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Posts Tagged ‘European Politics

The Politics of the Gilets Jaunes and the Far-Right.

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Les Zouaves Paris après l'attaque du cortège du NPA dans une manifestation des Gilets jaunes.

“…the fact that the far right is present in this violence puts them off quite a bit. But it doesn’t bother me.” Verso Author, Éric Hazan.

The group who attacked the Nouveau Parti capitaliste during Acte XI of the Gilets Jaunes march turns out to have been created by former members of the violent far-right organisation, GUD, and (its continuing counterpart outside of Paris) ” Bastion social”.

Zouaves Paris: la résurgence de l’extrême droite radicale violente dans la capitale

France Soir, today.

And here:

“Je songe à ces méthodes qui consistent à violer l’intelligence révolutionnaire des militants (nombreux en France) qui ont l’habitude de se faire eux-mêmes leur opinion et qui se mettent loyalement à la dure école des faits.”

1939 Lettre à Trotsky [Marceau Pivert)

I refer to those methods which consist in violating and brutalizing the revolutionary intelligence of those militants – numerous in France – who are accustomed to making up their own minds and who put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts.

Pivert Answers Trotsky 1939

To read English language left-wing commentary on the Gilets Jaunes is to enter a world in which the far-right appears in the movement only from the outside. They are not the “real Gilets Jaunes”. The US left publication Jacobin has published an article that claims that criticism comes from supporters of Macron, and snobbish attitudes towards the “working classes (who) have been neglected and ridiculed” (IMEN NEFFATI). This academic defender of Gammon is not alone. Just translated into English is the contentious ‘sociology’ of Christopher Guilluy’s book, (Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France). Jacobin’s co-thinkers in Spiked recently interviewed Guilluy, who said,

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

‘The gilets jaunes are unstoppable’

Christophe Guilluy on the cultural divide driving the yellow vests.

I have not read the translation but the book was published a couple of years ago and is now in a cheap paperback (on the shelf…). It  is not a work of sociological investigation: it is an illustration of a thesis. That is, that the left has dropped the working class, the ‘popular classes’. It has succumbed to ‘globalisation’ and is now based on urban ‘people from nowhere’, the ‘elite’. The rest of society, the “periphery” is left to rot.  This view, shared by the former radical leftist,  Jean-Claude Michéa (who has also written on George Orwell’s concept of ‘common decency’), is that French society has become Americanised, “ inégalitaire et multiculturelle ” – unequal and multicultural. 

The last word should set alarm bells ringing.

The book will merit a fuller discussion but for the moment one can see the opening that the idea of a popular revolt against the globalised elite by the ‘real’ French (as the Gilets Jaunes call themselves, as, for example in the “Gaulois de Calais)” gives to the far right. Marine Le Pen, like the British extreme-right, is a strong critic of “globalism”. The infinitely flexible picture of the “people”, the left-behind, the “somewheres” is ready-made for their use. The below illustrates one effort at being humorous about the brave little Gauls standing up to the arrogant cosmopolitans.

Some of the French left, and not only those in la France insoumise who wish to channel this fight against the “elites” into their Rally’s strategy to “federate the people” behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon, see in the Gilets Jaunes a social movement in which they can intervene.

Some of those “accustomed to making up their own minds” have been a lot more sceptical..

Facebook sert l’extrême droite. Et l’extrême droite pilote les Gilets jaunes depuis Facebook.

There are large numbers of leftist activists, often from the most radical parts of the left, who, like the highly regarded comrades of  patrie ni frontières who have produced their own independent – often highly critical – assessments of the Gilets Jaunes.

And of the police violence:

This Blog, which shares a common political origin in the self-management (autogestion) current, considers that these voices need hearing.

From André Y.

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Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm

The Politics of the Gilets Jaunes in France, is the Far-Right only at the Fringes?

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“Police Force. We hope that you will not touch French people in Gilets Jaunes. If you feel you need exercise you can start by going into the Estates and defend yourself against the scum of 10 to 16 years old when they spit and attack you instead of doing nothing about it.”

Today le Monde leads with the claim that the Gilets Jaunes movement is running out of steam ahead of its Saturday March on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris.

« Gilets jaunes » : la mobilisation s’essouffle au sixième jour du mouvement

Opinion is divided on the Gilets Jaunes.

The movement, protesting against a rise in the tax on transport fuel, has no formal leaders.

But there are plenty of political figures circulating around.

On the BBC site Lucy Williamson comments,

There’s lively debate here about the true nature of the protests – whether the movement is being steered by hard-right agitators, or hijacked by political interests. But for every one out blocking roads, there seem to be many French citizens supporting them at home. A survey by the polling agency Elabe found that almost three-quarters of French voters approved of the protests, and that more than half of those who voted for Mr Macron support them.

Several of the main opposition parties have publicly backed them, including the centre right Republicains, the far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Most people agree this is about much more than fuel taxes. It’s about the economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron in the face of growing frustration from low- and middle-income workers about making ends meet.

Are French riots a curse or a blessing for Macron?

Jean Luc Mélenchon is clearly enthused by the Gilets Jaunes:

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Olivier Besancenot of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) has welcomed the France wide blockages as a “social upheaval”. The unrest, he asserted, was about the cost of living, not about ecological policies.”

“On n’a pas affaire à une fronde contre un gouvernement écologique, on a une fronde sociale contre la vie chère, qui n’a pas d’hostilité contre la transition écologique”, a analysé le fondateur du NPA.

Gilets jaunes: “C’est une fronde sociale qui ne fait que commencer”, affirme Olivier Besancenot

Robert Hirsh of the bloc, Ensemble (which has 2 MPs, allied to La France insoumise) states that their comrades participated in the blockages, and that the far right had not ” décisivement” impacted on the demonstrations. Hirsh sees the future in terms of a broader “anti-austerity” movement. (Passer des gilets jaunes aux drapeaux rouges et verts…)

On the same site, of Ensemble, a group of left-wing figures claim that the self-organised Gilets Jaunes, are welcome news, a popular movement after a long series of set backs, ” Ce mouvement d’auto-organisation populaire fera date et c’est une bonne nouvelle.” (Les “gilets jaunes” sont aussi le produit d’une succession d’échecs du mouvement social.)

Others are less than happy at reports of this character, illustrating joint action between Mélenchon supporters and the factions of the far right.

Notably:  Gilets jaunes: des manifestations très à droite… LE BLOG DE LANCETRE

Mediapart.

Here are some of the aspects of the movement which have caused concern.

“Yellow vests” deliver migrants hidden in a lorry to the gendarmes

The Tanker in which the six migrants were located was stopped in cyclist, near the a16 motorway in the Somme.

 

Here is more of the political support: (RN – Rassemblement Rational is the new name for the Front National).

Les gilets jaunes ne font pas de politique…Mais accueillent Dieudonné !

We wish those attempting to turn this into a broader anti-austerity movement well.

But there are few signs that the social groups moblised by the Gilets Jaunes are likely to turn to wider social solidarity. The trade union federations have kept, an often ambiguous, distance, while expressing some support for their demands. The political problems of the British fuel protests of 2000, and following years (up to 2007) which involved right-wing groups, such as  Farmers for Action and coincided with the hard-right Countryside Alliance protests, look small in comparison. The tolerance of the far-right, and many incidents of casual bigotry,   and overt racism, indicate a fracture – reflected across Europe, including the UK  –  between this “populism in the streets” and the left.

Is the French Presidential Election Going Back to the 1930s?

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According to an opinion poll yesterday, one French person out of three supports the ideas of the Front National (Un Français sur trois en accord avec les idées du Front national). In survey after survey around 40% of workers who intend to vote back the FN. Amongst this “électorat populaire” 31% of those in council housing back the far-right, as do 30% of office employees. A majority of young people say they will vote for Marine le Pen (Here,there are many studies with roughly the same result).

With François Fillon clinging to his presidential ambitions, organising mass rallies of his remaining supporters, Le Monde has accused him of adopting a “populist” defence against all-comers, screaming about “political assassination” “lynching” and hinting at plots against him. He has talked of a “coup d’Etat des juges“.

Some are already drawing comparisons with the 1930s. The traditional political parties are discredited. As Laurent Joffrin writes in Libération, reviewing the book pictured above (“c’est le retour au terroir, aux traditions, à l’exaltation nationale qui l’emporte dans des opinions déboussolées.”) “with the loss of certainty,   it’s a return to the native soil, to tradition, to exalting the Nation…” that is carrying the day in public opinion.

It appears that there are parallels with the 1930s. Both are marked by nationalist propaganda, poverty and mass unemployment in the rich countries, doubts about values, intellectuals joining extreme parties, nostalgia for national grandeur, the simplistic slogans of populist agitators, and the phantom of a deathly spiral which is leading people to the abyss.

As Joffrin points out the comparison has its limits. France has experienced an unprecedented level of Jihadist violence. One only has to read Gilles Kepel’s La Fracture (2016) to see that  the brutal acts of Islamist terror   have reinforced  the far-right, from the Front National  to a host of linked “groupes identitaires.” But horrific as these atrocities are, from Charlie, the Hyper Cacher, Bataclan to Nice, passing by many other incidents, the degree of violence in Europe remains low. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.

Think about it.

Nevertheless some are so swept up in the mood that they are calling for a vote for Emmanuel Macron to block the route to Marine Le Pen, from the first round of the Presidential election onwards. 

While the right of the Parti Socialiste may need little encouragement to back Marcon against their own party’s candidate  Benoît Hamon (Bertrand Delanoë l’annonce de son ralliement à Emmanuel Macronthis call from a prominent figure on the radical left and President of the important territorial coordinating structure next to  Paris, Plaine Commune is more surprising:

Patrick Braouezec : « Je voterai pour Emmanuel Macron »

Braouezec bases his decision on the need to unite against the right and the extreme right. He nevertheless asks people to cast their ballots for the Parti Communiste Français and the Front de gauche – and notably not Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France Insoumise – in the 1th and 18th legislative elections.

The language used recalls the first paragraphs of this post. This alliance of  all “progressives” is the only rampart against Barbarism. “le seul rempart à la barbarie »(/ Braouezec choisit Macron)

Patrick Braouezec is a former Communist (PCF) and Mayor of the famous Communist district (a city in its own right), just next to Paris, Saint Denis, from 1991 to 2004. He was often in conflict with his party’s leadership. As one of the dissident “”refondateurs he backed the Green candidacy of José Bové against his own party’s   Marie-George Buffet  in 2007. From 2010  he has been a supporter of the Front de Gauche (FG) initially as a member of the network,  Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique.

Described in the past, by the unimpressed on his own side, as “incontrôlable” Braouezec is still well-regarded enough to maintain, as noted, an important elected position.

This is one possible result of the Pro-Macron moves:

Harris Interactive poll shows Macron one percentage point ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round.

Update: Socialist Party activists call for elected members of the party who back Macron to give up their membership.

Another issue is the predicted record abstention:

French Regional Elections: Socialists on Course, but Massive Abstentions.

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With a total of 50% (29% for the Socialist Party) the left won a historic score.  The elections were marked by record abstentions ( 54% ) This was nevertheless a slap in the face for Sarkozy’s Party, the UMP, (which he openly campaigned for – violating Presidential neutrality). They were down (with their allies) to  26,18%.
 
The election results will not alter the existing leadership of Regional Councils, which are all under Socialist control, except for Alsace and Corsica. In the latter the right may lose. Only the situation in Languedoc, where the Frêche list (organised by a loud-mouthed ex-Socialist  populist) came out ahead of all left lists. The Parti Socialiste is calling for a vote for him to stop the UMP gaining power.
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Europe Ecologie, an alliance of the Verts and Green ‘notables’ from all sides, got, 12,46% – a reduction on the European election result., 16,2% They will be a position to negotiate positions of strength inside new regional council. Their politics on ecological issues, are not expected to cause difficulties, though the self-importance of some of their candidates may be more of a problem.
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To general surprise the far-right Front National did well. They has a high vote in the Nord de Calais (Le Pen’s daughter Marine – now coming Party leader)  and 20% in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur where Le Pen stood. In many places they will be able to stand again in the next round – thus undercutting the traditional right, and effectively helping the Socialists retain power. The FN ascribes its success to the debate on French ‘identity’ – where their xenophobic message has seemed to be part of the mainstream.  

The Front de Gauche got over the limit of  5% – up to 6% . The Nouveau Parti Anti-capitalist (NPA) got around 2,5% (it is not clear whether this figure includes the minority of regions where they were allied with the Front de Gauche or not). This defeat (they had hoped for 5%) was expected. Commentators account for it, partly from their perceived sectarian stand, and partly from their failure to stand up for secular principles on the issue of the Veil.

All of these left forces call for a vote ‘against’ the right. But only the Front de Gauche will actively negotiate with the Socialists and campaign for their victory.

The  Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem), the ‘centrist’ opposition to Sarkozy declined to 4,35%.
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High abstentionism is said to be due to the feeling that regional councils are not relevant to everyday  life, and to the failure of any party to convince people that they will make a difference.

 

(From here) Perceptive analysis, Rue 89 here.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm