Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘French Politics’ Category

Grace Lee Boggs has passed away: remembering her links with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

with 2 comments

Grace Lee Boggs, Legendary Activist, Dies At 100.

Huffington Post.

Grace Lee Boggs, the child of Chinese immigrants who spent her life actively supporting causes ranging from civil rights and labor to the Black Power and feminist movements, has died. She was 100.

Boggs died Monday morning, a spokeswoman for the Detroit-based Boggs Center confirmed, saying she went “peacefully in her sleep at her home on Field Street in Detroit.”

“Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two of Boggs’ trustees, said in a statement.

President Barack Obama — who himself was a community organizer in Chicago in the ‘80s — said he and the first lady were “saddened” to hear of Boggs’ death.“Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others — from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives,” Obama said in a statement.

Howell, who has known Boggs for more than 40 years and co-founded the Boggs Center, said the centenarian activist spent the entirety of her life pushing people to ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.

Howell pointed to an anecdote Boggs wrote in her 1998 autobiography, Living for Change. “When she was born above her father’s restaurant and cried, the workers in the restaurant said, ‘You should put her on the hillside. She’s just a girl — and she cries too much,’” Howell told The Huffington Post. “[Grace] said she knew from the beginning that the world needed to change.”

Facing significant barriers in the academic world in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. As a result of their activism on tenants’ rights, she joined the far left Workers Party, known for its Third Camp position regarding the Soviet Union which it saw as bureaucratic collectivist. At this point, she began the trajectory that she would follow for the rest of her life: a focus on struggles in the African-American community.[10]

She met C.L.R. James during a speaking engagement in Chicago and moved to New York. She met many activists and cultural figures such as Richard Wright and Katharine Dunham. She also translated into English many of the essays in Karl Marx‘s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 for the first time. She soon joined the Johnson-Forest tendency led by James, Raya Dunayevskaya and Lee. They focused more centrally on marginalized groups such as women, people of color and youth as well as breaking with the notion of the vanguard party. While originally operating as a tendency of the Workers Party, they briefly rejoined the Socialist Workers Party before leaving the Trotskyist left entirely. The Johnson-Forest tendency also characterized the USSR as State Capitalist. She wrote for the Johnson-Forest tendency under the party pseudonym Ria Stone. She married African American auto worker and political activist James Boggs in 1953 with whom she politically collaborated for decades and moved to Detroit in the same year. Detroit would be the focus of her activism for the rest of her life.

When C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya split in the mid-1950s into Correspondence Publishing Committee led by James and News and Letters led by Dunayevskaya, Grace and James supported Correspondence Publishing Committee that James tried to advise while in exile in Britain. In 1962 the Boggses broke with James and continued Correspondence Publishing Committee along with Lyman Paine andFreddy Paine, while James’ supporters, such as Martin Glaberman, continued on as a new if short-lived organization, Facing Reality. The ideas that formed the basis for the 1962 split can be seen as reflected in James’ book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook. Grace unsuccessfully attempted to convince Malcolm X to run for the United States Senate in 1964. In these years, Boggs wrote a number of books, including Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century with her husband and focused on community activism in Detroit where she became a widely known activist.


It was as part of the Johnson-Forest tendency that Grace Lee Boggs developed links with the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB) best known for the figures of Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort. Their critical views on the Soviet Union, which the French theorists  called bureaucratic capitalism, and the Americans some form of state capitalism, were in reality not too far apart when it came to the political conclusions they reached.  Both drew a line at any form of support, or ‘defence’, of the USSR.  Both were opposed to Orthodox Communist parties, which SouB tended to consider as arms of the Kremlin.

Their joint concern with power relations inside enterprises, the division between those giving Orders and those carrying them out, and rebellions – often outside, and opposed to, established trade unions – against this, were common themes.  Ties continued through the Correspondence group after its split with Raya Dunayevskaya  – SouB did not have a high opinion of  her exaggerated Hegelian Marxism.

The review that SouB published, Socialisme ou Barbarie,  included the both parts of the American Worker in its issues 1- 8 (1949 – 1951) – That is from   GUILLAUME, Ph.: L’ouvrier américain par Paul Romano 1:78 ROMANO, Paul: L’ouvrier américain (I) (traduit de l’américain) 1:78-89 = The American Worker  STONE, R.: La reconstruction de la société (II) 8:50-72 = The American Worker. )

The American Worker” was originally published in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest tendency. It was divided into two parts. The first part “Life in the Factory”, was written by Paul Romano, a young worker in one of General Motors’ car plants. It describes the everyday lives of the workers, their (often contradictory) attitudes towards the work, the company, unions, politics, and each other. Part 2 “The Reconstruction of Society” was written by Grace Lee Boggs (pen name Ria Stone).

