Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘French Politics’ Category

France: Serious May Day Clashes as Police Introduce ‘Kettling.’

with 2 comments

 Des policiers en civil aspergent des manifestants durant la manifestation du 1er Mai à Paris.

 Police in Civilian Dress Spray Paris Demonstrators. (le Monde)

France 24.

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled bottles and other projectiles during a May Day rally in Paris Sunday, where controversial labour reforms were the main focus of demonstrations.

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in the march in the French capital amid a heightened police presence after several recent protests against labour reforms ended in violence.
  • There were ugly scenes as a small group of protesters in balaclavas hurled projectiles at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas, bringing the march to a standstill.
  • Calm was later restored, however, and the majority of those taking part in the demonstration did so peacefully.
  • Police said between 16,000 and 17,000 people took part in the rally and Paris. The CGT union put the figure at 70,000.
  • Rallies in other French cities including Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille passed largely without incident earlier Sunday.

Le Monde carries a report in which demonstrators accuse the Police of having acted with the aim of stirring up trouble.

« C’est la première fois que je vois ça », commentait un manifestant d’une cinquantaine d’années, présent dimanche à Paris, alors que les forces de l’ordre avaient pris en sandwich la tête du cortège, constituée majoritairement de jeunes sans étiquette syndicale, la séparant en aval du reste du défilé et la bloquant devant par une ligne de CRS quasi inamovible. Résultat : quarante-cinq minutes à peine après le début de la manifestation, au-dessus de ce peloton de tête « nassé », les premiers gaz lacrymogènes fusaient et rencontraient les premiers pétards et autres feux d’artifice, occasionnant quelques charges sporadiques des policiers. « On appelle ça la politique de la tension », regrettait un manifestant. « La surprésence policière est une provocation », surenchérissait un autre.
 This is the first time I’ve seen that” commented on Sunday  a middle-aged demonstrator at Paris, as the police held the head of the march, largely made up of young people unaffiliated to the trade unions, and separated them at the top, by a solid line of the riot squad (CRS), from the rest of the demonstration.

As a result, a bare 45 minutes after the beginning of the demonstration, above and outside this ‘kettle’, the first tear gas grenades were thrown, and were met with bangers and other fireworks, followed by sparodic police charges. “You could call this the ‘strategy of tension” one marcher said regretfully, “The massive police presence is a provocation” forthrightly added another.

British readers will note that the Police used a tactic we are familiar with: ‘nassé ‘ means literally netted, as in fish,  but in the jargon of marches it signifies “Kettled”.

 

One demonstrator alleged that this was a deliberate “strategy of tension” to rattle up disorder.

 

Which is not to deny the existence of bands of ‘casserus’ – those who smash things up (casser) on the margins of French demonstrations.

A May Day rally held by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party was crashed by a group of topless Femen protesters.

Topless Femen activists on Sunday interrupted the French far-right National Front’s (FN) annual May Day gathering for the second year running, baring their chests and toasting “The end of the FN” before being arrested.

At midday, the Femen militants, topless and clutching bottles of champagne, burst from a red van parked outside the party’s headquarters at Porte de la Villette in northern Paris.

Their torsos were daubed with slogans including “Fascists stay in the shadows” and “Long live the end of the FN”.

Their protest was short lived as riot police controlling the gathering moved quickly to arrest them with the enthusiastic help of FN security guards.

Bystanders shouted “Put them under the wheels of your truck” and “Don’t be gentle with them”.

The official FN gathering this year, dubbed a “patriotic banquet”, took place earlier in the day at Saint Augustin in central Paris, in a break from tradition that usually sees far-right supporters march from another statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli, next to the Louvre Museum, to nearby Opéra.

However, bitter infighting that saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year’s presidential elections.

Earlier, Femen posted a picture on Twitter of its topless militants mopping the ground outside Opéra, under the slogan: “We are proud to clean our democratic and secular streets of Marine Le Pen’s dirty hatred”.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2016 at 11:49 am

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Beats François Hollande in French Presidential Election Opinion Poll.

with 2 comments

Who’s Pedalo Captain Now?

Europe 1 reports on the latest opinion polls for next year’s French Presidential election.

Alain Juppé (Les Républicains  looks an easy winner at present with 35% (plus 4 points since December) in front of Marine Le Pen  26% (minus 2 points). François Hollande only gets 13% (minus 7 pts) Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%, +1).

In effect Melenchon wavers between 12% and 16% in the polls, according to the survey.

It is important to note that Marine Le Pen is in first place in the case if  Les Républicains (the main right party)  is presented by either ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon or Bruno Le Maire.

Les Républicains have yet to designate, by ‘primary’ elections, who their candidate will be. Deep divisions continue.

But this, one of many identical polls, strengthens Juppé’s hand.

Far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, Lutte ouvrière (1,5%) and Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (2,5%) and the Green Party (EELV), Cécile Duflot, (3%) barely register.

Neither the Socialists nor the Front de Gauche (of which Mélenchon remains nominally a member) have decided on their official candidate.

A sign of Mélenchon’s trajectory is that he already has 95,000 people signed up to his personal candidacy and claims that 500 groups exist to campaign for him.

