Now is the time to remember that all true socialists must be republicans.
In this brief sketch of James Connolly I avoided the present-day  developments in Ireland. If I must refer to them at all it will be in this foreword. In the early days of the war Arthur Griffith was for passive neutrality while Connolly was actively opposed to any participation in the war. MacNeill was opposed to the 1916 rebellion as were Griffith and others now prominent in the Irish Free State but Connolly said “We must fight or be disgraced for all time. ” When the final decision to revolt was made it was Connollys influence and vote that forced it. He was severely wounded and taken prisoner on the fourth or fifth day of the fight- ing and* contrary to the solemn promise made in the House of Commons by the then Prime Minister* Herbert Asquith* that Connolly would not be shot on May 12 1916 he was propped up on a stretcher and murdered by a British firing squad in violation of the civilized rules of warfare and the humanitarian codes that have done much to soften the harshness and savagery of the world. Of all the men who played, a prominent part in the Socialist movement and who contributed something vital to its literature and something permanent to its structure, few are as little known as James Connolly. It is true because of his dramatic and tragic end the name of Connolly became universally known, and to a certain extent almost equally universally misunderstood.
Misled by the press and their own lack of industry, many people think Connolly was a man of narrow views, with no cosmopolitan grasp of life, and a leader of a forlorn hope in a fight to establish an old brand of petty parochialism with a new and strange name. It was the contrary. His vision was large and. bounded by no parochial horizons. If he saw the world and its all-embracing class strug- gle, he did not shut his eyes to the elemental facts that are the warp and woof of the universe. There are people who view the forest, but cannot distinguish the trees. But James Connolly was not of that race. His vision embraced and perceived the little as well as the great things. He was a nationalist in the best and highest sense of that much- abused and very much misunderstood word. As he once happily wrote it in The Worker and in The Harp: “We can love ourselves without hating our neighbors.’ His sympathy for the Irish nationalist movement, while the sum of many noble mens ambitions and ideals was to Connolly the manes, if not the beginning of a great end, the turning point of the road that leads through oppressed nations to the liberation of all peoples — the human race. Read the rest of this entry »
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (‘Le Sacre du Printemps’) opened 100 years ago in Paris, to derisive laughter that quickly developed into a riot. The orchestra was bombarded with vegetables and other missiles, but kept playing. Nijinsky’s choreography, featuring dancers dressed as pagans, caused as much outrage as Stravinsky’s polyrhythmic and dissonant score.
The critics (and some fellow-composers) were savage:
“The work of madman …sheer cacophony” - Giacomo Puccini
“A laborious and puerile barbarity” Henri Quittard, Le Figaro
“If that’s a bassoon, then I’m a baboon!” – Camille Saint-Saëns
It was “a revolutionary work for a revolutionary time” as George Benjamin writes in today’s Graun.
‘Riot of Spring’: Norman Lebrecht in Standpoint, here.
Above: Stephen Malinowski’s animation of Part 1 ‘The Adoration of the Earth’ (from NPR)
Christiane Taubira, the French Minister for Justice on 29th January this year (click on “subtitles” icon for English translation):
…and, a few days ago in the New Zealand House of Representatives, the witty Maurice Williamson:
H/t (for Williamson): Serge Paul
With the rise of “anti-establishment”/”anti-politics” movements across Europe* (including UKIP in the UK and Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy), it’s probably a good idea to have a look at an earlier manifestation of this kind of populism: Pierre Poujade’s movement in 1950′s France. Note that as in the present case of Grillo, sections of the left were foolish enough to regard Poujardism as somehow progressive. These movements are, by their very nature, heterodox, incoherent and ideologically eclectic. But they are invariably economically protectionist, politically isolationist and racist to at least some degree. And whilst some workers may get involved, their core support is bourgeois and petty bourgeois. In Britain, the most prominent mainstream commentator to have come out in support of these movements is the Tory isolationist (often quoted with approval by the Stop The War Coalition) Simon Jenkins.
* The US Tea Party movement has many similarities, but is of course part of a mainstream bourgeois party.
The case-history of Poujadism
By Colin Foster
Among the most vigorous of populist movements in advanced capitalist countries since 1945 was the Poujadist movement, which flourished in France between 1954 and 1958. In January 1956, it won 53 seats, and 12% of the vote, in France’s parliamentary elections.
Pierre Poujade, the movement’s leader, is still alive and alert [he died on 27 August 2003 - JD] and hailed the hauliers’ fuel-tax movement this year as a vindication of his ideas. But Poujadism in its later years was fascist-coloured. Its best-known relict, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is today the leader of France’s fascist National Front. Since the hauliers’ and farmers’ fuel-tax movement was not fascist, that seems to rule out any relevance of Poujadist history to the fuel-tax movement, or to anything contemporary except fascism or near-fascism.
The story, however, is more complex. In its first years, until late 1955, the Poujadist movement ‘avoided any openly anti-worker or anti-communist attacks. It limited itself essentially to anti-capitalist demagogy’1. It was energetically supported by the Communist Party, and might never have succeeded in becoming a national movement without that CP support.
France has long had an exceptionally large class of small shopkeepers, self-employed craft workers, and small farmers. By 1956 it had nearly a million small shops – over twice the number in 1936 – and 61% of them had no hired labour. From 1954 the small shops went into decline. The end of rapid inflation and black markets, the rise of supermarkets, the beginnings of mass car ownership, and a tighter tax system all hit them.
Pierre Poujade ran a small stationery shop in the village of St-Cere, in Lot, south-west France. His father had been an architect and a member of the old fascist movement Action Franaise, but died when Pierre Poujade was eight, leaving the family to be brought up in poverty. Pierre Poujade became an apprentice typesetter, a vineyard worker, a tar-sprayer and a docker before finally buying his little shop. In the 1930s he had joined the youth group of the Doriot movement – set up by a Communist Party leader who defected to form a breakaway group, at first leftist and then fascist – but he fought in the Resistance. One of his themes, later, would be that the Resistance had liberated France in 1945; now his movement would liberate the French people.
In 1952 Poujade was elected to the St-Cere town council on the ticket of the RPF, the movement set up in 1947 by General De Gaulle as a vehicle to return him to power. But in May 1953 De Gaulle, deciding that the time had not yet come, effectively dissolved the RPF. That created a political gap which the Poujadists would fill. De Gaulle’s return to power, in the coup of May 1958, would finish them off as an effective movement.
In July 1953, another member of the St-Cere town council, Fregeac, a Communist, warned Poujade that tax inspectors were arriving in the village the next day. Poujade and Fregeac called an emergency meeting of shopkeepers at the town hall, and organised enough resistance to drive the tax-inspectors out of town.
Poujade decided to build a movement. This was long before the Internet or mobile phones. Poujade had contacts outside St-Cere from a previous job as a travelling salesman, and set out in his van to visit them. As the movement developed, he came to rely heavily on ‘an admirably well-chosen category of tradespeople: hauliers and truck-drivers’, to act as travelling missionaries for his movement2.
Poujade deliberately limited himself to demands for lighter taxes and claimed to speak for all ordinary people – irrespective of class or political identity – against a tiny handful of swindlers in big business and big government. even in posters for the 1956 election, by which time the Poujadist movement had become much more clearly right-wing, that was the main message.
‘If you are against being strangled by taxes, against the exploitation of man by man – arise! Against the monopolies, owing allegiance to no nation, who ruin you and reduce you to subjection. Against the electoral monopolies, who cheat with your votes. Against the gang of exploiters who live from your labour and your savings… Rebel! Like you, we want justice. Fiscal justice for the taxpayers; social justice for the workers’.
Small shopkeepers and small business owners responded. The movement was boosted by a series of acts of resistance to tax inspectors and bailiffs like St-Cere’s.
In this period ‘Poujade not only received but also accepted the support of the Communists’ because in many areas they were ‘the only people able to offer him cadres’3 and the best people to offer him press publicity. Often Communist Party members took leading local positions in Poujade’s movement, the UDCA (Union for the Defence of Traders and Craft Workers; it would later be renamed UFF, French Unity and Fraternity). In his speeches Poujade celebrated his first alliance with Fregeac as the model for how his movement could represent tradespeople across all political lines. The Communist Party saw a success for their strategy of ‘popular front’ or ‘anti-monopoly alliance’. On the occasion of Poujade’s first mass meeting in Paris, in July 1954, the Communist paper L’Humanite praised the town councillors of St-Cere for uniting across political lines to raise ‘the banner of the struggle against fiscal injustice’. ‘Today there are tens and tens of thousands, who do not question each others’ opinions but who unite regardless of other issues to act as those of St-Cere did. Quite naturally, the ‘movement of St-Cere’ has snowballed everywhere…’
The CP found its alliance with the UDCA useful in factional battle against the Socialist Party, which opposed the Poujadists; and hoped that by adroit ‘entry work’ it could make the Poujadist movement an annexe to its own. However, the CP soon found that the Poujadist nest was one where no working-class cuckoo could prosper. Its petty bourgeois class base was too strong a shaping factor.
The Communist Party finally came out against Poujade in October 1955. Soon they were denouncing him as ‘Poujadolf’.
Meanwhile Poujade built his movement with a hectic series of public meetings and a campaign of harassment of members of Parliament. When Pierre Mendes-France, prime minister from June 1954 to January 1956, tried to contribute to the fight against alcoholism by making a public point of choosing milk as a drink, Poujade went wild against him for insulting France’s wine and champagne. Poujade’s campaign against Mendes-France, who was Jewish, had anti-semitic overtones. Algeria’s war for independence from France started in November 1954, and as it escalated, keeping Algeria and the French empire in general became a bigger and bigger theme for the Poujadists. They squared it with their ‘non-political’ stance by claiming ‘a sort of equivalence between the humiliation of shopkeepers threatened with proletarianisation, and that of the nation, reduced to the rank of a fourth or fifth rate power’4.
In June 1955 Poujade sought higher ground by adding to his movement’s limited programme of tax reform the call for an estates-General, explicitly modelled on the representative body convened by the King in 1789 which started the French Revolution. Meetings in each district should compile the people’s demands and mandate their delegates to the estates-General, which would replace the rotten parliamentarians and ensure a ‘return to the basic principles of the Republic, to the people’. Nothing much came of the meetings, but the agitation was enough to gain the Poujadists their 53 seats in the January 1956 election.
It also helped Poujade keep his politics vague and catch-all. The programme was to be defined by the future estates-General, not by him. In this period, however, Poujadism became more fascistic in its attitude to the trade unions.
Up to late 1955, Poujade had claimed to be friendly to the trade unions. Now he proposed to replace them by a Workers’ Union tied to his movement. ‘For us it is a question of breaking down the political compartmentalisations of trade-unionism by means of the Union [his Union] and thus realising the unity of the workers on the national level… Our Unions are not a trade-union, their aim is to absorb all the trade unions into themselves… If the union headquarters can not fuse with us, well, we will bypass them… We will leave those who have not accepted our course to perish, because they will no longer represent anything’.5
The Poujadists made a point, in the same period, of actively supporting some workers’ strikes – organising shopkeepers’ strikes in solidarity, or giving material aid – but with the aim of tying workers in to a movement led by the petty bourgeoisie. For them, the petty bourgeoisie were the authentic leaders of the people. Positioned centrally at the ‘crossroads’ of all classes, they were also ‘the last possessors of a particle of liberty, and they will take advantage of it to extend it to all’. ‘Worker of France!’, they appealed, ‘now that this magnificent struggle is joined, of the small people against the predators, do not forget that our interest is yours’. Because, ‘what is your ideal? To have your own little business, your very own. The workshop, the small industry: that is how workers can get on’.6
The evolution of Poujadism, despite all the efforts of the Communist Party to annex it to the labour movement, shows that it is a snare for workers to think that supporting the sectional movements of small capital can bring us socialist advance by a short-cut. As the French Trotskyists commented, looking back in 1961: ‘One of the greatest faults of… the Communist Party’s policy towards the small tradespeople and peasants was to conduct themselves as… pseudo-defenders of the small business and the little landholding. It was necessary, in the best Marxist tradition, to explain to those social layers that under the capitalist regime they are odiously expropriated by big capital, the banks and the monopolies, that social progress does not permit the conservation of these outdated forms, and that workers’ power would assure them a transition without coercion towards socialism’7.
1. Les Bandes Armees du Pouvoir 1 (Ligue Communiste pamphlet), p.22
2. Stanley Hoffman, Le Mouvement Poujade, p.31
3. Hoffman, p.28.
4. Hoffman, p.99
5. Hoffman, p.101
6. Hoffman, p.231, p.256
7. Jean-Marie Brohm and others, Le gaullisme, et apres, p.197
By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatesey)
The Algerian hostage killings are shocking.
El Watan reports up to 50 hostages dead, though there are serious doubts about the accuracy of this figure.
This has to be looked up with deep ethical and political seriousness.
These are some reflections:
The Algerian army’s operation was entirely their own. On France-Inter and Europe I this morning it was repeated that the Algerians were determined to put an end to the crisis without negotiating – a long-standing principle. They were determined to “deal with internal problems by themselves (more here). The experience of confronting armed and murderous Islamists in Algeria, from the 1990s civil war to the present, is that the state’s army is prepared to use maximum force with minimum respect for human rights.
The Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been a leading figure in ’Al-Qaeda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi), is now clearly identified as the leader of the attack. He is dead. Belmokhtar has operated in the north of Mali. The ’emir’ is held responsible for kidnapping several French nationals in the recent past. In December Belmokhtar announced in une vidéo publiée par Libération.fr,that he had broken with Aqmi and created a new group, Al-Moulathamin (those who sign with blood)»), close to the Mouvement unicité et jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (le Mujao, which controls the region of Gao in Mali). The reasons for this are likely to be connected to Belmokhtar’s personal smuggling rackets. However his men remain in alliance with Aqmi.
There are therefore clear links between the hostage taking and Mali. Belmokhtar is said to have demanded that the French intervention should end. Anybody going further into the shifting alliances and disputes in Mali should pause and look at this seriously before offering an analyses of, for example, the relations between the Tuaregs, their group, the l’Azawad (MNLA) (more here), and the Islamists. I would be very very cautious in this areas.
Belmokhtar is a man with an armed band with blood on their hands. It is no surprise that an Irishman who escaped from the Algerian hostage crisis had explosives tied around his neck.
“Primary responsibility for tragic events in Algeria rest with terrorists who murdered some and held others hostage”: For the first time it’s hard to disagree with Foreign Secretary William Hague.
How Not to Respond:
Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition directly links the taking of hostages to the French intervention in Mali. She states that, “This new scramble for Africa, where the old colonial powers of France and Britain try to reassert their control in the resource rich region, looks likely to end in tears very quickly. ” No doubt she can barely contain the floods of teardrops this morning.
She goes on to say, “When France began its air strikes and invasion in Mali last week the rebels there warned its government that there would be retaliation. Blowback has come more rapidly than anyone expected.”
German then says, portentously, “The spread of the wars and instability to Africa is a very dangerous development.”
The Stop the War Coalition have shown scant regard to what the people in Mali think themselves, or much awareness of what has happened in the country.
German now shows an astounding ignorance when she says, “The long running civil war in Algeria is being escalated as a result of instability elsewhere. “
Somebody should buy her a good Chronology and teach her how not to confuse the 1990s with, say, the year 2013.
Let us make the point that the primary concern should be the wishes and interests of the people of North Africa and Mali.
It is clear that the Islamists, in their various shapes and alliances, are opposed to the most basic human rights. They torture and murder. They rape women who do not wear full Islamic covering. They destroy Muslim religious shrines that they consider ‘pagan’. They ban the wonderful music of the country. They fuel existing ethnic hatreds.
Opposition to them in Mali is not motivated by a ‘scramble for Africa’, which few outside the StWC and their ’anti-imperialist’ arm-chair generals have noticed at play in this crisis.
Still less, as some, like her partner John Rees suggests, is it a matter of the ‘West’ against ‘Islam’.
The fight against the Mali Islamists is motivated by common human decency.
And it comes from the people of Mali.
There are many issues around the French intervention, and the forces that govern the country. There is the background of the neo-liberal policies that have weakened the state and let the way open for this crisis. There is the responsibility of the country’s political class and army.
Does France intend to stay? Will its intervention, as the Nouveau parti anticaptialiste argues, make things worse?
But until we get that point, of combating the Islamists – in solidarity with Mali and North African peoples – across we will be as morally and politically bankrupt at Lindsey German.
A discussion piece, cross-posted from the Workers Liberty website and the paper Solidarity: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2012/09/25/charlie-hebdo-muslims-and-how-defend-freedom-expression
By Yves Coleman
The author is a French socialist activist, involved in publishing the journal Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières (No Fatherlands, No Borders).
“If you insult Muhammad, it is as if you insult my own mother.” (A participant, during a debate on Radio Tropic FM, September 20, 2012.)
It all began with excerpts from a stupid video posted on the Net.
Then a French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, intervened. This weekly publication has always been characterized by its bad taste, rude machismo supposed to be funny and popular, and its cheap anti-racism. This typical French form of pseudo anti-racism has a peculiarity: it conveys all racist or anti-Semitic clichés under the pretext of attacking… racism. This position makes ist “humor” often perfectly acceptable to extreme right people. One example is the cover of the latest Charlie Hebdo: it shows a Jew with a traditional hat pushing a wheelchair in which sits a Muslim (or Muhammad?), with the subtitle “Untouchables” – which is also the title of a French film which won great popular success and was supposedly anti-racist. A first-degree understanding of this cartoon encourages the reader to think that Jews and Muslims are exempt from criticism in France, which obviously implies that:
- that Catholics (culturally dominant in France) are much more tolerant than the supporters of the other two religions of the Book
- French Jews, even if they are a small minority, form a powerful “lobby” (a thought which was also expressed by the Tropic FM “Muslim” listener quoted before)
- And finally, that “Muslims” have installed a reign of terror in France through their intellectual terrorism, their physical threats or even attacks.
In fact, Charlie Hebdo has only jumped on the opportunity given by The Innocence of Muslims to reinforce the “critical” current which tends to present all Muslims as fanatics or terrorists.
Fifteen years ago, the newspaper Charlie Hebdo was considered by the anti-globalization left, as a rare example of the “free press” (according to Serge Halimi, director of the Left anti-globalization monthly Le Monde diplomatique).
When this weekly came under the leadership of a former stand-up comedian and playwriter (Philippe Val), who became a vulgar court philosopher close to Sarkozy, of course radicals and left-wing people found that publication was no more trendy. And especially because a feminist reformist, Caroline Fourest, started writing in Charlie Hebdo, criticizing all religions, all fundamentalisms, including Islamic fundamentalism and therefore criticizing Tariq Ramadan, an anti-globalization and left icon for a while. Anti-Semitic “jokes” made by the cartoonist Sine (who had a long experience in anti-semitic remarks) allowed a false debate to take place between Sine supporters (supposed to be left, even far left minded) and Philippe Val supporters or Charlie Hebdo readers, supposed to be all Sarkozysts and “Islamophobes”. The terms of the debate were faked because none of the two camps really opposed BOTH anti-Semitism (including when presented as ”anti-Zionism”) and anti-Arab racism, even when it was concealed under a criticism of Islam. Finally, Sine was sacked from Charlie Hebdo and created his own satirical monthly, Val was appointed to manage a public radio station, where he soon distinguished himself by firing an two anti -Sarkozyst stand-up comedians (Didier Porte and Stephane Guillon), and Charlie Hebdo continued its muddled comments on all kinds of subjects.
It is obvious that the new issue of Charlie Hebdo devoted to caricatures of Muhammad or of Muslims (the previous issue with similar content, around the time of the “Danish cartoons” row in 2006) provoked an arson attack on its office, the protection of the police and several trials for “Islamophobia”) had only one main objective: to create the buzz in order to sell more copies of this weekly, taking advantage of the atmosphere created by the reactions to The Innocence of Muslims. “Freedom of speech” had nothing to do with this provocation.
In addition, we know that, during the recent years, in France as well as in Europe, the extreme right hides its fascist and racist ideas under the banner of the freedom of expression, and a critique of ”political correctness gone mad”, etc. So we must be conscious that freedom of expression often becomes an often adulterated commodity in certain hands.
At the same time, a tiny number of Muslims have fallen into the trap: they wanted to organize demonstrations, all banned by the “Socialist” government.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the National Front, took the opportunity to call for a ban on hijabs and yarmulkes on the streets.
In short, a new false debate was launched by the media, amplified by radio and community media, where we were required to take stands: either on the side of all “Muslims”, whatever their orientation was (Muslims whose religious representatives called to ignore the provocation and not to demonstrate) or the side of Charlie Hebdo, supposedly the main voice of the “Islamophobic” left.
Yet there is a plethora of more important matters today than discussing the opportunity to publish cartoons of a prophet-warrior who died 15 centuries ago. The wave of layoffs, rising unemployment, lack of teachers in schools, repression against undocumented people, policing of all those who receive welfare, increase of productivity and of accidents, increase of suicides related to the deterioration of working conditions, harassment organized by foremen and bosses, etc.., all these topics deserve hundreds of articles, dozens of radio and TV programms, and thousands of discussions.
But the media prefer to organize false debates with their auditors or with confused Islamophile or Islamophobic intellectuals, almost never inviting atheists or rationalists to express their views, to discuss the only topic of interest for them: freedom of expression.
The opinion expressed by the listener whose quote begins this article, and many other views expressed on the Net, are perfect examples of the current ideological confusion.
Personal insults against individuals are dealt within the frame of bourgeois justice. People who are insulted can complain if they feel defamed. And there is an entire legal arsenal for this purpose. No need to add more to these laws.
You can also use a quick solution, as seemed to suggest the quoted listener (i.e., to smash the face of the person who insulted your mother or religion) but is this really the best solution?
Finally, one can imagine how it could work in another society, where in the neighborhoods, in the schools, or companies, general assemblies, committees of residents or workers would meet to resolve such disputes without going by judges and lawyers … But this would imply that participants agree to settle their dispute by accepting a collective, non-violent solution.
Freedom of expression, contrary to what the Tropic FM listener believes, has nothing to do with a trivial personal insult. Freedom of expression depends on a fragile collection of collective rights that regulate all media, from a simple leaflet to a TV progamme, newspaper or book, but also the right to protest and organize - collective rights which have been won after decades of struggle by the working class and other democratic forces.
This freedom of expression is reduced to a minimum in the Western world, not because of some protests made by fundamentalist Muslims or some Islamist attacks, but because of the mighty power of capitalists. The banking, finance and industry magnates who control the media rarely encourage freedom of expression. And ther words of workers, unemployed and exploited are almost never heard, or filtered by journalists who carefully respect the interests of their masters.
The situation is also not so much better in the so-called left parties or large unions.
It is well known how the French Communist Party defamed, denounced to the cops and bosses, punched or sent to the hospital hundreds of Trotskyist and anarchist activists for decades. When it did not murder them, as it happened under the German Occupation, under Stalinism in the Eastern bloc, or during the Spanish Civil War.
We know that the French Socialist Party gives power and freedom of speech only to individuals coming from the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie.
This is reflected in the media which are linked to this party, in the social composition of its MPs, Senators and Ministers, in its current implementation of austerity, in its anti-immigrant policies carried out under the previous government, its support to the police forces, French armed interventions abroad, etc.
We know that the unions muzzle speech and freedom of action of workers hostile to their bureaucracies, when they do not exclude them, plain and simple.
We also know how the small pseudo left-wing and anti-imperialist group called “The Indigenous of the Republic” with the help of some intellectuals (Said Bouamama and Pierre Tevanian) recently prevented Caroline Fourest, a secular, anti racist and left-reformist feminist to talk and criticize the National Front at the Communist Party “fête”, on September 16, 2012, all that in the name of anti-fascism … and fight against Islamophobia. (To check the falsity of these two lies, one only needs to read Fourest’s book against Marine Le Pen or the one where she interviews Taslima Nasreen and expresses a much more moderate view than Nasreen!).
So let us be wary, too, about left or extreme left groups who want, in the labor movement, trade unions, or in the street, to impose their ideas with clubs or fists whenever it suits them. Or those who claim to defend freedom of expression, but are unable to practice it in their own unions and political organizations and their publications.
About the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo, some “Muslims” wanted to have both the right to express their indignation in the street against the newspaper and also to protest against The Innocence of Muslims. The French government has banned several demonstrations, and the few which have been organized have been spectacular failures (from one to 150 protesters, according to the cities), showing that the vast majority of “Muslims” did not fall into the trap, even if they were offended by the film and/or the magazine.
As a supporter of freedom of expression, I do not see why I should support any ban by the French State. These demonstrations should be allowed to proceed without being banned by the state, whatever one thinks of their dubious or reactionary political or religious content. And activists should also have the right to protest against these demonstrations (it is symptomatic that the only “Muslim” demonstrator sentenced to prison after the September 15 demonstration has explained he wore a telescopic club to defend himself against… Jews. A typical example of the delirious anti-Semitism inspired both by Koranic anti-Judaism, fascist anti-Semitism and extreme right anti-Zionism.).
As a rationalist atheist, I do not see why I should support those who want to introduce in France a law against blasphemy, or limit the freedom of expression with regard to the criticism all religions, including Islam.
We know that both the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which includes 57 states), the United States and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations want France to adopt new laws against blasphemy. We know that French government is regularly criticized as “anti -religious”, “Islamophobic”, because of the laws against the headscarf or niqab, and that they pretend that the Church of Scientology is persecuted in France.
The French state uses secularism when it suits its interests for domestic policy issues; it finances Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim cults, in several French departments.
It maintains Catholic churches, and its finances (religious) private instruction throughout the country. We have no reason to support the French government but we must also oppose all those who would like to impose laws restricting criticism of religions, supposedly because it offends believers, god or the prophets.
Similarly, without supporting a publication like Charlie Hebdo in its quest for sales and publicity, I see no reason to support those who want to destroy its headquarters, or physically threaten its cartoonists or journalists, or want them to be condemned by the bourgeois judicial system because of their bad taste and/or “blasphemy.”
As an atheist, I can only oppose any law against blasphemy, any restriction to the criticism of religions, if a government, left or right, wants to impose them in France.
Meanwhile, we should also denounce anyone, including in the Left, who is critical of one religion (Islam) while remaining silent or very secretive about other religions, so he can present as progressive his anti-Arab racism, or his support to French, European or American interventions in Africa, Libya or Afghanistan.
We must denounce Iran’s trial to recover the initiative it lost since, in Tunisia and Egypt, dictators were overthrown by the people, or are highly contested. Iran where a religious foundation linked to the regime immediately took advantage of the The Innocence of Muslims to increase the price on Salman Rushdie’s head.
We must denounce the National Frront attempt to participate to this debate in order to stir up hatred against the Arabs, whether Muslim or not, and against Jews, two elements of the National Front political patrimony.
Finally, we must denounce the obvious diversion organised by all media about these non-events. Several facist groups (including l’Oeuvre française et les Jeunesses nationalistes) organize a “ride” to Paris with buses and a “nationalist rally” on 29 September 2012, but the media have not shown any interest for this demo. Yet the themes of the meeting of 28th and demo of the 29th should alert all those so-called advocates of freedom of expression: Promotional material for the event calls for a “General mobilization of all the French patriots and nationalists. After the French natives revolt in Lyon, let’s participate to the French march on the capital! Against lawless areas, against the government’s anti-national policy, against anti-white racism: We want to be masters in our fatherland! Against immigration-invasion governments hirelings, against the violation of our interests by US-Zionist and euro-globalist forces, against foreign preference: let’s struggle to give France back to the French and become masters in our homeland! “
This disgusting prose is a significant example of the xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and fascistic form of anti-Zionism which flourish on the internet at every minute.
National, cultural and religious identities are being promoted by states, churches and all sorts of fascist and populist demagogues. But neither Muslim nor non-Muslim workers lose their free will, intellectual independence or critical faculties just because they are exposed to vicious hateful propaganda.
Workers have a choice: either they support their exploiters and their demagogic leaders who claim to share the same faith and/or culture, or they unmask all the political uses of their beliefs and background.
As atheists and non-believers, we must also stand against all left or right, populist or fascist currents who claim the heritage of the Enlightenment or human rights to better hide their reactionary or obscurantist projects!
NB: The term “Muslim” is put in quotation marks in this article, because journalists, demographers, sociologists and many radical, left-wing or anti-globalization activists generally stick the religious label of Muslim on the front of all those who come from countries where Islam is the state religion, or whose families are practicing islam, or simply those whose names sound “Arab”, as if there were no atheists among these so-called “Muslims.”
Re-blogged (with very minor changes) from Tendance Coatsey
Charlie Hebdo has published some new Mohammed cartoons.
Middle East onLine reports,
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday anyone offended by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo could take the matter to the courts.
But he emphasised France’s tradition of free speech. “We are in a country where freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature,” he said on RTL radio.
You can see some of the cartoons (including the most controversial one) on this video-clip here.
The Editor of Charlie Hebdo, Charb, (Stéphane Charbonnier) is a supporter of the Front de Gauche and the French Communist Party (PCF).
Charlie itself is one of the last living representatives of ’68′ gauchisme.
There are many, including not a few on the French left, who will accuse it of ‘provocation’.
This is like complaining that chilis are hot.
A minority on the French left, like the Les Indigènes de la République,* self-appointed enforcers against Islamophobia, will be up in arms about the cartoons.
Indigènes de la République excelled themselves this weekend by physically threatening gay secularist Caroline Fourest at the La fête de l’Huma and preventing her from speaking (you can see a video of their violence here).
Emboldened by their menaces against a lesbian feminist, and, according to those who were at the fête, a North African woman steward, they will no doubt rage against Charlie.
As will many, many, others.
This is Charb’s response,
More extensive interview with Charb in Libèration (in French), «Pas plus de provocation avec l’islam qu’avec d’autres sujets».
The leader of the French Communist Party (PCF), Pierre Laurent, is cited in the same paper,
Charlie Hebdo fait partie d’une certaine tradition. A ce que je sache, le délit de blasphème n’existe pas dans notre pays. Après, il y a des gens qui aiment et des gens qui n’aiment pas Charlie Hebdo.
Il n’y a en France qu’une dizaine de salafistes. Il ne faut pas exagérer la situation et ne pas faire de la publication de ces caricatures un drame qui n’en est pas un”
Charlie Hebdo comes from a specific tradition. As far as I know blasphemy is not a crime in our country. There are, following that, those who like and those who dislike Charlie Hebdo.
In France there are only a dozen Salafists. We should not exaggerate the situation, and not create a drama out of these caricatures when none exists.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Parti de gauche) has just said on his Facebook page,
La caricature est un droit dans ce pays, et la protestation tout autant : le tout dans le respect de la loi.
* Indigènes de la République‘s particular interpretation of “anti-Zionism” (sic) has led them to support Hamas and Hezbollah, according to Wikipedia.
Time for a follow-up to the extraordinary animated film Belleville Rendez-vouz, this time featuring a geeky Brit hero with Paul Weller-style sideburns?
Below, the trailer for the film, called Les Triplettes de Belleville when first released (2003) in France:
As promised, Coatsey is on the ball with his analysis of the French Presidential election:
François Hollande: a socialist analysis:
“The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possession of a modern nation is the national debt.”
Karl Marx. Capital. Vol. 1. Page 919.
“Enfin les difficultés commencent.”
Alexandre Bracke-Desrousseaux (SFIO) – Socialist Parliamentary Deputy. 1936.
I jumped, literally, for joy listening to the Exit Polls for the French Presidential election. That François Hollande won was more than a relief after so much tension during the campaign: it was elating. That Greece showed such a strong showing for anti-austerity parties, with the left bloc Syriza coming second, was a further boost. The sight of the celebrating crowds across France, the country at its forward-looking and generous best, will remain in the mind for a long time. It gave a fillip to the left in all Europe. Good on you!
The French Stock-Exchange, the Bourse, did not share this happiness. This morning we hear reports of plunges in share values. Is Hollande such a threat to Capital? Who is he, what are his politics, what policies will he pursue, and what are the implications for the left, French and European?
According to large parts of the British media François Hollande is ‘centre-left’. This is not a term much used in France. Others, more accurately, call him a ‘social democrat’. Does this mean, as Terra Nova’s spokesperson said, that the former Parti Socialiste’s General Secretary is a ‘moderniser’ of the stamp of Tony Blair, or Gordon Brown? That is somebody ready to wipe out the French version of Old Labour?
Nothing could be less sure. Talking with the philosopher-sociologist Edgar Morin in Saturday’s Le Monde (5.5.11) Hollande referred not to the ‘centre-gauche’ but to the Gauche. They discussed the “famille socialiste” (which for both includes a – 19th century – communist and libertarian component). Who were the thinkers and political actors who have inspired Hollande? He cites the influence of Marx’s analysis of capitalism (“utile pour comprendre ce qu’est le capitalisme”) even if the system has changed, Jean Jaurès for his synthesis of socialism and republicanism, the communist black poet, Aimé Césaire, Victor Hugo and Albert Camus. It would he hard to find a leader of the Labour Party, or any European third-way ‘moderniser’, with a parallel list of influences.
Second and First Lefts
Hollande’s social democracy has led some to say that he is the “spiritual son of Jacques Delors” and what is known in France as the “Second left”. This is the current of thought associated with one-time Prime Minister Michel Rocard (PM, 1988 – 1991), and the ex-Christian Trade Union, the CFDT (Confédération Démocratique du Travail). It was strongly opposed to the ‘Jacobin’ left tradition of reform from above. Embodied in, say, the French Socialist (and now ultra-republican), Jean-Pierre Chévènement this took the ‘battering ram’ approach to socialism, a parliamentary majority could thrust through a programme of radical reform (as the 1981 Projet Socialiste offered). The First left in reality was less of a trend of thought than a series of policies for socialism through Parliament that collapsed at the first sign of serious economic difficulty – as happened under Mitterrand in 1984.
The Second Left combined an ethical socialism indebted to the ‘personalism’, Catholic humanism, of Emmanuel Mounier and his journal Esprit (founded in the 1930s), and a belief in the central value of democracy. It was associated with support for decentralisation, and a degree of ‘self-management’ (worker participation, influenced by the Guild Socialism of G.D.H.Cole rather than Marxism or anarchism) in industry. Delors’s concern about budgetary probity and economic realism was combined with left-liberal values. It wanted to change people from below, (civil society) not by Parliamentary Acts. It petered out by the end of the 1980s (as Rocard became Prime Minister) as it too failed to change much in French society, and was unable to change a market society by moral example.
This stream of thought, influential in the 1980s, and present in the ‘anti-totalitarian’ left up till the 1990s, is dispersed today. It faded away as its moderation ebbed away into a diffuse enthusiasm for ‘modernisation’ and by-ways, such as the pro-enterprise Fondation Saint-Simon (whose closest present day offspring is Terra Nova). The present CFDT leader, François Chérèque is not associated with any strong ideology and Rocard is barely audible. Martine Aubry, the actual daughter of Delors, and identified with some of his ideas, lost out to Hollande in the Socialist ‘primaries’. Only in the vaguest sense is the President an inheritor, in his moderate ‘possibilism’ and scorn for sweeping, uncosted and not thought-out, reform. The sociologist Alain Tourraine, one of the last theorists connected to the Second Left, has nevertheless praised the President as the only person capable of combining support for “European construction” with social policies. (Le Monde. 26. 4.12). If this may be true it is also the case that almost the whole of the French left, including those hostile to the EU’s existing make-up and leadership (like Jean-Luc Mélenchon) equally share such an ambition.
Others say that Hollande combines the ‘First’ with the ‘Second left’. By this they refer to his praise for the last Socialist President, François Mitterrand (1991 – 1995), who was said to incarnate the former. Mitterrand however had a background in the ‘Parliamentarism’ of French ‘radical socialism’ (a name potentially misleading to English readers, it signified opposition to ‘revolution’ and owed the first term to 19thcentury British ‘radicals’ like Cobden and Bright). His Socialism, as for his radical allies, drew on the ideas of equality and social solidarity expounded by French novelists like George Sand and the later Victor Hugo, and ‘social republicanism, with some influence of Lois Blanc’s schemes for welfare and gradual socialisation. His reliance on state-led change was ‘reformism’ boiled down to agreements with parliamentary groupings, or, as the Socialists became the dominant force in the National Assembly, to deals between the party’s different leaders and tendencies.
Hollande’s debt to this approach to one aspect of the First Left is still important, though. It lies in his republicanism. In le Monde he argued strongly against Edgar Morin’s proposal that the word “multicultural” be put into the Constitution. “The word ‘multiculturalism’ creates ambiguities, it could indicate that we’re a society without common terms of reference. This doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to people’s origins, but that we have to make a Republic in which all citizens feel they are recognised. I prefer to reinforce Secularism (laïcité) in the Constitution because it’s a one of the important principles of freedom – every citizen, all religions – are treated in the same way – in fraternity. Secularism enables us to live together, with the same rights and responsibilities.” (5.5.12). This republican equality (the value that for Hollande is the ‘soul of France’) stands in sharp contrast to both Sarkozy’s efforts to attack immigrants, especially those of a Muslim background, and the British multicultural left’s attempts to play on religious difference. Its success was notable in the ‘mixed’ crowds, of every ethnic background, that celebrated Hollande’s victory.
Socialism, Hollande, has written, means putting capitalism in the service of social objectives. The Parti Socialiste dropped references to class struggle and a ‘break’ (rupture) with the market in the 1990s. But it did not become, as some on the left alleges, ‘social liberal’ on the model of New Labour. Nor do the categories of First and Second Left fit a world transformed, it is said, by ‘globalisation’. Neither state-run nor grass-roots initiatives alone could confront the altered world. It is this context which led the Socialists (influenced by the intellectual revival of the left in the late 1990s) to attack ‘finance’ and uncontrolled globalisation (Declaration of Principles. 2008). How the proposed to tackle it was through the European Union – an idea increasingly problematic as the EU itself began, critics asserted, to operate as a funnel for the interests of finance and global capital.
Speaking at Bourget in January this year Hollande identified finance capital as his principal foe, “Il n’a pas de nom, pas de visage, pas de parti, il ne prèsentera jamais sa candidature, il ne sera donc jamais élu. Cet adversaire, c’est le monde de la finance.” (It has no name, no face, no party, it will never stand for election, and hence it will never be elected. My main adversary is the world of financial world). In this vein the Presidential Candidate attacked the “excesses” of bankers’ pay, bonuses, and the profits that financial markets make. The framework which encourages profiteering, instability, restrains the wages of the ordinary people while putting pressure on states to cuts public spending, is a “construction politique” (le Monde. 5.5.12). The task is to change this structure. The problem is that financial markets do indeed have a face, including prominent former Labour party politicians, like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson (now both well-paid rewarded of this world), whose actions have helped create the problems the French socialists face. **
Hollande offers only moderate measures to begin to fulfill the mission. Taxation of the wealthy, proposals to employ more, not fewer, teachers and front-line civil servants, appear modest enough. It is the challenge to European Union-led austerity is far more significant. Today we hear signs that this may be watered down, that a compromise may be reached with Germany, that the time is not ripe for confrontation. Yet it is what Marx called the debt’s position as a “collective possession” that is going to cause the main problems. A strategy for growth will not make this go away.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon left the Parti Socialiste and founded the Parti de gauche (PG) because of a previous failure to stand up against plans for Europe-wide fiscal controls in the referendum of 2008. His electoral score as the candidate for the Front de gauche in the first Presidential round two weeks ago, was, at 11%, less than hoped for, but a major advance on original projections (well below 5%). The European issue remains a live one, and will be raised again as we now move towards the Legislative Elections. A strong FdG vote could keep Hollande on course.
For the moment we simply send Hollande all our best wishes, with all our heart.
*La Deuxième gauche. H. Hamon, P.Rotman. Seuil. 1984. Esprit. Michel Winock. Seuil. 1996.
** Les marchés financiers ont un visage.Geoffery Geuens. Le Monde Diplomatique. Mai 2012.( Here.)
Note: Caroline Fourest is important in grasping the role of religion, ethnicity, race and secularism in the campaign. See her latest column D’une digue républicaine à l’autre. here.