steam-roller reforms Macron has now been abandoned by whatever support he had from the ‘reformist’ liberal left. That after a year’s presidency he has veered towards authoritarianism  to “jacobinisme vertical”. Whether this is true or not the left is not united. There is no indication that the largest group in the French National Assembly, LFI, at the moment engaged in a “war of movement” to capture hegemony over the left, intends to explore this possibility. It might still be said, that to wrestle the European issue out of the hands of the Macrons and the existing EU system of governance, while fighting the sovereigntists, remains the key issue for our continent’s left, in all its diversity, strengths and weaknesses.

****

(1) The Centre Can Hold. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. No 105. May/June 2017. See: L’Illusion du Bloc Bourgeois. Bruno Amable. Stefano Palombarini. Raisons d’agir. 2017. Speculation that François Hollande and his immediate circle played a part in Macron’s Presidential ascension has waned with the publication of memories reproaching his one-time protégé for his actions.

(2) The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. David Goodhart. Hurst & Company. 2017.

(3) Page 283. Macron: miracle ou mirage? Pierre-André Taguieff. Editions l’Observatoire. August 2017

(4) Face à Macron, la gauche ou le populisme? Stefano Palombarini

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France, Manifesto Against the “New anti-Semitism”.

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A woman carries a poster reading "I am a jew" as she attends a silent march to honor an 85-year-old woman who escaped the Nazis 76 years ago but was stabbed to death last week in her Paris apartment, apparently targeted because she was Jewish, and to denounce racism, in Paris, France, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

More than 250 French dignitaries and stars have signed a manifesto denouncing a “new anti-Semitism” marked by “Islamist radicalisation” after a string of killings of Jews, published in the Sunday edition of Le Parisien newspaper.

The country’s half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to anti-Semitism.

“We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France,” reads the manifesto co-signed by politicians from the left and right including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and celebrities like actor Gérard Depardieu.

The signatories condemned what they called a “quiet ethnic purging” driven by rising Islamist radicalism particularly in working-class neighbourhoods. They also accused the media of remaining silent on the matter.

“In our recent history, 11 Jews have been assassinated – and some tortured – by radical Islamists because they were Jewish,” the declaration said.

The murders referenced reach as far back as 2006 and include the 2012 deadly shooting of three schoolchildren and a teacher at a Jewish school by Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Three years later, an associate of the two brothers who massacred a group of cartoonists at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

In April 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties was thrown out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting “Allahu Akhbar” (God is greatest).

The latest attack to rock France took place last month when two perpetrators stabbed an 85-year-old Jewish woman 11 times before setting her body on fire, in a crime treated as anti-Semitic.

Her brutal death sent shockwaves through France and prompted 30,000 people to join a march in her memory.

Condemning the “dreadful” killing, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his determination to fighting anti-Semitism.

“French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens,” according to the manifesto.

It added that some 50,000 Jews had been “forced to move because they were no longer in safety in certain cities and because their children could no longer go to school”.

Libération reports on the Manifesto and adds,

Les actes antisémites ont été pointés en repli en 2017 (-7%) pour la troisième année consécutive, selon les données du ministère de l’Intérieur. Mais cette baisse globale masque l’augmentation des faits les plus graves (+26% des violences, incendies, dégradations, tentatives d’homicide…). La communauté juive, qui représente environ 0,7% de la population, est la cible d’un tiers des faits de haine recensés.

According to the Interior Ministry antisemitic incidents were in decline in 2017 (minus 7%) for the third year in a row. But this overall decrease hides a growth in the most serious acts (plus 26% in violence, arson, damage to property, attempted murder). The Jewish community, who represents around o,7% of the population has been the target of a third of all hate crimes recorded.

However caution about statistics in this area is always in order.

Le Monde  published in March this lengthy analysis of how difficult it is to make these judgements.

L’antisémitisme, une réalité difficile à mesurer précisément

While the main thrust of the Manifesto will find an echo, the value of signatories such as former PM Manuel Valls, Gérard Depardieu and Nicolas Sarkozy on an anti-racist Manifesto is doubtful.

Pointing to a problem, that of “la radicalisation islamiste – et l’antisémitisme qu’il véhicule”, and stating that the difficulty in France is exacerbated by the political calculations of French political parties, is not a very constructive way of addressing the fight against Jihadist Islam.

Others will remark that stating that “l’antisémitisme musulman est la plus grande menace qui pèse sur l’islam du XXIème siècle “, when armed Islamists have attacked and murdered rival Muslims, Christians and secularists, and have, above all, tried to wipe Yazidis off the face of the earth, is not to take full measure of the depth of the problem.

Manifeste «contre le nouvel antisémitisme»

Le Parisien.