Présidentielle 2017 : Intentions de vote (17 avril 2016) http://www.tns-sofres.com/publications/presidentielle-2017-intentions-de-vote-17-avril-2016:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reported to be on Cloud Nine (Jean-Luc Mélenchon se sent « sur un petit nuage ») enjoying the taste of success while it lasts.

With his customary generosity and dislike of sectarian point-scoring  Mélenchon has commented, (DL)

Je regarde passer le corbillard des Verts et le Radeau de la Méduse du parti communiste.

I am looking on as the Hearse of the Greens and the Communists’  Raft of the Medusa pass by.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19).jpg

  Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:

« Le programme que je porte peut être présent au second tour »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Frédéric Lordon, Nuit Debout ‘Leader’: Diamond Geezer, or….Not?

with 7 comments

Frédéric Lordon: Diamond Geezer of Nuit Debout? 

In the March’s Le Monde Diplomatique Frédéric Lordon’s Pour la république sociale discussed the end of social democracy and its surrender to the “empire du capital”. He called for the “socical republic”, a slogan with deep resonance on the French left, going back to the 1848 Revolution, and to the writings of Jean Jaurès.

The goal of this republic should be expanded ‘total’ democracy but equally,

…l’abolition de la propriété lucrative — non pas bien sûr par la collectivisation étatiste (dont le bilan historique est suffisamment bien connu…), mais par l’affirmation locale de la propriété d’usage (6), à l’image de tout le mouvement des sociétés coopératives et participatives (SCOP), des entreprises autogérées d’Espagne ou d’Argentine, etc. : les moyens de production n’« appartiennent » qu’à ceux qui s’en servent.

The abolition of profit-making property – not by state collectivisation (whose historical balance-sheets is sufficiently well known…) but through the local assertion of the right to use property, on the model of the broad co-operative and participative movement, self-managed enterprises in n Spain and Argentina, etc; the means of production belong only to those who make use of them.

Having read Lordon’s writings (see also his Blog), with respect if rarely complete agreement, for some years it was nevertheless a surprise to see his rise to national prominence in the wake of the Nuit Debout movement.

Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement.

Wikipedia. 

Verso has just published (amongst other Lordon material) a translated an interview with the radical economist and social theorist which carries some important observations about the Nuit Debout movement, and more widely, about the crisis of the European left.

Apart from an illuminating account of the origins of the protests (which have spread to scores of French cities and towns, though drawing  predominantly educated crowds rather than people from the banlieues) and the role of François Ruffin’s film Merci patron!  this section  is of great interest to those tending to emphasise the convergences between Nuit Debout and the political expression, Podemos, of the Indignados movement:

Podemos in Spain has repeatedly said that we should no longer speak of Left and Right, but rather of top and bottom, the 1 percent against the 99 percent. Do you agree ?

I completely disagree with this stance of Podemos. In France the denials of the Left-Right split have had very bad echoes. We hear this in the mouths of both what I would call the general Right — namely, the classical Right and the new Right that is the Parti Socialiste; if you will, the general Right is the undifferentiated party of managing neoliberal globalisation — and the far Right. Someone in France who says he is “neither Left or Right” is unfailingly right-wing, or will end up being so. Similarly, I don’t think that monetary inequality — on which basis Podemos converts the Left-Right split into the split between the 99 percent and the 1 percent — is a very incisive political theme. The topic of inequalities is, in any case, becoming a kind of flabby consensus — we even find the OECD or a liberal magazine like The Economist talking about it…

The true question is not the inequality of incomes or wealth, but the question of the fundamental political inequality that capitalism itself establishes: that wage-earners live under relations of subordination and obedience. The wage-relation is less a principle of monetary inequalities than a relation of domination, and this is the principle of a fundamental inequality — a political inequality.

Frédéric Lordon: “We have to stop saying what we don’t want, and start saying what we do want”

Marta Fana’s interview with economist Frédéric Lordon was published in Italian in Il Manifesto and in French in ReporterreTranslated by David Broder.

There remain issues about Lordon’s outlook.

New Left Review recently published this overview of his writing:

A STRUCTURALISM OF FEELING? Alberto Toscano. 

Though less well-known in the Anglophone world, the economist turned social philosopher Frédéric Lordon has emerged as one of the most effective public figures of the French intellectual left. On tv talk-shows and in La Pompe à Phynance, his blog for Le Monde diplomatique, he has launched ferocious attacks on Hollande and Valls’s post-Bataclan police-state legislation, making no concessions to union sacrée thinking. [1] He has been a staunch left critic of the single-currency project, demolishing wistful social-democratic hopes for ‘another euro’, and makes no bones about characterizing the ps as ‘the moderate fraction of the right’. He greeted the financial crisis with a four-act play in rhyming alexandrines, the bankers explaining the tragi-comedy of their subprime losses to the President of the Republic and ministers of state. At the same time, Lordon has been developing an ambitious research agenda, aiming to renew and re-ground the social sciences on the basis of a Spinoza-inspired materialism. What are the origins of this project, and what have been its results to date?

It would be necessary to reproduce the entire article to go into the detail of Lordon’s project but these, less than encouraging, elements, stand out:

A return to the national level was the most viable way to ‘deconstitutionalize’ economic policy. In a spirited concluding chapter, he argued for the left to reclaim la patrie from the Front National by means of Article Four of the 1793 Constitution, granting full citizenship rights to any foreigner who has been resident in France for a year—‘no risk the fn will take that nation from us.’

..

Imperium then launches into a swingeing attack on the anti-nationalist left, targeting ‘the grotesque claims of the well-off’ for a ‘liberation from belonging’, without acknowledging how much they benefit from their own belonging. Lordon contrasts this to the reality of statelessness, the nightmare of absolute non-inclusion, surviving like the sans-papiers without rights—and indeed fighting for citizenship, for belonging. [20] The experience of involuntary migration may rather serve to sharpen awareness of national difference: against protestations that the proletariat has no country, the workless proletarians in the Calais ‘Jungle’ are said to fight on a national basis: Eritreans against Sudanese or Syrians. [21]

To disavow national affects in the metropole while allowing them, romantically or condescendingly, for the subaltern, is mere hypocrisy. One is never totally free of national belonging: we are seized by a nation from our very first day, raised in its language and ways of thinking. Badiou, for example, is ‘profoundly French’. [22] The Europeanist post-nationalism of Habermas and Beck is singled out in this acerbic catalogue as the grossest fallacy of all, its claim ‘to have done with the nation’ simply paving the way for a supra-national power endowed with all the characteristics its authors claim to abhor. Dardot and Laval’s Commun (2014) also comes under fire, while a detour through seventeenth-century theories of sovereignty, counterposing Bodin and Althusius, reveals the limits of a federalist political imaginary in the latter’s theory of consociatio. Ultimately, bodies are not delocalizable; the place where one lives—even as an enemy of the state, a secessionist group or a counter-cultural commune—is always part of the territory of a community. Rather than indulge in these ‘impossible disaffiliations’, Lordon calls for the sharpest critique of nationalist historiography, the record of internal repression and external aggression, as the best defence against national-chauvinist passions.

The “political anthropology” Lordon offers, grounded on the notion of inherent human conatus “effort; endeavour; impulse, inclination, tendency; undertaking; striving”) an inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself, calls for recognition of the “sense of belonging” is even less attractive (see also, Review by Jean-Marie Harribey : Frédéric Lordon, Capitalisme, désir et servitude. Marx et Spinoza, 2010).

To Toscano it is  “a Spinozian conception of the community constituted by convergence around a shared emotion—a common view of good and evil, for example—which the vertical of sovereignty then establishes as a condition of membership. The community’s feeling for itself exceeds the individual”.

Thus, “with Spinoza completed by Bourdieu, but also brought into hypothetical alignment with Regulation Theory, the argument seems to be that the potentia of the multitude is realized through the institutional processes that constitute its various ‘regimes of capture’. “

Toscano argues,

 More gravely, this approach almost entirely bypasses the question of the capitalist state. [35] When Lordon does ultimately broach the issue of relations between wealth and power, the results are a good deal less illuminating about the specific operations of either than was La Politique du capital. Indeed, at the level of generality at which Lordon has chosen to operate here, what can distinguish capitalist power from imperium? [36] In asserting the trans-historical existence of the state without specifying the genesis of its forms, Lordon leaves himself bereft of any protocol for moving from the general theory to the historical conjuncture. Imperium supplies no theoretical mediation to traverse the space between philosophical concept and social reality: yet re-entry from the exospheric heights of abstract speculation into Earth’s atmosphere often causes conflagration.

Whether Lordon has “no illusions” about his turn to the national we can;t help noticing that he talked in Le Monde Diplomatique about “la”  République sociale, that is France, and not une République sociale européenne, still less an international, world-wide political objective.

One might say that the emphasis on the sense of belonging and the – however social –  national state skirts uncomfortably close to sovereigntism. It is worth noting that reviews of Merci Patron state that it is “critical of the practice of outsourcing French jobs to foreign labour.” specifically a factory relocation to Poland.

As Lordon says of the Euro,

La souveraineté, non comme talisman, mais comme condition de possibilité de toute politique progressiste — car répétons-le : la sortie de l’euro n’est jamais qu’une condition nécessaire, et certainement pas suffisante

Sovereignty, not as a talisman, but a condition for the possibility of any progressive policies – because, we repeat, leaving the Euro, is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one….

In these circumstances in July 2015 (La gauche et l’euro : liquider, reconstruire) he cited Owen Jones, and backed a stand which he claimed (before Owen’s turn to backing remaining in the European Union), the,

l’idée du Lexit (Left-Exit). Ça n’est plus tel ou tel pays qu’il faut faire sortir de l’euro : c’est la gauche elle-même.

The idea of Lexit (left-Exit). It’s not just such and such a country that has to come out of the Euro, but the Left itself.

Sure….. (1)

*****

(1) For those who read French: theoretical and highly abstract demolition of Imperium : Quelques remarques sur la philosophie de Frédéric Lordon Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini  is offered here.

L’État général prend de nos jours la forme de l’État-nation ; et l’affect commun correspondant est l’appartenance nationale. Ces deux affirmations (peu fondées théoriquement) conduisent FL à minorer l’importance des clivages et des rapports de forces sociaux à l’intérieur des frontières « statonationales ». Mais on voit bien le lien avec la vision des institutions proposée par Imperium : l’État capte la puissance de la multitude, et produit un corps politique qui tient sur la base du sentiment d’appartenance nationale. Les institutions découlent de l’État. Dans ce cadre, le conflit social est complètement neutralisé — l’affect « commun » est majoritaire, la construction institutionnelle est cohérente et le corps politique viable —, ou alors producteur de chaos : l’affect « commun » ne permet plus la viabilité d’un corps politique destiné à mourir (et à renaître sous d’autres formes : mais la forme même de l’État-nation sera alors destinée à disparaître). Cohérence institutionnelle et reproduction sociale, ou bien explosion du conflit, chaos et bouleversement complet des structures sociales. Il n’y a pas de place, dans ce cadre théorique, pour le conflit et le compromis comme sources des changements institutionnels qui accompagnent la vie d’une société et le développement d’un État. Nous avons aussi signalé que FL a le plus grand mal à analyser les rapports entre État et capital sans faire violence à son propre cadre théorique. Et on comprend pourquoi : le capital a bien impulsé des changements majeurs non seulement dans l’architecture institutionnelle mais dans les formes mêmes de l’intervention étatique, sans besoin de rendre socialement minoritaire l’affect commun de l’appartenance nationale, et sans produire le chaos qui accompagnerait la mort des corps politiques « statonationaux ».

Mais les changements institutionnels qui caractérisent la réalité concrète dans laquelle nous vivons ne sont pas l’objet central d’Imperium, qui s’intéresse bien davantage au contenu d’une perspective « révolutionnaire » bien particulière. Celle qui consisterait non pas à renverser les rapports de domination sociale existants, mais à marcher (difficilement et éternellement) vers le règne de la raison, dans lequel les hommes « règlent leurs désirs et leurs comportements sur ce qui ne peut rien produire d’autre que leur concorde ». Idéalement donc, plus de pouvoir ni d’institutions. Cet idéal — nous dit FL — est inatteignable, mais on peut s’en rapprocher en choisissant les « bonnes » institutions. De façon là encore assez étonnante, FL indique dans les « institutions de la science qui contraignent les scientifiques à la vertu scientifique, au moins autant que leur désir propre de la vérité scientifique » un modèle à imiter : « la vertu devient l’objet d’une politique des institutions bien agencées » (p. 306). Il ne s’agit donc pas de lutter pour des institutions correspondant à des rapports de forces différents, à une modification de la frontière dominants/dominés, mais de sélectionner les institutions sur la base de leur teneur d’universalité, de leur capacité à créer un environnement favorable au développement de la raison : les « bonnes » institutions sont celles qui nous déterminent à la « vertu ».

 To summarise, the critics consider the assertion that the affects (that is attachments hooked ultimately to the concept of conatus ) to the nation are primal, and the national locus of institutions, create a feeling of national identity, obscures internal social conflicts in states  and the place of conflict (agonistic, that is intellectual and political,  or social) in how states are created a condensations of conflict (class struggle).

Critics of the use of Spinoza in social theory would observe that this may be traced to an ontology grounded on ‘monist substance and the  absence of a concept of real oppositions and contradictions in the social fabric.

The ideal of ‘virtue’ animating this approach is particularly empty (second paragraph).

More: Au fait, que défend Frédéric Lordon ?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

Does Galloway Blaze Trail for ‘Left’ Shift to Align with Nationalist Right?

with 10 comments

Galloway Evokes Battle of Britain Spirit in London Mayor Bid.

 

This nationalistic posturing  reminds me of what’s been happening in France.

While there are admirable protests about the projet de loi Travail (El Khomri) and the interesting Nuit Debout movement anti-Europe nationalism.

They call it “souverainisme“, demands for  national sovereignty, migration, border controls, security, the constitution and cultural identity.

Most of those associated with this trend are clearly on the right, if not the extreme right.

But some on the French left have also been attracted by these themes.

This article from last year describes how some have passed over to the French nationalist right:

PARIS — When the newspaper Libération last month accused self-professed “left of the left” philosopher and best-selling author Michel Onfray of “doing the [far-right party] Front National’s bidding,” French intellectuals circled the wagons.

Onfray, who declined a request for comment for this article, went on to accuse France’s successive governments of “being contemptuous of the people” — what he calls, using the English term, “the ‘old school’ people”: French blue-collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, the pensioners. As for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he said: “I don’t resent her as much as I resent those who made her possible.”

The first is the fate of France’s poor and working class – the “proletariat” Onfray says has been abandoned by the right and the left alike. In that vision, the governing left’s policies favor the globalized elite and the well-to-do, while catering to the needs of minorities (“the margins,” says Onfray) — such as immigrants, homosexuals and women.

The second theme is the visceral hostility towards Europe and the euro, seen as constraining economic and social policy and a fatal blow to the infamous “exception française,” a large and costly welfare state that’s supposed to shield the French from the turmoils of the global economy.

The drama is being played daily in the court of public opinion. Think of it as “the people vs. the euro.”

Onfray is well known for this vein of rhetoric.

This is what he said of the attitude of those who backed – ostensibly pro-European Constitution referedum (2005) towards those who would vote No to this agreement (the Non won).

They despised the common folk:

Les gens qui vont voter Non à la constitution européenne sont des crétins, des abrutis, des imbéciles, des incultes. Petit pouvoir d’achat, petit cerveau, petite pensée, petits sentiments. Pas de diplômes, pas de livres chez eux, pas de culture, pas d’intelligence. Ils habitent en campagne, en province. Des paysans, des pécores, des péquenots, des ploucs.

The people will will vote to the European Constitution are cretins, morons, imbeciles, uncultivated. They are hard up, small-brained, narrow mined and inward looking. They have no qualifications, no books at home, no culture, no brains. They live in the country, in the provinces. They are peasants, rustics, bumpkins, yokels.

Clearly Onfray hopes to repeat the result of the referendum on the European Constitution.

He however faces a nebulous target.

But British nouveaux réactionnaires have a unique opportunity: the UK Referendum on the European Union.

takes up the Onfray challenge:

Railing against those “a Byzantine system of governance largely beyond the reach of Euro-plebs” the former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and writer for Living Marxism muses, for the anti-elitist Spectator magazine, on The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism

The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged. The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.

This comment from Briançon’s article sums up the empty nature of this stand,

““Europe here serves as proxy for globalization,” said a government adviser, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of “adding fuel to the fire.” “I call it the defeatist wing of French intellectual life: There’s no chance we’ll be able to make it, so let’s retract and retreat.”

Will others, hostile to ‘capitalist’ EU but more specifically to the free movement of labour, a substantial group  inside the so-called Lexit camp, follow their French counterparts and align, like Galloway, with the hard right?

Allied with UKIP for the European Referendum Galloway looks a trail-blazer.

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

leave a comment »

Revolutionary Love.

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire . Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016.

(The book will be presented at Berkeley: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love – Houria Bouteldja. 04/19/2016 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm. 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley.

http://crg.berkeley.edu/node/990oWe invite you to hear her presentation of her book, just published a few weeks ago in France, and already the object of a very highly mediatized controversy. Live translation of Houria Bouteldja’s presentation into English will be provided.)

Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

“Et que penser de la discussion sur les mérites culinaires comparés de la viande de nègres, d’Allemands et de Marseillais, ou sur la meilleure manière de civiliser les sous-hommes d’Afrique ou des Indes en les réduisant en poussière avec la « fée Dum-Dum », alias « balle Nib-Nib »?

And what to consider about the discussion on the relative culinary merits of the flesh of Negroes, Germans, and the inhabitants of Marseilles, or on the best way of civilising the African and Indian sub-humans by reducing them to dust by ‘Fairy Dumdum’ alias, the ‘Nib Nib bullet’?

Le Jardin de Supplices. Octave Mirbeau. 1899. (The Torture Garden).

Segré and Pérez have systematically shredded this historical picture to pieces. We can bin the idea that empires are a European invention, and, most fundamentally, that European colonisation began outside Europe, and not in the conquests of the East, and of Ireland. On the darker side of the history of the Arab rule in Iberia and of the Caliphate’s incursion and domination of large parts of Europe she is, perhaps understandably, more or less silent. Flowing amongst her would-be lyrical invective Bouteldja offers a few valid ideas. One stands out, that the Atlantic slave trade and violent colonialisation provided models for the Nazis. This insight is nevertheless amply considered elsewhere (by Hannah Arendt, to only give the best known). One might extend the idea and examine Timothy Snyder’s argument that Hitler was a ‘zoological’ ideologue who thought that ‘race’ was real and that struggle between races was the ultimate reality of history. Unfortunately this comes rather too close to Bouteldja’s allusions to the idea that ‘whites’ are engaged in the fight to the death with ‘blacks’…. (1)

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous

ess with Jean Paul Sartre. Shoot Sartre (Fusillez Sartre) is her refrain, which sounds perhaps better in her armchair than on the paper. The Intellectual, novelist and philosopher, is an analogy for the French left. Why? This turns out to be well known, and may be summarised quickly. In the Maspero edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1968) his famous preface was withdrawn, on the insistence of Joie Fanon, who called Sartre a Zionist because he defended Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.

Bouteldja is keen on the equally famous – and morally cretinous – Sartre lines expressed in that text: that killing a colonialist serves two purposes: the death of an oppressor and the making of a freedom fighter’s independent manhood. She admires Fanon, one of her titular figures along with James Baldwin and Malcolm X. But, like his widow, she detests Zionists. Exit – as she might say in one her numerous attempts at pithiness – Sartre. Welcome the unconditional supporter of the Palestinians, Jean Genet, “What I like about Genet is that he doesn’t give a Fuck about Hitler.” (“Ce que j’aime chez Genet, c’est qu’il s’en fout d’Hitler” Page 20)

The Shoah.

The European Civil Religion of the Shoah needs, Bouteldja is not shy to assert, needs blasphemers. Not to deny the Holocaust, or (?) not to give a toss about it, but to remove the moral legitimacy that atoning for the genocide gives the West and Israel. The Jews have turned from ‘dhimis’ (that, is second class citizens) in Europe, to become their colonial soldiers in the service of ‘imperialism’ (Page 51). The Jews, post 1945, have accepted the “racial pact of the Republic”, become part of the ‘Jewish-Christian civilisation”, “part of the race of the Lords”, trading their history and memories for a “colonial ideology” (Page 53) And in that context, for the ‘South’ the Shoah is less than a ‘detail’ of history, it is nearly invisible. Anti-semitism is European (Page 55). Arabs are not philosemites, but they are not anti-Semites either (Ibid). The European religion of commemorating the Holocaust is just that…European, a distant sound for those suffering from colonialism. Only by abandoning Zionism can the Jews drop their white masks and become comrades, sharing the skin of the noirs In other words, do what Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous tells them to do.

Bouteldja is a master of racial baiting, shouting down her opponents. These passages effectively deny self-determination to one group of people, the ‘Jews’, along with some unpleasant claims that insult people’s right to give genocide the importance it has. Her panders in academic post-colonial studies will no doubt be able to explain away these passages. They will surely be at Berkley in the near future. Some such people, and her domestic allies, will no doubt dismiss the sexism, homophobia and racism attacked by Segré and Pérez. No doubt there is an audience for an assertion and exploration of the identities and oppressions of the multiple communities of immigrant origin in Europe, ill-served by all the states, including the formally egalitarian France. Many writings exist. There is a need to talk about the new forms of anti-racism. There are occasional gleams of interest in the present work of personal experience, overshadowed all too often by slabs of pre-digested ideology. Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, indeed has also the most ambitious possible intention: to speak for “nous”, the ‘noirs’ the ‘indigènes’ and to hail, with a shout the Vous, the Whites. Without doubt we should include the text on the reading lists. But, but, but…….

But behind the rodomontader there is a lack of substance. There is absolutely no discussion of the horrors taking place across the whole Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, passing by Iraq and Syria, not to mention Israel and Palestine themselves. There are genocides happening there right now. But Bouteldja ignores them. Expect for a brief sentence about young people in the banlieue falling for violent extremism she ignores the international phenomenon of Islamism and, most significantly, the popular fight against it. The pamphlet avoids these, and other, profound issues in a puppet theatre, the crudest of seaside shows, with the Jews dangling on the strings of Imperialism, as if their cords only need to be cut for peace and justice to reign.

Faced with a culture ruled by White “égoists et individualistes”, a West “in decline” what does Bouteldja offer? Is there a way out of oppression? She proposes a “radical questioning of Modernity and a consideration of an alternative civilisation.”(Page 92) What is this superior option to the White Republic and is false promise of liberty equality and fraternity? Fanon’s Third Worldism, American Black Power ideology steps aside. She summons god, Allah, for a world without hierarchy, a “une seule entité et authorité à dominer: Dieu” – a single entity authorised to rule: god. “ a côtés de tout leurs frères et soeurs en humanité” – alongside all their brothers and sisters in humanity. (Page 133).

Bless!

(1) Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and warning. Timothy Snyder. Bodley Head. 2015.

Some notes from Frantz Fanon. A life, David Macey. Granta Books. 2000.

Of interest in this context.

“Even when Fanon is remembered in Algeria, the memory can be clouded by partial amnesia and ignorance, Fanny Colonna, who taught as the University of Tizi-Ouzo until she was forced by the rising tide of violence and xenophobia to leave for France in the early 1990s, recalls meeting school students who had read Fanon in their French class but did not know that he was black.”(Page 8)

““The Third Worldist Fanon was an apocalyptic creature; the post-colonial Fanon worries about identity politics, and often abut his own sexual identity, but he is no longer angry. And yet, if there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to the experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory. They came out in the streets of Algiers in 1988, and the Algerian army shot them dead. They have been subsequently killed in there tens of thousands by authoritarian Algerian governments and so-called Islamic fundamentalists. Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too.”(Page 28)

“Anti-Semitism was by no means unusual in North Africa, and no, despite all the talk of African and Afro-Arab unity, was anti-black racism. In both Algeria and Tunisia black people were commonly referred to as Al-âbid (the singular is ‘Ab’d’), meaning slave’ –a reminder that the corsairs of the Barbary Coast had enslaved black as well as white.”(Page 316)

“the function of the violence of the colonised is to negate and transcend the seriality created by the violence of colonisation. In doing so, to create a group-in-fusion with a common project and praxis.”(Page 485)

“The themes of Third World solidarity and unity, of a version of pan-Africanism and of the liberating power of violence have not worn well. Fro a generation, Fanon was a prophet. He has become a witness to the process of decolonisation but, whilst his discussion of racism remains valid, he has little to say about the outcome of that process.”(Page 503)

France: Nuit debout – the new Indignados – and Demonstrations against new labour laws.

with 2 comments

We Wish Our French Comrades Well!

Could the #NuitDebout movement become France’s Indignados?

France 24.

The NuitDebout (Night on Our Feet) movement, which has occupied Paris’s Place de la République for four nights in a row, is not your average French protest, but could it reach the levels of the Occupy or Indignados movements?

NuitDebout started like many other French demonstrations. Student and workers groups who oppose François Hollande’s planned labour reform law, which they say will make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, organised a protest march on March 31.

But after the march many participants wanted to continue the protest and expand their message. They proposed three nights of occupation in République, which they called March 31st, 32nd and 33rd, and came up with the name NuitDebout to express their defiance. Between 1000 and 2000 people attended each night, according to organisers, although by 8pm on Saturday there were probably a few hundred.

“Most protests in France, we go in the street, we express ourselves and then each of us goes home. It’s a little sad,” one NuitDebout protester explained on Saturday night. “But here [in République] something else is being built.”

“We aren’t on our knees, we aren’t in bed, we’re standing up,” explained a communications spokesperson and initiator of NuitDebout, who asked to be identified as Camille.

Protesters point to diverse motivations for the movement, including the proposed labour reform, popularly known as the El Khomri law; the hit documentary film “Merci, Patron!“, which ridicules France’s richest man, billionaire Bernard Arnault; solidarity with French Goodyear tyre plant workers who kidnapped their bosses in 2014; and objections to the controversial Notre Dame des Landes airport project.

A crowd of Camilles

For now though, NuitDebout protesters are avoiding specific demands. Instead, they emphasise their dissatisfaction with France’s treasured republican ideals, which they see as not truly democratic.

“The people who come here don’t agree with the way the government runs things. The idea is to reconstruct a system that starts with the citizen,” said another protester, who also asked to be identified as Camille.

That’s right, when speaking to the press they all want to be identified as Camille, a gender-neutral first name in French.

But this policy of vagueness and anonymity is strategic. NuitDebout is taking many cues from the Occupy movement in the United States and the Indignados movement in Spain, both of which mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in anti-corporate and anti-austerity protests in 2011 and 2012.

NuitDebout is hoping, as Occupy and Indignados participants did, that a focus on organisation and structure will allow them to build a movement that can sustain itself and be taken seriously in the long run.

“Usually citizens movements [in France] are associated with a political party or a union, but here there’s no flag in the square,” said Camille the communications spokesperson. “It’s completely directed by the citizens.”

Much of their organisational structure is borrowed from the American and Spanish movements: Committees of 30 to 100 people each direct the movement’s communication, logistics, security and entertainment. Major decisions are made at a “general assembly” at 6pm, where anyone can put their name on a list to speak. People show approval by waving, and votes are decided by a simple show of hands. So far there have been two general assemblies, on Friday and Saturday, where the main issue being voted was whether to come back the next night.

The communications committee maintains a stylish social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. The NuitDebout pages feature attractive anti-corporate graphics that could have been designed by advertising firms, and their posts carefully avoid inflammatory rhetoric.

One member of the communications committee explained that he also works in communications in his professional life.

“A kind of awakening”

There has been a conscious effort to put NuitDebout in an international context alongside Occupy in the United States and Indignados and Podemos in Spain. Spanish headlines and have referred to a “primavera francesa”, or French spring, and social media users frequently put #NuitDebout and #Occupy in the same posts. Camille, the communications spokesperson, said organisers from Spain had come to Paris to advise NuitDebout.

But while the Indignados protests drew about 20,000 people in May 2011, and the Occupy movement gathered between 2,000 and 15,000 protesters in 2011 and 2012, NuitDebout has so far reached at most 1000 to 2000, according to organisers. The general assembly on Saturday night saw only a few hundred.

Marta, a student from Barcelona who lives in Paris now, has participated in both the Indignados and NuitDebout protests, and was at République on Saturday night.

“We see that there’s a kind of awakening of people who are mobilising, but for the moment I think their demands lack precision,” Marta said. “There are lots of groups with lots of demands, but they haven’t converged yet.”

Riot police again showed up at Républque around 5 o’clock Sunday morning. But this time there weren’t enough protestors to disperse. Instead, as people snapped photos that would show up on the NuitDebout Twitter feed the next day, the police took off their helmets, chatted with protesters and smiled.

More protests are taking place this week Contre la loi travail, une semaine sociale sur tous les fronts.

The Nuits Debout movement continues.

Objectifs, organisation, ambition…, comment se structurent les «indignés de République».

Originally called by the collective Convergence des luttes and backed by the journal Fakir, (Journal fâché avec tout le monde – angry with everybody) Nuits debout (Nights standing up)  began after last week’s demonstration against the new Labour Laws. They occupied the Place de la République. They were removed by the police. They came back. They are still there (La « Nuit debout » continue de rassembler place de la République à Paris).

Their objective extends well beyond defeating the ‘El Khomri’ labour law: this is but a branch of a tree which must be felled («Cette loi n’est qu’une branche d’un arbre immense qu’il faut abattre»)

Discussions in general assemblies are taking place on the whole gamut of social problems in France. Decisions are taken with some elements of Occupy practice with direct democracy and voting by hands raised (but no enforcement of the stifling ‘consensus’ model: “ces suggestions sont votées à la majorité et notées dans un registre”), such as the use of a “moderator” and calls for a clam exchange of views.  Unfortunately we note that a  series of bizarre ‘ipster’ gestures are used to participate in debates. We strongly suspect the model of the ‘Zadistes’ (French Swampies) at work in importing this practice. (1)

There is a cultural wing, including a “gang of clowns”, and the use of social networks.

The movement has expanded across France (details to follow…)

https://i0.wp.com/www.fakirpresse.info/IMG/arton990.png

(1) Zadistes, ZAD, from Zone à Defendre, that is places to defend against development, notably against the construction of the airport at Notre-Dame-des Landes, (a ‘funny’ turnaround of the official term, zone d’aménagement différé). 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2016 at 10:51 am

Badiou Studies Hit by Sokal-style “Intellectual Impostures” Affair.

with 10 comments

 Staff T-Shirt in Craft-Beer and Quinoa Hoxton Bistro.

 

This recently appeared: Badiou Studies Volume Four, Number One. Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being Benedetta Tripodi. Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Iasi, Romania.

Badiou_studies_1er_avril

Unfortunately, as this just published piece explains, Un « philosophe français » label rouge. Relecture tripodienne d’Alain Badiou,  the article is a pastiche and satire –  albeit with serious intent.

Which reminds us of this: the Sokal Affair.

The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax, was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.

The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[3][4] On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics.

Last autumn the ‘peer reviewed’ academic journal  Badiou Studies called for papers for a special issue, “towards a queer badiouian feminism “.

The merry pair,  Anouk Barberousse & Philippe Huneman,   sent their text off and it was accepted.

We hear that the learned Badiou Studies has just now rumbled the prank.

Badiou is, as they observe, highly regarded not just in France (where he is at the pinnacle of a certain academic establishment, while being cordially loathed by those in different camps) but in the world of Cultural Studies, Film Studies, White Studies, Heritage Studies, Postcolonial Studies and one could add Verso books who publish his ponderings. Terry Eagleton has called him The Greatest Philosopher since Plato and St Ignatius of Loyola” – the latter no doubt not without a ring of a certain ‘truth regime’.

Badiou is also known for his ‘Maoist’ past, his support for the Khmer Rouge, and the bullying of other leftist and academics by his 1970’s groupusucle the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCFml).

He remains unwavering in his glorification of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This apparently is one of the Events that demonstrate the Truth of the Communist Idea to which he remains faithful.

As Barberousse and Huneman remark, most of Badiou’s admirers like his politics – his ‘Communist Hypothesis’ – while grasping little or nothing of his metaphysics (“Badiousiens « politiques » se satisfont de savoir que cette métaphysique est profonde, mais ils n’y comprennent rien.”)

Their approach is the following,

Aussi incroyablement irritantes que puissent être certaines des postures d’Alain Badiou, entre mégalomanie et violence verbale réminiscence des plus belles heures de feu la gauche prolétarienne, c’est sa place et son aura intellectuelles qu’il s’agit de déconstruire ici. Nous n’avons pas tant voulu produire une argumentation à charge, qu’une illustration par l’absurde de certaines failles dans son système de positions comme dans l’engagement de ses sectateurs.

As unbelievably irritating as certain of Alain Badiou’s posturings may be, between megalomania and a verbal violence which recalls the incandescence of the glory days of the gauche prolétarienne (French ultra-Maoist group of the early 1970s), its his position and intellectual aura which we aimed to deconstruct. We did not want  to produce a charge-sheet but show by illustration the absurdity of certain weak points in his system and seize them with a pair of secateurs.

Pour clarifier le projet Tripodi, il faut tout d’abord décrire en

They contest what is in effect a legitimation of philosophy by an abstract ontology (une légitimation pour la métaphysique du philosophe). Or to be more clearly, the idea that you can produce a rational picture of the world by intellectual fiat while concealing  the many difficulties it involves.

The parody is designed to undermine the foundations on which the ontology of the ‘Master’ rests, its use to determine how social relations work, how radical politics can be based, and, apart from anything else, is highly amusing.

The ‘paper’  Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being  begins:

As established by Badiou in Being and Event , mathematics – as set theory – is the ultimate ontology. Sets are what gender in g processes by reactionary institutions intend to hold, in contradiction to the status of the multiplicities proper to each subject qua subject. This tension between subjectivity and gender comes to the fore through the lens of the ‘count as ‘one’, the onto logical operator identified by Badiou as the fluid mediator between set  belonging and set existence. After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the “many” that is negatively referred to through the “count as  one” posited by the gendering of “the” woman. Maintaining the openness of this “many” is an interweaving philosophical endeavour. It is also a political task for any theory receptive to the oppressive load proper to the institutions of sexuation, as deployed through modern capitalism that is, any queer theory. In its second step, the paper will therefore expose the adequacy of the Badiousian ontology to provide theoretical resources for articulating the field of a genuine queer nomination. It will finally appear that “non gender” structurally corresponds in the field of a post capitalist politics of the body to what Francois Laruelle (1984) designated as non philosophie within the field of metaphysics.

This is priceless.

“To sum up, non-gender cannot but only be thought of, by a radical philosophical gesture, as a supplement of this philosophy itself. As such a supplement, non gender hasto be where philosophy is not meant to be, even when it shows instead of saying(according to the well known Wittgensteinian distinction) or, shows through its non saying that this situation is a non situation, or, in Badiousian words, that we have the situation of a condition that is a non condition.”

Conclusion.

What matters to this truth is a faithfulness to the “many” that was unnamed but arising in the event of feminism. It is the faithfulness to the Impensé of the gendering institutions proper to late capitalism – in other words, a faithfulness to the (non) gender (Bersanti 1987; Magnus 2006). Here, we reach the limits of what philosophy – conceived of in Badiousian terms, as exposing the conditions of an authentic event of truth through the subjectification of a subject– can frame, or, more generally, can utter.

The suggestion that Jacobin was about the publish an interview with Benedetta Tripodi has been denied.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm