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Posts Tagged ‘NPA

Marine Le Pen “Tackled” by Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti Anti-Capitaliste.

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Image result for poutou philippe affiche

Poster Boy.

The surprise event during last night’s French Presidential Debate (11 candidates) was Philippe Poutou, of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA)  landed some hard hitting blows on Marine Le Pen.

After refusing the ‘family photo’ with the other candidates, he had begun by attacking the corruption scandals enveloping the right-wing candidate, François Fillon, “Fillon, plus on fouille, plus on sent la corruption, plus on sent la triche,”, they more you dig the more you smell the corruption, and trickery.

Then Poutou went onto Marine Le Pen.

He began by recalling her most recent difficulties with the law, over  charges that the far-right leader had misused public and EU funds for her personal campaigns (see:  Marine Le Pen’s party under investigation for fraud).

The car worker commented, ” Le FN se dit anti-système, mais se protège grâce aux lois du système avec son immunité parlementaire et refuse d’aller aux convocations policières, donc, peinard ! ” The FN says it’s against ‘the system’, but protects itself with Parliamentary immunity and they refuse to respond to Police calls for interviews.

After pointing out that ‘on’, the workers, do not have Parliamentary immunity, Poutou then reminded the audience, in a political atmosphere where candidates evoke nationality above all else,  that he was talking everybody who lives in France, including ‘foreigners’, and not just the “French”.

https://twitter.com/PhMarliere/status/849386894513364992

In place of nationalism Poutou talked of class consciousness,

The Nouveau parti anticapitaliste’s candidate has made a great impression, with the media calling the debate the “Poutou show”. Many well-wishers expressed their solidarity, and even those on the left who are not supporters of the NPA or his electoral campaign overjoyed that he tackled Le Pen front on.

More on the debate:  « Nous, on n’a pas d’immunité ouvrière » : Poutou et Arthaud à l’offensive sur les affaires. Le Monde.

Guardian:  French election: factory worker Philippe Poutou emerges as star of TV debate.

Le Parisien reports,

Le candidat du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) a une nouvelle fois marqué les esprits mardi soir, en cassant tous les codes établis lors du deuxième débat de la présidentielle.

Détendu, impertinent, anticonformiste et très direct. C’est un véritable show que Philippe Poutou, connu pour son franc parler et son côté «Monsieur tout-le-monde», a livré mardi soir sur le plateau du «Grand Débat» de la présidentielle. Du début à la fin, le «petit candidat» a détonné.

The candidate of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) had, again, made his mark on Tuesday evening, by breaking all the rules during the second Presidential debate.

Relaxed, cheeky, nonconformist and frank, Philippe Poutou, known for his direct talking and his Man in the Street style, began and ended by making waves on the studio set. It was a real extravaganza.

Both Potou and the far-left  Nathalie Arthaud [candidate of Lutte ouvrière]  are at below 1% in the opinion polls.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Beats François Hollande in French Presidential Election Opinion Poll.

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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.

Far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, Lutte ouvrière (1,5%) and Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (2,5%) and the Green Party (EELV), Cécile Duflot, (3%) barely register.

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.

Présidentielle 2017 : Intentions de vote (17 avril 2016) http://www.tns-sofres.com/publications/presidentielle-2017-intentions-de-vote-17-avril-2016:

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.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19).jpg

  Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:

« Le programme que je porte peut être présent au second tour »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Paris Pro-Gaz Demo and the ‘Informal Collective’ behind it.

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Thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris on Saturday despite a police ban on the rally. Scuffles broke out between a hardcore element throwing projectiles and police, who said they made around 50 arrests.

The demonstration got under way at around 3pm at Place de la République amid a tense and uncertain atmosphere after rioting erupted at a similar protest last week.

Despite a calm start to the demonstration, which had attracted upwards of 4,000 people, by 6pm police were using tear gas to disperse 200 to 300 hooded youths throwing projectiles at police. France 24

It is hard not to endorse the view of the Parti Communiste Français that the march should not have been banned.

But there remain concerns about the groups behind the demonstration.

The ‘informal collective’ is composed of (according to Le Monde) members of the  l’Union générale des étudiants de Palestine (GUPS), the Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens (PYM France), de Génération Palestine, from the Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP), du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

To this collective the struggle in Israel is ” la lutte contre colonialisme”, indeed the last fight against colonialism.

The NPA, according to the same article, is sometimes concerned by the religious slogans of some of the groups that associate with these protests, notably the pro-Hamas, Collectif du cheikh Yassine

But for the leading figure of the Collectif, , Omar Al-Soumi, ( Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens) the essential is that,

« Cela ne nous dérange pas dans la mesure où nous soutenons toutes les résistances et la lutte armée. La diplomatie et la négociation n’ont jamais abouti. »

That does not upset us, in so far as we back all resistance and the armed struggle. Diplomacy and negotiation have never led to anything. 

There were a few incidents on the day (41 People arrested).

Libération reported,

 Un groupe de supporteurs du PSG de la tribune Auteuil scande des slogans de soutien à Gaza et reprend une parodie du Chant des partisans popularisée par Dieudonné («la sens-tu, qui se glisse dans ton cul»).

A group of PSG (football) supporters from the Auteil stand, shouted slogans backing Gaza, and sang  Dieudonné’s parody of the Chant des partisans (do you feel ‘it’ (the cock) slipping up your arse-hole).

 Le Monde reports, « On va rue des Rosiers pour casser du feuj », entend-on.

We’re off to the rue des Rosiers (Jewish quarter in central Paris) to beat up the Jews (in ‘verlan’), one heard.

We would not wish to exaggerate these – troubling –  incidents. Little happened apart from stone-throwing and a heavy-handed police response. One could add that there are also definite problems caused by the interventions of the far-right ‘Ligue de défense juive’ (Jewish Defence League). But the fact that the incidents represent something about the people behind the march is undeniable.

Le Parti des indigènes de la République (cited as one of the organising groups) this April  received favourable publicity from ‘anti-racist’ Richard Seymour (here)

Houria Bouteldja, a leading member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République is published saying, in explaining her attitude to Dieudonné, 

 Now, the trouble is that we are not integrationists. And integration through anti-semitism horrifies us just as much as integration though White universalism and national-chauvinism. We abhor anything that seeks to integrate us into whiteness; anti-semitism being a pure product of Europe and the West. As a decolonial movement, it is self-evident that we cannot support Dieudonné. Yet we could not condemn him in the manner of the white Left, because there is a certain dimension that has escaped the Left, but one that is clear to any indigène with a modicum of dignity.

At the same time, I feel ambivalent. I would start by saying that I love Dieudonné; that I love him as the indigènes love him; that I understand why the indigènes love him. I love him because he has done an important action in terms of dignity, of indigène pride, of Black pride: he refused to be a domestic negro. Even if he doesn’t have the right political program in his head, his attitude is one of resistance.” I now add that in the eyes of the indigènes, this is what they see in him first and foremost, rather than seeing the nature of his allies. A man standing upright. Too often were we forced to say “yes bouana, yes bouana.” When Diedonné stands up, he heals an identitarian wound. The wound that racism left, and which harms the indigènes’ personnality. Those who understand “Black is beautiful” cannot miss this dimension, and I emphasize, this particular dimension in Dieudonné.

Jacobonism replied,

As I’ve argued before, Left-wing apologetics for the far-Right frequently rest on an appreciation of complexities, ambiguities and nuance the rest of us apparently lack. Either Seymour has not understood what he has posted and endorsed or he has accepted the sophistry of Bouteldja’s meaningless distinction between malevolent and virtuous anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is what it is: a hatred of Jews, and whether it appears in the pages of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of ZionMein Kampf, the Hamas Charter, or on Richard Seymour’s Leninology blog, it is always justified in the name of the same thing: the struggle against domination, oppression and conspiratorial power.

If Seymour believes that Bouteldja’s narrow disavowal of an anti-Semitism “that seeks to integrate us into whiteness” inoculates her against charges of racism, he has missed something even more sinister and obvious: that while she demonstrates a bottomless capacity for self-pity, her solipsistic contempt for the Holocaust and its victims demonstrates a complete absence of ‘out-group’ compassion. It is in the pitilessness of this kind of chauvinism that we find the germ of fascism.

The following reply holds for those who cooperate with the Indigènes de la République

Undeterred, Seymour has accepted the challenge presented in Bouteldja’s opening four-point preamble. He has opened up his Eurocentric mind and deferred to her experience “as a colonial subject”; he has prostrated himself before the scorn she has heaped on the hypocrisies of the white, radical Western Left, of which he is a privileged representative; and he has looked her prejudices in the eye and he has not flinched. She has dared the white Left to join her on the far-Right and Richard Seymour – persuaded by her rhetoric that to do so would be an act of radical political courage – has obliged.

 I’m not entirely sure what he expects to get in return. If it’s the respect of people like Houria Bouteldja, he can think again. She holds the politics of self-abasement to be beneath contempt. On this she could hardly be more clear. It is the virility of unapologetic fascists like Dieudonné M’bala M’bala that she values.

In the present context, it is undeniable (as Seymour’s Blog cited on the 18th of July) that, “certain pro-Palestinian groups, some of which supporters(sic)  of Dieudonné and Alain Soral” – Holocaust deniers –  exist.

How far the involvement of the indigènes contributes to isolating them may be judged from the – small – incidents cited above.

But more significantly the ideological climate is moving away from the ideas of self-important, and self-appointed, defenders of the “indigènes” ‘(‘Natives’). 

Since this exchange Le Monde Diplomatique has published the important article by Vivek Chibber criticising “post-colonial studies”, L’universalisme, une arme pour la gauche. (May 2014)

It was originally published in the Socialist Register 2014, Capitalism, class and universalism: Escaping the cul-de-sac of postcolonial theory (full text here).

Chibber criticises ‘post-colonial’ critiques of the left’s ‘universalism’ and its rejection of Marxism. He points out that capitalism has become  globalised , so a universal interest in social rights, “for liberty, for dignity, for basic well being” has developed. Anti “Eurocentrism” has resurrected particularism, essentialism, and the denial of any universal politics. Against this Chibber argues for “affirming two universalisms – our common humanity and the threat it to it posed by a viously universalising capitalism.” ( see also, Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital by Vivek Chibber 2013)

The Le Parti des indigènes de la République could be said to be a politicised version of “post-colonial studies.”

 It seems odd that a Marxist group from the Trotskyist tradition like the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste should be so closely associated with them.

What does this imply for their engagement in the protests over Gaza?

They back the reactionary Hamas movement and other “resistance forces”  uncritically and  to the hilt.

No doubt informed by that special “appreciation of complexities, ambiguities and nuance the rest of us apparently lack.”

France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde. 

Ukraine: Where does the Left Stand?

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‘Right-Sector’ in Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine is too serious to make facile judgements.

Apart from condemning state and all brutality what can we offer?

The left in Europe cannot honestly say that they have an answer.

The ingrained tendency to play fantasy Premier league political  football in these conditions has so far not been much in evidence.

True the Nouveau Parti anticaptialiste has published an interview titled, describing the crisis as  “Une révolte de masse d’Ukrainiens pour la démocratie»

But the information in the NPA piece  belies the headline.

Zakhar Popovych represents a small group, Left Opposition. It has published a Manifesto,

“Our hope is that the protest movement, spurred to action by social injustice, might ultimately eradicate the root causes of this injustice. We believe that the cause of most social problems is the oligarchy that formed as a result of unbridled capitalism and corruption. It is important to limit the egotistic interests of our oligarchs, instead of relying on the help of Russia or the IMF, with the consequent national dependence. We believe that it is harmful to add our voices to the demands for Euro-integration; instead, we need to clearly delineate the changes necessary to support the interests of ordinary citizens, especially hired labourers. On several occasions, we cite the progressive experiences of a few European states that have taken similar measures.”

But the representative of the group, interviewed by the NPA, admits that the far-right and nationalists have effectively corned them. He underlines the presence of the neo-Nazis. Hard-right groups are leading the battles. Nobody else gives much evidence of a left presence in the protests.

An autonomist site (Timothy Eastman) carries this information,

Sascha: There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.

Mira: The two biggest groups are Svoboda and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). The defense forces aren’t 100% Pravy but a large percentage is.

S: Svoboda is more legal as a group, but they also have an illegal militant faction. Pravy Sektor is more illegal, but they want to usurp Svoboda.

M: There’s a lot of infighting between Pravy and Svoboda. They worked together during the violence but now everything is calm so there’s time to focus on each other. Pravy and Svoboda both take donations and they have lots of money. Recently Pravy has all these new uniforms, military fatigues.
One of the worst things is that Pravy has this official structure. They are coordinated. You need passes to go certain places. They have the power to give or not give people permission to be active. We’re trying to be active but we have to avoid Nazis, and I’m not going to ask a Nazi for permission!

S: A group of 100 anarchists tried to arrange their own self-defense group, different Anarchist groups came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists. There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult. The Anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated.

S: Nazi groups are also trying to mimic leftists, to try to ingratiate themselves. They use anarchist vocabulary, words like “autonomous.” One group of the ugliest Nazis is now doing this by calling themselves “Autonomous Resistance.” They’ve had lots of success with this tactic.
They attract some Anarchists who think they’re changing the Nazis, but really the Nazis are changing them.” They’re becoming more nationalistic, they have more more anti-feminist views, etc. Now is when Anarchists need to speak out and be louder.

stormfrontwolfsangel

Two symbols that could be found at EuroMaidan. The Celtic Cross (l) is a common symbol representing white supremacy. The Wolfsangel(r) was a symbol used by several divisions of the SS during World War II and now represents Neo-Nazism.

S: There’s a whole spectrum of Nationalists represented. They divide themselves into groups with their own symbols. They want support so they don’t use Nazi or fascist symbols so much. They use symbols that are recognizable to other fascistic people, but look innocuous to anyone else. For example there is a special eagle symbol. It’s drawn a certain way, it doesn’t look like anything unless you know the meaning.
No one has any idea how this could turn out, what form a new government could take. The fascist groups don’t have common aims, they know what they’re opposed to, and that they’re opposed to each other, but they don’t all want the same things. If Pravy has positions in a new government that would be really dangerous but that isn’t possible, they aren’t powerful enough.

M: People have these chants: “Glory Ukraine,” “Glory to Heroes,” “Death to Enemies.” But who are these heroes, who are these enemies? I don’t think they have any idea. “Ukraine Above All” is one, just like they used to chant in Germany.

Perhaps the last word should go to Zakhar Popovych,

” Malheureusement le scénario le plus probable est la mise en place d’un régime de droite, autoritaire et nationaliste.”

Unfortunately the most probable scenario is that a right-wing nationalist and authoritarian regime will be placed in power.

Updates: This article claims to refute evidence that there is a fascist component (it describes this as ‘fringe’) in the Ukrainian movement.  KYIV’S EUROMAIDAN IS A LIBERATIONIST AND NOT EXTREMIST MASS ACTION OF CIVIC DISOBEDIENCE.

No doubt there are many political forces in play in the Ukrainian movements. It would have been more convincing if it did not make such an exaggerated claim about the “liberation” goals of the protest, and addressed the actual nature of a key political force (and party), Svoboda.

On this see l’Humanité “Ukraine: le parti Svoboda est fasciste”.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Arms and the Means: the Left and Arming the Syrian Opposition.

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Is this as clear as it seems?

Does part of the left back arming the Syrian opposition to the murderous Assad regime?

A few months ago the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste site carried an article making  this call by Jacques Babel.

the responsibility of the international workers’ and democratic movementto demand that our governments immediately provide weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which should be obliged to defend  the Syrian revolution.

Justified mistrust of any direct imperialist intervention should not lead to the abandonment of the Syrian people, but to the demand for the democratic control of supplies and aid, including a greatly increased level of humanitarian assistance.

Our responsibility is to immediately provide all possible assistance to the insurgents,  from our civil society to their civil society,  and to defend Syrian refugees who manage to get into ‘fortress’  Europe.

15th of June.

The NPA’s most recent statement condemns the projected Western intervention in Syria.

In fact it is titled,

Against any military intervention.

They add, Total support for the Syrian revolution.

What does this mean?

It adds,

…we reaffirm that the great Western powers, by refusing to deliver the weapons demanded for so many months by the collective structures of struggle set up by the people, also bear a heavy responsibility for the perpetuation of the murderous regime, while contributing to the development of religious obscurantist currents which constitute a second mortal enemy for the Syrian people.

On the Fourth International’s site, there is a statement from some small Arab left groups (Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) – Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) – Union of Communists (Iraq) – Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) – Socialist Forum (Lebanon) – League of the Workers’ Left (Tunisia) paints a sombre picture of the horrific events unfolding in Syria.

We Stand Behind the Syrian People’s Revolution – No to Foreign Intervention

Despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organization or major country – or a lesser one – felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.

The only exception was some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups were engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres against Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggressions inside areas under their control or under attack, such as the recent example of villages in the Latakia countryside.

A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people’s revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people’s uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.

Do they back arming anybody?

This declaration ends with a call, “Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.

A statement by the British Socialist Resistance (British section of the Fourth International) and the International Socialist Network (29th of August) further complicates the position,

For over two years, Britain, the USA and France have stood by, refusing to deliver defensive anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the progressive and democratic components of the opposition, for fear that the toppling of the Assad regime may extend and deepen the revolution which started in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011.

Gilbert Achcar from the Fourth International yesterday makes this extraordinary claim (displaying what can only be called a mind-reading ability through the complexities of US policy-making),

 Washington does not want the Syrian people to topple the dictatorship: it wants to force on the Syrian opposition a deal with the bulk of the regime, minus Assad. This is the so-called Yemen solution that President Barack Obama has been actively pursuing since last year, and that Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to promote by cozing up to his Russian counterpart.

He ends with this observation

…it is the duty of all those who claim to support the right of peoples to self-determination to help the Syrian people get the means of defending themselves.

Not surprisingly this call to arm the “Syrian people” (en bloc) has created a massive rumpus and splits in Left Unity (in which Socialist Resistance and the International Socialist Network Participate).

It may well be the case that (as these two groups say) that,

We reject the notion that this rebellion has been co-opted by imperialism. This remains a popular revolution by a people struggling to free itself from oppression. It is a key component of the Arab spring which has inspired the masses of the region and beyond.

We oppose both the “humanitarian intervention” of Britain, France and the USA, and the pro-Assad intervention by Iran and Russia. Instead, we choose to be on the side of the revolutionary masses struggling for their emancipation, and extend our solidarity in particular to the democratic and progressive components of the revolution.

But how exactly are they going to sift through the complex political forces at play, from traditional Islamists, nationalists, Sunni groups, democrats, nationalists, social democrats, socialists, to jihadists, to get arms to those the Fourth International (and the NPA) considers to be the authentic  “revolutionary masses”?

Seriously….

Syria: Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Calls to Supply Weapons to Free Syrian Army, A Critical Response.

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https://i2.wp.com/en.shiapost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Protest-against-Shiites-in-London.jpeg

Sectarian anti-Shiite Demonstration.

“The Syrian conflict is expected to dominate talks among leaders of the G8 nations meeting in Northern Ireland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet US President Barack Obama during the two-day annual summit for what could be prickly talks, as both leaders now offer military support to opposing sides in the war.” Reports Al-Jazeera.

“UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned there is no “palatable option” for dealing with the crisis in Syria.

He told the BBC there were “extremists” supporting both President Assad’s government and rebel forces, but said help would go towards “moderates”.”

Says the BBC.

The French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) has joined calls for arming the Free Syrian Army. As the governments of the US, Britain and France, will put this into practice it is worth examining the NPA’s  views. We will  place them within debates on the British left.

The NPA  begins by outlining the present developments in Syria, and the desperate state of the population. They note the self-organisation of the Syrian people, opposed to Assad regime, and assert that they largely do not recognise the authority of the opposition in exile. They then criticise the limited help given by the French, Socialist-led, government, to the resistance to the Baathist state.

Solidarité du mouvement ouvrier et démocratique

15th of June.

Alongside other European governments, the French state always finds  good reasons not to deliver weapons, especially the air defence and anti-tank  rockets demanded by the Syrian people who are bombarded daily. The French government’s response way to shake this off, and, without giving any specific response, to favour  “serious negotiations for peace” in Geneva. This leaves Assad strengthened by its Russian, Iranian and Lebanese allies and ready to accelerate its criminal offensive against his own people.

In this twisted game the fundamentalist Gulf monarchies are supplying weapons – by drips . They thus give  arguments to the Western powers (to whom they are allied against the “terrorist threat”), and Bashar al-Assad is making the civil war into a sectarian religious – confessional –  struggle.

To top it all, while Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon welcome over a million and a half refugees the French government has restored the need for a transit visa  for Syrians. This helps prevent their escape from death.

Faced with this situation, the responsibility of the international workers’ and democratic movement to demand that our governments immediately provide weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which should be obliged to defend  the Syrian revolution.

Justified mistrust of any direct imperialist intervention should not lead to the abandonment of the Syrian people, but to the demand for the democratic control of supplies and aid, including a greatly increased level of humanitarian assistance.

Our responsibility is to immediately provide all possible assistance to the insurgents,  from our civil society to their civil society,  and to defend Syrian refugees who manage to get into ‘fortress’  Europe.

Jacques Babel

(Rendered into idiomatic English)

The NPA’s position begins from (we summarise) the premise that the war in Syria started as (and remains) a  “massive popular uprising against a  fascist regime that has launched a modern armoured army with all its firepower against the  people.”

One would add that a sense of urgency is propelled by accusations about the use of poison gas (sarin) and the most recent battles.

These are nevertheless some points that arise from the NPA statement.

Before making them I note that one can criticise anybody not deeply familiar with the position on the ground. Yet, when you say what somebody  agrees with this kind of remark is normally immediately  forgotten.

  • However the uprising began the NPA fails to consider in detail the growing international importance of the “confessional” element in the war. In Britain former violent critics of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood equally downplay the idea that a battle is raging  between their politicised strand of Islam and the Shiite-Alawite, forces lined up behind Assad. This has led, according to many many reports, to vicious religious inspired murders, on both sides.
  • Let us be precise, Al-Qaeda’s direct involvement in Syria  exists. Al-Qaeda affiliated networks are operating in the country, including elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Fatah al-Islam and Jordanian Salafi-jihadists. They are said to be “small” but they are gaining strength. This means that  that the armed opposition to the Syrian regime contains a strong Sunni reactionary sectarian element determined to impose its agenda on any future state. They are already supplied, with the other opponents, from Saudi Arabia and Qutar, not to mention less open help from the US, Turkey, Libya and other sources.
  • This political-religious fracture has spread to the heart of Arab world. Egypt’s President Morsi has now taken sides, “Last Saturday Morsi attended a rally by hard-line clerics who have called for jihad and spoke before a cheering crowd at a Cairo stadium, mainly Islamists. Waving a flag of Egypt and the Syrian opposition, he ripped into the Syrian regime, announced Egypt was cutting ties with Damascus and denounced Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas for fighting alongside Assad’s forces.” Associated Press .
  • The Free Syrian Army’s political allies may have a democratic programme. There are (we are reminded in Le Monde and elsewhere) that there remain powerful democratic elements in Syrian civil society. They have protested against sectarian killings. Some of them are on the left. The  National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change is one umbrella grouping. It is not recognised by the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) and has no ties to the  Syrian National Council. It is, in other words, like the rest of the Syrian left, marginal.
  • The British left is largely opposed to any form of intervention in Syria. A section of it  is morally and politically soiled. That the same left has had close relations with the same Muslim Brotherhood in undeniable. The SWP even endorsed voting, in the second round of the country’s elections,  for the Brothers’ President Morsi in Egypt. Socialist Action backed  Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s visit to Ken Livingstone – the same man now calling for “holy war” against Shiites. George Galloway, the vociferous pro-Syrian regime MP,  only recently supported the Bangladeshi extreme right Islamists,Hefazat-e-Islami,  whose views on Muslim heretics are as bigoted as you can get. The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) is led by members of Counterfire who appear to think that anything, absolutely anything, that comes from America and the West has to be opposed.
  • There remains the suspicion that opposition to Assad from those backing intervention is motivated by his reliance on Iran and Hezbollah.

Going further into the reasons that lie behind people’s positions on Syria is important.

We could expand them to consider the motives for US, British, French and European government stands, not to mention Russia and Iran.

One can speak for a long time, a very long time, about the very good reasons to fight against Assad, (Anand Gopal discussing  here), but this analysis from North Star indicates a useful initial way of looking at things,

To start with, this revolution was rooted in the countryside where the regime’s abandonment of support for the peasantry created mass hatred for the system. But unlike the cities, where an organized working class could mount mass protests even up to and including a general strike in order to put pressure on the regime, the relatively atomized peasantry had to resort to arms almost immediately since this was the only tenable defense.

Very rapidly, those who had access to guns and the money necessary to defend the masses were propelled into the leadership. This meant for the Free Syrian Army that the owner of a cement factory became a top commander —  his access to funds was critical. In a very real sense, Syria was experiencing a kind of bourgeois-democratic revolution. It also explains the rise of the Islamist militias. With money pouring in from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it gave the jihadists’ clout.

Yet, he argues,

Even though the Islamists have become a major factor in the Syrian struggle, Gopal pointed to the more secular and more democratic-minded mass movement’s willingness to take them on. He referred to the conflicts taking place in Raqqa, the first provincial capital under rebel rule. Even though the Islamists are trying to impose Sharia law and codes that make women second-class citizens, the secular and democratic-minded residents are not intimidated.

But the main issue remains the one posed by the NPA: should we back the arming of the Free Syrian Army?

What possible help will this bring to the cause of the Syrian people’s freedom?

Seamus Milne, the Guardian commentator, has himself has an ambiguous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. He has said of  its right-wing Tunisian branch (he used to call them “progressive” now he labels them ‘centrist’ ), the governing  Ennahda “its newly elected Islamist leaders pluralist enough to lead a successful democratisation and offer a progressive model for the rest of the region” (Here).

But is he wrong to say this?

The reality is that what began in Syria more than two years ago as a brutally repressed popular uprising has long since morphed into a vicious sectarian war, manipulated by outside forces to change the regional balance of power and already dangerously spilling over into neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq.

The consequences for Syria have been multiple massacres, ethnic cleansing, torture, a humanitarian crisis and the risk of the country’s breakup. The longer the war, the greater the danger of a Yugoslavian-style fragmentation into sectarian and ethnic enclaves.

The Assad regime bears responsibility for that, of course. But so do those who have funded and fuelled the war, bleeding Syria and weakening the Arab world in the process. The demand by Cameron and other western politicians to increase the flow of arms is reckless and cynical.

In summary these are further reasons why we are deeply sceptical about Louis Proyect’s call  for “solidarity with the Syrian revolution.

That should be enough: don’t take an active part in that war.

Update,

Comment, ” je l’espère n’est pas la position officielle du NPA”

I hope this is not the official position of the NPA.

Is it, or isn’t it?