Posts Tagged ‘French Politics’
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)
We Wish Our French Comrades Well!
The NuitDebout (Night on Our Feet) movement, which has occupied Paris’s Place de la République for four nights in a row, is not your average French protest, but could it reach the levels of the Occupy or Indignados movements?
NuitDebout started like many other French demonstrations. Student and workers groups who oppose François Hollande’s planned labour reform law, which they say will make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, organised a protest march on March 31.
But after the march many participants wanted to continue the protest and expand their message. They proposed three nights of occupation in République, which they called March 31st, 32nd and 33rd, and came up with the name NuitDebout to express their defiance. Between 1000 and 2000 people attended each night, according to organisers, although by 8pm on Saturday there were probably a few hundred.
“Most protests in France, we go in the street, we express ourselves and then each of us goes home. It’s a little sad,” one NuitDebout protester explained on Saturday night. “But here [in République] something else is being built.”
“We aren’t on our knees, we aren’t in bed, we’re standing up,” explained a communications spokesperson and initiator of NuitDebout, who asked to be identified as Camille.
Protesters point to diverse motivations for the movement, including the proposed labour reform, popularly known as the El Khomri law; the hit documentary film “Merci, Patron!“, which ridicules France’s richest man, billionaire Bernard Arnault; solidarity with French Goodyear tyre plant workers who kidnapped their bosses in 2014; and objections to the controversial Notre Dame des Landes airport project.
A crowd of Camilles
For now though, NuitDebout protesters are avoiding specific demands. Instead, they emphasise their dissatisfaction with France’s treasured republican ideals, which they see as not truly democratic.
“The people who come here don’t agree with the way the government runs things. The idea is to reconstruct a system that starts with the citizen,” said another protester, who also asked to be identified as Camille.
That’s right, when speaking to the press they all want to be identified as Camille, a gender-neutral first name in French.
But this policy of vagueness and anonymity is strategic. NuitDebout is taking many cues from the Occupy movement in the United States and the Indignados movement in Spain, both of which mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in anti-corporate and anti-austerity protests in 2011 and 2012.
NuitDebout is hoping, as Occupy and Indignados participants did, that a focus on organisation and structure will allow them to build a movement that can sustain itself and be taken seriously in the long run.
“Usually citizens movements [in France] are associated with a political party or a union, but here there’s no flag in the square,” said Camille the communications spokesperson. “It’s completely directed by the citizens.”
Much of their organisational structure is borrowed from the American and Spanish movements: Committees of 30 to 100 people each direct the movement’s communication, logistics, security and entertainment. Major decisions are made at a “general assembly” at 6pm, where anyone can put their name on a list to speak. People show approval by waving, and votes are decided by a simple show of hands. So far there have been two general assemblies, on Friday and Saturday, where the main issue being voted was whether to come back the next night.
The communications committee maintains a stylish social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. The NuitDebout pages feature attractive anti-corporate graphics that could have been designed by advertising firms, and their posts carefully avoid inflammatory rhetoric.
One member of the communications committee explained that he also works in communications in his professional life.
“A kind of awakening”
There has been a conscious effort to put NuitDebout in an international context alongside Occupy in the United States and Indignados and Podemos in Spain. Spanish headlines and have referred to a “primavera francesa”, or French spring, and social media users frequently put #NuitDebout and #Occupy in the same posts. Camille, the communications spokesperson, said organisers from Spain had come to Paris to advise NuitDebout.
But while the Indignados protests drew about 20,000 people in May 2011, and the Occupy movement gathered between 2,000 and 15,000 protesters in 2011 and 2012, NuitDebout has so far reached at most 1000 to 2000, according to organisers. The general assembly on Saturday night saw only a few hundred.
Marta, a student from Barcelona who lives in Paris now, has participated in both the Indignados and NuitDebout protests, and was at République on Saturday night.
“We see that there’s a kind of awakening of people who are mobilising, but for the moment I think their demands lack precision,” Marta said. “There are lots of groups with lots of demands, but they haven’t converged yet.”
Riot police again showed up at Républque around 5 o’clock Sunday morning. But this time there weren’t enough protestors to disperse. Instead, as people snapped photos that would show up on the NuitDebout Twitter feed the next day, the police took off their helmets, chatted with protesters and smiled.
More protests are taking place this week Contre la loi travail, une semaine sociale sur tous les fronts.
The Nuits Debout movement continues.
Originally called by the collective Convergence des luttes and backed by the journal Fakir, (Journal fâché avec tout le monde – angry with everybody) Nuits debout (Nights standing up) began after last week’s demonstration against the new Labour Laws. They occupied the Place de la République. They were removed by the police. They came back. They are still there (La « Nuit debout » continue de rassembler place de la République à Paris).
Their objective extends well beyond defeating the ‘El Khomri’ labour law: this is but a branch of a tree which must be felled («Cette loi n’est qu’une branche d’un arbre immense qu’il faut abattre»)
Discussions in general assemblies are taking place on the whole gamut of social problems in France. Decisions are taken with some elements of Occupy practice with direct democracy and voting by hands raised (but no enforcement of the stifling ‘consensus’ model: “ces suggestions sont votées à la majorité et notées dans un registre”), such as the use of a “moderator” and calls for a clam exchange of views. Unfortunately we note that a series of bizarre ‘ipster’ gestures are used to participate in debates. We strongly suspect the model of the ‘Zadistes’ (French Swampies) at work in importing this practice. (1)
There is a cultural wing, including a “gang of clowns”, and the use of social networks.
The movement has expanded across France (details to follow…)
(1) Zadistes, ZAD, from Zone à Defendre, that is places to defend against development, notably against the construction of the airport at Notre-Dame-des Landes, (a ‘funny’ turnaround of the official term, zone d’aménagement différé).
Staff T-Shirt in Craft-Beer and Quinoa Hoxton Bistro.
This recently appeared: Badiou Studies Volume Four, Number One. Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being Benedetta Tripodi. Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Iasi, Romania.
Unfortunately, as this just published piece explains, Un « philosophe français » label rouge. Relecture tripodienne d’Alain Badiou, the article is a pastiche and satire – albeit with serious intent.
Which reminds us of this: the Sokal Affair.
The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax, was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.
The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist. On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics.
Last autumn the ‘peer reviewed’ academic journal Badiou Studies called for papers for a special issue, “towards a queer badiouian feminism “.
The merry pair, Anouk Barberousse & Philippe Huneman, sent their text off and it was accepted.
We hear that the learned Badiou Studies has just now rumbled the prank.
Badiou is, as they observe, highly regarded not just in France (where he is at the pinnacle of a certain academic establishment, while being cordially loathed by those in different camps) but in the world of Cultural Studies, Film Studies, White Studies, Heritage Studies, Postcolonial Studies and one could add Verso books who publish his ponderings. Terry Eagleton has called him The Greatest Philosopher since Plato and St Ignatius of Loyola” – the latter no doubt not without a ring of a certain ‘truth regime’.
Badiou is also known for his ‘Maoist’ past, his support for the Khmer Rouge, and the bullying of other leftist and academics by his 1970’s groupusucle the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCFml).
He remains unwavering in his glorification of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This apparently is one of the Events that demonstrate the Truth of the Communist Idea to which he remains faithful.
As Barberousse and Huneman remark, most of Badiou’s admirers like his politics – his ‘Communist Hypothesis’ – while grasping little or nothing of his metaphysics (“Badiousiens « politiques » se satisfont de savoir que cette métaphysique est profonde, mais ils n’y comprennent rien.”)
Their approach is the following,
Aussi incroyablement irritantes que puissent être certaines des postures d’Alain Badiou, entre mégalomanie et violence verbale réminiscence des plus belles heures de feu la gauche prolétarienne, c’est sa place et son aura intellectuelles qu’il s’agit de déconstruire ici. Nous n’avons pas tant voulu produire une argumentation à charge, qu’une illustration par l’absurde de certaines failles dans son système de positions comme dans l’engagement de ses sectateurs.
As unbelievably irritating as certain of Alain Badiou’s posturings may be, between megalomania and a verbal violence which recalls the incandescence of the glory days of the gauche prolétarienne (French ultra-Maoist group of the early 1970s), its his position and intellectual aura which we aimed to deconstruct. We did not want to produce a charge-sheet but show by illustration the absurdity of certain weak points in his system and seize them with a pair of secateurs.
Pour clarifier le projet Tripodi, il faut tout d’abord décrire en
They contest what is in effect a legitimation of philosophy by an abstract ontology (une légitimation pour la métaphysique du philosophe). Or to be more clearly, the idea that you can produce a rational picture of the world by intellectual fiat while concealing the many difficulties it involves.
The parody is designed to undermine the foundations on which the ontology of the ‘Master’ rests, its use to determine how social relations work, how radical politics can be based, and, apart from anything else, is highly amusing.
The ‘paper’ Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being begins:
As established by Badiou in Being and Event , mathematics – as set theory – is the ultimate ontology. Sets are what gender in g processes by reactionary institutions intend to hold, in contradiction to the status of the multiplicities proper to each subject qua subject. This tension between subjectivity and gender comes to the fore through the lens of the ‘count as ‘one’, the onto logical operator identified by Badiou as the fluid mediator between set belonging and set existence. After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the “many” that is negatively referred to through the “count as one” posited by the gendering of “the” woman. Maintaining the openness of this “many” is an interweaving philosophical endeavour. It is also a political task for any theory receptive to the oppressive load proper to the institutions of sexuation, as deployed through modern capitalism that is, any queer theory. In its second step, the paper will therefore expose the adequacy of the Badiousian ontology to provide theoretical resources for articulating the field of a genuine queer nomination. It will finally appear that “non gender” structurally corresponds in the field of a post capitalist politics of the body to what Francois Laruelle (1984) designated as non philosophie within the field of metaphysics.
This is priceless.
“To sum up, non-gender cannot but only be thought of, by a radical philosophical gesture, as a supplement of this philosophy itself. As such a supplement, non gender hasto be where philosophy is not meant to be, even when it shows instead of saying(according to the well known Wittgensteinian distinction) or, shows through its non saying that this situation is a non situation, or, in Badiousian words, that we have the situation of a condition that is a non condition.”
What matters to this truth is a faithfulness to the “many” that was unnamed but arising in the event of feminism. It is the faithfulness to the Impensé of the gendering institutions proper to late capitalism – in other words, a faithfulness to the (non) gender (Bersanti 1987; Magnus 2006). Here, we reach the limits of what philosophy – conceived of in Badiousian terms, as exposing the conditions of an authentic event of truth through the subjectification of a subject– can frame, or, more generally, can utter.
The suggestion that Jacobin was about the publish an interview with Benedetta Tripodi has been denied.