The text had a significant influence on SouB – described in detail in  Looking for the Proletariat Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing. (2014) Stephen Hastings King.

A theme was the direct recording of what workers experienced in their daily lives and in their confrontations with bureaucrats of all stripes, from bosses, managers, foremen, unions and political parties of the left.

As Floriana Ferro notes,

The fifth chapter of the book shows how the group, through the newspaper Tribune Ouvrière, tries to give a voice to the collective at the factory of Renault Billancourt, whose political context is clearly defined in the fourth chapter. Hastings-King points out similarities and differences with another worker newspaper, the Detroit-based Correspondence project. After that, the author writes about Tribune Ouvrière and the role that Socialisme ou Barbarie plays in the process of its production, printing, and distribution.

Castoriadis’ indefatigable English translator, David Ames Curtis has also observed that his phrase “reconstruction of society” was borrowed from Grace Lee Boggs. He continues,

Ria Stone (Grace Lee Boggs), “The Reconstruction of Society,” part two of Paul Romano and Ria Stone, The American Worker (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1972; originally published as a pamphlet in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest Tendency of C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya—which later became the Correspondence group—the first part of this book was translated for the first eight issues of Socialisme ou Barbarie). Grace Lee Boggs seems to have had a considerable influence on Castoriadis’s positive attitude toward the burgeoning “woman question” in the early Sixties; some her ideas can also be seen to be expressed in the key 1962 internal Socialisme ou Barbarie documents known as “For a New Orientation” (Political and Social Writings, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis, 3 vols. [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, 1993], vol. 3, pp. 9-26.)

Here are some more connections: Facing reality – CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs.

Facing reality - CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs

François Dosse‘s, Castoriadis, une vie ( 2014) also discusses Grace Lee Boggs’ relations with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

She stayed for 6 months in Paris in 1948 for the 2nd World Congress of the 4th International – as a representative of the Johnson-Forest tendency, .

During that period she met Castoriadis. He credited her with “lifting him out of his European provincialism” and playing a decisive role in his intellectual development. (Pages 111 – 112)

Thanks to Shiraz for signaling this loss.

The Front National Appeals to French Left Intellectuals.

with 8 comments


FN Appeals to Left Sovereigntist Intellectuals.

At the end of September the Front National launched an appeal to “left-wing intellectuals” meeting at the Mutualité (home of large public meetings, roughly a version as the Friends Meeting House in London) held by the weekly, Marianne. Around the philosopher Michel Onfray, Régis Debray, Alain Finkielkraut, Jean-François Kahn Jean-Pierre Chevènement are to speak.

Under the name of Bertrand Dutheil de La Rochère, the Front National launched, on the 24th of September,  an appeal to these people (More details of the background: Le FN lance un appel à “Michel Onfray et ses soutiens”)

Your meeting of 20 October 2015 could be more than an amiable and friendly get together. It could become one of those crucial dates in the history of France. It could be the prelude to the union of the people of France. It is up to you to decide to open an inclusive  discussion between all patriots, all Republicans, all sovereignists. Of course, the self-righteous will deliver anathemas and excommunications. It will be for us to despise the prohibitions laid down by the media-political caste.

The basis of this appeal is on “sovereignty” – that is the defence of the French nation’s power, through its own political institutions to make ‘its’ own decisions.

On this ground there should be, the FN asserts, some degree of common thinking.

The call is for a “une discussion entre tous les patriotes, tous les républicains, tous les souverainistes, sans exclusive.”

Open debate between all patriots, all republicans, all sovereigntists, with no exclusions.


As La Rochère says

Vous dénoncerez la trahison de tous ces partis qui se réclament encore de la gauche. Ils ont choisi la mondialisation ultra libérale au nom de l’Europe. Ils confondent désormais l’internationalisme avec les migrations massives qui pèsent sur les salaires et qui démantèlent la protection sociale. Ils ont oublié d’où vient l’insulte « jaune » que proféraient autrefois les syndicalistes ouvriers contre les briseurs de grève.

You will denounce the treason of the parties who still claim to be on the left. They have chosen ultra-liberal globalisation in the name of Europe. They have confused internationalism with the massive migrations which weigh on the wage earners and which erode social legislation. They forget the origin of the insult “jaune” (yellow) which trade unions used to throw at strike breakers.

I am at a loss here.

One theory is that Jaune comes from a strike of  1899 at  Montceau-les-Mines (Saône-et-Loire)  used against a small group of miners, who refused to join in. The strikers smashed the windows of their meeting place, le Café de la mairie. The windows were replaced with yellow paper. Another theory is that comes from the dye colour (sulfur) of strike breakers at another disputes in 1970.

I would however bet, with the degree of possibility bordering on certainty,  that the Front National meant……Chinese…..

There has been a great deal of debate about this appeal.

Those addressed have rejected the idea that they should engage actively with the FN.

Nevertheless it’s not hard to see that Régis Debray’s essay Éloge des frontières (2011), to cite one example (his writings on the Nation go back to the 1980s), indicates at least some meeting points on nationalism and the fear of cosmopolitanism and not only globalisation. Alain Finkielkraut signed the petition this year Touche pas à mon église a protest against turning churches into Mosques, in actual fact a phenomenon confined to a handful of buildings  – with strong echoes of Maurice Barrès’s defence of “la terre et les morts.” Chevènement has developed a patriotism and a paranoia about the Euro. He has come a long away (as has Debray) from his left-wing days in the 1970s. Jean-François Kahn  who founded Marianne has preferred to accuse the liberal supporters of globalisation ignoring the social issues that have given rise to the FN, and distance himself from any complicity with either the FN (Qui fait le jeu du Front national ?) In short, Kahn would say that excluding the far-right from the national debate is not the way to deal with Marine Le Pen……

Michel Onfray – a home-spun philosopher, known in the anglophone world as an atheist, a hedonist (in the classical sense) but also a libertarian leftist, if not anarchist – has given a greater variety of contradictory responses than Bernard Henri-Lévy on a bad day.


(Hat-tip: Fabienne)

Having read Onfray’s Traité d’Athéologie  (2005), which offers a clear attack on the use of religion in politics, from Catholicism to Islamism,  I can only contrast it with the utter confusion of his more recent tomes assembled under the name of La contre histoire de la philosophie (2006 onwards), which barely bear skimming.

The latest in the Onfray saga is in the Nouvel Observateur this week:  Onfray : “Mon problème, c’est ceux qui rendent Marine Le Pen possible

Last week a local councillor, François Meunier, Antony (Hauts-de-Seine) left the Front de Gauche and joined the Front National.

Of more importance was the turn in August of the economist, Jacques Sapir, from the Front de gauche to the Front National. Sapir is a sovereigntist. He has called for left-right unity around opposition to the Euro – a call perhaps not without echoes in the United Kingdom (Quand un économiste souverainiste “de gauche” drague le Front National.)

It is important to underline that it is this issue of the ‘Nation’ as the ground of the Republic which acts as a meeting point between ‘left’ and far-Right. That is not ‘migration’ as such, not race, and certainly not Laïcité.

On the racial  issue a more traditional alignment between Right and Extreme-Right has taken place in the last week when one of Sarkozy’s politicians, Nadine Morano, was removed from a regional election for asserting that France is a country of the “white race”.

Perhaps most significant is the way the Front National has entered the intellectual arena.

This was confirmed a couple days in way that drew the attention of the Financial Times.

France’s National Front (FN), long a pariah on leading university campuses, has secured the right to create a political group at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), underlining the resurgent far-right party’s willingness to enter the circles of the French elite.

The newly formed group quickly obtained the 120 votes required to gain validation from the prestigious institute during a four-day “recognition” process of all student associations.

It will co-exist with other political groups, including the Socialist party, the centre-right Republicans party and the far-left Front de Gauche.

“The National Front has made a deafening entry at Sciences Po,” tweeted Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader.

The creation of an FN-linked organisation at Sciences Po, a school whose students traditionally lean to the left and whose alumni include the last five French presidents, reflects Ms Le Pen’s desire to become more mainstream. By doing so, she is breaking from her father and FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who positioned the party as an outsider on the fringes of French politics.


Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

New Slander Against our Charlie Hebdo.

leave a comment »

'Moral decay': Critics claim Charlie Hebdo has overstepped the mark after it published a series of cartoons mocking the death of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach this month

Daily Mail.

French magazine Charlie Hebdo facing legal action after publishing cartoons mocking the death of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi



But others have pointed out many newspapers worldwide used those images to make a political point. Why can’t Charlie Hebdo?

Charlie was mocking European states.

It was mocking Christian ‘Charity’.

A subject on which the Daily Mail is no doubt an expert.




Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2015 at 11:19 am

French Trotskyist Current, the Gauche Unitaire (Picquet Tendency), Joins the French Communist Party (PCF).

with 11 comments

A formal statement has just been issued announcing that Gauche Unitaire (GU), which has a long background in Fourth International Trotskyism, and whose best known figure, Christian Picquet, has been a leading figure in the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, will engage in a process of ‘regroupment’ inside the Parti Communiste Français (PCF).

The Gauche Unitaire was created from a small grouping inside the LCR which opposed to the formation of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) in 2009. The immediate cause of the split was the refusal of the NPA to join forces with the PCF and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche in a common list for the European elections in 2009.

The background was long-standing disagreement with the NPA’s belief that “between us and the Parti Socialiste’ there is nothing’ – an assertion hard to justify when the PCF retained over 200,000 members and the closely aligned union federation, the Confédération générale du travail (CGT), continued to show an unwillingness to disappear.Behind this it is said that Piquet and his comrades’ turn to a more “centrist” republican democratic socialism cut them off from the belief inside the NPA that the time had come for a radical new movement riding high on the anti-globalisation protests (if one can remember them…..).

The “Picquet Tendency” became the Gauche Unitaire. It was a founding member of the Front de gauche (FdG) the social and electoral bloc of these forces that present united lists for that Euro contest, and subsequent French national and local elections.

Another group which emerged out of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, equally critical of its ambition to incarnate on is own, the radical left, was the closely related Convergence and alternative. This now forms part of the ‘third’ pillar of the FdG)  Ensemble .

The Gauche Unitaire identifies itself as democratic socialist, republican, anti-capitalist, and has been a supporter of French laïcité.

It considers that the left needs to change society by ” mobilisations sociales prolongées et de consultations populaires” – in other words, grass roots, trade union and civil society activity, combined with democratic electoral advances.

It is no secret that Tendance Coatesy has very similar views.

Over the last year the Gauche Unitaire has run into difficulty inside the Front de Gauche. A majority of its members have joined Ensemble (which groups together many people with radical left, democratic socialist and feminist ideas, including the ‘self-management’ and left-Green current Les Alternatifs: see more on their site here). GU had formally withdrawn with the FdG over disputes about eligible places on European election lists. It is thought that the group at present is down to well below 100 members.

A declaration announcing the decision for the GU to join the PCF  is in  l’Humanité and Piquet’s blog today.

There will be a joint press conference tomorrow.

 Point presse Pierre Laurent et Christian Piquet
Jeudi 10 septembre à 13h
Siège du PCF – 2, place du Colonel Fabien

Christian Piquet’s Blog:

mercredi 9 septembre 2015

Une déclaration commune du PCF et de Gauche unitaire

Ce 8 septembre aura marqué une date importante. Dans l’histoire de la gauche autant que dans celle de la coalition à laquelle nous participions jusqu’alors… Le Parti communiste français et Gauche unitaire ont en effet officialisé le processus qui les amène à se regrouper aujourd’hui au sein du PCF.

Une page est ainsi tournée, celle qui avait vu Gauche unitaire, en 2009, se constituer en parti à partir du courant unitaire du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, regrouper très vite des hommes et des femmes issus de diverses traditions, et devenir cofondatrice du Front de gauche. Les évolutions de la situation française, les immenses périls qui pèsent sur la gauche et le monde du travail, la situation pour le moins difficile du Front de gauche (sur laquelle j’ai eu maintes occasions de m’exprimer ici) ont amené les militantes et militants de GU, lors du III° Congrès de l’organisation, en juin dernier, à considérer que l’heure était au regroupement, et non plus à la dispersion, à l’éparpillement, à l’entretien de différences n’ayant guère de sens en regard des enjeux décisifs du moment politique présent.

Les convergences entre nos camarades communistes et nous-mêmes n’ayant cessé de se confirmer au fil des années, c’est donc un choix de responsabilité qu’a fait Gauche unitaire. Sur les réseaux sociaux, un journaliste a constaté que cette décision contrastait avec les fragmentations, polémiques brumeuses, claquages de portes obscures, rivalités d’égos ou scission qui rythment la vie du camp progressiste et contribuent surtout à démoraliser celles et ceux qui attendraient plutôt des perspectives d’espoir. Il a parfaitement raison ! Ce jeudi 10 septembre, à l’issue du conseil national du PCF, appelé à se prononcer à son tour, Pierre Laurent et moi-même présenteront à la presse l’aboutissement du processus de rapprochement engagé ces derniers mois. J’aurai ensuite l’occasion de revenir ici sur ce qui m’a motivé, avec mes camarades, dans la volonté d’écrire une nouvelle page du combat pour que la gauche redevienne la gauche. Je reproduis déjà, ci-dessous, la déclaration conjointe de nos deux partis.

