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New Row on Antisemitism Looms as Jean-Luc Mélenchon to speak at Labour conference Momentum fringe.

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« La révolution citoyenne a déjà commencé » - L'interview des interview

Mélenchon to Learn from Labour Party “Shining Beacon”.

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

Next month, The World Transformed will be welcoming Jean-Luc Mélenchon to speak at its Labour conference fringe. The French politician who inspired the European left with his radical campaign for the presidency in 2017 won more than seven million votes. Since then, despite only commanding 17 MPs in the National Assembly, Mélenchon has emerged as the main resistance to the neoliberal ‘Jupiterian’ presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

It was the promise of a Sixth Republic, based on the principles of justice and democracy, which saw young and old flock to Mélenchon’s campaign. Likewise, Corbyn promised a constitutional convention as part of his quiet political revolution. Both seek to distribute power to the people.

Shifts in political power will, however, achieve little without an attendant transfer in economic power. The resurgent left is based above all on one thing: the return of class to politics. As Corbyn put it in a speech last month, Labour is back as the party of the working class. Mélenchon was at the heart of recent protests against Macron’s zombie neoliberal ‘reforms’ targeting the once-powerful French public sector (particularly rail workers). Both would repeal restrictive trade union laws, move to protect people from precarity and rebuild national industry following the ravages of neoliberalism.

Corbyn’s Labour is a shining beacon to the left, in Europe and beyond. As parties across Europe, including the PS, suffer from Pasokification, a resurgent Labour demonstrates the need for a strong, socialist alternative to a decaying neoliberalism.

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.

Angus Satow is an organiser for The World Transformed.

Was the promise of a 6th republic in France the cause which attracted French voters to back the – failed – candidacy of Mélenchon in 2017?

Is a British “constitutional Convention” capable of bringing about a “citizens’ revolution”?

Can we see the invitation to one section of the fragmented and divided French left a sign of building “socialism from the grassroots”?

Can we say that a new left being created through a return to class politics?

French trade unionists, in the ‘intersyndicale’ (joint unions committee which led the recent strikes against Macron’s plans for the country’s railway service will no doubt be pleased to hear from The World Transformed  that their efforts were overshadowed by Mélenchon’s efforts on their (and his)  behalf.

Those who follow French politics will perhaps ask questions about the ‘grassroots democracy’ inside Mélenchon’s rally, La France insoumise.

It declares that it is not a party but a “un mouvement de citoyens individuels qui se reconnaissent dans la démarche de Jean-Luc Mélenchon “, a movement of individual citizens who identify with the approach laid out by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

A bit like Momentum’s claim to be supporters of Corbyn rather than the Labour Party itself...

At ‘conferences’ (‘Convention, December 2017) of the movement up to 60% of the “delegates” were chosen by lot and the others by a process which makes the old British Tory Party’s way by which leaders ’emerged’ look transparent.

There were no clashes between opposing motions, or organised currents of political opinion.

There is however plenty of ‘cyber-democracy’ (votes for all on a narrow spectrum of pre-prepared ideas) …tweets, FB groups and Memes….

Critics…..

Unsurprisingly there is dissatisfaction with the way things are run inside this Rally (A La France insoumise, la démocratie interne fait débat).

On paper it’s a ‘horizontal’ movement.

In reality, critics say, that it is “vertical” with decision-making in the hands of Mélenchon’s key advisers.

LFI’s strategy is often called  ‘left populist’, drawing on sources such as Chantal Mouffe’s extensive writings (the latest, For a Left Populism. 2018).

It is said that they are engaged in a ‘Battle for hegemony’. At  present they have not in a long-term ‘war of position’ but a frenetic ‘war of movement’ against not just Macron, the ‘elite’, and ‘the media’, but to win leadership over the rest of the French left and ‘federate the people”.

There are many other things to say, such as Mélenchon’s continued support for the Maduro regime in Venezuela, his dreams of a Bolivarian revolution, and a position on the European Union that while formally pro-European keeps slipping into assertions of French sovereignty,  sovereigntism than the pro-Other Europe views of many Labour members.

In their favour it must be said that LFI’s most recent proposals in migration have included a defence of asylum seekers and an ambitious plan to cope with global migration. Propositions alternatives au projet de loi sur l’immigration et l’asile. 28th of May 2018.

 

The real problem is that the invitation to  Mélenchon’ is probably going to get embroiled in the Labour row over anti-semitism.

Why?

Mireille Knoll: Crowds jeer French far-right, far-left leaders after ‘anti-Semitic’ murder.

BBC. 28 March 2018

France’s far-right and far-left leaders have been booed during a Paris rally after a Jewish woman was killed in what is being treated as anti-Semitic crime.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of France Unbowed joined the silent march, defying wishes of Jewish groups.

The groups accuse the two parties of having anti-Semites in their ranks – a claim denied by both organisations.

Mireille Knoll, 85, was stabbed and then burnt in her Paris flat on Friday.

As a child in 1942, she evaded the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up of some 13,000 Jews in Paris, who were then deported to Nazi death camps.

Two men have been held and placed under formal investigation over her murder.

……

On Wednesday, Ms Le Pen and Mr Mélenchon met a hostile reception from a number of protesters marching from Paris’s Place de la Nation to Ms Knoll’s apartment in the east of the French capital.

The two political leaders had to leave the rally as tensions threatened to boil over. Ms Le Pen later rejoined the protest, the AFP reports.

Ahead of the rally, Crif, an umbrella organisation of France’s Jewish groups, asked the far-right and far-left politicians not to join the event.

“Anti-Semites are over-represented in the far-left and the far-right, making those parties ones that you don’t want to be associated with,” Crif director Francis Kalifat told RTL radio.

“Therefore they are not welcome,” he added.

This dispute has long-standing roots:   including the LFI leader’s charge against the Crif’s “aggressive communitarianism” )Le communautarisme du Crif est particulièrement agressif”   Mélenchon et le Crif, un désamour de longue date. In return the CRIF has, in the past, made claims (strongly contested)  that Mélenchon  was in some manner implicated in anti-semitic demonstrations that followed public protests over Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2014, (” les complaisances de Jean-Luc Mélenchon pour les manifestations antisémites de l’été 2014). The Communist daily, l’Humanite   was the venue where the accusations of anti-semitism have continued to surface, firstly in a column by Jean Rouaud, and then, in his defence, by its Director, Patrick Appel-Muller. (Quand Jean-Luc Mélenchon est accusé d’antisémitisme dans L’Humanité. Marianne. 13.12.2017).

The controversy, with obvious echoes in present day UK disputes, centred over the language used.

 

Many, while they would perhaps not always agree with the wording of the leader of LFI’s criticisms of Israel, find some of the claims of the CRIF hard to swallow. It is  hard to imagine that somebody who comes from the tradition of Laïcité (as this Blog does) and who has never shied away expressing his hostility to  anti-semitism, can be accused of….. anti-antisemitism

No doubt it did not help that he referred to his opponents in the CRIf as “la secte CRIF on his Blog in the article L’antisémitisme et « La France Insoumise ».

Nor that his ‘republican’ patriotism lead him not long ago to deny that “France”, that is the French republic, was responsible for Vichy anti-Jewish legislation and complicity in Nazi war crimes.

This kind of language and disassociation is hard to echo outside of France.

As an illustration of his position on these issues Mélenchon expressed his “total opposition” last year when one of the MP’s of his rally, La France insoumise (LFI),  Danièle Obono., expressed her support for the anti-semitic racist groupuscule, le Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR):  Mélenchon met les choses au clair avec le Parti des indigènes de la République.

He and his party condemned her remarks.

It is doubtful nevertheless that in the present climate that we will see a rational – favourable or critical – reception of Mélenchon when he addresses a Labour and Momentum audience.

 

 

 

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France: Top Macron Minder, Alexandre Benalla, Filmed Hitting May Day Protester.

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Image result for Alexandre Benalla, image frapper un manifestant

Alexandre Benalla: “After  attacks quickly slipped off afraid of being recognised”.

L’Indépendent,

“Cet homme s’est ensuite rapidement éloigné de peur d’être reconnu…”

The Guardian reports, “Benalla, wearing a police visor, is seen first grabbing and dragging a woman, then dragging, hitting and stamping on an unarmed young man who seems to be in pain.”

“The many riot police close by appear to let Benalla carry out the violence untroubled.

One witness who saw the incident said: “What I watched was not normal, it was extraordinary, it was not legal and it was not techniques used by the police. It’s unacceptable, I’m extremely angry and I want to see action by the justice system, police and administration against this member of staff of the presidency.”

One of President Emmanuel Macron’s top security officers was at the centre of a potentially damaging scandal for the French leader on Wednesday after being filmed hitting a protester.

France 24.

Le Monde newspaper published a video showing Alexandre Benalla hitting and then stamping on a young man while wearing a police visor during a demonstration in central Paris on May 1.

Benalla, who is not a policeman and previously worked as bodyguard, had been given permission to “observe police operations” during a day-off on the May 1 public holiday, Macron’s office said.

The presidential palace added that Benalla had been suspended for two weeks after the incident came to light and had been transferred out of his job, which was organising security for Macron’s trips.

“This sanction was to punish unacceptable behaviour and it was a final warning before being sacked,” presidential spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit told reporters.

Prosecutors in Paris opened a probe on Thursday into possible charges of violence by a public official, pretending to be a policeman and the illegal use of police insignia.

Benalla was a popular and ever-present member of Macron’s campaign team, usually found several steps behind the then-candidate, and transferred to the presidential staff in May 2017.

Opposition MPs immediately suggested there had been a cover up and questioned why the incident had not been referred to the police when it came to light in May.

“This video is shocking. Today, we have the feeling that in Macron’s entourage, one is above the law. It is obvious that Macron has to speak up about this,” Laurent Wauquiez, president of conservative opposition party Les Républicains told Europe 1 radio.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said there was “a double standard” in how Benalla had been treated compared to any ordinary French citizen.

Alexis Corbière, an MP for the hard-left France Unbowed party, said Benalla “deserves to be punished with a prison sentence, at least a suspended sentence and with very heavy sanctions”.

Supporters of Macron claimed that the punishment handed down to Benalla – suspension without pay for two weeks and a transfer to an administrative job – was appropriate.

In fact le Monde has just reported that the French prosecution service has now opened an inquiry into the incident:

 Le parquet ouvre une enquête visant un collaborateur de Macron

As is the way  Videos of the incident are already freely available.

 

It is astonishing, and outrageous, that Benalla  thought he could get away with this behaviour.

As the person who filmed the incident, Taha Bouhafs, says,

Ça montre que quand on est conseiller d’Emmanuel Macron, on peut tabasser quelqu’un et être mis à pied quinze jours seulement. Est-ce que la sanction aurait été aussi légère si ça n’avait pas été un proche du pration.résident ?

This shows that when you’re an aide to Emmanuel Macron, you can beat up somebody and only get suspended for a fortnight. Would this have been the penalty faced by anybody other than somebody close to the President?

Libération: Agression d’un manifestant par un collaborateur de Macron: «Il l’étrangle et lui met plusieurs coups de poing par derrière»

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2018 at 11:50 am

France: Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Reforms’ to Continue on Track?

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Image result for maree populaire

Protest Against Macron Calls for General Strike. May 2018.

Is France’s President Emmanuel Macron about to win his battle against the rail strikers?  

Last Friday after the French National Assembly the Senate passed legislation reforming the country’s railway system, the SNCF by 245 against 82. The principal change is that from an “établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial (EPIC) » to « société anonyme (SA) ». That is, it will become a limited company, which will remain under public ownership.

No new recruit will benefit from the existing ‘statut’, the terms and conditions, of existing employees. This open the way for the end of free travel for employees, lower pay, more worker ‘flexibility, and the abolition of the right to retire at 55 for train drivers. A principal argument behind these, and other changes, is that the public railway company must resolve its debt problem to be competitive.

There will be competition between the rail-service and other companies, extending the existing opening to freight. There are suggestions (Spinetta report) that some unprofitable branch lines may be done away with. Maintenance will also be open to private companies (l’Humanité. 15.6.18). From 2019 regional services will be affected and in 2020 the TGV will, leaving the position around Paris in the l’Ile-de-France to be clarified between 2023 and…..2039.

These changes follow European Union directives on public debt and competition. They have been issued with the agreement of the counties of the EU, dominated by supporters of the marketisation of public services, and not from some hidden Brussels cabal.

Strikes, strongly supported by those working for the SNCF, against the ‘reform’ began on the 3rd of April, co-ordinated by the ‘intersyndical’ of rail unions (CGT, UNSA, SUD, CFDT, and FO). As collective bargaining begins in the light of the new law stoppages continue, intended to weigh on the negotiations. Despite suggestions that the ‘reformist’ unions (such as the CFDT) might reach a conciliatory agreement on their own this has not yet happened. What looks likely happen as talks get underway is that strikes will become reduced to a means of pressure for the best possible outcome, within this framework.

Despite a parallel conflict in Air France and a student movement, including militant occupations, against the reform called ORE (“d’orientation et de réussite des étudiants”) which gives universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants , a ‘social movement’ against Macron’s moves has not taken off. The wider public appears not to have identified with the fight of the cheminots (rail workers) as they did in 1997. Jean Luc-Mélenchon has stated that while he is drunk with his own self-satisfaction,  59% of those polled have a ‘negative’ opinion of the President. But ‘marées populaires” ‘ (tidal waves of protesters) at demonstration of solidarity with the strikers by his rally-party, have failed to flood the streets.  La France insoumise, the radical left, and other parts of the fragmented green, Communist and socialist left, trade unionists and students, have not created an ‘ insurrection  citoyenne’. Many of the public, lukewarm at the defence of what much of the media has presented as “special interests”  do not identify with the strikers.

Macon now feels free to tackle the welfare state. He has complained about the “pognon de dingue” (daft amount of dosh)  spent on welfare, suggesting wholesale changes in the benefit system. Replacing the complex French pension system with a uniform regime is in his sights. At the same time today it’s confirmed by right wing Economy Minister, Bruno le Maire, that the les Aéroports de Paris, la Française des Jeux (National Lottery) and Engie (unsurprisingly an energy firm) will be privatised (France’s Le Maire set to unveil inflammatory privatisation bill.)

It is sometimes suggested that Macron poses as ‘above’ left and right to cover his neoliberal policies. But is the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation what it was at the turn of the new millenium? The nature of ‘liberal’ policies, when not only European countries like Italy, Poland and Hungary, displaying signs of the less attractive side of anti-liberalism, but the US is engaged in trade wars that strike up the pillars of what was assumed to be ‘globalisation ‘ is in a state of flux. It is all very well for Mélenchon to shout that the President is an “EXTRÊME-LIBÉRAL”. But that part of the French left, including sections of La France insoumise, like other currents in Europe, including Britain, consider that ‘socialist’ version of ‘sovereigntism ‘ that is national control of the economy, is the answer to the difficulties created by years of market reform and liberalisation only adds to the confusion.

The French President himself claims to be a « progressive » both of the « right, the centre, and the left ». (Macron, un président philosophe. Brice Couturier. 2017) Put in less exorbitant langue he is, in effect, claiming the mantle of the 5th Republic, designed by de Gaulle to make the Head of State appear « above » parties and social divisions. Taking this further Macron presents his fight against workers and social rights as a struggle against outdated ‘ corporatism ‘.

A more bogus sets of political assertions would be hard to find. Saint-Simonian top-down technocratic reforms are the opposite of changes inspired by grassroots democratic struggle. But until there is a left united enough to challenge Macron and the domination of the National Assembly by his La République En Marche!  they will be hard to put down.

French Assemblée nationale debates law on “Fake News”.

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Image result for loi sur le fake news dessin

Not Good Company for Macron.

Taking aim at so-called fake news, France’s Parliament on Thursday is set to begin debating a tough bill aimed at repressing phony news items, one pushed by President Emmanuel Macron amid criticism that it poses a potential threat to press freedom.

The measure would allow judges to block content deemed false during a three-month period preceding an election.

Mr. Macron, stung last year by a phony internet-spread story claiming he had an offshore account in the Bahamas, has made fighting “fake news” a priority. His opponent, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, brought up the Bahamas story during a critical presidential debate. Now, she is attacking the proposed law as a “liberty killer.”

Shortly after the new year, Mr. Macron told a press gathering that he would aim to “protect our democracy from these false stories” by cracking down on phony reports.

New York Times.Adam Nossiter

Libération reports today (Fake news : une loi qui fonce la tête dans le bidon Amaelle Guiton , Jérôme Lefilliâtre)

Originally supposed to fight “against false information” (contre les fausses informations) , the bill to be discussed on Thursday in the National Assembly was renamed to target “the manipulation of information.”(la manipulation de l’information).

This change of name was decided in view of the law’s stated objective of reacting to “destabilisation operations” carried out by foreign powers (Russia, especially), whereas in first formula appeared to many as a possible way of making news conform to what the authorities in place consider to be the truth.

There are many problems.

The first is that the main axis of the law , “creates two tools supposed to fight against the large-scale dissemination of false info that could compromise the “integrity of  of an election” (scrutin).

In other words the law is aimed at allegations of outside interference in electoral contests (one can also imagine Britain’s vote on Brexit would serve as an ideal-typical example).

Digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, “will have to indicate the identity of the customers who paid for the stories, as well as the sums involved,  to promote “information related to a debate of general interest”.

The other instrument put in place, more formally legal, attacks the propagation of false information.

During the same pre-election period, a judge in a legal hearing may within within forty-eight hours, ” lay down all proportionate measures necessary to stop the dissemination of this false information.

One can imagine that any democratic legal system is not equipped to deal with such cases so rapidly.

The second is that the law increases the powers to sanction of the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA) with regard to the audio-visual media “controlled by a foreign state or under the influence of this State” if they have been found being guilty of a false info. This implicitly targets, the Russian TV channel RT.

The text presented this Thursday is limited to specific periods and limited cases. For example, the judge will only be able to rule if false information is “disseminated in bad faith, artificially or automatically and massively”,that is, if it is the product of a deliberate strategy.

How this could operate in the face of a sophisticated operation like RT is hard to see. What is false and what is not? The Russian media outlet gives a platform to far-right and nationalist ‘republican’ politicians in France, far-right and anti-European ‘left’ politicians in the UK. It carries endless stories about ‘Chaos Europe’, and stokes fear of migration. It hosts pro-Russian, and pro-Assad voices, and some claiming to campaign to the Stop the War in Syria. t broadcasts opinion-news on the turmoil in the Middle East more widely, and extends its operations across the world. Most obviously it boosts Putin’s immediate interests in Russia itself. I

Which part of this web of misinformation, fear-stoking and promotion of divisions in European society could a law bring to a halt?

These and other obvious ambiguities in the law have already resulted in amendments.

More are expected today, while the whole principle of legislating against Fake News is questionable.

As Hervé Saulignac states in the New York Times piece,

“The potential risk in this law is if it winds up in the hands of a government with the wrong motives,” said Hervé Saulignac, a Socialist member of Parliament who is leading the opposition. “That’s where it could lead to catastrophe.”

Mr. Saulignac said, “There is no clear frontier in the law between journalists who follow the rules, and all the rest.” Mainstream journalists, he said, “could be attacked for fake news, simply because, for instance, you have attacked me.”

Beyond that, he said, “How can it be proved in just 48 hours that I don’t have an account in the Bahamas?”

“At a time when the press is threatened around the world, it is better to protect the press,” Mr. Saulignac said.

le Monde is of a similar opinion, stating that a Law cannot settle the issue of Fake News>

Loi sur les « Fake news » : la confiance dans l’information ne se décrète pas

More background: Fake news : une loi pour rien ?

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Ernest Mandel in 1968 – Berlin and Paris Friday 18 May 2018, by STUTJE Jan Willem

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Just Short of the “Conscious Leap”: Ernest Mandel in 1968 – Berlin and Paris

STUTJE Jan Willem

Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières 

An excerpt from the book which details Mandel’s experiences during 1968 in Berlin and Paris.


On 9 October 1967, the world learned of the murder of Ernesto Che Guevara. Convinced that guerrilla warfare was the only way to victory, he had gone to join the Bolivian struggle. His body was found mutilated in a remote village. This was the death of a revolutionary, a modern-day warrior chief. The left was in mourning; poets wrote elegies, laments that ended with calls to rebellion. In an interview with Gerhard Horst (pseudonym of André Gorz), an editor of Les Temps Modernes, Mandel spoke of “a severe shock, all the more as I regarded him as a personal friend.” In La Gauche he mourned “a great friend, an exemplary comrade, a heroic militant.” On the Boulevard St-Michel in Paris and Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, in London and Milan people shouted: “Che, Che, Gue-va-ra!” The chopped syllables formed a battle cry against the established order. Neither Moscow nor Beijing had expressed even the most grudging sympathy. In openly showing their regret the Italian and French Communist parties proved they still possessed a little autonomy.

Mandel’s sympathizers in the French Revolutionary Communist Youth (JCR), a radical group founded in 1966 in a split from the Union of Communist Students, refused to accept his death. “Che was our best antidote to the Maoist mystique,” Daniel Bensaïd recalled. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Mutualité, temple of the French workers’ movement, was full to overflowing. Mandel spoke alongside Maurice Nadeau, just back from Havana, and Janette “The Cuban” Habel. He portrayed Che as he had come to know him in 1964. Emotion crested as those present softly hummed “The Song of the Martyrs,” the mourning march from the 1905 Russian Revolution, before launching into, “You have fallen for all those who hunger” and belting out the chorus, “But the hour will sound, and the people conquer . . .”

In Berlin too people were deeply moved. The SDS called for intensifying actions. Che had been Rudi Dutschke’s inspiration. With Gaston Salvatore, a Chilean comrade and friend in the SDS, Dutschke had translated Che’s last public statement, with its famous appeal for “two, three, many Vietnams,” from Spanish into German. Like Che, Dutschke lived the conviction that there “is no life outside the revolution.” He named his recently born son Hosea Che. Latin America would not let Dutschke go. In 1968 he wrote a foreword to The Long March: The Course of the Revolution in Latin America, a collection of articles by such figures as Régis Debray, Castro and K.S. Karol. Meschkat was surprised to see letters from Gisela, which she had sent him from Havana in the summer of 1967, printed in the book. As far as he had known, Dutschke had asked only for permission to read them.

 Berlin 1968: with Rudi Dutschke

In the summer of 1967 Mandel and Dutschke grew closer. Dutschke noted in his diary: “Discussion with Gisela and Ernest, [Adorno’s student Hans- Jürgen] Krahl, etc. about organizational questions and preliminary theoretical discussions for a conference in Berlin.” Shortly before, Dutschke and Krahl had presented a so-called organization report to an SDS conference in the old refectory of the University of Frankfurt. Krahl was for Frankfurt what Dutschke was for Berlin — the undisputed chief ideologue. The SDS was growing dramatically, with 2,000 members and easily several times that many sympathizers, including not only university students but also high school students and young workers. They were for reform of the universities and against the Vietnam War, against the Greek dictatorship, against the emergency decrees and against the “emperor of torture,” Shah Reza Pahlevi of Iran. Participating in their actions cost Benno Ohnesorg, a twenty-six-year-old student, his life. On 2 June 1967 he was shot dead by the police in Berlin, setting off a month-long rebellion.

More on site. 

The present Blog published a review of Stutje’s book when it appeared. 

The Bright Side of Things

Ernest Mandel. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred. Jan Willem Stutje. Verso 2009.

From the latest Chartist.

In 1976 Ernest Mandel observed that Europe’s far left had been able to “accumulate sufficient forces” in this “revolutionary period” to have the “realistic possible of winning over the majority of the working class.” (New Left Review. No 100.)

As a young member of the same Fourth International as Mandel I read many of Mandel’s similar exhortations. Even to us ‘ultra-leftists’ in the International Marxist Group, only a few believed that this was true in Britain. Most were wary of what Stutje calls his “exuberant optimism”.

Yet someone with a command of serious Marxist theory, a democrat and a revolutionary socialist, opposed to the official Communist parties of the day, a tireless activist, deeply impressed us. That our International had someone with such fierce intelligence, not a bullying leader of a sect, was a source of pride. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred tries to do justice to this Mandel. Somebody with the ambition to influence and take part in not just Europe’s but the World Revolution is no easy subject.

If Stutje’s biography does not unearth a forgotten figure, Mandel’s writings remain in circulation; it confronts us with aspirations that have seemed, for a long period, from another epoch.

A “Flemish internationalist of Jewish origin” Mandel was born (1923) in Hamburg and grew up in Antwerp. His father was a leftist refugee from Hitler, who became a diamond dealer and then insurance agent; he was linked to the small Trotskyist movement opposed to Stalin.

Mandel was brought up in an atmosphere of high European culture, and classical Marxism. Soon after the founding of the Fourth International in 1938 he joined the Belgium Trotskyists. Under German occupation Mandel remained politically active. Arrested once, and released (or ransomed, Stutje recounts), he was finally tried again for giving German soldiers anti-militarist leaflets. Deported to a labour camp in Germany, he was freed in 1944 full of expectation of the coming revolution.

He had a lasting impression, “The alliance against fascism had consolidated both the democratic and Stalinist regimes, but under working class pressure.” Mandel threw himself into a lifetime of ratcheting up that pressure.

From the 1940s hope that Europe’s workers would rise in socialist revolution, to the joys of ’68, the left’s rise, and impasse, in the decades that followed, Mandel plunged into far-left politics.

Stutje recounts the saga of the Belgium left (through the microscope of Trotskyism), and Mandel involvement in the Fourth International. Or rather, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. He is fair to Michel Raptis (‘Pablo’), for years his closest collaborator and rival, praising his “political intuition”, and his faults, “imperiousness”. They separated mid-60s, on Pablo’s unconditional support for anti-colonialist movements. Mandel too, as the sixties wore on, had been wrapped up in ‘third-worldist’ causes – Struje cites close contact with Che Guevara. But his principal faith lay in the working class in industrialised counties.

At the same time the party man was writing serious, if (critics comment), too all-embracing works, such as Marxist Economic Theory (1962), and the unfortunately titled Late Capitalism (1972) – how ‘late’? These consolidated his academic position at the Dutch language Free University of Brussels. That aside, few consider Mandel as the founder of a ‘school’ of Marxist political economy. As Stutje remarks, his study on the ‘long waves’ theory of crises (1978), lacks the institutional details of how capitalist accumulation developed post-war. But his influence was wider. Amongst prolific writings, which read as if stitched together from Europe’s press, Mandel produced real gems, his Introductions to the Penguin edition of Capital, and on Marx’s wider intellectual development. Perhaps his greatest political contribution – a break with the Leninist past as great as Eurocommunism’s – was to envisage socialist democracy. Strange to say, in retrospect, this was a major turning point for those reared in the harshest interpretations of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It would be impossible to imagine a left capable of confronting the collapse of Official Communism without this return to democratic roots.

In the 1970s Mandel was banned from entering several countries, including Germany, France, and the US. Not only Mandel envisaged – in this case, feared – revolutionary upheavals. Even when this prospect subsided in the early 1980s the Fourth International peaked at 10,000 active members.

But it did not weather the Thatcher-Reagan years well, nor adapt easily to the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. They foresaw everything but the neo-liberalism that ran riot across the globe. Yet till his death in 1995, Mandel remained bound to the “moral imperative” to continue to fight. Mandel was too much part of the real left – perhaps obscured in Britain through his brief canonisation by the most politically sterile faction of the New Left – to retreat to the Watchtower.

A Rebel’s Dream Deferred pays tribute to the sheer ethical drive of the man. That the Fourth International’s Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, now the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste has been a real player in French politics demonstrates that he was not entirely mistaken.

Andrew Coates.

Also read Phil Hearse (Fourth International) on this book here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 31, 2018 at 1:34 pm

The Anti-68 (La Pensée anti-68 amongst others)…

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Quarante ans de contre-révolution triomphante en Occident nous ont affligés de deux tares jumelles, également néfastes, mais qui forment ensemble un dispositif impitoyable: le pacifisme et le radicalisme.”

“Forty years of triumphant counterrevolution in the West has left us with twin defects, equally deadly, but which together form an implacable apparatus: non-violence and radicalism.”

À Nos amis. Le Comité Invisible. 2014.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, is now “well liked” in Germany and “loved” in France – part of the national DNA (1968: Power to the Imagination. NYRB). Our happiness at this recognition – perhaps one day to be extended to our national treasure, Tariq Ali – inspires us to reflections on the uprisings that made the Green leader’s fame.  The 50th anniversary of the événements has been, and will be, greeted in France with a flood of articles, books, radio, television programmes and, what one might call “teach-ins”. There is a lesser, but audible, interest in the English-speaking world and elsewhere. In homage, the tête de cortège on this year’s Paris May Day promised in a communiqué, in tribute to the enragés of the Mouvement du 22 Mars  a re-enactment of the May riots in the Quartier Latin. Those promoted by the friends of Le Comité Invisible ended up with a little smashing up of the nearest MacDonald’s and some bus shelters.

