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France

France: Workers, students fight attacks on pensions, oppose austerity (+ photo essay)

High school students join a demonstration against attacks on pensions rights in Paris, October 14, 2010. AP Photo/Francois Mori from Boston.com.

By Chris Latham

October 24, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- Since October 12, France has been gripped by intensifying mass opposition by workers and students to proposed counter reforms to the country’s pensions system by the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Public opposition to the attack has been highlighted by three national strikes each involving millions of people, two national student strikes and a growing wave of indefinite strikes in a range of industries — most notably the crippling shutdown of the oil industry.

Despite the size and intensity of the mobilisations, the Sarkozy government remains defiant, insisting the changes to the pension system are essential to France’s future. The government has threatened to repress attempts to disrupt France’s economic life.

France: The movement is far from over; Olivier Besancenot defends mass mobilisations to defeat Sarkozy

The New Anti-Capitalist Party's Olivier Besancenot.

By Sandra Demarcq

October 23, 2010 -- International Viewpoint -- Since May, the political situation in France has been marked by the mobilisations against changes to the pension law. Days of mobilisation succeed days of mobilisation, the movement against pension "reform" continues to develop and put down roots. It is the confirmation of a profound movement massively rejecting not only [the pension changes] but more broadly French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s anti-social, racist and authoritarian policies as a whole. But also the injustices accumulated and accentuated by the economic crisis, whether among the young or among wage earners.

France: An explosive situation; Huge protests against pension law

September 7 rally of 1.1 million in Paris after the pension changes were presented in parliament by Sarkozy’s labour minister. Photo: Wagingnonviolence.org.

By Sandra Demarcq 

October 11, 2010 -- International Viewpoint -- The political situation in France is dominated by the mobilisations against the proposed "reform" of the pension system [that will dramatically reduce the right of workers to access pensions]. This is at the heart of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although it is presented as an obvious demographic necessity, it is meeting increasing opposition in public opinion.

Repay historic debt to Haiti: An open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy

CRIME activists fool the media with a fake announcement that France would finally pay its 17 billion euro historic debt.

By Derrick O'Keefe

Socialist Resistance statement on the banning of the veil

By Socialist Resistance (Britain)

July 26, 2010 -- Throughout Europe there is a growing movement that seeks to ban Muslim women who chose to do so from wearing the veil. In Britain today this demand comes mainly from the far-right British National Party (BNP), UK Independence Party (UKIP) and some individuals on the Conservative Party (Tory) right. Things though may change for the worse, already the Tory tabloids are stirring on this question.

This is but one part of a growing Islamophobic trend which has seen Muslim minorities become even more marginalised and demonised in Western Europe than they were previously. Though this demand originated on the far right it is now increasingly taken up by the mainstream bourgeois parties culminating in the recent decision of the French parliament to make wearing the veil a criminal offence. In France what is equally shameful is the failure of most of the French left to oppose it in any meaningful way, members of the Greens, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party having abstained on this law in the French parliament.

Banning the veil: Rights of women or anti-Islamic racism and communalism?

July 21, 2010 -- On July 13, the parliament of France, on the eve of Bastille Day, voted 335 to one in favour of preventing Muslim women wearing a full face-covering veil in public. The July 13 Le Monde said the new law was strongly supported by the right. The Socialist Party, Communist Party (PCF) and Green Party abstained. Anyone who chooses to wear a face covering on religious grounds now faces a fine of 150 euros or a “citizenship course”. The law does not come into effect until spring 2011 to allow a period of “education”. There is also a year in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros for anyone found guilty of forcing a woman to wear a veil, a penalty which is doubled if the “victim is a minor”.

Earlier this year, the Indian organisation Radical Socialist issued a statement taking up this wave of Islamophobic legislation in Europe.

* * *

Statement by the Radical Socialist organisation, India

The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda -- review of Herman and Peterson's ‘The Politics of Genocide’

Skulls of victims of one of the massacres during the 1994 Rwandan genocide are displayed at the Genocide Memorial Site church of Ntarama in Nyamata, Rwanda. Photo: AFP.

Review by Gerald Caplan

The Politics of Genocide,
By Edward S. Herman and David Peterson,
Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010,
112 pages plus endnotes and index, ISBN: 978-1-58367-212-9.