« Nos deux organisations ont en commun de puiser au meilleur de la pensée humaine, de l’apport des Lumières, des idéaux mis en avant par la Révolution française, de l’action de Jaurès en faveur de la République sociale. Elles se revendiquent, face à un capitalisme dont la cupidité n’a cessé de grandir, de l’apport irremplaçable de Marx, qui avait choisi le mot de communisme pour désigner le mouvement même d’abolition de l’ordre existant. Si l’histoire tourmentée du XX° siècle a profondément meurtri, et même dévoyé, cette belle promesse de « mise en commun » s’opposant à la concurrence de tous contre tous, il s’agit à présent de la réhabiliter afin de rouvrir enfin à l’humanité un horizon d’espérance. Par-delà leurs histoires propres, leurs traditions politiques respectives, la manière dont ils ont pu appréhender le passé, le Parti communiste français et Gauche unitaire ont pu vérifier, à la chaleur du travail réalisé conjointement, qu’ils se retrouvaient dans une commune volonté de reconstruire une perspective crédible et ambitieuse de transformation sociale.

« Cela fait ainsi de nombreuses années que nos deux formations constatent leur convergence de vues. Elles portent une identique appréciation sur les menaces que font peser les politiques libérales sur l’avenir de la planète et sur la paix, sur les droits sociaux et conquêtes populaires, sur les politiques publiques garantes de la cohésion de notre société, sur les fondements mêmes de la République en France, sur les équilibres écologiques. Elles s’opposent de même aux orientations mises en œuvre par François Hollande et Manuel Valls qui, loin de rompre avec l’orthodoxie austéritaire et le pouvoir de la finance, s’efforcent de satisfaire les désidératas du grand patronat, tournant le dos à la majorité populaire qui avait rendu possible la victoire remportée sur Nicolas Sarkozy en 2012.

Elles mesurent également le risque que la situation de très grave crise sociale et politique que connaît notre pays ne profite à une droite dure et revancharde, avide d’en finir avec tout ce qu’il subsiste du programme du Conseil national de la Résistance. Elles s’inquiètent tout particulièrement de constater que le découragement et l’écœurement qui s’emparent de larges secteurs de la population font aujourd’hui le lit du Front national, de ses idées de haine et de son programme de discriminations.

Elles réaffirment, dans cette situation de grands périls, la nécessité de faire grandir l’exigence d’une autre politique, pour rassembler de nouveau la gauche sur un nouveau projet social et démocratique, et lui permettre de retrouver le chemin du peuple. Elles agissent dans ce cadre pour que le Front de gauche soit un instrument au service d’un tel rassemblement de la gauche sur la base d’un changement complet de cap, qu’il soit à même d’agir efficacement pour une nouvelle majorité de gauche et un gouvernement qui répondent aux attentes de nos concitoyens. Elles se retrouvent, s’agissant des prochaines élections régionales, autour de la nécessité de favoriser les rassemblements les plus larges, aux premiers et seconds tours, à partir de propositions audacieuses récusant la logique de l’austérité nationale, condition pour battre la droite et l’extrême droite, garder à gauche le plus grand nombre de Régions, aboutir à de nouveaux contrats majoritaires à la tête de celles-ci.

« À partir de ces constats, au vu de l’ampleur des défis qu’il s’agit désormais de relever, et en fonction de l’appréciation portée sur ses six années d’action au sein du Front de gauche dont elle est l’une des trois composantes fondatrices, le III° Congrès de Gauche unitaire, fin juin 2015, a considéré que l’heure n’était plus à l’émiettement et à l’éparpillement des forces travaillant à ouvrir une nouvelle perspective pour la gauche. Elle a donc décidé de regrouper ses forces avec celles du Parti communiste français au sein de ce dernier. À la suite des discussions positives ayant eu lieu tout l’été avec la direction du PCF et des échanges, tout aussi positifs, entre militants des deux formations, cette décision a été définitivement ratifiée les 5 et 6 septembre par les délégués des sections de Gauche unitaire, réunis à Paris.

« Le regroupement sera effectif après qu’à son tour la réunion du conseil national du PCF, qui se tiendra le jeudi 10 septembre, en soit saisie.

« Pierre Laurent et Christian Picquet présenteront le même jour à la presse, à 13h, le sens de ce regroupement.

« À la fête de L’Humanité, l’aboutissement de ce processus sera présenté aux participants, à l’occasion d’une rencontre publique qui se tiendra sur le stand du conseil national du PCF, le samedi 12 septembre à 12h.

« Dès la semaine qui suivra la fête de L’Humanité notre rassemblement sera alors totalement effectif au niveau des sections et fédérations concernées, ainsi qu’au conseil national et au comité exécutif national du PCF. »

No I am not going to translate this heavy bloc of left-wing prose, apart from anything else most of the words are the same in English.


Guardian Boosts Anti-Charlie Hebdo Hatred: Emmanuel Todd.

with 15 comments


Emmanuel Todd: Loathes Charlie Hebdo, Now Warns of European ‘Suicide’.

The Guardian loves France.

The France of a Year in Provence, and now, the film of Posy Simmond’s Gemma Bovray.

The Guardian hates France.

The France of secularism, of a left that is for ever rubbing the liberal warm feelings of the majority of its eceumentical readership.

The Guardian has an ignoble history of printing violent attacks on the secularist satirists of Charlie Hebdo.

After the murders at the Weekly, and at the Hyper Cacher Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’  – no doubt a serious warning to Bangladesh to cease its imperialist ambitions there if it wants to end the slaughter of secularist bloggers.

Now they have found Emmanuel Todd to stand as proxies for their campaign against the militant leftist secularist Charlie.

The printed article below contains a reference to Todd’s La Chute finale (1976), a study which predicted that the Soviet Union would decompose. He has been living off the reputation it gave him as a seer since 1989. Indeed (this is unlikely to be a coincidence) le Monde gave the book a favourable  mention   a few weeks ago (Emmanuel Todd, la fin de l’étoile rouge).

He is a ‘demographer’. Todd’s central theme is that changes in family structures (nuclear, extended) are related to economic and political change. His most famous claim is that “nuclear” families are the oldest form. We not competent in this field, but one be assured that his ideas are not ‘universally’ accepted.

Todd is the kind of French essayist, or polemicist, who churns out a yearly book on a “controversial” subject every year. Less repetitive than Régis Debray, but always, always, contrarian.

InL’Illusion économique : Essai sur la stagnation des sociétés développées, 1998. Todd advocated “Intelligent protectionism”.

Après l’empire : Essai sur la décomposition du système américain, (2002) is an extended essay on the title.

This recent statement (11.7.2015) should give pause for thought to those on the left, or to liberals,  rushing to adopt Todd’s views on Charlie Hebdo,

 Europe is “contrôlée par l’Allemagne et par ses satellites baltes, polonais, etc” et qu’elle est “devenue un système hiérarchique, autoritaire”“On est en train sans doute d’assister à la troisième autodestruction de l’Europe”, estime-t-il, rappelant les précédentes : “Il y a d’abord eu la guerre de 14, puis la deuxième guerre mondiale.” Il en conclut que “l’Europe est un continent qui, au XXe siècle, de façon cyclique, se suicide sous direction allemande.”

Europe is controlled by Germany and its Baltic and Polish (etc) satellites” and it has “become an authoritarian and hierarchical system. ” “we are without doubt witnessing the third self-destruction of Europe, “he asserted, referring to the historical precedents, “First there was the 1914 war, then the second world war.” He concluded, “Europe is a continent which, in the 20th century committed suicide under German leadership.”

This year Todd published a book, and articles, attacking the massive wave of solidarity, mass demonstrations and commemorations for Charlie and the victims of the Hyper Cacher.

Now we have this in English.

The article’s main theme is this: “The street demonstrations were the self-glorification of the French middle class. That made me explode.”

With customary modesty he begins with,

…what he called his own “magnificently crafted Exocet missile” at the nation, with a book arguing that the street rallies were a giant lie.

This is the missile:

The rallies, he argued, were not what they claimed to be – an admirable coming-together of people from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds standing up for tolerance – but an odious display of middle-class domination, prejudice and Islamophobia. To Todd, they represented “a sudden glimpse of totalitarianism”. These “sham” demonstrations, he claimed, were made up of a one-sided elite who wanted to spit on Islam, the religion of a weak minority in France. The working class and the children of immigrants had been notably absent, he said. The most enthusiastic demonstrations, he decided, had occurred in the country’s most historically Catholic and reactionary regions, an affirmation of the middle class’s moral superiority and domination, and their Islamophobic quest for a scapegoat.

Todd’s central argument is that there are fundamentally two Frances. There is a “central” France, including Paris and Marseille and the Mediterranean, where there is equality on the family level and a deep-rooted attachment to secular values of the French revolution and the republic. Then there is a France of the periphery, for example, the west or cities such as Lyon, which has stayed true to the old Catholic bedrock, where people may no longer be practising Catholics, but they’re still infused with all the social conservatism of that Catholicism, its hierarchies and inequality. He calls this “zombie Catholicism”. Infuriating his critics, Todd maintains that the post-attack rallies represented zombie Catholicism on the march.

The pro-Charlie Bloc  (bloc MAZ, Middle class, Aged and Zombies) is given a fuller analysis in French (oddly….discussion of two parts of it are missing in the Guardian article – although written by a respected French journalist).

Its ideology is:

  • « européiste », par son soutien à Maastricht en 1992 et à la Constitution européenne de 2005 ; Pro-European, backing the Maastricht Treaty and the European constitution,
  • islamophobe, au vu de la diffusion d’une « obsession de l’Islam » dans la presse papier, du succès des livres d’Éric Zemmour et de la relégation des attentats de l’hypercacher au second plan du mouvement des « Je suis Charlie »  Islamophobic, related to the racist rantings of Zemmour who wants to expel all Muslims from Europe.
  • germanophile, par sa défense du « modèle allemand » que la France devrait imiter à tout prix. Germanophile, defending the German model, which they want France to defend at any cost.

More here.

It would be interesting to know how he found statistical evidence for the Je Suis Charlie marchers’ support – or even readership – of Zemmour.

Readers of the introduction above will note that Todd is, by pure coincidence, anti-European and something of a Germanophobe.

The statistics he used to bolster this analysis have been rigorously unpicked.

Où est Charlie ? Ce que montrent réellement les cartes d’Emmanuel Todd –T. Joliveau is one of the best.

Joliveau questions, rightly, if you built a picture of the sociology mass demonstrations of public concern by aligning them to their geographical origin. Can one find evidence of this, “mystérieux indicateur de zombitude catholique” and transfer this to those who turned up on rallies? Nothing is less certain.  The tie with Catholicism is even less clear. he notes, “Une légère sur-participation à la manifestation dans les villes de tradition catholique semble confirmée mais il est moins justifié par un traitement statistique que par une typologie du recul du christianisme que Todd sort un peu de son chapeau.” there is a slight over-representation of demos in Towns and Cities with a Catholic tradition appears confirmed, but is less justified by a statistical alignment with the retreat of Catholicism, which Todd has rather pulled out of his hat.

Joliveau also points out, by way of how you can shape statistics, in this lengthy and detailed examination, that you can equally draw a correlation between the areas where there were fewer demonstrations and zones where there are high numbers of  low paid, unqualified and unemployed people, and supporters of the Front National.

What is clear is that there was a link between those with higher education and  support for Charlie on the marches (les diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur court ou long).

There is a little doubt that there are a lot of (self-evident) indications  this is true.

Is Todd saying that educated people – that is by definition those likely  to read left-wing satirical magazines and are concerned about issues such as freedom of expression and (not the least!) defend a hard-line secularist weekly– are ‘Catholic zombies”.

That the scores of immigrant associations who backed the protests are all ‘Islamophobes’ is less certain.

The idea is so incoherent that it is barely worth considering.

His theory is that the rise in Islamophobia is in turn stoking anti semitism in run-down suburbs, and that anti semitism is growing in the middle class.

Presumably the same middle class that worshiped Charlie…..

We stood up, with millions across the world,  for Charlie with every fibre of our being.

Todd can dislike the vulgar and 68er Charlie as much as he like.

He can engage in Anglo-American language about being careful not to offend religious sensitiveness.

As Joliveau says, the support was a “Symbole non d’un collectif, mais d’un rassemblement d’individus ayant chacun leur propre raison d’être là avec les autres.”

We all had our own reasons to show our sorrow, our internationalism, our solidarity and our love.

We are certainly not anti-Euro, protectionist nationalists like Todd.

We are not surprised that Polity Press is publishing a translation of this book.

Unlike pro-Charlie writings, (see the Tendance’s  review of Charb’s pamphlet), it will not doubt be on university courses.


Note: this is another demolition of Todd’s statistics: Un esprit de système caricatural Les catégorisations opérées par Emmanuel Todd et son déterminisme sociologique sont discutables. 

Political Confusion on the European Union Gains Ground on the Left: Jacques Sapir and the Front National.

with 8 comments

Selling Your Soul to Mr. Putin

Jacques Sapir: Red/Brown Alliance Against European Union. 

There is an excellent French Blog site which deals in “political confusionism”.

Back in July it picked up on a development that’s hit the headlines in France over the last few days: the call by “left” economist Jacques Sapir for an alliance with the Front National. (JACQUES SAPIR, UN HOMME DE GAUCHE ?).

Like many people (including we note floating voter Tariq Ali who got a column in Le Monde recently hinting darkly at ‘the left’ turning against Europe) he is claiming that the crisis in Greece shows the need for a left-wing anti-European Union stand.

Sapir has gone one stage further than the NO2EU UK left and indicated that he would be favourable to this:

 L’économiste «hétérodoxe» préconise une alliance des partis anti-euro, regroupant le Front de gauche et le Front national.

Like certain British Labour politicians he has a fondness for evoking memories of the Resistance.

Sapir gave the Conseil national de la résistance (CNR) as his model.

Sapir is no unknown: a prominent economist, and Director of the Centre d’études des modes d’industrialisation (CEMI-EHESS), he has been close to the Front de Gauche, to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche and to the “sovereigntist” former Socialist Minister (and leader of the left tendency inside the Parti Socialiste, CERES), Jean-Pierre  Chevènement.

On the Confusionisme site  Ornella Guyet adds,

Prominent in the current debate surrounding the Greek crisis, a prominent supporter of  “de-globalization” – whose theories inspired the Arnaud Montebourg’s (1) discourse on the question – he is also an expert on Russia, known for his softness towards  the Putin regime, equally famous for his careerism, his homophobia and his alliances with the far right in Europe. His site Russeurope, given legitimacy by legitimized by its academic pretensions Jacques Sapir is a frequent guest of  the salons of the Russian embassy, ​​as well as seminars of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, a think tank based in Paris to promote the image of Putin’s Russia in Europe. Not surprisingly, we find his name in several pro-Kremlin media, Voice of Russia and Sputnik News.

More recently, obsessed by the Euro, he has become ever closer to the “sovereigntists” of the Right:  the groupuscule Debout la République

Sapir claims that the Front National has “changed” from its far-right origins, and that in any case he was talking about an alliance of the right and left involving a party that has “come from” this transformed FN.

Immediate reaction on the left to Sapir’s ideas was not favourable.

Eric Coquerel, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s close ally,  called this strategy “an aberration”. He continued, “Given the scale of the current crisis, we must offer an alternative to  fascist and xenophobic reactions. Their nation is not ours. ”  Clémentine Autain (Ensemble), a leader of the Left Front  has said that “The phenomenon is not massive…but it  gives credibility to the FN . “

It is however well known that Mélenchon’s party is openly flirting with the idea of a “Plan B”, that is, leaving the Euro, “if a renegotiation of EU treaties fails .”

They plan an “internationalist summit for Plan B” to be held in late 2015 which bring together those in the like minded  “left” who agree to work together on the subject. (More here)

Sovereigntism, that is the belief that the “nation” has the supreme right to decide “its” fate – faced with international forces, from the European Union to NATO – appears to be gaining ground on the British left as well. The collapse of sections of the left to the belief that Scotland would be better off governed by its “ain folk”  in the SNP was one indication. After the Greek crisis, anti-European Union voices have become louder, promoting perhaps a return to a belief in a road to socialism outside of the EU.

At a time when fear of ‘foreigners’ – migrant workers, refugees in particular – is reaching an all-time high in Europe, playing with nationalism seems a dangerous gamble.

(1) Left-wing of the Parti Socialiste. Montebourg scored  17,19 % in the first round of the open PS French Presidential “primaries” of the party, which involved 2,700,000 voters who signed a declaration saying the backed the values of the left – without anybody wetting themselves about “infiltration”.

Jeremy Corbyn Defended our Beloved Charlie.

with 6 comments

JEREMY CORBYN (Parliamentary site). 

EDM 670: Defence of Journalist and Freedom of Expression

Filed under: Early Day Motions (EDM), civil liberties

That this House expresses its heartfelt sympathy to the families of those journalists, police and others who were assassinated or injured at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015; notes that this attack took place on press day, thereby increasing the casualty list and the potential damage to press freedom; considers that the perpetrators of this heinous crime must swiftly be brought to justice; further notes the bravery of individuals who work in this field despite many of them coming under attack previously, and that in carrying out their jobs they uphold the invaluable and historical right to free speech and freedom of expression which are both integral elements of democracies; acknowledges the solidarity that is being shown around the world on behalf of the victims and their colleagues in standing together in defence of civil liberties at this time; and offers its support to the NUJ in the UK and the International Federation of Journalists for their work in defending the rights of all journalists to do their job without fear of threats, intimidation and brutal murder.