Posts Tagged ‘French Politics’
Georges Séguy: From the Resistance, Manthausen Camp, to May 68.
Georges Séguy who led the CGT, the largest French trade union federation, close to the French Communist Party, from 1967 to 1982, died on Saturday at the age of 89 years at the hospital Montargis (Loiret).
C’est avec beaucoup de tristesse et d’émotion que nous avons appris le samedi 13 août 2016, le décès de Georges Séguy, à 89 ans, ancien Secrétaire Général de la CGT de 1967 à 1982.
More dignified tributes in the pages of l’Humanité.
Libération: Georges Séguy, la CGT perd un patron.
As an apprentice printer, a member of the young Communists, and part of the resistance group Francs-tireurs et partisans français (FTPF) Séguy was arrested at the age of 17 by the Gestapo and deported to Mauthausen.
France 24 outlines Séguy’s trade union career. His health affected by the deportation he became an electrician and worked for the French national rail service, the SNCF. He was both active in the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF) and the CGT (Confédération générale du travail).
Georges Séguy devient en 1961 secrétaire général de la fédération des cheminots, l’une des plus importantes avec celles de la métallurgie et de l’EGF (électricité et gaz). Entré en 1965 au bureau confédéral de la CGT, il succède en 1967 à Benoît Frachon au poste de secrétaire général. Il vient de fêter son quarantième anniversaire.
Georges Séguy became General Secretary of the train-drivers and rail-workers’ federation, one of the most important wings of the CGT union federation, along with the engineers (roughly in the sense used by the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union AEEU), and the Gaz and Electricity producers. AFter becoming part of the national committee of the CGT in 1967 he took over from Benoît Frachon the post of General Secretary. He had only just celebrated his 40th birthday.
Un an plus tard, ce sont les événements de mai 68, les barricades, neuf millions d’ouvriers en grève, la révolte étudiante, De Gaulle ébranlé. Lors des difficiles négociations de Grenelle, Georges Séguy, au nom de la CGT, affronte Georges Pompidou, Premier ministre.
One year later and the May 68 ‘events’ took place, barricades, 9 million workers on strike, the student revolt, leaving President De Gaulle completely shaken. During the difficult negotiations with the gvoernment that took place at Rue Grenelle, Georges Séguy confronted the Prime Minister Georges Pompidou.
Sous les présidences de Georges Pompidou et de Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, la CGT, alors au faîte de sa puissance, mènera sous sa houlette une lutte permanente contre la politique contractuelle lancée au début des années 1970 par Jacques Delors, alors conseiller social du Premier ministre Jacques Chaban-Delmas.
Under the Presidencies of Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the CGT, at the height of its power, waged a permanent war against labour reforms (part of the ‘nouvelle société’ project which drew Delors, from a left Christian democratic tradition into the right-wing government’s orbit) launched by Jacques Delors, at the time a top adviser on social affairs to the Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas.
In 1968 Georges Séguy was central to the Grenelle Agreements which negotiated an end to official union backing for the strikes in return for substantial government concessions of workers pay and rights.
The Grenelle Agreements (French: Accords de Grenelle) or Grenelle Reports were negotiated 25 and 26 May, during the crisis of May 1968 in France by the representative of the Pompidou government, the trade unions, and the Organisation patronale. Among the negotiators were Jacques Chirac, then the young Secretary of State of Local Affairs, and Georges Séguy, representative of the Confédération générale du travail.
The Grenelle Agreements, concluded 27 May 1968—but not signed—led to a 35% increase in the minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel garanti) and 10% increase in average real wages. It also provided for the establishment of the trade union section of business (Section syndicale d’entreprise), through the act of 27 December 1968.
Georges Séguy and the CGT’s role in May 68 remains a matter of great controversy on the French left, if not internationally. There are those who would dismiss the Grenelle accords, others would personally attack Séguy.
There are serious critical points to be made, above all by French leftists and trade unionists.
By contrast, it is to be expected that a section of the British left, notably the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party in England and Wales, will savage comrade Séguy. Some will note the irony of those who have recently been cheer-leaders for the reactionary nationalist Brexit campaign attacking a leader of a mass trade union who obtained substantial concessions from the French government in 1968 for ‘reformism’.
In Séguy’s own account of the events of May 68 he states, that, while freely admitting that his union and party had been overtaken by events, and that a gulf between the students and the CGT had opened up (noting in passing that their anti-Stalinism was, for him, identical to anti-Marxism and anti-Communism) , the CGT and the unions had still achieved a major step forward in terms of social reform within the world of work.
Some obituaries have noted that Séguy tried to democratise the CGT during the late 1970s, and to return it to independent spirit of the Charte d’Amien (1906) a struggle which led to his eventual resignation as General Secretary (1982).
Elles ont été supérieures à celles de 1936! Avec 8 ou 9 millions de grévistes, la pression sur le gouvernement et le patronat était telle que le pouvoir a dû faire des concessions importantes. Ainsi, nous réclamions un salaire minimum à 600 francs par mois, soit une augmentation de 37%: cette revendication, qui avait toujours été repoussée, a été résolue dans les dix premières minutes des négociations de Grenelle! En dehors des augmentations de salaire, nous avons principalement obtenu la liberté des activités syndicales dans les entreprises et la réduction du temps de travail, avec le retour de la semaine de travail de 40 heurs.
The social advances were greater than those of 1936. With 8 to 9 million strikes the pressure on the government and the employer was such that they had to make important concessions. The minimum wage of 600 francs a month, a rise of 37%, a demand which had always been turned down, was accepted within the first ten minutes of the negotiations! Apart from wage rises we gained the freedom to organise unions in all enterprises, and a reduction in working time, back to 40 hours a week.
These are other interesting observations.
Translated Sunday 13 May 2007, by
The ex-General Secretary of the CGT retorts to the right-wing candidate’s speech about May 1968 (1).
As he watched Nicolas Sarkozy demonise May 1968 on television, Georges Séguy saw red. The ex general secretary of the CGT, the leading trade union, and leader of the workers strike at the time, knows what he’s talking about…
Huma: What was your spur-of-the-moment reaction?
Georges Séguy: It gave me a start. I understand that the events of May 1968 left the reactionaries and especially the employers, with painful memories. But it’s the first time I’ve heard a politician like Nicolas Sarkozy condemn a memorable moment in our national social history in such retrograde terms. The main historical importance of May 1968, is neither the police violence in the Latin quarter, nor the legitimate controversies of different philosophical currents of the time, it is the general strike of ten million workers who took over their companies.
Huma: Not everyone remembers the outcome. Can you remind us what it was?
Georges Séguy: The workers were infuriated by years of governmental and employers’ opposition to any social progress. The general strike had one aim: to overcome this blockage, to obtain the opening of negotiation procedures. A huge majority of factories which had been occupied by their workers, many for the first time, signed the commitment of 25th May 1968 at the Ministry of Employment, boulevard Grenelle. It didn’t take long. Within a few hours, many demands, which it would take too long to list, were taken into account. The most extraordinary of which was a 30% raise of the minimum wage. When you see all the commotion about the minimum wage at 1500 euros, gross or net, it is worth remembering that this raise in the minimum wage and low salaries in the provinces, in Brittany for example, boosted domestic consumption to such a point that economic growth was increased more than at any other time during the period known as the “Trente Glorieuses”.
Huma: But you are talking about the workers, and of their strikes, and it is precisely this aspect that Nicolas Sarkozy did not talk about. Is there some misunderstanding?
Georges Séguy: No. Sarkozy knew exactly what he was doing. He censored the workers strike in his speech because it contradicts his attack on May 1968. He cannot proclaim his love for the workers and at the same time revile them when they accomplish a leap forward in their conditions and in society. The worker he respects is the one who gets up early and works flat out for his boss, even if the same boss might sack him one day. It’s not the one who stays up late preparing action that will help others defend their interests and have better lives. His slogan “work more to earn more” is misleading. To earn more, you have to fight more. I challenge anyone to look back at history and prove the contrary.
Huma: What was the point of this diatribe?
Georges Séguy: This malevolent condemnation, comparing militants, trade unionists and dissatisfied workers to hooligans, aims to discredit a movement where the famous work value that Sarkozy brandishes won a spectacular victory over those whose only thought is of over exploiting it to their advantage. The scale of this movement remains and will remain, at a much higher level than a politician’s ambitions, one of the most significant examples of French workers’ attachment to the social model resulting from the National Council of the Résistance.
Huma: Nicolas Sarkozy has no qualms about referring to the Résistance himself, from Général de Gaulle to Jean Moulin, to Guy Môquet. What is your reaction to that, as a résistant who was deported at a very young age?
Georges Séguy: He certainly had the gall to quote such glorious names. But it’s precisely the great social conquests imposed by the Résistance that he wants to destroy: a social security system based on solidarity between generations, a right to retirement, freedom of action for trade unions, nationalisations, large public services etc. His programme is the opposite to that of the National Council of the Résistance. In subjecting the historical social progress of May 1968, to public obloquy, and at the same time drumming out his love for workers, Sarkozy shows that, if he is elected, the French social model will not outlive his all-consuming fervour for work.
Huma: It’s a well-know fact that workers and students in 1968 did not have exactly the same point of view. Maybe Sarkozy thinks that he can speculate on that difference. However, the slogan for the march on 13th May 1968 was “student-worker solidarity”. What finally reunited everyone was a sort of uprising against a social order to which people were subjected in different ways…
Georges Séguy: As I see it, in what the UMP leader is saying, his overall attitude towards May 1968 is of great importance. Apart from the leftist diversions of a few groups, May 1968 was also a wonderful young people’s revolt against the advocates of the doctrinaire approach and totalitarian-minded political powers which had a tendency to stiffen the democracy. This brought about a huge juvenile movement towards a society freed of old fashioned mentalities, of unfairness and of the shackles of all sorts of bans and taboos. We were spectators to a strong push for social, political, and cultural emancipation. For women, that meant rejection of inequality and discrimination, the new force of feminism was women’s rights. In short, May 1968 was a great social movement and an extraordinary request for morals, habits, and society to be modernised. I am a witness to the fact that the workers movement did not necessarily realise that at the time. By proclaiming his loathing for this call for emancipation, Nicolas Sarkozy shows us whose side he is on: on the side of the big bosses, of an out-of-date monarchial system.
(1) Nicolas Sarkozy, at the largest rally of his campaign (at the Bercy arena in Paris), declared: “In this election, it is a question of whether the heritage of May ’68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all.” May ‘68 “weakened the idea of citizenship by denigrating the law, the state and the nation … See how the belief in short-term profit and speculation, how the values of financial capitalism grew out of May ’68, because there are no more rules, no more norms, no morality, no more respect, no authority … ”
American Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate Ajamu Baraka, Called Charlie Hebdo Solidarity, “White Power” March.
This Blog does not normally comment on American politics.
But this has been in the news and friends have brought it to our attention.
“Earlier this week, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announced that Ajamu Baraka would be her new running mate:
I am honored and excited to announce that my running mate in the 2016 presidential election will be Ajamu Baraka, activist, writer, intellectual and organizer with a powerful voice, vision, and lifelong commitment to building true political revolution.
The announcement promoted a number of responses.
This is one.
However, what Stein does not want you to know is that in January 2015, Baraka’s “powerful voice” described a vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a “white power march” and labeled the slogan “Je suis Charlie” as an “arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy.” (More on Progressive Secular Humanist.)
This is what this true political “revolutionary” wrote:
15th of January 2015.
The Charlie Hebdo white power rally in Paris: A celebration of Western hypocrisy
“Je Suis Charlie” has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.” In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.
The millions who turned out on Sunday claimed to be marching in solidarity with the victims at Charlie Hebdo and against terrorism. They were joined by political leaders from across Europe, Israel and other parts of the world – on the same weekend reports were emerging that 2,000 Nigerians may have lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram, another Muslim extremist group.
We note that arrogant Ajama Barka failed to even register the deaths at the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher of 4 Jewish hostages at the same time as the Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.
We would be interested to hear of what exactly Barka has done to support the victims of Boko Haram.
We do however note that he has been freely expressing the opinion that this group of Islamist genociders are as part of a US plan to destabilise Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
And I am outraged knowing that U.S. policy-makers don’t give a damn about the school girls in Nigeria because their real objective is to use the threat of Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country to justify the real goal of occupying the oil fields in the South and to block the Chinese in Nigeria.
Exposing the whole sordid story of the destruction of Libya and the role of Al-Qaeda as the “boots on the ground” for U.S. geo-strategic objectives in North Africa and the Middle East represents the only strategy that an independent and principled left could pursue in wake of the fact that the hearings are going to occur. Anything other than that is capitulation, something that the left has routinely done over the last six years, and some of us still struggle against in the hope that one day the “responsible” left will eschew the privileges that stem from its objective collaboration with the interests and world-view of neo-liberal white power and re-ground itself in authentic radical principles and the world-wide struggle against Western domination.
But to return to Charlie Hebdo….
The people of France mobilized themselves to defend what they saw as an attack against Western civilization. However, the events in Paris did not have to be framed as an existential attack on the imagined values of the liberal white West. Providing some context and making some political links may have been beneficial for attempting to understand what happened in the country and a political way forward beyond the appeal to racial jingoism….
It is the arrogant lack of respect for the ideas and culture of non-European peoples that drove the French ban on the wearing of the niqab and other traditional veiling clothing for Muslim women, just one example of the generalized discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims in France. In this lager context, Charlie Hebdo’s blatant disregard and disrespect for another religion, shielded by an absolute commitment to freedom of speech that gives them blanket immunity, is now compounded by the “Je Suis Charlie campaign,” orchestrated in the name of upholding the values of liberal, Western civilization.
What it means for many of us in the Black community is that Je Suis Charlie has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.”
In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.
As the picture above indicates the Charlie March was attended by people of all religions, and none, of all ethnic backgrounds, and those who wish there were no ethnic divisions, by the entire French left, and above all those united for freedom.
The millions across France, who attended the Unity Marches after the attack on Charlie and the Hypercacher, and the millions across the world who stood with them, were above all motivated by sheer love and solidarity with the victims of the Islamist murderers.
Barka’s language, a torrent of half-baked clichés about the ‘Other’, and reference to ‘White Power’ reads like the written trace of verbal incontinence. He also appears something of a confusionist, attributing to the US a role in promoting Boko Haram for their own ends.
His message is hatred of freedom, hatred of the values of liberty, equality and fraternity. If you do not stick up these principles in France, what hope have you of backing them in Africa and elsewhere?
In short Ajamu Baraka is an enemy of all progressive humanity and unfit to stand as a candidate for any left-wing party.
The Love Shown Will Never be Forgotten.
The Tendance has been impressed by John McDonnell.
I have had some acquaintance with John, over the Kurdish fight for dear life against Daesh, and he struck me as a unifying figure, open to serious campaigns on the left. He was one of the few politicians to advance a number of causes, ignored by the mainstream, such as Boycott Workfare, close to our hearts. He has stuck by the side of the Iranian democratic opposition.
As Shadow Chancellor John has brought an impressive team on his side. Impressive enough for the New Statesman columnist Lim Young to write recently, “John McDonnell’s seminars are restoring Labour’s economic credibility.” ” The Shadow Chancellor’s embrace of new economics backed by clear plans will see Labour profit at the polls, argues Liam Young.
Far from rhetoric we were offered clear plans. McDonnell announced on Saturday that he wants councils to offer cheap, local-authority backed mortgages so that first-time buyers may actually have a chance of stepping on the housing ladder. We also heard of a real plan to introduce rent regulations in major cities to ease excessive charges and to offer support to those putting the rent on the overdraft. The plans go much further than the Tory right-to-buy scheme and rather than forcing local authorities to sell off their council housing stock, it will be protected and increased.
It is of course important that the new economics rhetoric is matched with actual policy. But let’s not forget how important the rhetoric actually is.
So how has John acted during the Referendum debate?
The latest Le Monde Diplomatique contains a monumentally misleading article on the European Union and the British left, and the Labour Party in particular. In Brexit , malaise chez les travaillistes, Renaud Lambert sketches a history of Jeremy Corbyn’s hostility to the actually existing European Union and alludes to a past marked by – it is indeed true – left-wing anti-EU politics.
The author fails to note that this has always been a mixed legacy. On the one side there was a critique of European neo-liberal deregulation, the structures of a marketised public sphere, and the domination of financial and business interests. On the other side the British left has inherited a , cult of the ‘British Constitution’ – Westminster Sovereignty – with all the reactionary baggage clearly visible in Continental ‘sovereigntism’ not least in France itself. The ‘Commonwealth’ – an ersatz ‘internationalism’ was widely touted in right wing Labour circles the 1960s and 1970s.
Today we can see the legacy of this bogus ‘internationalism’ amongst the Lexit left. Eager to denounce the EU’s record on the refugee crisis they are capable of simultaneously jibbing at freedom of ‘cheap’ foreign labour to enter the UK jobs market.
Lambert cites at length the views of the small Socialist Party, the even more marginal Socialist Workers Party (their joint anti-EU slate, No2EU won 31,757 votes in the 2014 European election 0,2% of the vote), and the (respected within his own sphere) Euro-sceptic Director of War on Want, John Hilary (a campaigner on international issues, such as the Western Sahara ) on the Referendum.
On the basis of these authorities he announces that, under pressure from Labour’s right-wing, Corbyn has left behind his “old comrades”.
That the article also indulges in sneers at the expense of Yanis Varoufakis, and suggests that many on the British left has only decided to back Remain out of fear at the anti-migrant rhetoric of the outers is an opinion. Its truth is impossible to establish without the kind of mind-reading ability to which columnists often lay claim.
Whether Owen Jones is right to state that there are still many people – a minority if a not completely negligible one – on the left who will vote to Leave remains to be seen.
The biggest hole in his piece on Brexit, Lambert neglects to examine the views of one ‘old comrade’ of Corbyn, a certain John McDonnell.
The Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell has now added his unequivocal support for the principles advanced by DiEM25 to a rapidly expanding list of illustrious backers, including Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach, James K. Galbraith and Brian Eno. DiEM25.
John McDonnell has campaigned stridently alongside DiEM25 co-founder, Yanis Varoufakis, finding enthusiastic responses from Britons of all walks of life, now recognising the existence of a viable humanist alternative.
Yanis Varoufakis affirmed:
“DiEM25 is proud to welcome John McDonnell to its ranks. At a time when Europe is disintegrating under the weight of austerity and its democratic vacuum, our movement is bringing democrats together from across the continent. Together we confront failed policies and an establishment contemptuous of democracy. Together we seek to reclaim our Europe on behalf of its citizens. We refuse to surrender to Brussels but we also refuse to surrender to the soothing fantasy of recoiling within our nation states. As Britain’s Shadow Treasurer, John is working feverishly to create a progressive Labour Party economic agenda for Britain. DiEM25 works towards integrating such agendas into a pan-European agenda. John McDonnell, welcome to DiEM25. We have so much to work towards.”
John McDonnell’s address at the DiEM25/AEIP ‘Vote In’ launch last Saturday energised the assembly by holding forward the fact that:
“For the first time in over a generation, there are movements and political forces…mobilising across Europe to respond to (the challenge of democratically transforming European institutions) – but responding to it increasingly together.
“We have the opportunity now (to recover) a debate about the democratic future of a Europe…that’s vitally needed,…proud of being British,…but also proud of the European future we’re creating in solidarity.”
Yanis Varoufakis reiterated the significance of the event in observing that:
“…to ensure that change is progressive, we have to embed Britain’s democracy in a broader surge of democracy (running) throughout the breadth…of the European Union. This is why I’m here about to sign the London Declaration for a social Europe; a democratic Europe; a dynamic Europe; a peaceful Europe; an open Europe; a sustainable Europe.”
This culminated in John’s signing of the ‘London Declaration’ alongside Yanis Varoufakis, Caroline Lucas, Owen Jones and British comrades, a compact of Europeans committing to the recovery of a democratic Europe in which Britain can prosper. The longer-term significance of the ‘London Declaration’ lies in an unprecedented convergence of support from across the radical and progressive Left, united and oriented toward one simple, succinct, modest proposition – democracy.
John McDonnell’s stoutness and consistency in appealing to the human dimension over sophistry in public life embodies the values and principles which DiEM25 hold forward as fundamental to a European future emancipated from Neoliberal chaos.
I want to see a reformed EU in which we make many of its institutions more transparent and democratic. For the first time in a generation, there is a growing coalition of socialists across the EU who can help us achieve this together. By choosing Labour’s “Another Europe” agenda, our country can stand with others across Europe to make a positive case to end austerity, offer a more humane response to the migrant crisis and protect and expand workplace rights.
In Reply: CGT Trade Unionists Face Violence Smears.
France prepares for day of strikes as nuclear workers join labour protests.
France faced an eighth day of industrial action on Thursday after workers at nuclear power stations voted to join protests against labour reforms. Blockades of fuel depots by angry unions have forced France to dip into its fuel reserves.
CGT energy and mining federation spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud said the strike action at nuclear plants will reduce power output, but that the reactors will not stop running.
“One cannot just turn off a nuclear plant, it is not like a thermal or hydro plant,” Cailletaud said.
The union said late Wednesday that 16 of France’s 19 nuclear stations had voted to join the strike, although CGT official Jean-Luc Daganaud said the effect on power supply would depend on how many workers decided to join the action.
Workers led by the powerful CGT union have blocked oil refineries across France over the past week in protest against planned changes to France’s cherished protective labour laws, leading to fuel shortages in parts of the country and long queues of cars at near-empty petrol stations.
The Ufip oil industry federation has confirmed that around a third of the country’s 12,000 petrol stations were running dry. France has also mobilised its emergency fuel stocks for the first time since 2010 but officials said there was no risk of a shortage.
The French media is full of reports that the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) is “using everything it’s got” in the dispute (Loi travail : « La CGT joue son va-tout »). Le Monde suggests that the leader of the left-wing federation, Phillipe Martinez, has taken on the role of the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ to the El Khomri law. (Le patron de la CGT se hisse au rang de chef de l’opposition à la loi travail.)
There are daily claims, from those hostile to the union federation, that the CGT are using the protests as a means of resolving their own – serious internal difficulties. These range from loss of membership (the result of long-term industrial decline) to the fall-out from the controversy over expenses paid to to their former leader, Thierry Lepaon
It is the case that the CGT faces a challenge from the ‘reformist’ union federation, the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT). This morning on France Inter Véronique Descacq, secrétaire générale adjointe to the CFDT, claimed to have negotiated a deal which they can live with. She asserted that the reform embodies new workers’ rights (listen here).
Against this claim – essentially that the CGT is acting purely out of its own interests – L’Humanité has pointed to the unity between the trade unionists (with the CFDT excepted), from the corporatist and (partly) Trotskyist federation, Force Ouvrière , to the radical left SUD in protests and strikes against the Loi Travail (Une grande partie du personnel qui attendait l’unité syndicale va se mettre en grève).
What is at stake is not only moves to make working practices more ‘flexible’ to the bosses’ advantage. It is the shape of French collective bargaining (covering up to 98% of employees). The ‘reforms’ weaken them allowing local accords and which give employers the ability to go over the heads of unions by enterprise by enterprise referendums. The CFDT is equally acting in its own interests, with, it claims, strength in the these direct company negotiations it can by-pass the CGT which prefers to reach agreements by “branche”, that is by sector.
It would not, by contrast, be unfair to point out the CGT is using the industrial strength that it has – in the sectors cited in the France 24 report. (Loi Travail : pourquoi la CGT durcit le mouvement).
Why should it not do so?
As the conflict intensifies there is a concerted attempt to link the CGT not only with claims of intimidation against non-strikers, but also with acts of violence against its opponents which Descacq echoed. Those in the Parti Socialiste who have backed the ‘reform’ – despite opposition within their own ranks – have, it is claimed, been singled out.
31 of the Governing Parti Socialiste’s offices across the country have, since December, been the target of acts of vandalism. These have mostly been minor but on Monday their Grenoble HQ was sprayed with 12 bullet shots (le Monde).
It would be extremely rash to offer any kind of judgement about the probable outcome of this conflict.
Update: The leader of the CFDT has just declared that it would be “unacceptable” to drop the ‘reform’ as that would mean losing the “new rights” which it offers.
Police in Civilian Dress Spray Paris Demonstrators. (le Monde)
Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled bottles and other projectiles during a May Day rally in Paris Sunday, where controversial labour reforms were the main focus of demonstrations.
- Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in the march in the French capital amid a heightened police presence after several recent protests against labour reforms ended in violence.
- There were ugly scenes as a small group of protesters in balaclavas hurled projectiles at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas, bringing the march to a standstill.
- Calm was later restored, however, and the majority of those taking part in the demonstration did so peacefully.
- Police said between 16,000 and 17,000 people took part in the rally and Paris. The CGT union put the figure at 70,000.
- Rallies in other French cities including Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille passed largely without incident earlier Sunday.
Le Monde carries a report in which demonstrators accuse the Police of having acted with the aim of stirring up trouble.
« C’est la première fois que je vois ça », commentait un manifestant d’une cinquantaine d’années, présent dimanche à Paris, alors que les forces de l’ordre avaient pris en sandwich la tête du cortège, constituée majoritairement de jeunes sans étiquette syndicale, la séparant en aval du reste du défilé et la bloquant devant par une ligne de CRS quasi inamovible. Résultat : quarante-cinq minutes à peine après le début de la manifestation, au-dessus de ce peloton de tête « nassé », les premiers gaz lacrymogènes fusaient et rencontraient les premiers pétards et autres feux d’artifice, occasionnant quelques charges sporadiques des policiers. « On appelle ça la politique de la tension », regrettait un manifestant. « La surprésence policière est une provocation », surenchérissait un autre.
This is the first time I’ve seen that” commented on Sunday a middle-aged demonstrator at Paris, as the police held the head of the march, largely made up of young people unaffiliated to the trade unions, and separated them at the top, by a solid line of the riot squad (CRS), from the rest of the demonstration.
As a result, a bare 45 minutes after the beginning of the demonstration, above and outside this ‘kettle’, the first tear gas grenades were thrown, and were met with bangers and other fireworks, followed by sparodic police charges. “You could call this the ‘strategy of tension” one marcher said regretfully, “The massive police presence is a provocation” forthrightly added another.
British readers will note that the Police used a tactic we are familiar with: ‘nassé ‘ means literally netted, as in fish, but in the jargon of marches it signifies “Kettled”.
One demonstrator alleged that this was a deliberate “strategy of tension” to rattle up disorder.
Which is not to deny the existence of bands of ‘casserus’ – those who smash things up (casser) on the margins of French demonstrations.
Topless Femen activists on Sunday interrupted the French far-right National Front’s (FN) annual May Day gathering for the second year running, baring their chests and toasting “The end of the FN” before being arrested.
At midday, the Femen militants, topless and clutching bottles of champagne, burst from a red van parked outside the party’s headquarters at Porte de la Villette in northern Paris.
Their torsos were daubed with slogans including “Fascists stay in the shadows” and “Long live the end of the FN”.
Their protest was short lived as riot police controlling the gathering moved quickly to arrest them with the enthusiastic help of FN security guards.
Bystanders shouted “Put them under the wheels of your truck” and “Don’t be gentle with them”.
The official FN gathering this year, dubbed a “patriotic banquet”, took place earlier in the day at Saint Augustin in central Paris, in a break from tradition that usually sees far-right supporters march from another statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli, next to the Louvre Museum, to nearby Opéra.
However, bitter infighting that saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year’s presidential elections.
Earlier, Femen posted a picture on Twitter of its topless militants mopping the ground outside Opéra, under the slogan: “We are proud to clean our democratic and secular streets of Marine Le Pen’s dirty hatred”.
Who’s Pedalo Captain Now?
Europe 1 reports on the latest opinion polls for next year’s French Presidential election.
Alain Juppé (Les Républicains looks an easy winner at present with 35% (plus 4 points since December) in front of Marine Le Pen 26% (minus 2 points). François Hollande only gets 13% (minus 7 pts) Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%, +1).
In effect Melenchon wavers between 12% and 16% in the polls, according to the survey.
It is important to note that Marine Le Pen is in first place in the case if Les Républicains (the main right party) is presented by either ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon or Bruno Le Maire.
Les Républicains have yet to designate, by ‘primary’ elections, who their candidate will be. Deep divisions continue.
But this, one of many identical polls, strengthens Juppé’s hand.
Neither the Socialists nor the Front de Gauche (of which Mélenchon remains nominally a member) have decided on their official candidate.
A sign of Mélenchon’s trajectory is that he already has 95,000 people signed up to his personal candidacy and claims that 500 groups exist to campaign for him.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reported to be on Cloud Nine (Jean-Luc Mélenchon se sent « sur un petit nuage ») enjoying the taste of success while it lasts.
With his customary generosity and dislike of sectarian point-scoring Mélenchon has commented, (DL)
Je regarde passer le corbillard des Verts et le Radeau de la Méduse du parti communiste.
I am looking on as the Hearse of the Greens and the Communists’ Raft of the Medusa pass by.
Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:
(The book will be presented at Berkeley: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love – Houria Bouteldja. 04/19/2016 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm. 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley.
http://crg.berkeley.edu/node/990oWe invite you to hear her presentation of her book, just published a few weeks ago in France, and already the object of a very highly mediatized controversy. Live translation of Houria Bouteldja’s presentation into English will be provided.)
Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.
“Et que penser de la discussion sur les mérites culinaires comparés de la viande de nègres, d’Allemands et de Marseillais, ou sur la meilleure manière de civiliser les sous-hommes d’Afrique ou des Indes en les réduisant en poussière avec la « fée Dum-Dum », alias « balle Nib-Nib »?
And what to consider about the discussion on the relative culinary merits of the flesh of Negroes, Germans, and the inhabitants of Marseilles, or on the best way of civilising the African and Indian sub-humans by reducing them to dust by ‘Fairy Dumdum’ alias, the ‘Nib Nib bullet’?
Le Jardin de Supplices. Octave Mirbeau. 1899. (The Torture Garden).
Segré and Pérez have systematically shredded this historical picture to pieces. We can bin the idea that empires are a European invention, and, most fundamentally, that European colonisation began outside Europe, and not in the conquests of the East, and of Ireland. On the darker side of the history of the Arab rule in Iberia and of the Caliphate’s incursion and domination of large parts of Europe she is, perhaps understandably, more or less silent. Flowing amongst her would-be lyrical invective Bouteldja offers a few valid ideas. One stands out, that the Atlantic slave trade and violent colonialisation provided models for the Nazis. This insight is nevertheless amply considered elsewhere (by Hannah Arendt, to only give the best known). One might extend the idea and examine Timothy Snyder’s argument that Hitler was a ‘zoological’ ideologue who thought that ‘race’ was real and that struggle between races was the ultimate reality of history. Unfortunately this comes rather too close to Bouteldja’s allusions to the idea that ‘whites’ are engaged in the fight to the death with ‘blacks’…. (1)
Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous
ess with Jean Paul Sartre. Shoot Sartre (Fusillez Sartre) is her refrain, which sounds perhaps better in her armchair than on the paper. The Intellectual, novelist and philosopher, is an analogy for the French left. Why? This turns out to be well known, and may be summarised quickly. In the Maspero edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1968) his famous preface was withdrawn, on the insistence of Joie Fanon, who called Sartre a Zionist because he defended Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.
Bouteldja is keen on the equally famous – and morally cretinous – Sartre lines expressed in that text: that killing a colonialist serves two purposes: the death of an oppressor and the making of a freedom fighter’s independent manhood. She admires Fanon, one of her titular figures along with James Baldwin and Malcolm X. But, like his widow, she detests Zionists. Exit – as she might say in one her numerous attempts at pithiness – Sartre. Welcome the unconditional supporter of the Palestinians, Jean Genet, “What I like about Genet is that he doesn’t give a Fuck about Hitler.” (“Ce que j’aime chez Genet, c’est qu’il s’en fout d’Hitler” Page 20)
The European Civil Religion of the Shoah needs, Bouteldja is not shy to assert, needs blasphemers. Not to deny the Holocaust, or (?) not to give a toss about it, but to remove the moral legitimacy that atoning for the genocide gives the West and Israel. The Jews have turned from ‘dhimis’ (that, is second class citizens) in Europe, to become their colonial soldiers in the service of ‘imperialism’ (Page 51). The Jews, post 1945, have accepted the “racial pact of the Republic”, become part of the ‘Jewish-Christian civilisation”, “part of the race of the Lords”, trading their history and memories for a “colonial ideology” (Page 53) And in that context, for the ‘South’ the Shoah is less than a ‘detail’ of history, it is nearly invisible. Anti-semitism is European (Page 55). Arabs are not philosemites, but they are not anti-Semites either (Ibid). The European religion of commemorating the Holocaust is just that…European, a distant sound for those suffering from colonialism. Only by abandoning Zionism can the Jews drop their white masks and become comrades, sharing the skin of the noirs In other words, do what Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous tells them to do.
Bouteldja is a master of racial baiting, shouting down her opponents. These passages effectively deny self-determination to one group of people, the ‘Jews’, along with some unpleasant claims that insult people’s right to give genocide the importance it has. Her panders in academic post-colonial studies will no doubt be able to explain away these passages. They will surely be at Berkley in the near future.
Some such people, and her domestic allies, will no doubt dismiss the sexism, homophobia and racism attacked by Segré and Pérez. No doubt there is an audience for an assertion and exploration of the identities and oppressions of the multiple communities of immigrant origin in Europe, ill-served by all the states, including the formally egalitarian France. Many writings exist. There is a need to talk about the new forms of anti-racism. There are occasional gleams of interest in the present work of personal experience, overshadowed all too often by slabs of pre-digested ideology. Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, indeed has also the most ambitious possible intention: to speak for “nous”, the ‘noirs’ the ‘indigènes’ and to hail, with a shout the Vous, the Whites. Without doubt we should include the text on the reading lists. But, but, but…….
But behind the brave words there is a lack of substance. There is absolutely no discussion of the horrors taking place across the whole Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, passing by Iraq and Syria, not to mention Israel and Palestine themselves. There are genocides happening there right now.
Bouteldja ignores them. Expect for a brief sentence about young people in the banlieue falling for violent extremism she ignores the international phenomenon of Islamism and, most significantly, the popular fight against it. The pamphlet avoids these, and other, profound issues in a puppet theatre, the crudest of seaside shows, with the Jews dangling on the strings of Imperialism, as if their cords only need to be cut for peace and justice to reign.
Faced with a culture ruled by White “égoists et individualistes”, a West “in decline” what does Bouteldja offer? Is there a way out of oppression? She proposes a “radical questioning of Modernity and a consideration of an alternative civilisation.”(Page 92) What is this superior option to the White Republic and is false promise of liberty equality and fraternity?
Fanon’s Third Worldism, American Black Power ideology steps aside. She summons god, Allah, for a world without hierarchy, a “une seule entité et authorité à dominer: Dieu” – a single entity authorised to rule: god. “ a côtés de tout leurs frères et soeurs en humanité” – alongside all their brothers and sisters in humanity. (Page 133).
(1) Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and warning. Timothy Snyder. Bodley Head. 2015.
Some notes from Frantz Fanon. A life, David Macey. Granta Books. 2000.
Of interest in this context.
“Even when Fanon is remembered in Algeria, the memory can be clouded by partial amnesia and ignorance, Fanny Colonna, who taught as the University of Tizi-Ouzo until she was forced by the rising tide of violence and xenophobia to leave for France in the early 1990s, recalls meeting school students who had read Fanon in their French class but did not know that he was black.”(Page 8)
““The Third Worldist Fanon was an apocalyptic creature; the post-colonial Fanon worries about identity politics, and often abut his own sexual identity, but he is no longer angry. And yet, if there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to the experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory. They came out in the streets of Algiers in 1988, and the Algerian army shot them dead. They have been subsequently killed in there tens of thousands by authoritarian Algerian governments and so-called Islamic fundamentalists. Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too.”(Page 28)
“Anti-Semitism was by no means unusual in North Africa, and no, despite all the talk of African and Afro-Arab unity, was anti-black racism. In both Algeria and Tunisia black people were commonly referred to as Al-âbid (the singular is ‘Ab’d’), meaning slave’ –a reminder that the corsairs of the Barbary Coast had enslaved black as well as white.”(Page 316)
“the function of the violence of the colonised is to negate and transcend the seriality created by the violence of colonisation. In doing so, to create a group-in-fusion with a common project and praxis.”(Page 485)
“The themes of Third World solidarity and unity, of a version of pan-Africanism and of the liberating power of violence have not worn well. Fro a generation, Fanon was a prophet. He has become a witness to the process of decolonisation but, whilst his discussion of racism remains valid, he has little to say about the outcome of that process.”(Page 503)