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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How Many Divisions?

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

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

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

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

Betrayal? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamon: Green Party Campaign, Green Party Score.

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

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

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

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

Left Futures?

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

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

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

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Charlie Hebdo Claims Plenel Ignores Ramadan’s Behaviour.

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

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

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

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

Ramadan…

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

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

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

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

But Caroline Fourest indicates one aspect of it….

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

Hatred Between Charlie Hebdo and Mediapart.

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

Image result for plenel charlie hebdo

This the full Editorial.

 

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

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

Image result for affiche rouge edwy plenel

 

Which not suprisingly got this reply.

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

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

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

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

Secularism.

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freedom, Democracy and Secularism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiculturalism or anti-racism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia.

Respect is an extreme example.

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

These are not just casual prejudices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But….

There is the same shift from ethnicity to religion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent anti-racism.

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

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

The second takes up the Ramadan case.

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Mort de Didier Motchane, cofondateur du Ceres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for le poing et la rose

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

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

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

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

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

These developments were mirrored in their publications.

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

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

Chevènement himself was not completely left out in the cold.

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

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

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

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

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

Mediapart has published these tributes.

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

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

 *****

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

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Charlie Hebdo Has a Laugh at Catalan Nationalists.

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Catalans Bigger Bleeding Idiots than the Corsicans. “We Demand a Debate”.

This is all over the Spanish media today.

“¡Idiotez o muerte!” La feroz burla de Charlie Hebdo al ‘procés’ catalán

El Paìs.

The Catalonia based  El Periódico (which publishes in Spanish and Catalan)  is less enthusiastic, describing the cartoon and editorial with the word – who would have guessed it, “provocative” –  but takes it all in good stride.

‘Charlie Hebdo’ se burla del ‘procés’: “Los catalanes, más tontos que los corsos”

Some of the Tweets they publish take exception to the comparison with the violent FLNC, but in our view the journal comes out of this in a good light by indicating this one.

There are too many other reports to signal here, but ask Comrade Google.

The Riss Editorial (pictured on the left, above)  is sure to win Charlie new friends as well:

Stupidity or death !

The Catalan independence referendum has shaken Europe. If all the European regions with their own language, history and culture start claiming independence, the Old Continent will soon break up like pack ice under global warming. Given that there are 200 languages in Europe, why not create 200 new countries?
…..

“the worst dictatorship the world has ever known, the European Union.”

“Independence. A flamboyant word sometimes hiding less noble concerns.”

“We can almost hear the despicable Margaret Thatcher again: “I want my money back”.

“Besides these mercenary considerations… certain voices on the Left claim …a blow for cultural identity”.

“Why should the cultural identity claimed by Catalans be OK when the Christian identity claimed by European xenophobes isn’t?”

“Right wing nationalism and left wing nationalism have one thing in common: nationalism”

“When Catalonia has broken the shackles binding  it to the Spanish Monarchy and the Holy  European Empire what will happen?”

“Proud independentists will march through the streets to the sound of drums and fifes, taking themselves for the Durutti column, young girls will throw rose petals at the militants..”

“And when the evening comes everyone will go home and collapse in front of the telly to watch Wheel of Fortune and  Barça  in the quarter-final of the League. Catalonia will have really deserved that.

 

And so it goes….

European left in confusion faced with Catalan ‘Cross Class Unity’ for National Independence.

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Image result for catalan independence cartoon

El Paìs leads today with the story that the right-wing leader Puigdemot will go to the Catalan Parliament on Monday with a possible declaration of Independence.

Puigdemont irá el lunes al Parlament para la posible declaración de independencia

The Spanish daily cites the BBC’s report, Catalan referendum: Region’s independence ‘in matter of days’.

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Spain’s King Felipe VI on Tuesday accused Catalan secessionist leaders of shattering democratic principles and dividing Catalan society, as thousands took to the streets to protest against a violent police crackdown against the banned independence referendum held on Sunday.

The televised speech, a rare intervention by the 49-year-old monarch who is normally silent on politics, was a sign of how deeply Spain has been shaken by the Catalan vote and a police crackdown that injured 900 people.

On Tuesday tens of thousands of Catalans demonstrated in the streets of the northeastern region against action by the police who tried to disrupt Sunday’s vote by firing rubber bullets and charging into crowds with truncheons.

Tuesday’s protests shut down road traffic, public transport and businesses.

Socialist Worker comments,

Some Catalan politicians and pro-independence organisations played down the role of workers and emphasised that the whole nation was out.

The support of small business certainly added to the strike’s impact in key sectors such as food and retail. Public sector bosses told workers that they wouldn’t even lose pay for striking.

But the main bosses’ organisation in Catalonia condemned the strike. It took workers’ organisation to enforce it.

The SWP appears to consider that ‘the workers’ should lead a campaign for independence.

This seems to ignore that the Catalan government which is said to be about to declare independence is led by the right wing, Carles Puigdemont of the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, PDeCAT.

Andy Durgan has offered this analysis in

Spanish state out to smash Catalan independence referendum

…any decisive shift to the left would mean breaking completely with the neo liberal PDECat. The temptation to accept some form of “national” government is strong, not only inside the left nationalist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (which forms part of Junts pel Sí) but also among some sectors of the CUP.

Such a government would mean more austerity and cuts and this would also reinforce the rejection of independence that already exists among some sections of the working class in Catalonia; in particular workers of Spanish origin.

More specifically, revolutionary socialists should work to build the CUP, defending both its political independence and the need for practical unity with others on the left.

Whatever happens on 1 October, the political crisis that the Catalan movement has triggered in the Spanish state will only get deeper.

The crisis has indeed deepened.

But why should the left, and the Catalans are not shy in calling for support from the left in the rest of Europe, support the goal of independence.

For what end?

Some claim that the roots lie in the way the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal invalidated in 2010 the new autonomy statute (Estatut).

But what is a lot clearer is the demand to free the wealthy region from the ‘burden’ of Madrid.

Linguistic, cultural and a big degree of financial and administrative  autonomy, as the name Estatut d’Autonomia de Catalunya indicates,  are guaranteed already, even if they have stumbled faced with a hostile central government.

Does the fact that the right-wing PPR, in power in the Cortes, has, in the last few years, thwarted legitimate attempts to extend this make full independence justified?  Was the removal of the definition of Catalonia as a “nation” the tipping point?

What of the left?

To Durgan,

For most socialists support for the self determination of oppressed nations is accepted on principle. But in the case of a Catalonia, where the movement appears to be led by the right, providing such support may not seem so clear. For instance, the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont is a member of the bourgeois nationalist PDECat (European Democratic Party of Catalonia), which, has enforced cuts and austerity.

But the campaign for independence is far from being a mere tool of the Catalan bourgeoisie. While the immediate demand for independence came out of frustration with attempts to reform the Statute of Autonomy, the resulting movement was also shaped in the context of the economic crisis, the emergence of the Indignados movement in 2011 and the return of the PP to central government.

Indeed, but…..the movement’s unity was forged by blaming austerity on ‘Madrid’ and sought a solution in national sovereignty for Catalan which the following only seeks to hide.

The tone of its propaganda and its demonstrations is markedly progressive; talk of a republic that defends social justice and ethnic diversity is central to its propaganda. The main social base of the independence movement is among the Catalan speaking middle and working classes. In contrast, the main employers’ organisations, even those linked to the nationalist right, are opposed to independence.

Durgan does not consider in detail the Republican Left, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, with 9 seats, Puigdemont’s junior allies in the Parlament de Catalunya. Their project for a Greater Catalonia, including parts of France and the neighbouring areas of Spain in Valencia, is above all cultural and  “regionalist” carried into a state-building project.

The Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, CUP, with this vote 2015 336,375 8.20% and 10 out of the 135 seats in the Catalan parliament, are no doubt significant in holding the “balance of power” in the Parliament.

The CUP, which plays a central role in the movement, is undoubtedly the largest anti-capitalist grouping in Europe at present. Apart from its 10 MPs and 340,000 votes, it has some 370 local town councillors and around 30 mayors. Its militant anti-racism, feminism and internationalism, its opposition to the EU, set it apart from the rest of the left.

The first part of the assertion may well be contested, from the La France insoumise  (17 seats on the French National Assembly, nearly two and half million votes in those elections, over 7 million votes, 19,48% in the first round of this year’s Presidential ballot), onwards.

The second part apparently links internationalism with being anti-EU…..

One could naturally go for the maximum and start dreaming of this: Por una Catalunya independiente obrera y socialista, en la perspectiva de una Federación Libre de Repúblicas Socialistas Ibéricas

Back to the mundane real world: what of the actual left, notably Catalunya in Comύ, of Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona,? They have strongly denounced the repression, took part in yesterday’s protests, but hold the view that the October the 1st referendum was a “mobilisation” and call for a real referendum. Podemos, for all that one might criticise Pablo Iglesias’ ‘national popular’ strategy, and efforts to take the ’empty signifier’ of La Patria and shape it to the left, calls for negotiations and dialogue. 

Apparently this is confused, because they hesitate to weld together the demand for independence and sovereignty as the key aims for …the left. (L’instant de vérité pour le mouvement indépendantiste catalan).

Perhaps they should keep quiet about issues which oppose the left, root and branch, with the Catalan right, and wait until independence and national sovereignty are achieved.

Better in fact to oppose sovereignty and nationalism, Spanish and Catalan, from the word go.

More background.


The Catalan independence referendum is a smokescreen for other issues. Eleanor Rosenbach
Independent.

The ruling party in Catalonia, PDeCAT, has been plagued with allegations of corruption; debate around which has receded as demands for independence have increased. Spain’s governing party, the Partido Popular, for its part, has often sought conflict as a means of garnering public support.

Both sides in this debate are using the referendum to further their own political agendas. Spain’s governing party, the Partido Popular (PP), is a right-wing party housing a spectrum of thought from neoliberalists to the hard-line right. The ruling party in Catalonia, PDeCAT, is a centre right party of the Catalan bourgeois which has historically been the natural ally of PP and not a traditional supporter of independence. Interestingly, their move to advocate a referendum has stopped their support from dropping in recent months.

Alongside this, neither the national government nor the Catalan parliament are strangers to corruption in politics. PDeCAT has been plagued with allegations of corruption, debate around which has receded significantly as demands for independence have increased. PP, for its part, has often sought conflict as a means of garnering public support. Positioning this referendum and the spectre of independence as a threat to Spanish citizens and their economic future – as well as tugging on the strings of nationalist patriotism in demanding the continued unity of Spain – PP has engaged widespread support. In recent days, Spanish flags have poured from windows and balconies, and in towns throughout Spain people have cheered the Civil Guard – Spain’s law enforcement agency which operates on military lines – with football chants advocating the defeat of the opposition.

Of wider interest:

El Paìs reports,  There’s fake news in Catalonia too.

After a month of intense activity, primarily on Twitter, these pro-Russian profiles have managed to successfully place the secessionist challenge among the most relevant issues in international politics on internet forums. But the issue has not been presented as a dispute between the majority of Catalans who want to decide on their independence and the rest of the Spanish people, but rather as a crucial part of a crisis in the model of Western democracy and the European Union as an institution. Officially, the Kremlin has stated time and again that the referendum is an internal Spanish affair. However, the accounts that less diplomatically promote the Russian government’s interests on social media spoke yesterday of the EU’s imminent decomposition.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm

As Macron Signs Labour ‘Reforms’ into Law, Mélenchon’s La France insoumise holds its own Protest.

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Melenchon: the leftist aiming for 'pharaoh' Macron

Protest against the Social Coup Today.

 

Macron signs sweeping labour reforms into law. France 24.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday signed sweeping changes to France’s complex labour code into law, sealing a signature reform after four months at the helm.

The measures, which have triggered mass protests, are designed to give employers more flexibility to negotiate pay and conditions with their workers and makes it easier to lay off staff.

In signing the measures, Macron was making good on a central campaign vow, overriding objections from some trade unions and the hard-left opposition.

The 39-year-old centrist believes that making the job market more flexible will help drive down the unemployment rate, now at 9.6 percent, but opponents say the reforms are a gift to bosses while workers will suffer more job insecurity.

The reforms overhaul large parts of the 3,300-page labour code which details workers’ rights, with some chapters dating back over a century.

Rosa Luxumberg is said to have once commented that Jean Jaurès could not address the French Parliament  without appealing to the “heavens and the stars” ( au ciel et aux étoiles ).

It is hard not to be reminded of this remark when hearing a lesser figure, Jean-Luc Mélenchon in full flow, and not only when he is talking about his plans for French space exploration.

Today Mélenchon‘s movement, La France insoumise is marching against Macron’s ‘coup’, in bringing in the above laws, or as they put it, the President’s  “coup d’état social”.

Image result for la france insoumise marche en direct twitter

This promises to get off to an interesting start as the Black Bloc has announced that it intends to take over the head of the demonstration:

They call themselves the “real insoumises”.

More on the page Mouvement inter-luttes indépendant (MILI).

 

Others who will join the Great Orator include, le Mouvement du 1er juillet fondé of rformer Socialist presidential candidate,  Benoît Hamon, qui  Attac (alter-globalisation movement) ; Nouvelle Donne ; les trotskistes du Parti ouvrier indépendant (Lambertist) ; Ensemble (note: le mouvement of deputy Clémentine Autain). The Parti communiste français  will send a delegation and the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA)  will assemble at some point.

 This front page needs no further comment:
 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm