Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘France

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.

Seumas Milne: Charlie Had it Coming to them.

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Charlie: Pornographic Humiliation of Muslims – had it coming to them.

Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars writes in the Guardian.

The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too

Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.

But…….

What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.

What of Charlie?

Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population. This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.

I will not dignify this cack with longer extracts but note this conclusion, and note it well,

Europeans are fortunate that terrorist outrages have been relatively rare. But a price has been paid in loss of freedoms, growing antisemitism and rampant Islamophobia. So long as we allow this war to continue indefinitely, the threats will grow. In a globalised world, there’s no insulation. What happens there ends up happening here too.

What goes around, comes around.

They had it coming to them…..

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

The March for Liberty and Republican Unity in France: Bravo!

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 A Paris le 11 janvier.

Contre le terrorisme, la plus grande manifestation jamais recensée en France.

Je suis Charlie!

Watching the march yesterday was profoundly moving.

The Tendance has expressed our love for Charlie, our dismay at the murders of our beloved comrades who worked there, and the anti-Semitic killings.

There are many comments to be made but some of them have been better made than by myself by Olivier Tonneau.

On Charlie Hebdo: A letter to my British friends (extracts)

Olivier starts by talking of the attack on Charlie, and how the news was reacted to in the UK.

A wave of compassion followed but apparently died shortly afterward and all sorts of criticism started pouring down the web against Charlie Hebdo, who was described as islamophobic, racist and even sexist. Countless other comments stated that Muslims were being ostracized and finger-pointed. In the background lurked a view of France founded upon the “myth” of laïcité, defined as the strict restriction of religion to the private sphere, but rampantly islamophobic – with passing reference to the law banning the integral veil. One friend even mentioned a division of the French left on a presumed “Muslim question”.

 As a Frenchman and a radical left militant at home and here in UK, I was puzzled and even shocked by these comments and would like, therefore, to give you a clear exposition of what my left-wing French position is on these matters.

  Firstly, a few words on Charlie Hebdo, which was often “analyzed” in the British press on the sole basis, apparently, of a few selected cartoons. It might be worth knowing that the main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the shooting was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece).  Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire – and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo also continuously denounced the pledge of minorities and campaigned relentlessly for all illegal immigrants to be given permanent right of stay. I hope this helps you understand that if you belong to the radical left, you have lost precious friends and allies.

Charlie is something I came to treasure when I was a radical left activist in France – there were more people like me in Britain than you might imagine Olivier!

 

  This being clear, the attack becomes all the more tragic and absurd: two young French Muslims of Arab descent have not assaulted the numerous extreme-right wing newspapers that exist in France (Minute, Valeurs Actuelles) who ceaselessly amalgamate Arabs, Muslims and fundamentalists, but the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism. And to me, the one question that this specific event raises is: how could these youth ever come to this level of confusion and madness? What feeds into fundamentalist fury? How can we fight it?

 

Of course, freedom of speech has its limits. I was astonished to read from one of you that UK, as opposed to France, had laws forbidding incitement to racial hatred. Was it Charlie’s cartoons that convinced him that France had no such laws? Be reassured: it does. Only we do not conflate religion and race. We are the country of Voltaire and Diderot: religion is fair game. Atheists can point out its ridicules, and believers have to learn to take a joke and a pun. They are welcome to drown us in return with sermons about the superficiality of our materialistic, hedonistic lifestyles. I like it that way. Of course, the day when everybody confuses “Arab” with “Muslim” and “Muslim” with “fundamentalist”, then any criticism of the latter will backfire on the former. That is why we must keep the distinctions clear.

And to keep these distinctions clear, we must begin by facing the fact that fundamentalism is growing dangerously and killing viciously. Among its victims, the large majority are Muslims who would surely not want to be confused with their killers. So I return now to the question: what is the cause of the rise of fundamentalism?

A friend told me that it was “the West bombing Muslim countries”. I am deeply suspicious of a statement that includes two sweeping generalizations and is reminiscent of Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations”: the western world vs. the Muslim world. The only difference between George W. Bush and a leftwing stance would be that whilst Bush sided with the western world, the leftwing activist sides with the Muslim world. But to reverse Huntington’s view is a perverse way of confirming it. So let us try to address the issue otherwise.

It is obvious that the rise of fundamentalism is intertwined with the complex series of tragedies that unfolded from colonialism to the present times, including the Israel/Palestine conflict. Yet I think we should recognize one thing. Just as the Christian religion caused an enormous lot of problems in the West for centuries, problems which were not always peacefully resolved, Islam has caused enormous problems in the Muslim world to a lot of people, too. Anywhere in the world, the space for individual rights has always had to be opened by rolling back religion a few miles. And this is something that the Muslim world has begun doing as early as the nineteenth-century, with difficulties not dissimilar to those experienced in the Christian world – for those who would like to explore the parallel, I recommend reading Sami Zubaida’s excellent book Beyond Islam.

Few people even know today that there was a period, beginning in the mid-ninetieth century to the mid-twentieth century, called the Nadha (Rebirth, or Renaissance), which saw a wide-ranging process of secularisation from Morocco to Turkey. Few people care to remember that, in the 1950s and 60s, women wearing the veil were a small minority in Tunis, Algiers and even Cairo. This does not mean that they were not Muslims, mind you. Just as in the West, where a lot of Christian girls started having sex before marriage or taking the pill, principles were evolving, with some inevitable tensions.

Much as it offends the Edward Saïd vision of cultures as bound to devour or be devoured, the Nadha was fuelled by ideas developed by European thinkers and enthusiastically endorsed by local students and intelligentsia – and before you accuse me of Western paternalism, let me stress two things. First, “ideas developed by European thinkers” are not “western ideas”. The anti-colonial movement referred to Marx, Freud and Robespierre, who had – and still have – fierce critics in the West. Second, at the very same time as the anti-colonial movement was drawing inspiration from the history of struggles in Europe, Claude Levy-Strauss was transforming the Western understanding of civilization by studying other cultures, just as Leibniz had extensively studied Chinese language, law and politics in his quest for Enlightenment. Peoples are neither homogeneous nor self-enclosed units: within peoples, people organize themselves and oppose themselves around principles and ideas.

 The spirit of the Marche des beurs is that of Charlie Hebdo: justice for all citizens, including migrants and minorities. Now let me fast forward. Last year, a film was produced, commemorating La Marche des beurs. The producers asked famous rappers to collectively record a promotional number. One of the rappers threw in the verse: “I demand a Fatwa on the dogs at Charlie Hebdo”. He also contrasted “our virtuous veiled girls” with “the make-up wearing sluts”. Yet there were many women in the Marche; none of them were taking a religious stance and few of them were wearing the veil. How could a secular movement for equality be rewritten in religious terms? This raises the question of the rise of fundamentalism in France.

I was there in Paris with thousands to greet La Marche des beurs….

 

 France has a long tradition of secular Islam, fully compatible with the laws of the Republic, but at war with fundamentalists. In the nineties, the Paris Imam was shot by fanatics whose violence he denounced; more recently, the Imam of Drancy, who expressed displeasure with Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons but firmly denounced the fatwa issued against them by Al Qaida, was himself condemned to death by the terrorist organization and is living under the protection of the police.

I often read in the English press, or hear from British friends, that French laïcité is a “foundational myth” – as if France lived under the illusion that religion could be eradicated once and for all. This has nothing to do with laïcité properly defined. Laïcité does not deny anybody the right to express their religious beliefs, but it aims to found society on a political contract that transcends religious beliefs which, as a result, become mere private affairs. The beurs who marched on Paris in 1983 were performing a laïc demonstration. They were not the only ones to demand that the Republic be true to its own principles. In a beautiful book titled La Démocratie de l’Abstention, two sociologists trace the heartbreaking story (at least it breaks my republican heart) of how the French citizens who arrived from the former colonies vote massively: they are proud of their right to participate in democracy. They try to convince their children to do the same; but the latter are not interested. Decades of social segregation and economic discrimination has made it clear to them that the word ‘French’ on their passport is meaningless – there is no equality, no freedom and clearly no fraternity.

 

 

To conclude. I firmly condemn the bombing of Middle-Eastern countries (or any country for that matter) by Western governments. I vote for political parties that condemn it, and I demonstrate against it. I was shocked when such demonstrations were outlawed by the French government – but happy when the same government recognized the Palestinian state. In these demonstrations, I walk with people of all colours, origins and religious creed – we take a political, not a religious stand. And I despair to think that a fraction of the population of my country refuses to regard me as their ally because I am no friend of religions. Being aware of the root causes of the madness that took hold of these young people, I detest politicians who have done nothing to resolve the deliquescence of the banlieues, to fight routine discrimination and control police persecutions. These issues play as big a part in my view in the rise of fundamentalism in the French youth as do events in the Middle East; that is why, had I been in France today, I do not know if I would have wanted to march together with Angela Merkel and David Cameron – much less with Netanyahu and outright Nazis such as Viktor Orban.

 

To repeat: there more of us here on the UK left who think like you than you imagine Olivier!

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2015 at 11:34 am

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Seeks to “save” capitalism, says International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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Flags Waving to Save Capitalism says ICFI. 

Just when you thought you could be smug about the charming but eccentric ways of our old chum Bob Avakian this comes along,

The pseudo-left New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) has reacted to the formation of the new government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls with empty, hypocritical criticisms to mask its responsibility in the installation of this deeply right-wing government, which the NPA will continue to defend.

The World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) continues in this vein (8th of September) – at length. (1)

For those mourning the withdrawal of cde Tony Greenstein from the fray this site comes as a blessing,

What the NPA fears above all is that the collapse and discrediting of France’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) will provoke a crisis of rule in which the NPA could not stifle a political movement of the working class directed at the PS and its political satellites, including the NPA itself.

There is more but this mighty blow against the NPA stands out,

The NPA, by its hostility to a socialist and revolutionary perspective, contributed to the installation of the most right-wing regime France has known since the World War II-era fascist Vichy regime.

And this,

In fact, it is the NPA that is neither revolutionary nor anti-capitalist. It does not seek the overthrow of capitalism, but to save it under conditions where it threatens to provoke war and economic collapse, and the conditions for an eruption of social revolution are fast being prepared.

Not to mention that

This anti-working class party is ready for unprincipled alliances with organizations of all types, whose only common point is their hatred of the working class and of socialism.

 

(1) The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is the name of two Trotskyist internationals; one with sections named Socialist Equality Party which publishes the World Socialist Web Site, and another linked to the Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain.

Both groupings originate in the struggle against “Pabloite liquidationism”,

“To sum up: The lines of cleavage between Pablo’s revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally. The Pablo faction has demonstrated that it will not permit democratic decisions truly reflecting majority opinion to be reached. They demand complete submission to their criminal policy. They are determined to drive all orthodox Trotskyists out of the Fourth International or to muzzle and handcuff them.”

The British section, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), has published the ‘Theoretical Foundations‘ of the organisation which explains this at length.

Despite this background many of the SEP’s  ideas would meet with approval or at least some agreement  from a lot of people on the left: they are for the United Socialist States of Europe, oppose austerity and cuts.

And,

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) calls for a decisive and unambiguous No vote in the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence.  All claims that “independence” is a democratic demand, offering an alternative to cuts and austerity, are lies.

The move for separation from the UK is being led by right-wing forces espousing nationalism, whether or not they attempt to dress this up in fake left language. The aim is to transform Scotland into a low tax, cheap labour platform for the benefit of the banks and transnational corporations.

The victims of this will be workers on both sides of the border, who will see a deepening of the ongoing offensive against jobs, wages and conditions that has been waged by all the major parties in both Westminster and Holyrood

Their French membership is believed to hover at 2.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: France Commits Treason by not Delivering Warships to Russia.

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Mélenchon: Denounces President Hollande’s “Treason”. 

France has suspended the first of two controversial Mistral-class warship deliveries to Russia, saying “conditions” were not in place as the crisis in Ukraine deepens.

The announcement comes a day before the start of a NATO summit and after months of pressure on France from allies to suspend the sale amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

President François Hollande’s office, in a statement after he met with top defence advisers, called the fighting in eastern Ukraine “grave”, and said Russia’s recent actions harm “the foundations of security in Europe”.

France 24.

The Guardian adds,

France is to suspend delivery of a state-of-the-art Mistral warship to Russia in protest at Moscow’s continued role in unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Following a defence committee meeting in Paris on Wednesday, a statement from the Elysée Palace said the government could not go ahead with the planned delivery of the warships, citing Moscow’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has taken a blatant military role.

“The president of the republic has concluded that despite the prospect of a ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place,” the statement said.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has responded by calling this action « trahison insupportable »  (intolerable treason)

“In deciding to halt the delivery of vessels acquired by Russia, François Hollande has committed an intolerable betrayal that completely devalues ​​the promises given by our country. It  It France as  independent provider of defensive armaments. This is a decision which has no bearing on the military side of the present conflict, demonstrates our country’s subjugation to the USA and the war policy of NATO . “

 Le Monde.

Navires : François commet une trahison insupportable – Communiqué – http://bit.ly/1nx3Z0p pic.twitter.com/ydnppHjnB3

Mélenchon has opposed the threats of NATO, led by the USA against Russia. He has (rightly) criticised the pro-Ukrainian bias of most of the French Media – the hysterical anti-Moscow tone of some of the articles in le Monde alone have to be read to be believed (see: Médias français en campagne ukrainienne. Mathias Reymond.).

You can see more of his views on the topic here, Retour au clavier (Le blog de Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

Many of these points are valid – there is little traction for the left in lining up behind a crusade against the Kremlin any more than there is in one to defend it.

But in Mélenchon’s reactions one cannot help feeling a patriotic timbre ringing throughout this declaration.

Compare…..

Marine Le Pen has also criticised the decision, on commercial grounds (the amount of compensation that will have to be paid, loss of a sale), and because it shows that France lacks “independence”.

The decision, above all,  “is very serious because it reveals our submission to American diplomacy.”

France, “A Social Democratic Compromise of a Third Kind” ? Henri Weber.

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Henri Weber (far-left) in Happier Days.

Henri Weber is a former member of the Trotskyist Fourth International.

He played an important role in the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) in May 1968 and the decade that followed. This included a stint at the “special operations” section of the LCR (Commission Très Spéciale, CTS) and editorship of their weekly Rouge.

An intellectual, whose writings were known in the UK through New Left Review and International Marxist Group publications, he was a sympathetic critic of Eurocommunism and a defender of radical democratic socialism.

After leaving the Ligue he became an academic, conducting further research into Eurocommunism, and German Social Democracy. His book  Le Parti des Patrons : le CNPF (1946-1986),  1991 is a sociological and political account, some might say a rather plodding one, of the French bosses’ organisation (their CBI).

Weber has been a member of the French Parti Socialiste since the mid-1980s,  was a  Senator (1995 – 2004) and is now a European Deputy, MEP, (first elected 2004).

He has moved considerably to the right, even within the moderate terms of European social democracy.

The former revolutionary Marxist is best known these days for defending the idea that  one can broadly (extremely broadly) outline three modern types of “compromise” that define post-War social democracy (Nouveau compromis social -démocrate.18.3.2014)

The first was the ‘post-war’ compromise between the labour movement, the left, and the states and societies of the West . Full employment, growth, expanding social and workers’ rights and the welfare state marked this period.

The second, that followed the late 1970s crisis of the Welfare state and Keynesianism, was defensive. It accepted that redundancies and wage restraint had to take place, but offered increased social spending and more social rights.

A third type of social compromise took shape at the turn of the century: the compromises to adapt to globalisation, and more broadly , the changes in capitalism. That is, the digital revolution, the emergence of new industrialising  countries, the internationalization of production have required  a restructuring of of Western economies. These are axed towards  high-tech industries and services with high added value.

The new social democratic compromise is based on mobilising the social partners for to specialise and adapt to this role. Unions and socialist parties agree on the deregulation of the labour market (flexi-security), the stagnation of real wages, a reduction in  the level of social protection. They demand in return the defence of employment and preservation of national economic power.

In Germany, for example, the SPD and the unions accepted the Hartz accord: unemployment compensation is reduced from 32 to 12 months (24 for over 50 years); the age of retirement is pushed back to 67 years (in 2029 …) the unemployed are forced to take a job……..public health care provision is being reduced……

The German Hartz agreements loosened strong social protection and created so-called “mini-jobs” (at extremely low pay), subjected welfare claimants to stringent “contracts”, lowered benefits, and undermined many of the fundamental aspects of the welfare state.

Weber’s assertion (echoed on the European Right and Business) that their focus on industrial competitivity and growth, are the basis for the country’s economic success, is by no means universally accepted. It is pretty obvious that it’s unlikely that many on the French, or the German non “social democratic” left (except for the Die Grünen, who are often to the right of social democracy) would agree.

But the fact remains that in Germany there has been an economic upturn, unemployment has gone down, and if there is a very heavy downside to these reforms, they are now backed by the population, and represent for the present the basis of Angela Merkel’s popularity.

One can see what the French Socialists would look with envy at the German Chancellor’s ratings in the opinion polls (even if a hard-right anti-European Party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), did well with 9.9.% in a regional election in Saxony,  this Sunday –  Taz).

The assertion that a progressive slant to this new compromise, depends on growth, and the weight of employees (that is, workers), within a European structure remains to be tested. At present the Socialists have simply gone for what they believe is a strategy for growth.

Last weekend Weber addressed the Parti Socialiste’s Summer School at La Rochelle.

These are some extracts from what he said, 7 moyens de refonder la social-démocratie.

Weber outlines the reasons for the change towards a new compromise.

The principal backdrop is that the globalisation of the economy is changing the balance of power in favor of the owners of private economic power – entrepreneurs and financial operators – at the expense of employees and governments. Markets, companies, production have become global; States, parties, trade unions remain, essentially national actors. The result is a growing disjunction between the political and the economic spheres

The ‘third industrial revolution’, the rise of digital and biotechnologies, the fragmentation of  social classes based on production and the working environment, the rise of individualism, social insecurity, and mass migration, have eroded the basis of traditional socialism and communism. Global warming and other ecological challenges pose further questions to the left.

Weber offers seven principal axes for a renewed social democracy which I present in a slightly adapted form.

1 European social democracy must reconnect with its original internationalism.

2. Social democracy must break with the focus on producing more and more and discover an eco-socialist alternative .

3. European social democracy must find ways of using people and companies’  savings to finance future industries and services with high added value.

4 European social democracy must assert, more than it has done so far, a’ project of civilisation’ (a vision of society).

5 European social democracy must be resolutely feminist .

6 European social democracy has to invent a renewed twenty-first century form and structure of democracy

7 Social democracy should promote an ‘alternative’ globalisation (that is, not be simply ‘anti’ globalisation, but find a different way of globalising). 

The substance of Weber’s contribution seems to be this:

European social democracy should become a continent wide political actor through the mechanisms of the European Socialist Party and the European Confederation of Trade Unions. It should endorse environmentally friendly policies. It should promote investment. It should advance a communitarian project that would promote social values, including feminist ones. It should back democratic reforms. And, finally, it should attempt what regulation of globalisation it can.

A pretty stodgy set of idées reçues  that would appeal to those in the UK, from Will Hutton to Jon Cruddas, who have not the slightest intention of mounting any radical challenge to austerity – and that’s just to start with.

Meanwhile…..in the real political world…..

Prime Minister Valls was received coldly by many delegates at the same La Rochelle Summer School.

Communist and Green speakers, critical of the government’s turn rightward, were well received at fringe meetings (Libération).

In the main hall when the Prime Minister appeared some shouted Vive la Gauche! – the name of the new left ‘frondeur’ alliance (you can see more about them here).

Why?

Well, there’s the talk about ending the 35 hour week and a whole raft of measures designed to weaken workers’ rights. His Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron,has gone out of his way to appeal to business, not the left. More and more austerity remains on the cards. A few words about he also loves the Parti Socialiste won’t change this.

It is unlikely that French unions, even the ‘social liberal’ CFDT,  are overjoyed at the prospect of having to defend what little remains of ‘social democracy’.

The idea that anything approaching the Hartz measures will go down well in France.

One might question the assertion that this “third type” of compromise is anything other than a series of concessions, made in different European countries in different ways, to neo-liberal anti-left policies. One wonders where Brown and Blair fitted into the Second Compromise, or were they part of the Third?

Far from being a social democrat it appears that Manuel Valls and his team are economic liberals.

 It would be interesting to see if he tries something resembling the Hartz reforms.

Hah!

A second’s thinking shows that this is extremely unlikely to happen.

Note: Weber’s own site is here.

On it we learn this fascinating information:

Etat civil: Marié
Enfants: 3
Icône: Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Pierre Desproges
Hobbies: La marche à pied
Livre préféré: “La Promesse de l’Aube” de Romain Gary
Film favori: “Les Enfants du Paradis” de Marcel Carné (1945)
Groupe de musique favori: Les Beatles
Emission TV préférée: Thalassa
Plat local favori: La potée auvergnate

Some might comment that this shows a profound mediocrity.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2014 at 11:13 am