Sunday, October 20, 2019

What I Noticed in France

No giant pick up trucks. I guess not at $2.25 a litre! The only PU's are small and owned by farmers, trades or a business. There seemed to be more obese people this time than 10 years ago, though still far fewer than in N America. Americanization continues a pace, especially with Macaronie and his neolib pals. Shopping malls are killing the businesses in villages, which are now becoming that oxymoron, the “bedroom community” for the larger cities. High real estate prices in the down towns have driven working people to the periphery. This combined with a cut back in rural bus and train service has forced them to buy beaters to get to work. When Macaronie added the extra gas tax, these folks revolted, giving rise to the Gilets jaunes – a movement which soon went way beyond the demand for abolition of the gas surtax and began attacking the ideology of neoliberalism in total.

In spite of years of neoliberal reaction, the old social France still exists. Some villages are subsidizing local businesses by giving them free rent. This way the village keeps its necessary (and family-owned) businesses and one can still cheerfully walk to the boulangerie, epicierie and the bistro. As we passed through a village, I noticed a sign that said “Maison des Associations”. Many towns have these. (including large cities like Dijon) In France democracy tends to be taken seriously, unlike here in North America where it is paid lip service, but the reality is more like “go to Hell” if you aren't wealthy and powerful. The “maison des associations” is owned by the town and provides a small office space, meeting hall and post box for small organizations that cannot afford to do this privately. This way, organizations can spend their time doing what they set out to do, and not like in this country, have to spend much of their effort in coming up with rents.

Many of the streets in Dijon were torn up and large insulated pipes were being installed. This is a very positive and ecological move. 55,000 dwellings in the city (more than half the population) are to be heated from a central heating plant by 2023. Heating costs will be reduced up to 30%, and it will cut back CO2 production by 20%. Three-quarters of the energy needed to provide the heat will come from renewable sources. There will be a further long-term cost reduction as furnace repair and replacement will become unnecessary.
That democracy thing again. Virtually every town in France has either a rue Jean Jaures or Place Jean Jaures. For those of you unaware of the name, Jaures was a famous Socialist leader murdered by a member of the proto-fascist Action Francaise for his opposition to the First World War. I also noted a Proudhon Street in the city of St Denis, a Metro Stop Louise Michel in Paris and a Lycee Angela Davis – once again in St Denis. To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, there is also a Jean Jaures Shopping Centre in Dijon! (I wonder how he would feel about that?) When I think of the trouble we have had maintaining the existence of a short section of the Island Highway called Ginger Goodwin Way.”

Of course, this democratic attitude, was not a gift from on high, but was the result of struggle. The French working class have not forgotten their history of struggle. It is kept alive by the great number of progressive unions, parties and movements that exist here. As of two weeks ago the newly formed Extinction Rebellion France had 8000 members. The Federation Anarchist (FA) has about 70 groups and the newly formed Union Communist Libertaire about half that. The FA has 14 groups in Paris alone. The anti-neoliberal Left Party has tens of thousands of members and supporters.
I also learned something about the Solidaires unions. It seems like many of the members came out of the social democratic CFTD union federation. Anarchists had been influential in this union in the 1960s, pushing it to supporting worker-self management. The right-wing regained control in 1973 and the libertarians and right-social democrats continued in an unhappy marriage. In the mid 1990s the libertarians and other class struggle militants left the CFTD to form Solidaires. Effectively, it is a revolutionary syndicalist union promoting local control, self-management and class unionism. I have no figures on its membership, but its support in the work place elections is about one quarter that of the much bigger Force Ouvrier union with its 300,000 membership, so maybe 80,000 members???

Sunday, October 13, 2019


I translated this excerpt from "Le Loi des Peintures" on p. 25 of FAKIR of Sept 2019 , an anti-capitalist newspaper from Amiens. The article had to do with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Courbet's birth at Ornans.

" A Gilets jaunes spotted me... 'Macron came here in June to pay homage to Courbet. Twice he called him "Gaston" .. a highly cultured president, it seems. We distributed a leaflet'
He found the leaflet. It was entitled "Macron the Versaillais, Courbet the Communard!" 1. It asked the question, "For the 200th anniversary of his birth, a second death for Courbet? NO! The Gilets jaunes are here to honor him!" 

1. Gustav Courbet was a socialist, a supporter of the Paris Commune and Pierre Proudhon's best friend. The Versaillais were the politicians in charge of the French state located at Versailles during the Commune. They were responsible for murdering 25,000 Parisians and exiling an equal number to Cayenne and New Caledonia


This is an article I translated from the Marseille-based anarchist-sympathizing newspaper CQFD of Feb. 2019 (page7)

"Le Nouveau Magazine Litereraire interviewed Raoul Vaneigem about the Gillets jaunes, which according to the review are 'revolting in order to preserve their place in consumer society, where the auto is god.' In response the philosopher exposed this form of disinformation. 'Stop reducing these demands to the level of a shopping cart! You know very well that these demands are global. They come from everyone, the retired, the highschoolers, farmers, those drivers for whom the auto is a necessity to get to the job... all the men and women, those anonymous people who are aware of their existence who want to live and have had enough of a Republic based only on the bottom line.'
' We have entered a critical period where the smallest conflict can articulate an ensemble of global contestations. A tomato plant is more important than the boots of the militarists and statists who would crush it, as we see in Notre Dame-des-Landes. 1 The political leaders, and those who would replace them, think the opposite, as they think they can tax the gasoline of those who find the use of a car indispensable. The "Zones a Defendre" ZAD were not created to combat the nuisances by the multi-nationals, who despise the peoples of the Earth, they are the location of, or the new experience of, a new form of society taking its first step. "All is possible", this is also the message of the Gilets jaunes. All is possible, even self-managed assemblies of the roundabouts and cross roads, and in the villages and neighborhoods.

1. A E580 million airport was slated for 2008 in this area near Nantes. It was occupied by farmers and activists, a village created which became known as a kind of "anarchist utopia". This became known as a ZAD (Zone a Defendre) The airport project was abandoned by the govt in 2018 in the face of this sustained opposition. The state still tried to destroy the ZAD nonetheless, April 2018, sending 2500 police to attack the village with 11,000 projectiles (gas and stun grenades) About a third of the site was destroyed before a halt was called to the police operation. The village and its projects still exist and is in the process of "legalization,"

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