Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘French Politics

France: 36th Day of Strikes and Protests Continue Against Pension Reform.

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Many protesters view Macron as remote and regal. Here his tenure is styled as “the restoration of the monarchy”.

“Le «moment Thatcher» d’Emmanuel Macron.”

We won’t give up’: French protesters defiant on day 36 of pension strikes

Reports France 24.

On RTL this morning an opponent of the protests claimed that the numbers out on the streets had gone down.

Le Monde  says,

Strike against pension reform: 452,000 demonstrators in France, including 56,000 in Paris

On the 36th day of the strike, the mobilisation was less massive than on December the 17th, when the Ministry of the Interior had recorded 615,000 demonstrators, including 76,000 in Paris.

The interior ministry announced that 452,000 people  had marched in France , against 615,000 for the day of December 17. For their part, the unions claimed that there were 1.2 million demonstrators in 65 processions.

Traffic is still  disrupted on the SNCF and RATP networks this Thursday. The strikes also concern lawyers, refinery staff and teachers.

There were some violent incidents in Paris.

Negotiations have not advanced an inch.

The Train service (SNCF)  is threatening to sell off its subsidiary services.

There are claims that Macron’s efforts to defeat the strikes are based on Thatcher’s strategy to crush the miners.

Dans les cortèges, sur les piquets de grève et dans les assemblées générales, le mot se répète souvent : cette grève interprofessionnelle contre la réforme des retraites résonne pour Emmanuel Macron comme l’équivalent de la grande grève des mineurs de 1984-1985 pour Margaret Thatcher.

On the marches, on pickets and in general assemblies, the word is often repeated: this interprofessional strike against pension reform resonates for Emmanuel Macron as the equivalent of the great miners’ strike of 1984-1985 for Margaret Thatcher .

Our comrades have been out expressing solidarity.

From last night’s action at the French Embassy in solidarity with French workers, who are today staging a day of action against President Macron’s proposed neoliberal pension reforms.

Rail workers have been on strike for 36 days, making it the longest continuous train strike in French history, and the longest national strike since 1968. Teachers, nurses, lawyers, and energy workers and others have also been participating.

Macron’s pension reforms are a crucial test for a broader neoliberal assault on workers’ rights and public services, and the outcome of the struggle will set an example for workers and bosses across Europe.

Their struggle is our struggle.

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Text from Ni patrie ni frontières.


7 janvier, par Yves

[An excellent leaflet which contrasts with the leftist speeches cut off from reality and the fantasies about the “giletjaunisation” of struggles as if the yellow vest had become the red flag of the 21st century …. YC, Neither homeland nor borders]

Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2020 at 12:06 pm

France: Success for Protests and Strikes on 5th of December against Pension Reform as Fight Continues.

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Pas moins de 270 000 personnes ont parcouru les grands boulevards parisiens, de la gare de l’Est à la place de la Nation. « Aujourd’hui dans la rue, demain on continue », ont scandé les manifestants. Julien Jaulin ; Nicolas Cleuet/AFP ; Lahcène Abib



Massif, historique, inouï, au moins inédit depuis près d’une décennie… À vrai dire, on ne sait plus quelle épithète coller à la mobilisation de ce jeudi contre la réforme des retraites, à l’appel de la CGT, FO, de la FSU, Solidaires, de l’Unef et l’UNL, rejoints par la CFE-CGC.

Massive, historic, unprecedented, unheard of for at least a decade…To tell the truth, who knows what word to use for the mobilisation against pension reform this Thursday, called for by the CGT, FO, (Union federations), the FSU (Teachers), UNEF (Students) and the UNL (secondary school students), joined by the CFE-CGC (‘cadres’, technicians, administrators and managers).

A strike that crippled public transport and closed schools across France entered a second day on Friday, with trade unions saying they planned to keep going until President Emmanuel Macron backs down from a planned reform of pensions.

The left-wing CGT union federation, celebrates the success of the protests and strikes.

Grève du 5 décembre : réussite générale !

The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who came to power in 2017 on a promise to open up France‘s highly regulated economy, against powerful trade unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

The outcome depends on who blinks first – the unions who risk losing public support if the disruption goes on for too long, or the government which fears voters could side with the unions and blame officials for the standoff.

Macron‘s government, along with many ordinary French citizens, have made plans to cope with the strike action through the weekend, but may take a different view on Monday, if the disruption extends into a second week.

Rail workers voted to extend their strike to Friday, while trade unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. Other trade unionists were due to decide early on Friday how long they would keep up the strike.

Full reports in Le Monde: Grève du 5 décembre : cortèges massifs contre la « casse du système social », grèves reconduites… retour sur la journée de manifestations

Libération: Des dizaines de milliers de personnes défilent dans la capitale contre le projet de réforme des retraites du gouvernement. Mais la colère, plus large encore, s’adresse aussi à «Macron et son monde».

There were violent clashes:



The sovereigntists tried to join in.

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Paris: Frexit supporters of the  l’Union populaire républicaine (UPR) prevented from joining march by left-wing trade unionists of SUD.

Mélénchon sounding a dud note, welcomes Marine Le Pen’s backing….

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Whether this was cynical effort to win over RN voters, or clumsiness, it has not been widely welcomed.

Mélenchon et «l’humanisme» de Le Pen : cynisme ou maladresse ?

The radical left sees this as the beginning of a wider struggle;


Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2019 at 12:12 pm

French parliament decides anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

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New Law Faced Critics Alleging it  “Stigmatises and Silences ” Critics of Israel, and even those in Favour of 2 State Solution.

The Jerusalem Post headlines today,

French parliament decides anti-Zionism is antisemitism

Anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism, France’s National Assembly determined on Tuesday, voting on a resolution calling on the government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

The motion proposed by lawmaker Sylvain Maillard of LREM, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party passed 154-72 in the parliament’s lower house.

New French bill equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism ‘is going very far afield’

France 24 reports on why the move met strong opposition.

A group of 127 Jewish intellectuals has signed a petition against a new French bill which would equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. FRANCE 24 spoke with one of the signatories who calls the bill “problematic”, saying it “delegitimises the legitimate act of criticising the state of Israel”.

In an interview with FRANCE 24,  James Cohen, a professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 and one of the 127 signatories of the petition, said that “by equating antizionism with anti-Semitism, you’re broadening the definition of antisemitism too much […] you’re going very far afield.”

“Some of the people out there who oppose the policies of the state of Israel, who may even oppose the existence of the state of Israel, might also be anti-Semitic […] but that should not delegitimise the legitimate act of criticising the policies of the state of Israel. And when it comes to the existence of the state of Israel, there are questions that need to be asked whether a one-state solution or a two-state solution could be viable. Why should this discussion not be open?”

On Tuesday evening, French lawmakers adopted the bill, with 154 votes against 72.

The above declaration by Jewish intellectuals was printed in Le Monde yesterday.

Antisémitisme : « Nous demandons le retrait de la résolution Maillard »

More in the Nouvel Obs:

127 intellectuels juifs contre la définition de l’antisémitisme élargie à l’antisionisme

The resolution is “highly problematic,” says the group in its platform. First because it “equates […] anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism” . But “for many Jews considering themselves anti-Zionists, this conflation between the two is deeply offensive,” says the collective.

“Some Jews oppose Zionism for religious reasons, others for political or cultural reasons. Many Holocaust victims were anti-Zionists, “ says the collective.

“For Palestinians, Zionism represents dispossession, displacement, occupation and structural inequalities. […] They oppose Zionism not out of hatred of the Jews, but because they live Zionism as an oppressive political movement. “

The second reason is that IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism itself would be “highly problematic” , “unclear and imprecise” .

It is, moreover, “already used to stigmatise and silence critics of the State of Israel, including human rights organizations,” said the group.

“We can not consider this as independent of the Israeli government’s main political agenda of rooting out its occupation and annexation of Palestine and silencing all criticism,” say the signatories, who are worried about “political support”. , to France “ .

According to the group, “anti-Semitism must be fought on a universal basis, along with other forms of racism and xenophobia, in the battle against hatred” .

Today Radio France Internationale  (RFI) report, using the more precise language of “linking” antiSemitism and anti-Zionism,

French parliament adopts controversial law linking anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

The text was passed by a very narrow margin, in a virtually empty parliament. Opponent of the legislation have notably complained that the law associates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Opening the debate, ruling party MP Sylvain Maillard warned the National Assembly that “Jews are once again being killed in France, because they are Jews”.

During the parliamentary discussion, the deputies were informed that more than one hundred Jewish graves had been desecrated with black swastikas on Tuesday in the north-western French town of Westhoffen.

Finally, 154 MPs voted in favour of the legislation, with 72 against. Many parliamentarians chose to leave before the vote on the controversial law. There were 550 deputies present for the earlier vote on the social security budget.

Fewer than one third of ruling party members supported the new law, with 26 voting against, and 22 abstaining.

Critics of the law point to the association made by the new legislation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already stated his belief that anti-Zionism represents “one of the current forms of anti-Semitism”.

The French law accepts the controversial definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA): “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

That definition makes no reference to anti-Zionism, but, the examples which accompany the definition explain that “any unfair treatment of the state of Israel, demanding behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is regarded as unacceptable.

Supporters of the French law claim that many anti-Semites hide behind the banner of anti-Zionism. The Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, explained that the law had only one objective and that was to remove all ambiguity about anti-Semitic statements, acts or gestures. Castaner further pointed out that the neither the word anti-Semitism nor the term anti-Zionism appear anywhere in the final text of the law.

Several dozen prominent Jewish intellectuals have actively campaigned against the law, saying it runs the risk of “criminalising ideas” without doing anything to fight racism.

The text was voted on by  a very low number of deputies.  At the heart of the criticism of opponents: the fact that it associates anti-Zionism with a form of anti-Semitism.


54 deputies voted for – out of the 577 who sit in the National Assembly  – 72 against. Many parliamentarians did not take part in the vote, even though they were nearly 550 present two hours earlier for the final adoption of the Social Security (Health and Family allowances) bill, a sign of the discomfort aroused by this text.

Macron’s own parliamentary group La République en Marche, (LRM)  was divided,

The LRM group, revealed by the analysis of the poll… of its 303 members, 84 voted in favor of the text, ie less than a third of the Macronist collective. 26 voted against when 22 abstained.

The Socialists (PS), Communists (PCF) and La France insoumise (LFI) voted against the new law.


Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm

France: Mass Strikes in Protest Against Pension Reform,Thursday. Left Unites Behind Movement.

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Image result for greve 5 decembre

Mass Strikes in France this Thursday.

France is set to see the first real test of a movement against President Macron’s attempt to change the French pension system. This will replace existing arrangements with a points-based “reforms” that will cut payments and raise the age of retirement.

The protests and work stoppages this week come at a strategic time of the year, designed to exercise maximum pressure.

Another reason is that the 5th of December in 1995 saw the launch of the successful movement  against the “plan Juppé”  proposed by the Prime Minister of right wing President Jacques Chirac reforms (that is, cuts and restrictions on)  of health, social security and public sector pensions.

The present however affects everybody and is identified directly with the President, Emmanuel Macron, himself.

Trade unions, SNCF, RATP, Air France … Many organisations are involved in the mobilisation of Thursday, December 5 against Macron’s  pension reform.

Five unions in the Paris region transport network had called for an indefinite strike from 5 December – Unsa-RATP, CFE-CGC RATP, SUD-RATP, Solidaires-RATP and FO-RATP – before being joined by the CGT RATP.

The CGT, FO and Solidaires call for the demonstration and an indefinite strike from December 5 in the urban and road transport of passengers, goods and funds, or even blocking unlimited on busy roads. Ambulance workers, or taxis are also expected to join the movement.

In education, unions do not consider the government’s commitment to teachers to be sufficient. Most of their unions (Snes-FSU, Snuipp-FSU, SE-Unsa, Snalc, Solidaires …) have called out approximately 900,000 teachers of the first and second degree to strike.

Several police unions including Alliance and Unsa threaten to join the social movement of December 5 with actions in police stations if the Ministry of the Interior “does not meet their (their) expectations,” according to a press release.

An appeal of 15 hospital unions, doctors and employees in the health sector calls for members to join the movement.

In the energy sector, disturbances are also expected. Three of the four representative unions – CGT, FO and the CFE-CGC-Unsa alliance – are calling for a strike. The 140,000 electricians and gas companies will protest against the possible disappearance of their own pension scheme.

Dustcarts and street rubbish collection will be affected.

Courts are likely to close as lawyers join the movement.

Others are expected to follow.

School student unions (syndicats lycéens Fidl, UNL, MNL) will be backing the day of action.

A  small section of the Gilets Jaunes has given its support.

Adapted from La Croix. and France 24.

The national bodies of the ‘reformist’ union, the CFDT, have not called for strike action and their leader even backs them  (Le secrétaire général de la CFDT est dans une position difficile : il est le seul syndicaliste qui soutient encore la réforme des retraites lancée par Emmanuel Macron ) but some affiliated bodies, such as the Train drivers will join in.

In Forbes Alex Ledsom explains the reason for this wave of protest,

Why are they on strike?

The strike is against the French government’s proposed pension reforms. President Macron wishes to streamline the current pension system comprising 42 separate regimes into a single operating system. The new system would introduce a “points system” of retirement, which threatens the current early retirement age of many public service workers.

More importantly for the protesters, the reforms would impact how much money they receive. Currently, public sector workers’ pensions are calculated on the salary they earned for the last six months of working life–which is usually the highest for most people–and they are also assessed on the 25 best years of their working life. The new system will take every year into account, meaning that people who worked on lower salaries for years or had periods of unemployment, will see that translate into a lower pension.

A hopeful sign (reported across the French media) is that the Left has responded to this social movement with united support.

This is a rather rare phenomenon on the left of the French political spectrum: unity behind a common cause. This is what seems to be happening at the initiative of the Communist Party, which called on all the left parties to gather at a big joint meeting on December 11, against the pension reform.

A few days before the major mobilisation of December 5 against pension reform , Emmanuel Macron managed to unify the left, against his project. The Communist Party, calling for support for demonstrations on December the 5th, has also invited all leftist parties, from the Socialist Party to Green Party, EELV and La France insoumise to a large national meeting on December the 11th.”

Europe 1.

This declaration, Pensions: Against Individualism We Choose Solidarity, is also signed by figures from all sides of the left including the most radical.

Retraites: contre l’individualisme, nous choisissons la solidarité

Answering the charge that protests are a corporatist movement to defend existing unequal pensions and retirement ages (Not to mention the complicated network of different bodies that administer them)  they state,

The counter-reform of pensions is part of a plan to destroy the system of solidarity through  the elimination of public services, the punitive reform of unemployment insurance, privatisation (ADP), and attacks on all employee statuses.

Against this upheaval of society, our alternative is based on universal rights: retirement at 60 with at the rate of 75% indexed on the best wages, earned guaranteed for all. But also a collective right to an early departure for those who have engaged in arduous work, so that they may retire still in good health. This requires an increase in socialised contributions including those levied on profits. And a fall in unemployment by reducing working time would also bring resources into the system.

Full text via above link.

Europe Ecologie-les Verts (EELV) : Sandra Regol, porte-parole ; Alain Coulombel, secrétaire national adjoint

Ensemble ! : Clémentine Autain, députée de La France insoumise (FI), Myriam Martin, porte-parole, conseillère régionale LFI Occitanie; Jean-François Pellissier, porte-parole

Gauche démocratique et sociale (GDS) : Gérard Filoche, porte-parole ; Anne de Haro, GDS Ile-de-France

Génération·s : Guillaume Balas et Claire Monod, coordinateurs nationaux

Mouvement pour la démocratie en Europe (Diem 25) : Emma Justum, coordination nationale

Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) : Olivier Besancenot, Christine Poupin, Philippe Poutou, porte-parole

Nouvelle Donne (ND) : Aline Mouquet, co-présidente, Gilles Pontlevoy : co-président

Parti communiste français (PCF) : Cathy Apourceau-Poly, membre de la direction du PCF, sénatrice du Pas-de-Calais ; Pierre Dharreville, membre de la direction du PCF, député des Bouches-du-Rhône

Parti communiste des ouvriers de France (PCOF) : Véronique Lamy et Christian Pierrel, coporte-parole

Parti de Gauche (PG) : Eric Coquerel, député FI, co-coordinateur du PG; Danielle Simonnet, conseillère de Paris, co-coordinatrice du PG

Pour une écologie populaire et sociale (PEPS) : Sergio Coronado, Jean Lafont, Elise Lowy, Bénédicte Monville

République et socialisme (RS) : Marinette Bache, conseillère de Paris ; Lucien Jallamion, secrétaire national ; Mariane Journiac, secrétaire nationale

François Ruffin, député La France insoumise de la Somme.

This united political response comes in conditions as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement Nationale (ex Front National) has supported the protest and strike (Retraites : Marine Le Pen soutient la grève du 5 décembre).

Union leaders have made it clear she not welcome on any of their marches.

Just 10 percent of trains will be running in France on Thursday due to strikes

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2019 at 6:16 pm

150,000 on Nous Toutes Marches in France in Protest at Violence against Women.

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Inspiring Protest against “les violences faites aux femmes.”

Image from Le défilé contre les violences faites aux femmes en images. Le Monde.

Thousands rallied in Paris on Saturday to seek an end to gender violence and femicide in a country where at least 116 women have been killed by current or former partners this year, sparking national outrage.

France 24.

The march began near the French capital‘s main opera house, with several protesters holding up placards bearing the image of a relative or friend killed in gender violence.

“Break the silence, not women,” read one sign. “Down with the patriarchy,” read another.

About 30 marches have been organised throughout France. They involve nearly 70 organisations, political parties, unions and associations.

“We think this will be a historic march,” Caroline De Haas, one of the organisers, said, adding that “the level of awareness is moving at breakneck speed.”

We can no longer count the number of cases where femicides could have been avoided,” the organisers said on Facebook Saturday.

“With this march, we will make the public authorities take appropriate measures.”

The government is expected to announce about 40 measures on Monday to tackle the scourge.

A total of 116 women have been murdered in France so far this year by their husband, partner or ex-partner, according to an AFP investigation.

The group “Femicides by companions or ex” meanwhile puts the toll at 137.

“In 32 femicides, it’s Christmas,” read one sign at the march.

It shows the scale of the problem as 121 were killed in France last year, according to official figures.

One woman is killed in France every three days by their partner or ex-partner, while marital violence affects 220,000 Frenchwomen every year.

“Our system is not working to protect these women,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet recently said.

The killings in France are part of a global scourge that shows no signs of abating, with 87,000 women and girls killed in 2017 according to the UN — over half of them killed either by their spouse, partner or own family.


The demonstration was organised by the collective “Nous Toutes”.


Libération: Marche #NousToutes : «Etre ici, c’est comme un cri de rage»

Statement from left Group Ensemble: Manifestation féministe : je marche avec Nous Toutes.

Statement from the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) Pour en finir avec les violences faites aux femmes : mobilisation générale !

Communist Party: Le PCF appelle à manifester samedi 23 novembre contre les violences faites aux femmes


Written by Andrew Coates

November 24, 2019 at 2:13 pm

L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. Review: Fascisme à la française?

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Image result for l'histoire refoulée


L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. Les Éditions du Cerf.

Zeev Sternhell is a reference point amongst historians of Fascism. L’Histoire refoulée focuses on the Croix de Feu (CDF, a movement, originally largely of Great War veterans, led by Colonel François de la Rocque. In 1936, after anti-parliamentary street violence led to the dissolution of the “leagues”, they became the Parti sociale français (PSF) with membership of around three quarters of a million. Opinion has been divided about how far La Rocque’s troops were properly fascist, with some dismissing them as nationalist “boy scouts”. The contributions by Sternhell, “Anglo-Saxons” Caroline Campbell, Kevin Passmore and Chris Milligan with Laurent Kestel and Didier Leschi and Samuel Kalman aim to show that during the 1930s important parts of French society were tempted by “les aventures fascists” and that the CDF/PSF was not a “mass party of the right” but infected with fascist ideas.

Didier Leschi and Lauren Kestel refer to Michel Dobry’s claim that there is a consensus that France was “immune” and “allergic” to Fascism (Le mythe de lallergie française au fascisme. 2003). In this view, taken up anew by Sternhell the minimising of the CDF/PSF is a case study in how a 1930s a fascistic movement is downplayed. Present targets include Michel Winock, who questioned this classification, noting that, apart from its backward looking debts to 19th century the Caesarism of Boulangism, has said in his own works, that the “term fascism cannot be applied to all movements supportive of right-leaning authoritarianism, the so-called national right, or the far-right” and that the “Croix-de-Feu and the PSF cannot be called a fascist party unless, of course, we disregard semantic precision altogether.(1)

“Refoulée”, in psychological terms, is to repress, to push back into oneself, to refuse to acknowledge an impulse. The intention of L’Histoire refoulée is to bring out from this collective subconscious the existence of French fascism as an independent political force in the 1930s. It equally contributed to the National Revolution of the Vichy regime and the Collaboration. The importance of this task is highlighted, the authors argue, by the resurgence of a xenophobic extreme right that has reinvented a French nationalist tradition without fully recognising its debts to fascism. .

General readers, many of whom are familiar with the historian of Vichy, Robert O Paxton (La France de Vichy. 1973,  in English, Vichy France : Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944) , will be surprised to learn that the domestic responsibility for the Pétain regime continues to be ignored. Not long ago the polemical historian Éric Zemmour violently attacked the anti-Vichy ‘doxa’ (established opinion), also known as the « révolution paxtonienne », led by “notre bon maître”, the American (nationality underlined) in the best-selling Le Suicide français (2014). The far-right writer became instantly notorious for defending the care shown by Vichy towards Jews of French nationality. His claim that De Gaulle was a child of both the far right and left Catholic patriotism, “un enfant de Maurras et de Péguy” could also be said to be attempt to blur the lines between fascism and French republicanism. L’Histoire consigns Zemmour to a footnote of the Leschi and Kestel Introduction – on his more recent Destin Français (2018).

The Revolutionary Right.

In La Droite Révolutionnaire, (First Edition, 1978) Sternhell proposed that late 19th century and pre-Great War France was the cradle of fascist ideology. France was, in Sternhell’s eyes, an ideal field for studying pre-fascism, and, full blown, “neither left nor right” fascist thought. This developed earliest in the country with “exceptional intellectual quality. Ni droite ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (First Edition, 1983), surveyed anti-parliamentarian nationalism (the ‘ligues’), “planiste” sections of French social democracy (Marcel Déat), the Monarchist and anti-Semite Action française, the mass parties of the later 1930s, the Parti Social français (PSF), the Parti Populaire français (PPF) of the renegade Communist Jacques Doriot, and a mixed bag of admirers of National Socialism and Mussolini. This indicated that fascism was a synthesis of socialist ideas and nationalism. An earlier work had marked out in the literary and polemical figure of the nationalist Maurice Barrès and his appeal to La terre et les Morts, the homeland heritage and the living memory of the dead. (Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. 1972). In the years preceding the Second World War these movements drew together calls to “workers of all classes” against banking “hyper” capitalism, drew on the romance of the nation, and opposition to the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the elites of the Third Republic. (1)

Culturally acute, plunging straight through the confusion reigning in European politics of the 1930s, Sternhell had an immediate and lasting appeal. It did not take long for his thesis to come under attack. The writer of a landmark study of George Sorel (L’illusion du politique.1984) Shlomo Sand was one of the first off the mark. Ni droite ni gauche was the “most completely a-historical than one can possibly imagine. The author never puts things in their context. He gives fascism such a vague definition that you can stick onto it anything whatsoever.” Sand goes into some detail on the faults behind this conception. His summary could equally stand for other critics. In L’illusion du politique the Cercle Proudhon, a key ‘red-brown’ movement for Sternhell in which extreme-right monarchists met syndicalists inspired by Sorels’ revolutionary anti-parliamentarism, was put into its real, marginal, barely noticed, context. Sorel ended his days an enthusiast for the Bolshevik Revolution, not nationalism. (2)

The meat of the argument against Sternhell is that, as a field of observation, France, like Great Britain, was marked by victory in the Great War, and did not know the crisis of regime that afflicted Germany. This has implications for any study of movements born amongst those who fought in the conflict. The Croix de feu, which had nobody with experience of anything resembling the far-right civil war fighters of the German Freikorps nor, as many argue, did its vaunted “dispos” (men ready for action), who wore no uniform but the occasional Trilby hat, resemble anything like the Sturmabteilung (SA). France neither knew the kind of turmoil and use of violence against the left that proceeded Mussolini’s power grab. Threatening a coup, but never united enough with the other major forces of the far right like the Parti Populaire français (PPF) to carry one out, was not the same carrying one out.

The major difficulty is that a broad sweep of far-right ideas, focused on intellectuals in countries where they did not control the state, ignores what for many historians is the crucial aspect of fascism and Nazism. They were  doctrines of regimes with totalitarian power.

Settling Accounts.

Many readers of L’Histoire refoulée will have these thoughts in mind as they open its pages. Sternhell pursues the ideological well-springs of fascism, and the ideological confusion of the 1930s, which drew some parts of the left towards the extreme right. ”. At the end of the 19th century France saw two traditions battle it out, the tradition of the Enlightenment faced a “tradition organiciste, antirationaliste, historiciste, nationaliste, antisémite, la tradition de la terre et les morts très proche de la tradition völkish en Allemagne.” (Page 40 – 50) This, he asserts, was the “motor” of Vicky’s National Revolution. The intellectuals prepared people’s minds; it was up to mass movements and the Disaster of the War, to give them life. The PSF’s call for Travail, Famille, Partie, became the motto of Vichy.

Sternhell does not always stay on this abstract plane. He peppers his contributions with revelatory attacks on liberals and moderate left wingers, like the ‘organic intellectual’ of the Radical Party Alain (Émile-Auguste Chartier), now known to have written anti-Jewish and pro-German comments in his war-time notebooks, Bertrand de Jouvenel (who launched a successful libel case against Sternhell in the 1980s for suggesting that he had been pro-Hitler), Maurice Duverger, the political scientist, dammed for his favourable writing for the Vichy government. His principal target is the already cited Michel Winock, a specialist in the same area, and author of the indispensable history of the journal Esprit (Esprit, des intellectuels dans la cité 1930 – 1950). 1996). Once a supporter of Sternhell’s early work he is damned not only for refusing to accept that groups like Les Croix de feu were full-blown fascist but also for his tenderness towards the Director of Esprit, Emmanuel Mounier. In a contemptible attack Sternhell lets it suggested that the left Christian personalist and anti-totalitarian was an admirer of Hitler for brief favourable comments on the invasion of the Soviet Union. (Page 83)

The serious nature of these claims is obscured by their anecdotal presentation, which recalls Bernard-Henri Lévy’s catch-all accusations of fascism in L’idéologie française (1981) rather than thorough historical research. This aspect of L’Histoire refoulée has led some to suggest that the book is intended to settle old scores (this review barely scratches the surface) rather than offer new insights into the history of French fascism. The final chapter, Réponse à Michel Winock, which drags up grievances going back decades, does not diminish this impression. (4)

Sternhell should not overshadow L’Histoire refoulée. Laurent Kestrel tackles the issue of the PSF “republican” claims, La Rocque’s prejudices and dislike of freemasons, the presence of anti-Semitism in the movement, and compares it to Doriot’s PPF. Kevin Passmore compares relations with the German regime, always difficult given deep-rooted French nationalist traditions of Germanophobia, and Italy. He notes that he disappointed those who encouraged him to attempt a coup d’État. (Page 211). Carline Campbell explores both the way La Rocque defended the higher civilisation of France and melded it with racial ideas. Perhaps her most interesting pages develop research into the social basis of the CDF/PSF, its policies, and the way it became an astonishing large movement. Chris Millington reminds us of the violence between left and right in 1930s French politics, culminating in the Limoge shootings of 1935.

The quality of these, and other contributions, brings us back to the initial questions. Is this part of French history willingly forgotten? Is this because to talk about La Roque, the most “republican” of the 1930s far right, would be to tarnish the idea that France was “immune” to fascism? This is not just a conceptual dispute about the nature of fascism and French history. Readers of Michel Winock will know that far from denying the long-standing existence of a powerful extreme right in the Hexagon he is one of the foremost historians and opponents of “la tradition contre-révolutionnaire” and its present day “avatars” “national-populisme”. If there is one thing about L’Histoire refoulée that rankles it is an implication that suggests otherwise. (5)


  1. Revisiting French fascism, La Rocque and the Croix de Feu. Michel Winock Vingtième Siècle. Revue dhistoire. 2006/2 (No 90)
  2. Page 405. La Droite Révolutionnaire. Zeev Sternhell. Edition de Seuil 1978.
  3. Written in 1983 and cited Page 144. La Fin de l‘intellectuel français? Shlomo Sand La Découverte. 2016.
  4. Une guerre de trente ans  Sonia Combe En attendant Nadeau. Notably on, in her view, the “l’équipe Serge Berstein-Jean-Noël Jeanneney-Michel Winock qui continuait à alimenter le mythe français déconstruit par Sternhell. “
  5. Page 297. Conclusion.Histoire de l’extrême droite en France. Sous La Direction de Michel Winock. Editions du Seuil. 2015 (New Edition) 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2019 at 1:51 pm

March Against Islamophobia in France – some divisions on the French left.

with 3 comments

Image result for marche contre l'islamophobie novembre paris affiche

This Sunday there is going to be a large demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris.

This is bound to have international resonance.

Protesting against hatred shown towards Muslims takes place after the attack on a Mosque  in Bayonne at the end of October and polls which show up to  44% of French people backing laws against wearing the veil in public spaces. (LES FRANÇAIS ET L’INTERDICTION DU PORT DU VOILE ISLAMIQUE DANS LES LIEUX PUBLICS.)

An appeal, signed initially by 50 prominent figures of the political left, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and intellectuals  was published in Liberation on the 1st of November calling for a response to the rise in hatred.

The dignity and integrity of millions of our fellow citizens are at stake. It is a question of unity against racism, which, in all its forms, which today again threatens France.

Le 10 novembre, à Paris, nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie !

The racist atmosphere has reached a new level after what has been called an appeal to civil war against Muslims and immigrants from the writer Éric Zemmour at the  Convention de la Droite, held at the end of September,  which also starred the rising figure of the French far right Marion Maréchal. (Les propos d’Eric Zemmour, comme une incitation à la guerre civile)

Anybody wishing to be informed on the climate could do well to begin by reading Zemmour’s Le Suicide français (2014).

He begins by lamenting French decline, blaming an alliance of 68 libertarian leftist ideology, feminism, gay rights, and unrestrained free market capitalism for undermining the family and French national sovereignty. The left, by denigrating the Nation, the land, and its dead, has paved the way for globalism. The destruction of France is furthered by the European Union’s super-national project and the ‘elites’ running it against the rooted people of the countries they rule over.

Immigration plays a role in undermining French nation. In place of the ‘integrationist’ process of assimilation – he himself is from a North African Jewish background – today capitalists and leftists have allowed separate communities to develop. The “cult of mixing” and diversity has replaced the republican model of equality (, le culte du métissage )

Le Suicide français Zemmour described Paris as surrounded by a banlieue  studded with Islamic and drug dealing fortress.

His more recent diatribes continue in this vein,

“one must choose between living and together” [a play on words on the slogan “vivre ensemble”]. The question today is thus that of the people. The people can remake a nation. The French people against the universalisms, whether market or Islamic. The French people against the cosmopolitan citizens of the world who feel closer to the inhabitants of New York or London than to their compatriots in Montélimar or Béziers and the French people against the Islamic universalism that is transforming Bobigny, Roubaix and Marseille into so many Islamic Republics and which waves the Algerian or Palestinian flags when its football team wins – I mean the team it loves, the team of their parents’ country, not the team of their ID or health insurance card.

Speech here.

In these conditions it is valid to make some comparisons between Zemmour and the 19th century  author of the best known French anti-Jewish hated, Edouard Drumont  (De Drumont à Zemmour, les résonances de la France rance).

It is less clear that we can draw exact parallels with the organised anti-Semitism, which included ‘leagues’ that promoted Jew baiting,  of that period.

The attempt to do so and make explicit reference to the Dreyfus Affair in Pour les musulmans by Edwy Plenel (2015) whose title echoes Pour les Juifs  by Emile Zola is devoid of all geopolitical context, beginning with the rise of extreme right Islamism.

Yet there are clearly mechanisms of exclusion against Muslim voices. During public debates on the veil, the Hidjab, this has happened:

La semaine du racisme antimusulmans a commencé le 11 octobre 2019 : depuis cette date, 85 débats sur le hijab ont été organisés, 286 personnes ont été invitées sur vos écrans mais PAS UNE SEULE femme portant le hijab n’a été invitée dans le cadre de ces débats

 (The week of anti-Muslim racism began on October 11, 2019: since then, 85 debates on the hijab have been organized, 286 people have been invited to your screens but NOT ONE ONLY woman wearing the hijab has been invited as part of these debates)

These indicate some of the reasons why the Sunday protest may have problems in balancing a universalist stand against the racist wave and the need to avoid becoming trapped in an incircle defence of religious-political  ideas.

So far most of the debate has centred on these aspects of the difficulties involved.

To begin with the word Islamophobia, as if a religion rather than Muslims as people, are the target of hatred, is a difficulty for many.

This is much less of an issue than the fact that the demonstration is backed by people whose own anti-racism is far from clear.

Marcher le 10 novembre avec les islamistes et décoloniaux : une erreur politique majeure pour la gauche. Manuel Boucher.

There is equally  a strident tone against existing secularist  laws in the appeal for the march.

Few people are eager to take lessons on secularism from anybody associated with Islamism. (1)

This had led the Parti Socialiste and others to withdraw their support. A gauche, défections en série avant la «marche contre l’islamophobie»

Despite these criticisms Jean-Luc Mélenchon has maintained his backing (Marche contre l’islamophobie : Mélenchon défend sa signature «au nom du texte réel et du contexte cruel»)

Even from a distance it is hard not to deny the scale of the problems Muslims, from very diverse communities, forms of Islam, politics,  and origins, from the Maghreb onwards,  face in France.


(1) Une ombre islamiste plane sur la marche contre l’islamophobie

La Croix.

D’autres signaux permettent de déceler l’engagement de l’islamisme, parfois radical, dans la manifestation « Nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie ! » du 10 novembre. Ainsi, une source policière note le relais de l’Appel à cet événement par plusieurs imams lyonnais, très investis dans l’UOIF. Mohamed Louizi relève, lui, les mêmes attitudes chez l’imam francilien Noureddine Aoussat, « frériste » reconnu ou chez l’imam nordiste Abdelmonaim Boussenna (Roubaix), très proche, longtemps, de Tariq Ramadan, et dont les profils YouTube et Facebook comptent des centaines de milliers d’abonnés.

Scrutant la liste des signataires de l’appel à manifester « contre l’islamophobie », Mohamed Louizi estime que « plusieurs d’entre eux posent problème ». Ainsi, la « Plateforme L.E.S. Musulmans », un « réseau collaboratif » qui entend exprimer l’opinion des « bases musulmanes », a été fondée par Marwan Muhammad, un « proche des Frères musulmans » qui fut aussi porte-parole et directeur exécutif du Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF). Cette plateforme activiste vient d’ailleurs de lancer une Union des imams qui inquiète certains observateurs. Ses adhérents pourront être de toutes sensibilités et tous courants de pensée, y compris salafistes.

Plus largement, poursuit Mohamed Louizi, « tous les initiateurs de cette manifestation dénoncent, depuis le début, la loi du 15 mars 2004 qui interdit de porter à l’école les signes manifestant ostensiblement son appartenance à une religion… » A ce propos, une phrase de la tribune publiée par Libération, le 1er novembre, a particulièrement attiré l’attention : « Depuis des années, les actes qui visent (les musulmans) s’intensifient : qu’il s’agisse de discriminations (…) ou de lois liberticides… »