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Posts Tagged ‘Zeev Sternhell

Trump, Fascism and Democratic Socialism.

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Trump’s New Residence? 

There is debate on the left, across the world, on Donald Trump’s national populism and its relation to fascism. Many are now talking of David Renton’s study on the way in which different factions on the right have converged. (The New Authoritarians: Convergence on the Right. 2019).

One theme of the last twelve months has been the convergence of people and groups emanating from a conservative or a fascist starting point which, despite their different origins, have been working together since Brexit.

Convergence on the right

Nick Cohen writes in the Observer today,

If Trump looks like a fascist and acts like a fascist, then maybe he is one

I can see three objections to calling a large section of the Republican party pre-fascist. The first can be dismissed with a flick of the fingers as it comes from a self-interested right that has to pretend it is not in the grip of a deep sickness – and not only in the United States. The second is the old soothing “it can’t happen here” exceptionalism of the Anglo-Saxon west, which has yet to learn that the US and UK are exceptional in the 21st century for all the wrong reasons. The third sounds intelligent but is the dumbest of all. You should not call Trump or any other leader a pre- or neo-fascist or any kind of fascist until he has gone the whole hog and transformed his society into a totalitarian war machine.

Perhaps we can learn something about how to react from the history of other “pre-fascist’ movements.

For the specialist in the history of French fascism, Zeev Sternhell, the European far-right was born out of a will to break with “l’ordre libérale” in the late 19th century. One of the first stirrings was “Boulangism”  1885-1889 (named after General Boulanger). Boulanger was seen by many French people  as the man destined to avenge France’s defeat in the Franco-German War. This movement was,, Sternhell argued, a synthesis between nationalism and certain forms of ultra-republican socialism (Blanquisme).  anti-liberalism, nationalism (Bonapartists), with an anti-Semitic overtow, (La droite révolutionnaire, 1885–1914. Les origines françaises du fascisme.1978).

A kind of Make France Great Again movement, Boulangism was an electoral event, a coalition of candidates around a figure who would carry the “will of the people” to power against corrupt elites. They were seen to be behind Revanche (Revenge on Germany), Révision (Revision of the Constitution), and, for at least one section of their supporters, Restauration (the return to monarchy). Despite the success of Boulangist candidates never came near to winning a majority in the French election of 1889, 72 deputies against 366 for the Republican side .

Efforts to pin Boulangist ideas down in one ‘populist’ nationalist direction, nostalgia for Bonaparte’s First Empire, run up against the fact that Boulanger had not just the votes but the financial backing of wealthy Monarchists (exposed by a former supporter in  Les Coulisses du boulangisme).

Despite this, some on the left, like Paul Lafarge, considered that the demands of the ‘people’ against the “les gros bourgeois” and their impatience with republican ‘réformisme’  could be turned  in a socialist direction. An important section of the left opposed Boulanger, accusing him of Césarisme, the wish to override democratic procedures.  For Jean Jaurès popular support for Boulanger was not just socialist aspirations gone astray, it was not socialist in any sense.

After initial electoral appearance, with support from working class districts, Boulanger himself took the stage and  was urged to take power by a coup d’état.

In January 1889 Boulanger was returned as deputy for Paris by an overwhelming majority. When the election results were announced, wildly shouting masses of his supporters urged him to take over the government immediately. Boulanger declined and spent the evening with his mistress instead. His failure to seize control at the crucial moment was a severe blow to his following.

A new government under Pierre Tirard, with Ernest Constans as minister of the interior, decided to prosecute Boulanger, and within two months the Chamber was requested to waive the General’s parliamentary immunity. To his friends’ astonishment, Boulanger fled from Paris on April 1, going first to Brussels and then to London. He was tried in absentia for treason by the Senate as high court and condemned on Aug. 14, 1889, to deportation. In the elections of 1889 and 1890 his supporters received setbacks, and public enthusiasm for his cause dwindled away. In 1891 Boulanger committed suicide in Brussels at the cemetery of Ixelles, over the grave of his mistress.

Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Frederick Engels set out some reflections that stand up well today,

Although the Boulangist movement appeared to be ephemeral in retrospect, Frederick Engels paid close attention to it. Engels saw the threat of a Boulanger dictatorship, warning socialists in France:

 

The finest thing of it all is that three months after these two congresses Boulanger will be in all probability dictator of France, do away with parliamentarism, expurgate the judges under pretext of corruption, have a gouvernement à poigne and a chambre pour rire (trans. mock chamber), and crush Marxists, Blanquists and Possibilists all together. And then, ma belle France—tu l’as voulu! (trans. my beautiful France – that’s what you wanted!)

Engels recognized the danger of a Boulangist dictatorship as spelling the end not only to the socialist movement in France, but the Third Republic itself. For him, the question was not just how to analyse Boulangism, but how to fight it.

Engels, Boulanger and the Fight Against Fascism

That could stand for the position democratic socialists should take towards Trump’s supporters and their assault on the Capitol.

See:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Fascism, Post-Fascism, Populism and National Populism. On Enzo Traverso.

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Télécharger Les nouveaux visages du fascisme - Enzo Traverso gratuitement | Bookys

Verso

Les nouveaux visages du fascisme, d’Enzo Traverso, Paris, Textuel, 2017.

Available in English: The New Faces of Fascism Populism and the Far Right Enzo Traverso. Verso, 2019.

“German Fascism, like Italian fascism, raised itself on the backs of the petty bourgeoisie, which it turned into a battering ram against the organisations of the working class and the institutions of democracy. But fascism in power is least of all the rule of the petty bourgeoisie On the contrary it is the most ruthless dictatorship of monopoly capital.”

 

Leon Trotksy, What is National Socialism? 1933.

 

 

What does fascism mean at present ? In responding to this question Ernesto Taverso’s New Faces of Fascism, Populism and the Far Right,  takes us back to the past before confronting the contemporary world, and potential futures. “Theory is history” is the watchword of any discussion about fascism, populism, post-fascism, and national populism. These extended conversations are as much about the workings of far right ideas and movements in history as about their shape today. One theme is clear, we are far from the world Trotsky described. There are no mass movements about to create dictatorships and ram down their ideas on the population.

 

Born in Italy, but having made  his academic career in France, writing studies of German Jewish philosophy, Nazism, anti-semitism, and the two World Wars, the writer and teacher has an international reputation. Since 2013 Traverso has been professor in Cornell University in the US he was a member of the Trotskyist Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, (LCR) until it merged with other groups at the foundation of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) in 2009.  He has retained an audience on the radical left both in France, and with 8 books translated, in the English-speaking world.

 

Traverso has written a a critique of the ‘militant’ anti-communism of François Furet, Stéphane Courtois (The Black Book of Communism) and Ernesto Nolte. He emphasised the differences between Stalinism and Nazism (many of his themes are summarised in this article: De l’anticommunisme (2001) Some of his best known books are on the dramas of the past in which different European far-rights took to the stage, and the “historical singularity” of the Shoa was played out. He has also advanced the less theoretical view that after the Second World War, the establishment of the State of the Israel, and the decline of anti-Semitism in the West,  the Jewish “historical role as the critical consciousness of Western culture”, the keynote of Jewish modernity, has ended. Not everybody, including radical Jews, would agree. This assertion has provoked the claim that the fruit of much intellectual labour is to assert a  mass betrayal, ” la trahison des élites intellectuelles juives!” (Review: Enzo Traverso, La Fin de la modernité juive. Histoire d’un tournant)

 

What does fascism mean today? That an answer is far from obvious comes from the fact that no real parties exist which call themselves fascist or Nazi. Interviewed in Jacobin Taverso has said, “in the competition between the Left and the Right to reinvent itself, post-fascism is one length ahead. ” (Fascisms Old and New). Far-right ideas have always been fluid, and capable of drawing inspiration from hostility to liberal ideas of formal equality, Parliamentary democracy from the left, as well as traditional  pictures of the Nation an organic whole,  and cultural or biological racism.

