Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘French Left’ Category

Revolution against Reform. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Review.

with 3 comments

Image result for Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange

Revolution against Reform. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Armand Colin. 2017.

“17th of January 1911. Dinner with Guesde. The way we will make the Revolution. Dictatorship for 4 days. During these four days we will post an appeal to the peasants and the workers across France: a reduced working day and double pay. During these four days a movement will spread throughout France such that nothing will be able to abolish the new regime. During these four days the papers will be suppressed.

Marcel Cachin. (1)

Jules Guesde (1845 – 1922) was one of the founders of a current that became the first French Marxist Party, the Parti ouvrier, PO, (1879). If people on the left outside of France have heard of the leader of a body, which marked the entry of socialism into the country’s local government and Parliament and represented an ‘orthodox’ strain of thought in the Second International, they probably know three things about him.

The first is that Guesde was the ‘Marxist’ referred to when Marx said, “I am not a Marxist”.

The second is that he was accused of sectarianism to the point that he was nicknamed, a ‘Torquemada in Lorgnettes” (‘Torquemada à lorgnon’)

The third, and the most important, is that there was famous debate in 1900 between Guesde and the French socialist leader, Jean Jaurès, known as the “two Methods”. The public expression of a deep dispute, held in Lille 1900, before an audience of 8,000, centred on the entry of independent socialist Alexandre Millerand into the 1899 government of “ Défense républicaine” led by Waldeck-Rousseau.Jaurès defended Millerand’s act, in the name of the need to stand by republican liberty in the face of the reactionary groundswell around the Dreyfus Affair. Guesde denounced it as a betrayal of the class based socialism.

Jean-Numa Ducange’s biography of Guesde is a, successful, attempt to understand the socialist leader “in his time”. The author, a specialist in the history of French and German speaking lefts, goes deeply into the context of Guesde’s political career. Amongst its many virtues is its account of the much wider range of issues at stake in the clash between Jaurès and Guesde. Ducange covers the socialist leader’s life, from pro-Commune republican, member of the “collectivist” current that differentiated socialists from both legalist and radical republicans, intransigent Marxist, to his participation as Minister without portfolio in the 1914 government of Défense National in 1914, against “Prussian imperialism”, and opposition to the adherence of the Socialist Party (SFIO) to the Third International in 1920.

From the Commune to the Parti Ouvrier.

Jules Bazile, who took his mother’s name to become Guesde, entered politics as a supporter of the Paris Commune, authentic patriots fighting the Republican traitors whose repression of the insurgents carried out the work of the Prussian invaders. His support led to exile, contact with anarchism. A return to France, under police surveillance, was marked by the evolution of the most radical republicans towards the workers’ movement and the creation in 1877 of the journal L’Égalité – taking the most socialist of the words of the Revolutionary device. This left voice was important enough for the state to react. Shortly before the Parti Ouvrier’s creation, in 1878, his “subversive” writings earned him a stay in the prison of Saint-Péalgie.

Ducange covers his development from that date. Guesde was a journalist and an activist. But it was as a skilled and inspiring orator that Guesde made his mark – an outstanding trait which the British socialist, Belfort Bax would note, decades later. (3) L’anti-Jaurès? not only captures the socialist leader’s ability to hold different audiences spellbound, but that Guesde never produced anything paralleling the works of the German socialist movement, the SPD, his model of organisation. Instead he wrote popularising propaganda pamphlets, a Marxism of a simplicity that often annoyed Marxists of the rank of Frederick Engels (Page 52).

Guesde was a factionalist, convinced of “one” truth against other socialists, frequently accused of sectarianism, and opposed to a variety of other left-wing currents, from the ‘possibilists’ of Paul Brousse and Benoît Malon, the left-wing Allemanists, of Jean Allemane, to the independent socialists, best known through the figure of Jean Jaurès. That did not prevent the Guesdist Parti ouvrier français (POF as the PO became in 1893) from developing roots in the North of France, and his own election as a deputy for Roubaix-Wattrelos in 1893.

Which brings us to the debate with Jaurès over the role of elections, Parliament, and the Millerand controversy. Ducange begins with the events of 1889 when the socialist deputy accepted a post in a government of National Defence, led by Waldeck Rousseau, which also contained the notorious murderer of the Communards, General Gaston de Galliffet. Jaurès was in favour, as a move to protect the Republic against the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic right defended this decision.

The background, the Dreyfus Affair, was omnipresent. Guesde had eventually supported the Dreyfus cause, although only against “militarism”. His own organisation, Ducange observes, had published in its regional press articles of an anti-Semitic tone (“relents antisémites”) while not being systematically filled with hatred of the Jews. This was within a context in which the national party denounced this hatred. (Page 97) He adds that the notorious Jew baiter Édouard Drumond believed that Guesde was sympathetic to his cause, but that no agreement between them ever occurred. Other historians, notably Zeev Sternhell, have gone further and state that some sections of the POF were “overtly anti-Semitic” (3)

The Second International was opposed to Millerand’s decision although left  vague “certain conditions” (which later became even more open) in which being part of such coalitions might be possible. As it grew the controversy became connected to the wider dispute about “revisionism”, begun in Germany with the publication in Germany by Eduard Bernstein of attacks on the Marxist “breakdown” theory (the inevitable ruin of capitalism), dialectics, and the axiom that class struggle is the motor of socialist politics

In these terms, the support Jaurès (at the time temporarily outside Parliament) gave to working with a bourgeois-republican government was a harbinger of a strategy based on piecemeal reform. Whether Jaurès, or any French socialist, ever thought in terms of how capitalism might “adapt” rather than collapse is far from clear, since they largely avoided economics. But it might be argued that reformists, very possibly Jaurès but certainly Brousse, saw socialism in very diluted way. That is, less in terms of a new mode of production, forged out of forces growing within it – the proletariat – over its ruins, but as a kind of gradual increase in the strength of the workers’ movement reflected in government legislation. Rosa Luxemburg talked of his “confusion.” For her it was not a partial conquest of the bourgeois state by the socialists, but the conquest of the socialists by the bourgeois state. To extend her point one could see “legal-reformism at work amongst the defenders of Millerand. (4)

Ducange recounts the way in which this dispute became part of the general ‘revisionism’ debate. But the 1900 Lille stage was not inhabited by actors in the same drama. A great deal of opposition (reflected in the cries from the audience) to Millerand came from those who loathed Gallifet – for good reason as the memories of one the leaders of the non-Marxist radical left, Jean Allemane, who suffered greatly after the Commune, and was exiled to New Caledonia testify (Mémoires d’un communard: des barricades au bagne.1906).

For  Jaurès defending Millerand was a matter of being against Nationalism and Reaction (“contre le nationalisme, contre la réaction”).  Guesde defended the orthodox view, represented in the German SPD, that elections and Parliamentary work were part of a general preparation for socialism, which rested on class struggle. Support for republican democracy, not The Republic, was the means, not an end in itself. Another feature is that Guesde did not only pour scorn on collaboration with the bourgeoisie and the Republic. In defence of intransigent class independence he drew on an analogy with the revolutionary bourgeoisie on the eve of the French revolution. Should the grand bourgeoisie have defended the ancien régime, hoping to reform it but by bit, he asked? No. The socialists, class against class, should take the Bourgeois Bastille as their bourgeois forerunners took the feudal Bastille. (Les deux methods conférence / par Jean Jaurès et Jules Guesde, à l’Hippodrome lillois. 1900)

Guesde, like his British counterparts in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was sceptical about trade unionism, a largely defensive form of struggle.  Neither did his class struggle correspond to the creation of a kind of popular ‘will’ against capitalism, that Rosa Luxemburg detected in mass strikes. The time had to be ‘right’ for revolution, which was not imminent. The reference to a united bourgeoisie, which overthrew the French feudal system in 1789, as a model for socialist tactics, would find only a limited audience today.

 The SFIO.

Guesde himself came to compromise, at least in accepting unity with the new socialist party in 1905, inside a party, Parti socialiste, section française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO), This brought him together with Jaurès and the majority of other socialists, but in a ‘citizens’ party’ with no organic links with the trade unions.