« L’antisémitisme n’est pas l’affaire des Juifs, c’est l’affaire de tous. Les Français, dont on a mesuré la maturité démocratique après chaque attentat islamiste, vivent un paradoxe tragique. Leur pays est devenu le théâtre d’un antisémitisme meurtrier. Cette terreur se répand, provoquant à la fois la condamnation populaire et un silence médiatique que la récente marche blanche a contribué à rompre.

Lorsqu’un Premier ministre à la tribune de l’Assemblée nationale déclare, sous les applaudissements de tout le pays, que la France sans les Juifs, ce n’est plus la France, il ne s’agit pas d’une belle phrase consolatrice mais d’un avertissement solennel : notre histoire européenne, et singulièrement française, pour des raisons géographiques, religieuses, philosophiques, juridiques, est profondément liée à des cultures diverses parmi lesquelles la pensée juive est déterminante. Dans notre histoire récente, onze Juifs viennent d’être assassinés – et certains torturés – parce que Juifs, par des islamistes radicaux.

Pourtant, la dénonciation de l’islamophobie – qui n’est pas le racisme anti-Arabe à combattre – dissimule les chiffres du ministère de l’Intérieur : les Français juifs ont 25 fois plus de risques d’être agressés que leurs concitoyens musulmans. 10 % des citoyens juifs d’Ile-de-France – c’est-à-dire environ 50 000 personnes – ont récemment été contraints de déménager parce qu’ils n’étaient plus en sécurité dans certaines cités et parce que leurs enfants ne pouvaient plus fréquenter l’école de la République. Il s’agit d’une épuration ethnique à bas bruit au pays d’Émile Zola et de Clemenceau.

Pourquoi ce silence ? Parce que la radicalisation islamiste – et l’antisémitisme qu’il véhicule – est considérée exclusivement par une partie des élites françaises comme l’expression d’une révolte sociale, alors que le même phénomène s’observe dans des sociétés aussi différentes que le Danemark, l’Afghanistan, le Mali ou l’Allemagne… Parce qu’au vieil antisémitisme de l’extrême droite, s’ajoute l’antisémitisme d’une partie de la gauche radicale qui a trouvé dans l’antisionisme l’alibi pour transformer les bourreaux des Juifs en victimes de la société. Parce que la bassesse électorale calcule que le vote musulman est dix fois supérieur au vote juif.

Or à la marche blanche pour Mireille Knoll, il y avait des imams conscients que l’antisémitisme musulman est la plus grande menace qui pèse sur l’islam du XXIème siècle et sur le monde de paix et de liberté dans lequel ils ont choisi de vivre. Ils sont, pour la plupart, sous protection policière, ce qui en dit long sur la terreur que font régner les islamistes sur les musulmans de France.

En conséquence, nous demandons que les versets du Coran appelant au meurtre et au châtiment des juifs, des chrétiens et des incroyants soient frappés d’obsolescence par les autorités théologiques, comme le furent les incohérences de la Bible et l’antisémite catholique aboli par Vatican II, afin qu’aucun croyant ne puisse s’appuyer sur un texte sacré pour commettre un crime.

Nous attendons de l’islam de France qu’il ouvre la voie. Nous demandons que la lutte contre cette faillite démocratique qu’est l’antisémitisme devienne cause nationale avant qu’il ne soit trop tard. Avant que la France ne soit plus la France. »

« Le Nouvel Antisémitisme en France », Ed. Albin Michel, 213 p., 15 euros.

La liste des signatairesCharles Aznavour ; Françoise Hardy ; Pierre Arditi ; Elisabeth Badinter ; Michel Drucker ; Sibyle Veil ; François Pinault ; Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt ; Marceline Loridan-Ivens ; Radu Mihaileanu ; Elisabeth de Fontenay ; Nicolas Sarkozy ; Pascal Bruckner ; Laure Adler ; Bertrand Delanoë ; Manuel Valls ; Michel Jonasz ; Xavier Niel ; Jean-Pierre Raffarin ; Gérard Depardieu ; Renaud ; Pierre Lescure ; Francis Esménard ; Mgr Joseph Doré ; Grand Rabbin Haïm Korsia ; Imam Hassen Chalghoumi ; Carla Bruni ; Boualem Sansal ; Imam Aliou Gassama ; Annette Wieviorka ; Gérard Darmon ; Antoine Compagnon ; Mofti Mohamed ali Kacim ; Bernard Cazeneuve ; Bernard-Henri Lévy ; Philippe Val ; Zabou Breitman ; Waleed al-Husseini ; Yann Moix ; Xavier De Gaulle ; Joann Sfar ; Julia Kristeva ; François Berléand ; Olivier Guez ; Jeannette Bougrab ; Marc-Olivier Fogiel ; Luc Ferry ; Laurent Wauquiez ; Dominique Schnapper ; Daniel Mesguich ; Laurent Bouvet ; Pierre-André Taguieff ; Jacques Vendroux ; Georges Bensoussan ; Christian Estrosi ; Brice Couturier ; Imam Bouna Diakhaby ; Eric Ciotti ; Jean Glavany ; Maurice Lévy ; Jean-Claude Casanova ; Jean-Robert Pitte ; Jean-Luc Hees ; Alain Finkielkraut ; Père Patrick Desbois ; Aurore Bergé ; François Heilbronn ; Eliette Abécassis ; Bernard de la Villardière ; Richard Ducousset ; Juliette Méadel ; Daniel Leconte ; Jean Birenbaum ; Richard Malka ; Aldo Naouri ; Guillaume Dervieux ; Maurice Bartelemy ; Ilana Cicurel ; Yoann Lemaire ; Michel Gad Wolkowicz ; Olivier Rolin ; Dominique Perben ; Christine Jordis ; David Khayat ; Alexandre Devecchio ; Gilles Clavreul ; Jean-Paul Scarpitta ; Monette Vacquin ; Christine Orban ; Habib Meyer ; Chantal Delsol ; Vadim Sher ; Françoise Bernard ; Frédéric Encel ; Christiane Rancé ; Noémie Halioua ; Jean-Pierre Winter ; Jean-Paul Brighelli ; Marc-Alain Ouaknin ; Stephane Barsacq ; Pascal Fioretto ; Olivier Orban ; Stéphane Simon ; Laurent Munnich ; Ivan Rioufol ; Fabrice d’Almeida ; Dany Jucaud ; Olivia Grégoire ; Elise Fagjeles ; Brigitte-Fanny Cohen ; Yaël Mellul ; Lise Bouvet ; Frédéric Dumoulin ; Muriel Beyer ; André Bercoff ; Aliza Jabes ; Jean-Claude Zylberstein ; Natacha Vitrat ; Paul Aidana ; Imam Karim ; Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine ; Lydia Guirous ; Rivon Krygier ; Muriel Attal ; Serge Hefez ; Céline Pina ; Alain Kleinmann ; Marie Ibn Arabi-Blondel ; Michael Prazan ; Jean-François Rabain ; Ruth Aboulkheir ; Daniel Brun ; Paul Aidane ; Marielle David ; Catherine Kintzler ; Michèle Anahory ; Lionel Naccache ; François Ardeven ; Thibault Moreau ; Marianne Rabain-Lebovici ; Nadège Puljak ; Régine Waintrater ; Michèle Anahory ; Aude Weill-Raynal ; André Aboulkheir ; Elsa Chaudun ; Patrick Bantman ; Ruben Rabinovicth ; Claire Brière-Blanchet ; Ghislaine Guerry ; Jean-Jacques Moscovitz ; André Zagury ; François Ardeven ; Estelle Kulich ; Annette Becker ; Lilianne Lamantowicz ; Ruth Aboulkheir ; Christine Loterman ; Adrien Barrot ; Talila Guteville ; Florence Ben Sadoun ; Michèle Anahory ; Paul Zawadzki ; Serge Perrot ; Patrick Guyomard ; Marc Nacht ; André Aboulkheir ; Laurence Bantman ; Josiane Sberro ; Anne-Sophie Nogaret ; Lucile Gellman ; Alain Bentolila ; Janine Atlounian ; Claude Birman ; Danielle Cohen-Levinas ; Laurence Picard ; Sabrina Volcot-Freeman ; Gérard Bensussan ; Françoise-Anne Menager ; Yann Padova ; Evelyne Chauvet ; Yves Mamou ; Naem Bestandji ; Marc Knobel ; Nidra Poller ; Brigitte-Fanny Cohen ; Joelle Blumberg ; Catherine Rozenberg ; André Aboulkheir ; Caroline Bray-Goyon ; Michel Tauber ; André Zagury ; Laura Bruhl ; Eliane Dagane ; Paul Zawadzki ; Michel Bouleau ; Marc Zerbib ; Catherine Chalier ; Jasmine Getz ; Marie-Laure Dimon ; Marion Blumen ; Simone Wiener ; François Cahen ; Richard Metz ; Daniel Draï ; Jacqueline Costa-Lascoux ; Stéphane Lévy ; Arthur Joffe ; Antoine Molleron ; Liliane Kandel ; Stéphane Dugowson ; David Duquesne ; Marc Cohen ; Michèle Lévy-Soussan ; Frédéric Haziza ; Martine Dugowson ; Jonathan Cohen ; Damien Le Guay ; Patrick Loterman ; Mohamed Guerroumi ; Wladi Mamane ; William de Carvalho ; Brigitte Paszt ; Séverine Camus ; Solange Repleski ; André Perrin ; Sylvie Mehaudel ; Jean-Pierre Obin ; Yael Mellul ; Sophie Nizard ; Richard Prasquier ; Patricia Sitruk ; Renée Fregosi ; Jean-Jacques Rassial ; Karina Obadia ; Jean-Louis Repelski ; Edith Ochs ; Jacob Rogozinski ; Roger Fajnzylberg ; Marie-Helène Routisseau ; Philippe Ruszniewski ; André Senik ; Jean-François Solal ; Paule Steiner ; Jean-Benjamin Stora ; Anne Szulmajster ; Maud Tabachnik ; Daniel Tchenio ; Julien Trokiner ; Fatiha Boyer ; Cosimo Trono ; Henri Vacquin ; Caroline Valentin ; Alain Zaksas ; Slim Moussa ; Jacques Wrobel ; Roland Gori ; Nader Alami ; Céline Zins ; Richard Dell’Agnola ; Patrick Beaudouin ; Barbara Lefebvre ; Jacques Tarnéro ; Georges-Elia Sarfat ; Lise Boëll ; Jacques Wrobel ; Bernard Golse ; Céline Boulay-Esperonnier ; Anne Brandy ; Imam Karim ; Sammy Ghozlan.

Here.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 22, 2018 at 12:58 pm

From French Trotskyism to Social Democracy. “68, et Après. Les héritages égarés. Benjamin Stora” Review.

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Image result for 68, et Après. Les héritages égarés. Benjamin Stora. Stock. 2018.

68, et Après. Les héritages égarés. Benjamin Stora. Stock. 2018.

The present wave of strikes and student protests in France have drawn comparisons with the stoppages and protests against the 1995 ‘Plan Juppé”. This reform of state health and retirement insurance, including the railway workers’ pensions, struck at the heart of the French welfare state. There is a strong resemblance between this social movement and the opposition of public sector workers and undergraduates to President Macron’s efforts to ‘modernise’ the French rail system and Universities, (Le Monde 28.3.18).

Others, notably in the English-speaking left, have evoked the spirit of ’68. Some on the French ultra-left, who might be considered to inherit a fragment of the soul of that year’s revolts, state in Lundimatin, that they “do not give a toss” (on s’en fout) about the anniversary of the May events. (Nicolas Truong. Le Monde 15.3.18) Rather than commemorate, or organising Occupy or Nuit Debout style alternatives, they will be busy tearing into Macron, speaking truth for the Coming Insurrection. (1)

That section of the far-left is, of course embroiled in the continuation of the Tarnac trial. Others from a close milieu are involved in resisting the clearing of the last self-organised squats at Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

Benjamin Stora’s 68, et Après is written from a standpoint both familiar internationally, the fall out from the crushing defeat of the French left in last year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, and one far less well-known, the history of a section of Gallic Trotskyism, the ‘Lambertists’.

It is also an autobiography, from his origins in as a North African Jews, his education, his many years of activism, and university career. Stora  has produced important studies of French Algeria, the war of liberation, and post-independence Algerian history, including the exile of its Jewish population. There is a finely handled account of the tragic death of his daughter in 1992. Stora’s commitment to study the Maghreb did not wholly override political commitment. Opposition to the Jihadists – and be it said, the Military – during the 1990s civil war in Algeria – led to Islamist intimidation. After a small coffin inscribed with words from the Qur’an, and a death threat addressed to Unbelievers, Jews and Communists arrived at his home the historian was forced to leave France and spend time in Vietnam, the occasion for further fruitful reflection on post-colonial societies.

Generation 68

Stora argues that the notion of a 68 ‘generation’ (popularised in Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman’s landmark 1987 book of the same name) is misleading. He notes the two volumes lack of attention to his own tradition. A full-time activist in the 1970s the former Lambertist suggests, notably, that his own tendency, whose internal regime and (to put in terms this reviewer, whose background is amongst its left-wing rivals) stifling narrow-minded morality (up to hostility towards feminism and gays), was also part of the post-68 radical movement. This is indeed the case, although not many beyond their circles had a taste for denunciations of “petty bourgeois deviations” and ritual revolutionary socialism. (Page 31) Those familiar with the history will suspect the reason for their absence (one Index reference to Lambert) in Génération. That is, the Lambertists’ call during one of the most celebrated moments of 68, for students to disperse from the Boulevard Saint-Michel rendered, “Non aux barricades” and to go to the workers at Renault, Michel (Night of 10-11th of May). (2)

The history of this highly disciplined current, around the figure of Pierre Lambert (real name Boussel) in 68 known as the Organisation communiste internationaliste (OCI) is long and, to say the least controversial. But their imprint is not confined to the fringes. Lambertists have played an important part in the recently governing Parti Socialiste (PS). Amongst one-time members are the former Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, and the ex-Socialist  leader of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Stora, like PS General Secretary until last year, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was part of a several hundred strong Lambertist faction which joined the PS in 1986. Cambadélis, in his most recent book, Chronique d’une débâcle (2017) makes passing reference to a Trotskyist past (his ability to spot sectarian manoeuvres is undiminished). L’après 68 gives an extensive account of the organisation, from weekly cell meetings, whose minutes were rigorously kept and transmitted to the party HQ, to their exploits in the student unions and ‘mutuals’, friendly societies which play an important part in assuring student health and other forms of insurance.

