Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘France

Tariq Ali tells Porkies about the French Left (Parti de Gauche, Mélenchon) and the stand on Greece.

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Tariq Ali : Plenty of Books, Should Brush up his French.

The crisis faced by Greece is extremely serious.

The international left, and in particular the European Left, has expressed solidarity with the Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza-led government.

We expect that there will be criticism from the fringes against their strategy.

We support, absolutely,  the British Greece Solidarity Campaign.

But there is one person, the ageing sage of Highgate, and Norfolk Lord of the Manor, who cannot resist the opportunity to use the drama facing Greece to pursue his personal vendettas.

In this case against Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the French Parti de gauche and a staunch secularist (the latter playing a big part in Ali’s reaction).

Reading yesterday’s Le Monde in an Athens cafe I saw two long articles. Habermas denouncing Syriza for being nationalist and defending the EU and praising MarioDraghi, etc. A long interview with Melenchon arguing against Syriza defaulting because it would hurt FRENCH banks. I had heard that Melenchon was in a state of degeneration but hadn’t realised that the political cancer had affected his brain. The sooner this imbecile is replaced by his group, the better.

Greek Diaries. Counterpunch.

Now there are many reasons to be criticise Mélenchon (if Ali is going to pose as an expert in French politics the accent would seem obligatorily) .

This range from his personal behaviour which is not always very amiable, though personally I find his use of the word ‘connard’ often merited. to his vaunting as a model the alliance between his party, citizens’ groups  and the Greens (EELV) in Grenoble (which has just privatised the town’s street lighting). There is also his belief that the French left needs a form of populist left not dissimilar to Podemos. This, he indicates,  should be led by a bold-thinking leader, whose identity I am sure everyone can guess.

Recently another reason to be wary of the former French Presidential candidate (2012, 11.05%), a bit more than Ali’s  (0,9%) in Southall in 1979,  Mélenchon has been strongly criticised for his pamphlet, le Hareng de Bismark, which attacks the German “poison” (an oh-so-funny pun on “poisson”, fish) infecting European politics (see: Quand le pamphlet anti-allemand de Mélenchon agace.

But to our knowledge Mélenchon has always expressed absolute support for Syriza.

As indeed he did in the Le Monde article Ali half-read, where he laid the blame for the present Greek predicament on…….Germany.

La responsabilité intégrale du danger repose sur Merkel et Schäuble [la chancelière et le ministre des finances allemands], qui ont parié sur la tension et l’inertie de Hollande.

The complete responsibility for the danger (facing Greece TC) lies with Merkel and Schäuble (German Minister of Finaces), who have relied on the tensions facing Hollande (French President) and his inertia.

He indicated, simply,  that France would also suffer from the results of forcing Greece into a corner, and into destitution.

Al in other words, confused the observation that that this would have a bad effect on French banks, with an argument that this was the reason why Mélenchon was worried about a  Greek default.

Or maybe the French was simply too much for the Counterpunch puffer to grasp.

Yesterday Mélenchon issued an argument appeal for France to support the Greek government: Mélenchon à Hollande sur la Grèce: “Tu ne peux pas laisser faire ça.

So, if there is anybody who has “degenerated” it is “Tariq – “Charlie Hebdo had it coming to them” – Ali.

Though – to pursue our own long-standing feud  – his politics have been falling apart for some time now:  Punish the warmongers: vote Lib Dem Tariq Ali. (2007 Red Pepper).

 

Solidarity with our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers and all Democrats Fighting the Islamic State/ISIS!

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Kurds to Come Out onto the Streets for Kobanê Once Again

Solidarity with our Sisters and Brothers Fighting the Islamist Murderers .

Latest attacks:

Tunisia.

1530 Ministry of Health confirms 28 dead and 39 injured. Nationalities involved are French, German, Russian, Belgian and British.

1513 British, German and Belgian tourists are among the dead according to agency reports

1443 Among those transferred to hospital are British and Germans

1434 Second gunman captured by police

1415 Retired General Mokhtar Ben Nasser said: “This type of terrorist attack was expected and is intended to the tourist industry. Beji Caid Essebsi and Habib Essid to visit Sousse.

1400 Six Nationalities among dead according to Ministry of Interior.

Gunmen have attacked two tourist hotels in the Tunisian town of Sousse.

Reports claim that a man entered the hotel armed with a kalashnikov rifle and opened fire on tourists shortly before lunchtime.

Meanwhile another gunman opened fire at holidaymakers in another hotel adjacent to the shoreline resort.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Mohamed Ali Alaroui confirmed that at least 27 people have killed.

At least one gunman has been killed, according to security sources cited by the Reuters news agency.

The other gunman has since been apprehended and is being held in police custody.

Tunisia Live.

France.

France has begun a terror investigation after a decapitated body was found at the scene of a suspected Islamist attack on a US-owned gas factory near the south-eastern city of Lyon.

One arrested man suspected to have rammed a car into the factory had been investigated over possible ties to Islamist radicals, officials said.President Francois Hollande said the aim was to blow up the factory

Officials say the decapitated person was a local businessman.

His head was found on a post at the gates to the Air Products gas factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, some 40km (25 miles) from Lyon.

Mr Hollande said the decapitated body had “inscriptions” on it. The French interior minister said: “A flag with Arabic writing on it was found at the scene”.

BBC

Syri,  Kobani:

Fighters with the Islamic State, or ISIS, are holding at least 50 hostages inside a besieged hospital in the Syrian city of Kobani in the aftermath of Thursday’s attack on the Kurdish city, a Rudaw reporter inside the city has said.  Rudaw

According to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and journalists on the ground, the death toll in Kobanê has reached 146.

The massacre carried out by ISIS gangs on Kobanê has left 146 mostly civilians, women and children, dead according to SOHR. 120 people injured in the suicide attacks in the town centre of Kobanê have died in hospital. 72 civilians were massacred in the Halnaj area of while the others were from the Maqtala neighbourhood. Of the 200 wounded some are still in critical condition and it is feared the death toll could rise.

The number of people who were executed in the village of Berx Botan located near the town of Serrin south of Kobanê has risen to 26, including children and women, while others were wounded too, some of them in critical situation.

This is the second-largest massacre perpetrated by ISIS gangs since the declaration of its alleged ‘caliphate’.

Kurdish Question.

Response:

26 June 2015

KQ News Desk

Kurds and their friends around the world are coming out onto the streets to condemn the attacks by ISIS gangs on innocent civilians in Kobanê. The multiple attacks on 25 June have already claimed the lives of 146 people, mostly women and children and wounded over 200.

There have already been demonstrations in Copenhagen, Paris and Saarbrucken. Demonstrations in other major European cities are being planned after the Democratic Kurdish Society Congress of Europe made a declaration calling people to come out onto the streets to condemn, uncover and take a stand against ISIS and the powers behind them.

Many of the demonstrations are targeted at the Turkish state for its support of the ISIS gangs. Many sources are claiming that the ISIS gangs who perpetrated the massacre crossed over from the Turkey border into Rojava (Northern Syria) and were allowed passage by the Turkish state.

Children executed in their homes by ISIS gangs in Berx Botan village

Our Sisters and Brothers Massacred by the Islamic State/ISIS.

Kurdish Question News Desk

According to reports from journalists in Kobane the multiple and co-ordinated attacks by ISIS gangs who crossed into the city from the Turkey border has left 42 people dead and 55 wounded.

22 civilians were massacred in the city centre and 55 were wounded while over 20 people were executed in their homes in the village of Berx Botan 30km to the south of Kobanê. There is no information about the 5 families kidnapped by the gangs to use as human shields.

The operation carried out against the attackers by by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Asayish (security) forces is ongoing. 11 gang members were killed in the Azadi square in the centre of Kobanê.

Claims that the ISIS gangs crossed over from Jarablus rather than the Turkey border have been refuted by the Kobanê Canton administration. There is no crossing from Jarablus into Kobanê because the bridge that connected the two areas was blown up by ISIS gangs recently.

A second attack was carried out later in the morning (5.15am) at Turkey’s Mursitpinar border gate to Kobane and a truck was blown up.

 

A demonstration is being held in London at 13.00 in front of the Turkish Embassy on Friday 26 June. 

French Demonstration: Massacres commis par Daesh à Kobanê, avec le soutien de la Turquie. Friday 26 June 18h, Place de la République

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Hello Twitter! Jack is back!

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Ripping Good Fun from Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The UK’s reputation as the leading Clown Country – the home of stars like  Asghar Bukhari  (Zionists ate my shoe) and George Galloway (Mia-ow!)  -faces stiff competition from Dominique Strauss-Kahn today.

France 24 reports,

Disgraced former IMF boss and one-time French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn made a bizarre public debut Sunday on Twitter, the go-to social network for politicians, pop stars and journalists.

“Hello Twitter! Jack is back,” the once hugely popular Socialist politician declared on his (verified) Twitter account.

His inaugural post has since been retweeted 2,400 times (1) and he has already garnered 20,000 followers since creating his account.

Known by his initials DSK in France, Strauss-Kahn was seen as France’s best shot for president in the 2012 election, won by fellow Socialist François Hollande.

But his bid for the presidency was scuppered in May 2011 when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault, an incident that destroyed his political ambitions and forced him to step down as head of the IMF.

His alleged victim Nafissatou Diallo dropped charges in the civil case against DSK when he settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. But his legal woes and the damage to his reputation didn’t end there.

In July 2011 journalist Tristane Banon filed a legal complaint against DSK, claiming he had attempted to rape her, but French prosecutors later dropped the charges for lack of evidence.

DSK was also hauled through the courts on charges of “aggravated pimping” in the so-called “Carlton Affair” trial, during which his lurid sexual proclivities – including Viagra-fuelled group sex romps – were enthusiastically reported.

Strauss-Kahn admitted taking part in orgies, but denied knowing that the participants were paid prostitutes and was cleared on June 12 of any criminal wrongdoing.

If “Jack is back”, the French are certainly paying attention.

The Independent signals,

One anonymous contributor to the Le Monde website pointed out that “jack” had a particular meaning in the Urban Dictionary, an on-line compilation of streetwise slang. “ JACK=Highly Attractive and Sexually Intriguing Individual. An Ultimate Sex God.”

Here is what was said, (le Monde )

Urban Dictionary: JACK=Highly Attractive and Sexually Intriguing Individual. An “Ultimate Sex God” …C’est tout à fait ça! :D … J’invite mes amis lecteurs à se familiariser avec le slang. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Jack (definition “4”) La 6 est pas mal non plus…

sur Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrive sur Twitter 18

My bet is that DSK would also like this definition of Jack (Urban Dictionary).

The hottest most sexiest guy on the planet. a real comedian, but sometimes doesn’t stop talking. has the hottest eyes, hair, and body. a swimmer.
I love jack!
Though perhaps not this (in the plural):
Toilet in Ireland. Usually the gent’s toilet. Usually covered in piss maybe with a shite in the urinal. Accompanied by humorous and often informative graffiti.

L’Express  airs other  theories,

It’s a reference to a restaurant in the town of  Ocre, le Jack is back.

Or,

It’s a reference to the film L.A. Confidential,  in which  Kevin Spacey,  as Jack Vincennes, ‘comes back’ to fight again.

Or,

It alludes to Jack Torrance de Shiningan in “”All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

Other theories include Jack Sparrow (Johnny Deep, Pirates of the Caribbean), Jack the Ripper…..and so it goes.

(1) At present (15.52) it’s 3,800 retweets and 32.900 followers.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Femen Protests Against Marine Le Pen.

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Des militantes Femen interrompent le discours de Marine Le Pen en déployant des drapeaux et en faisant le salut nazi, le 1er mai à Paris.

Femen Protest Disrupt French Far-Right May Day Rally.

Femen crashes Marine Le Pen’s May Day Front National speech. (Deutsche Welle)

Three Femen activists have disrupted Marine Le Pen’s planned May Day speech in Paris, with slogans like “Heil Le Pen” and “Stop Fascism” painted on their bare chests. Le Pen’s father played an uninvited cameo role too.

A Marine Le Pen speech designed as an attack on her political rivals in France was hijacked both by feminist activists and by Le Pen’s 86-year-old father on Friday.

Three Femen members, topless with slogans criticizing Le Pen’s Front National (FN) party on their chests and backs, gained access to the balcony from which the FN leader was speaking. They unfurled two large banners reading “Heil Le Pen” and stood side-by-side carrying out a Nazi salute.

Reports indicate that the Femen activists were initially removed by the staff of the Hotel where they had begun their protest and then violently assaulted by the Front National’s ‘Service d’ordre’ (Libération)

Selon l’avocat des Femen, interrogé par France TV Info, les activistes vont porter plainte contre X pour «violences, violation de domicile et arrestation arbitraire». De son côté, le FN a promis une plainte contre les Femen pour  «violences volontaires» et «atteintes à a liberté de manifeste».

According to the lawyer of Femen, speaking to France TV Info, the activists will begin legal proceedings against ‘X’ for “violence, violation of their home (that is, having paid for the Hotel room), and arbitrary arrest. For their part the Front National has also made a legal complaint against the Femen protesters for ‘deliberate violence’ and ‘ damage to the freedom to demonstrate’.

Journalists were also caught up in the mêlée.

Some have accused the Front National of manhandling and punching them.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

Top New Statesman Writer, Francois-Cerrah, Spits on Charb and the Charlie Martyrs’ Graves.

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Charb: Took Advantage of Own Death to Make Money, Says New Statesman Writer.

M Francois-Cerrah

Myriam Francois-Cerrah

New Statesman writer; FL journo; Oxford PhD researcher; France, MENA, postcoloniality. Views=own. http://journalisted.com/myriam-francois-cerrah

 

 

These are some extracts (adapted)  from the book she is referring to:

“Racism and not of Islamophobia“The term ‘Islamophobia’ is badly chosen to designate the hatred that some cretins have of Muslims. It is not only badly chosen but it is also also  dangerous.”Charb wrote:”Communitarian activists try to impose on the judicial and political authorities the notion of ‘Islamophobia’. This has no other purpose than to push the victims of racism to assert that they are Muslims (…) If tomorrow all French Muslims converted to Catholicism or abandoned their religion, this would not change the main racist discourse: that foreigners or those who are French but of foreign origin are and will be always be held responsible for every kind of fault. “

“The Qu’ran or the Bible does not read like Ikea assembly instructions”

If he criticised the term “Islamophobia” Charb recognised that there is indeed a fear of Islam. But if this worry is “absurd”, it “is not a crime,” he said.

“The problem is not the Koran or the Bible, which are sleep-inducing, incoherent and poorly written novels. The problem comes from a believer who reads the Qur’an or the Bible as if they were the instructions of an Ikea shelf-kit.”

The author also believed that racist speech was unclenched under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy and his ‘debate’ on national identity:

“When the highest  authority in the State said (in effect) to every moron and fool, “say what you want, you lot’, what do you think these morons and fool will do? They began to say out loud what they had been content to yell at the end of every, well-oiled, family meal. “

 Francois-Cerrah has a very different book on the “soporific” romance of the Qur’an.

“The Qur’an was pivotal for me. I first tried to approach it in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind. The opening of Al-Fatiha, with its address to the whole of mankind, psychologically stopped me in my tracks. It spoke of previous scriptures in a way which I both recognised, but also differed. It clarified many of the doubts I had about Christianity. It made me an adult as I suddenly realised that my destiny and my actions had consequences for which I alone would now be held responsible. In a world governed by relativism, it outlined objective moral truths and the foundation of morality. As someone who’d always had a keen interest in philosophy, the Qur’an felt like the culmination of all of this philosophical cogitation. It combined Kant, Hume, Sartre and Aristotle. It somehow managed to address and answer the deep philosophical questions posed over centuries of human existence and answer its most fundamental one, ‘why are we here?'”

We knew that she is one of the brigade of vultures who said of flocked around the attack on Charlie.

As she wrote in the New Statesman on January the 9th.

….they mocked the sacred symbols of many groups, but those of Muslims on a particularly frequent basis and in a distinctly racialised tone.

Not that this should ever warrant a violent response, but the eulogising of the magazine for some sort of mastery of European satirical tradition is a white wash of its chequered history as well as a capitulation to a simplistic narrative of “you’re either with the racist satirists or you’re with the terrorists”.

In weasel words she continued,

We must ensure slogans of solidarity become more than just narrow and questionable support for the targeted publication and instead provide resistance to all those voices which seek to divide France, to entrench camps and harden the already worrying divides.

Poor old Francois-Cerrah…..

Just couldn’t resist another dig at the corpses of our martyrs.

More on Charb’s much more interesting book:

A book written by the late editor of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier – known as Charb – is set to be published posthumously.

The book, which upholds the right to ridicule religion, was finished two days before Charb was killed by Islamic militants in January, publishers say.

It argues that the fight against racism is being replaced by a misguided struggle against “Islamophobia”.

Charb and 11 others were killed during a Charlie Hebdo editorial meeting.

The attack on the Paris offices of the newspaper was carried out by two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who were later shot dead by police.

Charb had received numerous death threats following Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2012.

Charb’s book – which goes on sale on Thursday – is entitled An Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play into Racists’ Hands.

It is both a defence of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial stance and an attack on the paper’s detractors.

“The suggestion that you can laugh at everything, except certain aspects of Islam, because Muslims are much more prickly that the rest of the population – what is that, if not discrimination?”

He condemns this position as “white, left-wing bourgeois intellectual paternalism”.

BBC.

There is also this, just out, on the book which was being written before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Casher supermarket:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Front National Goes UKIP as Mad, Racist and Nazi Candidates Flourish.

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La une de «Charlie Hebdo» du 4 mars.

Latest Charlie Hebdo: The Front National is no Longer Scarey. 

“We’ve been thoroughly un-diabolised!”

But……..

A nauseating anthology of Front National Local Government Candidates’ comments on social networks.

It seems that Britain’s UKIP is not alone.

French Front National candidates for the forthcoming French Departmental (regional) elections (22nd 29th March) have been  offering mad, racist and far-right opinions which often even outdo the British party.

L’Humanité.

These have an international echo,

French amateur singer affiliated with the far-right National Front party said his musical career is being blocked by Jews because he is not part of their clique. Here.

The remarks cited above go further, talking about the size of people’s noses (geddit?), praising Charles Martel ll (a sure sign of the ‘defence’ of the ‘Occident’), calling for Socialists, Communists and Muslims to commit suicide, and for a hunt against Arabs, not to mention a hatred of gays.

So far only those with overt Neo-Nazi and Fascist  views have been excluded from the Party.

That is, “Guillaume Jambard, en Gironde (« Travail, famille, patrie »), Alexandre Larionov, dans l’Aveyron (les « Juifs », une « race parasite » qui « merrite » (sic) une « mort cruelle ») et Thierry Brésolin, en Ardèche (« Marine, tu es la réincarnation d’Hitler. Toi, tu vas nettoyer la France »)”

Work, Family, Fatherland (Vichey), The Jews are a parasitical race, who meritt (sic) a cruel death, and one claiming that MArine Le Pen is a “reincarnation of Hitler who will cleanse France.”

The Front National’s leader, Marine Le Pen, has registered 29 – 33 % in the latest opinion polls for a Presidential candidate (le Monde).

For these regional elections polls have given the FN up to 30% – the highest score (le Parisien)

Charlie Hebdo and Laïcité – secularism.

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“Je suis le véritable Père Duchesne, foutre!”

The original hard-line anti-clerical, Jacques-René Hébert. 1790.

Hostility to Charlie Hebdo is widespread on the Anglophone left, liberal and socialist. While deploring the Paris murders a series of “buts” keeps cropping up. But…Charlie was provocative (a pretty redundant remark), but they insulted people’s deeply held beliefs, (see previous comment), but (and this is a brazen distortion) they attacked the faith of the banlieues, the poor, the marginalised. They have “disproportionately targeted Muslims by lampooning their prophet and besmirching their religion” (Counterpunch) They have “abused” the tradition of satire. Their “malicious purpose” is to “denigrate” Islam. Peter Mason in the Weekly Worker notes some on the British ‘left’ not only confused – claiming like the SWP that Charlie reinforced, even legitimised, the wave of Islamophobia” –  but back religious censorship.

These claims reached fever pitch in the Saturday Guardian column of Gilles Fraser. He detects a red thread from the “totalitarianism” of Dechristianisation in the French revolution – “murderous state sponsored suppression” – to today’s French secularism. The link is the creation of an “external religious threat against which to frame itself.” Far from being “neutral’ France’s secularism shows its true colours in Charlie, which singles out, “a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community that has received a great many knocks at the hands of the French state and its colonial past”.

Tendance Coatesy has covered Fraser’s wilfully distorted portrait of the two phases of Dechristianisation, the short-lived Age of Reason (1793-4, the time of Père Duchesne and Hébert), and the worship of the Supreme Being (Robespierre) during the French Revolution. Nigel Aston gives a fuller picture. (Religion and Revolution in France. 1780 – 1804. 2000) Aston describes how both periods were marked by Anti-Christian ideas. At the same time the Constitutional Church, in which one of the first anti-slavery campaigners, Abbé Grégoire (and close colleague of the British Quaker Thomas Clarkson), which they tried to impose over the Catholic Church, with limited success, a patriotic Christianity.

The French Revolution may have been hostile to France’s existing institutionalised religion. But was it ‘secular’? Aston notes, that it began with efforts to create its “own symbols and its mystic character drawn from masonry, sentimental literature (notably Rousseau) and classical antiquity.”(Page 262) That is, it was not concerned with creating a neutral public sphere, a separation of religion and the state, but with the formation of its own civic cult.

The Real Origins of Secularism. 

Secularism, in the form of laïcité, was the product of the 19th, not the 18th century. As Georges Weill explained (Histoire de l’idée laïque en France au XXe siècle. 1929, new edition, 2004) it was during the 1840s that the idea that administration and government of the country should be free from any religious power, emerged. Edgar Quinet ( 1803 – 1875) was one of the first to advocate a “une séparation complète radicale” of religious institutions from the State (Page 147 – 149)

Quinet’s emphasis on the idea of secular education, “l’école laïque ” was to be at the centre of all the subsequent fights for laïcité. Jules Ferry, who created the basis for a republican education system liberated from the –Catholic Church –, was only able to begin to realise this ideal after the Second Empire, under clerical domination, had fallen. The Third Republic (founded 1875) was rocked by divisions on the issue. It was only in 1905 that France saw a real separation of Church and State (with numerous exceptions, notably concerning private Catholic education, which continued, with subsidies).

Weill indicates that far from being the result of a violent hostility to religion French secularism originates in four sources. The first came from ‘Galician’ Catholics who opposed the ultramontagne power of the Pope over their own affairs, and, as the century progressed from Catholics who became attached to republican ideals. The second was amongst liberal Protestants, who had obvious (and blood-stained) reasons to distrust the power of the official Church. A third were desists, who wanted religion, illuminated by science, to be free from the doctrinal control of Papal Curia.

Only in the fourth category, the “libres penseurs”, can we find those with some debt to Hébert. The early workers’ movement owed a debt to Christian belief, particularly to Lamenais’ Paroles d’un croyant (1834), which rooted Christianity in democracy and social causes (in many respects more advanced than British ‘Christian socialism’ and still worth reading). But as the century progressed anti-clericalism spread amongst the socialists as well as amongst those who would become the so-called ‘Radical Socialist’ party (the word ‘radical’ comes from the British ‘radicals’ like John Stuart Mill). Many of the popular classes simply abandoned religion. 

The importance within these streams of thought of one wing of the Freemasons, best known in the Grand Orient Lodge, is well known. They straddled deism and freethinking. Their political influence can be judged in many ways, yet clearly their principled defence of free thought and hostility to clerical privilege, remain a positive legacy.

Secularism comes into Practice.

By the end of the 19th century these forces converged in the shape of republican cabinets. Jules Ferry, equally the defender of France’s ‘civilising mission’ through its colonial ambitions, was the figure best known for putting some of these policies into practice. His belief in the “devoir d’hommes de race supérieure” is clearly a case of a ‘particularism masking as universalism’. It was strongly contested by socialists at the time – Jules Guesde called these colonial policies “une des pire formes de l’exploitation capitaliste” (Page 183 Historie de l’anticolonialisme en France. Claude Liauzu. 2007) But in the sphere of education Ferry’s Lettre aux instituteurs (1883) recommended a more modest yet fundamental principle: that teachers should be neutral about the ideas they deal with and respect the autonomy of their students.

To reduce these people’s efforts to open up education to free debate, to pour scorn on their attempts to remove the power of religious authorities over public life is contemptible. This was the practice of those who fought against the campaign to pardon Dreyfus and the views of what became the French far right – Action Française.

French secularism and French society have evolved considerably since the 19th century. But we might consider that some of the principles they developed are still have the utmost importance. As a universal ideal the axiom that public life should be free from the interference of religious authority remains preferable to the domination of religious authority. We have multi-faith societies – making it even more imperative that conflicting beliefs should not compete over who is to rule. Secularism is the gguarantorof the rights of religious and cultural minorities – by its very natrue an attempt to be as neutral as possible between communities. As Henri Pena- Ruiz of the Parti de Gauche has put it, faced with the “resurgences de irrationalisme et de l’obscurantisme, comme celles du fanatisme religieux et des ‘identiés collectives’ de nature exclusive” (Page 269. Qu’est-ce que la laïcité? 2003).

There is not the slightest reason to idealise the existing French state. Possibilities are not actualities, ideals are not real institutions – though those supporting them try to make them so. The last people who tried to create islands of liberty around ideas in the tradition of  Père Duchesne were the situationists, whose impact was negligible. We have to confront the reality: the French state is based on the domination of the bourgeoisie and capitalism – forces that undercut egalité and fraternité and regularly threaten liberté. The left aims to bring these principles into this political life, against powerful forces.

But secularism continues as a political force, in the projects and policies of people trying to grapple with the issues raised by multi-faith societies and by belief itself. Is it better to have a public education system free from the dogma of faith or to permit religious bodies to impose their doctrines on students? Recent events in the UK suggest that this is a response that stifles free thought and encourages a communal division of society. Is it better to remain liberated from the chains of religious censorship – blasphemy laws by any other name – or permit people to insult not people, not ethnic groups, but religion? If France has not resolved its difficulties it would be a very stupid or a very disingenuous individual to advocate the British model as an alternative.

Charlie Hebdo is a magazine of caricatures. Le Monde reminds us that the word caricature comes from an Italian one, meaning to charge, to load (La caricature, art brûlant. Philippe Dagen, 17.1.15). Its designers specialise in loading charges against the enemies of freedom – those who would wish that their authority – religious or political – is obeyed. They are determined not to submit. They will not submit. Charlie is loved. With the laughter of the peoples of the world directed against them the oppressors feel unease. They have every right to be uneasy.

*****

For a very fine article on Charlie see:  A week inside Charlie Hebdo: how the ‘survival issue’ was made. Ed Vulliamy.

A sad addendum:

Former revolutionary and more recently prominent Liberal Democrat Tariq Ali states,

‘France Tries To Mask Its Islamophobia Behind Secular Values’

Ali shows not the slightest sadness at the brutal Paris murders.

This is a sample of the senescent stentorian style we know all too well,

How should the idea of secularism in France be seen? Is mocking religious beliefs of others a key element of it?

It is, but it’s concentrated on Islam, a tiny bit on Catholicism, while Judaism is usually left well alone. Why not show Moses regularly gang-­raping Palestinian men and women? Just as an idea.”

Ha, bloody ha.

This is what our poor old todger eventually comes out with:

“In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.”

Charlie had it coming to them….

To think I was once in the same organisation as this reactionary.