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France: Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Reforms’ to Continue on Track?

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Protest Against Macron Calls for General Strike. May 2018.

Is France’s President Emmanuel Macron about to win his battle against the rail strikers?  

Last Friday after the French National Assembly the Senate passed legislation reforming the country’s railway system, the SNCF by 245 against 82. The principal change is that from an “établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial (EPIC) » to « société anonyme (SA) ». That is, it will become a limited company, which will remain under public ownership.

No new recruit will benefit from the existing ‘statut’, the terms and conditions, of existing employees. This open the way for the end of free travel for employees, lower pay, more worker ‘flexibility, and the abolition of the right to retire at 55 for train drivers. A principal argument behind these, and other changes, is that the public railway company must resolve its debt problem to be competitive.

There will be competition between the rail-service and other companies, extending the existing opening to freight. There are suggestions (Spinetta report) that some unprofitable branch lines may be done away with. Maintenance will also be open to private companies (l’Humanité. 15.6.18). From 2019 regional services will be affected and in 2020 the TGV will, leaving the position around Paris in the l’Ile-de-France to be clarified between 2023 and…..2039.

These changes follow European Union directives on public debt and competition. They have been issued with the agreement of the counties of the EU, dominated by supporters of the marketisation of public services, and not from some hidden Brussels cabal.

Strikes, strongly supported by those working for the SNCF, against the ‘reform’ began on the 3rd of April, co-ordinated by the ‘intersyndical’ of rail unions (CGT, UNSA, SUD, CFDT, and FO). As collective bargaining begins in the light of the new law stoppages continue, intended to weigh on the negotiations. Despite suggestions that the ‘reformist’ unions (such as the CFDT) might reach a conciliatory agreement on their own this has not yet happened. What looks likely happen as talks get underway is that strikes will become reduced to a means of pressure for the best possible outcome, within this framework.

Despite a parallel conflict in Air France and a student movement, including militant occupations, against the reform called ORE (“d’orientation et de réussite des étudiants”) which gives universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants , a ‘social movement’ against Macron’s moves has not taken off. The wider public appears not to have identified with the fight of the cheminots (rail workers) as they did in 1997. Jean Luc-Mélenchon has stated that while he is drunk with his own self-satisfaction,  59% of those polled have a ‘negative’ opinion of the President. But ‘marées populaires” ‘ (tidal waves of protesters) at demonstration of solidarity with the strikers by his rally-party, have failed to flood the streets.  La France insoumise, the radical left, and other parts of the fragmented green, Communist and socialist left, trade unionists and students, have not created an ‘ insurrection  citoyenne’. Many of the public, lukewarm at the defence of what much of the media has presented as “special interests”  do not identify with the strikers.

Macon now feels free to tackle the welfare state. He has complained about the “pognon de dingue” (daft amount of dosh)  spent on welfare, suggesting wholesale changes in the benefit system. Replacing the complex French pension system with a uniform regime is in his sights. At the same time today it’s confirmed by right wing Economy Minister, Bruno le Maire, that the les Aéroports de Paris, la Française des Jeux (National Lottery) and Engie (unsurprisingly an energy firm) will be privatised (France’s Le Maire set to unveil inflammatory privatisation bill.)

It is sometimes suggested that Macron poses as ‘above’ left and right to cover his neoliberal policies. But is the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation what it was at the turn of the new millenium? The nature of ‘liberal’ policies, when not only European countries like Italy, Poland and Hungary, displaying signs of the less attractive side of anti-liberalism, but the US is engaged in trade wars that strike up the pillars of what was assumed to be ‘globalisation ‘ is in a state of flux. It is all very well for Mélenchon to shout that the President is an “EXTRÊME-LIBÉRAL”. But that part of the French left, including sections of La France insoumise, like other currents in Europe, including Britain, consider that ‘socialist’ version of ‘sovereigntism ‘ that is national control of the economy, is the answer to the difficulties created by years of market reform and liberalisation only adds to the confusion.

The French President himself claims to be a « progressive » both of the « right, the centre, and the left ». (Macron, un président philosophe. Brice Couturier. 2017) Put in less exorbitant langue he is, in effect, claiming the mantle of the 5th Republic, designed by de Gaulle to make the Head of State appear « above » parties and social divisions. Taking this further Macron presents his fight against workers and social rights as a struggle against outdated ‘ corporatism ‘.

A more bogus sets of political assertions would be hard to find. Saint-Simonian top-down technocratic reforms are the opposite of changes inspired by grassroots democratic struggle. But until there is a left united enough to challenge Macron and the domination of the National Assembly by his La République En Marche!  they will be hard to put down.

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Labour splits on access to EU single market; Morning Star peddles fantasy “progressive, pro-worker” Brexit.

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Now is the Time To Fight Brexit.

Brexit: Labour too divided to back Norway-style deal, says Starmer

Guardian.

European Economic Area amendment does not have full support within the party

Keir Starmer has hit back at claims Labour will squander the chance to defeat the government over an amendment to keep the UK in a Norway-style deal after Brexit, saying his party was too divided to back it.

Labour’s frontbench has announced a new amendment to the EU withdrawal bill, which returns to the Commons next week, proposing “full access to the internal market of the European Union”.

However, the new amendment stops short of calling for the full single market membership sought by a vocal group of Labour MPs, after the Lords backed a Norway-style membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Meanwhile the Morning Star, the paper of choice of a Corbyn adviser on Brexit (“part-time consultant, as Labour hones its Brexit strategy) and the EU, Andrew Murray, publishes this.

Ian Scott, “a Unite member and president of Birmingham Trades Union Council”, blames the EU for “younger people working longer hours on lower wages under harsher job contracts”, ” the closure of car manufacturing at Longbridge, Birmingham, with big job losses.” and the Lisbon Treaty for calling for the “the end of welfare state”. Not to mention “poorer pensions”.

POST-BREXIT Britain is not necessarily the confusing issue it is deliberately made out to be.

Much of the mess we are in today is also due to many of our MPs allowing EU legislation “on the nod” to go through our Parliament and, more often than not, without the content of directives being explained to them and, unsurprisingly, without knowing what the implications could be.

The 2016 referendum saw the largest turnout in a Britain-wide vote since 1992, the people spoke clearly for many issues of concern.

Since the referendum, there’s been much doom and gloom and much panic about the loss of trade, jobs and rights.

Yet, on workers’ rights, one such claim for EU benefits, I was incensed on reading a young electrical worker’s contract of employment which said — with reference to the EU’s working time directive (WTD) — that the employee was required to work up to 48 hours per week. In other examples, the WTD has extended the working week for many (mainly younger) workers.

All this to the negation of what our fore parents fought for. In a nutshell, we will witness younger people working longer hours on lower wages under harsher job contracts, only to retire later than 65 years of age just to receive poorer pensions than what many pensioners enjoy today.

If the above statement is not an indictment of corporate greed exacerbated by EU policy, a question arises about the type of trade union necessary to fight for change. A corporate union interested in the role of corporate business would do nothing for workers, let alone youth who currently working on zero-hour contracts. Did the EU Commission not endorse this type of contract many years ago?

Similarly, more up-front trade unions need to wake up and learn a trick or two on contracts of employment, a powerful tool that needs to be fully researched and an area where trade unions can stand up to erroneous employers in Britain and, importantly, improve their standing with their employees to promote union membership — for job security and conditions.

Remember that 99 per cent of employees work in a workplace employing 250 people or fewer. Just 13 per cent of employees in the private sector are members of a trade union.

Here is an opportunity for trade unions to improve their standing and base of support within the “missing” 87 per cent by forwarding these policies.

A trade union call for better procurement policies to improve domestic trade will resonate with both employees and employers and the public accordingly.

Likewise, from the public perspective, how many who voted Remain would be happy to learn that the EU Commission signed off the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (Ceta) on September 10 2017? This would have huge implications for the future of our NHS as well as trade deals, especially on food and other services.

The role of the EU serves corporate interest by essentially legitimising the flow of capital that contributed to the demise of manufacturing in Britain, for example HP Sauce, Peugeot, jobs that moved abroad and at lower wages. The debacle of EU regulations has led to the closure of car manufacturing at Longbridge, Birmingham, with big job losses.

It is hardly surprising that the largest Leave vote was recorded in both the East and West Midlands, with these two areas witnessing the greatest industrial losses because of EU policy. Also, nationally, with the EU being the driving force behind privatisation, to the closure of car manufacturing at Longbridge, Birmingham, with big job losses. this has led to inferior job contracts and lower wages for fewer people remaining in employment.

We cannot return to the EU’s neoliberal failed economic model, which Italy and Greece are also thinking of leaving. Iceland voted to drop its application to join the EU some years ago and its economy is currently doing well. We need to move on.

Brexit is presenting an opportunity for trade unionists and public groups to demand what type of society and future for Britain we wish to see outside of the EU. I am concerned over any vaunted customs union, a sly manoeuvre that would keep us within EU regulations. Progressive inputs from an enlarged trade union and public base of support will also strengthen the case for a future Labour government to carry out our demands. There is no time to fail.

The Tory Cabinet is currently edging towards a settlement with the EU that will likely include an agreement to only enable services and finance to escape regulation. We cannot continue to sacrifice even more industrial jobs. We need state aid for industry, comprehensive public ownership, a state investment bank and the use of public procurement to buy local and to enforce decent wages, trade union rights and collective bargaining.

Trade unionists need to come together urgently to campaign for a progressive, pro-worker outcome and to put pressure on our political representatives to do so in Parliament.

Remember how the Lisbon EU 2020 programme in 2000 effectively called for the end of welfare state? It restricted “early exit from work” (increasing pension ages), removed “disincentives to work” (reducing benefits) and substituted “flexicurity” for existing employment contracts (casualising the workforce).

To discuss this and more, I make this open call for the biggest and broadest national post-Brexit conference to be held in Birmingham for this September and I seek your maximum support in organising for this.

Ian Scott is a Unite member and president of Birmingham Trades Union Council and writes in his personal capacity.

The tissue of fabrications which lead Scott to blame the EU for successive British governments’ neo-liberal policies, thus include blaming the working Time directive (limiting working time) for long hours and the notion that Thatcher privatised British Leyland at the behest of Brussels, are hardly worth considering.

The Morning Star will no doubt be blaming Brussels for the Iron Lady next!

And for Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron, May……

And their policies…..

How exactly is a post-Brexit UK going to escape the world of the ITO, the IMF, and international finance, and how could a Labour government  operate outside its major market and the rules that govern it?

Better procurement policies – for public services – well, why not!

No doubt Scott’s new best mate Donald Trump will make a ‘deal’ with the UK to ensure that food and services are protected from his own corporations…..

Er, No.

Then there is this. on the car plants Scott is concerned about…

European businesses advised to avoid using British parts ahead of Brexit

The car industry fears a “catastrophe” as the EU warns exporters they may lose free trade access if they use UK parts post-Brexit.

In its advice rolled out to all Dutch businesses, the Dutch government has told its exporters that “if a large part of your product consists of parts from the UK” domestic exporters may lose free trade access under existing deals.

The advice says: “Brexit will have consequences for exports outside the EU.

“After Brexit, parts made in the UK no longer count towards this minimum production in the European Union.”

As the Guardian article indicates: “EU negotiators have repeatedly made it clear there can be no cherry picking or division of the four freedoms of the single market, including free movement of people.”

They also include, “the free movement of goods, capital and services”.

A Norway style deal or not, these remain pillars of our economy.

But they cannot stand alone.

Another Europe is Possible campaigns for:

The 6 progressive elements of EU membership.  We identify those as:

  • Rights at work
  • Environmental protections
  • Freedom to move
  • Human rights
  • Education and innovation
  • Science and research funding

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 6, 2018 at 11:28 am

The Anti-68 (La Pensée anti-68 amongst others)…

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Quarante ans de contre-révolution triomphante en Occident nous ont affligés de deux tares jumelles, également néfastes, mais qui forment ensemble un dispositif impitoyable: le pacifisme et le radicalisme.”

“Forty years of triumphant counterrevolution in the West has left us with twin defects, equally deadly, but which together form an implacable apparatus: non-violence and radicalism.”

À Nos amis. Le Comité Invisible. 2014.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, is now “well liked” in Germany and “loved” in France – part of the national DNA (1968: Power to the Imagination. NYRB). Our happiness at this recognition – perhaps one day to be extended to our national treasure, Tariq Ali – inspires us to reflections on the uprisings that made the Green leader’s fame.  The 50th anniversary of the événements has been, and will be, greeted in France with a flood of articles, books, radio, television programmes and, what one might call “teach-ins”. There is a lesser, but audible, interest in the English-speaking world and elsewhere. In homage, the tête de cortège on this year’s Paris May Day promised in a communiqué, in tribute to the enragés of the Mouvement du 22 Mars  a re-enactment of the May riots in the Quartier Latin. Those promoted by the friends of Le Comité Invisible ended up with a little smashing up of the nearest MacDonald’s and some bus shelters.

For some commentators on the legacy of 68, from the left, Cohn-Bendit stands out not just as a sign of middle-aged mellowing into the political mainstream, and a warning about the transience of elfin cuteness. The Franco-German politician represents the capture of its radical forces by Capital. Others, from more centrists position, state that what remains of the far-left has been “absorbed” by the French political system, the latest stage being Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise which pitches its objectives not at creating communism, or socialism, but a left populism aiming at a Sixth Republic.

A more thorough-going stand is to claim, in common with parts of the right, that 68 was a wrong turning in the first place. That it was the rise of the Me (too?) Generation in alliance with cosmopolitan capital which has sapped the sovereign rights of the People…or the Nation.

The “liberal-libertarianism” of the cherished contestataire and his ecological current already dominant in Die Grünen is in close communication with the “right and left” modernisers now assembled behind President Macron. Is this just their choice? For some Cohen-Bendit’s career is concomitant with post-Fordist culture, supple politics in the mould of the diversity of flexible production. In promoting, in his fashion, the politics of the right to be different and the cultural needs of identity, with liberal  economics, Danny le Rouge has assumed his role in “turning the entire social field into commodities. “

The many readers of Régis Debray’s repetitions of forty years will recognise this theme. Danny le rouge was one of the litter born in the “cradle of a new bourgeois society”. “Capital’s development strategy required the cultural revolution of May”. May 68, dubbed a “demand for identity” was a “marketable object”. He “communion of egos on the barricades becoming generalised egocentrism, the gift of self, the cult of me, the exaltation of liberties, the enshrinement of inequalities…” (1)

Debray has never abandoned this refrain, edging ever closer to nationalism as he ribs against the process of “Americanisation”, the global marketplace, and the vogue for “sans-frontiérisme” (Éloge de frontiers 2010). Perhaps he is haunted by the melancholy mercantile state, Orsenna, pictured by his favourite author, Julien Gracq in Le Rivage des Syrtes (1951). The encirclement never ends…..

Guy Debord, from the Situationists, celebrated post-facto in the 68 events, to whom the Tête de Cortege owe some debt, wrote of the victory of the “integrated spectacle”, and also of the “Americanisation of the world”. It is dominated by secret societies manipulated by nameless ‘elites” (Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. 1988)

More modestly, and accurately Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello in the New Spirit of Capitalism (1999), described how everything from managerial ‘science’ to cultural production has used themes of autonomy and choice in capturing a new post-68 public for companies and the market. There is equally,  no doubt something more still to say about ‘post-modernism’ and the post-68 development of capitalism.

La Pensée anti-68.

The theme that ‘68’ has been absorbed by capitalism, energised into forms of ‘liberalism’, is as well known, as it is coterminous with the events themselves. It is tackled in Audier’s indispensable La Pensée anti-68. (2009) Audier has little trouble pointing out that it was the most conservative section of the Parti Communiste français (PCF) which declared that the student revolutionaries were playing the bosses’ game.

The critique of individualism, Audier points out, appeared in France in a variety of forms. Many, from both right and left, were influenced by Christopher Lasch’s 1979 Culture of Narcissism (from a certain US left), and a host of overtly right-wing writers out to defend the Nation and a cohesive society against the egotism of marketisation. An ‘anti-68’ cast of thought has developed. This extends from the obvious targets on the right, pessimistic cultural commentators such as Alain Finkielkraut (the list of others in this vein is long, very long), to the ‘anti-liberal’ admirer of George Orwell’s ‘common decency” another critic of the ‘doublethink’ of the “society of the spectacle”, Jean-Claude Michéa (La double pensée. 2008).

He is less convincing when attacking the theorist of ‘menaces’ against collective identity, Pierre-André Taguieff, also a former Situationist. Subsequently Taguieff has attempted to explain populism and the appeal of the far-right, not to support it (La revanche du nationalisme. 2015). The treatment of other writers, such as Luc Ferry and Alain Renault, who constructed a ‘geology’ of 68 ideas, including well-known names such as Foucault, Bourdieu and Althusser, only retrospectively connected with the events is better framed. But Audier ignores some of their well-targeted shafts against the ‘research’ that went into Madness and Civilisation’s account of the incarceration of the insane, the banality and circulatory of Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘cultural capital’ in social reproduction, and Althusser’s ‘anti-humanism’ taken to ethical conclusions – above all his failure to begin to tackle the issue of Stalinism.

La Pensée 68 is, above all, remarkable for its account of the complexities of liberal thought. This does not just include ‘neo-liberalism’ but a sceptical and democratic strain represented by Raymond Aron (he indicates – far from opposed to ‘68’ en bloc) to the various forms of American progressivism, such as John Dewey with which I suspect many of us in Europe are less than familiar with. He puts his finger on the real issues behind ‘neo-conservatism’ and neoliberalism. This is far from a far from a 68 ‘permissive;’ ideology. Stuart Hall, called Thatcherism ‘authoritarian populism’ and the first word has real weight. Cultural liberalism, against Michéa, and a host of others, is not reducible to the ‘market’. We should not lightly reject the liberal value of tolerance, as opposed to such authoritarianism as the libertarian left.

The principal argument of La Pensée anti-68, then, which has worn well since the publication of La Pensée a decade ago, is that the hatred of the symbolic moment of 68 should be understood as more than a reaction. It is denial of what he calls, citing Claude Lefort celebrated 1980 essay on human rights, the opening up of new terrains of social affirmation. (2) In this sense it was not the grass roots May comités d’action, documented in an accessible form in Loyer’s book, which were harbingers of the political future. Particular forms of struggle may change, but the expansion of the political terrain for humanist self-assertion which is the enduring legacy of May 68.

Gauchisme Culturel. 

The counter-culture, or, more broadly, the wish to live ‘differently’ without repression, affirming autonomy and creativity, might be seen as a the ground for longer-lasting changes To Jean-Pierre Le Goff in his Postscript to Mai 68, l’héritage impossible (2002), the counter-cultural “liberation of désir”, the critique of authority, a wish for self-development and sexual freedom, cultural leftism “gauchisme culturel”, is the most important legacy of the time. While political leftism, attempts to make a real revolution, failed, the diverse ‘social movements’, as they used to be known, for women’s rights, gay rights, green politics, and what is today called “intersectionality” did not only have a cultural impact.

Perhaps, regrettably, Le Goff has joined the ‘anti-68ers’. From the 1980s, onwards Le Goff argues in the essays collected in La gauche à l’agonie? they have served as a mask, or a radical substitute, for the governing French left’s adoption of neo-liberal economics. The final articles are denunciations of a further 68 inheritance, multi-culturalism, a Third Worldism that’s become, “islamogauchisme” and efforts to “understand” Jihadism by the French equivalents of Giles Fraser.

One would listen to Le Goff’s catchphrases if he managed to reaffirm internationalist universalism. Does he stand like a rock with the leftists, democrats and liberals fighting Islamism in Muslim countries? He does not. In place of such commitment Le Goff ruminates over the managerial use of the youthful creativity, in a pseudo-68 liberation, the debris of French republican nationalism, and the narcissism ( a word one wishes vaporisation in the next edition of Newspeak) of those who declare themselves citizens of the world.

In the absence of history’s ability to repeat its experiments it is hard to disprove the view that May 68 played a part in regenerating capitalism. More pressing, as Serge Audier states in Le Monde this March, is the persistence and radicalisation of the anti-68 reaction ( Le discours anti-68 s’est radicalisé ).

The importance that its alternative, whether disguised as the Republic or not, the Nation, or National Sovereignty, the ultimate Identity, has taken hold of political debate in France and most of the West cannot be underestimated.

In Britain as the editors of New Left Review giggled at the result, a number of leftists have joined in the ‘anti-68’ Carnival or Reaction that has followed Brexit, and found merit in les anglais de souche who supported the anti-European break (55 Arguments for Lexit). La France insoumise drapes itself in the Tricolor, and chants the Marseillaise. Give me the cosmopolitan sans-frontières with their universal human rights any day.

 

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(1) A Modest Contribution to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Tenth Anniversary. Régis Debray. New Left Review (First series). No 115. 1979.

(2) The Politics of Human Rights in. The Political Forms of Modern Society Bureaucracy, Democracy, Totalitarianism Claude Lefort. Edited and Introduced by John B. Thompson. The Politics of Human Rights. MIT Press. See also Les droits de l’homme et l’Etat providence. Reprinted in Claude Lefort essays sur le politique. Seuil. 1986.

******

L’événement 68. Emmanuelle Loyer. Champs histoire. 2008/2018.

La Pensée anti-68. Serge Audier. La Découverte/Poche. 2009.

La gauche à l’agonie? 1968 – 2017. Jean-Pierre Le Goff. Perrin 2017.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 10, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Syria: *The* Issue for the International Left.

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Image result for Syria: The World's War bbc

Syria: The World’s War.

At the end of last week BBC 2 showed a thorough, moving, pair of documentaries on Syria.

Syria: The World’s War

Lyse Doucet tells the story of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our age, the Syrian civil war – seven years of brutal conflict, surpassing the length of World War II. In this two-part series, Lyse Doucet, who has reported on the conflict from the start, explores how peaceful protest for change spiralled into unspeakable savagery – half a million people killed, millions of lives shattered and so much of Syria in utter ruins.

The series tells the inside story of the war from multiple perspectives. It hears accounts of the experiences of Syrian people from different sides – civilians and fighters who stayed loyal to the government of President Assad as well as those who rebelled.

This second film in the series picks up the action as Raqqa falls to a mixture of Islamist and moderate forces. The story of the extraordinary events of the following months is told by two characters. One is a protester who aims to build a new civil society based on democracy, the other is a torture victim who joins the Islamists as a hired assassin. Within a few weeks of the fall of Raqqa, a new, even more extreme Islamist group arrive – ISIS. The civil society activists ends up being tortured in an ISIS jail, the other ends up joining ISIS and working his way through a kill list they have given him. Each tell their story with extraordinary candour.

As Raqqa descends into chaos, arguably the most important battle of the war is entering its second year – Aleppo. Lyse meets the militia leader who was a key player in the government fightback against the rebels who had occupied a large part of the city. On the other side we meet the bomb-maker who takes us inside the Islamist forces as they dig tunnels underground to blow up government buildings on the other side of the frontline. To gain greater understanding of how this catastrophe unfolded, Lyse also speaks to politicians and soldiers from within Syria and also from western and regional powers. She asks difficult questions of the foreign minister of Syria itself, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, concerning their involvement in the decisions that shaped the conflict. She also gains candid interviews with the key Western leaders from the time, such as the then foreign secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry. They tell the story of how the US and then the UK finally enter the war – not against Assad, but against ISIS.

By 2015, four years since the start of the war, the Assad government is under real pressure. The crucial battle is Aleppo. We talk to the fighters on both sides who felt that the city could have been lost to rebels – something that might have proven a mortal blow to the regime. Through interviews with politicians close to the action, Lyse tells the story of how Russian intervention turned the war in President Assad’s favour. In the final terrible months of the siege of Aleppo, we see the suffering of civilians under the massive bombardment through the eyes of a doctor whose hospital is repeatedly hit. Lyse interviews a local politician who claims the hospital is an Al Qaeda base – something denied by those who worked there.

The recapture of Aleppo by Government forces in late 2016 arguably marked the point at which President Assad could no longer be removed by force. The film tracks the most recent year of the war ending with the recent events in Eastern Ghouta and Douma – incidents which mark Assad’s gradual re-assertion of control of the areas around Damascus.

This two-hour series provides the most comprehensive account to date of how the tragedy of Syria unfolded. Importantly, it gets as close to a 360-degree account of some of the key moments in a war that by now has drawn in 75 countries and counting.

I realise that we in the UK have other pressing issues on our minds than the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the millions of refugees.

But perhaps this indicates the gravity of what is happening,

The worst humanitarian crisis of the century. A conflict that has gone on longer than the second world war, drawing in 75 countries and counting. Half a million killed. Millions displaced. A country in utter ruins. And still, seven years on, no military solution, no prospect of a diplomatic answer and no end in sight. This tremendous – and necessarily distressing – documentary (part two is on Friday), fronted by the veteran correspondent Lyse Doucet, begins with the now stock phrases and statistics that trick us into thinking we know this war. Then it tells the story of what actually happened. The facts, as they used to be known.

And we need to be reminded. The appalling truth of a war so long and entangled in world politics is that you become confused, disengaged and desensitised. Despair blots out the need to know and keep knowing. This is how we begin to forget why wars started in the first place.

But those on the left in other lands have been writing on the issue.

This, from the excellent site Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, (there is much more in the French language section).

How Assad chases, tortures and kills the best of Syria’s young pacifist leftists – For Syria’s disappeared. For Syria’s future  by WESSELS Joshka

Last week Rami Hennawi’s family received the news from Syrian authorities that their son and partner died in prison and they can collect his body. Rami was a pacifist leftist young activist who was detained in 2012. Five years he spent in the most inhumane conditions in one of Assad’s torture houses. Rami came from Sweida, a majority Druze city under regime control and considered in general pro-Assad. But in fact, the underground resistance against Assad in Sweida is strong. If anything, local people in Sweida remembered the anti-colonial hero Sultan Basha al-Atrash, leader of the 1925 Great Syrian Revolt, and took the opportunity several time to congregate in front of his statue to voice their opposition against Assad. This is why the Syrian regime is very wary of the underground opposition from Sweida.

According to one of my sources from the area, at the moment, Sweida inhabitants are under repression by many different factions of pro-Assad shabiha, who kill to steal motorbikes, teenagers get killed because of fights at the schoolground and Assadist shabiha rape at random, terrorizing the local girls and women. There is a sense of lawlessness, and those who are supportive of the regime benefit from this situation. Those who now legally carry weapons in Sweida, have a history of violence and can do all illegal activities they aspire because no one is stopping them.

“The war in Syria only benefits the counter-revolutionary forces” – A comprehensive outlook  DAHER JosephFARAS AntonisTHEODOROU Lina

The issue of Syria is a burning one for the international left.

The founder of the Marxism List, which links to many valuable articles in the same vein, Louis Proyect has engaged in a furious war for the truth against ‘red brown’ (a ‘left’ admirer of Marine Le Pen) conspis like Diana Johnstone on the issue of Syria.

Johnstone now puts Assad in the ‘axis of resistance’

This is his latest bulletin.

Diana Johnstone’s attack on Tony McKenna.

Like a lot of people who were radicalized in the 60s, Johnstone developed a reverence for Stalinist strong men as a way of overcompensating for LBJ, Nixon, et al. Totally alienated by American society, she became infatuated with men like Assad, Putin, Gaddafi and anybody else who was pilloried in the bourgeois press. Like the fraternity boys who kept posters of Ronald Reagan chopping wood on dorm room walls, her heart flutters for Vladimir Putin and anybody else who embodies her romantic idealization of men and women on horseback.

This would include Marine Le Pen, the ultraright Islamophobe that she described once as “basically on the left”. When people came out to protest Donald Trump’s viciously racist immigration crackdown, Johnstone described them with as much malice as Ann Coulter: “Whatever they think or feel, the largely youthful anti-Trump protesters in the streets create an image of hedonistic consumer society’s spoiled brats who throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want.”

Most people with their head screwed on right understand that Le Pen is a nativist just like all the other scum that are rising to the surface in Europe, from Viktor Orban in Hungary to Nigel Farage in England. In 2017, Johnstone decided that the real issue in the French election was national sovereignty and who better to defend it than Marine Le Pen? After all, Johnstone states that “Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion.” Oh, how nice. This politician said that if she was elected, she’d stop all immigration to France.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2018 at 5:36 pm

French protest against Macron: la Fête à Macron.

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Thousands of people demonstrated in central Paris on Saturday amid a heavy police presence to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping reforms, a year after he came to office.

France 24.

Some 2,000 security forces including riot police were deployed as marchers gathered from midday in warm early summer sunshine in the central Opera square for a protest dubbed a “Party for Macron”, a tongue-in-cheek “celebration” of the 40-year-old centrist’s first anniversary in power.

Smaller rallies took place in the southern cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux while the Paris variant kicked off with a mass picnic which drew numerous families.

l’Humanité reports that the marches were backed by all the French left, except the former ruling Parti Socialiste (not asked), trade unionists, and civil society associations.

Génération.s Benoît Hamon, Pierre Laurent PCF, Philippe Poutou and Olivier Besancenot for le NPA,former leaders of the protest movement,  Nuit Debout  such as Frédéric Lordon, some of the union federation,  CGT (their chief, Philippe Martinez  refused to take part), the far-left union blocs SUD,  Solidaires, and the anti-globalisation network, Attac..

Huffington Post.

Libération states that activists are now looking to redouble their efforts to moblise opposition to Macron by looking for new struggles. (Après la Fête à Macron, des manifestants en quête de lutte).

 

Those with strong stomachs can watch, and hear, Jean-Luc Mélechon “do music”.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Stuart Jeffries Spits on Charlie Hebdo Graves: Guardian Review of “The End of the French Intellectual From Zola to Houellebecq by Shlomo Sand”.

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Verso and the Guardian Spit Again on the Grave of Charlie Hebdo Martyrs. 

Stuart Jeffries is an admirer of the French sovereigntist and nationalist “Je ne suis pas Charlie” Emmanuel Todd.

Todd : le liseur de cartes… qui préfère le FN à Mélenchon (2015)

Todd backtracked during last year’s French Presidential elections. Denouncing the leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen as xenophobic and a a vote for Macron as “soumission aux banques, à l’Allemagne, (subservience to the banks and to Germany) he abstained in the second round (Emmanuel Todd: «le FN ne veut pas le pouvoir»). Le Pen, he opined, is not a “true patriot”.

Jeffries is a staunch admirer of Emmanuel Todd.

After the Bataclan massacre, and in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher killings, led to mass mourning,  he wrote in 2015,

Emmanuel Todd detects in his book was that these marches in January were not based on the grand old French revolutionary notion of fraternity. When Paris marches in solidarity with the murdered – as it surely will – it needs to march in true fraternity, rather than in the masquerade Todd anatomises. That is the kind of defiance that Paris needs now.

It is with little surprise that we read in yesterday’s Guardian that Jeffries finds much to agree with in Shlomo Sand’s The End of the French Intellectual a book built around Todd’s Qui est Charlie ? : Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. (2015).

This gives the flavour of the review.

Review – from Judeophobia to Islamophobia.

Sand starts his history with the Dreyfus affair and ends it, nauseated, in 2015, as the French establishment marches in solidarity with murdered workers at Muslim-baiting magazine Charlie Hebdo and there are calls for Michel Houellebecq to be inducted into the Académie Française for his novel Submission(one that imagines France busted down to a mere province of a Mediterranean caliphate). “The modern Parisian intellectual was born in the battle against Judeophobia, the twilight of the intellectual in the early 21st century is happening under the sign of a rise in Islamophobia,” Sand argues.

……..

 

Perhaps it takes an outsider Jew to diagnose the sickness of French intellectual life. Near the end of the book, Sand looks at a cartoon of Muhammad published in Charlie Hebdo, “a cruel-looking bearded figure wrapped in a white jellaba, his eyes hidden and holding a long pointed knife”. He has seen that image before. Where? In the Jew-hating cartoons published in the 1890s in La Libre Parole to whip up antisemitic sentiment during the Dreyfus affair. “It is surprising to see how much the ‘Semitic’ Jews of the past resemble the ‘Semitic’ Muslims of today: the same ugly face and the same long and fat nose.”

No wonder, then, that when some 4 million French people joined the march for Charlie Hebdo’s murdered court jesters three years ago, Sand was not one of them. He is not the kind of guy to sport a “Je suis Charlie” badge – his admiration for French intellectuals, such as it is, does not extend to self-identifying with Islamophobes.

After this it may  help to read this, in the Observer today: On 7 January 2015, terrorists burst into the offices of the satirical magazine, killing 12 people. In an extract from his new book, published to huge acclaim in France, here is one survivor’s astonishing story by 

Here is a proper review: (September 1, 2016 .)Scroll down to the section at the end on Charlie Hebdo.

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. La Découverte. 2016.

 

 

 

Internationally celebrated for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) Shlomo Sand is a redoubtable controversialist. That study, which argued that those following the Jewish religion only began to consider themselves a “people” during the Middle Ages, continues to be debated. Sand’s assertion that most Jews owes their origins to religious conversion, and not to ancient Hebrew origins, was intended to strike at the heart of the “National Myth” of the state of Israel. How I stopped Being a Jew (2013) announced a wish to break with “tribal Judocentrism”. Warmth for the secular ideals of Israel, and for the Hebrew language, has not protected him from vigorous criticism from a wide variety of Zionist critics.

La Fin de l’intellectuel français has equally iconoclastic ambitions. Apart from frequent autobiographical notes, during which we learn he was once a Marxist who wished to change the world, it is no less than a charge, an accusation,against Europe, and against France in particular: that the Continent is lifting the drawbridges against the “Muslim foreigners”. A “contagious plague” of Islamophobia, uniting left secularists and traditional nationalists, has infected the Hexagone. For Sand, “media intellectuals” (intellectuels médiatiques) both circulate this “code” and pile up its symbolic property. “A une vitesse suprenante, une puissante intelligentsia médiatique s’est constituée pour qui la stigmatisation de l’autre’”… “La détestation de la religion musulmane” has become “le nouvel opium de l’intellectuel’ ‘antitotalitaire.” (Page 238) At an amazing speed, a powerful media intelligentsia  has been built around the stigmatisation of the Other. ” “The loathing of the Muslim religion” has become the “new opium of the anti-totalitarian intellectuals.”

Put simply, to the author the stars of the modern Parisian media salons, those setting the tone, the style and the substance are small in number. They include (putting them in British terms) Éric Zemmour (a ‘declinist’ second cousin to our historians nostalgic for the Empire with specific French gripes against the ‘héritières de mai 68’, ), Alain Finkielkraut (a ‘philosopher’ of the erosion of educational and grammatical standards, and what one might call “Parisianistan’, an even closer co-thinker to Melanie Phillips), Renaud Camus (a professional  indignant xenophobe railing at the ‘replacement’ of Europeans by foreigners, and potential Editorialist for the Daily Express), and Michael Houellebecq, who needs no introduction, even, one hopes, to dimwits.

The Intellectual.

The bulk of La Fin de l’intellectuel français consists of chapters on the historical role of French intellectuals, and considerations of their social functions, from Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu to Régis Debray. There is mention of lesser-known writings, such as Harman and Rotman’s Les Intellocrats (1981) which highlighted the small Parisian world of publishing, and heralded the birth of the new “media intellectuals” that came to the fore in the late seventies with the nouveaux philosophes, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and others, long forgotten, defying the totalitarianism they had freshly rejected.

As a pared down version of Michael Scott Christofferson’s Les Intellectuals contre la Gauche (2014 – French, expanded, edition), this history, a grand narrative, charges the French intellectual class with having abandoned Marxism and the left. Amongst many other faults it ignores that the left continued to exist during that decade. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory – initially ruling in coalition with the Parti Communiste français (PCF) – was supported by the mass of the intelligentsia, within which an unbroken critical, if minority, left – never once mentioned in La Fin – has continued its own way, up till the present. This indicates one of the many ways in which the dominance of ‘media intellectuals’, in, unsurprisingly, the media is not the same as the kind of more entrenched intellectual hegemony that Gramsci outlined.

Readers unfamiliar with the history of the term intellectual and the politics of French intellectuals, from the “critical collective intellectual”, Zola and his cohorts, that arose during the Dreyfus Affair, Julien Benda’s defence of disinterested universalism (La Trahison des clercs. 1927), Paul Nizan’s Leninist commitment to the “soldats de la plume” (Les Chiens de Garde. 1932), will find, at least some passages to reflect on.

The Collaboration, the Resistance, post-war ‘engaged’ thinkers, in the mould of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, receive particular attention. The less reputable aspects of the Existentialist couple’s war record and minimal participation in real resistance were, for Sand a stumbling block for his own hero worship. Those who have not stumbled across writings such as Carole Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison (2008) that portrays in more depth than La Fin de l’intellectuel français the worst side of the pair’s war-time treatment of their Jewish lover, Bianca Bienenfeld, may even now be shocked.

Sand is, while not widely known outside of specialised circles, is the author of a fine study of Georges Sorel, L’illusion du politique (1984) Based on his PhD thesis this intellectual biography demolished a number of misconceptions, including the idea that Sorel was a proto-fascist, while making the various writings and stages in Sorel’s thought as clear as is possible. He followed this (echoed in the present volume) with a dispute on fascism, with the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. Apart from demonstrating again that 1920s and 1930s French ‘non-conformist’ admiration for Mussolini, and then (to a lesser extent) Hitler, indicated just how far real fascism did not take root in France, Sand demonstrates analytical fineness. He even admits that the far-right (and most notorious intellectual Collaborator) writer Drieu la Rochelle had talent (Page 158). Indeed the text displays – against Sartre’s belief that no anti-Semitic novel had any merit – a serious acquaintance with the romancier’s (in our opinion) interminable and tedious Gilles. (1939) (Page 215)

Islamophobia.

None of this delicacy is offered in the concluding chapters of La Fin de l’intellectuel français. It is tale of French Islamophobia, of nationalism and bigotry masquerading as Universalist secularism that would have been lifted from the pages of Socialist Worker or the web site of Counterfire. It is with no surprise that we learn that his first salvo against Charlie Hebdo, appeared in the far from philo-semitic ‘wise-guy’ publication, Counterpunch (,A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe. January 2015) a site which has published articles contesting the pardon of…Dreyfus. (1)

Sand loathes Houellebecq, who is perhaps an acquired taste. This may be why he fails to pick up on one of the few funny jokes in Soumission, the creation of the “Indigenous European a direct response to Indigénes de la République” – one group of racists giving ideas to another. Je Suis Charlie, is not, as it is for many of, the emblem of love and freedom. For the nuanced connoisseur of French pre-War ideologies, it was a publication that produced, week in and week out, a “representation méprisante et irrespectueuse de la croyance d’une minorité religieuse”  a picture that shows disrespect for a religious minority. (Page 225). No doubt that explains why Muslims, frustrated, unhinged with only a fragile belief to cling to, decided to react with murderous folly (Page 227). Doubtless it also accounts for why they killed at the Hyper-Cacher….

That the middle class demonstrated on the 11th of January 2015 in solidarity with Charlie we do not doubt. But oddly, Sand does not deeply cite his authority on this point, Emmanuel Todd, for whom they also showed the spirit of Vichy, Catholic Zombies (walking unconsciously in the steps of their religious past), soaked in the ‘culture of narcissism’, objectively xenophobe, like the Parti Socialiste, and …pro-Europeans – the (Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. Qui est Charlie? 2015). So, with every one of his bugbears wrapped together, what next? Todd, we are not astonished to learn, despises this bloc, the MAZ, prefers those who rejected the Maastricht treaty, and….is himself a nationalist, or, as they call it today, a “sovereigntist” who wishes to reassert French Sovereignty over the economy, against the European Union….

Laïcité.

In his pursuit of allies in the fight against French laïcité Sand might consider a much deeper problem than hostile reactions to Islam or those who make summary judgements about ‘Islamo-gauchisme’. It lies in this sovereigntism: a nationalists turn with far deeper roots than religious or ethnic hostility: a true xenophobia, embraced not just by the Front National, but by the centre-right, and that section of the left which shares Todd’s loathing of the European Union, if not other European states (not to mention the US). There is a name for this, which we have already used, xenophobia, and the point where nationalism slides into racism.

One can accept that that anti-Muslim feeling is prejudice, that there is a strong dose of racist defence of “la terre et les morts” against all classes of immigrants but particularly Muslims, and Catholic Mayors suddenly discovering that are secular republicans. That one can pretend that specifically French forms of secularism are universal at one’s peril.

One can accept all of this, even some gestures towards the sub-existentialist phrases about fear of the Other …but, are there not some problems about violent forms of Islamism, some difficulties, as indicated in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to halt just there. That amongst contemporary forms of Islamism, the status of the Kufur, the rules governing women, most visibly their ‘modesty’ and punishing the ‘immodest’, bedrock human rights issues, remain…issues.

Sand passes in silence over the ideas of the strongly left-wing and pro-Communist Charlie editor, Charb. Perhaps he should read his posthumous Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (2015). If that proves too much for him he has no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the mass of serious literature in French on Islam, and Islamism, from Gilles KepelOlivier RoyFrançois Burgat, Gilbert Achcar  in French.  The vast majority of these writings, are as nuanced, as profoundly researched as one could wish, with all due consideration for the immense difficulties of marginalised Maghrebian and African populations. I would recommend he begin with a genuine intellectual with knowledge of both the evolution of former Maoists towards ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and Islamism, Jean Birnbaum, and his Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. 2016. He is certainly not a sign of the ‘end’ of the species.

The secularist Ligue des droits de l’homme has been at the forefront of the fight against the ‘Burkini ban’ (l’Humanité) So much for Sand’s recent claim that “La laïcité, comme autrefois le patriotisme, s’avère, de nos jours, l’ultime refuge de l’infâme ” (Nouvel Obs. 24.8.16.)

(1) THE DREYFUS CASE, REVISITED: Israel Shamir sifts through the Dreyfus case: was he really a victim of anti-semitism?

Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Brice Couturier. The Anti-Populist Progressive? Review.

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Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Aucun des ses mots n’est le fruit de hasard. Brice Couturier. Editions l’Observatoire. 

An interview which broke with the deferential traditions of the 5th Republic made the French headlines all week. On Sunday the 15th of April the journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel questioned the head of state for two hours on the balance-sheet of his administration. Elected with a sweeping majority for the party La République en marche, he defended a policy of immediate reforms, from the rail service, to higher education. Macron “listened” to the anger of opponents – the railway workers, students, aeroplane pilots, functionaries, and the squatters occupying the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. But republican norms had to be respected. Universities were victims of “professionnels du désordre” (le Monde 17.4.18).

As the exchange got underway Plenal, the anti-Macron founder of the independent Mediapart, and a former member of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, interrupted. “You are not our Teacher, and we are not your pupils”. An Editorial in Le Monde the previous day talked of Macron as a pedagogue ready to lecture, regardless of the wishes of his audience, until he had completed his lesson. (Macron au cours préparatoire. 14.4.18) Excluding the possibility that the President was unaware of his interlocutor’s troublemaking potential one assumes that a snappy put down far from a chance part of the course.

The Anti-Populist Progressive? 

But what syllabus is France’s President instructing us from? This is far from an issue limited to the Hexagone. There are policies on the European Union. Macron’s “camp progressiste” has stimulated interest amongst homeless supporters of the Third Way, Die Neue Mitte, and the liberal centre. For many of these people Macron represents a successful ‘anti-populist’ unifying force.  Much of the French left, which saw many transfers from the right of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and allied figures, to the new President’s camp, by contrast, announced immediately after his victory that this was a Presidency for the wealthy, for the ‘elite’. For former Socialist Minister Anicet Le Pors, he is “mandated” by international finance, the ruling circles of the EU, the bosses, the administrative technocracy, show business, and nearly all the media. (April 2018. Le Monde Diplomatique)

With the present unrest attracting attention the English-speaking left has been quick to label Macron a neo-liberal, a spin of Tony Blair and Thatcher, out to attack the labour movement and impose markets on the public sphere. The ‘bromance’ with Donald Trump over Syria adds force to the comparison with the former British Prime Minister.

Perry Anderson, in a peremptory post-election account, went deeper. Adorned in best periodic style, he suggested that the “neoliberal reformation of France”, attempted for over three decades, had been impeded on different sides by the constituencies of right and left. Macron, in effect, cut through the various knots tiring up the centre left and right, and formed a real “bloc bourgeois” ready to carry out a liberalisation of the economy, and free up entrepreneurial energy. (1)

But some clarity is needed about the beast in power. There are already plenty of books about the President, and the electoral campaign that swept him to the Élysée. But what is his ideology, beyond carrying out his neoliberal “mandate”? ‘Macronism’ appears a less promising candidate than Thatcherism or even the rebarbative Blairism. A suggestion by Régis Debray that – the reader will have guessed this – that the Head of State represents Americanisation, with a ‘Protestant’ twist (see below), this does not take us far. It might be better said that his ideology is something picked up and stuck together as the result of an academic, administrative, business and political career.

In Macron, un président philosophe, Courtier who has a solid academic, and media background, and a less firm commitment to a form of left wing liberalism, offers us a series of insights into this broad picture. As he indicates, the former assistant to the philosopher Paul Ricœur, graduate of French elite Political and Administrative colleges, Finance Inspector, Rothschild Banker, and Minister under François Hollande, offers rich intellectual pickings. Blair, the erudite few may recall, had the lecturer Peter Thompson at Oxford, and the lessons of reciprocity from John Macmurray, behind his Christian socialism. Macron has somebody, Ricœur, a thinker with a Protestant backdrop, whom people have often heard of, if not read.

The President, we learn, has many many more figures in his hinterland. French books have a vexing lack of indexes. It would be hard work to list every sage cited in un Président philosophe, they range from Hegel, Marx, Carl Schmitt, Nietzsche, Peter Sloterdijk, Joseph Schumpeter, Michael Young (meritocracy), to Jürgen Habermas. This only follows the reference-laden writings and speeches of the book’s subject.

From Ricoeur to Saint Simon. 

It would be useful to boil this down to the essential. To begin with here is the debt to Paul Ricœur. For Courtier he offered the germs of an “identitié narrative” from the individual to the nation, to history. The use for a President of certain ideas about France, recently indicated in recognition to the importance of the legacy of Catholicism, is obvious. Macron has, in other words, considers cultural legacies, the presence of memory, to hold the country together – a view whose originality or interest is not immediately apparent.

Next Macron can be compared to Saint-Simon, the prophet of a society run by “industrials” and “intellectuals”. In this vein he is said to consider globalisation as a system of fluxes to be organised and regulated (Page 253). Finance, the mark of neo-liberalism, is to be channelled to the long-term greater good.

If Macron is a believer in capitalism he acknowledges it is not a system that works smoothly, if with great effort, like some building a planetary network of Saint-Simonian canals. There are moments of creative destruction (Schumpeter), clearing out the old inefficient enterprises, bureaucratic burdens and the “corporatism” of organised labour. ‘Progressive’ states, and the transnational European project, are needed to both facilitate and harness this process. .

Finally, there is building European Sovereignty, and the problems that globalisation creates. Courtier refers to David Goodhart in outlining the problems France faces. (3). Can Macron bring together the France of the “zones péripheriques”, the old working class far from the elite, and the metropolitan “gagnants de la mondialisation” (winners of globalisation), regarded as Macron’s core backing, if not electorate, together? (Pages 291 -2)

The difficulty of reconciling the “somewhere’ salt-of-the-earth folk and the – scorned – “nowhere” cosmopolitans would appear hard for somebody identified with the (however misleadingly) with the latter “bobos”. The task of bringing integration against the ‘identitarians’ of the far-right and those who assert the absolute right to multicultural difference, by the “modèle republican français” appears equally arduous. The often reverential, if not hagiographical tone of Un président philosophe, does not help resolve the difficulties. The use of Goodhart to bolster his opinions indicates a rightward slant with no countervailing force. 

The philosophical commentator Alain famously declared that when somebody says that they are neither right nor left, he is sure of one thing – that they are not of the left. Macron is always careful to declare that he is of the right and the left. But there is a little indication of the latter. Pierre-André Taguieff has represented him as the herald of “successful globalisation”, a Europe in which France would be a “nation-start up” and the “État-enterprise”. To decipher the business-talk Anglicisms that pepper Macron’s speech is to confirm this view.

Managerialism, Saint-Simon, Schumpeter, both far from any conception of “bottom up” democracy, political or economic, and a homeopathic communitarian philosophy suggested by Courtier’s reading of Goodhart, do not make an attractive picture of France’s President. If this is what “progressivism” has become in Europe, than it is doubtful if it will attract many enthusiasts beyond France, and certainly not from left-wingers (3)

The European Project and the left.

In the article cited above Anderson pins the ultimate root of this strategy on the European Project. In the trickle down from his approach, others seize on every obstacle to the EU – Brexit included – as an advance against neo-liberalism. Today’s French strikes and protests – regardless of their specific causes or aims – are considered part of this movement.

But the real issue for the French left, in the aftermath of their defeat, may be said to have been whether Macron could be opposed by the “left populist” strategy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), to ‘federate the people” against the “elite” or by a new “left bloc” based on alliances between the parties (now stretching from the remains of the PS, Benoît Hamon’s group, the PCF, LFI and its allies, what is left of Les Verts, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA) with the social forces presently fighting the wave of Macron reforms. This, as Stefano Palombarini suggested last June, would require an internationalist strategy towards changing the EU that breaks from the populist drift to ‘sovereigntism’. (4)

It is said that with his steam-roller reforms Macron has now been abandoned by whatever support he had from the ‘reformist’ liberal left. That after a year’s presidency he has veered towards authoritarianism  to “jacobinisme vertical”. Whether this is true or not the left is not united. There is no indication that the largest group in the French National Assembly, LFI, at the moment engaged in a “war of movement” to capture hegemony over the left, intends to explore this possibility. It might still be said, that to wrestle the European issue out of the hands of the Macrons and the existing EU system of governance, while fighting the sovereigntists, remains the key issue for our continent’s left, in all its diversity, strengths and weaknesses.

****

(1) The Centre Can Hold. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. No 105. May/June 2017. See: L’Illusion du Bloc Bourgeois. Bruno Amable. Stefano Palombarini. Raisons d’agir. 2017. Speculation that François Hollande and his immediate circle played a part in Macron’s Presidential ascension has waned with the publication of memories reproaching his one-time protégé for his actions.

(2) The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. David Goodhart. Hurst & Company. 2017.

(3) Page 283. Macron: miracle ou mirage? Pierre-André Taguieff. Editions l’Observatoire. August 2017

(4) Face à Macron, la gauche ou le populisme? Stefano Palombarini