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France: Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Reforms’ to Continue on Track?

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Protest Against Macron Calls for General Strike. May 2018.

Is France’s President Emmanuel Macron about to win his battle against the rail strikers?  

Last Friday after the French National Assembly the Senate passed legislation reforming the country’s railway system, the SNCF by 245 against 82. The principal change is that from an “établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial (EPIC) » to « société anonyme (SA) ». That is, it will become a limited company, which will remain under public ownership.

No new recruit will benefit from the existing ‘statut’, the terms and conditions, of existing employees. This open the way for the end of free travel for employees, lower pay, more worker ‘flexibility, and the abolition of the right to retire at 55 for train drivers. A principal argument behind these, and other changes, is that the public railway company must resolve its debt problem to be competitive.

There will be competition between the rail-service and other companies, extending the existing opening to freight. There are suggestions (Spinetta report) that some unprofitable branch lines may be done away with. Maintenance will also be open to private companies (l’Humanité. 15.6.18). From 2019 regional services will be affected and in 2020 the TGV will, leaving the position around Paris in the l’Ile-de-France to be clarified between 2023 and…..2039.

These changes follow European Union directives on public debt and competition. They have been issued with the agreement of the counties of the EU, dominated by supporters of the marketisation of public services, and not from some hidden Brussels cabal.

Strikes, strongly supported by those working for the SNCF, against the ‘reform’ began on the 3rd of April, co-ordinated by the ‘intersyndical’ of rail unions (CGT, UNSA, SUD, CFDT, and FO). As collective bargaining begins in the light of the new law stoppages continue, intended to weigh on the negotiations. Despite suggestions that the ‘reformist’ unions (such as the CFDT) might reach a conciliatory agreement on their own this has not yet happened. What looks likely happen as talks get underway is that strikes will become reduced to a means of pressure for the best possible outcome, within this framework.

Despite a parallel conflict in Air France and a student movement, including militant occupations, against the reform called ORE (“d’orientation et de réussite des étudiants”) which gives universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants , a ‘social movement’ against Macron’s moves has not taken off. The wider public appears not to have identified with the fight of the cheminots (rail workers) as they did in 1997. Jean Luc-Mélenchon has stated that while he is drunk with his own self-satisfaction,  59% of those polled have a ‘negative’ opinion of the President. But ‘marées populaires” ‘ (tidal waves of protesters) at demonstration of solidarity with the strikers by his rally-party, have failed to flood the streets.  La France insoumise, the radical left, and other parts of the fragmented green, Communist and socialist left, trade unionists and students, have not created an ‘ insurrection  citoyenne’. Many of the public, lukewarm at the defence of what much of the media has presented as “special interests”  do not identify with the strikers.

Macon now feels free to tackle the welfare state. He has complained about the “pognon de dingue” (daft amount of dosh)  spent on welfare, suggesting wholesale changes in the benefit system. Replacing the complex French pension system with a uniform regime is in his sights. At the same time today it’s confirmed by right wing Economy Minister, Bruno le Maire, that the les Aéroports de Paris, la Française des Jeux (National Lottery) and Engie (unsurprisingly an energy firm) will be privatised (France’s Le Maire set to unveil inflammatory privatisation bill.)

It is sometimes suggested that Macron poses as ‘above’ left and right to cover his neoliberal policies. But is the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation what it was at the turn of the new millenium? The nature of ‘liberal’ policies, when not only European countries like Italy, Poland and Hungary, displaying signs of the less attractive side of anti-liberalism, but the US is engaged in trade wars that strike up the pillars of what was assumed to be ‘globalisation ‘ is in a state of flux. It is all very well for Mélenchon to shout that the President is an “EXTRÊME-LIBÉRAL”. But that part of the French left, including sections of La France insoumise, like other currents in Europe, including Britain, consider that ‘socialist’ version of ‘sovereigntism ‘ that is national control of the economy, is the answer to the difficulties created by years of market reform and liberalisation only adds to the confusion.

The French President himself claims to be a « progressive » both of the « right, the centre, and the left ». (Macron, un président philosophe. Brice Couturier. 2017) Put in less exorbitant langue he is, in effect, claiming the mantle of the 5th Republic, designed by de Gaulle to make the Head of State appear « above » parties and social divisions. Taking this further Macron presents his fight against workers and social rights as a struggle against outdated ‘ corporatism ‘.

A more bogus sets of political assertions would be hard to find. Saint-Simonian top-down technocratic reforms are the opposite of changes inspired by grassroots democratic struggle. But until there is a left united enough to challenge Macron and the domination of the National Assembly by his La République En Marche!  they will be hard to put down.

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Giles Fraser, Guardian Columnist and radical Priest attacks “Cosmopolitans” and calls for New Patriotic Party – “Home”.

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Giles Fraser: Fighting “Rootless Cosmopolitans”. 

Clergyman Giles Fraser is a bit of character.

During his time at St Paul’s – as Canon – he backed the Occupy! movement.

More recently he has embarked on a journey which began with his studies of Nietzsche, then passed through his staunch denunciation of the ‘atheist’ French revolution, and, above all, Charlie Hebdo, who misused freedom as “white atheists to sneer at non-white believers”.

Then he attacked the “The oppressive individualism of human rights.

As you do.

Pride is not normally considered a Christian virtue, but this has not stopped our Padre this week from terminating his voyage with his very own proud call for a new political party.

He begins with this lament for the past.

The Labour party began as a party for the working class, reflecting the patriotic communitarian commitments of working class people. Many who were not themselves working class were attracted to its values of fairness and social solidarity.

But towards the back end of the 20th century, the party was increasingly taken-over by those who espoused a cosmopolitan and liberal philosophy of individualism that was too relaxed about the effect of market forces and indifferent to the importance of communal life.

There was a dangerous hubris about the way liberals accepted no limit to individual self-assertion. Under the banner of progress and spreading liberal values, we invaded Iraq and brought the world to the very edge of another world war.

Enough is enough. It’s time for a new political party. My one would be called Home. It wants a United Kingdom that is generous at home and reluctant to intervene abroad.

Liberals, human rights – all vanity.

In touch with Twilight of the Gods Fraser has thus spake.

Let’s Concentrate on Home

Home is a party that accepts we are no longer a global power. The empire is long behind us, and, therefore, we do not need an expensive global military to go with it. We would immediately cancel Trident and substantially reduce our budget for the armed forces. We will be extremely cautious about foreign military interventions. Withdraw all forces from the Middle East. We need more police and fewer soldiers.

Exit EU, without a deal if necessary: no to the Single Market, no to the Custom’s Union. We must have a home of our own, and others should respect we have our own way of doing things. We need a British Bill of Responsibilities and Rights. The seat of government should move to Manchester during the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament, and an English Parliament should remain there when the United Kingdom government returns to Westminster.

Home is a patriotic party. Not narrowly nationalist, but nonetheless proud of our heritage. It believes in stable communities, full of people who are very definitely citizens of somewhere. Deracinated cosmopolitanism, and its accompanying philosophy of liberalism, has transformed us into a society of atomised individuals, cut off from each other and ill at ease together. Home is a proposal for the fightback.

Liberalism has broken us – we need a new party to call Home.  7th of June.

This looks, probably because as it is, like 1930s neo-socialism, a half-way house to the nationalist far right.

Fraser is only one anti-EU figures to go in this direction.

Sovereigntism, a “home of our own” is the maison commune of many an anti-globaliser.

Communities, the real destination of the once influential communitarian thought of Michael Sandel and others, end up being exclusionary Nation States for all this fretting Man of the Cloth’s warm words.

Fightback Forsooth!

Rootless Cosmopolitans. 

There are those, less enchanted, and full of resentiment who have picked up on some of his language.

More on HP.

 

Here is a recent example of how Fraser is Beyond Good and Evil.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

French Assemblée nationale debates law on “Fake News”.

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Not Good Company for Macron.

Taking aim at so-called fake news, France’s Parliament on Thursday is set to begin debating a tough bill aimed at repressing phony news items, one pushed by President Emmanuel Macron amid criticism that it poses a potential threat to press freedom.

The measure would allow judges to block content deemed false during a three-month period preceding an election.

Mr. Macron, stung last year by a phony internet-spread story claiming he had an offshore account in the Bahamas, has made fighting “fake news” a priority. His opponent, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, brought up the Bahamas story during a critical presidential debate. Now, she is attacking the proposed law as a “liberty killer.”

Shortly after the new year, Mr. Macron told a press gathering that he would aim to “protect our democracy from these false stories” by cracking down on phony reports.

New York Times.Adam Nossiter

Libération reports today (Fake news : une loi qui fonce la tête dans le bidon Amaelle Guiton , Jérôme Lefilliâtre)

Originally supposed to fight “against false information” (contre les fausses informations) , the bill to be discussed on Thursday in the National Assembly was renamed to target “the manipulation of information.”(la manipulation de l’information).

This change of name was decided in view of the law’s stated objective of reacting to “destabilisation operations” carried out by foreign powers (Russia, especially), whereas in first formula appeared to many as a possible way of making news conform to what the authorities in place consider to be the truth.

There are many problems.

The first is that the main axis of the law , “creates two tools supposed to fight against the large-scale dissemination of false info that could compromise the “integrity of  of an election” (scrutin).

In other words the law is aimed at allegations of outside interference in electoral contests (one can also imagine Britain’s vote on Brexit would serve as an ideal-typical example).

Digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, “will have to indicate the identity of the customers who paid for the stories, as well as the sums involved,  to promote “information related to a debate of general interest”.

The other instrument put in place, more formally legal, attacks the propagation of false information.

During the same pre-election period, a judge in a legal hearing may within within forty-eight hours, ” lay down all proportionate measures necessary to stop the dissemination of this false information.

One can imagine that any democratic legal system is not equipped to deal with such cases so rapidly.

The second is that the law increases the powers to sanction of the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA) with regard to the audio-visual media “controlled by a foreign state or under the influence of this State” if they have been found being guilty of a false info. This implicitly targets, the Russian TV channel RT.

The text presented this Thursday is limited to specific periods and limited cases. For example, the judge will only be able to rule if false information is “disseminated in bad faith, artificially or automatically and massively”,that is, if it is the product of a deliberate strategy.

How this could operate in the face of a sophisticated operation like RT is hard to see. What is false and what is not? The Russian media outlet gives a platform to far-right and nationalist ‘republican’ politicians in France, far-right and anti-European ‘left’ politicians in the UK. It carries endless stories about ‘Chaos Europe’, and stokes fear of migration. It hosts pro-Russian, and pro-Assad voices, and some claiming to campaign to the Stop the War in Syria. t broadcasts opinion-news on the turmoil in the Middle East more widely, and extends its operations across the world. Most obviously it boosts Putin’s immediate interests in Russia itself. I

Which part of this web of misinformation, fear-stoking and promotion of divisions in European society could a law bring to a halt?

These and other obvious ambiguities in the law have already resulted in amendments.

More are expected today, while the whole principle of legislating against Fake News is questionable.

As Hervé Saulignac states in the New York Times piece,

“The potential risk in this law is if it winds up in the hands of a government with the wrong motives,” said Hervé Saulignac, a Socialist member of Parliament who is leading the opposition. “That’s where it could lead to catastrophe.”

Mr. Saulignac said, “There is no clear frontier in the law between journalists who follow the rules, and all the rest.” Mainstream journalists, he said, “could be attacked for fake news, simply because, for instance, you have attacked me.”

Beyond that, he said, “How can it be proved in just 48 hours that I don’t have an account in the Bahamas?”

“At a time when the press is threatened around the world, it is better to protect the press,” Mr. Saulignac said.

le Monde is of a similar opinion, stating that a Law cannot settle the issue of Fake News>

Loi sur les « Fake news » : la confiance dans l’information ne se décrète pas

More background: Fake news : une loi pour rien ?

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Ernest Mandel in 1968 – Berlin and Paris Friday 18 May 2018, by STUTJE Jan Willem

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Just Short of the “Conscious Leap”: Ernest Mandel in 1968 – Berlin and Paris

STUTJE Jan Willem

Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières 

An excerpt from the book which details Mandel’s experiences during 1968 in Berlin and Paris.


On 9 October 1967, the world learned of the murder of Ernesto Che Guevara. Convinced that guerrilla warfare was the only way to victory, he had gone to join the Bolivian struggle. His body was found mutilated in a remote village. This was the death of a revolutionary, a modern-day warrior chief. The left was in mourning; poets wrote elegies, laments that ended with calls to rebellion. In an interview with Gerhard Horst (pseudonym of André Gorz), an editor of Les Temps Modernes, Mandel spoke of “a severe shock, all the more as I regarded him as a personal friend.” In La Gauche he mourned “a great friend, an exemplary comrade, a heroic militant.” On the Boulevard St-Michel in Paris and Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, in London and Milan people shouted: “Che, Che, Gue-va-ra!” The chopped syllables formed a battle cry against the established order. Neither Moscow nor Beijing had expressed even the most grudging sympathy. In openly showing their regret the Italian and French Communist parties proved they still possessed a little autonomy.

Mandel’s sympathizers in the French Revolutionary Communist Youth (JCR), a radical group founded in 1966 in a split from the Union of Communist Students, refused to accept his death. “Che was our best antidote to the Maoist mystique,” Daniel Bensaïd recalled. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Mutualité, temple of the French workers’ movement, was full to overflowing. Mandel spoke alongside Maurice Nadeau, just back from Havana, and Janette “The Cuban” Habel. He portrayed Che as he had come to know him in 1964. Emotion crested as those present softly hummed “The Song of the Martyrs,” the mourning march from the 1905 Russian Revolution, before launching into, “You have fallen for all those who hunger” and belting out the chorus, “But the hour will sound, and the people conquer . . .”

In Berlin too people were deeply moved. The SDS called for intensifying actions. Che had been Rudi Dutschke’s inspiration. With Gaston Salvatore, a Chilean comrade and friend in the SDS, Dutschke had translated Che’s last public statement, with its famous appeal for “two, three, many Vietnams,” from Spanish into German. Like Che, Dutschke lived the conviction that there “is no life outside the revolution.” He named his recently born son Hosea Che. Latin America would not let Dutschke go. In 1968 he wrote a foreword to The Long March: The Course of the Revolution in Latin America, a collection of articles by such figures as Régis Debray, Castro and K.S. Karol. Meschkat was surprised to see letters from Gisela, which she had sent him from Havana in the summer of 1967, printed in the book. As far as he had known, Dutschke had asked only for permission to read them.

 Berlin 1968: with Rudi Dutschke

In the summer of 1967 Mandel and Dutschke grew closer. Dutschke noted in his diary: “Discussion with Gisela and Ernest, [Adorno’s student Hans- Jürgen] Krahl, etc. about organizational questions and preliminary theoretical discussions for a conference in Berlin.” Shortly before, Dutschke and Krahl had presented a so-called organization report to an SDS conference in the old refectory of the University of Frankfurt. Krahl was for Frankfurt what Dutschke was for Berlin — the undisputed chief ideologue. The SDS was growing dramatically, with 2,000 members and easily several times that many sympathizers, including not only university students but also high school students and young workers. They were for reform of the universities and against the Vietnam War, against the Greek dictatorship, against the emergency decrees and against the “emperor of torture,” Shah Reza Pahlevi of Iran. Participating in their actions cost Benno Ohnesorg, a twenty-six-year-old student, his life. On 2 June 1967 he was shot dead by the police in Berlin, setting off a month-long rebellion.

More on site. 

The present Blog published a review of Stutje’s book when it appeared. 

The Bright Side of Things

Ernest Mandel. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred. Jan Willem Stutje. Verso 2009.

From the latest Chartist.

In 1976 Ernest Mandel observed that Europe’s far left had been able to “accumulate sufficient forces” in this “revolutionary period” to have the “realistic possible of winning over the majority of the working class.” (New Left Review. No 100.)

As a young member of the same Fourth International as Mandel I read many of Mandel’s similar exhortations. Even to us ‘ultra-leftists’ in the International Marxist Group, only a few believed that this was true in Britain. Most were wary of what Stutje calls his “exuberant optimism”.

Yet someone with a command of serious Marxist theory, a democrat and a revolutionary socialist, opposed to the official Communist parties of the day, a tireless activist, deeply impressed us. That our International had someone with such fierce intelligence, not a bullying leader of a sect, was a source of pride. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred tries to do justice to this Mandel. Somebody with the ambition to influence and take part in not just Europe’s but the World Revolution is no easy subject.

If Stutje’s biography does not unearth a forgotten figure, Mandel’s writings remain in circulation; it confronts us with aspirations that have seemed, for a long period, from another epoch.

A “Flemish internationalist of Jewish origin” Mandel was born (1923) in Hamburg and grew up in Antwerp. His father was a leftist refugee from Hitler, who became a diamond dealer and then insurance agent; he was linked to the small Trotskyist movement opposed to Stalin.

Mandel was brought up in an atmosphere of high European culture, and classical Marxism. Soon after the founding of the Fourth International in 1938 he joined the Belgium Trotskyists. Under German occupation Mandel remained politically active. Arrested once, and released (or ransomed, Stutje recounts), he was finally tried again for giving German soldiers anti-militarist leaflets. Deported to a labour camp in Germany, he was freed in 1944 full of expectation of the coming revolution.

He had a lasting impression, “The alliance against fascism had consolidated both the democratic and Stalinist regimes, but under working class pressure.” Mandel threw himself into a lifetime of ratcheting up that pressure.

From the 1940s hope that Europe’s workers would rise in socialist revolution, to the joys of ’68, the left’s rise, and impasse, in the decades that followed, Mandel plunged into far-left politics.

Stutje recounts the saga of the Belgium left (through the microscope of Trotskyism), and Mandel involvement in the Fourth International. Or rather, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. He is fair to Michel Raptis (‘Pablo’), for years his closest collaborator and rival, praising his “political intuition”, and his faults, “imperiousness”. They separated mid-60s, on Pablo’s unconditional support for anti-colonialist movements. Mandel too, as the sixties wore on, had been wrapped up in ‘third-worldist’ causes – Struje cites close contact with Che Guevara. But his principal faith lay in the working class in industrialised counties.

At the same time the party man was writing serious, if (critics comment), too all-embracing works, such as Marxist Economic Theory (1962), and the unfortunately titled Late Capitalism (1972) – how ‘late’? These consolidated his academic position at the Dutch language Free University of Brussels. That aside, few consider Mandel as the founder of a ‘school’ of Marxist political economy. As Stutje remarks, his study on the ‘long waves’ theory of crises (1978), lacks the institutional details of how capitalist accumulation developed post-war. But his influence was wider. Amongst prolific writings, which read as if stitched together from Europe’s press, Mandel produced real gems, his Introductions to the Penguin edition of Capital, and on Marx’s wider intellectual development. Perhaps his greatest political contribution – a break with the Leninist past as great as Eurocommunism’s – was to envisage socialist democracy. Strange to say, in retrospect, this was a major turning point for those reared in the harshest interpretations of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It would be impossible to imagine a left capable of confronting the collapse of Official Communism without this return to democratic roots.

In the 1970s Mandel was banned from entering several countries, including Germany, France, and the US. Not only Mandel envisaged – in this case, feared – revolutionary upheavals. Even when this prospect subsided in the early 1980s the Fourth International peaked at 10,000 active members.

But it did not weather the Thatcher-Reagan years well, nor adapt easily to the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. They foresaw everything but the neo-liberalism that ran riot across the globe. Yet till his death in 1995, Mandel remained bound to the “moral imperative” to continue to fight. Mandel was too much part of the real left – perhaps obscured in Britain through his brief canonisation by the most politically sterile faction of the New Left – to retreat to the Watchtower.

A Rebel’s Dream Deferred pays tribute to the sheer ethical drive of the man. That the Fourth International’s Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, now the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste has been a real player in French politics demonstrates that he was not entirely mistaken.

Andrew Coates.

Also read Phil Hearse (Fourth International) on this book here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 31, 2018 at 1:34 pm

As Anglos attack Charlie Hebdo over Cartoon of Pougetoux’s Veil, Mélenchon says, ‘It’s as if I was wearing a Massive Cross.”

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Riss the author of this cartoon, was seriously injured by the Islamist murderers at Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

(“Blessé à l’épaule droite (l’os de l’omoplate est éclaté comme une assiette) lors de la fusillade au siège du journal à Paris, le , il succède à Charb en tant que directeur de la publication de Charlie Hebdo, et possède aujourd’hui 70 % des actions du journal3. Depuis, il déclare être visé par une fatwa4.”)

I do not find the cartoon of Maryam Pougetoux  funny, and that’s speaking as a long-standing Charlie supporter.

Nor do I appreciate the intervention of Gérard Collomb, Minister of the Interior,  attacking her.

But when I read this I have no sympathy with those attacking our Charlie many of whom lose no opportunity to have a go at those “dammed Frenchies” as their forerunner the Scarlet Pimpernel would have put it.

Twitterati Furious as Charlie Hebdo Depicts Hijabi Woman as Monkey

Now those defending the wearing of the Veil have a problem – apart from the fact that our comades are regularly put in prison for not wearing the religious dress in Iran.

Nobody asked her to impose her religious beliefs on a student union, which is what despite her claims, she is doing.

She is enforcing her religious identity.

Now the the multi-cultural left who lose no occasion to attack Charlie have an additional  problem.

The leader of la France Insoumise has also attacked those wearing reactionary religious symbols, such as the Veil.

C’est comme si j’arrivais avec une énorme croix”

It’s as if I came wearing an an enormous  cross.”

Invité du “Grand Jury” ce dimanche 20 mai, Jean-Luc Mélenchon a réagit à la polémique concernant Maryam Pougetoux, la présidente de l’Unef à Paris-Sorbonne apparue voilée à la télévision il y a quelques jours. Il a estimé que “la religion devient de plus en plus ostentatoire”.

 

le Monde. Maryam Pougetoux, responsable de l’UNEF, répond aux critiques sur son voile.

More background: former head of the student union says her stand is in “total contradiction with the values and history of our union.”

Another Riss cartoon which no doubt defenders of Marine Le Pen will be offended by.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2018 at 1:26 pm

The French comrades react: Fuck you Daesh!

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When I heard the news of the latest atrocity in Paris it struck me, as somebody who worked a few metres from where this happened .the French comrades reacted exactly the same way as I did.

A thought for the victims of the attack near the opera. I continue to plead for a firm, full and unconditional condemnation of terrorism, the methods and ideology of the djihadisme, by the orgas and militant forces who claim to be on our side, because it is not frankly and always the case. I also keep worrying about media ritournelles that the bastards were every time they were on file. If that means that the rg needs to spend more time watching Islamists instead of extreme-left militants, then okay. If it is a ritournelle to prepare for habeas corpus and to take us to administrative internements, bad days will be announced.

 

S.

 

C’est ma ville, la ville des douleurs et des sourires mélangés du monde entier. La ville où tu sens à chaque instant l’odeur du temps et celle des gens du présent, la ville où le monde entier s’est échoué sur des terribles campements .La ville où mon grand-père s’est échoué aussi, il y a si longtemps, et la France n’en voulait pas, mais Paris , têtue, reste la ville monde où , à chaque instant, même dans le désespoir le plus noir, on se dit , devant la nuit qui brille et chavire en même temps, que l’échec ne durera pas toujours, forcément, qu’il y aura les révoltes des Printemps, où les arrivés d’hier , depuis la Commune et même avant, sont toujours devant, fièrement.

C’est ma ville, où le FN ne crève jamais le plafond, malgré les fascistes qui attaquent les gens sur les campements, malgré les terroristes qui font couler le sang.

C’est ma ville, qui tangue de douleur et d’effroi devant tous les droits dans leurs bottes, mais ne sombre pas, c’est la haine qui finira par se noyer dans les rires mêlés des mômes de banlieue, des touristes endimanchés et des réfugiés fatigués mais qui vont rester, t’inquiète, et dans trois générations , leurs enfants me ressembleront, Parisiens accrochés aux bords de Seine, certains de passer leurs soirées dans la ville la plus belle du monde, qui sera toujours à tout le monde.
Fuck you Daesh.

N.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Fred Leplat (Socialist Resistance) Expelled from Labour Party.

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Fred Leplat: stalwart of the left.

The Jewish Chronicle says,

Hard-left ‘revolutionary’ who met Jeremy Corbyn in Barnet ahead of local elections is expelled by Labour Party.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

Can I say, as somebody who has known Fred for some (very long) time, and has respect for Socialist Resistance(SR), that this report is more than incomplete.

Why was this expulsion so rapid? 

Fred and SR have never made the slightest secret about their politics.

LePlat is well known, and liked, by many people on the left and the labour movement as his position as Barnet Momentum secretary indicates.

The views of SR on broader issues in the Middle East – one of the few groups on the left to defend consistently Syrian Democrats against Assad  – should be taken into account.

As in, “Fred Leplat writes about the barbarism unleashed by Assad on the people of eastern Aleppo.” (2016)

They are what they say they are, and the letter Fred mounted is in defence of Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians and opposition to anti-Semitism, not the wild ‘anti-Zionism’ that people are rightly concerned about.

It states, opposition to  “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”.

We, Labour Party members in Barnet, are firm opponents of all forms of racism, fascism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and all other kinds of oppression.

Many of us have been actively campaigning against them for many years, often alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

We know antisemitism exists in society and needs to be combated, including in political parties. But we are seriously worried about the current climate in the Labour Party, where criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is too often conflated with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism.

What we are now seeing is an attempt to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, thereby weakening genuine anti-racism and opposition to antisemitism.

The real target of these critics is Jeremy Corbyn, because they oppose both his record of internationalism, in particular his lifelong support for the rights of the Palestinians, and his commitment to socialism.

In the last two years, more than 300,000 people have joined the Labour Party to support its progressive politics.

Not all of them will have much experience of, for example, recognising anti-Semitic tropes. We believe the best way to combat any such naivety, lack of knowledge or problematic choices of words among Labour’s membership is through open debate and discussion.

We therefore welcome the direction by Jeremy Corbyn to the new Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, to at last implement the recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report about the party’s disciplinary procedures, based on natural justice and due process.

We pledge to mobilise with members of all faiths and none to end the attacks against the Labour Party, which damages the party’s effectiveness in helping those people most harmed by the austerity and cuts-obsessed Conservative government and Barnet Council.

Ham and High.

I and many of my comrades do not support their take on these issues, notably the blanket use of the term “Zionism”, but there is room in a democratic socialist party for disagreement within these boundaries. I note that the letter states, support for implementing the “recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report”.

It is not the place for this Blog to comment further on the way the letter was presented or if membership of SR is an offence leading to automatic expulsion.

Here is the full Jewish Chronicle article.

EXCLUSIVE Fred Leplat – who sent a letter which falsely claimed to have been signed by 33 Barnet Labour members to the JC supporting Mr Corbyn’s record on antisemitism – has been expelled by Labour.

Lee Harpin.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

The JC can reveal Fred Leplat was kicked out of Labour – for membership of the far-left Socialist Resistance group – only hours after he had joined other hard-left activists at a breakfast meeting with Mr Corbyn at a café in Finchley last week.

The meeting between Mr Corbyn and local activists at Café Buzz on Finchley High Road last Tuesday infuriated many mainstream campaigners involved with the Barnet Labour group.

Mr Corbyn had failed to notify them he was visiting in advance and then failed to meet any of the local election candidates to boost morale ahead of last Thursday’s polls – and it is unclear if Mr Leplat was technically suspended by Labour when he met the leader.

The disciplinary investigation into Mr Leplat started after an official complaint was made last month about the letter he had sent out attacking the “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”, in a defence of the Labour’s record on antisemitism.

It claimed Party’s antisemitism crisis was in part an attempt to “deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism” which was purportedly signed by 33 members of the Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon and Chipping Barnet Labour parties.

The JC later learned several of the signatories had not wanted their names on the letter  – and that a majority at the Barnet Momentum group opposed the letter being sent out ahead of the elections, believing it disrupt their campaigning activity in the crucial final weeks.

A source confirmed: “The letter that Fred Leplat was involved with had circulated in various draft forms for some time.

“But he clearly took it upon himself to circulate the letter to six different news organisations in a decision that would only serve to stoke the antisemitism row that had dogged the Barnet election campaign even further.

“There were some people who had not even signed the letter, and others who had no idea it was going to be sent out to newspapers.”

Sources have also confirmed to the JC that during the investigation into Mr Leplat’s conduct, his membership “of an organisation incompatible with Labour Party membership” became apparent.

Mr Leplat had previously been involved with the hard-left Left Unity party(1), but joined the Finchley and Golders Green Labour CLP after Mr Corbyn became leader.

Labour’s disciplinary committee was said to have reached its decision after finding articles and speeches Mr Leplat had made for Socialist Resistance – a group describing itself as a “revolutionary, ecosocialist feminist organisation” which publishes a “Marxist periodical of the same name”.

The source added: “In the aftermath of the disappointing local election result for Labour in Barnet, the fact that Mr Corbyn ended up in a breakfast meeting with people like Fred Leplat only days before the electorate went to the polls speaks volumes.

“We kept telling Mr Corbyn to come down to Barnet and meet the ordinary voters on the street, especially those within the Jewish community, but he just wouldn’t listen.”

(1) SR make no secret of their political trajectory.

Supporters of Fred say, “There is an email trail showing people agreed to add their names to the letter.”

Some might conclude that this is an easy target but as the above indicate there are serious questions about the move.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 11:54 am