 

Readers of Zeev Sternhell (1935 – 2000), an author Traverso critically engages with,  are struck by the way that both nationalist and socialist ideas went into the French far-right that the author, who passed away this year, saw as a matrix of European fascism (Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France. 1983). A turn-of-the-20th century socialism divided between those who defended republican and democratic liberalism, the alliance that reached its highpoint during the Dreyfus Affair, and an anti-parliamentarian left, which despised the bourgeois Third Republic. This reached  the point where some aligned with the Monarchist and nationalist right, illustrating before the cataclysms  of the Great War, and the divisions opened up on the left by the 1917 Russian Revolution,  how ideas do not always walk around, as the theorist of populism Ernesto Laclau once said,  with indelible class or left/right identities written on their backs.

From Red to Brown.

 

That leading French Communists, like Jacques Doriot could in 1936 found the mass fascist party, the Parti populaire français  and end as the leader of the Nazi sponsored  Comité de libération française, perishing in strafing by Allied Planes, is only one of many political cross overs. Less well-known is the career of Georges Valois, former radical syndicalist, disciple of Georges Sorel, pillar of the Cercle Proudhon (1911) that brought together radical trade unionists and Action française, founder of the first  French fascist party,  le Faisceau, modelled after Mussolini’s original. By the late 1930s Valois turned back towards the left and tried to join the French socialist party, the SFIO. He died of typhus, arrested and deported by the Gestapo for working for the Resistance.

These two careers remind us of the gulf that separates 1930s fascism and today’s far-right. For Sternhell the far-right was born out of a will to break with “l’ordre libérale” back in the late 19th century. What has been called the first populist movement, a mass of support for an figure who would carry the “will of the people” to power against corrupt elites, “Boulangism”  1885-1889 (after its leader General Boulanger), was a prelude, a synthesis of anti-liberalism, nationalism, with an anti-Semitic overtow . But it was the profound crisis that followed the Great War that gave it political force.   Ernesto Traverso points out the “The chaos after the Great War was the result of a breakdown in the so-called “Concert of Europe” — nineteenth-century classical liberalism — and today it is a consequence of the end of the Cold War. Fascism and post-fascism have been born from this chaotic and fluctuating situation.”

Les nouveaux visages du fascisme begins with comparison with the – still within living memory – past.  Régis Meyran presents these “conversations” by underlining the differences between present -day far-right and classical fascism. Citing Traveso’s initial effort to underline the difference between fascism in the past and the far right today that is broadly in the same line as Sternhell, classical fascism claimed to offer a revolutionary alternative, “une alternative de civilisation, annonçait sa « révolution nationale » et se projetait dans le futur. l’utopie d’un « Homme nouveau. “Les métamorphoses des droites radicales au xxie siècle 2015)

 

Today by contrast, their reduced offer is “un nationalisme structuré par l’islamophobie, ces movements étendent désormais être des partis républicains  que les autres partis.” nationalism structured around Islamophobia. This comes from a writer who at numerous points in the present volume is prepared to locate the “nouvelle judéophobie” of French Muslim minorities in these terms, “À cause de la politique israélienne le juif devient l’incarnation de l’Occident”, because of Israeli policies the Jew has become the incarnation of the West. That is, unlike traditional anti-semitism which saw Jews as enemies of the West… (Page 96). This is hackle-raising. It is not convincing to argue that hostility to Jews from people in North Africa,  the Middle East, and amongst those of a Moslem background across the world, and others, has been created by the existence of the state of Israel. Were this the case it would  be remarkably sudden dislike –  post-1948.

There is another difficulty with the assertion. The European far-right has had complex relationship with Arab nationalism, and Islamism, than this, or a reference, say, to French colonialism in the Maghreb,  suggests. The more than prominent holocaust denier Alain Soral’s admiration for Syrian Baathism and the late Colonel Gadhafi, and the Iranian finance fronted his  electoral Liste antisioniste (2009) with Shi’ite  candidates, and a few ultra-orthodox Jews, and the backing of prominent black comedian Dieudonne. This indicates that while these ‘nationalist revolutionaries’, right-wing in values, but (self-proclaimed) left wing on economics and imperialism, may  have lost an earlier battle for influence on the far-right, and seem absent from the electoral apparatuses like the Front National, now Rassemblement National, of Marine Le Pen; they have not disappeared.

Traverso discusses with indulgence the  “Indigènes de la République”, a movement, which ‘in general’ played “un rôle salutaire” (Page 49) Known for its hostility to secularists, and vividly criticised for its own religious and race based ‘identity politics’ by Magrébin leftists in France, the author extends his welcome to the point of reinterpreting Houria Bouteldja’s attack on the “philosémitisme d’Etat”. He suggests that what they really meant to say was not anti-Semitic, but criticism of “philosionisme” – philo-Zionism. (Page 99) As one might imagine the academic treats Charlie Hebdo – he was a signer of a public letter against National Unity following the slaughter at the Weekly and the Hyper-cacher. They took advantage of their privileges in France to mock the excluded (Page 63) Look where it got them.

 

Hoping that an English translation would offer the words “democratic” or “constitutional” rather than republican, what are the results of the turn towards political integration? Far-right parties in the Western side of Europe often have small memberships, the Rassemblement National numbers only just over 25,000 card-carriers but went to the second round of the Presidential election in 2017, where Marine Le Pen got 33.9% of the vote to Emmanuel Macron’s 66,1%, the Alternative für Deutschland, AfD, 35,000, 94 seats in the Bundestag,  the Italian Fratelli d’Italia, FdI, 160,00, but under 5% of the vote in Parliamentary elections. None of these parties have fully democatic democratic structures, they are Leader-led, from Matteo Salvini in the Liga Nord,  to Marine Le Pen, to Gert Wilders. But there is no  Führerprinzip –  if you disagree with the line you get shoved out, not beaten up, or shot.

But that does not prevent analogies with the past.  Trump, for example, draw on classical far-right demagogy.  He call for the defence of a virtuous community, rooted in the country, threated by a metropolitan corrupt cosmopolitan elite – and a lot more gobbing on ‘the enemy’ as we have seen in recent months. But the Trump style, self-taught in modern communications, does not mobilise the masses: he attracts a public of atomised individuals, consumers, not soldiers. Overtly reactionary messages come from the Polish Law and Justice Party and the Hungarian Fidesz, both of which are hostile to liberal conceptions of democracy. But their protectionist policies are not autarky, nor have their sent legions to conquer lost national territory.

Post-fascism, Traverso declares, works in an atmosphere dominated by the “impolitique”, the removal of decision-making from popular control. It offers a “démocratie plébiscitaire” through a direct relationship between the Leader and the People. But what kind of “nouvelle civilisation”, what third way between capitalism and communism do any but the most marginal far right groups call for? Economic protection and the defence of national identity are far from the call for a spiritual and moral revolution of 1920s and 1930s fascism. Yet there are deep concerns voiced by liberals like Madeleine Albright,  in a winner-take-all politics that follows from seeing rule as a plebiscite. The direct tie between electors and the governors takes place only virtually, while policies and administration jobs remain as removed from popular power as under centrist ‘neoliberal’ Cabinets.

The book is at its most thought-provoking when it offers a number of different ways with which to think about the present-day far-right. Traverso focuses on the “metamorphoses” of the extreme right into anti-system, anti-elite, but formally constitutional parties. Xenophobic, structured around Islamophobia, nationalism against globalisation, pitting nations against Europe, authoritarian and law-and-order, they stand, for “un État souverain, qui refuserait la soumission au pouvoir de la finance.” (Page 35) Traditional appeals to the nation itself is reconfigured in terms of “identity”, Despite the  independence of maītre-penseurs, like Éric Zemmour and Renaud Camus, many would regard Traverso’s paradigm, the French ‘post-fascist’ right as indebted to  Maurice Barrès and the mystique of La Terre et les morts, with a genetic appeal to Français de souche (of French stock) to boot. It hardly needs underlining that Zemmour’s Le Suicide français (2014) is far from just a diatribe against French decline and immigration: the best-seller is one long rant against the liberalism of May 68 (‘Dérision, Déconstruction, Destruction’) and ‘political correctness.’

National Populism.

A useful summary is offered in Traverso’s more recent statement, “the driver of the radical ideals in Europe is its critique of neoliberalism. It is reactionary, authoritarian, inspired by the so-called sovereigntist populism. This is different from the fascism that had other characteristics like, among other things, a militaristic, expansionist, imperialist dimension which is not present in the current radical right.” (Enzo Traverso: “What we’re seeing now around the world is different from classic fascism” 2019). The difficulty is that while we would not wish to over-egg the point, this politics, as Jan-Werner Müller has argued, populists claim that in their battle against elites they alone represent the people. They say, in effect, We are the People, who are You?” In this “moralistic imagination of politics”. “Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (Page 102. What is Populism? 2016)

It is difficult to draw hard and fast lines between post-fascism and populism. If populism is analysed as a ‘style’, (“à partir de son style”) that is, a direct appeal to the People against the Elites, it’s a term that can refer to left as well as right. The term national populism, by contrast,  puts the emphasis on what sovereignty parties of the right strive for. It’s their nation, their people, and their decision-making. An attack on liberalism, reconfigured itself to mean the ‘anti-May 68’ wave in France, and more widely, the hostility to ‘woke’ culture, an appeal to the ‘real’ people, the Somewheres against the Nowhere people, and we can see national populism in parties, and an influence on the Brexit Party, and, to an extent, on  government. The  British Cabinet of Boris Johnson, even has had some input from a new form of ‘red-brown’, or ex-left-wing, ex-Marxist cohort, the Spiked Network marked above all for waging culture wars on behalf of the populist right.

Another is this extraordinary ideology, the “anglosphere”, – at the moment, when a ‘no Deal ‘ Brexit looms –  far from a marginal dream-picture of a future world.

…we should then spend the next few years forming up with the Anglosphere – in particular, with the Five Eyes of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Europeans may be our brethren, yes, but the Anglosphere are our kin. We share a common language, many traditions, roots, history and culture. We have a mutual geopolitical strategic interest in forming up at this juncture, as many of our friends across the water have already been keen to point out. We should therefore begin by formalising a ‘CANZUK’ free trade and perhaps movement agreement, which polling has shown to attract broad support among the populace in each country.

 

The Europeans may be our brethren, but the Anglosphere are our kin Patrick Timms. January 2020.

 

One feature of The New Faces of Fascism stands out. The shift in the way Marxists looked in the past at these  labels  not to classify them properly, but to see what the function of the far-right is palpable. Trotsky was only one who outlined what he saw was the role of Nazism – to destroy the workers’ movement, which he believed could have, if politically untied, have led a socialist revolution in Germany. In the 1970s Nicos Poulantzas tried to explain how fascism and Nazism arose out of class struggles against labour movements, and gained the support of monopoly capital as a means to help resolve economic crises. Although right-wing populists advocate a form of national neo-liberalism, few people today, talk much about how they work for the interests of fractions of the bourgeoisie. Except, perhaps when it comes to where ideas such as the “anglosphere” come from, the foundations financing it, and the businesses hoping to profit from it.

Les nouveaux visages du fascisme, is better at starting arguments than settling them, It is not an account of the social conditions that have propelled national populists to the fore, beyond some references to neo-liberalism, post-politics, and “the extreme centre”.  It looks at the Islamic state and concludes that the genocidal world it imposed was a “univers totalitaire”. But like Traverso’s use of this aspect of Hannah Arendt’s portrait of totalitarianism the ideas offered are useful, debatable, and thought-provoking. Like ‘post-fascism’ our ways of looking it, and thinking about how the left should counter national populism, are, for the moment, open to further debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stéphanie Roza, La gauche contre les Lumières ? The Left Against the Enlightenment.

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La gauche contre les lumières - Stéphanie Roza - YouTube

Stéphanie Roza, La gauche contre les Lumières ? Fayard,

The ‘culture wars’ , where to begin, where to end? “We are witnessing” writes Stéphanie Roza, “at the present moment, in some of the academic and activist world.. a “tir de barrage” against “imperial Reason”, the humanist Enlightenment Project originally formed in the 18th century. It stands accused as fundamentally imperialist, neo-colonial, male and oppressive, “in a word, ‘white’.” Against these views the feminist philosopher, specialist in the  Enlightenment ideas, and early socialist thinkers (Comment l’utopie est devenue un programme politique,)  member of la Fondation Jean-Jaurès, affirms that this blanket rejection offers no prospect of human emancipation.

For Roza the anti-Enlightenment currents she surveys offer are more than a dead-end.  Taken as a whole they are a “regression” to conservative and counter-revolutionary hostility towards the Enlightenment, the hatred of Edmund Burke and de Masitre, for the French Revolution. Sexed up by a reading of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and the Frankfurt School’s critique of ‘modernity’ it melds into the view that the Enlightenment has become a prison powered by alienated, instrumental, rationality’s efforts to dominate Nature and Society. The authors of the Dialectic of Enlightenment(1947), in this respect, were precursors of the rejection of “universalism”, and an alternative search for indigenous pasts and ideas, something tying  together (some)  post-colonial studies and the return in force of national populism, and politics based on La Terre et les morts (Maurice Barrès).   Drawing, as she does, on the Zeev Sternhell’s Les Anti-Lumières : une tradition du xviiie siècle à la Guerre froide, (2004) she contends that they are unable to confront, and even are complicit, faced with a far-right founded in the line of the French nationalist Barrès, and his hostility to cosmopolitanism, a ‘biopolitics’ of blood and soil. 

La gauche contre les Lumières ? does not offer ‘an‘ Enlightenment to defend. We should call it a “plural” movement, with debates from differing standpoints on popular rights, on slavery, women, human universality, and religion. Those aware of the issues will recall this immediately. There were figures like Voltaire, who for all his willingness to challenge the authority of inherited values and (at personal risk) challenges to the the French legal system remained a deist, and wished for good government, freed from superstition, not popular rule. David Hume, whose questions undermined the basis of faith itself, adopted a modern form of the ancient Pyronnian scepticism. In the absence of a certain alternatives, it was best to accept conventional political order. There were those (brought to prominence with the Black Lives Matter protest)  who denied racial equality, adopting contemporary views, some claiming proto-scientific status, on a racial hierarchy. This contrasts with the early denunciations of the slave trade and  of European treatment of extra-European peoples, by leading Enlighement thinker, the Encylopedist, Denis Diderot (1713 – 1780), (see: Diderot, de l’atheisme a l’anticolonialisme.Yves Benot. 1970) and who was  prepared for whole-scale reform.  

Roza’s arguments often parallel the work of Kenan Malik in affirming the importance of the “radical Enlightenment” explored by Jonathan Irvine Israel (who put Spinoza as the forerunner of radicality)  which could be said to the forerunner of both the socialist movement and progressivist liberalism. That is the “package of basic values” that refused to accept inherited traiton or an appeal to fixed transcendant religious dogma, and defines modernity and the liberal and democratic socialist left in the broadest sense (including democratic Marxism)  – toleration, personal freedom, democracy, racial equality, sexual emancipation and the universal right to knowledge. As the author puts it, early socialists talked of the 18th century “Lumières des bourgeois” and the 19th as the  “Lumières des prolétaires.”  (Page 31) 

Threads on Michael Foucault recognise the  influence of the ‘genealogist’ within the present ‘culture wars. Roza begins with the thesis that his writings undermined every “démarche révolutionnaire traditionnelle” (Page 53) A critique of the “disciplinary society” – valuable in itself as she has remarked in interviews – and a certain debt to the Enlightenment, cannot hide that Foucault historicised the ideas of universalism, progress, and rationality, to political chimeras. Personal autonomy, she writes, has little meaning, without the ability to make rational decisions. His writings were welcomed, she observes, by the CIA as part of the fight against “socialist egalitarianism”, hopes still alive in 1970s France.  (Page 62) Appendixes are devoted to the further discussion of Foucault’s original philosophical project, later efforts to come to terms with the Enlightenment, and his idea of critique

There are powerful chapters on ‘anti-progressivism’, the association of the left with the idea of “Progress” , and the strain of Green ‘neo-Luddism’, that associates science with present-day ecological disasters,  and  post-colonialist claims that colonisation was an extension of the philosophy of human rights.

The authors covered are mainly francophone, such as Jean-Claude Michéa, who offers a leftist gloss on the Blue Labour loathing of liberalism and ‘Nowhere People’.  and the ‘post-colonial’ anti-semites of the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR),  with the  exception of intersectionality theorists and the anti-Charlie Hebdo  Talal Assad.Many of the themes are common currency regardless of language. 

What exactly is being proved by denouncing ‘Western’ Enlightenment ideas? Were the movements to free countries from Western rule influenced by western ideas? Roza shows, the very obvious fact, that ‘western’ ideas were employed, and transformed, by anti-colonial movements, such as those in India and Indo-China,  to assert their own rights to independence.  Human rights are in this sense both universal and particular. They are part of the democratic inheritance that needs to be defended and developed in the way Jean Jaurès proposed not ditched.  Roza then  remarks that the original declaration of human rights affirmed that these rights exist inherently to everybody, “abstraction faite de leurs appurtenances communautaires” ‘ from whatever community they belonged to. In short, the mental operation is simple: we are not referring to people in “general” but to each and every person. (Page 145) It is up to people to change, and expand, these rights, not to leave them as abstract ideals..

Perhaps more controversially Roza puts into question the use of the word “blanc”, white, in debates on the left and post-colonial circles. She observes its use to shout down and label ideas put forward by “des universalistes noirs, arabes ou autres”. What is this category? she asks. Is is not a racial one, a symptomatic use, taken, in word at least, from racist discourse? What kind of political debate can take place when all there is stirring the pot is mutual accusation? It is time, she suggests, to go beyond this political stage.

La gauche contre les Lumières ? concludes that at a time of great political confusion, the fall out from so many failures it’s hard to count, has led some to reject the foundations of the left, the “la matrice historique d’où l’ensemble des combat d’emancipation sont issus” (Page 164) For all the setbacks, this remains our common ambition, “La gauche socialiste, anarchiste et communiste est née d’ambition de pousser toujours plus loin, jusqu’à son véritable accomplissement, le projet des Lumières de garantir à chaque être human le pleine exercise de tous ses droits et le plein épanouissement des ses faculties…”(Page 178) The socialist, anarchist and communist left was born with the ambition to push the Enlightenment further, to guarantee to every human being the full exercise of her or his rights, and to develop their faculties to the full.

Writing with clarity and freshness Stéphanie Roza, has, we hope, much to contribue to bringing this project back to the centre of the politics of the left. La gauche pour les Lumières.

Quel avenir pour l'universalisme ? Stéphanie Roza - YouTube