June 17, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- This is a review of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010.

How the Rwandan tragedy was created

Wednesday, September 14, 1994

By Zanny Begg

Green Left Weekly -- The death toll in Rwanda has shocked people around the world. Rows upon rows of dead bodies have filled TV screens, newspapers and magazines since the carnage began in April. It has been estimated that 500,000 people have been killed. The spread of cholera and dysentery in the refugee camps is still adding hundreds to the death toll each day. Rwanda, previously one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, is now a mass grave. Due to migration and murder, its population has declined from 8 million to 5 million, a drop comparable to that in the Irish famine of the 1840s.

Genocide in Rwanda: The role of the West

Wednesday, June 1, 1994 - 10:00

By David Dorward

The media have reduced the Rwanda atrocities to some inexplicable and primeval "tribal" conflict, obscuring the manipulation of ethnic politics by a ruthless Western-backed military dictatorship. The recent horror in Rwanda and the prospects for renewed ethnic clashes in Burundi are part of a saga of violence stretching back over 35 years. There is nothing inevitable about these atrocities. They were predictable and avoidable — but only if there had been the political will. As in Bosnia-Hercegovina, ethnic tensions have been fanned by politicians who have manipulated "history" to their own ends.

Behind the genocide in Rwanda

Wednesday, August 10, 1994

By Theogene Rudasingwe

Rwanda is distinctive among the countries of Africa for the small size of its territory and the high density of its population (7.5 million people, 285 inhabitants per square kilometre).

It is inhabited by a people called Banyarwanda. The Banyarwanda comprise of three groups: the Hutu, Twa and Tutsi which are commonly, but misleadingly, called ethnic groups. These groups are not ethnic groups in any meaningful sense. The three groups are one people with a common ancestry. They share the same language and culture. Whereas tribal societies are usually divided by geographical boundaries, the three groups have lived together on the same hills throughout the country from time immemorial.

Olivier Besancenot: `We are all Greek workers!'


General strike, Athens, May 20, 2010. Photos by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

By Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond, translated by Richard Fidler and Nathan Rao

May 14, 2010 -- Le Monde via The Bullet -- The events in Greece concern us all. The Greek people are paying for a crisis and a debt not of their making. Today it is the Greeks, tomorrow it will be others, for the same causes will produce the same effects if we allow it.

France: Sarkozy rejected in regional elections

[*Note: Check chart on right for final figures.]

By the executive committee of the New Anti-Capitalist Party

March 14, 2010  -- Paris -- Two major lessons emerge from the first round of the regional elections.

France: New Anti-Capitalist Party defends democratic right to wear hijab

NPA candidate Ilham Moussaïd.

By Olivier Besancenot, translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (MRZine)

February 3, 2010 -- Le Figaro caricatured my words regarding the candidacy of Ilham Moussaïd, who is on our list in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional elections. After a serious and complex debate, the Vaucluse chapter of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) made a choice to include on its feminist, anti-capitalist and internationalist lists an NPA member who believes in wearing a headscarf on account of her religious convictions.

[See French capitalist press report below.]

Haiti: A history of struggle and exploitation

``Old Toussaint L'Overture'' by Larry Richardson.

By Amanda Zivcic

January 23, 2010 -- Since the earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, there has been a global outpouring of support. Many people, horrified by the scenes of sheer devastation, the astronomical death toll and the struggle of survivors to gain access to medicines, food and shelter, are left wondering: why so many?

The oft-repeated tag of Haiti being “the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere” is true but this did not just happen. It is the result of a history of colonialism, slavery, imperialism, foreign military intervention, foreign-imposed dictatorships and unjust debt.

The Caribbean nation’s indigenous people were all but wiped out by 1520 due to the disease and exploitation that came with the arrival of the Spaniards in 1492. After France and Spain divided the island of Hispaniola into Haiti and the Dominican Republic, French and Spanish settlers arrived.

Haiti's `odious debt' must be completely and unconditionally cancelled!

By Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet,[1]Translated by Francesca Denley in collaboration with
Marie Lagatta

Haiti was partially destroyed by an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale. We have all shed tears and the media, as it bombards us with apocalyptic images, reports on generous financial pledges various states have made. Haiti needs to be rebuilt. But most mainstream comments fail to look beyond the terrible earthquake. While we are told that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, no explanations of why that is so are provided. We are led to believe that poverty just happened, that it is a situation beyond remedy, that Haiti is an "accursed land”.

