[iDC] partial vs. peripheral attention

J Rabie joe at overmydeadbody.org
Wed Jan 3 08:31:19 EST 2007

> I have definitely noticed the above here in France where I live most 
> of the time. What we see on the political side, specifically in this 
> country, are sporadic outbreaks of clear and focused resistance, 
> marked by intense (and oh how comprehensible) mistrust of both media 
> and government, then retreats into a kind of anonymity which not only 
> emits no political signs, but does not even seem certain of having a 
> political memory. It is a bit enigmatic, and maybe not only to myself.

A lot is happening in France which is off the media radar and seen only 
by those with peripheral vision... particularly since the media wishes 
to punish that particular part of the left which campaigned 
successfully against the new European constitution and resulted in it 
being refused during the referendum held in May 2005. Thus what is 
happening at the moment is generally ignored or played down by the 
press, or belittled.

The "political memory" of France got hit by a neutron bomb when 
Mitterand was president. He came into power in a coalition with the 
Communist Party, went about radically nationalising, but within a few 
years changed direction completely, expressed a frank fascination for 
Margaret Thatcher and inaugurated what was known as the time as "les 
années fric", time for easy money, notably in property speculation. The 
result though was that the Communist party was decimated (helped along 
by the demise of the Soviet bloc), and the fascist Front National took 
the place of the Communist Party as representative of the "have nots".

The renewal of the radical left does, as Brian says, go from one 
"sporadic outbreak" to the next, but this is because the balance of 
power puts it in a position of great weakness. In 1995 there were 
enormous demonstrations against the Juppe government which wanted to 
reform the retirement laws, and led ultimately to its downfall. The 
creation of the alter-globalisation movement ATTAC in 1999 (about at 
the time of Seattle) has created a "school" (ATTAC defines itself as a 
"movement for popular education turned towards activism") which has 
successfully imbued such ideas far further within society than one 
might believe. Next shock along the line was Le Pen heading off Jospin 
in the first round of the French elections, the direct result of left 
wing voters splitting their forces among a myriad of small left wing 
groups, refusing to vote for Jospin who had become too "Social 
Liberal". More recently the referendum mentioned above, where ATTAC 
played an enormous intellectual role explaining the issues, via 
internet and pamphlets, despite constant denigration by the dominant 

The victory against the constitution was engineered through the 
creation of many Collectives all over the country... these did retreat 
"into anonymity" after the referendum, but did not disappear. We 
transformed into "Collectives du 29 Mai" and wrote, communally, an 
anti-liberal charter. And in September we transformed once more, into 
Collectives for the "Alternative Unitaire", some 800 collectives 
forming a movement with the project to find a unitary candidate on the 
left of the left for the French presidential elections in April 2007. 
Together the Collectives are continuing to write a comprehensive, 
radical programme for government. But the process has so far failed in 
appointing a candidate, betrayed by the Communist Party, one of the 
partners, which went about trying to impose their own Marie-George 
Buffet, despite her being unable to represent the arc of movements 
making up the Alternative.

So today, the Collectives are faced with becoming "anonymous" once 
again, laying low waiting for another occasion, or on insisting from 
the grassroots level that "another world is possible" and that there 
must be a candidate... possibly José Bové, spokesman for Via Campesina, 
the man who has gone to prison for dismantling Mcdonalds and uprooting 
GMO maize.


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