Sunday, 31 March 2019

The Gilets Jaunes Have Not Gone Away, You Know

The protests in Paris and elsewhere in France of the gilets jaunes have reduced in size, but they continue.  They now also face counter-demonstrations.  But the upsurge of protest since last autumn remains the largest street-political phenomenon in France since May '68.  

Too much of the mainstream coverage of the protestors has turned on the fact that the movement - if it can be called anything so coherent as a movement - contains aggressively rightwing elements as well as ideas and strands from the left.  Slapping the movement down for its alleged extremism is not an explanation or a proper mode of discussion.  The fact is that the gilets jaunes express the pain and torsions of France's current phase of neoliberalisation.  They, their actions and their variously expressed ideas run athwart the predominant and mainstream story which France's leaders use to legitimise their position and their policies.  

Here are some new or newer readings on the gilets jaunes.  From Verso, as ever:

Alessa Dell'Umbria

Full Metal Yellow Jacket

Alain Badiou interviewed

Allegiance to Macron is largely negative!

From Jacobin, Ivan Bruneau, Julian Brischi and Nicolas Renahy


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Revolution Snuffed Out - The Centenary of Rosa Luxemburg

Many years ago, but at a time when I ought to have been a bit less ignorant, I attended a lot of films at the inaugural Dublin Film Festival, back when it was held at the Screen Cinema, just across the road from Trinity College where I was a student.  I saw Vincent Ward's extraordinary paean to the New Zealand  landscape, Vigil.  I embarrassed myself and my mother by insisting we see Rainer Werner Fassbender's last film, Querelle, little realising that it was an adaptation from Jean Genet's play and a sweaty and theatrical celebration of sex between men.  And I saw Margaretha von Trotta's Rosa Luxemburg, starring the great Barbara Sukowa. The same team more recently made another film about another great female philosopher, Hannah Arendt.  I knew nothing about Luxemburg at this time, or about the way that German society had hung in the balance between left and right in the wake of the First World War.  But it's a compelling film about an extraordinarily charismatic and courageous woman, and it's stayed with me ever since.

Verso has published two books, in particular, to mark Luxemburg's centenary: a short account of her death, with Karl Liebknecht, at the hands of the Freikorps in 1919; and JP Nettl's enormous but highly regarded biography.  I got my hot little hands on a copy of the biography a few weeks ago, and maybe I'll get my act together in the summer and actually read it.  But for now, I must depend on lesser and shorter accounts of Rosa, and her life, and her dreams.    Here is some of what I've been reading:

A Land of Boundless Possibilities - Peter Hudis on Rosa Luxemburg

Friday, 8 March 2019

International Women's Day 2019

Few things are more dispiriting to the Irish university worker - male or female - than realising that third level education in Ireland is presided over by Mary Mitchell O'Connor, one of the dimmest, least articulate, yet most pompously self-regarding non-entities to grace the Fine Gael benches.  We find the true depths of the contempt in which our colleges and universities are held by the current government in its placing of Irish higher education in the stewardship of this gormless mannequin.

Her most recent statement in public - there don't seem to be that many, probably because her colleagues do have some sense of how muddled and incompetent she is -  was the firecracker a few days ago that International Women's Day had become an opportunity for people - mostly women, presumably - to 'skive off'.  To be frank, anyone would want to call in sick after listening for more than 30 seconds to Minister Mitchell O'Connor, and while she claims to have an interest in gender equality, she's also content to utter lazy slurs on those women lower on the ladder than herself.

Maybe, of course, it's the origins of International Women's Day in the Russian Revolution that Minister Mitchell O'Connor can't stand - if she's even aware of the fact.  But that seems all the more reason to celebrate the day, and to celebrate the women of real talent out there who are shaping and re-shaping our world.

The brilliant and appropriate image above comes from my comrade Paola Rivetti.  I provide some good reading for the day that's in it, here below:

From Verso:

International Women's Day reading list!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Macron's Muddle - Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

France has the largest Jewish minority of any European country.  Its record of Judeophobia during the Second World War, under the auspices of the criminal Vichy regime, was sinister and ugly.  Denial and complicity goes to the very top of French society - Francois Mitterand, for example, defended Maurice Papon, who as police prefect of Bordeaux presided over the deportation of thousands of French Jews during the Occupation.

After the war, France was closely allied to Israel.  It took part in the abortive and unprovoked attack on Egypt in 1956 to wrest control of the canal zone from Nasser's government.  It was Israel's principal armourer, until after the 1967 war.  Israel began its nuclear programme with French assistance in reactor technology in the 1950s.  

France still disports itself as an ally of Israel.  It is in this light that one must read President Macron's determination for anti-Zionism to be conflated with anti-Semitism in French law.   It's also in this light that one must remember the crass and boorish presence of Netanyahu, pushing his way to the front of the massive government-organised rally to protest at the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015, and then a few days later suggesting that Jews, no longer safe in France, should take part in the in-gathering to Israel.  

Shlomo Sand, an abrasive but fearless Israeli historian, courted controversy some years ago with his book The Invention of the Jewish People.  In scholarly terms, the controversy should have been a storm in a teacup: Sand was not doing much more than applying the ideas and methods of the great wave of Anglophone scholarship on nationalism of the 1980s (Anderson, Gellner, Hobsbawm, Hroch) to the history of the Jewish people, showing that Zionism, in common with many other ethnic nationalisms, created an 'invented tradition' by way of a retrojected story of Jewish coherence and unity.   He's recently published a powerful book on the fall of the great French intellectuals from the philosophical heights of Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault 25 years ago to the idiocy of BHL and the Islamophobia of Alain Finkielkraut today.  Here he is on Macron's new policy - from the Verso site:

And some more writing on the 'new anti-Semitism' and its relationship to Israel today, also from Verso:

Tariq Ali: Notes on Anti-Semitism, Zionism and Palestine