Daniel Bensaïd: militant, intellectual, friend

Daniel Bensaïd.

By François Sabado

International Viewpoint -- Daniel Bensaïd left us today, Tuesday, January 12, 2010. Born in 1946 he gave his life to the cause of defending revolutionary Marxist ideas right to the end. He was one of the founders of the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (JCR -- Revolutionary Communist Youth) and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR -- Revolutionary Communist League, French section of the Fourth International).

A leader of the May '68 movement, he was one of those people with a very sure feeling for political initiative. He had been one of the leaders of the 22nd March Movement. Grasping the dynamic of social movements, in particular the link between the student movement and workers’ general strike, he was also one of those who understood the necessity of building a political organisation, of accumulating the forces for building a revolutionary party.

The quality of Daniel’s intelligence was to combine theory and practice, intuition and political understanding, ideas and organisation. He could, at the same time, lead a stewarding force and write a theoretical text.

The soldiers' Christmas truce -- A bas la guerre! Nie wieder Kreig! Das walte Gott! Peace on Earth!

Review by Phil Shannon

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
By Stanley Weintraub
The Free Press, 2001
206 pages

It was the war that was supposed “to be over by Christmas”. It very nearly was. A spontaneous soldiers' truce broke out along the Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914, four months after the start of hostilities.

“Peace on Earth”, “goodwill to all men” — British, French and German soldiers took these usually hypocritical Christmas sentiments for real and refused to fire on the “enemy”, exchanging instead song, food, drink and gifts with each other in the battle-churned wastes of “no-man's land” between the trenches.

Lasting until Boxing Day in some cases, the truce alarmed the military authorities who worked overtime to end the fraternisation and restart the killing.

Science and empire in the Pacific

Mai (aka Omai), the first Pacific Islander to visit Europe, with Joseph Banks in 1774. Painting by William Parry.

By Barry Healy

More than 240 years ago, on April 13, 1769, the peace of Tahiti was interrupted by the visit of Captain James Cook, supposedly observing the transit of Venus across the Sun, but really following secret orders to investigate the Pacific Ocean and its islands for the benefit of British colonialism.

Mainstream Australian history raises James Cook to a pinnacle because he established a white, British dominion on the Australian continent. However, at the time his fame was eclipsed because on board his ship was gentleman scientist Joseph Banks with a posse of staff.

Banks’ star outshone Cook’s because his work acquired the botanical treasures of Oceania for the British Empire, paving the way for Britain to dominate vital areas of science for its own benefit.

Positive developments in the European left

By Ian Angus

October 7, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- LeftViews recently published an article by Alex Callinicos, a central leader of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), on the state of the left in Europe. While conceding that there have been some gains, overall the picture he painted was dire.

Callinicos is an insightful writer on leftwing politics in Europe, and much of his analysis rings true. I’m certainly not going to try to offer a different analysis from my vantage point well west of the Atlantic [in Canada].

But by itself, his article might leave Socialist Voice readers with a picture of unrelieved gloom, when in fact there are some bright spots of note. In Germany and Portugal, leftwing parties made modest but important gains in last month’s elections, while in France and England we’re seeing constructive steps towards greater unity on the left.

Germany

Britain’s conquest of Quebec: 250 years later, a continuing debate on how the French colonisers became colonised

By Richard Fidler

September 13, 2009 -- Life on the Left -- Colonisation. Conquest. Words that even today evoke widely varying historical memories.

Just last year Quebec City staged an elaborate round of events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding as the colonial capital of New France. No expense was spared as federal and provincial governments alike poured money into the city’s coffers. Capping the ceremonies were massively attended concerts by Québécoise singer Céline Dion and former Beatle Paul McCartney — apparently deemed emblematic descendants of the French and British “founding peoples” of present-day Canada. It seemed to be one great love-in of all those involved.

(Lost in all the self-congratulatory rhetoric, of course, was any recognition that the city’s site had in fact been occupied by its Indigenous inhabitants for many centuries prior to the arrival of the Europeans.)

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