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Posts Tagged ‘French Left

Culture Wars, Black Lives Matter, and Labour’s Future.

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America Protests Minnesota

Culture Wars: Protesters have pulled down a statute of Christopher Columbus outside the Minnesota State Capitol.

“Parts of the left have spent the months since Keir Starmer was elected leader attacking him for “losing the working-class base” through his social liberalism. Now he’s faced with attacks from the same corner for failing to support the destruction of the Colston statue.”

Paul Mason. To defeat the far right, Labour must lead the anti-racist movement

In his analysis of the Black Lives movement Paul Mason makes the cutting point that  recently a certain left press, from the Morning Star downwards, was full of attacks on the “metropolitan liberal” Keir Starmer and the internationalist pro-EU left. The Bluff Workers of the Red Wall would not put up with this North London elitism.

Things have changed.

This week the Morning Star took it upon itself to comment Editorially,

Colston’s toppled statue links the anti-racist and anti-imperialist causes

KEIR STARMER’S description of the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol as “completely wrong,” like Priti Patel’s claim that it was “utterly disgraceful,” show their distance from what has become an international movement against racism.

They recommend creating  “building the broadest possible anti-racist alliance – one which connects racial oppression to capitalism. A movement that targets a system of which the whole working class are the victims and an imperialist global order based on exploitation and war.” – an alliance, one assumes, which keeps Keir Starmer at a distance.

Such a movement would develop a consistency the Labour leadership lacks, as it tries to square sympathy with anti-Trump protesters in the US with support for Washington’s aggression abroad.

While pondering on just what US “aggression” the Labour Leader supports we should not that other spokespeople for the Red Wall  have stood their ground.

Anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner Paul Embery (promoted by the Socialist Party as head of Trade Unionists Against the EU during the referendum), (1) says,

Now, in stark contrast,  his old anti-EU muckers in the Socialist Party are ready to advise Black Lives protesters,

Black Lives Matter protests sweep country: How can the movement win?

Sir Keir Starmer told LBC radio: “It shouldn’t have been done in that way, [it was] completely wrong to pull a statue down like that.” With this comment, and also in his approach to Covid, he has shown that he is not prepared to stand up for working-class people and defy the Tories – in bronze or in parliament.

The movement will have to build its own leadership through a testing of ideas and organisation as it develops.

And what would that involve?

To be on the side of this movement means drawing on the conclusion of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers: “You can’t have capitalism without racism”.

What does that mean for building the Black Lives Matter movement? It means building a mass united movement of working-class people with anti-racism at its heart; that fights for workplace safety and PPE for all who need it; for fighting trade unions; for free education; for democratic working class control of the police, and for a future for all young people. It means building a new mass party of workers and young people because we can’t trust the capitalist politicians with our lives and our future.

And it means fighting for the alternative to capitalism – socialism. Capitalism is outmoded. It can’t offer us a future. Join the Socialist Party to help us raise these ideas in the new movement.

The militantly pro-Brexit George Galloway’s new party has its own take.

Socialist Worker publishes this appeal, from the USA, by Michael Brown.

 we need to take these rebellions and uprisings to their most radical conclusions.

Already we have certain sections of the state—particularly the Democratic Party—that are offering concessions.

At this point, we need to be demanding and raising reforms but keep in mind that the system is rotten.

It needs to be uprooted, branch and root entirely. We’ve exhausted all other social means.

The power is in the streets. It’s not enough to write to your congressman or circulate a petition anymore.

And first and foremost the ruling class is scared because people are looting and burning, and defying curfews. That type of militant power in the streets is what we need.

The revolt runs deep—take it to its most radical conclusions

Others from the pro-Brexit camp remain reserved.

Pontificating Prelate Giles Fraser, once the darling of protesters against neo-liberal globalisation, now a Tory voter retweets,

Are there different approaches, ones that avoid the naked opportunism of sections of the left, and the reactionary response of the Blue Labour and Red-Brown Spiked?

As with all his writing Paul Mason’s important article should be read in full.

Key points include that the movement shows two striking aspects:

The first is an expression of power and solidarity by black Britons. Though the London demos have been multi-ethnic, when seen as black community events they are unparalleled in size. The university students, the taxi drivers, the cleaners, the church congregations, the football teams, the DJs and the civil servants of black London were drawn together in one place. These were not “activists” – they were families and friends mobilised together.

The second aspect of these events is they are a political project. They reflect the desire of multi-ethnic urban communities to decisively roll back the racism they see pervading their everyday experience: they have had enough, and a response has been coming for years.

He continues,

And that leads to the third characteristic of this moment. It is a major challenge to the Labour Party.



The black community, like everyone interested in politics, understands that there will not be a progressive government in this country unless Labour can take back its former northern heartlands. But the implicit question posed by the recent demonstrations was: “OK, but on what basis?”

Neither the Socialist Party’s call for a “mass united movement” around their own party, nor the SWP’s belief that “militant power in the streets” is on the political agenda, look likely, or are designed to help this objective. Nor are they likely  to win many converts.

But taking back voters is a hard subject. Labour has to be convincing, not just story-telling It is far from sure that we can will into being an alliance of the ‘Red Wall’ and socially liberal internationalists with a counter-movement and narrative, around the themes Mason suggests, the “family, fairness, hard work and decency” agenda.

If we are talking about a political project  deft national populism Tory, far right, and Red-Brown , one that can relate to Keir Starmer’s team in the Labour Party, but with a much broader appeal and some solid policy behind it.

I’d start looking at some of the ideas coming from new alliances of the greens, centre left socialists and social democrats, and*significant figures of the radical left, that are emerging in France around l’initiative commune, on radical changes to create an open modern and decent welfare system, raising working standards and pay, better, public services, tax reform, ecological transition (the ‘Green New Deal’, for more details see Au cœur de la crise, construisons l’avenir (2)

These efforts to bring people together for a positive future are encouraging, and should expand to include the issues Black Lives Matter raise.

Without this kind of compass plunging directly into the ‘culture’ wars looks a risky  task.

To begin with the sheer size and breadth of the moment we undergoing looks fraught with difficulties.

As Joseph Harker says in the Guardian today,

Black Lives Matter’ risks becoming an empty slogan. It’s not enough to defeat racism

If I hear one more white person say “Black Lives Matter” I think my head will explode. The slogan, powerful when first popularised by black people after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 in the US, has now become so ubiquitous as to have lost almost all meaning. A way for people to endlessly repeat “I hate racism” while doing nothing to actually stop it.

When even Boris Johnson can say “Black Lives Matter” – the same Boris Johnson who talks of African piccaninnies, of “bank robber” burqa wearers, who leads a party riven by Islamophobia but refuses a proper investigation into it, and who was part of a government that deported black British citizens, and continues the injustice of the hostile environment to this day – well, you know the slogan’s cultural appropriation is complete.

This brilliant article reminds one of this comment today:

Some further points can be made.

My own ancestors in Ireland, Glasgow and the East End did not get much of the Imperial “surplus wealth” or, I could cite Ireland as an obvious case, benefited from racism……

This Blog suggests that while the culture wars around the issues of racism are important we should not end with statues from the legacy of the slave trade,  British imperialism, or wider European colonisation.

It is not just a reckoning with the past, or present day American or European black lives that matter.

Certainly this is not helped by pulling stuff from television.

Given the state of the world this looks pretty small.

As internationalists we should be fighting the prejudice and disdain which has led many, including on the left, to ignore the millions of Syrian lives at threat from the Assad regime  and the millions of African  lives at risk in present day horrific civil conflict.

In the first instance we await the Morning Star’s support for the victims of the Baathist regime.



(1) Paul Embery speaks at the TUSC meeting in Cardiff photo Ross Saunders   (Click to enlarge)

Ross Saunders and Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

The ‘Socialist Case Against the EU’ tour held a lively and fraternal meeting in Cardiff on 9 June.

The tour is organised by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which supports a Leave vote, and includes transport union RMT and the Socialist Party.

(2) “Des figures intellectuelles et politiques de la gauche et de l’écologie appellent à une « initiative commune »

14th of May Le Monde.

The list of names indicates the breadth of the appeal.

On peut y trouver les ténors de la gauche et des écologistes : les députés socialistes Olivier Faure et Valérie Rabault, les députés européens Raphaël Glucksmann et Aurore Lalucq, la présidente de région Occitanie, Carole Delga, et les maires Johanna Rolland (Nantes) et Nathalie Appéré (Rennes) ; les écologistes Yannick Jadot, Sandra Regol, Eric Piolle et Eva Sas ; les amis de Benoît Hamon, Guillaume Balas et Claire Monod ; les communistes Ian Brossat et Pierre Laurent.

Ils ont été rejoints par un large panel associatif et syndical et de nombreux intellectuels progressistes. On peut remarquer ainsi les signatures personnelles des anciennes ministres passées au monde des ONG Cécile Duflot (Oxfam) et Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (One), de l’ex-président d’Emmaüs Thierry Kuhn, de l’urgentiste Rony Brauman, des anciens syndicalistes Bernard Thibault, Bernadette Groison ou Annick Coupé, des altermondialistes Gus Massiah et Christophe Aguiton. Des intellectuels de renom ont aussi paraphé l’appel, tels Thomas Piketty, Julia Cagé, Pierre Charbonnier, Dominique Méda et Sandra Laugier.

Faced with the Pandemic French Left regroups and debates a better future.

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L'initiative commune – Au cœur de la crise, construisons l'avenir.

French Left Offers Ideas for a Better Future.

On the 14th of May an unprecedented array of political figures from the centre-left (some more centre than left), the French Green Party (EELV), the Communist Party and radical ‘other-globalisation’ organisations such as ATTAC, issued a declaration that appealed for a new direction in French politics.

Titled, “At the heart of the crisis, let’s build the future” it was backed by one hundred and fifty personalities close to the left or to the ecologists , including Olivier Faure (Parti Socialiste), Yannick Jadot (Europe Écologie Les Verts ) or Ian Brossat ( Parti communiste français), called in a long public statement published in Le Nouvel Obsevateur for a “convention for a common world”

France is facing an earthquake on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of nature has encouraged  a pandemic which has generated a major economic crisis, created a brutal social shock, especially for the most precarious, and a out the functioning of democracy into question. Public authorities have had that had to improvise in the face of this major crisis. The extraordinary commitment of carers, the courage of those who have worked tirelessly in the service of all and the civic spirit of millions of people confined in difficult conditions, call for the gratitude of everybody.

Right now, the issue  about avoiding the worst and preparing for the future. Repairing  the damage already in face of us, the defence of liberty the obligation to prepare a resilient society, these require a strong collective response. The crisis confirms the urgent need for large-scale changes. From this imperative necessity, let us give birth to hope. We are not doomed to suffer!

The statement called for a strengthening on an egalitarian basis of the French welfare state, notably in the areas of health and pensions, ‘ecological transition’ (the Green New Deal, which has been a demand of French centre, green and radical left politics for much longer than its recent UK appearance), expansive and flexible European Monetary policy, and the reintroduction of the previous Parti Socialiste government’s tax on the rich (Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune, ISF),

TRIBUNE. « Au cœur de la crise, construisons l’avenir »

Further :

Amongst the signatories were Thomas Piketty, the radical leftist, Christophe Aguiton (La gauche du 21 e siècleenquête sur une refondation. 2017) and the former (Left-wing) Green leader,  Cécile Duflot.

These supporters did not prevent the web commentator Usul, close to La France insoumise, from claiming that this was an attempt to create a post-Macron “bourgeois bloc” of the centre-left. It was, he ironically put it, a kind of pot potpourri of nice green and liberal social democratic ideas that would appeal to the metropolitan elites, and continue the centre-left project, excluding the “classes populaires”. This is the return of the ‘gauche bourgeoise.”

Usul remarked that the bloc of forces excluded Jean-Luc Mélenchon


Usul. Le grand retour de la gauche bourgeoise

Here is his, witty, Video version.

The comparison with previous efforts to create a “bloc bourgeois”, allegedly the project of the Parti Socialiste (in power, be it remembered until 2017), runs up against a number of problems.

The book from which the expression is taken, L’illusion du Bloc Bourgeois (Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini. 2018) refers to attempts to go beyond traditional alliances, to bring together right and left. Emmanuel Macron has rather monopolised this strategy. The alternative ‘sovereigntist’ attempt to create a political expression that can capture the ‘popular’ classes in a left populist project, that is, La France insoumise (LFI), has failed to take off.

The demand to maintain social protection that is the weakest point of the ‘bloc bourgeois’ of the French centre-left, shown by many of the PS’s labour and welfare ‘reforms’ (see Pages 114 – 146 of the L’illusion). However in another context these rights are linked to EU standards. During the UK Brexit referendum, as promoted  by Another Europe is Possible, and other internationalist left forces, a pro-European strategy made inroads into the labour movement and some (urban) layers of the working class in ‘precarious’ employment by demanding that “une autre Europe possible”. The sovereigntist British left failed to defend these advances, and encouraged not just a hard right Brexit, but the victory of Boris Johnson.

A further sign of the importance of the above unity initiative can be seen on the site of the radical and democratic wing of the left, which forms an independent ally of La France insoumise, Ensemble. This appeared at the end of April and could be said to introduce the terrain on which the Nouvel Observateur declaration was made.

Signed by Clémentine Autain députée (groupe LFI) , Guillaume Balas coordinateur du mouvement Génération·s , Elsa Faucillon députée (groupe communiste) , Alain Coulombel membre d’EE-LV

Many initiatives, public or not, forums and petitions have been circulating since the start of the health crisis. They carry the will to bring about a new world.

It is even harder to dismiss this appeal, (issued this week) signed by the CGT (radical left Union Federation), Greenpeace, Attac, Confédération paysanne, Youth for Climate France and many other groups),

Plus Jamais ça : 34 mesures pour un plan de sortie de crise

(see Le Monde« Face à la crise, il faut sortir du système néolibéral et productiviste »)

In the meantime La France insoumise ploughs its own furrow, competing, it is said, with the Rassemblement national (ex-Front National): Coronavirus : La France insoumise et le Rassemblement national veulent profiter de la colère

The left sovereigntists – or “republicans” (including LFI, some of the PCF, and others, continue their own attempts to recover a political voice.

La gauche républicaine veut se réarmer idéologiquement

La France insoumise (LFI), le Parti communiste français ou la Gauche républicaine et socialiste (GRS), la petite structure de l’ancien socialiste Emmanuel Maurel ; des think tanks, comme Intérêt général ou l’Institut Rousseau ; un site, comme Le Vent se lève ; ou encore des politiques, comme Arnaud Montebourg ou Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The overarching themes these debates raise is brilliantly discussed by New Left Review hate figure Pierre Rosenvallon France Culture: Le coronavirus a-t-il déconfiné la gauche ?

One of the main themes emerging is a return to idea of planning, and the  merits of the commissariat général du Plan (CGP) that existed from 1946 to 2006,

The radio links to these articles (I do not repeat the one this Post began with):

Pour un projet social et écologiste, éditorial de Denis Sieffert, de la revue Politis.

Le monde d’après sera un champ de bataille, éditorial d’Hervé Kempf, du site Reporterre.

Un mal sanitaire pour un bien politique ? Editorial de Laurent Joffrin de Libération.

Better than own factionalists in fact…

First Round of French Local Elections: Set Back for Macron, Greens and Left in Strong Position.

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Second Round May Be Postponed.

The Right wing daily Le Figaro began its report on the first round of the French local elections by citing supporters of President Macron’s Party, LaREM, (1) lamenting their set-back, “Pas bon du tout»«catastrophique»«c’est un échec»…”


(1) I like this Wikipedia explanation, “La République En Marche ![a] (frequently abbreviated REMLRM or LREM, officially LaREM; possible translation: “The Republic on the move!”), sometimes called En Marche ! (French: [ɑ̃ maʁʃ]; English translation: “Forward!”,[11][12] “Onward!”,[13] “Working!” or “On The Move!”)” Some might suggest this indicates a pretty transient name for a political party.

Putting back the Second Round will create a legal headache.

Despite the bizarre conditions in which the vote took place, the left and the Greens have still something to be happy about:

The Greens (EELV) are in a good position in Bordeaux, (an historic bastion of the right)  Lyon, Strasbourg, Poitiers and Besançon as wella s to keep control of Grenoble, where most of the left have gathered on a united list.

EELV are encouraged by the results:

The Paris vote was good for the left.

The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, (LaREM) did not win in the first round in Le Havre,  his Communist Opponent performed strongly.

Municipales : c’est loin d’être gagné pour Edouard Philippe au Havre

Phillippe scored  43,6 % and his Communist rival, Jean-Paul Lecoq, backed by La France insoumise, won  35,88 %. The Greens, supposed by the Parti Socialiste, got 8,3% and the far-right RN, had 7,27%.

This prediction for the Second Round may be optimistic:

The French Communist Party (PCF) is encouraged more widely (l’Humanité).

Les maires PCF de Montreuil, Gennevilliers, Dieppe, Martigues, Vierzon, Montataire, Saint-Amand-les-Eaux et Tarnos ont, notamment, été réélus dès hier.

The far-right consolidated its position but apart from Perpignan (which is personally saddening) made no gains.

There was therefore no breakthrough for the far right.

Sur fond d’abstention record, la formation de Marine Le Pen a profité comme les autres partis de la «prime» aux sortants. Mais à part Perpignan, elle n’apparaît pas en mesure d’agrandir sa toile.

The election atmosphere is reported to have been extremely odd.

The rate of abstention  was, unsurprisingly,  very high:

Green surge and low turnout as virus fears weigh on French local elections

France 24.

French voters cast their ballots Sunday in nationwide municipal elections marked by record-low turnout after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life in an increasingly frantic effort to slow the progress of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The report continues,

In the most keenly watched race, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a commanding lead with 30% of the first-round ballot, 8 points ahead of her conservative challenger; the candidate for Macron’s ruling party was a distant third.

Running for re-election in Le Havre, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe topped the first round but faced the prospect of a tough run-off vote against a united left.

The famous port, Le Havre, was Communist run City until 1995. I visited it, circa 1994, and out of curiosity, went to the union offices in the Bourse du Travail where a T & G card did wonders.

They recommended me the Town Hall, where I was received by the PCF run team with great respect, a snack, and they talked about their municipal politics.

Apart from the shock administered to Macron’s Prime Minister it is good to see how low the far-right vote was in that City.