Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘French Politics

Gilets Jaunes and the Crisis in France, a Left Analysis.

with 12 comments

Image result for gilets jaunes

The Politics of the Barricades Reborn?

“Toutes les grandes crises que connaît le pays prendront la forme d’une tension entre ceux d’en bas et ceux d’en haut et d’un process des élites gouvernantes.”

All the big crises that the country has experienced have taken the form of tensions between those at the top and those at the bottom, in the shape of an attack on the governing elites.

Jacques Julliard  La faute aux élites. 1997.

On ne donne rien si libéralement que ses conseils”.

Nothing is given so freely as advice.

La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. 

In France, between October and October 2018 the pump price of petrol rose by 15% and diesel (used by many motorists) 25%. Taxes make up 60% of cost of fuel. While presented as part of a “Green transition” plan most of the money goes to general public finances. In May an on-line petition calling for a reduction in these increases had attracted 220,00 signatures by October. On the 10th of October there was a call to block the country’s road system. Social Networks carried videos backing action. By the 17th of November there were 300,000 people across France protesting against the price rises.

Every account agrees that the Gilets Jaunes were initially self-organised through Face Book, Twitter, and self-made Videos. The demands of the movement, which have spiralled in all directions, began to focus on high taxes and the erosion of the purchasing power of ordinary power. To which have been added the decline in the public infrastructure of La France périphérique, precarious working conditions, and, above all, the call for the President Emmanuel Macron to resign. Demands for a special national conference, whether as an Assembly on Fiscal issues, or a ‘Grenelle’, that is a wide-ranging agreement on the pattern of the 1968 union-government negotiations, to resolve these difficulties, have emerged.

Neither the Web, nor efforts to designate spokespeople for the Gilets Jaunes, have enabled the movement to cohere around an agreed structure. There are groups out at roundabouts, tollbooths, and demonstrators. There is a far-right presence, and the “people from somewhere” often show support for the Rassemblement National of Marine Le Pen. There was a strong presence of ‘nationalists’ during Saturday’s violent demonstration on the Champs Élysées. 

The left has shown sympathy for the demands of the movement. Lundi Matin, linked to the comité invisible which believes in a coming insurrection, gave support. Their affinity mouvance is said to be have engaged in some of the street fighting. The widely respected group, Verité pour Adama (after the name of a young person killed by gendarmes in 2016), with wider backing, has attempted to waken the banlieue to the revolt. To join the main march they mobilised a few hundred people in central Paris. Across the country there are reports of left-wing activists joining Gilets Jaunes actions, either on their own initiative, as part of the strategy of La France insoumise to “federate the people” around their own movement, or from other, much smaller, left wing organisations.

Protest Spread.

Following the government’s climb-down Lycéens and students have protested against Macron’s education ‘reforms’, often amid violence. As with Saturday’s protests the forces of order have reacted with a heavy hand. Farmers are also out on the streets. Many groups, though not, as yet, people in the workplaces, have seen in Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe’s announcement of an end to the fuel price hike an opportunity to press their case. The CGT has announced a national days of action and demonstration with a list of demands, on the 14th of December.

The French left has suddenly discovered a long history of popular uprisings that began with protests against taxation. The burden of the 17th century paiement de la dîme’ has nevertheless little in common with today’s tax regimes.

As Alexis Spire points out in the latest le Monde Diplomatique, outsourcing means that large numbers of workers are nominally self-employed (as in the UK), and have to pay for themselves. Reliant on their own transport they would find it hard to see why their means of getting to work should be a source of state revenue. A ‘far-away’ government, which seems to offer little in the way of public services across large swathes of the country, imposes charges on people who see little in return. To add to this tax offices are less and less accessible. One asks how people in France would react to the virtual disappearance of physical contact with HMRC. (2)

Before tax revolts become the left’s favourite new social movement it is nevertheless important to see some difficulties here. To begin with in 1953 Poujadisme started with small businesses revolting against tax inspectors verifying their accounts. Jean-Marie Pen began his political career as a Parliamentary deputy for this movement which won 52 seats on 11,6% of the vote in 1956. Echoes of the less than progressive aspect of this early ‘populism’ can be seen in Gilets Jaunes demands for less frequent strict MOT tests, raising rural speed limits, the – to their admirers marginal – racist incidents which have come to wider attention, and the enthusiastic backing from le Pen’s daughter Marine le Pen.

As the quote from Julliard reminds us, complaints about French governing elites are far from new. Today we have those who talk of “post-democracy” the detachment of polities from the masses reinforced by Macron’s neoliberalism. In the era of Donald Trump’s broadsides against globalism it is hard to imagine that opponents of the liberal ‘progressive’ (Macron’s self-description) centre are invariably to be welcomed.

The real problem is that Emmanuel Macron came to power after a political earthquake in 2017 marginalised all the traditional political parties. His own movement-party, la République en Marche (LREM), ”  centrist, liberal and social-liberal” was only founded in April 2016. It is made up of politicians from the centre right, the  right wing of the Parti Socialiste, a dash of ‘personalities’ and a lot of newcomers. It has definite campaigning experience in the grass-roots, but little experience of long-term local political implantation.

On the left opposition la France insoumise )FI) is a body linked together, like the Gilets Jaunes, by the web (I received an electronic appeal to ‘vote’ on their European programme a few days ago). It, like LREM, is a movement around a Leader, not a democratic party. Both the President’s effort to negotiate with the thousands of visible Gilets Jaunes factions, and FI’s efforts to speak on behalf of le Peuple, start from a position of outsiders trying to direct the political theatre.

Unity Against Macron’s Arrogance is not a Strategy.

Some of the best, and realistic, accounts of the present crisis have come from those with little stake in the state system or on the bigger parties of the left. They have indicated that, perhaps in a more acute form than in the UK trade unions, where activity is at low ebb, syndicates have been weakened in recent years, as the failure to push back Macron’s labour reforms and his liberalising plans for the rail system illustrates. The violent acts on Gilets Jaunes marches were no doubt made worse by the absence of traditional union or left stewarding. There is little coherence on a left which may well end up presenting over 7 different lists for next year’s European elections.

The way in which the present movement has tossed aside what local campaigns have been built going to help those trying to push them in a left direction. With the demands of the Gilets Jaunes moving like a buoy tossed by the sea in all directions, it is hard to see that either following them (suivisme) or trying to channel them, is going to work.

More fundamentally, how can any the left’s fight against austerity meet demands meet the call for fewer taxes? 

In these conditions who can be surprised to hear calls for the tax burden to be relieved by cuts in state spending, that is real neo-liberalism, from former Prime Minister and right-wing politician Édouard Balladur  – this morning, on Europe 1.

*****

(1) Page 52. Jacques Julliard La faute aux élites. Folio. 1997.

(2) Aux sources de la colère contre l’impôt. Alexis Spire.  December 2018. Le Monde Diplomatique. 

(3) Histoire de l’extrême droite en France. Michel Winock Seuil 2015

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Trump Hails Macron Climb-down on Fuel Tax, Alt-right claim French shout, “We Want Trump”.

leave a comment »

 

Paris: We Want Trump – Claims US alt-Right.

US President Donald Trump has criticised his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the recent large-scale anti-government protests over high taxes.

Trump posted several messages about the demonstrations on his Twitter account, claiming the protests were a direct result of the Paris climate agreement of which France is a signatory, but the United States is not.

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” Trump wrote in the tweets.

The US president also retweeted conservative pundit Charlie Kirk, who falsely claimed France is a socialist country, the riots in the country did not receive any media attention and that protesters shouted: “we want Trump”.

 

 

Trump’s assertions are obviously the work of  fantaisistes adrift in the world of politics.

For the moment we note that however Trump’s views cast a shadow on those who claim that Macron’s climb-down is a victory for those opposed to Macron’s “neo-liberalism”. It certainly seems that the US President is also against “neo-liberal globalism.”

This did not go unnoticed in France:

Gilets jaunes : Trump y va de son petit tweet moqueur envers Macron et contre l’accord de Paris

For an explanation of why Trump’s claims are a load of old cobblers see:

Tacle de Trump à Macron: «Les “gilets jaunes” ne sont pas contre la transition écologique, mais contre son coût social»

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2018 at 1:21 pm

The Gilets Jaunes: some details on the political composition of Saturday’s events in Paris.

with 3 comments

Au pied de l’Arc de triomphe, des manifestants arborent un drapeau avec le blason de Jeanne d'Arc.

 

Quel mythe! dit Hussonnet. Voilà le peuple souverain!

Sarpolotte! Comme il chaloupe! Le vaisseau de l’État est ballotté sur une mer orageuse!”

L’Éducation sentimentale. Gustave Flaubert. 

Who hasn’t taken an active part in a political riot?

I have a friend, a close friend, who recalls chucking bricks at fascists, and bank windows. He tells me that back in the day he got caught up in some protests in the Quartier Latin that ended with a luxury shop being pillaged. He still dislikes the taste of fruit flavoured tea bags.

Last Saturday saw a much more serious series of confrontations across France.

Eyes turned to those that took place in Paris.

Le Monde offers what, by all accounts, is an accurate report on the events around the ChampsÉlysées.

The article says that at the start, at the Place de l’Étoile, there were 2,000 to 3,000 militants prepared for a fight. Amongst them was a strong contingent from the far-right, including Bastion social (ex-GUD), and Action française. They called themselves ‘nationalists’. Harder to find were those responding to the call of the site Lundi Matin, the latest incarnation of the Comité invisible. At another rallying point, there were also a people from the anti-fascist Comité Adama (Le comité antiraciste appelle les quartiers populaires à manifester samedi aux côtés des gilets jaunes.)The latter groups were involved with a few clashes with far right, one of whose leaders, the anti-semite, Yvan Benedetti was hurt. The vandalism at the Arc de Triomphe involved Gilets Jaunes. Many ordinary Gilets Jaunes were caught up by their anger and enthusiasm in the violence. The first rioters likely to be arrested were the less experienced, that is neither from the far right nor the fringes of the left. A third group, involved in the pillage of shops, had young people from the banlieue taking advantage of the opportunity.

Violences de samedi à Paris : quel a été le rôle des ultras ?

Lundi Matin has a theory to justify their involvement: that this kind of action is a challenge to the infrastructure  of society, and a step on the way to destabilising  the state. This idea can be traced to the text  Introduction à la guerre civileThe epigraph, which calls for a permanent effort to conjure up stasis, unrest, is their loadstone. They celebrate the violence over the weekend and blame the CRS and Police (Contrairement à tout ce que l’on peut entendre, le mystère, ce n’est pas que nous nous révoltions, mais que nous ne l’ayons pas fait avant.)

The strategic geniuses published a text recently  saying that the victory of the extreme right in Brazil was not too bad at all, it’s the occasion to get rid of illusions in democracy, the left, and to prepare better things in future: “En réalité, l’arrivée du fascisme n’est jamais aussi mauvaise qu’elle ne paraît à première vue. Au moins est-elle l’occasion de déchanter, de mûrir et de faire un peu mieux à l’avenir.”   LE PROLÉTARIAT BRÉSILIEN N’A PAS ÉTÉ VAINCU PAR LA DICTATURE MAIS PAR LA DÉMOCRATIE

By contrast, les quartiers en gilets jaunes, that is, the initiative of the Comité Adama, attracted several hundred people. It ended caught up in the chaos of the main march (Reportage à la manifestation des “quartiers en gilets jaunes” à Paris). It was and is a democratic and open initiative. These are good people who should be supported. How far they come from the banlieue is not clear.

Image result for quartiers en gilets jaunes a paris

 

In the meantime one of the – all too representative – figures of French conspiracy thinking, who is very active in the Gilets Jaunes, has a secret hoard pf documents  which involve  the imminent start of the Third World War:

(1) “La politique fut une de ces évidences, une invention grecque qui se condensait en une équation : tenir une position, c’est prendre parti, et prendre parti, c’est déclencher la guerre civile. Guerre civile, position, parti, c’était un seul mot en grec, stasis. Et la politique, c’était l’art de conjurer la stasis.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 5, 2018 at 1:34 pm

French Government Backs Down on Fuel Tax Rise . “The Solution, it’s the People!” Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

with 3 comments

Image result for gilets jaunes la taxe

Stop Taxes! Gilets Jaunes “aspire” to Mélenchon’s Programme.

French Prime Minister announces suspension of fuel tax hikes

France fuel protests: PM Philippe suspends fuel tax rise

BBC.

France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.

Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

 

The below puts the result in its true historical perspective:

 

The genial Mélenchon has found a whole new raft of supporters!

They have given “weight to my words”.

And “aspire” to his programme.

Bless!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm

8 Official Spokespersons “Elected” for Gilets Jaunes, One already booted out for belonging to a Trade Union.

with 5 comments

Image result for Des "gilets jaunes" une "délégation" officielle

Macron, t’est foutu, la TaxPayers Alliance est dans la rue!

After a meeting of regional representatives the Gilets Jaunes now how Spokespeople and an Official Delegation.

Des “gilets jaunes” créent une “délégation” officielle

They have issued these demands,

After consulting  supporters on Facebook, the delegation addressed “two main proposals” to the government  : “reduce  all taxes” and  “create of citizens’ assembly” to discuss the themes of ecological transition, “taking in account of the voice of the citizens “, the increase of the purchasing power and insecurity (i.e. crime), the text announced.  They also ask to be received at the Élysée Palace by the Head of State.

Some local groups have not reacted favourably to the initiative, reports  Laure-Hélène de Vriendt for RTL Paul Mara,  spokesperson for Marseille compared the Macron’s Paris centred decison-making. 

A peine nommés, les 8 porte-parole des gilets jaunes réfléchissent… à virer l’un d’entre eux.

The appointment of the eight spokespeople was made “in a hurry” this Sunday, during a procedure restricted to 44 regional representatives of the movement.

After examining their credentials, for any political or trade union affiliations, one of them, Jason Herbert, a former journalist, now in charge of communication as a member of the National Council of journalists of the CFDT-Journalists was found out. He had also a ‘past’ as a representative for workers at employment tribunals,  (Conseils de prud’hommes.)

France Info reports more divisions inside the movement with more and more local groups refusing to recognise these people’s legitimacy:

“Pour qui se prennent-ils ?” : les huit porte-parole officiels des “gilets jaunes” ne font pas l’unanimité

 

There’s even a new Yellow Party:

Those on the British left who have reported on the Gilets Jaunes have so far studiously ignored the far-right element at the head of the march chanting the Identitarian slogan “on est Chez Nous on Saturday on the  Champs-Elysées.

The French government is not so forgiving:

“Gilets jaunes” : le slogan “on est chez nous” rappelle “furieusement la peste brune”, juge à son tour Benjamin Griveaux.

Today President Macron is making a speech on his “Green” “Transition énergétique.”

Faced with violent anti-government protests, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday will announce a 10-year blueprint for France’s transition to cleaner energy.

France 24.

Update: It’s just emerged that one of the 8 national Spokesperson of the Gilets Jaunes, Thomas Miralles, stood for the Front National (now Rassemblement National) of Marine le Pen in 2014, and before that a Republican list backed by the Parti Socialiste (2010). Both apparently were “youthful  mistakes”.

RTL played this song today: And Me and Me and Me, to celebrate the Gilets Jaunes’ demand for lower taxes and, no doubt, more, better, public services.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2018 at 11:41 am

Another Setback for La France insoumise after Defeat in By-election.

with 5 comments

Image result for Farida Amrani affiche

After predicted win, defeat for La France insoumise.

The American radical progressive journal Jacobin ran this story this weekend,

France Insoumise’s Farida Amrani is the frontrunner to replace France’s former prime minister Manuel Valls as MP for Évry.

A Foot in the Streets An interview with Farida Amrani. 

Talking to a progressive French patriot, Cde Broder, Amrani the candidate for Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Rally, said that their progressive politics were clear,

We work in the interests of a program created by and for the people, above partisan divides.

Amarani lost, heavily, to the candidate of la République en Marche (LREM), President Macron’s Party.

He, the Mayor of Évry, Francis Chouat got 59,1% of the vote.

There was a high rate of abstention in the by-election, 8,08 % in the first round.

And in the second (83%), which the Leader of the Progressive LFI drew some comfort from – by blaming it for stifling the voice of the people’s anger.

 

The candidate of LREM was less unhappy:

 

The owner of Jacobin, the wealthy Brexiter and radical progressive  Bhaskar Sunkara has recently bought into the British left.

Well-established rumour has it that he has sent his majordomo,  Sebastian Budgen, to negotiate a slice of the media empire of La France insoumise, the “web-télé” imaginatively titled Média.

It is said that after this, and other setbacks for LFI, stocks are on offer at an attractive price.

 

More information: Législative partielle en Essonne : Francis Chouat, soutenu par LREM, succède à Manuel Valls

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Gilets Jaunes: the Ultra-Right Accused of Creating Saturday’s Violence.

with 2 comments

Image result for ultra-droite aux champs elysees on est chez nous!

Ultra-Right Accused of Leading Violent Protest on the  Champs-Élysées.

According to initial reports, (the violence) was in the majority created by members of the ultra-right, who infiltrated the movement with the sole intention of smashing everything up. These rioters were largely said to be young men, who came from the regions.

“D’après les premiers éléments, il s’agirait en grande majorité de membres de l’ultra-droite, qui se seraient infiltrés au mouvement avec l’unique ambition de tout ravager. Ces casseurs seraient des hommes plutôt jeunes, venus de province.” BFM

The historian of social movements Sylvain Boulouque  evoked the “political colouring” behind the flags carried on the Champs-Elysées, some of which held sympbols of the Sacred Heart and the  fleur de lys. “Calls were spread on the all the web sites of the radical right calling for people to pour into the Champs-Elysees and to storm the Elysée, or at least to get close to it.”

“une coloration politique” des drapeaux représentés sur les Champs-Elysées, parfois frappés du Sacré-Cœur ou de la fleur de lys. “Des appels fleurissent également sur tous les sites de le droite radicale pour descendre les Champs-Elysées et prendre d’assaut l’Elysée, ou du moins s’en rapprocher”,

France Info

In this interview Boulouque notes that the ultra-right were at the head of the march.

 

Here is a broader report:

Anti-government protesters clashed with French police on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday, leaving the area cloaked in tear gas and smoke from fires on a fresh day of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

France 24.

Demonstrators wearing the yellow, high-visibility vests that symbolise their movement threw projectiles at police preventing them from moving along the famed shopping avenue, which was decked out in twinkling Christmas lights.

They also built barricades in some spots, and tore down traffic lights and street signs, creating riotous scenes reminiscent of France’s 1968 civil unrest, or street insurrections in the mid-19th century immortalised in paintings and movies.

Police arrested 130 people, 69 of those in Paris, and 24 people were injured, five of them police officers including one who suffered burns to his groin, the city police department and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

The interior ministry counted 106,000 protesters across France on Saturday, with 8,000 in Paris, of whom around 5,000 were on the Champs-Elysees.

That was far less than the national tally of 282,000 in the November 17 protests.

Castaner said after the tumult died down that damage on the Champs-Elysees was “small”.

The French government cast blame for the unruly protests on far-right politician Marine Le Pen,claiming she egged them on.

But Le Pen rejected that accusation saying she had “never called for any violence whatsoever” and in turn accused the government of “organising the tension” and seeking to make her a scapegoat.

Meanwhile, opposition parties on both the right and left accused the government of trying to reduce the protests to just the sporadic scenes of violence, and turning a deaf ear to the demonstrators’ grievances.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the radical left France Unbowed party who attended a separate march Saturday protesting violence against women, tweeted that the action on the streets was “a mass protest of the people” which signalled “the end for [interior minister] Castaner”.

There is no doubt that there were ultra-right protesters on the Champs-Élysées.

That, is, apart from the Front National, who in French political language are just far-right…

Amongst those present on Saturday was prolific anti-semitic far-right writer, Hervé Ryssen, originally an anarchist, then a holocaust denier, and obsessed with Jewish ‘plots’ Ryssen recently rendered homage to   Robert Faurisson after his death.

Violences aux Champs-Élysées: une centaine de membres de l’ultra-droite parmi les gilets jaunes

Here is a video of them chanting “On est chez Nous” – that is, “It’s our Homeland”

 

This is another picture of them.

 

There is an issue as to why the Police let these demonstrators erect barricades, something, to say the least, unusual  in the posh 8th arrondissement.

Mélenchon of the rally La France insoumise (LI) claims that the protests were part of the great French revolutionary tradition of refusing to pay taxes for the rich.

The far-right Sovereigntist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, leader of Debout la France, who has very publicly backed the protest.,accused the government of seizing on a few idiots to discredit the movement, the honest folk behind the Gilets Jaunes movement.

The Gilets Jaunes protests could be called “populism in the streets”, an upsurge against the government by a very mixed group of people.

It is hard to not to sympathise with those, trapped into using their cars in many parts of France without proper public transport (as is the case in many areas of Britain) are the first to suffer from tax rises on the diesel they were  encouraged to use.

But it is hard to claim that this this protest is ‘floating signifier’ which the left  can ‘hegemonise”  (“Le gilet jaune comme signifiant flottant.  ) There is a case for addressing the issues of the “peripheral” parts of France, which, as in the rest of Europe, suffer from poor transport and a shrinking number of public services. But how exactly can any left, the “composantes progressistes du champ social” convince those who, to put it simply, correspond to the “petrol heads” of Top Gear. Clearly the far-right have not been able to work within the Gilets Jaunes so easily without a reason. Any Green measure is likely to be fought by these people.

It does not take a Doctorate in the behaviour of the far-left to see something of an opportunist running after any form of popular unrest here.

Macron and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner have not just been able to accuse Marine Le Pen and the   Rassemblement National of fomenting disorder.

They have (with transparent logic) posed a real problem for those parts of the French left which have shown sympathy with the Gilets Jaunes.

It is fortunate, helped by support for the march against sexual violence at the same time,  that none have said, “No, it was not the ultra-right – we were there too!”

and Ligne rouge et gilets jaunes  by  & 

and: Classes d’encadrement et prolétaires dans le « mouvement des gilets jaunes »

 

Notably, 

Cet agrégat informe d’individualismes, qui ne veut pas payer pour les autres, s’insère dans un fond idéologique d’extrême-droite. Au delà de la présence plus que problématique de l’extrême droite parlementaire et extraparlementaire, un discours, qui revient comme une rengaine : contre les « parasites » dits du haut (Macron, les bobos, le gouvernement, mais pas la classe capitaliste) et du bas (les précaires, les immigrés, les chômeurs, etc) qui profiteraient de la redistribution. Cela s’est traduit concrètement par des attaques physiques sur une femme voilée, un reporter asiatique, un couple homosexuel, des migrants cachés dans un camion et livrés à la gendarmerie, un camarade noir, etc.