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March Against Islamophobia in France – some divisions on the French left.

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This Sunday there is going to be a large demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris.

This is bound to have international resonance.

Protesting against hatred shown towards Muslims takes place after the attack on a Mosque  in Bayonne at the end of October and polls which show up to  44% of French people backing laws against wearing the veil in public spaces. (LES FRANÇAIS ET L’INTERDICTION DU PORT DU VOILE ISLAMIQUE DANS LES LIEUX PUBLICS.)

An appeal, signed initially by 50 prominent figures of the political left, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and intellectuals  was published in Liberation on the 1st of November calling for a response to the rise in hatred.

The dignity and integrity of millions of our fellow citizens are at stake. It is a question of unity against racism, which, in all its forms, which today again threatens France.

Le 10 novembre, à Paris, nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie !

The racist atmosphere has reached a new level after what has been called an appeal to civil war against Muslims and immigrants from the writer Éric Zemmour at the  Convention de la Droite, held at the end of September,  which also starred the rising figure of the French far right Marion Maréchal. (Les propos d’Eric Zemmour, comme une incitation à la guerre civile)

Anybody wishing to be informed on the climate could do well to begin by reading Zemmour’s Le Suicide français (2014).

He begins by lamenting French decline, blaming an alliance of 68 libertarian leftist ideology, feminism, gay rights, and unrestrained free market capitalism for undermining the family and French national sovereignty. The left, by denigrating the Nation, the land, and its dead, has paved the way for globalism. The destruction of France is furthered by the European Union’s super-national project and the ‘elites’ running it against the rooted people of the countries they rule over.

Immigration plays a role in undermining French nation. In place of the ‘integrationist’ process of assimilation – he himself is from a North African Jewish background – today capitalists and leftists have allowed separate communities to develop. The “cult of mixing” and diversity has replaced the republican model of equality (, le culte du métissage )

Le Suicide français Zemmour described Paris as surrounded by a banlieue  studded with Islamic and drug dealing fortress.

His more recent diatribes continue in this vein,

“one must choose between living and together” [a play on words on the slogan “vivre ensemble”]. The question today is thus that of the people. The people can remake a nation. The French people against the universalisms, whether market or Islamic. The French people against the cosmopolitan citizens of the world who feel closer to the inhabitants of New York or London than to their compatriots in Montélimar or Béziers and the French people against the Islamic universalism that is transforming Bobigny, Roubaix and Marseille into so many Islamic Republics and which waves the Algerian or Palestinian flags when its football team wins – I mean the team it loves, the team of their parents’ country, not the team of their ID or health insurance card.

Speech here.

In these conditions it is valid to make some comparisons between Zemmour and the 19th century  author of the best known French anti-Jewish hated, Edouard Drumont  (De Drumont à Zemmour, les résonances de la France rance).

It is less clear that we can draw exact parallels with the organised anti-Semitism, which included ‘leagues’ that promoted Jew baiting,  of that period.

The attempt to do so and make explicit reference to the Dreyfus Affair in Pour les musulmans by Edwy Plenel (2015) whose title echoes Pour les Juifs  by Emile Zola is devoid of all geopolitical context, beginning with the rise of extreme right Islamism.

Yet there are clearly mechanisms of exclusion against Muslim voices. During public debates on the veil, the Hidjab, this has happened:

La semaine du racisme antimusulmans a commencé le 11 octobre 2019 : depuis cette date, 85 débats sur le hijab ont été organisés, 286 personnes ont été invitées sur vos écrans mais PAS UNE SEULE femme portant le hijab n’a été invitée dans le cadre de ces débats

 (The week of anti-Muslim racism began on October 11, 2019: since then, 85 debates on the hijab have been organized, 286 people have been invited to your screens but NOT ONE ONLY woman wearing the hijab has been invited as part of these debates)

These indicate some of the reasons why the Sunday protest may have problems in balancing a universalist stand against the racist wave and the need to avoid becoming trapped in an incircle defence of religious-political  ideas.

So far most of the debate has centred on these aspects of the difficulties involved.

To begin with the word Islamophobia, as if a religion rather than Muslims as people, are the target of hatred, is a difficulty for many.

This is much less of an issue than the fact that the demonstration is backed by people whose own anti-racism is far from clear.

Marcher le 10 novembre avec les islamistes et décoloniaux : une erreur politique majeure pour la gauche. Manuel Boucher.

There is equally  a strident tone against existing secularist  laws in the appeal for the march.

Few people are eager to take lessons on secularism from anybody associated with Islamism. (1)

This had led the Parti Socialiste and others to withdraw their support. A gauche, défections en série avant la «marche contre l’islamophobie»

Despite these criticisms Jean-Luc Mélenchon has maintained his backing (Marche contre l’islamophobie : Mélenchon défend sa signature «au nom du texte réel et du contexte cruel»)

Even from a distance it is hard not to deny the scale of the problems Muslims, from very diverse communities, forms of Islam, politics,  and origins, from the Maghreb onwards,  face in France.

********

(1) Une ombre islamiste plane sur la marche contre l’islamophobie

La Croix.

D’autres signaux permettent de déceler l’engagement de l’islamisme, parfois radical, dans la manifestation « Nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie ! » du 10 novembre. Ainsi, une source policière note le relais de l’Appel à cet événement par plusieurs imams lyonnais, très investis dans l’UOIF. Mohamed Louizi relève, lui, les mêmes attitudes chez l’imam francilien Noureddine Aoussat, « frériste » reconnu ou chez l’imam nordiste Abdelmonaim Boussenna (Roubaix), très proche, longtemps, de Tariq Ramadan, et dont les profils YouTube et Facebook comptent des centaines de milliers d’abonnés.

Scrutant la liste des signataires de l’appel à manifester « contre l’islamophobie », Mohamed Louizi estime que « plusieurs d’entre eux posent problème ». Ainsi, la « Plateforme L.E.S. Musulmans », un « réseau collaboratif » qui entend exprimer l’opinion des « bases musulmanes », a été fondée par Marwan Muhammad, un « proche des Frères musulmans » qui fut aussi porte-parole et directeur exécutif du Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF). Cette plateforme activiste vient d’ailleurs de lancer une Union des imams qui inquiète certains observateurs. Ses adhérents pourront être de toutes sensibilités et tous courants de pensée, y compris salafistes.

Plus largement, poursuit Mohamed Louizi, « tous les initiateurs de cette manifestation dénoncent, depuis le début, la loi du 15 mars 2004 qui interdit de porter à l’école les signes manifestant ostensiblement son appartenance à une religion… » A ce propos, une phrase de la tribune publiée par Libération, le 1er novembre, a particulièrement attiré l’attention : « Depuis des années, les actes qui visent (les musulmans) s’intensifient : qu’il s’agisse de discriminations (…) ou de lois liberticides… »

 

 

Tunisia, “Revolutionary Conservative” Kaïs Saïed heads First Round: two Populists to battle it out.

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Kais Saïd ou le choix de la génération

Robocop Heads Tunisian Presidential First Round.

Presidential election results were seen as a shock in the Tunisian media.

Here

Tunisia election: Outsider in lead stuns after most votes counted.

Al Jazeera.

With two-third votes in presidential race counted, conservative constitutional law professor Kais Saied takes the lead.

Law professor and political outsider Kais Saied is leading Tunisia‘s presidential polls with two-thirds of the votes counted, the electoral commission said, after the country’s second free vote for head of state since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Saied was on 18.9 percent on Monday night, ahead of imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 15.5 percent, according to the electoral commission, ISIE.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.

ISIE figures showed him in fifth place with 7.4 percent of the vote, trailing both Ennahdha party candidate Abdelfattah Mourou (moderate’ islamists, once a favourite of Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man, Seumas Milne)  and former defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.

France 24 noted,

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in a first round in 2014.

Reports indicate that  Kaïs Saïed’s electoral base is the educated youth, the “les 20-30 ans éduqués.”

Nicknamed, “robocop”, this comes from his unflagging diction, his use of a rigorous literary Arabic (when many candidates speak in Tunisian forms), his analysis essentially based on the country’s constitutional problems, his conservative positions on social issues. Others have made the connection with “Robespierre”, a ”  Robespierre without guillotine, but if the situation was that of two centuries ago, he would have used it,” an observer noted. He has been a favourite in the polls for many months.

Le Point.

The  analysis by Syrine Ben Youssef on Huffington Post Maghreb has a different angle on the age cohort.

Kais Saïd ou le choix de la génération Z

37 % des électeurs de Kais Saïd auraient entre 18 et 25 ans

37% of the voters for Kais Saïd  are said to be between 18 and 25 years old.

Syrine Ben Youssef summarises some reasons for this result.

They call them ‘Generation Z’ who have grown up since the Tunisian Spring, in contrast to ‘Generation Y who made the revolution.

This is the digital generation, “digital natives” ultra-connected, born with internet, mobile phones, and  social networks.

Saïd is seen as “honest, independent, intellectual” and, above all, he conveyed this image in short broadcasts which can be quickly absorbed and gave an image of furthering a change from the old political set up, the style of lengthy speeches and arguments. He, the Huffington Post journalist, argues,, managed to give an accessible image and a message of supporting, “ideas of ​​direct popular participation” and backing for “universal suffrage”, that is, not the rule of a squabbling political class.

Generation Z, for its part, shows us, through this election in 2019, that it needs change and that it thinks differently. Kais Saïd advocates  a direct democracy where the intermediaries between the power and the people would be reduced. A democracy in the image of a horizontal company or even a liberated firm having little or no level of separation between employees and the executive. Kais Saïd targets, perhaps very intentionally or possibly accidentally, Generation Z.

In case anybody should think this audience makes Saïed a liberal, think again.

He is in favour of the death penalty, he thinks homosexuality is promoted by ‘foreign’ forces’ (l’homosexualité, ou plutôt son expression publique, est encouragée par des parties étrangères qui les financent »)  which should be kept Private, and he thinks that inheritance laws should give priority to males (as in most interpretations of Islamic ‘law’). More here.

It looks like a standoff between two “populists”, the one, constitutional and conservative, who attacks “elites”, the other Nabil Karoui, referred to as a Tunisian Berlusconi with dodgy money – currently in Gaol awaiting trial for this – who wants to “Libérer l’économie”, free the economy.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Algeria: Demonstrations Grow Against 5th Term for Bouteflika.

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Au lendemain des manifestations du 1 mars: un peuple debout, un pouvoir

Au lendemain des manifestations du 1 mars: un peuple debout, un pouvoir groggy.

Al HuffPost Maghreb

In Algeria , while the demonstrations against a fifth term for outgoing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika have reached historic levels , at a few hours of filing applications for the supreme election (Sunday midnight local time), the presidential camp remains very discreet.

The dismissal this Saturday of the campaign manager and former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal , replaced by the current Minister of Transport, was carried out without further explanation or comment.

No Algerian official has so far officially reacted to the massive mobilisation of Algerians on Friday across the country to oppose the prospect of a fifth term of Bouteflika, in power since 1999 , who celebrated his 82 years Saturday .

Hospitalised in Switzerland for six days , officially for “periodic medical examinations”, the return to Algeria of the head of state has still not been announced.

20 Minutes:

Algérie: Des manifestations massives mais sans réactions politiques

Le Monde:

In Algiers, a huge crowd determined to demonstrate peacefully

Hundreds of thousands of people marched Friday in the Algerian capital against a 5th term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

See RFI Press review: la nouvelle déferlante contre Bouteflika en Algérie

In declaring their solidarity the Ensemble alliance notes that there is a call to demonstrate today in favour of a boycott of the elections.

 dimanche, c’est le collectif « Mouwatana » (citoyenneté) qui prône le boycott de l’élection présidentielle qui a appelé à manifester.

Interview with one of the leading figures of the group in l’Humanité (Saturday) .

Capture d'écran/France 24.

ZOUBIDA ASSOUL : « LES ALGÉRIENS EXIGENT UNE RUPTURE RADICALE AVEC LE SYSTÈME BOUTEFLIKA »

More on Mouwatana: Le mouvement Mouwatana précise les lieux de ses rassemblements

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Protests in Algeria against President Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

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Résultat de recherche d'images pour "algerie manifestations"

No to a 5th Presidential Term for Bouteflika.

Fresh protests against fifth term for Bouteflika in Algeria

France 24 reports.

Hundreds of people demonstrated on Sunday in the Algerian capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, as the ailing leader was scheduled to go to Switzerland for a medical checkup.

Police sprayed tear gas, brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, an AFP journalist said.

But turnout was much lower than on Friday when tens of thousands took to the streets including in Algiers, where demonstrations are strictly banned.

Security forces arrested more than 40 people after that protest, which saw police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.

….

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on February 10 that he will run for another term in office.

The president’s office has announced that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for “routine medical checks” ahead of the April 18 presidential election.

He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.

Bouteflika is Algeria’s longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.

Les manifestations se multiplient en Algérie contre le pouvoir en place. “Pouvoir, Assassin”, “Il y en a marre, il y en a marre, il y en a marre de ce pouvoir” ou encore “Ni Bouteflika, Ni Saïd” chantaient les manifestants réunis dimanche à Alger.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2019 at 1:25 pm

Moroccan feminist activist, Ibtissam Lachgar, arrested for Public Drinking and Disturbing Order.

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Solidarity with Ibtissam Lachgar!

ABAT, Morocco (AP) — A prominent Moroccan feminist activist has been arrested for alleged public drinking and disturbance of order, in what her association called an attempt to quash its campaigning for abortion access and LGBT rights.

An online campaign was launched soon after Ibtissam Lachgar’s arrest Friday in Rabat, demanding her release.

Lachgar’s group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms, or MALI, said in a statement that “we strongly condemn these arbitrary arrests and intimidation of members of the movement.”

Hours earlier, MALI criticized the Health Ministry in a press release for banning sales of a drug used to induce abortion. The group also created an online platform to provide women with abortion pills.

Women who intentionally attempt or undergo abortion in Morocco face up to two years in prison and a $50 fine.

AP News.

Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles – Maroc

(from Face Book)

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Betty Ibtissame Lachgar was assaulted in town, and unjustly detained at the police station while she wanted to file a complaint against her attackers ” with knives ‘: change of police stations, interrogations, degrading situation in the jails…

According to Betty’s family and friends, she’s supposed to be out in the morning to get past the da.

If Betty was to be a victim of violence, human rights violations or humiliation during her detention, the Moroccan state will be held in full responsibility by Mali, such violence will be prosecuted.

My house was smiling to thank you for being assaulted in the ancient city of Rabat, and was unjustly detained at the police station while she wanted to file a complaint against her attackers “with knives”: changing police stations, interrogations and humiliating situation at the theoretical guard.

According to Betty’s family and friends, you’re supposed to come out tomorrow morning to go to the d.a.

If Betty is a victim of violence, human rights violations or humiliation during her detention, the Moroccan state will be fully responsible by ” Mali and this violence will be pursued legally.

She has now been released.

There is a ‘debate’ about the MALI  including allegations that they have been “provocative”.

That is, they have organised a campaign about the dramatic position of Moroccan women who wish to have an abortion and have to resort to clandestine methods. The movement is also charged with “muscular” activism having held a picnic in the month of Ramadan, a  ‘kiss in’ to support two adolescents charged with embracing in public, backing gay rights and supporting Femen.

Ibtissam Lachgar alleges that before her arrest she and a friend were threatened by a group of young men for their “libertarian” lifestyle and, in the process of complaining to the local police, she was again menaced and insulted before finding out, later, that charges against her had been made. (Here)

Huffington Post reports on this:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Claude Lanzman director of the ‘Shoah’ dies aged 92: A Great Voice for the Just Passes.

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Image result for claude lanzmann france 24

Claude Lanzmann has died in Paris at the age of 92.

Esteemed French journalist, ‘Shoah’ director Claude Lanzmann dies aged 92.

Agence France Press.

laude Lanzmann, the esteemed French journalist and director of the acclaimed Holocaust documentary ‘Shoah’, died at his Paris home on Thursday at the age of 92.

“Claude Lanzmann died at his home. He had been very, very weak for several days,” a spokeswoman for publishing house Gallimard told AFP.

Lanzmann was the chief editor of “Les Temps Modernes”, the ground-breaking literary review founded by philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir after World War II.

Lanzmann was a friend of the philosophers, and famously became involved with De Beauvoir while working as Sartre’s secretary. He was 26 and De Beauvoir was 44.

The golden couple of French intellectual life had a famously open relationship, and enjoyed – and endured – a number of similar love triangles.

Lanzmann went on to make the acclaimed Holocaust documentary ‘Shoah’, the nine-and-a-half hour epic which is, for many, the most haunting film made about the murder of six million Jews during World War II.

The chronicle took Lanzmann 11 years to make and is his best-known work.

Lanzmann was born November 27, 1925 in the Bois-Colombes suburb north of Paris. His Jewish parents immigrated to France from Eastern Europe where they raised Claude, his sister Evelyne, and younger brother Jacques.

His first act of resistance as a Jewish schoolboy in wartime France was to refuse to write an essay in praise of its collaborationist leader Marshal Petain. He later took to the hills to join fighters in central France ambushing German patrols as part of the Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF), a political youth organization close to the French communist party.

Review, 2011.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie. Claude Lanzmann. A Review, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Israel.

Andrew Coates.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie. Claude Lanzmann. Gallimard 2009 (Paperback 2010)

Claude Lanzmann (born 1925) is the director of Shoah (1985), the landmark film on the Holocaust. Against the documentary’s theme of methodically organised death, his title, Le Lièvre de Patagonie, evokes the Hare, a symbol of fertility and renewed life (the original ‘Easter Bunny’). Lanzmann’s book, he states, was written with this animal constantly in mind.

In Shoah while Rudolf Vrba talks off-camera of his escape from the Birkenau extermination camp there is a shot of a hare sliding under the barbed wire. Lanzmann likes the creatures, he respects them as noble, and if there were transmigration of souls he would wish to be reincarnated as one. Glimpsing one of a legendary South American species in his car’s headlights in Patagonia signalled the moment that he felt fully in the land, vrais ensemble (truly together). The hare is a sign of a vital leap to freedom that infuses his own “joie sauvage” (wild happiness). It is this incarnation that constantly springs to Lanzmann’s mind as he unravels this account of his life.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie is a record of Lanzmann’s out-of-the-ordinary intellectual, political and creative career, infused with joy, and sadness. It passes from the youthful résistant, to the culture and commitments that led him to Jean-Paul Sartre, and a “quasi-maritale’ companionship with Simone de Beauvoir (from 1952 to 1959). A contributor from 1952 onwards to Les Temps Modernes (publisher’s site here) he provides an important first-hand account of this review’s active support for anti-colonialism during the Algerian war for independence.

The memories are much more than a record of events; they are an affirmation of his beliefs, and loyalties. Lanzmann’s commitment to Israel, expressed in the partisan documentary Pourquoi Israel (1970) remains at the heart of his being. In Le Monde last year Lanzmann was cited saying that, “Je suis d’autant propalestinien que je suis pro-israélian, et récroproquement” (I am as pro-Palestinian as I am pro-Israeli and the other way around). But there is little doubt that his empathy for the Jewish state marks his recollections the more, making the author a rare living defender of the left’s post-War support for Israel.

Lanzmann does not just feel an affinity, as somebody with a secular-Jewish cultural background, with Israeli people. He considers that he is, despite the intensity of his French culture (to the depths of his prose). He remains “Français de hazard, pas du tout ‘de souche’” – French by chance, not of French stock. (Page 330) The Jews are “mon peuple”.

Visiting the new state in 1948 Lanzmann found that compared to real Israelis, who had their country in their “os et le sang” (bone and blood) he was “un elfe” who weighed nothing. He has always, without Biblical faith, been astonished and full of “admiration” for the Jewish religion (Page 730). Such opinions (and his eulogy  of  Israel’s army in the film Tsahal, 1994), are in Lanzmann’s marrow. To this extent his praise of the Hebrew state’s military is  impossible to forgive or forget.  

La Guillotine.

Lanzmann begins with the words, “La guillotine – plus généralement la peine capitale et les différents modes d’administration de la mort – aura été la grande affaire de ma vie” – the Guillotine – and more widely capital punishment and the different forms of meeting out death – will be the main concern of my life. An adolescent trip to the cinema in the late ‘thirties to see L’affaire du courier de Lyon (under the post-Revolutionary ‘Directory’) was his introduction to the horror of watching an innocent executed. The view of the scaffolding around the  blade, and the fact that the sentence was carried out in public, preoccupied him for months.

Lanzmann is haunted by tortures, by Hitler and Stalin’s mass murders, Goya’s Fusilamentos del 3 de Mayo, and the hostages that Islamists put to death and record like “films pronographiques”. His life was dedicated to standing for right against repression. The national liberation struggle in Algeria was met by French repression, which included the death penalty. Lanzmann and de Beauvoir worked with the lawyer Jacques Vergès to defend the condemned under this threat. He campaigned for the Catalan anarchist, Salvador Puig Antich, condemned by the Caudillo to die by the garrotte in 1974.

This was not just the indignation of the righteous. It was bound to Lanzmann’s own past. Under the Occupation in 1943 while studying at the lycée Blaise-Pascal, at Clermont-Ferrand (in the Auverne) he decided to join the Resistance. He became involved with the Communist Party (PCF). The former school student was soon amongst maquisards in the Haute-Loire, and a member of the FTP (Communist, Francs-tireurs et partisans). For refusing to carry out a suicidal mission – transporting weapons through German controlled areas – the local PCF put him under sentence of death.

Escaping this fate Lanzmann resumed his education in post-war Paris, in the prestigious “hypokhâgne” at Louis-le-Grand (preparatory course for the elite French ‘Grandes écoles’). The PCF were active in the college. Undaunted he approached the secretary of the school’s Communist cell to ask that the “sentence de mort prononcée contre moi par le Parti” be carried out (Page 207) The official, later a well known left Socialist politician, Jean Poperen, did not, on this occasion, as the representative of the Party of the “75,000 shot”, add another number to the total.

There is so much rich detail, often supplied at a tangent with the unities of space, time and action, in Le Lièvre de Patagonie that the linear narrative of Lanzmann’s life is sometimes hard to keep steadily in mind.  There is his troubled family background. There is his period as a proto-academic, enraptured by Sartre’s trilogy, Les Chemins de la liberté (1945), studying Hegel, and so poor he stole books from the shop of the Presses Universitaires de France, to resell – until memorably caught and disgraced.

There is Lanzmannteaching in post-War Berlin at the Freie Universität, where he exposed much of the teaching staff’s unrepentant National Socialism. There is the moving story of his actress sister, Évelyne, who was Gilles Deleuze’s lover, and then, after acting in Sartre’s plays, became his lover, only to later commit suicide in 1966. And there is the meeting with De Beauvoir, le Castor, holidays across Europe, and their political activism.

Little emerges  in Le Lièvre on Les Temps Modernes’ relations with International Communism, or on Sartre’s judgement that a friendly stand towards the PCF was a “means of access” to the French working class. By contrast there are interesting accounts of Lanzmann’s role in the activities of the group around Sartre and de Beauvoir during the Algerian war, which came to dominate the country’s political life during the 1950s. By the end of that decade their alliance with the Algerian fighters for independence, led to what became known as ‘third worldism’. They stood up for anti-colonialism in the hardest conditions, risking their lives to defend Algerian prisoners, and the rights of North Africans. All who has signed the celebrated Manifeste de 121(1960) which called for those conscripted in the French army to refuse to serve in Algeria were under threat. Jobs were lost, and Sartre’s flat was attacked with plastic explosives.

In 1958, with 4 more years of the Algerian war to go, Lanzmann was a journalist (writing for France Dimanche as well as Les Temps Modernes). As a man of the left he, like Sartre and de Beauvoir, made his own pilgrimage to ‘socialist’ lands. He visited North Korea and China as part of an organised delegation (with Western Communist participation). In the land of Juche and “pression stalinienne…effrayante” (fearful Stalinist pressure) Lanzmann had a fleeting contact with a Korean woman, more a Brief Encounter (which he evokes to describe the fleeting tryst) than an affair. China, though more relaxed, offered the less compelling charms of an interview with French-speaking Chen Yi, Foreign Affairs Minister, on the country’s geopolitical strategy.

Third-Worldism.

The Sartre-Beauvoir circle embraced Third-Worldism (though the author of the Second Sex appears never to have been wholly convinced. This was most marked in their relations with the Algerian resistance. While Sartre and de Beauvoir replaced interest in the old Soviet bloc, for Cuba, and in 1960 they did some safe revolutionary tourism there, it was Lanzmann who got closest to its dangerous side.

A small number of people on the French left had worked closely enough with the Algerian revolutionaries, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) to become “porteurs de valises” (carrying arms for them). While far from engaged in the armed struggle Lanzmann met the FLN in person, in its Tunisian bases. It was there that he encountered Franz Fanon, the renowned theorist of anti-colonialism (and today largely, if remembered, largely appropriated by Anglophone ‘post-colonial’ studies).

Sartre would write the Preface, as Fanon requested, for The Wretched of the Earth (1964). He asserted that “The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms” “For in the first days of the revolt you must kill; to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses with one stone”. That is, the, highly contestable, claim that the physical fight for freedom is the route to cathartic self-assertion.

Despite his unwavering anti-colonialism Fanon seemed equally aware of the FLN’s internal disputes, the occasion for a different kind of catharsis, a purging of emotions onto any human object to hand. These were, he alluded to Lanzmann, were ferocious, though “secret”. His interlocutor sensed that the Martinique himself “connaissait la peur” (knew fear) (Page 492). With good reason, Lanzmann observes. The FLN and its supporters, not to mention ordinary Algerians, were the victims of a terrifying level of repression, with 500,000 troops at under French command, and special units prepared to use torture, while the French Algerian ultras, in the Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS) rained down terror against all Maghrebin rebels (including those on the French left deemed supportive of them).

The Algerian National Liberation Front, (FLN) and its army’s (ALN) cadres were responsible for extreme acts of violence against their nationalist opponents (the Mouvement pour le triomph des libertés démocratiques, MTLD) and civilian critics. They suffered from vicious quarrels inside the apparatus, and readily resorted to force to settle disputes. On top of this were rivalries between clans, and ethnic groups, Arabs and Kabyles. The reality showed that violence was not a vehicle for liberation and therapy.

For Lanzmann, however, the need to back the struggle meant a self-imposed silence (with an eye to possible FLN reaction). He therefore kept information about the use of terror inside the liberation movement to himself. He wrote nothing, and said nothing (Page 501). One must say however that Simone de Beauvoir in 1963 did not hesitate to cite Fanon’s allusions to “les dissensions, les intrigues, les liquidations, les oppositions…” without seeming bound by a revolutionary omerta, even if she gave no details. (La force des choses. Vol ll.) An element of religious conservatism, including support for polygamy, was already manifesting itself.

After Independence in 1962 there were retributions against real and alleged collaborators with the French that exceeded France’s 1945 épurations. The socialist aspects of the Algerian revolution did not last long. The FLN’s military wing, under Boumediene, soon took charge of an independent nation and laid the foundations for an authoritarian state run for the benefit of its rulers and their clients.

Lanzmann barely touches on this: he is more concerned that early promises of friendship (by a certain Captain Bouteflika) with Israel were not kept. An Independent Algeria announced that it would send 100,000 men to liberate Palestine. As a sign of the times, Fanon’s widow had re-married, to a militant anti-Israeli, whose views she adopted to the extent of wanting Sartre’s famous Preface to The Wretched of the Earth suppressed, – after the philosopher had signed a 1967 petition, following the 6 Day War backing Israel. The balance-sheet was not positive, “Je croyais qu’on pouvait vouloir en même temps l’indepéndence de l’Algérie et l’existence de l’État d’Israël. Je m’étais trompé.”(Page 505) – I believed one could wish for an independent Algeria and the existence of the Israeli state at the same time. I was wrong.

Israel and 68.

For years Lanzmann was convinced, despite his own experience of the French Communist Party’s cynicism and treachery during the 2nd World War, and what he knew at the time (still less at present) about the dark-side of Stalinism, that the USSR was “le ciel sur ma tête” – the sky over my head (Page 546) That this gradually evaporated seems less significant, as we have just indicated, than what he saw massing against Israel. That was a real menace: to destroy the Jewish state.

It is forgotten today that many on the left shared Lanzmann’s views in the late sixties. In 1967 he edited a special issue of Les Temps Modernes where Arabs and Jews debated with relative good-will. Sartre, during the Six Day war, and the Yom Kipper war, backed Israel. Sartre naturally is better remembered for another standpoint. During his period of close association with the Mao-Spontex Gauche Prolétarienne (GP), he became pro-Palestinian. As Lanzmann notes, with regret, the ageing thinker wrote in La Cause du Peuple a strident defence of the Munich massacre, saying that “Dans cette guerre, la seule arme dont disposent les Palestiniens est le terrorisme.” – the only arm which the Palestinians have at their disposal is terrorism. (Page 573)

Lanzmann attempts to explain, and even to explain away, Sartre’s violent streak. He notes that Sartre’s Preface to The Wretched of the Earth, which outdid Fanon’s psychological justification of aggression, appears to have been an exercise in “philosophie concrète” (concrete philosophy) and conceptual clarity Which seems a roundabout way of saying he didn’t really mean to endorse mass killings and cruelty in any form. As evidence, Lanzmann claims that there were some concrete limits Sartre posed to European terrorism.

Lanzmann believes that it was largely Sartre’s influence that prevented the French far-left from passing to full-scale terrorism on the German or Italian model (Page 575), though in fact, a small group did travel in this direction, and became the 1980s band, Action Directe. It’s true, he indicates, that Algeria has seen a state and society long bathed in “le sang des innocents” (the blood of innocents). It’s also the case that post-Munich, nationalist Palestinian terrorism has been supplanted by Islamist mass murder. This, and the US-led armed interventions the world over, illustrate that violence is a spiral not a release.

One wonders how far one push responsibility for this acceleration of ferocity, or its dampening it down, onto any philosopher, however cretinous or emollient his rhetoric may be. Like Fanon’s assertion that FLN fighters were busy absorbing Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique (Page 493), to make such claims is to use arguments of an astonishing légèrté.

One will not find much in Le Lièvre on the controversy surrounding Sartre’s secretary, and one-time GP supporter, Benny Lévy. De Beauvoir had her say in La Cérémonie des Adieux (1981). Whether the future Talmudic student determined the utterances of the Universal Intellectual or not, without his influence it hard to see how Sartre moved from this ultra-revolutionary stance to his support for the 1979 ‘Boat for Vietnam’ campaign – to save people from Vietnamese Communism. It is hard perhaps to see Lanzmann seizing the spirit that drove the Gauche Prolétarienne, from strident ultra-leftism to the anti-communist (with a small ‘c’) apostasy of many of its leading figures, in the first place.

May 68, the French gauchistes’ genitor, Lanzmann witnessed from the “extérieur”. He was an outsider from another generation (Page 570). More than that he appears never to have seized the fact that Sartre’s philosophy, even in its Marxisante form in the Critique de la raison dialectique (written 1956 – 8) had been become not just unfashionable, but unintelligible to much of the post-68 left. While the novels, literary criticism and some of the plays (Les jeux sont faits, 1947 and Les mains sales, 1948)are as bright as new pennies, Sartre’s philosophy has not worn well. The focus of the memoirs shifts completely away from talking about disgreeable topics.

Lanzmann as the ‘sixties ended had begun to be more and more concerned with one thing: defending Israel. He recounts how he came to produce the film Pourquoi Israel (with no question mark). This work continues to cause controversy. Having never seen the picture it is impossible to judge the description in Le Lièvre. Yet, according to the author, it was the spring-board for one of the last century’s greatest documented oral history, Shoah.

Researching, filming and producing Shoah was exceptionally arduous. The film consists of interviews, people left to speak for themselves as participants and witnesses of the greatest genocide of the 20th century. It aims to indicate those who were slaughtered, to show their traces, to hear the echo of their voices. It would be no exaggeration to say that the screening of the nine and a half  hour long documentary mediation on the Holocaust, which took place on British television some years back, was a major political and ethical event. As a measure of its impact the Biblical and Rabbanic word Shoah, catastrophe, disaster, extermination, used to describe the Holocast, has passed into current usage in many languages. Given the enormity of what it refers to it would be better for the pages of Le Lièvre de Patagonie to speak for themselves than to be described here.

The shattering experience of producing Shoah gives an edge to what is already for many a defining moment in their understanding of the Endlösung. After De Beauvoir’s death Lanzmann finally became the Editor of Sartre’s old journal (1986) marking another significant moment in an exceptional biography.

A Major Biographical Memoir.

Claude Lanzmann’s classical prose provides a luminous structure to a complex biography. Le Lièvre de Patagonie is beautifully wrought, and offers a description of that part of the French left which gravitated around Les Temps Modernes. It sheds light on some of the key moments of modern French political and intellectual history, the ideas, relationships, culture and feelings of the circle around Sartre and de Beauvoir, above all their participation in the campaign in support of Algerian independence. For these reasons alone it is of outstanding importance.

Less compellingly the book tries to present a case for Israel. It is unlikely to convince those (like myself) who are, while reluctant to be ‘anti’ Israelis, see little admirable in a state with a confessional, ultimately ethnic, basis. Not everyone has a strong urge to feel a part of a national “souche” (stock). Lanzmann’s passionate beliefs and emotional tissue cannot cloud critical judgement. States are to be judged on political not affective grounds. On democratic, military and human rights criteria Israel is severely wanting. One is equally unmoved by its description of the politics of Les Temps Modernes. As with the declaration of love for Israel, it does not convert those unable to fall under an emotional spell.

For all the beauty of Le Lièvre de Patagonie, on this matter at least, one could say that the Lanzmann’s retrospective gaze casts little light on such heat.

A tribute, a bibliography and a filmography appears on the site of Lanzmann’s publisher, Éditions Gallimard.

Disparition de Claude Lanzmann.

Disparition de Claude Lanzmann

Guardian:  Claude Lanzmann obituary

Director of Shoah, the epic film about the Holocaust presented through individual testimony

7th Anniversary of Tunisian Uprising Marked by Protests.

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Front Populaire on the March in Tunisia Today.

Tunisia protests mark seven years since Arab Spring uprising

France 24.

Tunisia, shaken by days of nationwide unrest over price hikes, is marking seven years on Sunday since the North African nation drove out its long-time autocratic ruler.

Tunisians are calling for peaceful protests on the anniversary to tell the country’s new leaders that they have failed to fix problems that stirred the revolution.

President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile on Jan. 14, 2011, transforming the country into a budding democracy that inspired the Arab Spring – then defied it by being the only country to keep its transition peaceful.

Now, protesters are driving home the message that they believe that six governments in power since then have crushed hopes of social and economic justice, and left them feeling betrayed.

Citizen’s Against the Right-Wing Islamist Party.

On this 7th Anniversary the trade union, L’UGTT, has called for a march in the centre of Tunis. They will be joined by the left wing Tunisian alliance, the Front Populaire (FP) has described government measures taken in response to these protests, which include a minimum wage for the poorest, and universal heath care,  as a “masquerade”. They do not satisfy the needs of the people. The FP has called for continuing demonstrations against the Finance law – austerity.

Al Jazeera has just published an interview with people from Fech Nestannew.

Al Jazeera spoke to Tunis-based protest organiser Warda Atig, 25, about how the Fech Nestannew movement came about, its demands, and whether the Tunisian government may revise its economic policies.

Al Jazeera: What is the idea behind Fech Nestannew?

Warda Atig: Fech Nestannew is a movement created by Tunisian youth after the government’s finance act of 2018 came into effect. Following this act, the prices went up and the state stopped recruiting for public sector jobs.

That’s why we decided to create this movement, in order to push the government to cancel this financial measure.

Al Jazeera: How did your protests begin and when?

Atig: When we first heard about this law, in November and December of last year, several youth factions from the different progressive political parties organised discussions [about] what the law was and what the impact of the law would be on society.

We were waiting for the government to make the law official and we chose the date of our first action to be January 3. The date is very symbolic because, on January 3, 1984, there was the Intifada al-Khubez (bread uprising) in Tunisia [over an increase in the price of bread].

On January 3, we made a declaration in front of the municipal theatre [on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis] and we distributed pamphlets with our demands. We were about 50 activists.

Al Jazeera: What are those demands?

Atig: We want the government to end the increase in prices, cancel the moratorium on recruiting in the public sector, provide security and healthcare, end privatisation and put forward a national strategy to counter corruption.

These demands [are in response to] decisions taken by the government … [and] they are within the context of the finance act of 2018. So we are asking [the government] to cancel this act.

If they don’t cancel it, they will privatise national companies, they will not fight corruption, they will continue to increase prices. We are explaining to people that we have to say no to this act.

Al Jazeera: Protests have taken place across Tunisia. How did these different regions get involved in your movement and do you have a coordinated strategy?

Atig: First, we created a group on Facebook. Then, there were many reactions from people in other regions. People started to ask themselves, “What are we waiting for?”

People from student unions and other young people who were very active regionally also got involved.

It started here (Tunis) with different groups, including student unions and groups of unemployed graduates. Everyone here helped spread this campaign … and what happened in Tunis happened in all the other regions.

This isn’t only [a movement] for Tunis; it’s for all of Tunisia.

More via above link.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm