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France: No Agreement between Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon as Communists Make Move Towards…Hamon.

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No Left Unity Between Mélenchon and Hamon.

French left remains divided as no agreement has been reached  between Mélenchon and Hamon for the French Presidential elections.

Or as Libération puts it,

Hamon-Mélenchon : «C’est mort»

While both sides have thrown the responsibility for a failure to reach any kind of accord on the other it is clear that Hamon, the Parti Socialist candidate, was never going to respond to  Mélenchon’s demand that he rejects everybody in his own party that the Leader of La France insoumise does not approve or agree with.

After a  narrow vote to back  Mélenchon last November (53,6%) over the last weeks there has been an intense debate inside the Parti Communiste Français (PCF). They have been clearly not pleased that  Mélenchon wishes them to abandon their own candidates for the Legislative elections (immediately after the Presidential contest) in favour of those chosen by the Leader of the La France Insoumise and his other demands, such as as finance for his Hologram studded electoral campaign.

Matters came to a head last week with this statement.

Un appel intitulé « PCF : sortons de l’immobilisme », qui a recueilli plus de 600 signatures en quarante-huit heures, plaide pour « une candidature commune pour la présidentielle . (le Monde)

This call for a common left candidate was clearly aimed at one target. As a supporter said, “a stratégie du tout ou rien de Jean-Luc Mélenchon » the strategy of all or nothing ” leads nowhere.

A rival appeal,  Les communistes qui soutiennent Mélenchon se mobilisent called for support to the ‘left populist’

Today’s Libé notes,

Et du côté du Parti communiste, pourtant soutien critique de Mélenchon dans cette présidentielle, les choses pourraient aussi bouger cette semaine. La direction du PCF promet ainsi d’«autres initiatives» pour œuvrer en faveur de l’union de la gauche.Ce lundi, à l’issue de sa réunion hebdomadaire, l’exécutif PCF prévoit de diffuser une déclaration visant les conditions d’une possible «majorité politique de gauche».«Jean-Luc Mélenchon a raison lorsqu’il fait un certain nombre d’observations et de propositions à Benoît Hamon, mais son discours général et son positionnement actuel l’éloignent des décisions et des objectifs politiques des communistes»

On the Communist side things could move this week, despite their critical support for Mélenchon in the Presidential election. The leadership of the PCF promise “other initiatives” to work in favour of a  union of the left. This Monday, at the end of their weekly meeting, the PCF Executive will launch a declaration that envisages the conditions for a potential “left political majority”. Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is right to make some points about Benoît Hamon and the positions he takes, but his wider statements and his political positions are distant from the present positions and aims of the Communists

In other words, they have made the first steps towards an agreement with Hamon.

If supporters of the Green Party voted last week for left unity it now looks more than possible that they will also align with Hamon (EELV. 90 % des militants favorables à une alliance Jadot-Hamon-Mélenchon).

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Benoît Hamon, his Victory, and the Renewal of the European Left.

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“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And our time has come.” (France 24)

Benoît Hamon and the Renewal of the European Left.

With 58,88% of the ballot Benoît Hamon’s triumph  in the French Parti Socialiste led ‘Belle Alliance’ primary was decisive (Libération).  The election, whose second round attracted over  2 million voters, was not only a defeat for Manuel Valls – François Hollande’s Prime Minister up till this year.

In his victory speech Hamon announced, “Ce soir, la gauche relève la tête, elle se tourne vers le futur et elle veut gagner.” This evening the left has lifted his head high, looked towards the future, and wants to win.” (Nouvel Observateur)

This victory is first of all a disavowal of the Socialist President’s record in government. Valls lost for many reasons, not least his own record as an authoritarian (a prolonged state of emergency) an inflexible supporter of market economics (labour law ‘reform’).  His harsh words against opposition from an “irreconcilable” left earned him rebukes from the moderate social democratic current, led by Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille. She ended up backing Hamon. High levels of support for Hamon in the poll came from her region, many other working class areas, and in urban centres, both Paris and its banlieue. It was also strong amongst young people.

The balance-sheet of Valls’ years in power since 2014 is thin: some liberal social reforms (gay marriage, le marriage pour tous), budgetary ‘discipline’, an inability or unwillingness to reform the European Union, and to come to the aid of those, like Greece, who had to submit to austerity and privatisation imposed by the Troika.

Above all in 2016 Prime Minister Valls’ reform of labour laws, la Loi Khomri, which, under pressure from the employers’ federation, weakens employees’ rights (Code du Travail) and unions’ national bargaining power, marked a break with the left and the labour movement. It was opposed by strikes and mass demonstrations. Accompanying them the Nuit Debout movement, organised public occupations and debates on an alternative to “la souveraineté du capital” in the terms of the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon, briefly looked as if might parallel the 15 M protests that led to the formation of the Spanish Podemos.

The Loi Khomri was adopted. Active opposition drained away last summer. But one might note that Nuit Debout was not a replication of Occupy Wall Street protests against liberal globalisation. It raised wider issues about what the theorist and others have called the “tyrannie du salariat” – the tyranny of wage labour. Lordon advanced a politics of “affects” (attachment) to new collective sovereignty, “décider en commun” through a participative state. His attempt to illustrate how ‘belonging’ to such a community, that could ‘de-consitutionalise’ the EU and return issues of “political economy” to the national collectivity has been met with criticism from the left. It is equally hard to see what economic sense it makes. The growth of internationalised production and distribution networks, indicates the need for EU and transnational regulation, and, in the longer perspective, European, cross-country, social ownership and labour movements. It is hard to see what is new or, in view of the rise of the sovereigntist right, about promoting national sovereignty. This stand resembles the arguments of the British Brexit left, whose claims, in the age of Trump and new protectionism, are unravelling by the day.  (1)

Hamon views on the French state and the EU are much less abstract. They focus ion a new republic where Parliamentary power is asserted and on a Union in which an economic relaunch is undertaken. By contrast the questions the Nuit Debout radicals raised about the nature and the status of work, “repenser le travail”, have been at the centre of the contest between Hamon and Valls. (1)

Basic Income.

Hamon’s proposal for a Revenu Universal (Basic Income) – to which is added the 32-hour week has caught the most attention. Jean-Marc Ferry calls it “une utopie réaliste” in the sense that it a source of hope that is not beyond legislative possibility.  (Le Monde 25.1.17). But not only the financial realism of paying everybody 750 Euros a month (estimated to cost between 300 and 400 billion Euros), has been questioned. For some (including the union federation the CGT) it undermines the value of work. The satisfaction many feel they accomplish in their jobs and their achievements. Reducing the working week is, on the evidence of the 35-hour week, unlikely to share out employment. Hamon himself has compared the scheme to the French National Health Service, the principal part of La Sécurité Sociale. Everybody rich or poor is entitled to have his or her health protected, and to be treated when ill. A Basic income would protect people from poverty, without the bureaucracy (and local version of ‘sanctions’). It would enable people to explore new employment opportunities, to experiment on their own if they so wish, take risks, while offering a ‘safe home’ in case they don’t succeed.

This far from the liberal idea that Basic Income would replace all social allowances, in the shape of ‘negative income tax’. For social democrats it is, as above, a completion of social protection for some Marxists it would give works extra bargaining power, for supporters of “décroissance” (alternatives to growth), echoing the writings of André Gorz, it is a way of managing the “end of work” in its traditional form. (Anne Chemin. La Promesse d’une Révolution. Le Monde, Idées 28.1.17)

Hamon has offered, then, an innovative way of coming to terms with the spread of information technology and robotics, in which work in the traditional sense is changing and full employment (despite misleading UK figures) may well not be possible.  Philippe van Parijs talks of how Basic Income would help people cope with the increasing ‘fluidity’ of employment – in other words the rise in part-time, short-term, jobs. (Le Monde 25.1.17).  Valls’ alternative, a “decent income” (revenu décent), effectively some strengthening of the lower floor of social protection, struggled to win an audience. Basic Income may not perhaps answer those for whom work is a “form of citizenship”. Nor does it respond to the charge that it would create a form of ‘revenue-citizenships’ that would exclude migrants.

These proposals are only some of the best known of Hamon’s innovative and forward looking programme, which includes a raft of ideas from an  “ecological transition” to the legalisation of cannabis. Hamon’s views on reforming the European Union parallel those of Another Europe is Possible. He promotes an open Laïcité (Secularism) and is strongly anti-racist.  It hardly needs saying that he has promised to repeal the Loi Khomeri.

Socialism and Power.

Alain Bergounioux, the author with Gérard Greenberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir (2005), has complained that the French Socialists may emerge from the Primary incapable of becoming a “party of government” committed to the “exercise of power”. He warns of following either the path of Jean-Luc Mélenchon whose own rally, La France Insoumise, does not aspire to be in power, but to be a tribune of the people and the centrist Presidential candidate Philippe Macron, and his “parti-enterprise, that seeks power for, one might suggest, his own sake (Le Monde 27.1.17) What is at stake, Bergounioux point out, is the ability, of the Socialists, to form a viable electoral alternative, a role they have fulfilled since François Mitterrand’s victory in 1981. Faced with a tri-polarisation, between Right (François Fillon), far-right (Marine Le Pen), we have a left with its own tripolar divisions, Hamon and Mélenchon and former member of the Socialist Cabinet, Emmanuel Macron. That up to 50 Valls supporters in the National Assembly and Senate are reported to be switching to Macron is not a good sign.

 Yet Hamon comes from currents inside the French Socialist Party (Nouveau Parti Socialiste onwards), which have hotly contested the record of their party in government. Dubbed ‘frondeurs’ (trouble-makers) for their opposition to budget cuts in the first years of the Valls government (in which Hamon served as Education Minister, before being sacked in 2014 for his criticisms) they come from a side of the party which has not accepted the party leadership’s adaption to markets and liberal economics. To cite a distinction well-known to the author of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir they are concerned not just with what Léon Blum called the “exercice du Pouvoir” but with the “conquête du pouvoir”, that is the revolution in society’s make up, socialism. The conquest of power implies more than forming a cabinet after an electoral triumph, it requires a social movement and a strategy to change the world. (2)

Strategy.

Does Hamon offer such a strategy? The immediate dilemma of the French Socialists is how to make their voice heard in a coming Presidential election in which they figure as also-runs. Yet an opening and gathering of the left is taking place.   Inroads into the Green party, EELV, and their electorate, already divided about their candidate, Yannick Jadot, who struggles to appear in the opinion polls, can be expected.

Hamon’s victory has already had one result: at 15% of voting intentions he has at a stroke reduced Mélenchon to 10% (a loss of five points). Hamon was selected in a competition in which  2 million voters took part, the leader of La France Insoumise only responded to the Call of Destiny.

Hamon has proposed  that these wings of the left unite, offering  Mélenchon and Jadot places in a future cabinet.

Hamon faces a deeper underlying difficulty, another inheritance from Léon Blum. This is the belief that the French republic already contains the instruments for radical reform that a movement and a party can “capture” and use. In the process the distinction between occupying Ministerial posts and effecting genuine change is blurred. Hamon’s own background as a life-long professional politician, suggests that he will find this legacy harder to overcome. (3)

For the European left, not least the left in the Labour Party, Hamon’s candidacy is welcome news. An experienced politician, fiercely intelligent, whose team offers serious new thinking about socialism, ecology and social issues – often far more forward looking than any other mainstream European left, social democratic or labour, party – is now on the French political stage. He has a message of hope. It will help all us to listen to it.

 

****************

  • Pages 332 – 225. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.
  • Page 133. Alain Bergounioux, Gérard Grunberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir. Fayard. 2005.
  • Page 125. Léon Blum. Un Portrait. Pierre Birnbaum. 2016.

Left Candidate Benoît Hamon Tops French Socialist ‘Primary’.

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Benoît Hamon: Tops Socialist ‘Primary’. 

On Saturday a a joint member of the Labour Party and the French Parti Socialiste, who had been a supporter of President François Hollande, told me that she’d voted for the left candidate Benoît Hamon.

I was surprised, but, in retrospect, this support helped prepare my mind for the news that on the Sunday ‘Primary‘ Hamon beat the recent Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a dedicated ‘social liberal’ and admirer of Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way.

This is the result of the election to decide who will be their Presidential candidate this April in which 1,6 million people took part.

Principal candidates: Benoît Hamon (36,35 %) Manuel Valls (31,11 %). Arnaud Montebourg, 17,52 %.

The others scored much smaller: 6,85 % Vincent Peillon, 3,88 % pour François de Rugy, 1,97 % pour Sylvia Pinel (the only woman, a member of the Parti Radical de gauche) et 1,01 % pour Jean-Luc Bennahmias (the small Green party, the Front démocrate) (le Monde)

This ‘primary’ of the “Belle Alliance populaire”, was originally intended to be open to the whole French left. But as can be seen apart from the Socialists, only two tiny parties of the centre left took part.

Montebourg who is strongly  on the left, has now called for support for Hamon in the Second Round, on the 29th of January.

49 years old Benoît Hamon served under Prime Minister Ayrault government as ministre délégué chargé de l’économie sociale et solidaire. His best known post was as Education Minister under Manuel Valls in 2014, where his efforts to change the organisation of the school year led to opositon from teachers.

Opposed to many of the policies of Prime Minister Valls and calling for a change in his economic strategies (le changement de politique économique) he, and Montebourg, were ejected from the Cabinet in 2014 (Quand Valls raconte comment il a viré Montebourg et Hamon du gouvernement). He then became one of the prominent “frondeurs” who opposed Valls, from his budget plans to the reform of labour laws, in the National Assembly.

Hamon’s key policy is a ‘revenu universal’, Basic Income, paid to all (see: Pro Basic Income candidate set to win Socialist Primary election).

Other proposals include institutional reforms (bring back Parliamentary control over laws, and limiting the power of the executive  to override this), an ecological ‘tax’, a reduction in the use of nuclear power,  a ‘police’ to fight against discrimination, and the legalisation of cannabis.

Above all Hamon has promised to annul the labour reforms introduced by Manuel Valls (abroger la loi travail, dernière grande réforme du mandat).

Hamon, in short has some ideas, clearly on the left, which inspire hope for a better future amongst Socialist supporters.

It is hard not to suspect that Manuel Valls lost ground not only because he promised “more of the same”, that is to continue the policies of his highly unpopular government, but because he has shown himself intensely hostile to the left of his own party. By announcing that there was no room for compromise he went against the grain of PS member accustomed a spirit of compromise, or “synthesis” between different currents in the party. In the run up to the Primary his own backers were prominent in throwing the blame for their disastrous showing in opinion polls on ‘frondeurs’ like Hamon and Montebourg.

Valls meanwhile has declared war on those with illusions in Hamon’s unrealistic programme (Libération Valls le «combattant» part en campagne contre «l’illusion et l’irréalisme»)

If Hamon wins he faces an uphill battle.

Polls give any Socialist candidate less than 10% of the vote in the Presidential contest.

To the left Jean-Luc Mélenchon is polling at between 14 and 15 %

The centre-left , Emmanuel Macron with 24% stands at the threshold of winning enough votes to be able to get to the second round.

Already some ‘social liberal’ socialists are moving towards open support for Macron.

For many on the European left Hamon’s potential candidature is, by contrast, a  welcome sign of ideological renewal.

Official Campaign site.

Le projet

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Gérard Filoche, standing in French Socialist ‘Primary’ to be Presidential Candiate… with 8 Others…,

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From the Left, Gérard Filoche, Standing in French Socialist Primary.

9 candidates are bidding for Socialist primary (during the coming January) in France

RFI sums this up,

Le Monde gives pride of place to the eight men and one woman who are official candidates for the Socialist Party-organised primary election, to be held next month with a view to choosing a challenger in the 2017 presidential battle.

The eight men are all usual suspects – they include former prime minister Manuel Valls, Socialist rebel parliamentarian Benoît Hamon, ex-minister, ex-contender, ex-businessman Arnaud Montebourg, the crime novelist and philosopher Vincent Peillon, also an ex-minister. But at least there’s something fresh about Sylvia Pinel, now 39-years-old, who was still trying to pay off her student loans when she was first elected to the French National Assembly. She was housing minister in the Valls government and will campaign on the Radical Left ticket.

Le Monde: Primaire à gauche : qui sont les neuf candidats déclarés ?

 Amongst them is Gérard Filoche, 70, a former “inspecteur du travail”.

That is, a “labour inspector”, people who play an important role in making sure French employment legislation is respected.

Le Monde notes,

“Entré en politique à l’Union des étudiants communistes et au Parti communiste (PCF), dont il est exclu en 1966, il figure parmi les fondateurs de la Ligue communiste (ancêtre de la LCR). Il rejoint, en 1994, le PS, « sans renoncement » à ses idées révolutionnaires. Campant aujourd’hui à l’extrême gauche du parti ; il siège au bureau national du PS.

He entered political life in the Communist Students’ union, from which he was expelled in 1966. He was one of the founder of the Ligue communiste, the forerunner of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire. He joined the Parti Socialiste in 1994, “without abandoning” his revolutionary ideas. Today, positioned on the far left of the party, he is a member of the PS’s national executive.

En juin, il s’est déclaré candidat à la présidentielle sans abandonner son rêve d’une « candidature commune de toute la gauche », rassemblant socialistes, communistes et écologistes. Gérard Filoche, qui se veut « le candidat des petites retraites et des petits salaires », résume son programme en cinq nombres « 1800-32-60-20-5 » : smic à 1 800 euros brut par mois ; semaine de 32 heures ; retraite à 60 ans ; pas de rémunération supérieure à vingt fois le smic ; pas plus de 5 % de salariés en contrat à durée déterminée ou en intérim.

In June he announced that he would a Presidential candidate, without dropping his wish for a “common left candidate” which would bring together socialists, communists and greens. Gérard Filoche wants to be the “candidate for low income pensioners and low waged workers”, summed up his programme in 5 numbers, 1`800 – 32- 60 0 20 – 5. That is, the  minimum wage at 1,800 Euros a month, working week of 32 hours, retirement at 60, no pay greater than 20 times the minimum  wage, and not more than 5% of employees on fixed term of temporary contracts.

More on Wikipedia (French): Gérard Filoche.

Le Blog de Gérard Filoche.

Round Table in ‘‘l’Humanité” (today) with Gérard Filoche,  PS,  Alexis Corbière, spokesperson for Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Olivier Dartigolles, Communist Party.

Image result for gerard filoche caricature primaires

Written by Andrew Coates

December 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm

France: President François Hollande Selflessly Decides Not to Face Humiliation.

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Bye-Bye Hollande.

French President François Hollande said on Thursday he would not seek re-election next year, bowing to historically low approval ratings after a troubled term in power.

Reports France 24

The withdrawal means the 62-year-old Socialist leader is the first president of France‘s fifth republic, founded in 1958, to step aside after only one term.

“I have decided that I will not be a candidate,” a stony-faced Hollande said in a solemn televised statement from the Élysée Palace in Paris during which he defended his record.

He conceded that he was unable to unite his deeply divided Socialist Party behind his candidacy ahead of the presidential election in April and May next year.

“In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country,” he said.

Hollande’s approval ratings have hit rock bottom after a term in office marked by U-turns on major policies, terror attacks, high unemployment and embarrassing revelations about his private life.

He is the most unpopular president in French polling history, a fact he tacitly acknowledged in his speech on Thursday.

“I am aware today of the risk that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail, so I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election,” he said.

A new poll on Wednesday predicted he would win just seven percent of votes in the first round of next year’s election in April – strengthening Socialist critics who view him as a lame duck.

This decision leaves the forthcoming ‘Primary’ of the Parti Socialiste (PS) wide open.

This will take place on the 22nd and 29th of January 2017 (Primaire citoyenne de 2017).

There is speculation as to whether Manuel Valls, the present Prime Minister, described as a “social liberal” (in French terms, pro-market), marked by a dose of ‘Blue Labour’ conservative moral and authoritarianism, will stand. Others consider the Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille and a bearer of the European social democratic current, who has  been critical of Hollande, may present herself.

This morning on France-Inter on of the candidates from the left of the Socialist Party, Arnaud Montebourg gave his reactions.

Saluting Hollande’s decision he gave some no doubt well-meant advice to Valls: he cannot remain as Prime Minister while entering into the Party’s contest for a Presidential candidate.

Cela me paraît difficile que Manuel Valls puisse rester à Matignon (…) Je ne pense pas que cela laisse de la place à une campagne des primaires.

Faced with a parting shot by Hollande, warning of the dangers of “protectionism”, Montebourg offered an intresting – that is to say, contorted- defence of his project for ‘social protection’, which may, possibly, include economic…protectionism.

As in this:

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As Montenbourg was tailing, even overtaking Hollande, in the polls, it’s worth nothing that his programme principles also include suppoort for medium to small enterprises, anti-austerity, en end to “social dumping” , migrant workers under terms of conditions set in their countries rather than by France, activity by a ‘strong state’ such as  nationalisations (Banking sector), and … obligatory young people’s military or civic service for 6 months. (Quelles sont les propositions d’Arnaud Montebourg ?)

The other candidates, for the moment include (le Monde).

  • Marie-Noëlle Lienemann – Socialist senator left ‘frondeur’ (those who have criticised Hollande’s legislative projects and Presidency. Standing for ‘social justice, raising the minimum wage and a better deal for young people. Wishes to carry the message to the left as a whole, including the greens, and the left of the left.
  • Benoît Hamon – Former education Minister, critic of Hollande, stands for retaining the 35 hours week, and introducing a universal basic income. Nowhere in the polls.
  • Gérard Filoche  – former member of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire . Important figure in the campaign against the recent labour ‘reforms’.  Good bloke. Outsider. (1)
  • Manuel Valls still not officially declared candidate. Hard man of the Parti Socialiste right. Likes Tony Blair – enough said.

Others:  Les candidats des partis associés.

  • Jean-Luc Bennahmias (Front démocrate) Who?
  • François de Rugy (Écologistes !) Who?
  • Pierre Larrouturou (Nouvelle Donne). Who? Very odd group Nouvelle Donne….

The wider issue of who will be the left’s candidate in next year’s Presidential election is considered here: Après le retrait de Hollande, qui est candidat à gauche ?  Laure Equy et Sylvain Mouillard.

Hopefuls include: Emmanuel Macron (centre), Sylvia Pinel (of the small Parti radical de gauche), Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte Ouvrière) Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticaptialiste),  Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EE-LV).

There is also Jean-Luc Mélenchon under the banner of his rally,  La France Insoumise  whose politics  we have presented often enough here to make further comment unnecessary for the moment.

Mélenchon stands at  around 15 % in the polls which makes him a front-runner for winning the same score as the French Communist Georges Marchais in 1981.

Update.

(1) Filoche has just launched an appeal for the left to develop a common left socialist strategy amongst the Socialists, the 4 left candidates in the primary and for meetings with Jadot and Mélenchon (une stratégie commune de la gauche socialiste, un « pack des quatre » dès maintenant, ensuite nous rencontrerons Yannick Jadot et Jean luc Mélenchon).

Hollande obligé de renoncer – Unité de toute la gauche socialiste et non socialiste avec les écologistes pour battre Fillon-Le Pen.

Comrade Maryam Namazie awarded the Prix de la Laïcité 2016.

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Comrade Maryam Namazie at Paris Hôtel de Ville. 

 was awarded the  2016  Prix International de la Laïcité 2016  on Wednesday (Comité Laïcité République

The Parisian ceremony, hosted by the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville),  was attended by Anne Hidalgo,  Paris Mayor, and Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister (Paris).

“Maryam Namazie, scientifique iranienne et militante de la laïcité et des droits des femmes, a reçu le Prix international pour son action sans relâche. Elle a enthousiasmé le parterre par sa verve, sa fermeté et sa vision universaliste de la laïcité, meilleure protection contre les diktats obscurantistes.” (Communiqué du Comité Laïcité République, CLR)

The Iranian scientist, and activist for human rights and feminism, Maryam Namaziereceived the International Prize in recognition of her tireless, efforts. Her eloquence, her determination, and her universalist vision of secularism – the best protection against the diktats of obscurantism – were greeted by the audience with enthusiasm.

Namazie delivered this address: In Defence of Laïcité: Our Lives Depend on it.

I am truly honoured to have been awarded the International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November. The wonderful Malek Boutih won the National Prix and Étienne-Émile Baulieu the Scientific Prize for 2016.

Here is my acceptance speech in English.

The French translation, thanks to Marieme Helie Lucas is available here.

Thank you for this wonderful honour. I am so glad to have the support of so many present here, including my husband and son, as well as my Muslim parents.

We live in an age where totalitarianism is masked as divine righteousness, theocrats legitimised, dissent vilified and victims blamed for their own murder.

This is a time where “solidarity” is no longer an act of defending revolutionaries but fascists; where there is always support for Islamist projects like Sharia courts, the burqa, gender segregation, apostasy and blasphemy laws – whether de jure or de facto – but never for those who refuse to be silenced, erased and “disappeared”.

It’s a time when “progressive” all too often means protecting regressive identity politics, which homogenises entire communities and societies, and deems theocrats as the sole legitimate arbiters and gatekeepers of “community” values.

It’s a politics of betrayal – devoid of class struggle and political ideals – which sees any dissent through Islamist eyes and immediately labels it “Islamophobic” and blasphemous.

We are called “aggressive apostates”, “fundamentalist secularists”, “native informants”, “inflammatory”. We are accused of violating the “safe spaces” of Islamists on universities and even “inciting hatred”.

Don’t believe it. That is the Islamist narrative.

In the world today, it is we who are being slaughtered not the other way round.

In their world everyone dies yet we are accused of being “offensive” – as if cartoons and apostasy are worse than murder.

Islamists discriminate against, shun, flog, imprison, terrorise, abduct, and slaughter but somehow it is always the victim whose “provocation” is to blame – whether it’s Charlie Hebdo or Avijit Roy…

Laicite is not a theoretical discussion for ivory tower academics and champagne socialists. It’s a matter of life and death for many of us:
• The likes of Asia Bibi in Pakistan facing execution for blasphemy
• Young ex-Muslims (Islam’s Non Believers) in Britain facing a life-time of shunning
• The likes of Afsana Lachaux whose rights violations in a discriminatory Sharia court in the Middle East have been upheld by French courts due to bilateral agreements
• Human Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi given a 16 year prison sentence for opposing executions; Jafar Azimzadeh sentenced to 11 years for labour organising; or dual nationals used as pawns such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff as well as Siamak and Baquer Namazi in Iran
• Blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing about religion and politics and on and on and on…

“Secularism is the solution”, is a graffiti Raif Badawi saw scrawled in a Saudi prison lavatory. Yet we are told that secularism is a neo-colonialist demand by so-called “anti-colonialists” whose worldview always coincides with the ruling elite, including in former colonies, and never the dissenters. Those “anti-fascists” who are only anti-some fascists, some of the time. Those who are “anti-racist” as long as we do not venture outside the pigeonholes that we are meant to live and be buried in; (if we dissent, though, they are at the forefront of insisting on racist cultural relativism and “different” rights for “different” people). The so-called progressives who condemn us to living lives within the confines of Islam whilst the sky has no limits for them…

They cannot begin to understand that no one needs Laicite more than those who live, struggle and die under the boot of the religious-Right.

And this includes the innumerable voting with their very feet and dying as we speak to seek refuge in secular societies, including the women, men and children of Calais, who deserve the basic human right to asylum and protection, not vilification and criminalisation.

And it includes believers. The right to religion must have a corresponding right to be free from religion to have any real meaning.

The historical battle that we are faced with today is not a clash of civilisations as the vile far-Right says in order to promote what is fundamentally white and often Christian identity politics. Rather, it’s a clash between theocrats on the one hand and secularists and universalists on the other – across real or imagined communities, borders and boundaries -and including many Muslims and migrants.

Secularism is not French or Western or Eastern; it’s universal.

It must be unequivocally and unashamedly defended against this era’s totalitarianism.

Today more than ever, we need Laicite and we need it now.

Our very lives depend on it.

Thank you.

We learn that the latest Charlie Hebdo has an account of a meeting with Namazie (“Rencontre avec Maryam Namazie, féministe iranienne et récemment récompensée du prix international de la laïcité par la Mairie de Paris.“).

In Britain comrade Maryam Namazie, of the  Worker-communist Party of Iran and  spokesperson of Fitnah- Movement for Women’s Liberation has not received the recognition that she is due.

Namazie strongly distances herself from far-right anti-Islamic groups, whom she doesn’t regard as allies, but enemies as well. At the World Atheist Conference in Dublin in 2011, referring to the far-right, she said “they are like the Islamists” and that Muslims need equal protection under the law, while she stressed the need to be able to criticise religion.

Despite these clearly expressed views she has been attacked by British obscurantists and their allies,

In September 2015, the students’ union of Warwick University briefly banned her from a forthcoming talk on campus organised by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society because of a fear that she might “incite hatred” of the university’s Muslim students. In an interview with the Coventry Telegraphs Simon Gilbert, she was quoted as saying: “It angers me that we’re all put in a little box and that anyone who criticises Islam is labelled racist. It’s not racist, it’s a fundamental right. … The Islamic movement is a movement that slaughters people in the Middle East and Africa. It’s important for us to speak about it and criticise it.” The ban was lifted after a few days.

In December 2015 she gave a talk about blasphemy at the Goldsmiths University in London, sponsored by the university’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society. During her talk, members of the university’s Islamic Society caused a disruption by heckling and switching off her PowerPoint presentation when Namazie displayed a cartoon from the series Jesus and Mo. Namazie asked for the disruptive students to be removed, but security refused to do so.

Wikipedia. 

Glory to Maryam Namazie!

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Man of Destiny, Announces Presidential Bid to Lead France.

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Mélenchon: Man of Destiny.

Jean-Luc Melenchon announces 2017 France presidency bid

Jean-Luc Mélenchon annonce sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle.

(Freely Translated)

Mélenchon intends to represent a “France proud of being rebellious.”

Humanity’s general interest has to be uppermost today. Climate change has started: this is the time to  transform our ways of producing, exchanging and consuming. 

To the question of who supported this surprise announcement Mr Mélenchon replied, addressing humanity in general, replied: “My convictions,   that’s the most important, and perhaps the French people. They can do nothing at present about the conditions I’ve just described as long as they are tied to European Treaties.”

Mélenchon’s bid stand for humanity in next year’s French Presidential election not been universally welcomed.

The Parti Communiste Français (PCF), partners in the left bloc, the Front de gauche(FdG), expressed surprise at the declaration. Their spokesperson Olivier Dartigolles noted that Mélenchon had not bothered to discuss his decision with the other parties inside the FdG.  He had only become aware of the decision through watching the television channel TF1.  Clémentine Autain, representative of the other main group in the FdG, Ensemble, has so far remained silent.

The PCF is involved in a campaign for a “primary” extending across the left to elect a common candidate for the Presidential elections.

More:  Jean-Luc Mélenchon, une présidentielle sans parti ni primaire. Rachid Laïreche

A man of destiny, addressing the French People, has little need for such carping at this historic moment.

In a fitting style Mélenchon has created his own movement for  “La France insoumise, le peuple souverain.”

In the founding statement he notes that the coming eleciton, and his candidature, can be an opportunity for our people, to turn the page on a cruel and unjust order that reigns in our land and our continent” “The (French) Presidential Monarchy, and the present European Treaties, deprive our People of the means to settle our problems. These are the roots of our wretchedness; they must be swiftly chopped off.”

Je vous propose ma candidature pour l’élection présidentielle de 2017. Cette élection peut-être une chance pour notre peuple. C’est l’occasion de tourner pacifiquement et démocratiquement la page de l’ordre injuste et cruel dans lequel s’enfonce notre pays et notre continent. 2017 sera une année décisive : un nouveau traité européen sera proposé et le projet de marché commun avec les États-Unis sera achevé. Il faut les refuser. C’est le moment d’agir. Soyons la France insoumise.

Le changement climatique a commencé. Il ne faut plus céder aux lobbys productivistes pour changer notre façon de produire et de consommer. Soyons le peuple souverain.

Ma proposition de candidature est donc un appel à l’engagement. Il s’adresse à qui a compris ce point essentiel : tant que dureront la monarchie présidentielle et les traités européens actuels, notre peuple sera privé de tout pouvoir pour régler ses problèmes. Là est la racine de toutes nos misères, celle qu’il faut trancher d’urgence.