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France, Day of Strikes and Mass Demonstrations Against Macron’s Plans to Raise Pension Age.

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 Day of strikes and protests in France, with transport, schools and refinery shipments disrupted as workers walk off their jobs in an attempt to derail President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension overhaul. France 24 (which you can watch on Smart Televisions in the UK).

Over a million of demonstrators protesting against the Macron reform:

It is striking that the French trade union federations, often divided – and none more so over previous pension reforms in the 1993, and in 2003 when the CFDT led a “bloc réformiste” with CFE-CGC et la CFTC in a compromise with the measures proposed by right-wing PM  Jean-Pierre Raffarin- were united today:

It is striking that the French trade union federations, often divided – and none more so over previous pension reforms in the 1993, and in 2003 when the CFDT led a “bloc réformiste” with CFE-CGC et la CFTC in a compromise with the measures on funding retirement proposed by right-wing PM  Jean-Pierre Raffarin- were united today.

Background, union leaders explain their opposition to the changes: Retraites : 8 syndicats, 8 raisons de dire non à la réforme Libération.

Despite these protests.

4:11pm: Macron vows to press ahead with reform despite protests

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is in Spain Thursday, did not seem to be buoyed by the massive protests back home, telling a press conference in Madrid that the reform “is just and responsible”, and that France “must carry this out”.

In the National Assembly Macron’s PM, Élisabeth Borne , has, as the largest party, only a relative majority. It will be hard to find easily the numbers from her own ranks alone for this measure. The traditional right, Les Republicans, are her indispensable allies. The left blog, NUPES, is opposed. The far-right Rassemblement National, led by Marine Le Pen, while not backing the protests, has not supported the change.

In case of difficulty there are constitutional means which allow the President to impose his wishes, (Article 49.3). They were used under his previous PM, Edouard Philippe in 2019/2020 for another pension reform. That was, nevertheless, dropped in the face of the Covid Pandemic. While supporting the new changes Phillipe, at present Mayor of Le Havre and not in Parliament, has said that there are a thousand other things more important to be done « il y a mille choses beaucoup plus importantes à faire ».(le Monde).

The fight continues:

In Marseille Mélenchon says Macron has already lost his first battle

Police use force against protestors:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Crisis in La France insoumise bubbles over: what now for ‘left populism’?

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LFI ‘Gazeuse’ organisation bubbles over. Autain “La France insoumise must be democratised.”

The left alliance, NUPES, Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale, is, with 151 MPs (out of 577), the biggest opposition bloc in the French Parliament, the Assemblée National. It united on programme of Green politics (a rich section, ranging from tacking climate change, a path to 100% renewable energy, to farming) raising the minimum wage level, a “révolution fiscale’ to shake up taxation, a price freeze on basics, lowering the retirement age to 60, tackling poverty giving young people financial independence, dealing with the housing crisis, expanding the public health service, to thorough-going democratic reform in a new, 6th Republic, a strong defence of secularism (laïcité), reform of the police and security services, to measures to promote equality and fight against all forms of discrimination. Many more ideas are offered. The document Programme partagé de gouvernement de la Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociales, 92 pages in print, is clear, and inspiring. It merits reading and re-reading.

NUPES was, and has not become, a ‘left populist’ alliance. During the election campaign it was projected that Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France insoumise (LFI), would, on the strength of his score in the April Presidential elections,  22% of the vote, in the second round, third place, would be able to demand of President Macron that he be appointed Prime Minster. In his early ‘seventies, he did not stand as an MP (the constitution allows the head of state to appoint a PM from outside the National Assembly).

But the NUPES was not The People. It is an electoral and Parliamentary alliance of the left, including the Socialist Party (31 MPs), the Communist Party (12 MPs) Mélenchon’s LFI (the largest group, 75 deputies), Europe Écologie Les Verts, (EELV, 17MPs, whose new leader  Marine Tondelier wishes to change the name to the more intelligible, Les Ecologistes), and smaller parties, including Génération·s, founded by the socialist Green former 2017 PS Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon (3 MPs) and the ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists of the Parti ouvrier indépendant. (POI – 1 MP).  

LFI and other radical sections of NUPES have supported strikers, protests, and other actions in civil society. This autumn they backed marches on the cost of living (“contre la vie chère”) and climate change. Trade unions, working on the principle of independence from political parties that dates back to the revolutionary syndicalism of the 1906 Charte d’Amiens, do not, even from their left flank, always appreciate direct political interventions.  The left-wing (formerly largely Communist) CGT federation has expressed annoyance at its terrain being trampled on by Mélenchon’s initiatives. But one cannot accuse NUPES of neglecting extra-parliamentary activity. Internationalist initiatives, have included protests against the repression of democratic movement by the Islamic Republic of Iran (Communiqué de l’intergroupe de la NUPES #FemmeVieLiberté : Stop aux exécutions arbitraires !). Some left MPs have, in cooperation with union figures and the independent radical left, recently backed a declaration and demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine.

NUPES is appealing, particularly to our European left whose make-up, in different paries and groups, is often very close. You could say that any section of our left, from social democrats, democratic socialists, Greens, red-greens, diverse forms of Marxism, has its place in its ranks. They seem to have fitted in. If they have had difficulties they are shared elsewhere. Many of us are glad they established themselves with national strength when it looked a few years ago as if the French left would go the way of the Italian, departures for the liberal centre, style Macron and no left MPs at all, or America-style, the US Democrats, and an insignificant radical fringe..

NUPES, and specifically La France insoumise, has run into difficulties in different areas.

Adrien Quatennens, recently sentenced for acts of violence against his wife, came out of the court and immediately denounced a ‘lynching by the media’ and efforts to relativise the case. The case, posted on this Blog, has significance not only because it involved an MP caught out for domestic violence. The deputy was a leading figure in LFI and close to Jean-Luc Mélenchon. If suspended for 4 months from their Parliamentary group he still plans to return to the National Assembly in January. Feminists, and some left representatives, have denounced what they feel, rightly, is the feeble response of the official LFI to Quatennens’ actions.

The way LFI functions, as a ‘non-party but a ‘movement’ has been highlighted not just by this, which some consider leniency marked by personal closeness to the leadership of one former MP for the 4th Constituency of the Bouches-du-Rhône, but the appointement of a new co-ordinating body to run the organisation. Alexis Corbière, whose closeness to Mélenchon dates back two decades, a veteran of the French radical left (stints in student leadership for the Lambertists, 5 years in the Ligue Communiste révolutionnaire, LCR, before joining the Socialists in 1998, resigning from the PS, with Mélenchon in 2008), member of his hard-core Parti de Gauche, and a strong, to put it mildly, republican secularist) announced his “radical disagreement” with the LFI’s new leadership “J’ai un radical désaccord avec la nouvelle direction de LFI“.

The main issue is that this body, which ’emerged’ in a mysterious way (“une méthode que j’ai moi-même du mal à saisir.”) at a conference selected (not voted for) from LFI people, under the new titular head, Manuel Bompard, with no alternative ‘big beasts’ or different standpoints . This consensus decsion-making, degré zero, only selecting those loyal and in consensual agreement with one Jean-Luc.

Well known and respected Left MPs, also excluded from the leadership, such as Clémentine Autain, have joined the public critics. She agrees with many points made by Corbière:

Yesterday Autain, who has a degree of independent assured with her roots in the Ensemble! group (that consists of radical leftists, greens, self-management and anti-capitalist tendencies, site here), launched this broadside.

Clémentine Autain, députée LFI : « La mise au placard du pluralisme n’est pas possible » Journal du Dimanche.

 Pour la députée La France insoumise Clémentine Autain, « un parti ne se renforce pas en s’épurant ». [A reference to a phrase used by as a legend at the start of Lenin’s What is to be Done?, “le parti se renforce en s’épurant “a party becomes stronger by purging itself. “From a letter of Lassalle to Marx, of June 24, 1852] Elle estime également que les propos d’Adrien Quatennens, condamné pour violences conjugales, « vont rouvrir le débat » sur sa réintégration dans le groupe LFI à l’Assemblée”.

For the La France insoumise MP Clémentine Autain, “a party does not strengthen itself by purifying itself”. She also believes that the words of Adrien Quatennens, convicted of domestic violence, “will reopen the debate” on his reintegration into the LFI group in the Assembly.

The story is all over the French media: 20 Minutes.

Deputy La France insoumise (LFI) for Seine-Saint-Denis, Clémentine Autain spoke this Sunday in the Sunday newspaper concerning the new organisation of the party, announced last week, and the Adrien Quattenens affair .

“The decision to compose a leadership that is inward-looking is creating a major crisis. […] Shelving pluralism is not possible. We have a problem of democracy in the life of the movement”… “To calm the situation and guarantee the unity of the movement, we need to overhaul our organisation”. And to appeal to Jean-Luc Mélenchon . “I think [ Jean-Luc Mélenchon ] has a role to play [in this internal crisis] to put an end to it”.

Clémentine Autain fustige « l’indécence » d’Adrien Quatennens « qui sape la crédibilité de LFI » Huffington Post.

These difficulties were not unforeseen. The structure of LFI, half-US style pressure group business model, half short lived electoral rally, is, critics have long alleged, not fit for purpose. Mélenchon and those close to him have claimed that their ‘gazeuse’ (as in eau gazeuse, sparkling water, in this context, effervescent) organisation has avoided the old Parti Socialiste divisions of long-standing formal currents, each run by little barons. But the new forms is not able to deal with bubbling political life.

The last few days show they neither deals with the needs of a mass organisation with a large Parliamentary body nor grass-roots democracy. They are ill-adpated to new conditions. The underlying pluralism of NUPES is deeper than that of the late 90s Gauche Plurielle, which aligned highly structured pre-existing parties. Today this reflects a diversity of relatively new political movements (LFI is an obvious case, with Autain coming from and relating to the radical left beyond Mélenchon, but there are also bodies like Génération·s), new individuals, politicians coming to maturity who are not deferential to a Guide, and figures on the ground councillors and activists, who are making their own way. New MPs are unlikely to remain stewarded within its hazy structures nor appreciate being excluded from decision-making when it suits the managing directors. Purging parties does not work with elected representatives – they will not lose their seats, the voters chose them – nor fit with calls for a new more democratic republic. One idea of ‘left populism’, federating the people around a charismatic chief, in the shape of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has reached its limit.

***

See this analysis from the left, by the London based Phillipe Marlière.

« L’autocratie de la France insoumise et le discrédit de la gauche », par Philippe Marlière Nouvel Obs.

La France insoumise (LFI) is going through a crisis which, once again, put into question the foundations of its organisation, in particular the absence of democracy within it. The previous major crisis occurred in 2019.

Un parti personnel et autocratique

It has long been established that LFI is a personal party (created by Jean-Luc Mélenchon to serve his political objectives in the presidential election), that the ex-socialist rejected contested democracy in favour of a gaseous” organisation without membership, without elections of the leader and the members of the management, without pluralism, without the possibility of proposing to the debate and to the vote alternative motions to those of the cadres without the groups at the grassroots having the capacity to develop politically.”

“The movement is not “gaseous” , that is to say based on a flexible, light and reputedly effective organisation, but foggy, that is to say voluntarily opaque in order to cover up the tracks and allow the Commander to what pleases him when it so suits him.”

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2022 at 2:37 pm

Founding Conference of Révolution Permanent. Jean-Marc Rouillan (former Action Directe) and Frédéric Lordon Star Speakers.

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The new far-left political organisation Permanent Revolution held its founding congress in Paris on Friday, hoping to take advantage of the recent split in the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and the “democratic vacuum at LFI”. Reports France 24 no less!

“Jean-Luc Mélenchon runs the Insoumis with an iron fist, Lutte Ouvrière (LO) is old-fashioned: the party is not aimed at young people. As for the NPA, it intervenes everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We concentrate (recentralise) the struggle around feminist and environmental issues,” Paul Morao, communications manager for the new organisation, told AFP.

Media personalities such as the co-founder of the far-left armed group Action Directe (“It claimed responsibility for more than 80 attempted assassinations or other attacks between 1979 and 1987, when the last of its members still at liberty were arrested”) Jean-Marc Rouillan …..

[NOTE: sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for the murder of the CEO of Renault, Georges Besse, and a defence ministry official, General René Audran, out on parole since 2011. In 2016, “Rouillan commented on the Paris attacks when 130 people were killed by armed Islamists and  many more injured. “I found them very brave,” he said. “They fought very bravely. They fight on the streets of Paris, they know that there are 2-3,000 cops around.” But he went on to oppose their “theocratic” ideas. “You can say plenty of things about them – that you’re absolutely against their reactionary ideas, that it’s stupid to do that – but not that they are cowardly kids,” he declared. Former far-left armed group leader in court for ‘condoning’ Paris attacks ]

….. and the anti-racist activist Assa Traoré publicly showed their support for Permanent Revolution.

The Tendance was also interested to see this name, Frédéric Lordon, whose books have been translated into English (I have 4 of his livres, including the second one, all version originelle), “Willing Slaves of Capital, (Vero Books, 2014),  Imperium: Structures and Affects of Political Bodies, (Verso. 2022, French, 2015). He is “considered one of the most prominent intellectual voices of the radical left in France today”.

Niquer is shag/ fuck, in the latter sense, loosely, systematically fuck it all!.

Freddy is 6 years old. His choice of words reminds one of elderly French leftists who pepper their speech with Verlan, like the word Meufs.

*******

“This party is the future of change, of a new era, of equality for all. Because everyone deserves to be free, to be defended”, launched Assa Traoré, elder sister of Adama Traoré, acclaimed by 300 activists present at the congress.

All chanted in chorus “Justice for Adama”, a young black man who died in 2016 after his arrest by gendarmes in Val-d’Oise.

Apart from the “anti-racist fight”, “other struggles are to come against inflation and for the revaluation of wages and, above all, the fight against the pension reform which we are already beginning to prepare”, continued Daniela Cobet , a Permanent Revolution activist who plans to organise strikes from the start of the 2023 school year.

To “unite the struggles”, the organisation has left “the door open to comrades” who have recently left the NPA, a movement which split in two during its congress last weekend.

Permanent Revolution had itself been unofficially created in April 2021 by activists excluded from the NPA for their more revolutionary line and their refusal of any rapprochement with LFI, desired by Philippe Poutou and Olivier Besancenot.

The organisation, which intends to continue the communist “class struggle”, is convinced that a “new revolutionary generation has been born since the demonstrations against the labour law reforms in 2016”, according to Anasse Kazib. The latter, a figure of the movement, had not been able to gather the necessary sponsorships to stand for the presidential election of 2022.

*****

They’ve had links with Rouillon for some time:

Looks like the post-Morenoites are on a journey!

As the anti-Potou/Besancenot bloc s’epearted’ from the NPA they say, “Come and Join us!”

Explosion du NPA, un premier bilan

Daniela Cobet.

(Conclusion)

Les révolutionnaires n’ont aucun intérêt à mettre sous le tapis les désaccords stratégiques qui traversent le NPA depuis des années. Plutôt que de continuer le NPA, il devrait s’agir aujourd’hui de le dépasser dans le cadre d’un combat plus global pour la refondation d’une extrême-gauche révolutionnaire à la hauteur des enjeux de la situation politique et de la lutte de classes, qui puisse constituer une véritable alternative au néo-réformisme de LFI et à la recomposition de la gauche institutionnelle permise par la Nupes.

A notre petite échelle, nous essaierons d’apporter une petite pierre à cet édifice le week-end prochain, au travers de la fondation d’une nouvelle organisation révolutionnaire autour de Révolution Permanente. Une organisation dont nous espérons qu’elle pourra offrir un cadre militant à de nombreux camarades, et qui restera disponible au débat et à des collaborations pratiques avec les courants et les militants de la plateforme C du NPA.

Revolutionaries have no interest in sweeping under the carpet the strategic disagreements that have been going through the NPA for years. Rather than continuing the NPA, today it should be a question of going beyond it within the framework of a more global fight for the refoundation of a revolutionary far left equal to the stakes of the political situation and the class struggle, which could constitute a real alternative to the neo-reformism of LFI and to the recomposition of the institutional left that Nupes (Left Parliamentary and election agreement) has facilitated.

On our small scale, we will try to bring a modest contribution to creating this next weekend, through the foundation of a new revolutionary organisation around Permanent Revolution. An organisation which we hope will be able to offer a militant framework to many comrades, and which will remain available for debate and practical collaboration with the currents and militants of the C platform of the NPA.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2022 at 2:23 pm