Stora’s La Dernière Génération d’Octobre (2003) covers, he remarks, the post-68 culture and politics of his time in the OCI. The present volume gives probably more attention to the way in which his faction from this generation moved from full-time Lambertist activism, often paid for by one of the fractured French student unions, the UNEF-ID, in some cases by Teachers’ unions) into the late 1980s Parti Socialiste. Going from a clandestine fraction, led principally by Cambadélis, suspicious of surveillance by a group whose way of dealing with dissidence was not too far off the British WRP’s, they broke with Leninism. This was not just in opposition to the vertical internal regime, and the reliance on the “transitional programme” but, as they saw it, to establish a left-wing force within the democratic socialist spectrum represented in the post Epinay PS.  

A deal reached with Boussel, to avoid the violence and rancour traditionally associated with splits, was soon behind them. Despite the author’s best efforts it fails to disperse the suspicion, which those of us who are, let’s just say, not greatly fond of their tradition, had that some kind of arrangement also took place between Lambert and the PS itself over their entry into the party. (3) 

Inside the Parti Socialiste.

An organised PS current, Convergences socialistes, with all the self-importance that afflicts parts of the French left and academics, they numbered around 400 members. Of these a few moved into open professional politics. As a coherent body it is hard to find much trace of them in the shifting alliances within the PS, although one may find some remaining allies of Cambadélis as he clambered  up the party hierarchy. 

Just how adept former Lambertists could be in the PS game is registered by Stora’s portrait of an individual who had joined the PS some years before, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The present chief of La France insoumise, with a seat in the senate’s august halls, shared a wish create a new vanguard with his own tendency, the ‘Gauche socialiste’. He was equally  marked by burgeoning admiration for François Mitterrand. This did not go down well. Stora recalled the President’s role in the repression of Algerian insurgents…(Page 49 – 50). In a critique of Mélenchon’s present politics, Stora draws comparisons with the old Communist Party’s wish to impose its hegemony on the left, and keep its activists preoccupied by frenetic activism (Pages 150 – 153).

The root cause of the present  débâcle is  Parliamentary left lost touch with the people, part of an autonomous political sphere. The history of how a section of the radical left made the transfer from revolutionary full-timers to PS MPs and functionaries (and a galaxy of dependent positions) is not unique. It could be paralleled on a smaller scale by the career of the UK Socialist Action in Ken Livingstone’s London Mayor administration. The insulated, amply rewarded, lives of politicians, is, it is often said, one of the causes of the break down of the traditional French parties of right and left. Stora does not neglect his own current’s involvement in the student mutual, MNEF, corruption scandals, (Page 129). Whatever remains of the difference between ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘reformists’ fades into the distance faced with a managerial-bureaucratisation enveloping the current. The same processes, born of their reliance on union positions and opaque funding are not without effects on the remaining loyal Lamberists in the le Parti ouvrier indépendant (POI) , and their split,  the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID).

After 68?

Après 68 is above all is a rousing condemnation of the “neo-nationalism” grounded on French “identity” and fear of “decline”. This, from the 2005 European Constitution Referendum (which divided the French left including, Stora notes, some on his section of the radical left)  dominates French politics, left and right, up to its presence in the ‘synthesis’ offered by President Macron. French political space, he observes, no longer dominated by the Parti Socialiste, is open. From 1968, writes both the historian and left winger he keeps two passions, for History (the source of his productive career) and the internationalist defence of those without rights, the desire for a common human civilisation. Staying hopeful that hopes for a new world have not been extinguished, L’après 68 is full of important messages from an old one.

*****

(1) See: A nos Amis. 2014. Le Comité Invisible 2014. Page 64. “Voilà ce qu’il faut opposer à la « souveraineté » des assemblées générales, aux bavardages des Parlements : la redécouverte de la charge affective liée à la parole, à la parole vraie. Le contraire de la démocratie, ce n’est pas la dictature, c’est la vérité. C’est justement parce qu’elles sont des moments de vérité, où le pouvoir est nu, que les insurrections ne sont jamais démocratiques.”

(2) Pages 467– 469. Les Trotskyistes, Christophe Nick. Fayard. 2002.

(3)See for example, the series in le Monde by Nathaniel Herzberg in 1999 on the subject commented on here:  De la « génération » comme argument de vente… A propos d’une série d’articles sur la « génération MNEF ».

Marche Blanche for Mireille Knoll, Victim of Anti-Semitic Hatred.

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French police treat murder of woman, 85, as anti-Semitic attack

France 24.

French prosecutors are treating the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman whose partly charred body was found in her Paris home as an anti-Semitic attack, judicial sources said Monday.

Mireille Knoll, who narrowly escaped deportation to the Nazi death camps during World War II, was found dead on Friday in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone.

An autopsy showed she had been stabbed several times before the apartment was set on fire.

Two men have been placed under formal investigation for murder “motivated by the real or supposed adherence to a religion” as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, judicial sources said Tuesday.

“We are really in shock. I don’t understand how someone could kill a woman who has no money and who lives in a social housing complex,” Knoll’s son told AFP.

Speaking during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was “plausible” that Knoll was killed because of her religion and her death showed the need for a “fundamental and permanent” fight against anti-Semitism.

The chief rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the killing. Jewish leaders have called for a march in Knoll’s memory on Wednesday.

Meurtre de Mireille Knoll: une survivante du Vel d’Hiv’ qui “aimait vivre”  L’Express.

Meurtre de Mireille Knoll : l’effroi général.  Libération.

This evening there will be a ‘marche blanche” (a silent  commemoration) in memory of Mirelle Knoll.

The organisers have stated that they do not wish representatives of the Front National, led by Marine Le Pen,  and La France insoumise, run by Jean-Luc Mélenchon  to participate.

France 24.

“Ni Marine le Pen, ni Mélenchon.” Le Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (Crif), qui a appelé à une marche blanche à Mireille Knoll, octogénaire juive dont le meurtre a provoqué une vive émotion en France, y a interdit la présence des membres du Front national et de La France insoumise”

Both are, for us, the vehicles of hatred in our country, the hatred of the far-right on one side, and the hatred of Israel, which is, in reality, hatred of Jews, on the other stated Francis Kalifat, President of the principal Jewish Association in France, the CRIF, and the organisers of the march.

“Tous les deux sont pour nous des vecteurs de haine dans notre pays, la haine de l’extrême droite d’un côté, et la haine d’Israël, et qui est aussi la haine des juifs en réalité, de l’autre”, a annoncé mardi soir Francis Kalifat, président du Crif et organisateur de la manifestation qui doit débuter mercredi 28 mars à 18h30.”

This decision was criticised by Knoll’s son who accused the CRIF of acting politically.

He welcomed everybody to the commemoration.

Daniel Knoll, le fils de Mireille Knoll, s’est placé en contradiction avec ce message : “Le Crif fait de la politique, et moi j’ouvre mon cœur à tous ceux qui ont une mère, c’est-à-dire tout le monde.”

Both Le Pen and Melenchon have said they will participate.

Le Pen et Mélenchon participeront à la marche blanche pour Mireille Knoll, malgré le refus du Crif. (Today, from BFMTV.)

Mélenchon’s rally was in the news this week when it was discovered that a Parliamentary candidate for La France insoumise for last year’s elections,  Stéphane Poussier, had celebrated the death of  the hero gendarme Arnaud Belrame. After a swift legal judgement he  was given a year’s suspended prison sentence.  (Il s’est réjoui de la mort du gendarme Beltrame: l’ex-candidat France insoumise écope d’1 an de prison avec sursis)

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Day of Strike Action in French Public Services Against Background of Unity Call for the Left.

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Image result for CGT jour pour la fonction publique 22 mars

Today is March the 22nd, the same day in March when, fifty years ago,  the revolt of May 68 began.

“when a a French student movement at the  University of Nanterre founded on 22 March 1968, started a prolonged occupation of the university’s administration building.”

After occupying the building, the school dean called the police, and a public scuffle ensued that garnered the movement media and intellectual attention.”

Today is March the 22nd when a day of strikes, from the Public Service to Trains, is taking place.

L’Humanité leads with the story,

Mobilisations. Les agents se battent pour sauver notre service public

A day of action in public services, joined by train drivers, is supported by all the unions,  CGT, FO, FSU, CFTC, CFE-CGC, Solidaires  and FA-FP. On the rail network a united front of the SNCF (CGT, UNSA, SUD-Rail, CFDT), backed by FO are moblising against the “reform” of the train service, which directly touches the conditions of workers, notably the locomotive drivers.

The Guardian reports,

Thousands of train drivers, teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers and other public sector staff have gone on strike across France and begun street protests against Emmanuel Macron’s latest reform drive.

France’s centrist president, who has been in power for nearly a year, has so far escaped large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an overhaul of labour laws in the autumn despite limited street marches.

But Thursday’s strike marks a new joint phase in trade union action – it is the first protest against Macron that has brought together civil servants and railway staff.

Rolling news from LibérationFonctionnaires, cheminots…, tous ensemble

This happens against the background of successful appeal for left unity behind the strike action and protests, issued by Olivier Besancenot of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA).

Déclaration unitaire : Défendons tous les services publics ! Solidarité avec les cheminots et les cheminotes !

Une réunion unitaire s’est tenue dans les locaux du NPA la semaine dernière. Elle a aboutit à un appel unitaire large, d’une grande partie des organisations politique du mouvement ouvrier, en soutien aux mobilisations à la SNCF et dans les services publics. Une conférence de presse se tiendra également jeudi.

Le Monde dedicated a long report on this welcome initiative.

A gauche, l’unité (presque) retrouvée.

12 parties and groups have backed the call, from Alternative Libertaire (AL) ; EELV ; Ensemble ; Gauche Démocratique et sociale (GDS) ;  Géneration.s, (led by former Socialist Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon) ; Groupe Parlementaire FI ; NPA ; Nouvelle Donne ; PCF ;  PCOF ; Parti de Gauche (PG)  to République et socialisme.

The Parti Socialiste, and its newly elected leader, Olivier Faure, were, in view of the record of their recent government, not asked to join.

It goes without saying that the leader of La France insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who considers his rally is the only force that counts on the left, is keeping his distance.

Strikes in France: A guide to navigating transport, childcare and more.

France 24.

Spring is officially here, and with it comes the start of strike season in France. With workers across the country set to walk out on Thursday, here is a brief rundown of which services will be affected and tips on how to survive the madness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, France is the country with the second-highest number of days not worked due to industrial action in Europe, bested only by Cyprus, according to the European Trade Union Institute.

Yet despite the regularity of strikes in France, navigating disrupted services can be stressful for even the most experienced of locals. To make life easier, here’s a guide to Thursday’s strikes, as well as a few tips on how to survive.

Who’s striking?

 A total of seven trade unions have called on public sector employees across the country to strike on Thursday, including school and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers and Paris metro (RATP) workers.

Not Forgetting Stalin. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margarete Buber-Neumann.

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Not Forgetting Stalin.

“There were twenty-eight men and Betty and I in our group. Betty and I, an old professor and a prisoner with a wounded leg, were taken on in a lorry. The men had to walk. We got out on the Russian side of the Brest Litovsk bridge and waited for them to come up, looking across the bridge into occupied Poland. The men and arrived and then a group of GPU men crossed the bridge. We saw them retiring after a while, and the group was larger. There were SS officers with them. The SS commandant and the GP chief saluted each other. The Russian was a good head taller than the German.

The GPU officials still stood there in a group watching us go. Behind them was Soviet Russia. Bitterly I recalled the Communist litany: Fatherland of the Toilers, Bulwark of Socialism, Haven of the Persecuted.”

Margarete Buber-Neumann. 1949

Buber-Neumann was one of around 350 Soviet prisoners handed over to the German authorities between November 1939 and May 1941. This, on Russian initiative, selected, often arbitrarily, Germans held in Gulag and sent them over to the Nazis. Some, on arrival, were interrogated and, if cooperative, were set free. She was not. From time in the Soviet Karaganda forced labour complex, Buber-Neumann was put in

Translated into English in 1949 Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler remains a unique account of Stalinism from a victim of the Gulag, and of Ravensbrück.

The wife of a former leading figure in the German Communist Party, the KPD, Heinz Neumann, the author had sought refuge in Moscow from Hitler’s rule. This was never a safe haven. The focus of internal party attacks, as a “troublemaker” and target for their failure to resist the Nazi advance, he was marked. The Great Terror began. In 1937 the NKVD murdered Heinz for “fractional activity”, after a ritual confession. His death came amongst hundreds of other German, and other exiled, Communists.  The spouse’s arrest came in 1937. She was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary agitation and organisation against the Soviet State.”

In Karaganda they “slept on the bare ground with our head top the walls all in a line, and about five or is yards in front of us a soldier sat on a stool with his rifle over his knees to see that no one made an attempt to escape” (Page 91) In the Gulag she came across the orphans “produced by the forced collectivisation and the famine.” (Page 116). There was back-breaking work, in freezing conditions during the winter, for a daily pound and a half of bread.

Initially the transferred prisoner found the German camp, though grim, was run “with typical Prussian thoroughness” and a higher level of provisions. Nevertheless conditions were harsh. She became a “slave of the Assembly line” in the Industrial Complex, beset with suspicion by Communist prisoners who considered her a ‘Trotskyite’ and “more or less the scum of the earth”. Buber-Neumann was deeply affected when the health of her friend, Jesenka Milena (the recipient of Kafka’s Briefe an Milena) and she  died of kidney failure.

As the war reached its end Buber-Neumann met Auschwitz prisoners who told her of the mass exterminations. It was not long before the Ravensbrück authorities began to murder the old and unfit in two crematoria. She survived and wandered a devastated Germany. Her memoir ends in a moment of joy as the prisoner of two dictators was reunited with her mother and sister in Thierstein.

Kravchenko Trial.

Buber-Neumann was a key defence witness in the 1949 Victor Andreevich Kravchenk  libel case. The author of I Chose Freedom had described the Soviet Union in these terms, “The magnitude of the horror has never been grasped by the outside world. Perhaps it is too vast ever to be grasped. Russia was a battlefield strewn with corpses, blotched with gigantic enclosures where millions of wretched ‘war prisoners’ toiled, suffered and died.”  (2) This, and his other works, were attacked by the French Communist Lettres françaises. They criticised it as “fake news”. of”being a traitor, a draft dodger and an mebezzler. His ex-wife appeared as well, accusing him of being physically abusive and sexually impotent.  They described Kravchenko as vain, a drunkard, and a “traitor” to the USSR. “He had fabricated the book’s material with the help of US disinformation services, and was himself a creation of the American secret services.

Whatever Kravehenco’s promotion by the US and right-wing long-standing anti-Communists  his key facts, Buber-Neumann’s evidence underlined, were correct. A recent history of the period notes that her testimony played a significant role in establishing Kravcehneko’s credibility. Les Temps Modernes registered that after her book “one cannot dispute the existence of concentration camps in Russia.” (3)

The independent minded left-winger David Rousset began a parallel prosecution for libel. The same Lettres françaises had claimed that in his writings had “invented” the Russian Gulag, “forging the texts of the Soviet laws, and spreading misinformation.”

The growing evidence – Rousset was able to cite the Russian penal codes own punishments – told. The Communist journal lost both the cases and was condemned for defamation. The result was a public controversy that swept the left. It undermined the influence of the Parti Communiste français (PCF), above all amongst the reading public.

The Gulag and the Left.

The debate about the existence of Soviet camps was far reaching. Were these just crimes of Stalin? It raised again the Soviet-German Pact, the backdrop of the decision to send Margerte Buber-Neumann from one universe of camps to another. What means could be justified (as already discussed and decided largely in Communism’s favour by Merleau-Ponty in Humanisme et Terreur. 1947) in terms of the eventual “goal” of equality and freedom? Was the Gulag, far from disappearing with victory in the Second World War, an essential pillar of a system?

The French left – in common with other lefts – has since that time been shaped by the fall-out from different stands on these issues.

After an initial discussion about whether the Soviet system, which left at least some people alive, was better than the Shoah, a debate, which has yet to conclude, on the nature of the USSR began. The place of forced labour and mass murder at the heart of Stalin’s USSR – was perhaps the most decisive. Claude Lefort, who considered that Moscow’s ‘totalitarian” regime rested on forced labour and repression of dissidence, fell out with others in the leading intellectual left journal of the time, Les Temps Modernes. He, and Cornelius Castoriadis, in Socialisme ou Barbarie, argued that the French Communists, did not just defend the Soviet Union against all comers, but would try to inflict these practices at home. They were a junior part of the same bureaucratic exploiting class.

Other did not and do not consider tyranny and murder to have been the motor of the USSR, but as part of a historically contingent wrong course. Some, even Sartre for a time, thought that the world Communist movement was the only hope for the future whatever regimes and parties may have been at the present. Many of the independent French left while wary of the Communists, pointed to their strength amongst organised labour. They refused to reject their policies en bloc. Orthodox Trotskyists continued to consider that the fundamentals of the USSR, state ownership, were, for all the bureaucratic pile up, privileges and repression, sound.  One can find the same positions across the world’s left.

Coming to terms with the Fall of Official Communism remains a central difficulty for the left. Today, in Britain, all that remains of an already small Communist Party of Great Britain (with some influence in the trade unions and intellectual life) is a minuscule Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and ultra-Stalinist fragments. But there is a more diffuse legacy from those who supported Soviet Union, that continues within the labour movement. Some on the left have not come to terms with the basic facts about Stalinist crimes. Key figures around the Labour leader promote a Boy’s Own view of Stalin, as, if nothing else, a dashing and successful War Leader. Margarete Buber-Neumann reminds us that Stalin’s darkest side was there at that very moment.

****

(1) Page 143. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margerte Buber-Neumann.1949 Pimlico. 2008.

(2) Page  303. I Chose Freedom. Victor A. Kravchenko. The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official. Transaction Publications. 2002.

(3) Pages 351 – 360. La Révolution rêvée. Michel Surya. 2004.

Conspis, from Galloway to Annie Machon make hay out of poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

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Hat-Tip to Heg.

First it was 9/11 Truther and Princess Di ‘Assassination’ pundit, ex-Spook Annie Mahon.

As flagged up by ‘arry’s Place:  The BBC and Annie Machon

 

Then it’s Gawd ‘elp us Galloway.

 

‘es gone and tweetwed another doyen of the Conspi Crew.

You can catch up with the old puffer here: apparently the ‘Marx’ memorial library is open to conspis and allies of the far right Arron Banks.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm