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Dieudonné Sentenced to 2 Months in Gaol in Belgium for Anti-Semitism: Will his ‘Peace’ Concert go ahead?

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Brussels (AFP) – A Belgian court sentenced controversial French comedian Dieudonne Wednesday to two months in jail for incitement to hatred over alleged racist and anti-Semitic comments he made during a show in Belgium, a lawyer said.

Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who has faced similar court cases in France, was also fined 9,000 euros ($9,500) by the court in the eastern city of Liege, said Eric Lemmens, a lawyer for Belgium’s Jewish organisations.

He was not in court for the verdict.

The judgement “says that all the accusations against Dieudonne were established — both incitement to hatred and hate speech but also Holocaust denial” relating to a show in Liege in 2012, Lemmens told AFP.

“For me this is more than satisfying, this is a major victory,” he said.

Earlier this month the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Dieudonne in a separate case, deciding that freedom of speech did not protect “racist and anti-Semitic performances”.

Dieudonne was protesting a fine he received from a French court in 2009 for inviting a Holocaust-denier on stage. He was fined 10,000 euros ($11,000) for what that court referred to as “racist insults”.

In March, a French court also handed Dieudonne a two months suspended sentence and fined him heavily for anti-Semitic remarks after he caused uproar by suggesting he sympathised with the attacks against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

“I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” he wrote on Facebook, a play on the slogan “Je suis Charlie” that became a global rallying cry against extremism and Amedy Coulibaly, one of the attackers.

The performer, who made his name in a double act with Jewish comedian Elie Semoun, is infamous for his trademark “quenelle” hand gesture that looks like an inverted Nazi salute but which he insists is merely anti-establishment.

French courts have hauled him up over a string of comments which opponents say are bluntly racist while supporters champion his right to free speech.

Dieudonne, who can appeal the decision, was not immediately reachable for comment.

Le Monde gives recent background, including other convictions for anti-semitism and his expulsion from his theatrical base at Saint-Denis.

Dieudonné condamné en Belgique pour antisémitisme

L’humoriste français Dieudonné a été condamné en Belgique, mercredi 25 novembre, à deux mois de prison ferme et 9 000 euros d’amende pour antisémitisme. Le jugement « considère que toutes les infractions reprochées à Dieudonné sont établies : à la fois l’incitation à la haine et diffusion de propos haineux, mais aussi l’infraction de négationnisme », a expliqué MEric Lemmens, qui représentait les organisations juives de Belgique.

Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala était poursuivi pour différentes préventions liées à de l’incitation à la haine et à la diffusion de propos discriminatoires, antisémites, négationnistes et révisionnistes lors d’un spectacle qu’il avait donné à Herstal, dans la province de Liège, le 14 mars 2012, selon Le Soir.

Le polémiste peut faire appel de la sentence, qui le condamne également à publier la décision du tribunal à ses frais dans les deux grands quotidiens francophones belges Le Soir et La Libre Belgique.

Expulsé de la Main-d’Or et privé de théâtre à Saint-Denis

Au début d’octobre, l’humoriste avait déjà été privé de théâtre à Saint-Denis, le tribunal de Bobigny ayant donné raison au groupe Madar, spécialisé dans l’immobilier de bureaux et d’entreprises, qui avait refusé de lui louer un espace de 1 500 mètres carrés au sein des anciens ateliers Christofle, situés en Seine-Saint-Denis.

L’humoriste avait par ailleurs été expulsé de la Main-d’Or après que le tribunal de grande instance de Paris a validé, à la fin de septembre, la demande d’expulsion de l’humoriste du Théâtre de la Main-d’Or.

Dieudonné a également été condamné en mars 2015 à 22 500 euros d’amende pour des déclarations antisémites proférées lors de son spectacle Le Mur.


“In July 2008, Jean-Marie Le Pen became godfather to Dieudonné’s third child. Philippe Laguérie, a traditionalist Catholic priest, officiated at the baptism, which was held in the Saint-Éloi congregation in Bordeaux.[59]

On 26 December 2008, at an event at the Parc de la Villette in Paris, Dieudonné awarded the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson an “insolent outcast” prize [prix de l’infréquentabilité et de l’insolence]. The award was presented by one of Dieudonné’s assistants, Jacky, dressed in a concentration camp uniform with a yellow badge. This caused a scandal[60] and earned him his sixth court conviction to date. On 29 January 2009, he celebrated the 80th birthday of Faurisson in his theater, in the midst of a representative gathering of Holocaust deniers, right-wing radicals, and radical Shiites.[61] Dieudonné and Faurisson further appeared together in a video making fun of the Holocaust and its commemoration.”

Dieudonné remains popular amongst a wide range of people.

Some, including the writer of this Blog, do not think that the law is the best way to deal with him or his admirers’ racism. 

Whether his participation in this Concert for Peace will go ahead is unclear.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2015 at 1:41 pm

French Communist Party: Democracy is a Weapon in the Fight Against Islamic State.

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Press release from Pierre Laurent, national secretary of the French Communist Party after the Paris killings.

Our country has just experienced one of the worst events in its history. Last night’s simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis, for which Daesh [short for Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq wa al-Sham] claims responsibility, and which, at this moment, have resulted in 127 deaths and 200 casualties, were horrifying. France is in mourning.

The day after the carnage, our first thoughts go out to the victims, their families, to those close to them, to the witnesses and to all those whose lives were threatened. For all, the pain is immense. Each and every one of us in France feels deeply wounded.

We salute the work of law enforcement, the emergency services, the Accident and Emergency doctors, healthcare workers and public service personnel, whose response to the situation has been exemplary, as has the people’s solidarity, which was felt straight away.

Less than a year after the attacks in January [on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7], the Republic has been struck at its heart.
Even as a state of emergency has now been declared by the government, reinforcement of the police and of the justice system’s resources is an imperative. The state must find suitable ways to guarantee the people’s safety in the long term.

I ask our people not to give in to fear, and to stand together for freedom, equality, fraternity, and for peace. We must make careful distinctions between issues, and avoid stigmatization. Together, we must firmly reject hatred and racism.

France is affected by the war and the destabilization that is plaguing the Middle-East. The fight against terrorism calls for increased engagement and international solutions.
It can only be won by coming together to create a united society that places, at the heart of all its decisions, human emancipation, the values of the Republic and peace.

The French Communist Party, its representatives and its elected officials, will support all initiatives that, in the days to come, will allow our fellow citizens to take on together this challenge and to open up a path of hope for our people.

In this tragic time, the French Communist Party has put all election-campaign activities on hold.

Translated Sunday 15 November 2015, by Ciaran Edwards

Reposted from l’Humanité in English

Friday 20th November: for the French Communists the fight against the Islamic State, Daesh, must take place within democratic framework.

In a special issue of l’Humanité today they make this clear, above all calling for Parliamentary control of the state of emergency.

No democracy is not an obstacle in the fight against Daesh. The state of emergency has been extended to three months: the need for Parliamentary surveillance and control is more than ever indispensable.

Nos libertés contre la terreur Patrick Le Hyaric.

This follows the important  interview with  leading Communist Pierre Dharréville “National unity around the values ​​of the Republic” on the PCF’s site:

The day after the speech of François Hollande before Congress,  he warned,

A response in the spirit of revenge will only lead to further disasters. The President has declared  war. But I have not heard any analysis on the results of the international policy of France and the effects of repeated interventions over the last fifteen years in the Middle East, and Africa, often outside the framework of international law. Since 2007, France has broken with the best traditions of  its foreign policy. We must redefine our objectives and those of the international community whose eagerness to intervene militarily for neocolonial objectives has only been equaled by the weakness of its diplomatic efforts to build peace in the world.

Pierre Dharréville also stated,

We must  find ways taking democratic control over tje  emergency measures. I can hear in them the influence of forces that were already  going in reactionary directions using this opportunity to drive home reactionary approaches  that will sweep away elementary principles of laws. law.

He listed the proposal to remove French nationality from people convicted of terrorist offences, the stigmatising of groups, notably refugees, and Muslims as of great concern.

Notably Dharréville stated that Deash is a political not a religious enemy,

The Islamic State – Daesh –  has a totalitarian project, grounded on the logic of purification, which has taken the flag of Islam like a Bullfighter takes his muleta.


Secularism is the guiding principle of our Republic, but I would warn against any attempt to divert into a way of stigmatising and dividing our people.

On National Unity he concluded,

For us, national unity can only take on the values ​​of the Republic and around building a society of peace. It can not be done on the basis of obedience to the leader. We will approve what we think is good for the security and defence of our freedoms.

More: Win the War? No, Put an End To It

Translated Tuesday 17 November 2015, by Isabelle Métral

Slavoj Žižek: No “deeper understanding of ISIS terrorists” as SWP says “Bound to be a Response” to Imperialist Wars.

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 Žižek: Defends “European emancipatory legacy .”

“There should be no “deeper understanding” of the ISIS terrorists (in the sense of “their deplorable acts are nonetheless reactions to European brutal interventions”); they should be characterized as what they are: the Islamo-Fascist counterpart of the European anti-immigrant racists—the two are the two sides of the same coin. Let’s bring class struggle back—and the only way to do it is to insist on global solidarity of the exploited.”

Slavoj Zizek: In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical Western Roots.

Bang in cue the Socialist Workers Party announces,

After Paris: no to racism and imperialist wars that breed horror

There is no excuse, but there is a context for what has happened. Two and a half centuries of colonialism and imperialism have left a bitter legacy of hatred across much of the world against the West. More than 15 years of the “war on terror” have killed over a million people and driven millions more from their homes. There is bound to be a response.

They further state,

Ultimately those who died in Paris are themselves further victims of Western-backed wars and the reaction against them.

It takes some couilles to say that there is “no excuse” for murder, and then….find an excuse.

It also takes a while to wash the bad taste of this abject statement out of the mouth.

Slavoj Žižek by contrast gives genuine humanist, warm and democratic Marxist response to the Paris atrocity

This stands out:

The greatest victims of the Paris terror attacks will be refugees themselves, and the true winners, behind the platitudes in the style of je suis Paris, will be simply the partisans of total war on both sides. This is how we should really condemn the Paris killings: not just to engage in shows of anti-terrorist solidarity but to insist on the simple cui bono (for whose benefit?) question.

  He asks some hard questions:

Taking control of the refugee crisis will mean breaking leftist taboos.

For instance, the right to “free movement” should be limited, if for no other reason than the fact that it doesn’t exist among the refugees, whose freedom of movement is already dependent on their class. Thus, the criteria of acceptance and settlement have to be formulated in a clear and explicit way—whom and how many to accept, where to relocate them, etc. The art here is to find the middle road between following the desires of the refugees (taking into account their wish to move to countries where they already have relatives, etc.) and the capacities of different countries.

Another taboo we must address concerns norms and rules. It is a fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights. Tolerance as a solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) obviously doesn’t work: fundamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humor, which we consider a part of our freedoms. Western liberals, likewise, find it impossible to bear many practices of Muslim culture.

In short, things explode when members of a religious community consider the very way of life of another community as blasphemous or injurious, whether or not it constitutes a direct attack on their religion. This is the case when Muslim extremists attack gays and lesbians in the Netherlands and Germany, and it is the case when traditional French citizens view a woman covered by a burka as an attack on their French identity, which is exactly why they find it impossible to remain silent when they encounter a covered woman in their midst.

 There can be no compromise on universal human rights: the very reason we support the refugees.

Žižek suggests, reasonably in our view, this:

To curb this propensity, one has to do two things. First, formulate a minimum set of norms obligatory for everyone that includes religious freedom, protection of individual freedom against group pressure, the rights of women, etc.—without fear that such norms will appear “Eurocentric.” Second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the tolerance of different ways of life. And if norms and communication don’t work, then the force of law should be applied in all its forms.

This is better known as secularism, or Laïcité. That is a common public framework, for the shared areas of politics and the state, that is beyond the interference of religious and sectional ideologies.  With this structure, as we argued yesterday, we should have absolute tolerance of diversity.

I will not comment further but note that comrade Žižek has the same mass line as ourselves on the following issue,

Another taboo that must be overcome involves the equation of any reference to the European emancipatory legacy to cultural imperialism and racism. In spite of the (partial) responsibility of Europe for the situation from which refugees are fleeing, the time has come to drop leftist mantras critiquing Eurocentrism.

The old postmodernist views, associated with terms such as Orientalism, have been dying for some time. What sense could they possible have when its Bangladeshi, Iranian, Kurdish, Maghrebian, South and East Asian, Arab and Africans who are in the front line of new development in universal emancipatory thought? Who has not read the writings of our comrades from these countries and been struck by their advance. 

That is, despite all the defeats, the barbarisms, Imperialism, Fascism, Stalinism, and now this….

It is as Kant said of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution,

For a phenomenon of this kind which has taken place in human history can never be forgotten, since it has revealed in human nature an aptitude and power for improvement of a kind which no politician could have thought up by examining the course of events in the past…

Contest of the Faculties. 1798.

Žižek continues, 

The next taboo worth leaving behind is that any critique of the Islamic right is an example of “Islamophobia.” Enough of this pathological fear of many Western liberal leftists who worry about being deemed guilty of Islamophobia. For example, Salman Rushdie was denounced for unnecessarily provoking Muslims and thus (partially, at least) responsible for the fatwa condemning him to death. The result of such a stance is what one can expect in such cases: The more Western liberal leftists wallow in their guilt, the more they are accused by Muslim fundamentalists of being hypocrites who try to conceal their hatred of Islam.

Tendance Coatesy has never given a toss about this worthless accusation, hurled at critics of reactionary Islamism, whether they be European or from Muslim countries. It is the secular left in the latter countries which is fighting Islamism. The only guilt the left should feel is that it is not going enough to support these beloved comrades.

This is a long article and there is a lot more to say and, sometimes disagree with – about a global evolution and the EU, not to mention a great dollop of the idiosyncratic theory of the author in the article ,  to start with. (1)

But we say this for now: chapeau comrade Žižek !

(1) Which is to say that despite finding a new best friend we remain a rationalist, an  admirer of Louis Althusser, sans Jacques Lacan, and no mate of Hegel, and even less of Alain Badiou, somebody we consider, in contrast to Cde Žižek, a Sombre oryctérope. (as Capitaine Haddock would say).


The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

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The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”

To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.

Pierre Bayle.  Pensées sur la comète, 1682

To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.

These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.

That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.

 The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of  “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)

State capitalism to neo-liberalism? 

The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this.  She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)

The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.

Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites.  It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism,  is also of interest.

A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.

If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)

One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.

The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)

Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this  “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above,  is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)

Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political,  within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left  made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)

This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.

Absolute Opposition to Islamism.

The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword.  But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.

  1. Page 376 The Origins of Totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt. André Deutsch. 1986 (1951) She developed the point, “Secret societies also form hierarchies according to degrees of ‘initiation’ regulate the life of their members according to a secret and fictitious assumption which makes everything look as though it were something else, adopt a strategy of consistent lying to deceive the no initiated external masses, demand unquestioning obedience from their members who are held together by allegiance to a frequently unknown and always mysterious leader, who himself is surrounded by the half-initiated who form a ‘buffer area’ against the hostile profane world.”(Page 376) They are “based on absolute hostility to the surrounding world, is very different from the ordinary parties; tendency to divide people into those who belong and those who don’t.”(Page 377).
  2. ISIS Inside the Army of Terror. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Regan Arts. 2015. Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents. 
  3. The Rise of Islamic State. ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockbrun. 2015. ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis Anne Alexander. International Socialism.. 2015. No 125.
  4. Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State. New Statesman 15.3.15.
  5. La Religion dans la démocratie. Marcel Gauchet. Folio. 1998.
  6. On totalitarianism: Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin edition. 2015. (Original 1974). This picture of the state is a very brief synthesis of the ideas of Mille plateaux.Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari. 1980. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. Michel Foucault. 1975 and L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme.Nicos Polunatzas. 1978.
  7. The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism.

Parisians: We will Remain Drunk and Joyous Faced with the Lovers of Death.

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It is tossed by the waves but does not sink: Paris.

The City’s motto has become the statement of the City’s defiance.


These are more expressions of defiance.

Joann Sfar, après avoir appris avec effroi la nouvelle des attentats de Paris, a réalisé douze vignettes BD.
The people who died this evening were outside  to live, to drink, to sing. They didn’t know that war had been declared on them.


#PorteOuverte, le hashtag de solidarité pour se mettre à l’abri à Paris

For more see: What a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist drew after the second Paris terror attack in a year.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

André Glucksmann, former Leftist, Nouveau Philosophe, Sarkozy Backer, Dies.

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Mort d’André Glucksmann, le philosophe en colère

Glucksmann’s death was the first item on France Inter this morning.

Agence France Presse states,

Paris, France:  French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, who rose to fame in the 1970s after supporting the Vietnamese boat people, has died at the age of 78, his son said today.

Coming to prominence in the glory days of French intellectual thought in the 1960s, Glucksmann, who died late Monday, famously broke with his Marxist peers and became increasingly right-wing in later years.

In 1979, he rallied the support of fellow philosophers including Jean-Paul Sartre to the cause of the Vietnamese who were fleeing the war in that country.

He later supported US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lobbied on behalf of Chechen Muslims during their civil war with the Russian government in the 1990s.

“My first and best friend is no more,” wrote Raphael Glucksmann on Facebook.

“I had the incredible chance to know, laugh, debate, travel, play, do everything and nothing with such a good and excellent man.”

This is an excellent, short but important, written, aural, and video, dossier on my favourite Radio Station, France Culture: Mort du philosophe André Glucksmann.

And here: Réécoutez André Glucksmann dans “A voix nue”.

In his student and academic youth André Glucksmann was associated with the left.His Discours de la guerre, théorie et stratégie (1967) and Stratégie et Révolution en France (1968) were translated into English and published in New Left Review.The first was an extended look at, amongst other aspects, classical military strategists, the second was a revolutionary Marxist call and skeleton programme for the French left to take power.

Not an orthodox ‘Marxist-Leninist’ Glucksmann was an active ‘general’ in the, Mao-Spontex’  Gauche Prolétarienne. After a dispute, in which he took the view that their campaign for “popular justice” in the  Affaire de Bruay-en-Artoi (1972-3) was degenerating towards calls for a public lynching. He and other critics were dismissed as “vipers”. Glucksman distanced himself from the group, which dissolved in 1973.

For most people he will be remembered for the two books he published shortly afterwards,  La Cuisinière et le Mangeur d’Hommes – Réflexions sur l’État, le marxisme et les camps de concentration (1975), and Les Maîtres penseurs (1977).

They expressed a fierce critique of Marxism, strongly influenced by the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It asserted that Marx has always despised the peasantry and the “plèbe” – the popular masses. The Gulag was a vast disciplinary machine to punish and reform, to break down the people.

The second, taking up a theme from the La Cuisinière, claimed that Lenin’s wish that every Cook could run the State was a disguise for a Marxist will to take control over all aspects of people’s lives. This drive for Mastery, Glucksmann alleged, was the real message of Marxism – not a desire for freedom, but a Will to control. Marx’s categories tried to encompass the world in their “general illumination” and ended up deforming it, Marx, he asserted, loathed the anarchy of the market not because it was wrapped in exploitation, but because it was “anarchy”. All Marxist regimes, he considered, had and would become nationalist, exclusive, intolerant, and murderous, in order to dominate the lives of the masses.

With these publications Glucksmann, as a critic of Marxism,  became, along with Bernard-Henri Lévy, an ubiquitous public figure as one of the late 1970s group of ‘anti-totalitarian’ publicists, promoted as the Nouveaux philosophes.  They extended their attacks from the Gulag to French politics. Nouveaux philosophes were active, as part of a wider “anti-totalitarian front”. They warned of the threat of the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français (PCF)),  coming to power as part of the left coalition,  the Union de la gauche – 1972 – 1977.  Glucksmann’s anti-left fervour did not quickly die down. In 1981 he still feared a possible Communist influence on the Parti Socialiste and backed the independent liberal rightist candidate  Marie-France Garaud against François Mitterrand in the 1981 Presidential election. She received 1,33 % of the vote. Mitterrand’s first government (1981 – 1984), headed by Socialist Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy, drew on 4 Communist Ministers. Not many noticed the first signs of the Gulag.

Subsequent books failed to have the same resonance.  They include Descartes c’est la France (1987), an essay on the Cartesian influence on French thought and culture,  Cynisme et passion (1999), a free-ranging discussion of political feeling in democratic politics,  Le Discours de la haine (2004), which took up, war, terrorism, religion, and ethnic conflict. More books, collections of journalism, and polemics, and earnest appeals to those in the Élysée followed.

In 1986 Guy Hocquenghen placed Glucksmann amongst a list of “renegades” from the left, above all ex-Maoists..He noted, Ma génération n’a connu qu’un seul type d’intello : l’intello flatteur du Prince.” My generation has known only one type of intellectual: the Price’s toady.” (Lettre ouverte à ceux qui sont passés du col Mao au Rotary)

Glucksmann was indeed better known as a media-intellectual aspiring to political influence than a writer or a philosopher.

Perhaps one of Glucksman’s best known moments was in 1979, when with Jean-Paul Sartre et Raymond Aron he helped organised support for refugees,  the boat-people from Communist Vietnam. Known as  ‘Un bateau pour le Vietnam’ the centre-right president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing received their requests and acted upon them. 

By the 1980s Glucksmann became one of the best-known figures in the drive for “humanitarian interventions”.

Glucksmann supported military action by the West in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was highly critical of Russian foreign policy, supporting for example Chechen independence.

He, however, was against the Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence from Georgia, arguing that Georgia is essential to maintaining European Union “energy independence,” vis-a-vis Russia, through access to oil and gas reserves in the former Soviet republics: “If Tbilisi falls, there will be no way to get around Gazprom and guarantee autonomous access to the gas and petroleum wealth of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan” . As proof of Russia’s plans to use energy blackmail, Glucksmann referenced a biting anti-Gazprom satirical song performed at the annual satirical award show “Silver Rubber Boot”, which made jokes like: If the Eurovision Song Contest denies victory to Russia again, we are going to drive to their concert and block their gas with our bodies!. Glucksmann described this song as proof that the Russian people want to cut off gas to Ukraine and Europe. He wrote: Consider a popular song performed by a military choir in Moscow. Its chorus depicts the “radiant future” that Gazprom is preparing: “Europe has a problem with us? We will cut off its gas… The Russian public loves the song.”


Glucksmann’s son, Raphaël Glucksmann is married to Eka Zguladze, is a Georgian and Ukrainian government official, currently serving as First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the position she assumed on 17 December 2014. She had served as Georgia’s First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs from 2006 to 2012 and Acting Minister of Internal Affairs in 2012.

In 2007 Glucksman supported Nicolas Sarkozy’s Presidential candidature. In Pourquoi je choisis Nicolas Sarkozy (2007), he cited the candidate’s backing for the Chechens and declared that Sarkozy represented the France of the “heart” (cœur).

He fell out with Sarkozy over the President’s apparently insufficient opposition to Russia’s President Poutin.

We dedicate this video to the memory of André Glucksmann.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

A State Jew? Léon Blum – David A. Bell on Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum.

with 6 comments


Blum: a Generous Humanist Socialist, not a “State Jew”.

A State Jew. David A. Bell. Review of Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

London Review of Books.

Thanks Jim D.

Bell begins  his review with this, which should give some pause for reflection,

The newspaper Action française habitually referred to Léon Blum, France’s Socialist leader, as the ‘warlike Hebrew’ and the ‘circumcised Narbonnais’ (he represented a constituency in Narbonne). On 13 February 1936, Blum was being driven away from the National Assembly when he encountered a group of ultra-right-wing militants who had gathered at the intersection of the rue de l’Université and the boulevard Saint-Germain for the funeral procession of Jacques Bainville, one of the founders of Action française, a reactionary political movement as well as a newspaper. Glimpsing Blum through the car windows, the militants began shouting: ‘Kill Blum!’, ‘Shoot Blum!’ They forced his car to stop and began rocking it back and forth. Blum’s friend Germaine Monnet, sitting with him in the back, tried to shield him with her body. Her husband, Georges, who had been driving, ran to look for police. But one of the militants managed to tear a fender off the car, used it to smash the rear window, and then beat Blum repeatedly over the head. Only the arrival of two policemen saved his life. They dragged him to a nearby building, where the concierge gave him first aid. The next day pictures of Blum, his head heavily bandaged, appeared in newspapers around the world.

We halt there.

To internationalist socialists Blum is above all known not for his Jewish identity – despite the book – but for his socialist humanist republicanism.

Blum defended French democratic republicanism, from the Dreyfus affair onwards. He was profoundly affected by the “synthesis” of socialism, including the Marxist view of class struggle, with democratic republicanism, that marked the life and work of one of our greatest martyrs, Jean Jaurès, assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the far-right,  for his opposition to the outbreak of the Great War. Blum did not, however, play a part in the anti-War left.

That is the context in which we would take the shouts of “kill Blum”.  Political, not ethnic.

Blum was a leading figure amongst the minority of the French Socialists, the SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière), who opposed what became in the 1920s the French Communist Party, the PCF. He was one of those who opposed affiliating the party to the Third International at the Congrès de Tours (SFIO).

Speech at the Socialist Party Congress at Tours, 27 December 1920 (best known under its French title, background Pour La Veille Maison, Text).

This is the crucial objection from the ‘reformist’ (but at this point, still Marxist) democratic socialists to the Third International – the Leninist one.

You are right to declare that the whole party press, central or local, should be in the hands of pure communists and pure communist doctrine. You are certainly right to submit the works published by the Party to a kind of censorship. All that is logical. You want an entirely homogeneous party, a party in which there is no longer free thought, no longer different tendencies: you are therefore right to act as you have done. This results – I am going to prove it to you – from your revolutionary conception itself. But you will understand that envisioning that situation, considering it, making the comparison of what will be tomorrow with what was yesterday, we all had the same reaction of fright, of recoil, and that we said: is that the Party that we have known? No! The party that we knew was the appeal to all workers, while the one they want to found is the creation of little disciplined vanguards, homogeneous, subjected to a strict structure of command – their numbers scarcely matter, you will find that in the theses – but all kept under control, and ready for prompt and decisive action. Well, in that respect as in the others, we remain of the Party as it was yesterday, and we do not accept the new party that they want to make.

To show how radical Blum was at this point, this is how he defended the dictatorship of the proletariat,

Dictatorship exercised by the Party, yes, but by a Party organized like ours, and not like yours. Dictatorship exercised by a Party based on the popular will and popular liberty, on the will of the masses, in sum, an impersonal dictatorship of the proletariat. But not a dictatorship exercised by a centralized party, where all authority rises from one level to the next and ends up by being concentrated in the hands of a secret Committee. … Just as the dictatorship should be impersonal, it should be, we hold, temporary, provisional. … But if, on the contrary, one sees the conquest of power as a goal, if one imagines (in opposition to the whole Marxist conception of history) that it is the only method for preparing that transformation, that neither capitalist evolution nor our own work of propaganda could have any effect, if as a result too wide a gap and an almost infinite period of time must be inserted between taking power as the precondition, and revolutionary transformation as the goal, then we cease to be in agreement.

Bear this in mind: these words are memorised almost by heart by many on the left.

The minority, for which Blum spoke, opposed to the Third International, retained the name, French Section of the Workers’ International. This was significant: it referred to a claim to continue the traditions of the Second International, of Marxist, if moderate and reformist,  inspiration.

Blum offered social reform on this foundation. He led, during the Front Populaire (1936 -38)  a government (as President du conseil) of socialists and radical-socialists, backed by communists from the ‘outside’ and a vast movement of factory occupations and protests,  to implement some of them, on paid holidays, bargaining rights limiting the working week. He had great limitations – one that cannot be ignored is that his government did not give women the right to vote – and his role in not effectively helping the Spanish Republic remains a matter of controversy to this day. Indeed the absence of feminism – as well as a rigorous anti-colonialism (the FP “dissolved” the North African, l’Étoile nord-africaine of Messali Hadj –  in the Front Populaire, is something which should cause a great deal of critical investigation.

The review in the LLB is about a book, and this is what he has to say specifically about it:

Birnbaum, a well-known historian and sociologist of French Jewry, has written a short biography that focuses on Blum’s identity as a Jew, as the series requires. It cannot substitute for the more substantial studies by Joel Colton, Ilan Greilsammer and Serge Berstein, but it’s lively, witty and draws effectively on Blum’s massive and eloquent correspondence. Arthur Goldhammer has, as usual, produced a lucid, engaging English text. Birnbaum seems to have written the book in some haste: he repeats facts and quotations, and makes a few historical slips – France was not a ‘largely peasant nation’ in 1936; Hitler did not annex the Sudetenland in the summer of 1938, before the Munich Agreement. The chapters proceed thematically, highlighting Blum the writer, Blum the socialist, Blum the lawyer, Blum the Zionist and so forth, which produces occasional confusion as Birnbaum leaps backwards and forwards in time. But overall, the book offers a knowledgeable and attractive portrait. If there is a serious criticism to be levelled at it, it doesn’t concern the portrait itself, so much as the way Birnbaum draws on it to make a broader argument about French Jewish identity.

But there are issues of much wider importance in that broader argument which do not depend on discussing that text and its content.

Bell makes two points about his legacy as described in Birnbaum’s book,

As Birnbaum himself repeatedly notes, despite his ‘quintessential’ Frenchness, Blum always expressed pride in his Jewish heritage, often in the highly racialised language of the day. ‘My Semite blood,’ he wrote as a young man, ‘has been preserved in its pure state. Honour me by acknowledging that it flows unmixed in my veins and that I am the untainted descendant of an unpolluted race.’ While he could speak disparagingly of Jewish ritual, he recognised and respected a Jewish ethical tradition. In 1899, in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair, he insisted that ‘the Jew’s religion is justice. His Messiah is nothing other than a symbol of Eternal Justice.’ He went on to identify ‘the spirit of socialism’ with ‘the ancient spirit of the race’ and to comment: ‘It was not a lapse on the part of Providence that Marx and Lassalle were Jews.’ Blum, in short, thought the Jews could change the French Republic for the better by drawing on their own traditions to push it towards socialism.

This attempt to bring up Blum’s references to his Jewish background, even in terms more democratic than Disraeli’s novels, voiced above all by the character Sidonia, owes more to pre-1930s racial romanticism to racialism.

Does this prove Bell’s point that, “The republican model allows strikingly little space for what immigrant communities can contribute to a nation. Visitors to France can see at a glance just how much immigrants have brought to its music, literature, sport and even cuisine. But the republican model treats difference primarily as a threat to be exorcised in the name of an unbending, anachronistic ideal of civic equality. Even in the heyday of the Third Republic, many committed republicans recognised that different ethnic and religious groups could strengthen the republic.”

Yes it does: secularism is freedom for difference, not the imposition of homogeneity.

Blum could be rightly proud of his cultural heritage,as indeed in a ‘globalised’ world of migration many other people from different backgrounds should be, and are, within the democratic framework of secular equality.

There is little doubt that the spirit of nit-picking secularism can be as unable to deal with these backgrounds, as say, state multiculturalism, which treats ‘diversity’ as if this were a value in itself. If the first tends to be hyper-sensitive to, say, reactionary  Islamic dress codes, the second abandons the issue entirely.

But there are far deeper problems than superficial insistence on  Laïcité

The first is ‘Sovereigntist’ efforts to claim secularist universalism for French particularism. This is the rule amongst the supporters of the far-right Front National, historians and writers like Éric Zemmour bemoaning France’s ‘decline’ , though we should underline, not the novelist Houellebecq, who expresses disdain for things, not hate). There are those who call for all Muslims to be expelled from Europe, those  to those milder nationalists of right and left who commemorate “le pays et les morts” (and not anybody else – a return to the culturalist (not to say, racial)  themes of Action française to Maurice Barrès and to Charles Maurras. This is indeed “communalism”.

It is the major threat to French republicanism.

There is also the issue of anti-Semitism in France, woven into another kind of ‘communitarianism’. Alain Soral, his close friend the comedian Dieudonné, popular amongst young people from the banlieue and the more refined inheritors of the Marrausian tradition, the partisans of the  Indigènes de la République, (including those associated in the English speaking world) rant at thephilosémitisme d’Etat” in France.

It takes all the effort of refined ‘discursive analysis’ from academics to ignore that at its heart this is a current  which indulges in Jew baiting. The mind-set of these people was classically described by Sartre, “« Si le juif n’existait pas, l’antisémite l’inventerait.» (Réflexions sur la question juive 1946). They indeed spent an enormous amount of time ‘inventing’ the presence of Jews in politics, and giving them influence ‘behind the scenes’.

In words which might have been designed to pander to the world-view of the  Indigènes, Bell cites Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist,

Blum ‘the first of a new type of state Jew interested in giving greater weight to democratic sentiment within the framework of a socialist project.’ One wonders, though, what Birnbaum might say about a French Muslim politician today justifying an ideological position by reference to Muslim tradition and ethics (or sharia law). Would he have quite so favourable an  opinion? Or might he see the move as a ‘communitarian’ threat to ‘the unifying logic of the nation’ and to ‘French exceptionalism’? It is well past time to recognise that a nation can have many different unifying logics, and that a political model forged under the Third Republic fits the France of the Fifth Republic very badly.

Blum celebrated his Jewish heritage. It is hardly a secret. Nor is his post-war Zionism, or support for Israel, a stand shared in the immediate aftermath of the conflict by the USSR.

But did he become a  man of the  ‘state’ because he was a ‘Jew’, and does this aspect of his person matter politically – that is in terms of the state?

For us Léon Blum is only one of the sources of a generous humanist secularism, but a significant one. That he did not tackle issues like feminism, anti-colonialism, and a host of other issues, goes without saying. But it would be a great shame if his legacy was reduced to being a “State Jew”.

And it could equally be said that republican secularism has many strands, that it is being transformed by the views of secularists from North Africa, the threat of the Islamist genociders of Deash, the mounting oppression in Erdogan’s Turkey, backed by his Islamist AKP, and – no doubt – Israel’s evident failings. Every one of these cases shows that religious law is not any part of a “tradition” that socialists – believers in equality – would recognise.

The logic at work here binds us to our French sisters and brothers, binds internationalists across the globe, in the way that the Je Suis Charlie moment briefly melded our hearts and minds together.

That is perhaps the real ‘end’ of all exceptionalisms.