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Formal legal investigation opened into Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France insoumise’s finances.

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Mélenchon Faces the Law of the Republic.

Two inquiries have been launched into the campaign accounts of Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the 2017 presidential election and the assistants of his rally La France insoumise’s MEPs. They have been entrusted to investigating judges by the Paris prosecutor’s office, according to a statement issued on Friday 9 November .

Jean-Luc Mélenchon et LFI visés par deux informations judiciaires

Le Monde.

Two judicial information was thus opened against X. The first, relating to the financing of the campaign , mainly for “fraud” and “breach of trust” , while the second, concerning the parliamentary assistants, was opened for “misappropriation of public funds “ .

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his party are therefore targeted by two separate investigations.

The first concerns the accounts of the campaign of Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the presidential election of 2017 where  the fraud is alleged to occurred.

These are extremely serious and range from money-laundering to pure and simple swindling.

The second concerns Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s parliamentary assistants in the European Parliament.

The suspicion is that he and his rally employed parliamentary assistants in the European Parliament  to work for themselves outside of their European tasks. This ultimately amounts to diverting money from Parliament by creating fictitious jobs.

Other MEPs and former MEPs are involved in the investigations into the use of European Parliamentary assistants for domestic party work, such as Brice Hortefeux and Michèle Alliot-Marie (the right of centre, Les Républicains), Edouard Martin (elected on the Socialist Party’s list, now in  Génération.s , of Benoît Hamon) or Yannick. Jadot (Europe Ecology-The Greens,  Europe Ecologie-Les Verts EELV).

Mélenchon has reacted by stating that he is happy that this inquiry is to be led by two independent investigating judges, the “normal” procedure:

Sur Twitter, le leader de La France insoumise s’est félicité que l’enquête soit menée par des juges d’instruction indépendants.

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2018 at 5:20 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Wobbly Goes Rotten: Where will his leftist admirers stand now?

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Mélenchon Goes Trump:”Have You Still  Got Questions, Bunch of Scumbags?!”

At this year’s The World Transformed, held parallel to the Labour Conference., Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was a star.

Why we’ve invited Jean-Luc Mélenchon to The World Transformed

.. the real reason for Mélenchon’s invitation to TWT is not because he is Corbyn mark 2. No, it is for the same reason that TWT is happening in the first place: as part of a democratic socialist project to shift power towards the people. The fundamental truth about the two men’s successes is that it’s not about them. It’s about what they, and TWT, represent: the left taking hold of the future.

Mélenchon’s presence is not simply a result of similarities between him and Corbyn. It is a sign of a rising internationalist left building socialism from the grassroots. In learning from and debating with one another, as TWT allows us to do, we can help build a world for the many, not the few.

Politis has published an accurate account of the scandal that is shaking Mélenchon’s rally, La France insoumise (LFI).

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left freakout

The France Unbowed chief, who came fourth in last year’s presidential election, is taking to Facebook livestreams and iPhone monologues to harp on what he calls a “Macronism-media-prosecutor” conspiracy against him. The early signs are that the ranting and raving are not going down well with the French public, as Mélenchon seeks to build support for an international leftist alliance for next year’s European Parliament election.

The plot alleged by Mélenchon, which presumably draws support from President Emmanuel Macron’s backers, centers around an October 16 raid on the far-left leader’s apartment and office by magistrates investigating suspected campaign finance fraud in his 2017 bid for president. In a video of a standoff between Mélenchon’s followers and the investigators standing outside his office, the 67-year-old firebrand can be seen leaning nose-to-nose with an officer and shouting “La République, c’est moi!” (“I am the Republic!”) as the man quietly asks him to take a few steps back.

Mélenchon was only getting started. Three days after the raids, which targeted the homes of 10 France Unbowed aides in addition to his own, the party leader held a news conference during which he railed against what he called a “political police” and accused Macron of using the judicial system to undermine his movement. He then turned his wrath to the media, vowing to sue news channel BFM for defamation, accusing journalists from public news outlet FranceInfo of being “liars and cheats,” and mocking a female reporter who tried to ask him a question for having an accent from southern France.

Politis does not cover some of the salient details of this one-man melt-down that have since emerged.

Such as the 12,000 Euros, in cash, found during the Police enquiry at the home of one of those close to the Leader.

Or the “close” relation (“extraprofessionnelle”) between the Chief of La France insoumise and the Sophia Chikirou, former head of the LFI linked PR firm,  Mediascop, renamed and called imaginatively Le Média when it expanded into providing ‘news and information’After resigning following  some ferocious rows there she is at present involved in their European election campaign. (Mélenchon, visé par les juges, s’en prend aux médias).

Today brings another batch of details about the accusations concerning LFI’s use of fictitious jobs and dodgy accounts involving Mediscop, his election campaigns and the company set up in the name of one of Mélenchon ‘s dire books, L’Ere du peuple (which announces that class struggle is henceforth absorbed into the fight between the People and the elite Caste): Soupçons d’emplois fictifs et comptes de campagne : les deux affaires qui visent Mélenchon (le Monde).

Mélenchon has responded to media reports of the charges and his hysterical reaction by calling on supporters to “« pourrir ” (which could be translated as ‘give a bollocking to’, bearing in the mind that its root meaning is “to rot”) critical journalists.

Two targets were singled out: Radio France’s France-Inter and the independent Mediapart, set up by the left-wing veteran Edwy Plenel (“Agression” et “ignominie” : Mélenchon s’en prend à Mediapart, qui révèle sa “relation extra-professionnelle” avec sa conseillère Sophia Chikirou “)

Attacking the media, some might say, has become something of an obsession:

With a tear in his eye LFI deputy Eric Coquerel, who has close ties with the exemplary media outlet, RT, tweeted yesterday. He warned of the far-right in Bresil, and fellow Media-hater Trump, and compared Melenchon to French socialist martyr , Jean Jaurès.

Coquerel omitted to mention that Jaurès, opposed to war between the European nations un the build up the Great War,  was insulted for his alleged ‘pro-German’ sympathies, for which he was murdered by a far-right nationalist.

There are not many people around who would accuse the author of “le poison Allemande” of being pro-Bosch.

Image result for le poison allemand

Still, he’s got this backing for his present stand:

There have been many admirers of La France insoumise in the English speaking world, Counterfire for one.

But few are as stalwart in defending Mélenchon as the US magazine Jacobin.

As this reaction to his latest troubles indicates.

Raided by the MachineCOLE STANGLER

17.1018.

Yesterday morning, French police raided the home of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The leftist leader was quick to point the blame at Emmanuel Macron.

……

If anything, this will energize the party’s base even further. Among Mélenchon’s many attributes, he has a powerful social media presence; of the 1 million people who like his page on Facebook and the 1.93 million who follow him on Twitter, a significant portion just witnessed their favorite politician humiliated at his own home.

Not everyone will feel the same; some will even think he went overboard with his reaction. But faced with the judicial offensive, Mélenchon’s own supporters will surely be fired up by the raids.

Unfortunately for this die-hard the opinion polls this week say that not only do 76% disapprove of this attitude but 51% of his voters in the Presidential election do so as well. His support now stands at a shrunken level. His

score has dropped by 7 percentage points since last month, with 22 percent of respondents approving of his job performance. Among hardcore backers — those who voted for him in round one of the presidential election — the level of support had fallen by 15 points.

Tough one…

Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

Emmanuel Macron is an “anti-Trump”, pro-European and a “liberal internationalist” who unites the centre-left and the centre-right against the extremes. He is a “neo-progressive”, argues Sophie Pedder, whose ideas are “structured around the idea of individual progress for all.” Elected President in 2017, in a run off with the far-right Marine Le Pen, at 39 years old, Macron presented a “a message of hope.” His strategy was “both a means of remaking party politics and a response to the populist threat”. Their campaign laid claim to break the existing party duopoly, and sweep away the existing “political caste”, itself perhaps a “populist” message.

The Head of State’s party, La République en marche (LRM), commands 60% of the seats in France’s National Assembly. It is, like many new ‘parties’ of this millennium, including their rivals La France insoumise (LFI), is less a democratic organisation run by the members than a top-down run movement or ‘rally’. Macron, despite the Benalla affair, and the recent Cabinet resignations of ecology Minister Bernard Hulot and Minister of the Interior Gèrard Collomb, is the master of French politics. He has been, so far, able to carry out his programme. Protests, last year,  against liberalising reform of labour legislation, and the railway service (SNCF), as well as of higher education, failed to have any impact.

Sophie Pedder is Paris bureau chief for the liberal (economically and politically), British weekly the Economist. Largely favourable to the President, the book is unlikely to win a favourable audience amongst those who dismiss Macron as, at best, a “social liberal”. This does not stop Revolution française from being a deft and informed account of Emmanuel Macron’s life and politics.

Modernisation.

Macron, writes Pedder, is a long-standing advocate of “modernisation”. France, from this standpoint, is burdened with regulations that stifle economic initiative. As a Minister of the Economy under Parti Socialiste President Hollande, his 2015 plans (Loi Macron) to loosen the rules on shop opening hours, and rigid legislation governing the ‘liberal professions’ (notaries, pharmacists) were partly thwarted. His Socialist colleagues were to blame, including the influential Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a moderate social democrat described as the “standard bearer of the Socialist left”.

This experience, Pedder states, led Macron to conclude that the existing party system kept France stuck in the past. A modernising regroupment needed, “to put together two-thirds of the Socialist Party, all of the centrists, and part of the centre-right. That would give us a pro-European market-friendly majority in favour of modernising the social model.” British readers will not fail to observe a parallel electoral logic with domestic ‘centrist’ projects, however tiny the audience for making the UK social system more ‘liberal’ is.

The achievement of that goal was partly due to good fortune. The “normal” Hollande discredited himself, both by his incontinent deprecation of colleagues revealed in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (2006), and his causal deception of his partner Valerie Trierweiler. As his Presidential bid took off in 2017 his chief opponent on the right, François Fillon, became mired in allegations of financial misconduct. The Socialists chose the left-Green Benoît Hamon, without many allies beyond his own forces. With their political rivals in disarray Macron’s support snowballed. Socialists, centrists and the right, duly defected in his direction. The movement En marche  soon picked up a large number of the professional politicians targeted above, and inspired a, largely middle class, army of volunteers to campaign for him door to door.

Centre Left Reconciled to the Market Economy.

Revolution française equally offers a readable account of Macron’s ideas. Unlike the Macron, un president philosophe (Brice Couturier. 2017) Peddar does not offer a weighty list of influences, from Hegel to Schumpeter. Instead she singles out the influence of Macron’s teacher, Paul Ricœur, his Protestant humanism, and “confidence in mankind” with a dose of Saint-Simon’s advocacy of technocratic progress. Above all, “His roots are on the progressive centre left that reconciled itself to the market economy.” At the same time, noting some of Macron’s verbal tics, she observes that, “his theoretical abstractions and grandiosity came across as pompous. His sentences were convoluted, meandering and went on for ever.” One could expand further on his grating anglicisms.

Will Macron, the “networking machine”, be able to change France? Has ‘liberal globalism’ found a champion who will step into the breach that has opened up after the failure of ‘third way’? Peddar signals the entrenched difficulties of a divided France, mass unemployment, those cast aside in the banlieue and “la France périperifeque”. Can Macron’s grand romantic mission turn this around?

The ‘nation’ is less important than the people who live in France. There are not many grounds for hope in the recent indications that the richest section of French society is the undoubted winner of the President’s tax reforms. (Les ultrariches, grands gagnants de la fiscalité Macron. Le Monde. 13.10.18). Weakening labour legislation to the point where wage negotiations can take place plant by plant, does not look so progressive from the position of workers in enterprises cut off from national union support. Local tax changes seem designed to weaken municipal finance, not strengthen decentralised initiative. While Macron has tried to stand up to Trump his efforts have few visible effects.

Defeat of the French left.

The French left has yet to recover from the catastrophic defeat of the governing socialists. Hamon was fated, in the words of former PS General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis to get the minimal score of left-greens, 6,36 %  (Chronique d’une débâcle 2017). Hamon now has his own party Génération.s. The PS has since seen more defections, this time to Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise. If LFI won a respectable vote of in the Presidential elections (fourth position and 19.58% for Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  in the first round) , and has, with its allies, 17 deputies, it is far, very far, from securing an alternative majority to Macron. It is unlikely this week’s pantomime response to police investigations into their funding will expand their audience and ‘federate’ the “People”. The left is now so splintered that up to 6 different lists will appear in next year’s European elections. It would appear, if one might say so from a distance, that a long-term war of position to regroup the left into some form of united front would be a better way of building an alternative to Macron that a head on war of manoeuvre. And, unlike LFI,  it is quite possible to be a ‘pro-European’ radical leftist.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Force ouvrière union federation faces crisis as new Protests are launched in France against Macron’s ‘reforms’.

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A Paris, mardi.

France 24 reports,

Around 160,000 people joined demonstrations across France on Tuesday, the interior ministry said, heeding union calls for President Emmanuel Macron to “maintain the social model”, which has come under threat from his ambitious reforms.

..

Around 20,000 people turned out in Paris, the largest of some 100 rallies across the country.

The head of the hard-left Confederation of Labour (CGT) union Philippe Martinez estimated turnout higher at 300,000 nationwide. The CGT said about 50,000 people marched in Paris at the urging of six of the country’s labour unions.

“We’re not complaining, we’re revolting!” the students, workers and retirees chanted as they marched in the first demonstration since the end of the summer holiday, referring to President Macron’s recent suggestion that the French complain too much.

Libération covers the 50, 000 strong Paris march organised notably by the union federations FO (which has undergone a ‘left’ turn this year) and the traditional left CGT.

A Paris, le défilé organisé notamment par FO et la CGT a réuni 50 000 personnes selon les syndicats. Une mobilisation en ordre dispersée, sans la CFDT, qui a tout de même plus rassemblé qu’au printemps.

The presence of Force ouvrière (FO) in these and other protests, traditionally a cautious union, based on a complex series of alliances between right-wingers, anti-Communists, and the ‘Lambertist’ trotskyist current, has not gone unnoticed.

Last week Le Monde published this article.

FO se métamorphose en « CGT bis »

Michel Noblecourt observes that under the new leadership of  Pascal Pavageau the FO has undergone a “une rupture radicale avec le passé “.

The federation is now dominated by supporters of Pavagau in alliance with a variety of leftists (including for example, Marc Hébert an ‘anarchist’), but above all the sovereigntist ‘Trotskyists’ of the  Parti ouvrier indépendant (POI).

Interestingly Noblecourt also mentions that said POI is now active in the CGT (once closely led by the French Communist Party, the Parti Communiste français, PCF).

That would perhaps explain why a somebody ‘representing’ the ‘CGT’ was present at a sovereigntist Camden rally for ‘left-wing’ Brexit before the UK referendum.

POI are not to be confused with their arch rivals, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID – how we chuckled at the ‘weighty’ name).

The two split, very acrimoniously, a couple of years ago.

POID ran their own  pro-Brexit beano in Paris around the same time, attended by anti-internationalist forces from British unions, including the Aaron Banks backed Trade Unionists Against the EU, and which received fraternal greetings from the Morning Star.

The two are united in opposing internationalism in general and the European Union in particular.

Both groupuscules, though small in number – not that small, POID have a few councilors, like Christel Keiser, (Seine-Saint-Denis) – live, like the Socialist Party in the UK, from their hold on paid union positions.

Who says Lambertist says the dirty deeds needed to keep these places.

Whether they are linked to this skulduggery or not we do not, as yet, know.

This is the news today about FO, Pavageu’s mates apparently spent their time not just plotting against his predecessor, but building up large files of information against him and his supporters:

Des cadres de Force ouvrière fichés par des proches du secrétaire général, Pascal Pavageau

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Mélenchon’s Mates Biff Back.

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Image result for gloire a toi melenchon

“They nourish national vanity and the love of supremacy by force. “We alone,” they say, each behind his shelter, “we alone are the guardians of courage and loyalty, of ability and good taste!” Out of the greatness and richness of a country they make something like a consuming disease. Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.”

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, by Henri Barbusse, 1917.

 

The Left Should Welcome Mélenchon

Liberals want to smear Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a xenophobe. In fact, they fear his potential to unite the oppressed.

This article contains the following, which some may consider incredibly patronising, even for a graduate of Science-Po a place many consider the homeland of most patronising   arrogant gits on the planet:

Mélenchon’s patriotic tones may sound odd to British ears (as, indeed, may those of Bernie Sanders or Pablo Iglesias). But the Resistance, the Revolution, and the Commune figure far larger in French public life than the Chartists or Diggers in Britain. The Left’s own French-republican tradition owes not (as Dan tells us) to some desire to deny that Vichyite Nazi-collaborators were indeed French, or that France has committed colonial crimes, but the attempt to marginalize chauvinist narratives of French identity.

Historically, this has led to many sins of omission. And yes, Mélenchon should be scrutinized for his failings just like anyone else. But it is mean spirited and not a little bit silly to judge France Insoumise, or its leader, by assembling a series of clipped quotes and assertions of guilt by association. Was Jeremy Corbyn not himself subject to such a campaign, just a fortnight ago? I don’t agree with everything that Jean-Luc (or Jeremy) says either. But a politics of solidarity starts from the future we want to build in common.

 

Reponse

Thursday 27 September 2018, by Julien Salingue

Worse still, in order to justify his refusal of a real opening of borders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon uses the argument of the use of immigration, by the bourgeoisie, “to put pressure on wages and social gains” [9]. That some employers and politicians instrumentalize immigration to reinforce the logic of exploitation is undeniable. But to infer that immigration is “organized by the free trade treaties” [10] in order to reduce wages and grind down social gains, there is a step… that it is difficult to take. Because it is not just a question of confusion between a windfall effect and an organized policy, which we will come back to, but of the legitimization of the idea of a de facto competition between French and foreign workers and, therefore, the questioning, whether voluntary or not, of the possibility of jointly fighting against the employers. However, the fight against the pressure of capitalists determined to increase, at all costs, their profit rates, certainly does not involve challenging, even indirectly, migratory phenomena (“to say that (the waves of immigration) can exert a downward on pressure on wages and be profitable for the employer is not a completely absurd reasoning”) [11] but only challenging… the capitalist system itself, and the frantic race for profit. Besides, all things being equal, we seem to be hearing the arguments of some trade unionists at the beginning of the 20th century, according to which the entry of women, less qualified than men, into the labour market, would be used by the employers to lower wages…

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Rancière: ‘Post Democracy’, Populism, and Anti-Anti-Populism (Part One).

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‘Rancière: ‘Post Democracy’, Populism, and Anti-Anti-Populism.

Part One.

Maint fleur épanche à regret,

Son parfum doux comme un secret,

Dans les solitudes profoundes.”

Many a flower regretfully
Exhales perfume soft as secrets
In a profound solitude.

 

Le Guignon. Les Fleurs du mal. Charles Baudelaire. (1)

Introduction.

Jacques Rancière has become a reference point in radical aesthetic theory. Over the last two decades his writings have a committed audience, a larger group of spectators, and have helped inspire some optimism about allying artistic experimentation with emancipatory politics. (le Monde 6.7.18)  The irruption of “dissensus”, upturning existing communities of the creation and reception of arts, (the “partage du sensible” in a “sensus communis”), offers glimpses of “festivals of the future”. (2)

Across the left Rancière is best known as a champion of the politics of the “principle of equality”, “the equality of anyone at all with anyone else”. This, the only universal in politics, is the perpetual up-setter of apple carts. Perhaps his most ambitious target is a vehicle that might be better called a juggernaut. This is “post-democracy”. Pierre Rosanvallon has observed that he was one of the first to employ this term. “Post-democracy”(“post-démocratie”) has replaced the classical active ‘subject’ and agent of politics, effaced before the technical regulation of society – in the interests of those who hold economic power. (La contre-démocratie. 2006). As Rancière has stated, “Post-democracy is the government practice and conceptual legitimisation of a democracy after the demos, a democracy that has eliminated the appearance, miscount, and dispute of the people and is thereby reducible to the sole interplay of state mechanisms and combinations of social energies and interests.” (3)

Can the egalitarian figure of the People overturn the rule of the experts steeped in managerial science, neo-liberal economics, and the crafts of PR, presiding over post-democracy?  Is neoliberal post-democracy, as Rosanvallon has recently stated, so dominant, diffuse and elusive that the one is restricted to making its workings known?  (Le Monde. 31. 8. 18) Rancière places his hopes in a revived Demo. As he said in 2017, “the point today is trying to think a form of political organisation as really creating a new form of people. Because person is not the reality that parties represent, it is the reality that they create. The problem is whether we can create a new kind of people, a people of equals who have the possibility to put the capacity of anybody at work.” (4)

Rancière, then, is a critic of “Ètats oligarchiques”, based on the rule of – liberal – law that excludes Popular Sovereignty, and a voice on the side of the People. The late Ernesto Laclau’s On Populist Reason (2005) welcomed his “rediscovery of the People”, while flagging up his differences, with the French writers references to the “irreducible heterogeneity” (as Rancière calls it, “a multiplicity of experiences of equality, freedom or emancipation”) of popular struggle. Including those whose fight for equality flowers in “profound solitude.”(5)

Disagreements are more clearly signalled in public discussion with Laclau in 2015. Rancière asserted, “at least in European countries the representative principle of the state is completely integrated into the oligarchic mechanisms that it reproduces. It certainly does not function as a means for building a popular will.” This puts him at odds with the intramundane translation of Laclau’s ideas, put into strategic form by his partner Chantal Mouffe as ‘left populism’. Based on “federating the people”, bringing together their diverse interests and backgrounds into a unity that displaces the post-democratic consensus managed by the ruling political class, this has had some influence on European politics.  Spain’s Podemos and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI) have paid attention to this perspective. Key advisers have borrowed from Laclau’s theoretical tool-box. It would be rash nevertheless to make the bolder claim that these politicians are the earthly incarnation of the abstractions of On Populist Reason and, other, far less accessible works. Mouffe’s most recent book, For a Left Populism (2018) restricts herself to quoting Rancière’s description of “post-democracy”. The debate has halted there for the moment. (6)

Populism.

Rancière is also known for his article, L’introuvable populisme (2011), which criticised, pell-mell, “elite” contempt for the rough masses, secular French republicanism, and the racialism of the French state. Éric Fassin, Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, include these aspects of Rancière in discussion of both Populism and post-democracy. (7)

In this year’s Socialist Register James Foley and Pete Ramand find comfort for their opinions on the potential of Referendums for outsiders (including the left) to express themselves in the earlier La Haine de la démocratie (2005).  Pouring scorn on the denial of the French vote on the 19th of May 2005 against the EU Constitution, Rancière wrote on the theme he was to take up in L’introuvable populism, “Populism is the convenient name under which is dissimulated the exacerbated contradiction between popular legitimacy and expert legitimacy”.  Railing against “les oligarches, leurs savants et leurs idéologues” who despise the masses, in this instance those opposed to backing the EU plan, as ignorant “populists”. This theeme is repated many time in his writing, “‘populist’ is very much part of this arsenal used by the intellectual world, the world of the dominant.” This is, in some eyes, a way of avoiding talking about what exactly this particularly “heterogeneous” people. Indeed he is obdurate enough to claim that “it was clearly a democratic question and that was in the forefront.” In reality during that contest the ‘non’ to the Constitution included the whole of the French extreme right and many on the left marked by ‘elitist’ republicanism’ and nationalism. (8)

And yet… Rancière is best described as an ‘anti-anti-populist’. The ‘elite’ horror of mass direct intervention in political life, turning upside down the consensus of established politics, is the principal contradiction. “Cold racism”, he asserts on the universal basis of French experience, is generated by the ‘secular’ state. Laws entrenching secularism (that is, laïcité), endorsed by the Republican left, which affect ‘Moslems’, terms no doubt requiring no further explanation – highlight a wider form of contempt. But is, the “new racism coming from the top of the State” the end of the problem? The successes of right-wing ‘populism’, up to the extreme right, in the electorates of many countries, can hardly be obscured as they parade in the light of day. Is it only a ‘secondary contradiction’ amongst the people, a fabrication by ‘elites’, another shadow game in post-democracy, or, as most would imagine, a profound and rooted political problem?  Any answers are, at best, obscured by Rancière’s polemical gambit. That is, the principle  – frequent if never explicitly put – that one often needs to “reverse”, turn upside down, two poles to get a hold on how the elusive post-democratic society is operating. The election in Sweden this September suggests that one should turn this round again. We have to look at the ‘popular’ basis for mass backing for racist parties.

Radical Democracy.

That said, does Rancière contribute to grasping the world described as “post-democratic” and offer any useful ideas about creating democratic equality? Alex Dimorivić offers a hook into his work: the thinker is a champion of “Radical democracy ll, a stand that flavours democratic aspirations through “dissensus, argument, conflict and antagonism.” To approach Rancière’s politics through the lenses of left-wing radical democracy is to place him within, as he might put it, to join a sensus communis that is potentially intelligible to a broad left audience.  Rancière certainly does not follow those who are attempting to construct and channel the ‘People’ into a political organisation under the guidance of left populist theory and charismatic Leader. In the 2017 French Presidential election he called for a “non candidate”, and encouraged of independent forms of popular democracy beyond the “false choice” in the ballot box.   It would appear that the last thing the principle of equality would endorse is, transposing the words of The Philosopher and His Poor, a Party-Movement dedicated to training actors “in the art of becoming historical agents.”  (9)

Can Rancière offer light, as Étienne Balibar has stated, on the roots of his own principle of “égaliberté”, equality-liberty? That is that by pushing the drive for recognition by those without a stake in society into broader political thinking (including the worlds of Theory and Philosophy….)? He may of thinking through the concepts of freedom in the mould of radical egalitarianism, and add some spice about the pitfalls of integration into the ways things have been set up till now. Balibar’s pwn democratic experimentation, has explored the blind spots (“angles morts”) of Marxism. Rancière’s independent take (and criticisms) of pictures of the “democratic revolution”, and “political emancipation” associated with Claude Lefort.

Ideas of  “equality-liberty” may open up further avenues that bring the “principle of equality” into a wider range of issues, from human rights to the shape of the welfare state and education.  The critic of the Western military imposition of “infinite justice” is far from an opponent of all concepts of human right. Indeed he is a keen supporter of the struggles stemming from those who have no part in society (“la part des sans-part”), and their fight for rights that emerge beyond the framework of nation, peoples and classes. Those influenced by Claude Lefort tend to be over-wary of the threat of totalitarianism; Rancière has a profound tendency to ignore the issue altogether.  A certain balance, or, dare I say it, ‘anglo-saxon’ (as French writers misleadingly call us) pragmatism would suggest that that each writer may illuminate the other. (10)

But – this is a repeated warning  – often the language is very abstract. This is not only a matter of the terms employed. Slavoj Žižek point out that Rancière’s account (the ‘non-foundation’) of The Political (le politique) and Politics (la politique) structurally avoids the importance of the critique of political economy. One can extend this insight. Anybody educated in the history of the labour movement and the left will find the bald assertion of the importance of a “non-sociological” concept of the working class,  “a kind of symbolical invention of the collective”, offered without substantial documented detail, grating.  It is not only these difficulties that should concern us. Whether his take can contribute to any definite political project is equally far from clear. As Frédéric Lordon has remarked – he is far from the first to do so – the golden moments of democratic energy, real politics, are for Rancière brief and rare. The “police”, the administration of post-democracy, soon brings the masses to order. (11)

 

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Part 2, from the  La leçon d’Althusser (1975) La Nuit des prolétaires. Archives du rêve ouvrier, (1981), Le Philosophe et ses pauvres, (1983) to the overview offered by Pratiquer l’égalité  Anders Fjeld (2018) passing through, amongst others Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (2010), Chronicles of Consensual Times (2010)…….

 

References :

 

 

  1. Translation by William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954). The lines, criticsm assures us, echo, “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” Thomas Gray. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The following may extend the relevance to Rancière’s project, “Some Village Hampden that with dauntless breast, The little tyrant of his fields withstood, Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood”.
  2. On the new links between aesthetics, politics and “other ways of living”, “Entre esthétique et politique les frontières deviennent poreuses.” Le Monde. 6.7.18). One of the best texts with which to begin reading his views on art is Chapter 3. Aesthetic Separation, Aesthetic Community. The Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Rancière. Translated Gregory Elliott. Verso. 2009. See the invaluable Translator’s Introduction to, Jacques Rancière’s Politics of Perception Gabriel Rockhill to The Politics of Aesthetics. The Distribution  of the Sensible. Jacques Rancière. Continuum. 2005. In French there is this useful short overview:  Stéphane Roy-des-rosiers. Introduction approfondie à l’esthétique de Jacques Rancière.  On the wider importance of his views on aesthetic judgement, see the Introduction to Rancière’s Sentiments. David Panagia Duke University Press. 2018.
  3. Page 15. Rancière, Disagreement. Originally published as La Mesentente: Politique et philosophie, copyright 1995 Editions Galilee. Translated Julie Rose. University of Minnesota Press. 1999. On Post-democracy: Page 267. La contre-démocratie. Pierre Rosanvallon. Seuil 2006. Rosanvallon states that Rancière was probably the first to use the expression “post-démocratie” in La Mésentente. The line cited is from the English translation, Page 102. Disagreement. Op cit. The term is also known through the work of  Colin Crouch. See Colin Crouch. Coping with Post-Demcoraccy.(Fabian Society. No Date) Is there a liberalism beyond social democracy? By Colin Crouch. Policy Network , 5 May 2011
  4. .Pages 19-20 A coffee with Jacques Rancière beneath the Acropolis Babylonia. January 2018.
  5. “Concluding Remarks” On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau. Verso 2005. Don’t they represent us? A discussion between Jacques Rancière and Ernesto Laclau. 2015. Translated by David Broder, from El Diario. Page 13. For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Verso 2018.
  6. L’introuvable populisme in Qu’est-ce qu’un people? Alain Badiou, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Georges Didi-Huberman, Sadri Khiari, Jacques Rancière. La Fabrique
  7. Pages 17 – 18. Populisme: le grand ressentiment. Èric Fassin. Èditions Textuel. 2017. In the Conclusion: Ce Cauchemar qui n’en finit pas. Comment le néolibéralisme défait la démocratie. Pierre Dardot, Christian Laval. .La Découverte. 2016.
  8. In fear of Populism: Referendums and neoliberal democracy. James Foley Pete Ramand. Pages 87 –88 Rethinking Democracy  Socialist Register 2018. Merlin. La Haine de la démocratie. Jacques Rancière La Fabrique. 2005 Page 120. Europe: The Return of the People, or of Populism? 2016 (Verso site’s translation). In fact faced with the Brexit vote all he could do was mumble about  a reaction to the (EU) “denial of democracy, a denial which the European bureaucracy itself embodies. Then there is the aspect that is about relating to the other, relations with foreigners. “
  9. Radical Democracy and Socialism. Alex Dimorivić. Socialist Register 2018. Merlin 2018. On more details on this ‘non-candidacy”, such as they are, see Jacques Rancière, La Grande Table: Revaloriser la démocratie avec Jacques Rancière. France Culture. (3.5.17)“Les logiques représentatives génèrent un système d’alternance de partis qui se ressemblent de plus en plus.”:”La seule campagne significative à mon sens est précisément une campagne pour la non-présidence.” “Il reste possible d’envisager des formes d’institutions réellement démocratiques et non axées sur la question de la lutte du pouvoir.” “La vraie question est celle du choix lui-même : nous assistons à une élection de la dépossession.” “Un peuple n’existe pas par lui-même : c’est le résultat d’un certain nombre d’éléments, d’un processus politique.” “Il y a un combat à mener contre les idéologies ouvertement réactionnaires et élitistes, et un autre contre les fausses évidences.” The Philosopher and His Poor, ed. Andrew Parker, co-trans. John Drury, Corinne Oster, and Andrew Parker (2004) original edition. Le Philosophe et ses pauvres, Fayard, 1983 a crucial transtional point which will be taken up further).
  10. The translation “counting the uncounted” (counting , décompte) is used in From Universality to Equality Badiou’s critique of Rancière. Jeff Love and Todd May (Clemson University) Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy. (Web) Most of the article is taken up with demolishing one of the most arrogant claims a world class egotist has ever made, Alain Badiou has asserted that in this approach to equality Rancière simply borrowed his own concept of “nomination” – in a grand ontology which few can fathom – to signal out the moment of resistance that marks the ‘non-part’ rebellion. Rancière’s own, respectful, account of Badiou’s concept of ‘fidelity” is discussed at a level of enormous abstraction in, “Jacques Rancière A propos de L’Etre et l’Evénement d’Alain Badiou. le cahier du Collège international de philosophie.n° 8 octobre 1989 (éd. Osiris) A courageous effort to render into English the decent obscurity of the learned language in this essay on Badiou is offered by David Broder, Time is nothing other than intervention”—Jacques Rancière on Alain Badiou’s Being and Event. Verso Site.
  11. The link is underlined by Balibar right at the beginning of this work, “il faut que s’affirme une légitimité de la lutte, ce que Jacques Rancière appelle la part des sans-part, qui confère une signification universelle à la revendication du « décompte » de ceux qui ont été maintenus en dehors du « bien commun » ou de la « volonté générale” Ouverture: l’antimonie de la citoyenneté. In Étienne Balibar. La Proposition de l’égaliberté. Essais politiques. 1980 – 2009/ Actuel Marx. PUF 2010. Étienne Balibar, L’Illimitation démocratique. Martin Deleixhe. Michalon Éditeur. 2014. Page 293. Of Lefort’s writings on these issues see particularly. Essais sur le politique. Claude Lefort. Seuil. 1986. L’invention démocratique. Fayard, 1981/1994.  Page 75. Amongst many references to this take on human rights see: What is the Subject of the Rights of Man? In Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (2010) The Lesson of Rancière. Slavoj Žižek. In: The Politics of Aesthetics. The Distribution of the Sensible. Op Cit. Structures et affects des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2012.

 

As Controversy Rages on Boris Johnson, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Backer of the Burqa Ban, is invited to Momentum Labour Fringe.

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Image result for Photo by Yemeni photographer Boushra al-Moutawakel.

‘Disparition’ by Yemeni photographer Boushra al-Moutawakel.

Boris Johnson should be kicked out of Conservative party for burka comments, Muslim peer demands.

Plenty of people have commented on the words of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party’s relationship to Islam, not to mention those who’ve joined in, with glee at the opportunity to attack the prejudices revealed amongst the Tories and their supporters.

In a different vein I began writing on the wider European and international context of the controversy this morning.

Johnson may speak for a ‘liberal’ attitude peppered with a  few rude words (personally I find his handling of the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case, prisoner of the Islamic Republic of Iran far far worse).

An obvious point to begin with is that  that the Danish Social Democrats,  Socialdemokraterne, backed the public ban on the burqa,

“The Liberal, Conservative and Danish People’s parties all voted in favour of the bill, as did the opposition Social Democrats with the exception of MP Mette Gjerskov, thereby securing the majority.” The Local. 

The full law needs looking at it:

Another issue would be the silence of most of the people now shouting about Johnson faced with this: (March 2018): Iranian woman who removed headscarf jailed for two years. “Prosecutor says woman took off obligatory hijab in Tehran street to ‘encourage corruption’.”

But, to return to the issue of the burqa in general,  France, the best known secular country,  has, with the support of many sections of the left, prohibited the full face veil since 2011 (Loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l’espace public.The bill was passed by the National Assembly by a vote of 335–1.

Amongst the left who backed the ban was Jean-luc Mélenchon, vocal in his enthusiasm for Laïcité, secularism.

It did not take long to draw some connections here, and the Spectator had got there before me:

Man who supported a burka ban to speak at Corbynista festival

Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The French socialist veteran who ‘inspired the European left with his radical campaign for the presidency in 2017’ will be speaking to a Momentum-heavy crowd at the event. And what is his view on Muslim dress? Well, it turns out he has advocated a full face veil ban, as well as stating that the burkini was ‘a provocation’ – and the ‘fruit of a Salafist religious offensive’:

‘It is not impossible or contrary to public freedoms and fundamental rights to legislate on dress practices if the defence of public order and human dignity justifies it. The complete concealment of the face is problematic from this dual point of view. It prevents any recognition of the persons concerned, which disturbs public order. And it also deprives them of social existence and undermines their physical and moral integrity which puts into question the dignity of the human person. It is therefore on this double basis that the law could affirm the obligation to have the face discovered in all public places.’

The Spectator gives no source for this quote but it a pithy and accurate summary of the views of the leader of La France insoumise (LFI).

Here is the site of The World Transformed 2018.

As a service to those attending the rally here are Some further indications of his stand:

From Tendance Coatesy: (2016).

Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the Burkini : “C’est une provocation”.

Dans Le Monde d’aujourd’hui, JLM condamne les “militantes provocatrices en burkini”.  Michelle Guerci.

«L’instrumentalisation communautariste du corps des femmes est odieuse. C’est un affichage militant, mais quand on est l’objet d’une provocation, mieux vaut ne pas se précipiter dedans […] La masse des musulmans est excédée par une histoire qui les ridiculise. Valls a eu tort d’en rajouter. »

The ‘communitarian’ * exploitation of women’s bodies is vile. It’s a militant badge, but even so when we are the target of a provocation the best thing to do is not to get involved…The majority of Muslims are frustrated by this row, which makes them look ridiculous. Valls (Prime Minister) is wrong to add to it.

Il ressort de cette interview que JLM, ne condamne ni les maires qui ont pris ces arrêtés, ni Manuel Valls qui les a soutenus,  ni la droite sarkoziste qui a orchestré cette campagne, ni le gouvernement qui laisse faire (3), mais des femmes accusées d’instrumentaliser leur propre corps ou de l’être par leurs maris, pères, cousins… Bref la fameuse COMMUNAUTE.

It is apparent in this interview that JLM neither condemns the Mayors who have instituted these by-laws, nor Manuel Valls (Prime Minister) who backs them, nor the (ex-President) Sarkozy’s right-wing which has orchestrated the campaign, nor the the government which has allowed this to happen, but the women involved, who have used their own bodies, or have been ‘used’ by their husbands, their fathers, their cousins…to put it simply, the famous “community”.

Le burkini est le fruit d’une offensive religieuse salafiste qui ne concerne qu’une partie de l’islam […] La question politique à résoudre reste celle du combat des femmes pour accéder librement à l’espace public.

The burkini is the product of a Salafist religious offensive which only affects a part of Islam….There still remains the political issue of women’s struggle for free access to the public sphere.

Michelle Guerci points out that the Burkini is in fact a relatively new phenomenon, which would itself be prohibited under the rule of severe Wahhabist codes.

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When the law banning the bukha was first debated in 2010 this post was on Tendance Coatesy.

French Left Leader Backs Secular Freedom Against Religious Garb.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Here

On proposals to ban the Burka.

What is wrong with the Burka (voile intégral) ?  “D’abord parce qu’il est obscène.”

To start with it’s obscene.

“Si l’objet de la nouvelle loi est bien de garantir la liberté, l’égalité et la dignité de toutes les femmes qui vivent sur notre territoire, d’autres mesures seraient opportunes dans ce cadre.

If the object of the new law is  to guarantee freedom, equality and dignity of all women who live in our land, there are other measures which should be taken within this structure.

The Parliametary Left should amend the law (he is a Senator).

The aim should be to extend secularism.

It is time to impose the principle of ‘mixing’ (that is women and men should allowed to be together) in all public places. Today this principle is not guaranteed by law, even in schools.

For example, one cannot accept the rule that reserves certain hours in swimming pools for one gender. Or that certain types of sport should be reserved for one gender.

Finally, if the legislators are really coherent they should extend secularism to French overseas territories and to Alsace Moselle (where there is still recognition of religion as part of the state and the education system).

The LFI chef has not dropped his hostile views on Islamic ‘modest’ dress, as can be seen in this furious attack on his opinions on the veil  in 2017.

Sur la question du voile, les propos choquants de Jean-Luc Mélenchon dans « L’émission politique »

During the 2017 Presidential elections the (now)  Candidate for the  Élysée emphasised his backing for banning the burka (voile intégral).

Jean-Luc Mélenchon est pour l’interdiction du voile, s’il est intégral, mais n’envisage pas de légiférer s’il ne l’est pas.

And in May 2018 the LFI leader criticised the fact that the new leader of the student union Unef, Maryam Pougetoux,, who has a veil, comparing it to himself advertising religion by wearing an enormous cross.

Mélenchon sur le voile de la présidente de l’Unef à la Sorbonne : “C’est comme si j’arrivais avec une énorme croix”.

Many people will be uncomfortable with legislation on the issue of the face-veil, the burqa.

And with La France insoumise’s vision of a top-down administered secularism.

But from that to go and speak of this as if it’s simply a fashion choice, or worse, ‘celebrating’ it as a sign of diversity, is both insulting and reactionary.

The blood-stained tyrannies which have enforced this dress remind us that it is not, in the view of some currents of Islam, a ‘choice’ but an obligation.

As Terri Murray has put it, Why feminists should oppose the burqa.

The claim that covering yourself up in public is an empowering choice insults the intelligence and dignity of women everywhere, just as the theological claim that the burqa is a necessary defence against predatory male sexuality insults Muslim men insofar as it treats them as fundamentally incapable of responsibility for their sexual behaviour.

The reason Western feminists (male or female) object to seeing women in burqas is not that we can’t tolerate diversity, but that the burqa is a symbol of patriarchal Islam’s intolerance of dissent and desire to contain and repress female sexuality.

Without challenging the burqa we cannot challenge the oppressions it is bound up with.

At the minimum it is hard to disagree than nobody in a public function should  enforce their religious ideas of “Purity” and sexual segregation through the display of this oppressive costume.