For some commentators on the legacy of 68, from the left, Cohn-Bendit stands out not just as a sign of middle-aged mellowing into the political mainstream, and a warning about the transience of elfin cuteness. The Franco-German politician represents the capture of its radical forces by Capital. Others, from more centrists position, state that what remains of the far-left has been “absorbed” by the French political system, the latest stage being Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise which pitches its objectives not at creating communism, or socialism, but a left populism aiming at a Sixth Republic.

A more thorough-going stand is to claim, in common with parts of the right, that 68 was a wrong turning in the first place. That it was the rise of the Me (too?) Generation in alliance with cosmopolitan capital which has sapped the sovereign rights of the People…or the Nation.

The “liberal-libertarianism” of the cherished contestataire and his ecological current already dominant in Die Grünen is in close communication with the “right and left” modernisers now assembled behind President Macron. Is this just their choice? For some Cohen-Bendit’s career is concomitant with post-Fordist culture, supple politics in the mould of the diversity of flexible production. In promoting, in his fashion, the politics of the right to be different and the cultural needs of identity, with liberal  economics, Danny le Rouge has assumed his role in “turning the entire social field into commodities. “

The many readers of Régis Debray’s repetitions of forty years will recognise this theme. Danny le rouge was one of the litter born in the “cradle of a new bourgeois society”. “Capital’s development strategy required the cultural revolution of May”. May 68, dubbed a “demand for identity” was a “marketable object”. He “communion of egos on the barricades becoming generalised egocentrism, the gift of self, the cult of me, the exaltation of liberties, the enshrinement of inequalities…” (1)

Debray has never abandoned this refrain, edging ever closer to nationalism as he ribs against the process of “Americanisation”, the global marketplace, and the vogue for “sans-frontiérisme” (Éloge de frontiers 2010). Perhaps he is haunted by the melancholy mercantile state, Orsenna, pictured by his favourite author, Julien Gracq in Le Rivage des Syrtes (1951). The encirclement never ends…..

Guy Debord, from the Situationists, celebrated post-facto in the 68 events, to whom the Tête de Cortege owe some debt, wrote of the victory of the “integrated spectacle”, and also of the “Americanisation of the world”. It is dominated by secret societies manipulated by nameless ‘elites” (Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. 1988)

More modestly, and accurately Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello in the New Spirit of Capitalism (1999), described how everything from managerial ‘science’ to cultural production has used themes of autonomy and choice in capturing a new post-68 public for companies and the market. There is equally,  no doubt something more still to say about ‘post-modernism’ and the post-68 development of capitalism.

La Pensée anti-68.

The theme that ‘68’ has been absorbed by capitalism, energised into forms of ‘liberalism’, is as well known, as it is coterminous with the events themselves. It is tackled in Audier’s indispensable La Pensée anti-68. (2009) Audier has little trouble pointing out that it was the most conservative section of the Parti Communiste français (PCF) which declared that the student revolutionaries were playing the bosses’ game.

The critique of individualism, Audier points out, appeared in France in a variety of forms. Many, from both right and left, were influenced by Christopher Lasch’s 1979 Culture of Narcissism (from a certain US left), and a host of overtly right-wing writers out to defend the Nation and a cohesive society against the egotism of marketisation. An ‘anti-68’ cast of thought has developed. This extends from the obvious targets on the right, pessimistic cultural commentators such as Alain Finkielkraut (the list of others in this vein is long, very long), to the ‘anti-liberal’ admirer of George Orwell’s ‘common decency” another critic of the ‘doublethink’ of the “society of the spectacle”, Jean-Claude Michéa (La double pensée. 2008).

He is less convincing when attacking the theorist of ‘menaces’ against collective identity, Pierre-André Taguieff, also a former Situationist. Subsequently Taguieff has attempted to explain populism and the appeal of the far-right, not to support it (La revanche du nationalisme. 2015). The treatment of other writers, such as Luc Ferry and Alain Renault, who constructed a ‘geology’ of 68 ideas, including well-known names such as Foucault, Bourdieu and Althusser, only retrospectively connected with the events is better framed. But Audier ignores some of their well-targeted shafts against the ‘research’ that went into Madness and Civilisation’s account of the incarceration of the insane, the banality and circulatory of Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘cultural capital’ in social reproduction, and Althusser’s ‘anti-humanism’ taken to ethical conclusions – above all his failure to begin to tackle the issue of Stalinism.

La Pensée 68 is, above all, remarkable for its account of the complexities of liberal thought. This does not just include ‘neo-liberalism’ but a sceptical and democratic strain represented by Raymond Aron (he indicates – far from opposed to ‘68’ en bloc) to the various forms of American progressivism, such as John Dewey with which I suspect many of us in Europe are less than familiar with. He puts his finger on the real issues behind ‘neo-conservatism’ and neoliberalism. This is far from a far from a 68 ‘permissive;’ ideology. Stuart Hall, called Thatcherism ‘authoritarian populism’ and the first word has real weight. Cultural liberalism, against Michéa, and a host of others, is not reducible to the ‘market’. We should not lightly reject the liberal value of tolerance, as opposed to such authoritarianism as the libertarian left.

The principal argument of La Pensée anti-68, then, which has worn well since the publication of La Pensée a decade ago, is that the hatred of the symbolic moment of 68 should be understood as more than a reaction. It is denial of what he calls, citing Claude Lefort celebrated 1980 essay on human rights, the opening up of new terrains of social affirmation. (2) In this sense it was not the grass roots May comités d’action, documented in an accessible form in Loyer’s book, which were harbingers of the political future. Particular forms of struggle may change, but the expansion of the political terrain for humanist self-assertion which is the enduring legacy of May 68.

Gauchisme Culturel. 

The counter-culture, or, more broadly, the wish to live ‘differently’ without repression, affirming autonomy and creativity, might be seen as a the ground for longer-lasting changes To Jean-Pierre Le Goff in his Postscript to Mai 68, l’héritage impossible (2002), the counter-cultural “liberation of désir”, the critique of authority, a wish for self-development and sexual freedom, cultural leftism “gauchisme culturel”, is the most important legacy of the time. While political leftism, attempts to make a real revolution, failed, the diverse ‘social movements’, as they used to be known, for women’s rights, gay rights, green politics, and what is today called “intersectionality” did not only have a cultural impact.

Perhaps, regrettably, Le Goff has joined the ‘anti-68ers’. From the 1980s, onwards Le Goff argues in the essays collected in La gauche à l’agonie? they have served as a mask, or a radical substitute, for the governing French left’s adoption of neo-liberal economics. The final articles are denunciations of a further 68 inheritance, multi-culturalism, a Third Worldism that’s become, “islamogauchisme” and efforts to “understand” Jihadism by the French equivalents of Giles Fraser.

One would listen to Le Goff’s catchphrases if he managed to reaffirm internationalist universalism. Does he stand like a rock with the leftists, democrats and liberals fighting Islamism in Muslim countries? He does not. In place of such commitment Le Goff ruminates over the managerial use of the youthful creativity, in a pseudo-68 liberation, the debris of French republican nationalism, and the narcissism ( a word one wishes vaporisation in the next edition of Newspeak) of those who declare themselves citizens of the world.

In the absence of history’s ability to repeat its experiments it is hard to disprove the view that May 68 played a part in regenerating capitalism. More pressing, as Serge Audier states in Le Monde this March, is the persistence and radicalisation of the anti-68 reaction ( Le discours anti-68 s’est radicalisé ).

The importance that its alternative, whether disguised as the Republic or not, the Nation, or National Sovereignty, the ultimate Identity, has taken hold of political debate in France and most of the West cannot be underestimated.

In Britain as the editors of New Left Review giggled at the result, a number of leftists have joined in the ‘anti-68’ Carnival or Reaction that has followed Brexit, and found merit in les anglais de souche who supported the anti-European break (55 Arguments for Lexit). La France insoumise drapes itself in the Tricolor, and chants the Marseillaise. Give me the cosmopolitan sans-frontières with their universal human rights any day.

 

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(1) A Modest Contribution to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Tenth Anniversary. Régis Debray. New Left Review (First series). No 115. 1979.

(2) The Politics of Human Rights in. The Political Forms of Modern Society Bureaucracy, Democracy, Totalitarianism Claude Lefort. Edited and Introduced by John B. Thompson. The Politics of Human Rights. MIT Press. See also Les droits de l’homme et l’Etat providence. Reprinted in Claude Lefort essays sur le politique. Seuil. 1986.

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L’événement 68. Emmanuelle Loyer. Champs histoire. 2008/2018.

La Pensée anti-68. Serge Audier. La Découverte/Poche. 2009.

La gauche à l’agonie? 1968 – 2017. Jean-Pierre Le Goff. Perrin 2017.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 10, 2018 at 12:45 pm

French protest against Macron: la Fête à Macron.

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Thousands of people demonstrated in central Paris on Saturday amid a heavy police presence to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping reforms, a year after he came to office.

France 24.

Some 2,000 security forces including riot police were deployed as marchers gathered from midday in warm early summer sunshine in the central Opera square for a protest dubbed a “Party for Macron”, a tongue-in-cheek “celebration” of the 40-year-old centrist’s first anniversary in power.

Smaller rallies took place in the southern cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux while the Paris variant kicked off with a mass picnic which drew numerous families.

l’Humanité reports that the marches were backed by all the French left, except the former ruling Parti Socialiste (not asked), trade unionists, and civil society associations.

Génération.s Benoît Hamon, Pierre Laurent PCF, Philippe Poutou and Olivier Besancenot for le NPA,former leaders of the protest movement,  Nuit Debout  such as Frédéric Lordon, some of the union federation,  CGT (their chief, Philippe Martinez  refused to take part), the far-left union blocs SUD,  Solidaires, and the anti-globalisation network, Attac..

Huffington Post.

Libération states that activists are now looking to redouble their efforts to moblise opposition to Macron by looking for new struggles. (Après la Fête à Macron, des manifestants en quête de lutte).

 

Those with strong stomachs can watch, and hear, Jean-Luc Mélechon “do music”.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm