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Mourir à trente ans (English subtitles): A Radical Left in 68 and Post-68 France.

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(Having just found the film available on YouTube…)

Mourir à trente ans by  Romain Goupil recounts his adolescence and the life of  Michel Recanati, and the tumult of 1968. Goupil grew up in the la cité Montmartre-aux-artistes (rue Ordener, 18e arrondissement de Paris. A rebel at school, Goupil became attracted to the radical left, arguing with his father, a member of the Communist Party (PCF), who ridiculed leftist “groupuscules”. He became a member of the la Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire (JCR) where he met Recanati. During 68 his friend became a leading figure in the secondary school student movement, Les Comité d’actions lycéens (CAL). In the run up and during the May events his activism extended from his own lycée (from which he was suspended) to the streets bursting with demonstrations. The film memorably shows footage of the CAL, its strike committees at work, and the huge secondary school cortèges on the Paris marches. As a general strike told hold, in united protests they marched alongside the university students, the March 22 movement, and education unions.

Dotted with clips from the period, interviews, reading from his own unfinished writings, Michele’s documents, music of the time, we travel from the JCR to the Ligue Communiste and the Marxist culture it promoted. Inspired by ’68 the two friends became engaged in building a “real revolutionary party” in this “pre-revolutionary period”. as the Ligue began talking of creating its own ‘workers’ militia and carried out small exemplary direct action protests. Mourir à trente ans evokes the “appereil clandestin” and the “Service d’ordre” (Stewards) in its portrayal, had the insurrectional bent alleged in books such as Les Trotskistes by Christophe Nick (2002).

Many of their activities look today more like stunts than attempts at armed revolution. Following its leading figures, such as Alain Krivine, their operations often expressed solidarity with the Vietnamese fight. The two friends, with a group that included Daniel Bensaïd threw paint over the visiting South Vietnam President. It was when they confronted the far right that their street activity went further. Both Goupil and Recanati were engaged in a serious, and often physical, campaign against the far-right “des combats très violents de 1971 et 1973 contre l’extrême-droite“). The LC’s target was principally the successor of Occident, a fascist ‘national revolutionary’ group that had fought students in 1968, with iron bars and hand weapons, Ordre Nouveau.

After a big street battle against Ordre Nouveau in 1973 the Ligue communiste was dissolved. It reformed as the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire in 1974.

The film ends with the suicide of Michel Recanati in March 1978.

The film is significant, both for its direct reach, and its innovative documentary technique. It is intensely moving.

For this writer, who has lived opposite la Cité Montmartre-aux-artistes, and who spent some years in the 1970s in the UK International Marxist Group (IMG) which was strongly influenced, politically and culturally, by the LCR, and who knows at first hand this part of the French left, it resonates deeply.

Half a Life (Mourir À Trente Ans) by Romain Goupil.

Los Angeles Filmforum 2018)

Perhaps the best film about the May 1968 left-wing uprising in Paris (and its dispiriting aftermath), Romain Goupil’s autobiographical documentary draws upon his own ample you-are-there film footage, shot over 12 years as events unfolded. Goupil intercuts this old footage with newer material to pay tribute to his friend and fellow revolutionary Michel Recanati, a militant leader who went missing and eventually committed suicide. This winner of the Caméra d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival is undistributed in the U.S., so don’t miss seeing it in a DCP from France that is temporarily in North America.

Rarely seen in the United States, Romain Goupil’s documentary chronicles his and his friends’ firsthand experiences as militant, teenage Trotskyites in 1960s France during the heyday of French student movements that culminated with the events of May 1968. Michel Recanati was a part of Goupil’s activist entourage who committed suicide in 1978. Prompted by his death, Goupil crafts a vibrantly raw autobiographical essay-style film that uses found footage and a range of sources including photographs, home movies, and interviews. Drawing on Recanati’s life trajectory to structure the film, Goupil succeeds in evoking the implosion of the leftist movement in 1960s and 1970s France while also constructing a filmic meditation on the transition from adolescence to adulthood during this tumultuous historical moment.

“Romain Goupil’s Mourir a 30 ans (Half a Life) recalls the history of the youngest end of the extra-parliamentary French left in the late 60s/early 70s from a perspective that is equally personal and political. Using interviews, documentary footage, and the films Goupil made during his youth, the movie recounts Goupil’s own experiences in the political movements leading up to and following from May ’68, as well as pays tribute to his friend and comrade, Michel Recanati, whom Goupil worked alongside in politics for many years but who surprisingly committed suicide in 1978 at the age of 30. An unruly child from a middle-class leftist family, Goupil became involved in politics early in his teens (perhaps around the age of 14), joining the Trotskyite JCR (Jeunesses Communistes Revolutionnaires) after quickly becoming disillusioned with the French Communist Party’s complacency. The JCR provided Goupil an early education in Marxism-Leninism, and brought him together with other militant young students who would become long-term comrades, including Recanati. Political activism in his school led to Goupil’s suspension, and, despite student protests in response, his expulsion, but Goupil refused to become any less political while “maturing” at another school. Goupil’s father was in the film industry, so Goupil had access to a camera from an early age and obsessively filmed the events in his life or recreated them in Truffaut-esque fictional versions.

“Mourir a 30 ans draws heavily on this personal archive to tell the story of Goupil’s political coming of age, which is also a history of the JCR and the groups that flowed into and out of it. By May ’68, Goupil was merely 17, but, along with his equally young militant peers, had already accumulated years of experience of political organizing, including acting as a bodyguard for the Black Panthers when they visited Paris and sojourning in Berlin amongst the German New Left. During the events of May, Goupil and Recanati played leading roles in the Comités d’action lycées (CAL), which brought secondary students into the revolutionary movement. Using rare footage he shot, Goupil recounts the disconnect he felt at the beginning of that month as he went from street fighting one day to sitting in a classroom the next. As is the case with most films on May ’68, Goupil’s memorializing of those revolutionary days occasionally slips into nostalgia and privileges self-aggrandizement at the expense of historical insight, such as when Goupil focuses on a series of images that place himself and Recanati at the center of the events.

“In the months following May, the fight to continue the movement devolved into a power struggle amongst the different political groups, though Recanati would remain a significant leader for the younger organizations. The film documents how both young men over the next few years continued to participate in rallies and protests, as well as illegal direct actions such as bombing embassies with paint. After an organization led by Recanati violently clashed with police at an anti-fascist rally, Recanati was given a three-month prison sentence and briefly fled underground. As Goupil frames it, the political limits of the period brought out Recanati’s personal limits, the fragility lurking underneath his bold facade, which in an unknown manner transformed Recanati’s optimism about changing his life into his premature termination.” – Brian Rajski, http://retentionalfinitude.blogspot.com/2011/04/romain-goupil-mourir-30-ans-half-life.html?m=1

Romain Goupil supported Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 Presidential election,but has been quiet about the President this year.

Goupil has been prominent backing Ukraine against the Russian invasion, spending some weeks in Kiev earlier this year (Romain Goupil : « Arrêtons Poutine maintenant et définitivement. Armons les Ukrainiens ! ».)

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2022 at 5:02 pm

International Marxist Tendency Dispute over alleged “harassment, abuse, and violence” in Canadian Fightback and Ted Grant’s views on Homosexuality.

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The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is one of a number of Trotskyist Internationals. From the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which claims to be refoundation of Committee for a Workers’ International (1974) to the Liaison Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International (CERCI) Apart from the Fourth International, they are nearly all focused on one parent body.

In the IMT the leading group, excluded from the Labour Party, is Socialist Appeal (SA). SA was founded by Ted Grant, the leader of the Militant Tendency, an historic figure in Trotskyism, known for his briefcases of paper clippings and Trotsky tomes. It broke from the group which created the Socialist Party, whose project, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, is even better known to readers of this Blog. Grant did not believe in the new party, and kept on working within Labour. After Grant’s passing the mantle passed to Alan Woods who has successfully advised the Venezuelan Chavista Revolution and demolished the anti-dialectical Big Bang Theory. The IMT’s French section, Révolution, (who call their journal Socialisme ou Barbarie) is teaching La France insoumise a thing or too. They participated in the “Enorme succès de l’Université marxiste internationale” in July,

There are around 30 sections of the IMT. In Canada they have the name Fightback. In February this year the Spartacists described them as follows, “Among the pseudo-Trotskyist swamp in Quebec and Canada, members of the Fightback group have distinguished themselves as the most ardent supporters of Trudeau’s lockdowns and vociferous opponents of the truckers and protesters.” (Socialist” Fightback: Social-Trudeauites)

Normally this would make the Tendance immediately sympathetic to the group, buy their paper, and perhaps even read it.

Alas, Fightback have become embroiled in an unpleasant dispute which has got progressively worse over the last few weeks and looks set to mark the coming autumn political rentrée.

Why I Left Fightback

Content warning: abuse, sexual assault, transphobia, violence

Jamie Graham

“In early 2018, I joined Fightback/La Riposte Socialiste, the Canadian section of the International Marxist Tendency. I was in my first year of university. I had seen the grief, misery, and exploitation of capitalism firsthand, and I was excited to join an organization of other like-minded people working to overthrow this system and build something better. Unfortunately, my ability to participate in the organization was disrupted by numerous experiences of harassment, abuse, and violence. These experiences on their own would not have necessarily made me resign – I understand that socialist organizations exist within the broader context of capitalism, and that this makes interpersonal harm inevitable to a degree. However, after witnessing the completely inadequate, misogynistic, and careless ways that Fightback’s leadership responds to allegations, I felt that I was unable to continue my involvement in good conscience.

Fightback has replied to the serious charges in the open letter:

Fightback responds to allegations: Lessons for the movement

FIGHTBACK | JUL 22, 2022

Recently, an “open letter” was published online by an ex-member that contains serious allegations against Fightback and the International Marxist Tendency. In it, we are accused of sweeping gendered violence “under the rug”. We are supposedly also complicit in “very real sexual exploitation, victim-blaming, and abuse apologia”. This is absolutely false as we will demonstrate in this statement. We have a zero tolerance policy for abuse or harassment. We insist on investigating every case and when guilt is established we take swift action—and that is what we have done in these instances. 

Towards the end of the response they state,

This is clearly an attempt by postmodern identity politics partisans to destroy the largest Marxist organization in the country. With references to the ISO (who liquidated after covering up a sexual assault case) and the British SWP (who are a shadow of their former selves after protecting one of their leading members who was accused of rape) the open letter attempts to play on people’s emotions to attack our organization. But the facts stand out and people can see that these accusations don’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. Unlike these other organizations we dealt with abuse, and unlike them we have not capitulated to postmodern identity politics.

Many would say this kind of attack on alleged partisans of “postmodern [remember that one, back in the 1990s?] identity politics” does not help. Not being in any position to comment on the details of the cases we refer people to the articles above and to this.

Of wider interest is the following:

A political attack

“The political nature of these criticisms is obvious in the letter written by an ex-member, where the only individuals who are named are political leaders of the IMT: Alex Grant, Ted Grant and Alan Woods. Curiously, the names of the abusers are absent. People must ask themselves: why is this? If the purpose of the letter is to deal with abuse and protect people, wouldn’t the abusers themselves be named, and not the IMT’s political figures (one of whom is now deceased)?

At the beginning of the letter, it is claimed that in our recruitment meetings we ask people “if they agree with the organization’s stance against ‘call-out culture’.” This is not something that we raise in recruitment meetings so we can only assume that what the author really means is our staunch opposition to identity politics, which we do discuss with every new recruit in depth. Starting with this, the letter weaves a story, connecting facts, half-truths and outright falsehoods to portray a completely false picture of our organization and our politics. “

The final crescendo is a whole slew of baseless political critiques of the IMT. It is claimed that Ted Grant, the main theoretical founder of the IMT, was of the opinion that homosexuality would disappear under socialism. But the links provided do not provide one ounce (Translation, roughly 28 grams) of evidence to back up this claim. The letter quotes Alan Woods, who was criticizing the abandonment of a class position by the SWP in the 1960s, and tries to claim that therefore the IMT does not fight against oppression in all of its forms. The dishonesty of this is clear for all to see and anyone who follows our website and participates in our activities on the ground will know that this is completely false

This is what she said,

Militant under Ted Grant, the IMT’s organizational and ideological predecessor, believed homosexuality was a capitalist aberration that would “disappear” under socialism and fought against programs aimed to combat racial discrimination while it held power in Liverpool (more sources herehere and here). The organization has rebranded as simply holding “principled criticisms” of “liberal identity politics”, and now opportunistically attempts to recruit young activists mobilized by struggles against racism, colonialism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, but the chauvinism at its core remains the same. 

This is one of Graham’s principal sources:

 The best that the Militant/CWI/Socialist Party can say is that no-one can prove anything because they never wrote it down. Prominent members like Ted Grant did openly say that homosexuality was a capitalist deviation which would “disappear” under socialism, but the Militant never actually stated this in their party literature. That doesn’t mean many didn’t think it. When Grant & Co split from the Militant, their members got to retrospectively claim that all the homophobia was his fault and they had always loved the gays. Countless testimonies from former Militant members and those who encountered them tell a different story. The lack of evidence of the existence of a “party line” on homosexuality is frankly bizarre in an organisation like the Militant, which had a position on everything.  If a position didn’t exist, it would be reasonable to ask why not.  It certainly leads people to the conclusion that none of those groups really took LGBT rights at all seriously.

EQUALITY IS GAY: A HOMOPHOBIC HISTORY OF THE LEFT.

Juan Mac.

Fightback continues:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Posadists: Against NATO -“Russia, China, the revolutionary processes and the progressive governments that defend an alternative to the capitalist regime.”

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Even though the USSR collapsed from 1991, the experience of the Soviet Workers State could not disappear overnight. This is why American imperialism and its armed instrument NATO still consider Russia as the enemy to be defeated.” Posadists.

At the start of July Posadism Today published this,

During the parade on May 9, 2022 in Moscow, for the 77th anniversary of the Day of Victory of the Red Army in the fight against Nazism (1941-1945), Vladimir Putin made a speech which is important and which we publish below. 

He brought back to mind the historic memory of the atrocities of Nazi expansion and the conscious defence that the Russian and Soviet peoples made then of the Soviet Union. 

This speech forms part of Russia’s current resolve to intervene in Ukraine against NATO’s expansion, to prevent the destruction of what has been the foundation of one of mankind’s greatest achievements: the Russian Revolution in October 1917. 

Even though the USSR collapsed from 1991, the experience of the Soviet Workers State could not disappear overnight. This is why American imperialism and its armed instrument NATO still consider Russia as the enemy to be defeated.

Posadists Today, 3.7.2022

VICTORY DAY SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN

IN COMMEMORATION OF THE VICTORY OF THE RED ARMY AGAINST NAZISM (9.5.1945), VLADIMIR PUTIN MADE AN IMPORTANT SPEECH ON 9.5.22 WHICH WE PUBLISH BELOW.

We shall skip this and go to this statement:

UKRAINE: THE HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION

This war in Ukraine expresses the global confrontation between the capitalist system concentrated in NATO & its associates against Russia, China, the revolutionary processes and the progressive governments that defend an alternative to the capitalist regime. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is a reaction determined by NATO’s massive expansion aimed at strangling Russia.

The economic sanctions that the NATO members and partners have slapped on Russia are the toughest ever imposed on any nation. But these penalties are going to hurt the countries of their originators, many of them in need of the Russian exports. The shortage of wheat, potash, gas, oil, palladium, nickel and other minerals is going to hurt the European and North American economies.

As far as it is concerned, Russia is practically capable of facing the sanctions. This situation is going to accelerate Russia’s need to improve the intervention of the State in the economy – to get rid of the “oligarchs”, exercise greater control over the banking sector, overcome the country’s dependence on the dollar. The end of the “dollar era” will be received by the United States as a declaration of war. But what arguments will they be able to find, seeing that it is them who launched the sanctions!

Fighting for radical social transformations

NATO uses Ukraine as spearhead to divide and break up the Russian Federation. The present confrontation forms part of the war preparations of imperialism – one more step towards the final settlement of accounts of the masses as a whole, against the capitalist system.

Not funny any more.

We all liked the excellent Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism. A.M. Gittlitz, (2021).

But, well, now we don’t like the Posadists.

Posadist International.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2022 at 12:08 pm