2019 12 – News From France


Gilets Jaunes in London

On 18th November a delegation of Gilets Jaunes (around the movement Wikijustice) came to London to demonstrate outside Westminster Magistrates Court on Marylebone Road in support of Julian Assange.

Among them was Aymeric Monville, a publisher and author of ‘Assange en danger de mort’ [Assange in mortal danger].  He was later interviewed by George Galloway on Russia Today.

On 19th November the Swedish courts dropped all charges against Assange; this will not stop Assange having to appear on 24th February, for 5 days, for extradition to the United States who will charge him with spying. Assange did not spy, he published material given to him by others regarding war crimes and massive US spying practice. He will appear in February, that is, if he lives that long.

Nils Melzer wrote a report for the UN that Assange is being deliberately tortured by isolation.  The ex-diplomat Craig Murray visited him and came to the same conclusion.  Those who saw him on 21st October at Westminster Magistrates Court noted that he was very diminished.  Sixty doctors have now sent a letter demanding Assange be treated in a teaching hospital.

There is also doubt that Assange’s defence team is entirely on his side.  See the investigation by Lucy Komisar;[1] she says that his lawyers belong to the chambers that are putting forward the case for Browder against Russia.  She asks: “Why did Assange or his advisors choose lawyers associated with the interests of the U.S. government and Browder? Or how could those lawyers be so ignorant about the facts of Browder’s massive tax evasion and his Magnitsky story fabrications?  It raises questions about how they are handling the Assange defense.”

This conflict of interest affects the chambers of the main barristers of Assange, Jennifer Robinson, Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Summers.

At the court hearing on 18th November, the solicitor Gareth Peirce asked for Assange to be given access to a functioning computer; the judge said it was not within her competence.  Why did Peirce not ask for his liberation on health grounds?  That would not have been allowed either, but could be reported and be part of the campaign for Assange.


The Gilets Jaunes in Paris

Saturday 16th November the Gilets Jaunes marked the anniversary of the movement with demonstrations in the main cities; one of the original figures of the GJ, Priscillia Ludosky, was to head the demonstration starting from Place d’Italie; the local mayor had remonstrated with the police not to allow this departure point because of potential problems: the square was partly occupied by a building site and contained the statue of Marechal Juin, a possible target.  The demonstration was allowed nevertheless.  According to witnesses, the police allowed into the square a number of people dressed in black, visibly members of the ‘black bloc’.  When trouble started as predicted, the police closed all exits and the  new prefet of Paris declared the demonstration ‘illegal’; people were then arrested for taking part in an illegal demonstration.  There was supposed to be ‘an exit corridor for legitimate demonstrators’, but in the confusion nobody knew of its existence.  Pictures of the troubles, including damage to the statue, duly appeared in the media to illustrate an already negative coverage of the anniversary.

This treatment of demonstrators, kettling, gassing and arrests, with the risk of very serious injury, probably acts as a deterrent, which will be useful for the government to dampen the scheduled national day of action, 5th December.  The unions had a day of protest against Macron’s pension reform on 13th September which was a success; this is the follow up, in view of government persistence.


Ex CP leader Robert Hue given Legion d’Honneur

Froggy last week saw the photo of ex-Communist Party General Secretary Robert Hue facing Emmanuel Macron in the gilded salons of the Elysee Palace, both smiling broadly.  The president had just pinned the Legion d’Honneur on the other man and told him he was ‘a visionary, the sort of leader we need today’ ‘a great destiny of the sort that ‘French politics no longer creates nowadays’.

There are several ways of reacting to this photo.  If you were a communist, you might find it rather sickening.  Robert Hue (General Secretary from 1994 to 2001) was the successor to Georges Marchais.  He presided over the complete change of the Party, both in organisation and ideology.

The national committee (ex ‘central committee’) doubled in size, to include more women, ethnic minorities and representatives of various associations.  The cell system and militant education were dismantled.  The party deplored its previous support for the Soviet Union. The trade union CGT was ‘given its autonomy’.  The party would no longer be working for a revolution but for a ‘social transformation’ together with other progressist forces such as the Socialist Party.

In 1994 (under Mitterrand) three CP members served as government ministers; one of them,  Gayssot, piloted in 1990 a law named after him, allowing the law to decide what is true or false in history by making discussing historical facts connected with the Holocaust illegal, in the face of obvious objections from historians.  In 1998 Gayssot went to the USA to sign an agreement on the liberalisation of air transport.  The party abandoned social questions and prioritised feminism and the defence of minority rights.

The newspaper l’Humanité dropped the hammer and sickle logo, and became ‘The newspaper of Jean Jaurès’, that is, the pre-communist era.  The CP allied itself to the Socialist Party for elections, dropping Marxism and supporting attacks on foreign countries.  In 2012 Robert Hue supported Francois Hollande, and in 2017, before the first round, Emmanuel Macron; he was then no longer communist but ‘progressist’.

There is another aspect to this photo: it is a picture of the President of the Republic honouring someone who was the devoted mayor of a town for over thirty years.  Robert Hue was born in a suburb of Paris, where Froggy went to primary school, and became mayor of the neighbouring suburb, Montigny-lès-Cormeilles, from 1977 to 2009.  His parents were working class and he became a psychiatric nurse.

Robert Hue was part of a group of mayors honoured by the legion d’honneur.  Since the Gilets Jaunes crisis Macron has tried to ingratiate himself with local representatives popular with voters.

All the more so because he is facing local elections in March 2020.  His party La Republique en Marche (LREM) has only existed since 2016 and has not yet presented any candidates in local elections, except in cases of early elections; the other exception is Lyon, where the socialist mayor rallied Macron.  The other parties, which collapsed at the general elections, are still in possession of local towns and have a good record.

In 2018 the CP had 7,000 elected representatives at local level, including 700 mayors (out of 36,000 towns & villages).  For comparison, the (now ex) FN has around 10 mayors.

LREM have decided not to fight every town and village, but to support sitting mayors who ‘have a good record of supporting the government’.   The case of Paris is interesting, since LREM has two candidates for mayor, not one: an official one, with the motto ‘Paris together’ [[Paris ensemble] and a dissident ‘‘live Paris’ [Vivons Paris].

Anne Hidalgo, elected in 2014 in the second round by a coalition of left parties including the CP, is standing for the Socialist Party, her list has the slogan ‘From tomorrow, Paris in common’ [Dès demain, Paris en commun]. Ian Brossat her deputy in charge of housing is standing for the CP (his list is ‘the Paris of humanity and the planet [le Pari-s de l’humain et de la planète, a pun on Paris the city and ‘pari’ =  a bet]. The RN (ex FN), unpopular in the capital, is supporting a ‘Mixed Right’ candidate.

It should be said, regarding the Communist Party, that the party always kept a number of people who resisted the non-communist line; they are still around today and we may see a resurgence of communist policies.  Robert Hue presided over the deliquescence but can’t be blamed for creating it single handed.  The United States and Western Europe won the cold war and precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; identity politics became fashionable after May 1968; whole industrial areas were devastated; no one knew how to deal with the fall out of these cataclysmic changes.

The neo liberal era has its critics even among the capitalist class, see for example Joseph Stiglitz: “The elites claimed that their promises were based on scientific economic models and ‘evidence-based research’.

Well, after 40 years, the numbers are in: growth has slowed and the fruits of that growth went overwhelmingly to a very few at the top. As wages stagnated and the stock market soared, income and wealth flowed up, rather than trickling down.

How can wage restraint—to attain or maintain competitiveness—and reduced government programmes possibly add up to higher standards of living? Ordinary citizens felt like they had been sold a bill of goods. They were right to feel conned.

We are now experiencing the political consequences of this grand deception: distrust of the elites, of the economic ‘science’ on which neoliberalism was based and of the money-corrupted political system that made it all possible.”

A good criticism, but what does he suggest as a way out of the problem?

“The only way forward, the only way to save our planet and our civilisation, is a rebirth of history. We must revitalise the enlightenment and recommit to honouring its values of freedom, respect for knowledge and democracy.”[2]

This is just waffle, unless he means by ‘rebirth of history’ the rebirth of communism; after all it was the fall of the Soviet Union that led the West to gloat over ‘the end of history’.  But the question remains, the overwhelming power of the neo liberals must be fought by a superior power, and where is that alternative power to come from?   The CP is not the only political group floundering.


[1] https://off-guardian.org/2019/11/08/assange-lawyers-links-to-us-govt-bill-browder-raises-questions/

[2] https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-end-of-neoliberalism-and-the-rebirth-of-history