Archive for the ‘French Politics’ Category
Giles Fraser: Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Support Attacks of Secularism.
One the most tasteless, not to say, repugnant, attempts to make political capital out of the plight of the refugees and migrants in Calais, has been published
It comes not from the xenophobic right but from the Guardian’s favourite Cleric, Giles Fraser. (Thanks: JD)
why don’t the refugees want asylum in France? One reason is because many of them perceive Britain to have a stronger tradition of religious tolerance than France. And this often surprises the French, because they pride themselves on their much-discussed notion of laïcité – roughly, secularism plus – so sacred a notion that it’s enshrined in article one of the French constitution.
Now it is to expected that a paid employee of a State Church – at St Mary’s Newington in south London – would defend his source of income. Although no doubt he puts this in the Guardian Register of Ideological Interests one does not notice any parallel effort on his part to draw attention to this privileged place in Britain’s uncodified constitution.
No doubt his mind is on higher things.
Last year Giles Fraser indulged in this rant.
The glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church is one of the great foundation myths of republican France. And coded within this mythology is the message that liberty, equality, fraternity can flourish only when religion is suppressed from the public sphere. It is worth remembering what this ideological space-clearing involved.
At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.
It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.
This was but the prelude to Fraser displaying unforgiving spite against our comrades in Charlie Hebdo, “the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself.”
The Tendance replied at the time.
We pointed out the Terror was presided over by Robespierre, who put a stop to “De-Christianisation” declared that “atheism is aristocratic” and tried to create a state cult of the ‘Supreme Being’. We suggested instead of relying on a Clerical Wikipedia he actually read some of the history of the period, which includes conflicts inside the Church – a minority of which backed the Revolution – and the majority which supported the counter-revolution, which by definition, did not. We even supplied a short reading list, for the vociferating Vicar to read.
In a truly atheist spirit we stated that Fraser was speaking gobshite about our Charlie and had spat on the graves of our beloved martyrs.
Now Gilles is at it again.
He has yet to tackle that reading list, which would no doubt have disturbed the unfurrowed creases of his brow.
There are indeed no facts, only interpretations.
Secularism is repression.
Laïcité began as justification for eradicating the influence of the Catholic church – and involved the murder of thousands of priests during the revolution. It continues as a cover for discrimination against Muslims.
From the Terror to Discrimination there is but a small step.
It would be interesting to know how the principle of religious neutrality means …religious discrimination.
The one-time Putney Preacher – fond of evoking the Levellers’ Putney debates, perhaps less so on airing the intolerant and bigoted side of the Parliamentary and other Puritans, makes a further link,
….laïcité is a way of ensuring the state’s systematic blindness when it comes to religion. It is an official pretence not to notice whether or where somebody prays. For its detractors, this supposed neutrality is nothing of the sort, but rather a cover for the eradication of religious visibility, indeed religious rights, from the public sphere. This week, both Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch condemned the French police’s human rights violations against Muslims.
Perhaps a better way of saying this would be that there is a contradiction between defence of universal human rights in secularism and the practices of the French state. How can we judge this: by reference to the same universal human rights.
Britain, one assumes because it is not secular, has, apparently a much better human rights record than France.
Fraser unfortunately does not offer evidence of that.
Nor does offer any proof that faith is an issue, rather than, say, the strict regulations that govern French refugee status, and the fact that speaking and learning that language, rather than English, may appear daunting to many.
There is one further problem with Fraser’s attempts to use other people’s misery for his own ends.
Religiously tolerant Britain – or rather its Government – is more than reluctant to accept the Calais refugees and migrants
Paris: Protesting Against the State of Emergency. l’Humanité. 1st of February.
There has been dearth of reports in the British media about the weekend protests – 70 across the country – against the ‘state of emergency’ in France.
Le Monde carried the story prominently: Des milliers de personnes manifestent contre l’état d’urgence.
État d’urgence: pourquoi il est surtout urgent d’en sortir by Laurent Mouloud.
France 24 published this in English: Thousands rally in Paris over extending state of emergency.
But it’s the French Communist Daily, l’Humanité, which has published the most comprehensive report now available in English.
State of Emergency: The Real Emergency Is To End It. Humanité in English.
More than 70 demonstrations were held last Saturday (30 January) organized by more than a hundred associations, to demand the end of the state of emergency , as being a (régime d’exception) that threatens our fundamental liberties, and has proved to be inefficient.
Protest against the state of emergency is bringing the people out into the steets. While the government has announced its determination to prolong the state of emergency for another three months, beyond 26 February, 111 associations and 19 unions will be all marching behind the banner of the collective Nous ne cèderons pas (We will not give up!) at the Place de la République, and all over the country, to demand its immediate repeal. In their view, nearly two months after the bloody attacks in Paris and St. Denis, it is high time to put an end to this régime d’exception that infringes upon our fundamental liberties. Not just for matters of principle, but also for very pragmatic reasons. “The authorities’ response, intended as martial, guarantees neither security nor repect for our liberties”, as emphasized by the associations in their joint declaration.
One single indictment
In truth, measured against its initial objective (“the fight against terrorism”), the state of emergency proves to be as dangerous as it is disappointing. The effectiveness of the exceptional provisions, having been in place since November, is today thoroughly under attack. From a statistical point of view, the figures alone may appear impressive. By January 21, the authorities have made 3189 administrative searches , have placed 392 persons under house arrest, and opened 549 judicial procedures. But the truth is that most of these procedures are common law cases: possession of illegal weapons, drug trafficking, or illegal presence in France. All in all, according to the figures of the Ministry of Justice itself, no more than four investigations have so far been opened for “criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise”, and only one person has been indicted… Since mid December, the daily figure for new house arrests has been close to zero. And the daily average for searches has been no more than ten for the month of January. “These figures prove the obvious inadequacy of the judicial framework of the state of emergency in the fight against terrorism,” the Judges’ Union concludes.
Many observers agree, and point out that the shock and consternation  induced by the state of emergency, which, in the early stage, was one of the Ministry of the Interior’s arguments, quickly faded and has now all but disappeared. “We are less frequently called upon”, a policeman anonymously confirmed. “Those house searches have enabled us mostly to collect local information, to confirm or invalidate certain leads, which may well be useful, but are now useless with regard to the direct prevention of terrorist attacks. The notion of an ’imminent peril’, specific to a state of emergency, can no longer be invoked.”
The fight against terrorism has been weakened
Eventually, the state of emergency might even make things worse. Thousands of civil servants waste their time conducting exceptional searches, only ten per cent of which end in the pursuit of a person, and even then only for minor criminal offences … “Obviously, they would be more efficiently employed in the detection and prevention of averred criminal projets,” the Judges’ Union insists. Some policemen point to another flaw: the furious staging of one search after another may be detrimental to security, by prematurely revealing the information secured by the anti-terrorist departments, thus encouraging potential suspects to even greater discretion. Unlike the former intelligence service (“Renseignements Généraux), the General Department for Home Security has made very little use of administrative searches. For fear, some of its agents say, of “killing off some of our most important investigations”… As another policeman says, it would seem that the state of emergency is no more than political gesturing. Contrary to the government’s repeated assurance, most of the measures (night searches, house arrests, bans on gatherings…) are already possible under common law, notably in connection with anti-terrorist activities, but naturally with the sanction of the judiciary.
The verdict of the Judges’ Union is categorical: “Far from contributing anything to the fight against terrorist activity, the state of emergency tends to weaken its efficiency.” The short – and worst – of it is that it infringes upon our civil liberties, all the while being ineffective in matters of security.
 not subject to judicial authorization
Appeal against the State of Emergency.
L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
At the sommet pour un Plan B en Europe in Paris over the Weekend in Paris Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who scored 11.05% of the vote in the first round of the French 2012 Presidential elections, is reported to be already gearing up for the 2016 contest.
Le Monde reports,
On Wednesday, on his blog, he explained that “the European Union remains harmful, hostile to democracy and social justice”. He developed these remarks in a small room of the Maison de la Chimie (7 th district of Paris), where he expounded the view that “in the context of the European fiscal treaty, no progressive policies are possible” and called for “break” within the framework of the current treaties. In passing, he denounced the EU’s “rhetoric” of “Europe that protects” noting the “failures” of the EU in the refugee crisis.
The meeting brought together academics, researchers – largely from other European countries, and a few not very well-known representatives of other left-wing parties such as Podemos, Izquierda Unida, the Greek Popular Unity group, The Danish Red-Green Party, Die Linke, including the respected figure of Oskar Lafontaine,
You can watch and hear Mélenchon’s concluding speech here:
A notable absence was that of Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek Finance Minister was, it was claimed, unable to attend because of diary problems.
Varoufakis is engaged in a much broader pan-European movement against austerity , a ‘Plan C’. This will be launched in Berlin in February: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Plan C.
Here is a full list of participants (in English) and more details: Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe.
The people addressing the session entitled, Win back our economic sovereignty included Morvan Burel who backs a return to ‘Popular sovereignty’ in place of the European Union.
Last April Burel wrote this on the Front National’s demands: La reconquête de la souveraineté des peuples doit devenir le cœur battant de la gauche
…sortie immédiate de l’euro, rupture avec l’UE, rétablissement des frontières nationales, retour du protectionnisme, etc.
Il est capital pour la gauche radicale de ne pas refuser de s’emparer de ces revendications précisément parce que le Front national les a intégrées à son discours.
,,immediately leaving the Euro, breaking with the European Union, reestablishment of national borders, a return to protectionism. It is essential that the radical left does not refuse these demands simply because the Front National has woven them into its discourse. “
French speakers included members of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche and Cédric Durand, an economist and part of Ensemble, the ‘third’ component of the Front de Gauche.
The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français. PCF) did not participate in the rally.
On Saturday Le Monde published a report on negotiations for the French 2017 Presidential campaign between forces to the left of the Parti Socialiste (Mélenchon peaufine sa candidature pour 2017 – full article read in print edition). While noting that Mélenchon continued to score well in opinion polls (over 15% favourable opinions, January 2015), his populism, calls for a ‘democratic revolution’, hostility to the European Union that focuses on German power, and many of his personal traits are not universally popular amongst his partners on the left.
Mélenchon, a fluent Spanish speaker, has close links with the Latin American left and with Spain’s Podemos. Like the latter he has sought inspiration in left populism. In these respects his discussions with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are of great interest Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon (2012).
During the round table debate with the academic theorists of the “radical democratic imaginary” the Parti de gauche’s use of national symbols, including the French Flag, and references to the French Revolution which dot his appeals to a new democratic Revolution featured prominently (See also: L’ère du peuple. 2014). How far this populism can go is not always clear. In 2015 his book, Le Hareng de Bismarck, le poison allemand, which attacked German ‘arrogance’ was strongly criticised for nationalism (L’Allemagne n’est pas notre ennemie).
The Communists note that one ‘anti-system’ Populist candidate, Marine Le Pen, already exists. There is little space for another.
There is continued talk of a break up of the Front de gauche alliance between the PCF and Mélenchon.
Le Parti de gauche veut Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme candidat puis élaborer un programme, le parti communiste veut faire naître un projet d’une réflexion collective avant toute désignation: leurs stratégies pour 2017 semblent à ce stade irréconciliables.
The Parti de gauche wants Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a (Presidential) candidate, and then they will work out a programme. The Communist Party want a project born out of a collective process of careful consideration before any candidate is chosen: their strategies ap[pear at this point irreconcilable.
Libération. 23rd of January.
You can read more of Mélenchon’s ideas here, on his blog modestly titled, L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
Protest at French State of Emergency: between the Hammer of Terrorism and the Anvil of the State…. (December).
La Ligue des droits de l’homme demande la fin de l’état d’urgence
Reports Le Monde. 20.1.16.
In the formal appeal to the French State Council, made by the lawyer Patrice Spinosi, the Ligue suggests that in the event of a refusal to withdraw the full force of the state of emergency, it should at least suspend some of its measures, especially administrative searches and the prohibition of public meetings. In the short term they could let run house arrests continue until 26 February but to ban the Ministry of Interior and the prefects from implementing other measures.
“The persistence of a state of emergency more than two months after its declaration constitutes a serious and manifestly illegal attack on fundamental freedoms”, they have written in the petition to the State Council. And evoke the right to respect for privacy and family, the freedom to go and come, freedom of work, etc. To justify such a request, the League of Human Rights, does mean “to challenge the centrality of the fight against terrorism”…..
The bulk of administrative and house arrest raids were ordered in the first two weeks following the attacks of 13 November. Jean-Jacques Urvoas, chairman of the Law Committee, has noted that “the main targets and goals had been treated” and that “the surprise effect has largely faded”.
Perhaps the most important part of the Ligue’s statement is that they fear that continuing the state of emergency will mean authorising a permanent state of exception in the name of the fight against terrorism, and the definitive end of a state of law. (à autoriser le maintien perpétuel du régime exceptionnel au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme et ainsi renoncer définitivement à l’Etat de droit)
L’Humanité reported at the start of the year,
Five weeks of the state of emergency, 2,700 searches and… one indictment
Translated Sunday 3 January 2016, by
Approved in a heavy vote in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks, the state of emergency, over and above the infringement of liberties which are inherent to it, has it been effective in the fight against terrorism? It is doubtful. Certainly, no new attacks have been perpetrated in the country since the deployment of police, the banning of rallies, the 2,700 searches held between 14 November and 16 December, or even the 360 cases of house-arrest sanctioned by the interior ministry. But no indictments seem to have resulted thanks to the big kerfuffle created in the fight for security.
To date, one sole indictment for criminal association in connection with terrorist activity has been issued against a 27-year-old Chechen national, who has been placed under house-arrest in Tours. During a search of his home, police found a video in which he made allegiance to Daesh . During questioning, the man admitted putting the said video online but denied any will to commit terrorist action. In total, three antiterrorist investigations were spurred by these searches, including the one involving a Chechen who came to France with his family as an adolescent.
Even if they have not dismantled new Islamist networks, at least the police have not completely wasted their time. “431 weapons, including 41 military-grade weapons, were seized in three weeks, which represents a third of the year’s seizures”, advanced Bernard Cazeneuve on 15 December. 488 judicial procedures have been started, of which 167 for drug offences. “Seizing arms and drugs, is all well and good, but that has very little to do with the fight against terrorism”, underlined Maître Henri Leclerc, honorary president of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (League of Human Rights). Although it does not usually make statements, the national conference of prosecutors sounded the alarm on Friday, alluding to a judicial frenzy since the 13 November attacks. In addition, prosecutors have announced the intention to set aside certain activities such as crime prevention or participation in urban policy, to concentrate on activities “having an operational interest”. As yet there has been no response from the Chancellery.
 Translator’s note: I have deliberately changed legitimating terms such as IS and jihadist to Daesh and Islamist as I feel it would be irresponsible journalism not to do so (even within the remit
Ovenden: Mussolini, Moseley, Charlie Hebdo – même combat.
WASN’T Charlie Hebdo once something to do with the left, loosely a product of a previous upsurge of social struggle many years ago?
Yes it was. So were Sir Oswald Mosley, Benito Mussolini, Georges Sorel…
Ovenden is perhaps too ignorant of socialist history to know that Georges Sorel’s said of Lenin, after the Russian Revolution, that he was “the greatest theoretician of socialism since Marx” (see Wikipedia. The citation is from a postscript to Reflections on Violence – 1908, ‘In Defence of Lenin‘ added 1919).
Unless he means that admiring Lenin meant was proof that Sorel was a racist.
I will not dignify somebody who supports George Galloway by citing his reflections on Charlie, our Charlie, on an ill-judged ‘une’ poking puerile and forgettable fun at the pro-abortion manifeste des 343, in 1971.
Dubious as the front page may have been what that has to do with racism is nevertheless beyond me.
Ovenden then refers to the Riss cartoon in the Weekly.
Islamophobia is the Jewish question of our day. It is not simply one reactionary idea among many, which all principled socialists oppose.
It plays a particular corrupting role across politics and society as a whole.
One effect is revealed when some people’s reaction to a viciously racist and Islamophobic cartoon is quickly to start talking about freedom of speech, as if the “freedom” to pump out that stuff in Europe were at all under attack from the states and governing political forces.
I would note that the Jewish question of today is….the Jewish question of today.
It has not gone away.
If you want proof there were people immediately arguing on Facebook that publishing Riss showed that Israeli funding for Charlie and the attendance of Netanyahu at the Charlie memorial were somehow related to the publication of the Riss cartoon.
We have blogged our own critical views on the cartoon and we will not repeat them, except to say, we defend our beloved Charlie from the depths of our being, we do not defend every drawing they ever publish.
Ovenden then continues,
Freedom is under threat in France. There is a state of emergency. Scores of Muslim places of worship are slated for closure by the state.
The courts have declared that boycotting Israeli goods is illegal. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been banned.
Roma have been rounded up and deported. Trade unionists who occupied their factory against job losses have had nine-month jail sentences handed down.
The already extensive repressive arms of the state are being further extended into the banlieues and cités.
Instead of systematic and serious attention given to this — and similar developments in other countries — liberal intellectual and political life in Europe tilts at windmills.
Ovenden has skipped over the corpses of our martyred dead to make this comment,
To call to rally against a threat which is not there is, whatever the intentions of those ringing the tocsin, to divert us from those threats which really are there.
Alarm bell, false alert…..but……
Is there really no problem with violent Islamism in Europe?
Do the victims of the 13th of November count for nothing in the minds of Respect leaders?
Well totalitarian Islamism is a threat, to the sisters and brothers in Syria, of Iraq, to the Kurds, to the cause of progressive humanity, to ordinary people who have been murdered, tortured and enslaved by the Islamists of Daesh.
But to return to this extraordinary article…
The idea that liberals and leftists have ignored the French clamp down in the état d’urgence will come as fucking news to our French comrades who have protested against it from day one, from countless independent left groups, radical leftists, to this appeal from the venerable liberal Ligue des droits de l’homme: Sortir de l’état d’urgence (17th December).
This is what the comrades from Ensemble – the third largest group in the Front de gauche said on the 19th of November: Communiqué de Ensemble! Non à l’état d’urgence !.
This is what l’Humanité had to say at the end of November: Etat d’urgence. Le Front de gauche refuse l’exception permanente
This is an upcoming meeting against the repressive measures by the comrades of the French Communist Party:
But like a SWP student leaflet Ovenden has managed to confuse matters by adding everything but the kitchen sink into his rant.
How the Goodyear sentences (the trade unionists he refers to), the decision on boycotting Jewish goods are related to state of emergency would be interesting to see demonstrated.
What ever was Ovenden’s mind as he wanders further around the subject of racism in Europe, passing by Germany, his life in a working class port city in the North of England (Blackpool?), and the further faults of the high-faulting petty bourgeoisie we will, hopefully, never know.
But why does he end by stating that he stands for class solidarity.
In the “Europe of extremes, I’m staking my lot — including my own personal sense of security, of hope against fear — on the proles.”
Like one horny handed George Galloway no doubt.
Or is this perhaps the “mordant satire and mockery” he loves amongst the proles.
7 January 2015.
A date that we will recall and it is coming close.
Our left wing comrades were murdered by the forces of genocidal Islamist reaction.
- Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby, first victim of the shooting
- Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
- Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
- Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist.The only woman killed in the shooting.
- Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
- Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist
- Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
- Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
- Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor
- Michel Renaud, 69, a travel writing festival organiser visiting Cabu
- Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
- Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist
Some photos of our fallen comrades.
A wonderful feminist, full of joy.
Cabu: one of the Best People Ever to Walk the Planet.
Charb: Supporter of the Front de Gauche, he fought the Front National with every fibre of his being.
Philippe Honoré: greatly respected contributor to trade union and leftist publications
Bernard Verlhac (21 August 1957 – 7 January 2015), known by the pseudonym Tignous (Occitan for La teigne, which in slang means a gadfly).
Georges Wolinski: Communist and one of the funniest cartoonists ever.
It will have been noted that the genociders took the lives of two Muslims, and that, of the above photos, two of the people are of Jewish origin.
The Porte de Vincennes siege occurred at a Hypercacher kosher superette in Porte de Vincennes (20th arrondissement of Paris) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting two days earlier, and concurrently with the Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.
- Philippe Braham, 45, IT sales executive
- Yohan Cohen, 22, college student
- Yoav Hattab, 21, college student
- François-Michel Saada, 64, retiree.
We shall not forget our martyred dead.