How is that Guesde could be so hostile to reformism, and the republic, and yet turn into an ardent defender of France in 1914? One of the strengths of L’anti-Jaurès is that it helps explain this. Some germs of this could be seen in such turns as his backing for French colonialism in the 1900s – a project for a ‘socialist’ colony in Morocco. The socialist leader’s earlier criticism of interventions overseas began to seem on a par with the arguments of late 19th century British radicals against imperial wars, on the grounds of cost and damage to French domestic interests.

But there are deeper reasons to think that the reaction of 1914 was far from foreign to his deeper beliefs. Guesde’s early refusal (1884) to prefer the French Republic to other forms of bourgeois rule was not rooted in a rejection of the Nation. (Page 50) Guesde, announcing in 1893, that to be socialist “’c’est également être patriote” was, during his backing for the Commune, against the Prussians. During the conflict he became as hostile to peace moves – though defended the rights of those who opposed the war – as he had earlier been to reformist socialism. French socialism, like socialisms elsewhere, then as now, has never completely separated itself from the problem of nationalism.

Jules Guesde is an achievement. It is written with easy clarity. Apart from the life itself it offers final illuminating chapters on the way its subject has been considered since his death in 1922. After a period in which Guesdism was a dominant set of ideas in the (non-Communist) SFIO, up to  Léon Blum‘s leadership,  he has been  largely revilled. The biography  opens up afresh a period of socialist history which, with the debates on fundamental issues, has assumed, with the collapse of the French left, great importance today.

If one comes away with a general picture of Guesde that falls well short of admiration there is this: his last “proposition de loi”, in 1919, as a deputy in Parliament, was to launch a law to establish full civil, political and economic equality between men and women. (Page 166) French women had to wait until April 1945 to get the right to vote…

*********

  1. Carnets, Marcel Cachin. Cites at Page 141. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Armand Colin. 2017. Whether or not Cahin, who as a leading figure in the 1920s French Communist Party (whose creation Guesde opposed had a special reason to remember this simplistic claim by Guesde this has strong echoes of earlier republican revolutionary belief in the rapid triumph of their cause. Compare: “l’armée, la magistrature, le christianisme, l’organisation politique, simples hais. L’ignorance, bastion formidable. Un jour pour la haie; pour le bastion, vingt ans. “The army, the legal system, Christianity, political structures, just hedges. Ignorance, a mighty bastion. One day for the hedge, twenty years for the bastion. Auguste Blanqui. Page 151. Auguste Blanqui. Textes Choisis. Les Classiques du peuple. 1971
  2. Page 132. Reminiscences and Reflections of a Mid and Late Victorian, Ernest Belfort Bax. 1918. Reprint: Augustus M. Kelly. 1967.
  3. Page 239. La Droite révolutionnaire. Zeev Sternhell Editions du Seuil. 1978. 
  4. Page 251. Jean Jaurès Gilles Candar, Vincent Duclert. Fayard. 2014. See also, Rosa Luxemburg on Socialist Tactics. Rosa Luxemburg. Translated by Rida Vaquas, Clarion Editor. And   Les Hommes Révoltés. Les origins intellectuelles du réformisme en France (1871 – 1917). Emmanuel Jousse.Fayard. 2017.

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2018 at 2:53 pm

French Petition Attacking ‘Totalitarian’ Feminism, Feminists Begin to Respond.

with 5 comments

Image result for catherine deneuve petition balance ton porc

« Nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle »

Reads the controversial public statement that made headlines published in Le Monde this week.

Le viol est un crime. Mais la drague insistante ou maladroite n’est pas un délit, ni la galanterie une agression machiste.

Rape is a crime. But chatting up,  however pressing and clumsy, is not an offence, and compliments are not a macho aggression.

Note: the French verb drageur comes from the English to trawl, to drag line as in Fish.

Variety sets out the story,

Iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve is among 100 women who have signed a public letter blaming the #MeToo anti-harassment movement for creating a “totalitarian” climate that unfairly punishes men for flirting “insistently or clumsily,” infantilizes women and undermines sexual freedom.

The letter says that #MeToo, the hashtag that emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, has led to a campaign of public denunciation and summary justice. The victims have been “men who are sanctioned in their work, pushed to resign, etc., when their only wrongdoing was to touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, speak about intimate things during a professional dinner or send messages that are sexually loaded to a woman who wasn’t attracted to them,” the letter says.

“Rape is a crime. But flirting with insistently or clumsily isn’t a crime, and chivalry is not a machismo aggression,” the letter says, adding that men should have the “indispensable freedom to offend and bother” women and that the #MeToo movement encouraged “puritanism.”

French star Catherine Deneuve defends men’s ‘right’ to chat up women.

France 24.

France’s most revered actress, Catherine Deneuve, hit out Tuesday at a new “puritanism” sparked by sexual harassment scandals, declaring that men should be “free to hit on” women.

She was one of around 100 French women writers, performers and academics who wrote an open letter deploring the wave of “denunciations” that has followed claims that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted and harassed women over decades.

They called it a “witch-hunt” that they feel threatens sexual freedom.

“Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not — nor is being gentlemanly a macho attack,” said the letter published in the daily Le Monde.

French feminists were not slow to note that Deneuve was also a very recent defender of Roman Polanski.

 

In the continuing case against the charge that he had violated a minor, she stated last March that that the 13 year old woman was brought to Polanski’s by her mother and that she did not act according to her age, and that the word “rape” was excessive in the context. (En mars dernier, l’actrice Catherine Deneuve avait déjà fâché des associations de défense des femmes en estimant à la télévision que Samantha Geimer, la jeune fille de 13 ans dont Roman Polanski avait abusé en 1977, « avait été amenée chez Roman par sa mère », et « ne faisait pas son âge de toute façon ». « J’ai toujours trouvé que le mot de viol avait été excessif », . BALANCE TON PORC: BATAILLE DE TRIBUNES AUTOUR DES VIOLENCES SEXUELLES FAITES AUX FEMMES

 

I note that one of the signatories, Elisabeth Lévy, is a writer at the contrarian magazine Causer. 

This is her most recent article,  9th of January, denouncing ‘totalitarian’ feminism.

2017, l’année des balances Le totalitarisme féministe a (encore) progressé

Bang on cue Spiked on Line defends, er the same line.

 

Background, from the Petition side:  Une tribune de femmes face à une “guerre des sexes en train de prendre un tour absolument absurde et hallucinatoire”.Abnousse Shalmani explains, or tries to explain, that the petition is against “puritanism” not in favour of any kind of sexual harassment (drague lourde). It is against the idea that women are not all “victims”. Shalmani does not like the idea that ‘balance ton porc’ (grass up your pig) is a kind of call for a puritan purge.
The author also claims the title, which could be (very easily) interpreted as an apology for ‘importuning’ in the English sense of the word, was supplied by Le Monde.
Comment, she spends a lot of time trying to wriggle out of the way the Petition was obviously going to be interpreted.
More from their critics here:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2018 at 12:23 pm

The Origins of Reformism: Les Hommes Révoltés. Les origins intellectuelles du réformisme en France (1871 – 1917). Emmanuel Jousse.

leave a comment »

Image result for Les Hommes Révoltés. Les origins intellectuelles du réformisme en France

 

Les Hommes Révoltés. Les origins intellectuelles du réformisme en France (1871 – 1917). Emmanuel Jousse. Fayard. 2017.

Reforms, reformism, and socialism, are words so familiar on the left that few pause to unpick their meaning. In the wake of the Russian Revolution the critique of ‘reformism’ in the name of that conquest of power was adopted by Western Communist Parties and more widely adopted by other sections of the radical left. In France, Jousse begins Les Hommes révoltés, the “passion révolutionnaire” of the left could be considered an overwhelming force, in opposition to “raison réformatrice”. Reasoned reforms, government acts to improve social conditions onwards, were considered second best, or worse, in comparison to the total transformation of society.

Revolutionary ardour, at its peak in the identification of the Bolsheviks and Jacobins formed the “architecture” of the 20th century French left. It may have faded; its ‘moral primacy’ tainted by Stalinism. Yet, as Marc Lazar, who introduces the present work, has remarked, the imprint of the “culture communiste” remains. (1) Some of this residual scepticism towards promised reforms is not, one might consider, always a bad thing. One of the consequences of the defeat of the Presidency of François Hollande, and his avowedly reformist Socialist team, by Emmanuel Macron and his movement En marche! is to throw – the previous and the incoming President’s record justifies, the term ‘reform’ again into discredit.

Reformist Origins.

Les Hommes révoltés is about the roots of socialist reformism. That is, it gives the term meaning by showing the development of reformisms on the French left before the Leninist scission took place.. It is an historical reconstruction of the early years of French socialism when the movement took shape in a recognisably modern form, when themes of sexual equality, workers’ rights social protection and welfare were first advanced. It is also about the politics very un-modern Third Republic in which women had no vote, workers’ could not freely organise, and there was nothing resembling social security. A ‘notable’ dominated Republicanism dominated the political culture and a Right that could trace their symbols and culture back to the 18th century.

The study, developed from a doctorate, offers a richly documented account of key moments in the development of the French left. It is “contextualist”, inspired by the methods of Quentin Skinner, to recreate the conventions in which these figures developed their ideas, and carried out their political acts. Against a backdrop of dominant republicanism on the left, the 1870s saw more radical forces, socialists, coalesce around ‘collectivism’, and then torn apart by the fall-out from disputes in the First International, and their own ideological differences. Marx’s name sometimes appeared as something of a battle cry, or hissing-and-by word, rather than a serious doctrinal dividing line. Jousse indicates, though has no need to set out at length, that French socialism, like its counterparts in British radicalism and the labour movement, had its socialist and republican writers and no pressing need to refer to Marxism,

In this lucidly set out framework Jousse introduces portraits of figures, some unfamiliar to many on the left today, such as the ‘possibilist’, Paul Brousse, Benoît Malon, editor of La Revue Socialiste, and one of Marx’s first translators but also the advocate of a non-Marxist “socialisme intégrale”. In later parts of the book there is a sustained account of the first, controversial French Socialist Minister Alexandre Millerand. There are many appearances from Jean Jaurès. Towards the end the Minister of Armaments in the War-time Union Sacrée, Albert Thomas, whose connections with the educated elite and proto- ‘think-tanks’ marks him out, in Jousse’s eyes, as not too distant to contemporary reformist politicians.

For those already partly familiar with the disputes that pre-existed and followed the creation of the Parti Ouvrier français (POF) in 1879, any detailed account may seem daunting. That, for its brief united life (3 years), it was not a party in the modern sense but a federation of different currents and local groups adds to the potential for getting lost. (2)

But Jousse is adept in separating the wheat from the chaff. Some description of the 5 tendencies that emerged in the initial stages of French socialism is on any judgement inevitable. While the centre of gravity is Brousse’s reformist and non-Marxist Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France (FTSF), other actors appear, Guesdists (after Jules Guesde, the leader of the ‘orthodox’ Marxists)) the Allemanists (after Jean Allemane, federalist working class revolutionaries), the supporters of Éduouard Vaillant (who owed something to the last representative of the pure ‘insurrectionist’ tradition, Auguste Blanqui) and the ‘independents’ whose best known figure was Jean Jaurès. Their history is followed up to and after the creation of the unified socialist party the SFIO, in 1905.

Les Hommes Révoltés is also a guide to the potentials these politicians, activists and thinkers offered, within the supple contours of French socialism. The importance of “public services”, which the ‘reformist’ wing began to create wherever they could, offers a thread which connects to democratic socialists today. Not so appealing perhaps are the writings of from the period, as shown in the rarity of enduring texts beyond the articles that appeared in the Revue Socialiste. Malon’s books may indicate why. A British writer at the time described, not inaccurately to one who has ploughed through it, the Histoire du socialisme (1882), as “a crude heap of undigested theories”. (3)

While, as the author underlines, the prospect of a French Labour Party emerging from the organised workers’ movement never got off the ground, the various socialist parties has close links with trade unions. These included affiliations with the multiplicity of trade and craft associations, as well as less warm relations with ‘mutualists’ and the cooperative movement who were often, in the tradition of Proudhon, hostile to political parties as such. Despite their splits the French left had by the following decades succeeded in winning council seats wider social influence, and it had entered the National Assembly.

Le Cas Millerand.

Another is the account of the Alexandre Millerand controversy, the entry of a self-proclaimed reformist socialist into a government of Republican Defence during the fall-out from the Dreyfus Affair. That the same Cabinet contained, Gaston de Galliffet, the butcher of elderly Communards in 1871, was far from a “légende noire”. It was a living memory for many French socialists, including survivors of the Commune such as Vaillant. A large part of the socialist movement recoiled from this appointment.

Jousse traces a whole series of differences that underlay the row. These involved opposing stands on how to defend republican legality – Dreyfus – against the anti-Semitic right, to the necessity of compulsory ‘mandating’ of socialist MPs At the same time this point of principle tended, Jousse emphasises, to be confounded with wider questions within the international socialist movement. Was Millerand a French Bernstein, a “revisionist”? The fact that pure Marxist economics, rather than a general vision of class struggle, played a marginal, if any, part in French socialist politics, still less the Bernstein controversy over capitalist “break-down” and the capacity of capitalism to adapt and continue developing the productive forces, and should have ruled the comparison doubtful.

By contrast there is little doubt that the reformists, Millerand at the fore, did have something in common with the German revisionists. They preferred improvements in the here and now to promises about the future. Jousse manages to establish Millerand’s work in his post as Minister of Commerce and Industry, labour reforms within the limited competence of a “non-Régalian”, that is, without independent powers and budgets post. He set up a network of committed advisers and operated closely with trade unions and co-operative associations. As such his work was not seen by all the socialist grass roots as “treason” (Page 250) On the evidence presented, the wide social basis of this support, cannot be dismissed, as Leninists used to do, as the “aristocracy of labour”.

This, is we are to believe Les Hommes Révoltés was perhaps a first effort at establishing a socialism capable of putting ideas into practice. It used the tools of solid research and the ability to listen to voices on the ground. Lacking the practitioners’ own words – he notes that Millerand’s text Le Socialisme réformiste francais (1903) barely measures up to the British Fabian’s own self-consciousness of this role, he constructs on himself. That is, that an “open socialism”, found in this reformist past,  needs something of Jürgen Habermas’ programme of agreement and rational discussion. That debate can be the ground for advancing the common good in a socialist direction through government – local and national – action.

A more sceptical reader might point to the way that key figures in French reformist socialism, from Millerand to the Minister for Armaments, Albert Thomas, were not known for impassioned rationality during the patriotic hysteria of the Great War. One might add that there is a short distance from technical help to technocrat, and that a public domain free of the operation of constraints on rationality of private profit and irreconcilable passions still has to be created.

Landmark.

Les Hommes Révoltés is a landmark in studies of socialist history. It is elegantly written with the clarity that shows the French language at its best. In his opening words and conclusion Jousse also attempts to establish the moral credentials of socialist reformism, in the tradition of Albert Camus’ l’homme révolté (1951) from which his present study draws its name. That is, the stand (“la pensée du midi”, the anti-authoritarian thought of the South)) that revolt against existing conditions, for a better world, has to be wedded to respect for others, the central value of individual autonomy and choice, and above all a refusal to sacrifice lives in the name of History or in a civil war. Whatever else, these are inspiring, thoughtful, goals.

****

(1) Conclusion. Le communisme une passion française. Marc Lazar. Perrin. 2005. For the clearest identification between the most radical moment of the French Revolution and Bolshevism see: Bolchévisme et Jacobinisme. Albert Mathiez. 1920.

(2) On the formulation of the famous programme of that party, generally ascribed to the dominant influence of Marx and Engels, he suggests that the pair may have served only as one inspiration amongst others (Pages 97 – 99) It could be that some further details on the troubled past between Brousse and Marx – including the reformist’s anti-authoritarian anarchist original dislike of Marxism – would help clarify the stakes at hand. . The importance of this research can be seen in that the Penguin Edition of Marx’s Writings, The First International and After. Political Writings Volume 3. 1974, asserts Marx’s authorship Page 376. The programme which contains key references to democratic liberties in its ‘minimum’ section, has long represented a thread is often cited by Marxists who defend human rights.

(3) Page 403. The Choice of Books. Frederic Harrison  1886.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm

The Defeat of the French Left: Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.

with 4 comments

Image result for Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.

 

Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. L’Archipel. 2017.

How could the French Socialist Party, (Parti Socialiste, PS) fall from the political heavens to the nether depths? Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was until the 18th of June PS General Secretary of the  opens his Chronicle with this question. 

Cambadélis has no need to dramatise. The political force which broke decades of right-wing rule with the election of François Mitterrand in 1981, helped nudge the previously front-running Communists to second place, and then the sidelines. Until this Spring it has dominated France’s left, culturally and politically,  for forty years, running the country for up to twenty of them, and has been in charge of many levels of local and regional administration. 

Yet this April and May saw a humiliating PS score of 6,35% for Benoît Hamon in the first round of the Presidential elections. It was followed by the reduction of the PS Parliamentary representation from 280 to 31 seats. Cambadélis lost his own Paris constituency.  During the campaign, sensing coming an electoral rout, and fearing the strength of Marine Le Pen, leading members called for going beyond traditional political divisions. That is, he suggests in the book,  meant the revival of a long-standing call for alliances with the centre-right – perhaps, in British terms, seen as the equivalent of the Liberal Democrats (Page 119). In the event, outgoing Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, vocally backed a vote for Emmanuel Macron. Others also welcomed his ‘parti-enterprise’ En Marche! They glimpsed, as the Chronique observes, in the former Minister of the Economy under François Hollande, a “planche de salut” (last hope) as defeat loomed. (Page 118)

Their defection did not stop there. Two Ministers of the newly elected President Philippe Cabinet, Gérard Collomb and Jean-Yves Le Drian, are former leading Socialists. The PS’s Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, left the party and created the Mouvement du 1er Juillet with ecological policies and ambitions to create a new “common House” for the left. Supported by a number of regional elected figures he was joined last week by two resigning PS Euro-deputies.

Some of the answers lies in the difficulty of the left internationally, where from Latin America to Europe, the “progressives” have not been able to sustain reforming politics in power (Chili is the most recent example), even to mount effective opposition in more than a handful of countries, such as Britain.

But the French case is particular. The disaster for “la gauche du gouvernement’, that is a party which has been capable of governing the country, has taken place amongst a wider fragmentation of France’s left. It marks the end, as Cambadélis puts it, of a “cycle” which began with the creation of modern Parti Socialiste at the Congrès d’Epinay in 1971 and the “stratégie d’alliance” of different lefts. (Page 39) We have a “moral” defeat, where elected politicians have come to think not in terms of strategy but of “careers” in which power has become just an end in itself. (“une simple fin en soi.” Page 10) For those who see a silver lining in the result of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 9.58% and his 17 elected representatives in the Assemblée Nationale, this is of less importance, but Cambadélis gives reasons why the left internationally should not celebrate their presence without reservation.  

With these opening remarks in mind the present book tries to rise above a settling of accounts (a charge many reviewers have made) to consider the failings of the left, both the camp of and his opponents, with the context of wider issues about the future of the French left. It is both narrative and analysis. The Chronique is also very acute account from somebody with a reputation for a “fine political nose”. 

 How Many Divisions?

The French left is famous for its division between a nominally ‘revolutionary’ radical left-wing and a ‘reformist’ wing. Yet during the  period of the Gauche plurielle under Lionel Jospin (1997 – 2001), – which ended in its own splintering – many sections worked together. In this decade, by contrast, the left was divided from the moment François Hollande’s Presidency began in 2012.

The forces at that point aligned in the Front de gauche, notably the Parti Communiste français (PCF), and Mélenchon’s ‘club-party’ the Parti de gauche,  were unwilling to offer it support. The PS’s own opposition, the ‘Frondeurs’, largely but not exclusively drawn from its left, began to act in earnest in the 2014. They took their criticisms of policy to Parliamentary votes and hampered legislation to the point where direct decrees, in the leadership’s view, forced upon them. Most of their only serious left allies, the Green EELV, left when Manuel Valls became PM in 2014 and the government’s “social liberalism” policies became anathema to the left.

But it was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, by  founding La France insoumise (LFI) – a would-be  mass movement with a large virtual Web membership, who fundamentally divided the left. Whether one has more sympathy for Mélenchon or not, it is certain that he has not been out to accomplish is a new “union of the left”. The  theme of “dégagisme”(get out!), a French version of the ‘anti-caste’ strategy of Podemos and other ‘populists, has run through the wider politics of “federating the people”. LFI demands that the whole ‘rotten’ political establishment be removed. That this includes the entire Parliamentary left beyond les insoumises – loudly in the case of the PS and as near as they can publicly say it about the PCF reflects a belief, which Cambadélis hammers home, that only the Sovereign People, that is, themselves, can restore political virtue through a new, 6th, Republic, a theme taken up by Mélenchon in the modestly titled de La Vertu (2017).

Cambadélis calls Mélenchon the “fils du lambertisme et du mitterandisme” (Page 10) This is a helpful reminder not only of the Leader of LFI’s past in one of the most dogmatic, and patriotic French Trotskyist currents, and his cult of the former French President, but of the author’s own background as a student activist member of Pierre Lambert’s OCI, and 1980s transfer to the PS with the benevolence of the Élysée….

Betrayal? 

Yet how has this anti-system left grown? Why has the legacy of 5 years of Socialist Party rule been so toxic, even beyond the traditional quarters ready to cry “betrayal”?

On the balance sheet of 5 years in office Cambadélis tries to find some glimmers of hope. There was a dignified Presidential reaction to the Islamist slaughters that have soiled Europe and above all France in the last years. He attempted some international initiatives to fight Jihadism in Africa and seek peace elsewhere. His Prime Ministers, Ayrault  and Valls, introduced gay marriage, a dialogue on the environment, a faltering reduction in unemployment, better growth rates, and the start of efforts to deal with high rates of national debt. He is less tender towards the proposal to remove French nationality from those accused of terrorism Cambadélis is equally less than sympathetic towards the labour reforms, la Loi El Khomri, largely on the grounds of its unilateral implementation – now pursued by the in-coming Macron.

The Chronique claims there was some effort to control Finance on a European level (in banking), and having kept Greece within the Euro (Page 171) There is nothing to support the idea, held to by some English speaking left-wingers, that French domestic policies – that is the failure to confront ‘neoliberalism’, a tax on the hyper-wealthy aside – are either forced upon them by the EU, or that France subordinates its governance to the construction of Europe.

None of this adds up to a sustainable case for the successes of Hollande presidency, or the Prime Ministers of Ayrault and Valls. Some welcome reforms, some moves towards economic improvement, contestable international interventions, and, nothing to promote the security and rights of working people, the unemployed – very little reform except in the sense of reshaping,  that is weakening existing labour legislation. In short, nothing to shout proudly about from the rooftops.

This lack of reforming deeds, democratic socialist egalitarian economic policies, an equivocal stand on civil liberties, symbolise don the permanent state of emergency, are one aspect of the problem, The other is that Hollande’s ‘method’ appears to have boiled down to an inability to left events dominate his action, wrapped in an immense capacity for self-satisfaction at his residence at the Élysée.

The smugness that lead the President, during his term of office, to sanction the publication of the interminably lengthy Un Président ne devrait pas dire cela (2016), full of causally wounding comments about his colleagues and the tossed our phrase, “il faut un hara-kiri pour le PS”.  stems from this complacency. He engaged in – slatternly – affairs. For those – and they are numerous – uninterested in the details of politics his partner, Valérie Trierweiler’s  enraged response in Merci pour ce moment (2014) gave an unpleasant insight into the man. Amongst many flaws he was not unafraid to patronise the working class poor, the “sans dents” (toothless). Few would be those who would shed a tear over the subsequent ‘Hollande-Bashing’. The two publications rendered him un-re-electable,  a fact which the Head of State took a long time to recognise.

A 5-year term of a President, who wished to be “normal” in abnormal times, was marked by deciding not to decide, and “absence de sens” (page 176) and on the hoof decision-making. This culminated in letting Macron create his own party straight under Hollande’s nose, in the belief that it would weaken the moderate right. (Page 185) In the meantime the Chronique endorses from the beginning to the end the view of many observers that the PS had become addicted to exercising power for its own sake. This attitude was present, equally,  within the ranks of their within their allies during the first years of government. The green EELV  turned from a party into a vehicle for the individual careers of its deputies (Page 177)

Hamon: Green Party Campaign, Green Party Score.

Benoît Hamon’s victory in the Socialist ‘Primary’ momentarily gave a ray of hope for the party. His Pour la Génération Qui Vient (2017) promised to free the land from the “liberal nightmare” a “democratic awakening”, Citizens’ Initiatives, a human centred approach to the technological revolution, and apart from green policies, he advocated Universal Basic Income.

Why then did the Socialists lose so badly? The ex-General Secretary is harsh on Presidential candidate Hamon. He accuses him of waging a “solitary” campaign, unable to bring together people outside of his circle, not even talking about the world of work – that is appealing to trade union support. The winner of the PS Primary snubbed his own party. He accuses Hamon of wanting to be the leader of an alternative alliance of the left of the Socialists with the Greens and acting accordingly. (P 110) He allowed Mélenchon, with whom he claimed to have few disagreements, to appear, as polls began to show that La France insoumise was ahead, to be the most useful to vote for. He was simply not Presidential, and….he spurned Cambadélis’ own construction, la Belle Alliance Populaire (a grouping of tiny ‘progressive parties’ behind the PS)….

The Chronique has a pithy way of explaining the disastrous the result. With Hamon’s “Green Party” campaign, you got a “Green Party score (“campagne d’écologiste, score d’écologiste” Page 111)

Cambadélis makes a strong case when he argues, from electoral arithmetic, that the French left will not win power back from Macron without unity, or some kind of alliance. This holds however narrow the President’s political support is (as indicated by the massive abstention rates). Or that  strategy of confronting important social layers in the interests of flexible business and ‘modernisation’  is likely to bring about deep conflict. It does not matter that his ‘party’  is virtual’ or his cadres from the upper scale on the class structure. To win you, to build an alternative majority, the left cannot wait for Macron to fail. It is through unity, the capacity to work together, that left parties with democratic structures (he recommends his own…) should work towards.

Left Futures?

Is this probable? Mélenchon, the “orator” the Chavez of Saint-Germain, can laugh at the “coffin” of the defeated PS but, “En brisant volontairement et unilatéralement l’unité des forces de gauche pour prétendre au monopole du peuple, il rend la reconquête impossible”(Page 17) In deliberately and voluntarily breaking the unity of the forces of the left, and claiming to have a monopoly of the People, he has made the Reconquest impossible. 

It would be pleasant to say that this obstacle can be overcome. But, given the PS’s understandable reluctance to reject its entire record of government, and given Mélenchon’s own self-image, it does not look probable that this political log-jam is going to clear in the near future. Perhaps as a girondin believer in decentralisation Cambadélis could pin his hopes on a united front from below

Tariq Ramadan: Charlie Hebdo Versus Mediapart, Culture Wars Split French Left.

with 6 comments

Related image

Charlie Hebdo Claims Plenel Ignores Ramadan’s Behaviour.

Following the May election of President Macron, and the sweeping victory of his ‘start-up’ party, En Marche! in the following legislative contest, France’s left has yet to recover from the catastrophe. Union opposition to the new head of State’s reform of the labour code has, despite the kind offer of Presidential contender for La France insoumise (LFI) Jean Luc Mélenchon (19,5% in the first round) to play a leading role in the battle, begun to peter out. Last Friday saw, across France, only 80,000 out on the streets. It would seem as if Macron, despite some dissatisfaction inside his party at its simulacra of democracy, intends to keep running faster than his opponents.

Yet few would have expected that the French left would begin to tear itself apart, not on the political balance-sheet of the Hollande years, nor on the incapacity for the left to present a credible electoral alternative to Macron, but on its own version of the ‘culture wars’.

The politics of religion and culture appears to be a new dividing line on the French left.

Inside LFI divisions over secularism, laïcité, erupted at the beginning of November, when one of their deputies, Danièle Obono, expressed “respect” for the anti-Semitic leader of Les Indigènes de la République, Houria Bouteldja (Chez les « insoumis », les voies impénétrables de la laïcitéle Monde 9.11.17). This risks opening up divisions between those who stand for a ‘strict’ republican secularism (from the original Mélenchon group, the Parti de gauche) and those who wish for an ‘accommodating’ approach towards conservative Muslims and the defence of ‘modest dress’, above all the veil. 

Ramadan…

But these splits are as nothing compared to the fissure on the left that has erupted in the wake of the Tariq Ramadan affair. Rapidly this shifted from the accusations of rape to more ideological issues. Abdennour Bidar called the (on leave of absence) Oxford Don’s work pitiful “dogmatism”. Despite a call for a ‘moratorium’ on aspects of Sharia ‘law’ such as stoning, and the other Hudud punishments, the doctrine is not questioned. The promotion of a mediaeval Summa of the Law of God is wrapped in modernist language designed to present a progressive veneer to the wider public.

At the same time there remains (as Caroline Fourest famously outlined in Frère Tariq. 2005) enduring radical – intolerant – edge for a more popular, that is, Muslim, audience. (le Monde. 15.11.19). Indeed some have questioned whether he ever really called for a change in aspects of the Sharia, such as women’s testimony being worth half that of a man, non-Moslems in a permanent position of legal inferiority, or indeed of the death penalty for apostates or blasphemers. We know that for all his regrets at the murder of our comrades, Ramadan was outraged at their disrespect of religion, and lowered himself to claim that the Weekly’s criticism of Islam was motivated by “money” (Tariq Ramadan accuse Charlie de lâcheté et de faire de l’argent avec l’islam) and wittered on about complexity, like some Revered Flannel, “Il faut nous réconcilier avec la complexité et non pas nous imposer la simplicité émotionnelle.” Later in the same year, 2015, he refused to show solidarity after the Bataclan slaughter by talking of the “déshumanisation de nos «ennemis» ou perçus comme tels….” 

Readers of Ramadan’s books in an English version can verify the inflexible heart of Ramadan’s Islam quickly. Here are two typical passages from The Messenger (2007). The author states of the Qu’ran in this, “revealed Book the written text, is made up signs (ayat), just as the universe, like a text spread before our eyes, is teeming with signs. When the heart’s intelligence, and not only analytical intelligence, reads the Qu’ran and the world, then the two texts address and echo each other, and each of them speaks of the other and of the One. The signs remind us of what it means to be born, to live, to think, to feel, and to die. This doctrine, based on the “the oneness of God, the status of the Qur’an, prayer and life after death.

In the UK Ramadan has indeed concentrated on his role as a Herald in the Academy, apart from a brief foray into the support for the Ken Livingstone backed international campaign to defend the Veil, and more recently giving his good graces as a government adviser on ‘extremism’. But as Le Monde has more recently noted, as a preacher (prédicatuer), that is on Ramadan’s platform on which he assumes an active political role, is barely known in the country where he resides, Britain (le Monde. 18.11.17)

But Caroline Fourest indicates one aspect of it….

Note the name of Edwy Plenel which will figure greatly in the following.

Hatred Between Charlie Hebdo and Mediapart.

Things have not stopped there. After some highly disobliging front page cartoons, a veritable ‘war’ over Islam and Ramadan has erupted between Charlie Hebdo and Mediapart (le Monde. 16.11.17). The former accuses the founder of the web based news site, Edwy Plenel of undue comprehension of and indulgence towards Ramadan (by implication, Islamism), including public ‘dialogues’ with the preacher. (Entre « Charlie » et « Mediapart », l’histoire d’une haine). Above all the Editor of Charlie, Riss, has accused Plenel of condemning this to death a second time, even knighting their Islamist enemies, by asserting that they have engaged in “war” against Islam, a claim the Mediapart journalist hotly contests (Dans Charlie Hebdo, Riss accuse Plenel d'”adouber ceux qui demain voudront finir le boulot des frères Kouachi).

Image result for plenel charlie hebdo

This the full Editorial.

 

Plenel is the author of Pour Les Musulmans, (2014) In that work he states that “assimilation” on the French republican “model” is a call for the disappearance of Muslims as Muslims. For him this stand reflects a hatred of Islam, crystallised secular “intolérance”, “une laïcisme intolérante” and a rejection of the dominates and the oppressed being as they are, “un rejet des dominés et des opprimés tels qu’ils sont.” (2)

With these opinions the present clash comes a great deal of historical and personal baggage, even moments of friendship, or at least, co-operation, outlined in Le Monde, (16.11.17). This has been submerged, Charlie’s harsh language, and disobliging cartoon of Plenel has been met with a growing pile of defences from the Mediapart camp. One charge is that Charlie’s anti-Plenel Front Page is a new version of the notorious Nazi “Affiche Rouge” denouncing Jewish resistance fighters.

Image result for affiche rouge edwy plenel

 

Which not suprisingly got this reply.

The intervention of not just Caroline Fourest (who published images of public addresses by Plenel and Ramadan) but former Prime Minister Philippe Valls (on the side of Charlie), has injected further venom. There is a petition backing Mediapart and former Fourth Internationalist Plenel, supported by figures from the left of the left. (En défense de Mediapart et d’Edwy Plenel.) It says that Charlie’s comments are “diffamatoire, et haineuse” . It is certainly the case that Plenel immediately registered the present accusations against Ramadan, and compared them to crimes by paedophile preists (Edwy Plenel: le cas de Tariq Ramadan “ressemble à celui des prêtres pédophiles”).

This could be continued for pages but for the moment stops here….

It would be an exaggeration to say, as Le Monde does in the Saturday edition of the Idées Supplement, that there is an almost insurmountable gulf between this “so French” quarrel and elsewhere. In Britain, they observe, Tariq Ramadan’s latest adventures have barely stirred the media. Whether by policy, a long-standing deference to religious figures, or by fear of audience incomprehension. this may well be true. Le Monde’s Philippe Bernard even makes the claim that Ramadan is a “respected intellectual” this side of the channel ( Tariq Ramadan, un intellectuel respecté au Royaume-Uni.)

The British historian Sudhir Hazareesingh offers the interesting suggestion that British  people talk American and talk of “hyphenated” identities, such as British-Asian. (« Charlie » contre « Mediapart » vu du Royaume-Uni : « Une discussion consternante ») Both talk of a “quasi-consensus” around religious tolerance, anchored within a wider policy of multiculturalism. Yet, from the standpoint of some of the left this is not the case. Multiculturalism may be accepted as a fact in Britain, and diversity and tolerance valued aspects of the country’s culture. But as a politique, that is a state policy, many on the left in the UK do not agree with the institutionalisation of the place of religious figures and norms within the public sphere, nor, in particular, with the public funding of separatist faith education.

Secularism.

Let us be clear on one point. There are secularists in the UK, smaller in number than in France, without the Constitutional pillars that define French laïcité. Yet if we not as present as we are in le Monde, we are very visible even in the pages of the Guardian and the Observer. Secularists here are both of the establishment type that parallel La Libre Pensée in France and more radical left-wing secularists – for example in the Teachers’ union (NEU), and, to cite some this Blog has contact with, those around by Southall Black Sisters and Ex-Muslims networks. It was from this quarter that the petition came against Ramadan’s continued teaching at Oxford while he stood accused of serious sexual offences.

It would be true to say that very few British secularist leftists would identify with Manuel Valls and some of the more arid defenders of laïcité. The ex-PM would appear less the reincarnation of 3rd republic Radical Socialist norms, or even the defender of a French particularism posing as a Universalist, than a nationalist demanding assimilation. If the government Prevent Programme remains controversial in the UK, though hardly the dominant issue for the left that Le Monde describes, it could be seen as coming from the same template as French repressive policies championed by the same Valls.

But it would be equally difficult to sympathise with those engaged in ‘accommodation’ with religious difference to the point where tolerance becomes acceptance of reactionary institutions, and, above all, politics. Voltaire had some words about not accepting infamous abuses….

Le Monde editorialised a couple of days ago, recognising the risk of intervening between two enraged assailants, and called for an end to this ever-escalating fight: « Charlie »-« Mediapart » : halte à l’escalade.

Anti-Semitism.

Distinct from either side in this dispute some of us find the radical leftists of sites like Ni Patrie ni Frontières  speaking more sense. This section of the French left looks to a grass roots way of fighting reactionary religious-political ideas, from Islamism to the European far-right independently of both Official secularism and Official multiculturalism.

Having said this there remains a further point. Perhaps the most striking parallel between the French and British landscape is the division on the priority given to tackling anti-semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice. This, it can hardly have escape anybody’s attention, is one of the live issues dividing our left, last week, yesterday, today, and no doubt next week.

This leads us back to the Hexagone… To cap it all Gérard Filoche, the respected retired Inspecteur du travail, a well-known figure on the left of the Parti Socialiste, has been  found to have tweeted an image from a far-right site. This is not just any picture, but, taken from the Egalité et Reconciliation, portrays President Macron with an Israeli and US flag, a Nazi style arm-band with a dollar sign on it, while 3 well known Jewish figures, including a Rothschild, hover in the background. (Gérard Filoche, antisémite ? Le naufrage d’un colérique en 6 polémiques.)

There is a serious motion to expel Filoche from the Socialists (Filoche menacé d’exclusion du PS après un tweet antisémite). Filoche has admitted making an arse of himself, says that he was not the person who did the tweet…..but assumes responsibility. (Filoche mis en cause pour un tweet antisémite : «C’était une connerie»)

********

(1) P 41 and Pages 39 – 40. The Messenger. Tariq Ramadan. Allen Lane. 2007.

(2) Pages 106 – 107. Pour les Musulmans. Edwy Plenel. Nouvelle édition. 2016.

Anti-racism, secularism, and the fight against anti-semitism today.

with 4 comments

Related image

Freedom, Democracy and Secularism.

In the 1990s a section of the anti-racist left in Britain developed a critique of multiculturalism. Groups involved included the Southall Black Sisters and secularist leftists both in the UK. The main reason for this critical stand was the view that ‘community relations’ had become managed by the state.

While praiseworthy efforts were made to tackle inequalities, , and we welcomed legislation to outlaw discrimination,  the approach had some fundamental laws. We argued that multiculturalism far from being opposed to racialism, was the institutionalisation of ‘difference’ through that is funding and promoting ‘community leaders’.  In fact it could be seen as the twin of racist efforts to exclude minority groups by making these distinctions the basis for policies.

Arun Kundnani  for the Institute for Race Relations put it in 2002 (THE DEATH OF MULTICULTURALISM) summarised this view.

While multiculturalist policies institutionalised black culture, it was the practice of ethnicised funding that segmented and divided black communities.

The state’s strategy, it seemed, was to re-form black communities to fit them into the British class system, as a parallel society with their own internal class leadership, which could be relied on to maintain control. A new class of ‘ethnic representatives’ entered the town halls from the mid-1980s onwards, who would be the surrogate voice for their own ethnically defined fiefdoms. They entered into a pact with the authorities; they were to cover up and gloss over black community resistance in return for free rein in preserving their own patriarchy.

It was a colonial arrangement, which prevented community leaders from making radical criticisms, for fear that funding for their pet projects would be jeopardised. Different ethnic groups were pressed into competing for grants for their areas. The result was that black communities became fragmented, horizontally by ethnicity, vertically by class.

This, by Alana Lentin, outlines the position in 2004,

Multiculturalism or anti-racism?

The “top–down” nature of multiculturalist policy–making is illustrated by modern British experience where – as Paul Gilroy’s 1992 essay “The End of Anti–Racism” points out – local governments in the early 1980s instigated it in reaction to the nationalism of Conservative central government. However, the policy’s cultural focus destroyed the autonomous, highly politicised anti–racism of the local “race committees” established in the 1970s in reaction to the far right and institutional racism.

Moreover, the multicultural model is vulnerable to the charge that it uncritically endorses the image of enclosed, internally homogeneous cultural groups, each taking its place in a “mosaic” of equal but different communities – and so ignores both group heterogeneity and the fact that members of minorities often identify with a hybridity of cultural references , including that of the dominant society.

More importantly, multiculturalism’s exclusive focus on culture can present an apolitical picture of “minority” experience and agency that evades the daily realities of institutionalised racism. This emphasis on culture lies at the heart of the problem of multiculturalism, and – I would argue – makes it an unworthy prize for progressive voices now seeking to reclaim it.

Some of those who took this stand were also secularists. That is, we were wary of what we saw as a growing tendency: the acceptance of these divisions on religious grounds.

A  key moment for those who combined this critique with a broader  secularism, had been the defence of Salman Rushdie against the Iranian ‘Fatwa’ in 1989. Reactionary religious, Muslim, demonstrations that included book burnings,  took place in the UK. As Wikipedia notes, “The City of Bradford gained international attention in January 1989 when some of its members organised a public book-burning of The Satanic Verses, evoking as the journalist Robert Winder recalled “images of medieval (not to mention Nazi) intolerance”

After 9/11 there was an explicit shift from ethnic representation towards a ‘multi-faith’ approach. In a process which closely parallels changes in France –  brilliantly analysed in La fabrique du musulman by Nedjib Sidi Moussa (2017) – religion became the obligatory badge of ‘community’.

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters wrote in 2008,  Defending secular spaces

The current drive towards ‘cohesion’ represents the softer side of the ‘war on terror’. At its heart lies the promotion of a notion of integration based on the assumption that organising around race and ethnicity encourages segregation.

At the same time, in the quest for allies, it seeks to reach out to a male religious (largely Muslim) leadership, and it thereby encourages a ‘faith’ based approach to social relations and social issues.

This approach rejects the need for grassroots self organisation on the basis of race and gender inequality but institutionalises the undemocratic power of so called ‘moderate’ (authoritarian if not fundamentalist) religious leaders at all levels of society.

The result is a shift from a ‘multicultural’ to a ‘multi-faith’ society: one in which civil society is actively encouraged to organise around exclusive religious identities, and religious bodies are encouraged to take over spaces once occupied by progressive secular groups and, indeed, by a secular welfare state.

A similar line of criticism was  taken in 2010  in Rumy Hasan’s Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truth. 

However, in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, multiculturalism morphed into “multifaithism”, resulting in religion-based identity. This fourth phase, Hasan argues, represents multiculturalism’s failure.

Multiculturalism qua multifaithism is the source of all evils. Ironically, initiated as a way of combating racism, multiculturalism has become hostage to special interests represented by community leaders as well as politicians eager to secure votes.

It is a violation and distortion of the democratic ideal of universal rights because it accords privileges to ethnic-religious communities; it increases segregation and ghettoisation; it fans sectarian hatred within communities; it leads to social harm as it restricts or prevents intimate contact with members of the larger society, who feel alienated as a result; it triggers right-wing extremism among “whites” and “chauvinistic faith-based organisations”; it fosters resistance to “mainstream” culture as well as “psychological detachment”, a condition of being in, but not of, British society.

More important, Hasan sees multicultural policy as a successor to the old imperial divide-and-rule strategy. This means that the state remains aloof from serious social problems that occur within immigrant communities, which it shields by accepting their claim to cultural specificity.

Rumy and Southall Black Sisters’  conclusion is that the defence of secular equality is the best alternative.

Many on the British left, by contrast, have focused exclusively on ‘Islamophobia’. That is the view that prejudice against Muslims, that is people, is identical with hostility to a religion, Islam. Far from challenging multi-faithism they embraced it. The political party Respect, founded in 2004, announced that it was the Party for Muslims. While not a Muslim Party as such  A “local election flyer printed in 2004 featured the slogan “George Galloway – Fighting for Muslim Rights!

It was also ‘anti-Zionist’ “According to the party’s national council member Yvonne Ridley  speaking at London’s  Imperial College in February 2006, Respect “is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out.”

Following Naz Kahn’s appointment as Respect’s women’s officer in Bradford in October 2012, it emerged that Kahn had recently commented on Facebook that “history teachers in our school” were and are “the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??” David Aaronovitch in The Jewish Chronicle wrote: “‘What have the Jews done good in this world?’ clearly means ‘The Jews do only bad’. The Jews haven’t suffered as much as they say they have, but insofar as they have suffered it’s their own fault and, in any case, they have gone on to inflict equal or more suffering on others. That’s ‘the Jews’ as a group, not ‘many Jews’, ‘some Jews’ or ‘a few Jews.'”[157] Ron McKay, Galloway’s spokesman, said Kahn’s comments had been written shortly before she joined Respect, on an “unofficial site” (the Respect Bradford Facebook page), and that she “now deeply regrets and repudiates that posting.”

Wikipedia.

Respect is an extreme example.

But many other forces on the left have had difficulty with dealing with ‘anti-Semitism’, that is hostility to Jewish people. This is  not least because many of those professing support for ‘Islam’, the galaxy of Islamist groups, and (as indicated in the present case in Bradford), some individuals from the left, not least those involved with the Respect Party, have expressed views which are hostile to Jews.

These are not just casual prejudices.

They reflect, in some cases, religious hatred, but more commonly are part of a ‘conspiracy’ outlook on the word, usually linked to the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ which sees ‘Zionism’ are the root of the world’s problems.

It is a an utter shame that it took a right-wing weekly to print this article.

France, one out of two racist acts are anti-Semite: En France, l’antisémitisme « du quotidien » s’est ancré et se propage (le Monde. 2.11.17)

Below is an important text from the comrades of Ni Patrie Ni Frontièrs. which may help shed some light on the problems involved.

While France has a a different imperial history to Britain, and migration from its former colonies is not the same, some of the same difficulties have arisen.

The clearest distinction is that while French secularism is part of the political establishment, state, political parties, administration and culture, of the country. Some secularist supporters take an arid view, which is entangled with the same kind of  nationalist stans which in the UK is claimed for ‘British values’.

But….

There is the same shift from ethnicity to religion.

There is the same inability of sections of the left to confront Islamism and ethno-religious politics.

By contrast a  minority of the critical French left has, over the years, developed a stand with close parallels to that of the British, and Irish left (which has its own particular battles to fight) secularists outlined above.

It is to the credit of the critical sections of the French anti-racist left that they have been able to steer a course between the State Secularism of the defenders of a mythicised  Republic and the reactionary cultural turn of those who fail to tackle with the use of religion as a market for ‘identity’.

The case of Tariq Ramadan which crystallises many of these issues of religion and identity, with some crying Islamophobia, and others suspecting the hand of ‘Zionists’ behind the affair, perhaps illustrates a further difference.

In France the accusations of rape against the Oxford Professor, the best known promoter of Islam in the French speaking world, are front page news.

In the UK the extremely serious claims  barely ruffled any feathers.

Ramadan was allowed to continue teaching until the start of last week.

It is worth noting that it was Gita Sahgal who comes from the original Southall Black Sisters was the initiator a petition calling for Ramadan’s removal. A petition, which le Monde registered with the article in Oxford’s student paper, Cherwell, (“A la suite de la publication de cet article, une pétition a été lancée, suivie de la mise en congé de l’enseignant.) and has yet to be mentioned in the British media.

The Economist seems about the only UK source to have registered its full importance.

Tariq Ramadan, a star of Europe’s Muslim intelligentsia, confronts accusations of rape

The Oxford professor, who denies the allegations, has taken a leave of absence

To get a sense of the shockwave these developments have triggered, it helps to understand Mr Ramadan’s unique position in the Islamic firmament, as somebody with a high profile both in academia and on the Muslim street.

His Egyptian grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the global Muslim Brotherhood, yet he strongly denies that his own thinking is merely a reiteration of Brotherhood ideology. His theology is quite conservative but he insists that far from self-segregating, European Muslims should play an active role in society. He has suggested that there is a natural role for Muslims as part of a broad-left anti-capitalist coalition.

In 2004 he was unable to take up an academic post at America’s Notre Dame university because the authorities refused his application to enter and work in the United States. He fought a long legal battle to gain admission to that country, which he finally won in 2009. He has held high-profile public debates with famous atheists and secularists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the late Christopher Hitchens. He has condemned suicide bombing and other terrorist acts such as the murderous attack onCharlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly. But he also calls for understanding of Muslim grievances, whether in Europe or Islam’s heartlands. He denounced Charlie Hebdo for publishing drawings which upset an already “stigmatised” Muslim community.

The discourse of Mr Ramadan is very traditional, in the sense of paying close attention to Islam’s founding texts, and very hip and modern, as befits somebody who is well attuned to the anti-establishment politics of the 21st century. For young Muslims in the West who are defensive of their identity but want to move on from their parents’ traditional culture, that is a winning combination.

That’s why the outcome of Mr Ramadan’s saga will be followed closely, from the ivory towers of Oxford to the streets of Brussels and Marseille.

Independent anti-racism.

To give a flavour of the views of the independent anti-racist  section of the French Left, Ni Parti Ni Frontièrs, whose Yves Colman is already familiar to readers of this Blog, here are some links.

The first indicates the similarities and differences between the countries’  independent left-wing secularist  anti-racist movements.

The second takes up the Ramadan case.

The most obvious symptom of this evolution is the quasi hegemony of “competitive memories”, so called “double standards”, which inspired many analyses. Since around 2005 various minorities compare their status to others, starting with the Jews’ status. In France the recognition of the specificity of the Judeocide, but also the full involvement of the French state has only emerged in the early eighties, after
immense anti-racist struggles. But less than thirty years later, these fights have disappeared from the collective memory; fascists have imposed a truncated memory in which Jews are, falsely, presented as “privileged” by state anti-racist policies since 1945. All the victories (the historical recognition of the genocide and teaching of the Judeocide in schools, for example), are transformed into “problems”, into
“symptoms” of a support for Israel, or into an attempt to mask other forms of racism.

Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et Tariq Ramadan : un « parallèle » absurde au sous-texte antisémite

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Didier Motchane, central figure of the 1970s French Socialist Left, passes.

with 2 comments

Image result for didier motchane

Didier Motchane – under the Symbol of the Rose he designed. 

In yesterday’s Guardian there was a long article The wilderness years: how Labour’s left survived to conquer. Describing how the left began the 1980s Andy Beckett writes, “Livingstone told me recently, “François Mitterrand was elected president of France on a socialist platform. We were all thinking: ‘The world’s about to change.’

Mitterrand was indeed elected in 1981  on a radical Socialist Programme, 110 propositions pour la France.

 

Didier Motchane, has just passed away. He was one of the  architects of the 1981 Projet Socialiste, which lay behind this list of proposals. It outlined a detailed strategy for self-management, autogestion, within a wider perspective of nationalising companies,  a line put forward in 1975 as “les quinze theses sur l’autogestion du parti socialiste“. So radical was this programme that it clearly set forward the Socialists’ structural economic and political reforms, including legal changes to defend human rights, and backing for workers’ power, within the perspective of a transition to socialism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projet socialiste - pour la France des années 80 - Couverture - Format classique

Mort de Didier Motchane, cofondateur du Ceres

Ce proche de Jean-Pierre Chevènement, figure emblématique de la gauche, est décédé dimanche 29 octobre, à l’âge de 86 ans.

Motchane was a key figure in the Centre d’études, de recherches et d’éducation socialiste, CERES, (1966 – 1986)  a left wing current which (as the Wikipedia entry notes) had few parallels in other social democratic parties with the exception, perhaps,  of the British labour Party.

As a ‘think-tank’ its influence was its height during the 1970s, and, as noted above, on the formulation of many aspects of Mitterrand’s 1981 electoral platform.

For some on the British left Motchane had been already noted in the 1970s for his debate with the Marxist political theorist Nicos Poulantzas and other left wing figures in the Mélusine discussion group, and his interest in Antonio Gramsci (Bob Jessop).

Motchane was radical enough to have considered  at one point in the early years of that decade that the la Ligue communiste, which became the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, should have joined CERES. (1)

He was also open to a wide variety of radical left ideas and broader philosophy from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas to the sociology of  Pierre Bourdieu, Didier. Le grand Motchane et mes années CERES.

His career began in the higher spheres of the French administration.

“Didier Motchane was the son of industrialist and mathematician Léon Motchane, was born in Paris on September 17, 1931. Bachelor of Arts, Graduate of History and Institute of Political Studies of Paris, a graduate of the top administration college, ENA  He became a senior official, assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A man of great culture and fine intelligence, he founded, at the end of 1965, the Ceres with Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Pierre Guidoni and Georges Sarre.”

CERES became a key player in the Parti Socialiste in the mid-1970s. Their intention was to bring socialism into social-democracy.

Inside the Parti Socialiste apart from his influence on the 1981 programme he created the famous red rose and fist logo which has become the international symbol of the socialist parties. (Didier Motchane est mort, l’inventeur du logo socialiste “le poing et la rose” avait 86 ans.)

Image result for le poing et la rose

The left wing programme of Mitterrand was not fulfilled.  Motchane, with Chevènement, opposed Mitterrand’s turn to financial ‘rigour’ in 1983. Motchane accused the government of having left the French proletariat behind while expressing support for the Polish Solidarity movement (“pris congé du prolétariat en France au moment où ils ont découvert la classe ouvrière en Pologne )

He began a long journey, from radical democratic socialism, opposed during the latter half of that decade and into the 1990s to the ” social-libéralisme” of the current around Michel Rocard, to an increasingly nationalist republicanism.

Motchane’s evolution took place in close relation to his close comrade Jean-Pierre  Chevènement.

Chevènement was Minister of Research and Industry from 1981 to 1983, when he resigned, for the first of three times in his career. He disagreed with the change in economic policy made by President Mitterrand in order to stay in the European Monetary System. He has said that “a minister has to keep his mouth shut; if he wants to open it, he resigns” (Un ministre, ça ferme sa gueule ; si ça veut l’ouvrir, ça démissionne ). However, he returned to the cabinet as Minister of National Education from 1984 to 1986.

Appointed Minister of Defence in 1988, he served until 1991, when he resigned due to his opposition to the Gulf WarAfter this he opposed the Maastricht Treaty, an issue on which Mitterrand and the PS led the “yes” campaign. In 1993 he left the PS and founded a new political party: the Citizens’ Movement (Mouvement des citoyens or MDC).

These developments were mirrored in their publications.

From the left wing socialist journal En Jeu, they began a systematic critique of the Parti Socialiste’s (PS) politics which moved them increasingly  outside of the party’s orbit and, eventually beyond socialism itself.

Motchane left the PS in 1993, at the same time as Jean-Pierre Chevenement to participate with him in the creation in 2003 of the  Mouvement des citoyens (MDC) which became the Mouvement républicain et citoyen (MRC). Eurosceptic they became ‘sovereigntist’, putting national control of the economy, and the power of the French Nation, at the centre of their politics. This meant opposition to European integration, from the Maastricht treaty (1992) onwards.

Chevènement himself was not completely left out in the cold.

The MDC participated in the Gauche Plurielle (Plural left, Socialists, Communists, Greens, left radical party) which between 1997 and 2002, under Jacques Chirac’s Presidency nevertheless held  the post of Prime Minister and ran the Cabinet.  The MDV leader became  member of this government, led by Socialist Lionel Jospin, and was soon known as a hard-line Interior Minister (1997 – 2000). He left his post after expressing opposition to decentralising measures for Corsica.

Outside the PS his Euroscepticism and sovereigntist turn has developed into a position ‘beyond’ the left right division.  During the 2002 Presidential election  hevènement hoped for a candidate who would be neither of the Right or the Left (ni de droite, ni de gauche). In 2015 he spoke of the need for unity between ‘patriots’ of the right and left, (réunir tous les patriotes de droite comme de gauche).  Strongly secular (a defender of laïcité) he was nominated in 2016 by President Hollande as…President of the  Fondation pour l’islam de France.

Motchane was perhaps more subdued in his turn to sovereigntist politics.

During the 2012 presidential election, Didier Motchane lent his support to Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

But the Le Monde obituary notes that Motchane moved from socialism to a politics centred on the Nation – in French terms, The Republic.

Mediapart has published these tributes.

Régis Debray sent the following message that he asked me to read you:

Unable to be at your side, allow me to greet in a few words more than an old friend: one of those men of commitment who have never sacrificed their convictions to their careers, and who are not numerous…….We will try, dear Didier, not to forget you.

 *****

(1) Mais il m’a appris que, au début des années 1970, il avait souhaité que la Ligue communiste – le groupe d’extrême gauche pour lequel il avait le plus de considération intellectuelle – rejoigne le CERES.  

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm