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Zeev Sternhell (1935 – 2020): Historian of Fascism and Pioneer of ‘Red Brown’ Studies.

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La Droite Révolutionnaire - 1885-1914, Les Origines Françaises Du ...

General Boulanger and the original Red-Brown Front.

In Memory of a Great Voice, Zeev Sternhell, 10 April 1935 – 21 June 2020.

France 24,

Israeli historian and political scientist Zeev Sternhell, a peace activist and one of the leading thinkers of the country’s left, has died aged 85, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said Sunday.

Polish-born Sternhell, head of the university’s political science department, was an outspoken champion of Palestinian rights who strongly criticised Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hebrew University president Asher Cohen hailed Sternhell, a professor emeritus there who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for political science in 2008, as “among the most important researchers” to emerge from the institution.

“His innovative political science research, which was translated into many languages, brought a deep change in the academic perception of ideological movements, specifically radical movements,” Cohen said.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab-led Joint List in Israel’s parliament, wrote that “during his childhood in Poland, Sternhell experienced the terrible results of fascism, and throughout his life had the courage and strength to research and fight it.

“For decades he was a significant voice for Palestinian human rights and against the occupation in the territories.”

The article continues,

His academic work also delved into the “French roots of fascism” and stirred lively debate and controversy, according to former student Denis Charbit, now a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.

Sternhell was a “very demanding” professor, but also one “attentive” to his best students, Charbit told AFP.

In addition to academic writing and books, he regularly published opinion pieces in Israeli newspapers, most notably Haaretz, many of which were critical of settlers.

On one occasion Sternhell called the settlement movement a “cancer” in Israeli society, and in another instance said a settlement should be attacked with tanks

Sternhell continued his political combat,

After receiving the Israel Prize in 2008, he was wounded the same year by a bomb planted outside his house by a right-wing extremist.

Sternhell himself said the attack was testimony to the “fragility” of Israeli democracy.

In an interview with Haaretz later that year, he warned of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the condition of Israel “not respecting the national rights of others”.

In a 2014 interview with Haaretz, during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Sternhell warned that the Jewish state’s democracy was “facing collapse”.

“The Israeli democracy is eroding, and the signs (of emerging fascism) exist,” he said.Tamar Zandberg, of left-wing party Meretz, said Sternhell’s lasting legacy would be his work towards “a strong and not occupying Israeli democracy”.

Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel offered his condolences to the Sternhell family, noting that while he didn’t share many of Sternhell’s opinions, “prominent intellectuals like him, from right and left, are the foundation to our existence as the people of the book”.]

According to Haaretz, Sternhell died as a result of complications following surgery.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and several grandchildren

Zeev Sternhell was at the centre of not just of Israeli political debate, but amongst the left and anti-fascists, in Europe, above all in France. Awarded a Ph.D. in 1969 from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris,  for his thesis on The Social and Political Ideas of Maurice Barrès, a key figure in the culture and ideology of the nationalist right, he had a great influence had, far wider than academic circles and far beyond the hexagone.

I first came across his books during the mid-1980s in the Bibliothèque municipale  Place Jules Joffrin, 75018 Paris in  The study,  Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, 1983; transl. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, has an enduring impact. This was reached many people on the left, as has been testified on hearing of his passing.

Sternehell’s work has found new audiences with the rise of national populism, and the creation of ‘neither right nor left’ red-brown fronts across Europe, from the pro-Brexit alliances in the UK to the defection of many parts of the sovereigntist left in many countries to the nationalist ‘anti-metropolitan elite” right. His account of the literary and polemical figure of the nationalist Maurice Barrès and his appeal to La terre et les Morts (Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. 1972), the homeland heritage and the living memory of the dead, evokes ideas one can find amongst defenders of the ‘somewhere’ folk who criticise the ‘anywhere’ people.  

In La Droite Révolutionnaire, (First Edition, 1978) Sternhell proposed that late 19th century and pre-Great War France was the cradle of fascist ideology. France was, in Sternhell’s eyes, an ideal field for studying pre-fascism, and, full blown, “neither left nor right” fascist thought. His focus began on General Boulanger’s 1886 campaign, an anti-parliamentarian movement which, following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870 1871)  of  demanded ‘revenge’ against Germany, – the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France – and a clear out of the ‘cabals’ in the name of the People. His campaign was backed by Monarchists, Bonapartists, Maurice Barrès, some republicans and revolutionaries from the Blanquist tradition, and nationalists.

A part of the early French socialist movement  saw in the movement a protest against (as Sternhell put it) ” les grands seigneurs de la finance.” Some saw in Boulangism a patriotic reaction against Parliamentary and social elites,  that they could turn towards the left. Anti-Jewish sentiment, organised anti-semitism, appeared, leading to the creation of the Ligue antisémitique de France in 1889. Others from the socialist movement considered that the left should stand firm behind republican democracy and reject Boulanger: Le Bilan Boulanger. 1888 (M. Lissagaray)

In Ni droite ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (First Edition, 1983), Sternhell  turned to the 20th century.  In the years preceding the Second World War these movements drew together calls to “workers of all classes” against banking “hyper” capitalism, drew on the romance of the nation, and opposition to the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the elites of the Third Republic. This, he argued,  indicated that fascism originated and continued to operate as a synthesis of socialist ideas and nationalism.

The book surveyed anti-parliamentarian nationalism (the ‘ligues’), “planiste” sections of French social democracy (Marcel Déat), the Monarchist and anti-Semite Action française, the mass parties of the later 1930s, the Parti Social français (PSF), the Parti Populaire français (PPF) of the renegade Communist Jacques Doriot, and a mixed bag of admirers of National Socialism and Mussolini. 

Last year Sternhell edited and contributed to an important study of pre-war French far right movements, L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. 2019.

In 2006 Sternhell published a study of anti-Enlightenment thought, Les anti-Lumières: Une tradition du XVIIIᵉ siècle à la guerre froide. Edmund Burke and Thomas Caryle took their place alongside Herder and Charles Maurras as those defend the “moral capital” of tradition against what Frank Feurdi, from the Red-Brown sie Spiked calls “the counter-culture establishment”. (The birth of the culture wars.  This century-long conflict is born of the Western elites’ loss of cultural and moral authority. Spiked 19.6.20).

Sternhell, by contrast, defended neither cultural nor moral authority nor tradition.

His work was offers us landmark historical studies and a brilliant exercise of the “critical tradition” of the Enlightenment.

As he wrote, “Aucun ordre établi  n’est légitime du seul fait qu’il existe. La justice et le bonheur sont des objectifs valables et légitimes…l’homme est capable d’aller en avant, a condition qu’il fasse appeal a la raison.” (Les anti-Lumières: Page 796).

“No established order is legitimate by the mere fact that it exists. Justice and happiness  valid and legitimate objectives …humanity  is able to progress, on condition that we use our capacity to reason.

Let that be Sternhell’s epitaph.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2020 at 11:22 am

Blue Labour Resurfaces in Pétainist Controversy.

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Image may contain: text that says "SBL @BlueYoungLabour Young Blue Labour In our bio we previously referred to Blue Labour's tenets as "Work, Family and Tradition" We were told that this is actually the slogan of Vichy France. We have updated it to the real Blue Labour slogan of "Work, Family and Community". Apologies for any offence caused. 4:08 PM Jun 16, 2020 Twitter for iPhone"

Not “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” but “Work, Family and Community”.

Blue Labour is a pillar of the alliance between supporters of the Brexit Party (Spiked/ex-Living Marxism), the Aaron Bank funded Trade Unionists Against the EU,the Communist Party of Britain, and sundry ‘sovereigntist’ anti-EU types, from red Tories to leading New Left Review contributor Wolfgang Streeck, the Somewhere, as opposed to the Anywhere People.

Its leading thinker, Maurice Glasman, a noble member of the House of Lords, has not been idle in the present crisis.

In the promiscuous forum of Web events the Baron of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill,  has found time to discuss the weighty issues of the age in the comfortable companionship of old friends from the Spiked Network.

After this pleasant evening, displaying his preternatural intellectual endowments, the Brexit campaigner has enjoyed reflecting on the wisdom of the illimitable pretensions of  Catholic social doctrine.

It is Catholic social thought that has guided me through the 2008 crash, Brexit and now the coronavirus. It has been my inspiration and I will be eternally grateful to Catholics and the Church. It was a very generous gift. In the darkest moments, it lights the way.

Lord Glasman: How Catholic Social Teaching rescued me from an academic crisis

This deft piece in the Catholic Herald  could serve as a springboard for further popular instruction, from the 2008 crisis, pandemics, the glory that is Brexit, to the Universal Church’s centuries-long striving for equitable social institutions.

Alas, efforts to corral the rock of St Peter on the side of society’s efforts to “defend itself” may well have hit a snag.

Yesterday this lot hit the leftist headlines, the result of their own reference to another Catholic social thinker,  Philippe Pétain.

The Vichy regime and its leader enjoyed great support from the Church hierarchy and many believers, (see on this, “Vichy : un régime clérical.” More than half of young people between the ages of 14 to 21 belonged to pro-Vichy youth movements” Les mouvements de jeunesse catholique connaissent un véritable essor sous Vichy, entre 1940 et 1944 près de la moitié des jeunes âgés de 14 à 21 ans, appartenait à un de ces mouvements.”)

Vichy was permeated with “corporatist” ideology. Corporatism opposed class struggle Marxism, finance (‘globalism’), and promoted revived national and community values. Nobody would contest that the Vichy ‘National revolution’ had many other sources and policies, but this attempt to run the economy and society, however much a mask for German rule, was not a simple smoke-screen.

People can be excused for thinking that claims to balance ‘rights’ and duties’, to devise an alternative to Marxism and liberalism, “« le marxisme n’est qu’un aspect prolongé des doctrines libérales »” was not too far off Blue Labour’s ideas of “mutuality and solidarity”.  (Un laboratoire de la doctrine corporatiste sous le régime de Vichy : l’Institut d’études corporatives et sociales Steven L. Kaplan)

It is well known that Vichy was the first regime to establish the 1st of May as a bank holiday in France.

Le , le maréchal Pétain instaure officiellement par la loi Belin le 1er mai comme « la fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale »23, appliquant ainsi la devise Travail, Famille, Patrie : par son refus à la fois du capitalisme et du socialisme

These aspects of history should not make us forget the courage of those Catholics who resisted Pétain and Vichy, some of the best human beings in French history.

It is to register that “Catholic social doctrine” is not a block of granite resting on the side of progressive causes.

Look at Hilaire Belloc, one of the best known social thinkers, amongst his many accomplishments.

The British-French essayist became a corporatist of sorts.

This is his best known  account of the origins unrestrained capitalism,

The Servile State (1912)

The Immemorial past of Europe is a Servile past. During some centuries which the Church raised, permeated, and constructed, Europe was gradually re- leased or divorced from this immemorial and fundamental conception of slavery ; to that conception, to that institution, our Industrial or Capitalist society is now upon its return. We are re-establishing the slave.

In his efforts to find a corporatist solution to this servitude Belloc equally didn’t exactly stand firm against fascism and antisemitism…

Today it would not be surprising to see forms of national populism trying to modify the hard-line free-market thrust of their ‘national neo-liberalism’ with corportaist suggestions about bringing people together through social justice  in national communities.

You could say that Blue Labour, backers of a Brexit and enablers of the Johnson-Cummings project, form part of that wing of national populism.

After the initial tweet by Young Blue Labour a  – less complicated – history lesson followed:

Then,

The Scooby Gang running Blue Labour  – ‘gotten’ followed this by another American contribution- Howdy Pardners!

 

But “skepiticism” did not last

For some of us this reference to Dempsey is up there with the Vichy stuff…

 

Far-Right Fringe Protests: Will the Culture War Still Take Place?

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Image

 

Evan Smith (see, Toppled statues and the free speech culture war) asks:

 

Yesterday’s clashes in London centred on the antics of a few thousand far-right piss-heads.

London protests: More than 100 arrests after violent clashes with police

They behaved true to type.

For those reading this Blog who are not familiar with the name Keith Palmer, the man was a true hero in every sense of the word.

Keith PalmerGM (1968 or 1969 – 22 March 2017) was a British police officer who was posthumously awarded the George Medal, the second highest award for gallantry “not in the face of the enemy“. Though unarmed, he stopped a knife-wielding terrorist from entering the Palace of Westminster during the 2017 Westminster attack; he died from wounds he received in this attack

The BBC states,

MP Tobias Ellwood, who gave first aid to PC Palmer as he lay dying after being stabbed in the grounds of Parliament by Khalid Masood in 2017, said the image of the man urinating next to the memorial was “abhorrent”.

He told the BBC: “He was fully aware of what he was doing, he should step forward and apologise.”

For many people, beginning with leading figures involved in the Black Lives protests, and extending to the left and  independent anti-fascists, it was not a good idea to engage in confrontations with the far right rabble.

PM Boris Johnson had been inciting opinion against BLM protests and the left.

It seems as if the Tories are more than willing to engage in a US style “culture war” – at a time when a massive recession looms .

The Guardian headlined on its front page yesterday, “Boris Johnson ‘stoking fear and division’ ahead of BLM protests

Critics say PM’s claim that George Floyd protests ‘hijacked by extremists’ is dangerous”.

In the same daily, Johnathan Freedland offered an account of how these cultural clashes work in the very different political culture of the US, and how they might develop in the UK,

The right loves a culture war, because such a battle changes the subject – almost always shifting from ground on which they would lose to ground on which they can win.

Let’s imagine the initial focus had remained instead on a demand to tackle discrimination in policing and criminal justice, expanding to include the higher death rates from Covid-19 among black Britons. Johnson and others in power would now be on the defensive, forced to promise action.

But once the focus shifted, they could exhale with relief. Not only is a debate about statues or faulty TV shows a handy distraction from the specific injustices at the heart of all this, it also splits the coalition, even the consensus, that had, remarkably, formed in revulsion at Floyd’s killing. Once statues of Gandhi and Mandela are also boarded up for their own protection, as they now are, it means precious unity has been lost.

Boris Johnson’s polarising statue tweets are pure Trump

In France the Comité Adama has taken up issues of discrimination in policing and the legal system, focusing on justice against the police (Death of Adama Traoré) See also, yesterday: Comment le comité Adama est devenu le fer de lance de la lutte contre les violences policières. BFMTV.

ITN carries the story:

Assa Traoré wears a t-shirt which says “Justice for Adama, without justice you will never have peace.”

She knows the price of peace – Adama is her brother.

He died four years ago detained by French police after running away from them because he wasn’t carrying his identity documents.

She has been campaigning ever since.

All these years on, the officers involved in his detention have just been cleared of any involvement in Adama’s death.

That decision has triggered protests across France and led to her brother being dubbed the ‘French George Floyd’.

Yesterday they also demonstrated.

Not without difficulties, as this self-policing against would-be ‘casseurs’ (those who attack and smash after marches)  illustrates.

Far right ‘identitaries’ tried to disrupt the protest.

 

David Lammy has taken up one of the issues  Feedland highlights:

Lammy takes an approach to the statue issues which many will agree with:

After the scuffling and fighting it is unlikely that anybody is going to want to side with yesterday’s would-be defenders of Churchill.

Yet there are those who not only wish to fight the culture wars but to oppose the far-right (on this issue) in the streets,

Weyman Bennett, co convenor Stand Up To Racism said

“It is right to take a presence on the streets – we should not let the fascists go unopposed. For the past two decades we have been told when Nazis march ‘ignore them and they will go away’. This simply is not true.

“Without the encouragement of Boris Johnson pretending that the issue of Bkack Lives Matter is reduced down to statues. He has not engaged on the key point about racism and its systemic nature in this society.

“Johnson’s callous disregard for black people’s lives in the current Coronavirus crisis and also for the mistreatment by the police and the court system, is an other attempt to reinforce racism and we must reject reject this and demand justice. No justice no peace”.

Weymann Beynett is a leading member of the SWP.

Here is his plea during the EU referendum, when the SWP and the ‘Lexit’ left stood on the side of the hard-right and backed the Johnson, Cummings and Farage Brexit project and opposed internationalists.

SocialistWorker

Stand up to Racism: Keep racism out of the EU Referendum – Weyman Bennett

His party paper reports today:

 

Around 5,000 Nazis and racists gathered in Parliament Square, central London, on Saturday. Hundreds of the thugs tried to carry out a violent attack on Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters.

It’s a warning of how the British far right is hoping to initiate a right wing backlash against the BLM movement.

But they can be humbled. That was underlined late in the day on Saturday when several thousand people who had seen the pictures of the far right answered calls from musician Megaman and others to come to central London to oppose them.

Up to 300 supporters of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) joined a counter-protest in Hyde Park where they faced abuse and intimidation from the far right.

..

The fascists’ 5,000 was small compared to the 50,000 that came out last Saturday and the monster march last Sunday.

BLM organisers had planned another central London demonstration for this Saturday. But called it off out of fears of clashes with the far right and coronavirus concerns.

The far right may feel confident after their protest. But seeing tens of thousands of people—black, white, overwhelmingly young, and militant—on the streets is the best way to demoralise them and make sure they cannot regroup.

There are others who take an even more forthright position.

These responses do not look like calls for unity:

And there is this:

The Malcolm X Movement has a web site.

Its last pubic event was in 2017.

Here is one in 2016,

The Malcolm X Movement proudly hosts the premier of a hard-hitting, informative and inspiring look at African and Libyan popular anti-imperialist resistance entitled Nato War on Libya (53mins). We are also hosting at the same event a book launch of a collection of writings about the martyrdom of Muammar Gaddafi entitled On the Martyrdom of Muammar Gaddafi: 21st Century Fascism and Resistance. One of our MXM coordinators – Sukant Chandan is the editor of the book and the filmmaker of the doc.
The event takes place this Sat 29th Oct at 6pm at Marx Memorial Library,  EC1R 0DU (£5 suggested entry). The Libyan community are kindly and generously providing free Libyan snacks and refreshments at this event.