France to see Sarko-Sego face-off

I’m still in northern France. Today, our neighbors here in Lille and throughout the country went to the polls in high numbers, to participate in the first round of the presidential elections. The Gaullist Party’s Nicolas Sarkozy got around 30% and the Socialists’ Segolene Royal got 25.2%. Voters delivered a sharp rebuff to the far-right, anti-immigrant candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, giving him only 11.5%.
That means that Sarko and Sego will go to the second round run-off on May 6. Five years ago, Le Pen beat the Socialist candidate (Lionel Jospin) into second place, and thus got into the run-off ballot against Chirac a couple of weeks later.
Lille is in a traditionally leftwing part of the country; and many leftists here were shocked in 2002 that even this district had put Le Pen top of the ballot. I don’t have the detailed results to show which way Lille went this time.
There were twelve candidates on today’s ballot. Apart from those three, the other “big” one was the centrist Francois Bayrou, who got 18.3%.
In the run-off, the outcome will depend to some extent which way Bayrou’s supporters will turn. The other eight candidates are nearly all from the left. On the French TF-1 television this evening, I saw a Communist Party Senator saying clearly that their party will call for its supporters to come behind Segolene; and I imagine most other leftists will do that. Many of Le Pen’s people can be expected to support Sarkozy.
Sarkozy has made quite a break with some of the stiff nationalism the Gaullists have traditionally held to; and he’s been seen as far more pro-US than most Gaullists have been in the part. To a certain extent he’s had to run away from his pro-US sentiments during the election so far. But he is definitely seen as eager to start dismantling some key aspects of the French “social contract” and shifting the country to what is described here as “the Anglo-Saxon model.”
In the last few days of the campaign, Sarko also started talking quite openly about the importance of his Christian beliefs and the fact that France should be less militantly secularist than it has been for the past 125 years.
Is this a “George Allen” dodge? Like Allen, Sarko is someone with immigrant (and Jewish) heritage who may perhaps be waving all this Christian business around in order to assuage suspicions he might be too “Jewish” for some of the Gaullist base?
If you need some pork chitlins to start handing out on campaign stops, Sarko, I’m sure George A. would be happy to send you some. Heck, the guy is even without a job. Maybe he could bring ’em over to France for you himself?
Yesterday I was riding Lille’s fabulous metro system, which extends around 20 miles or so north to some other old industrial towns with long leftwing traditions. We went to the former municipal swimming baths in Roubaix, now turned into a really beautiful art museum. (“La Piscine.”) But they’ve kept in place many of the finely wrought art deco furnishings of the public baths: a monument to the longheld ideals of the common good…
On the way there I overheard some Afro-French women seated in front of me talking about whether they would bother to go and vote. From the way they were talking, it seemed the main issue for them was whether they would go to vote against Sarko, rather than voting for Sego or anyone else. I gather that’s been quite a common phenomenon.
Anyway, the next round will be a hard fight. Sego hasn’t really projected herself yet as having distinctive ideas. But she’s run a competent campaign. And at least the outcome so far indicates that (1) the left is not dead in France, as was feared immediately after 2002, and (2) Le Pen-ism can be countered and put back in its box.

French responses on the cartoons issue

    I am delighted to publish here, in its entirety, a very informative and thoughtful comment recently submitted here by Christiane, who lives in a Francophone part of Switzerland. Christiane, thanks so much for adding so much to our knowledge-base here! Apologies to you and to other JWN readers that I haven’t yet had time to go through and tidy up the occasional mis-spelling in English, but I’ll do it when I can. Meantime it’s all very easily readable, and a great contribution to the global discourse (especially it’s English-speaking part.) ~HC

In complement to your recent comments on the cartoons issue, I find it interesting to report on the reactions they stirred in France. After all, France is the European country counting the most important minority of North African and black Africans Muslims. At the same time it is also the most anticlerical country of Europe. Further, at the end of last year, the suburban areas where the majority of North African and black African immigrants live were inflamed by the most serious riotting ever seen, burning for several weeks, although with a few casualties.
In France, probably due to a long anticlerical tradition, two important, nationally distributed newspapers have reproduced all the 12 Danish caricatures of the Jylland’s Posten. The first to do so was “France Soir”. Paradoxically, the owner of the journal is a Franco-Egyptian and he fired the chief editor right afterwards. This led to several calls for the defense of free speach in various French newspapers. Last Thursday, Charlie Hebdo, a satirical journal with a large readership, dedicated its whole weekly issue to the subject. They sold out in a moment and the owner had to reprint a lot more issues. Charlie Hebdo has a long tradition of anticlericalism, antimilitarism and harsh political satire. I’ve been unable to get an issue in Swizterland, it was out of stock the very day it came out. So I don’t know how they treated the subject. The media reports that one of their own caricatures represented a distressed Prophet Mohammed stating that “It is a pain to be loved by assholes”.
But apart of two or three provocative attitudes of this same kind, the reaction in France has been very measured, especially at the government level and the Muslim organizations level. Jacques Chirac immediately condemned these publications as provocation, especially the most recent issue of Charlie Hebdo. He called on everyone to stay calm and the press to act responsibly. The government also met with Muslim organisations who issued calls for peace as well. The Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM) (an Association regrouping several Muslim Organisations) chose the legal path and will file multiple complaints (French text) against both France Soir and Charlie Hebdo. It’s not yet sure whether they will also file complaints against other newspapers like “Le Monde” and “Liberation” who reproduced only some of the caricatures. Brubaker, the president of the CFCM stated that they were only looking for a “symbolic condemnation” in order to discourage new provocations which could “reinforce a clash of civilizations”. Some protests of angry Mulims took place, mostly at the exit of the Friday prayers, but they didn’t run out of control. Secular Arabs interviewed in the streets say they felt insulted by the caricatures as well, especially by the stigmatizing of all Muslims as terrorists.
The secular “Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples” (MRAP, aka Movement against racism and for the friendship between all peoples) also decided to file a suit against France Soir, for provocation and incitement to racial hate (this was before the issuing of Charlie Hebdo; they will probably sue Charlie Hebdo as well).
Compared to the weeks-long riots that inflamed the suburbs at the end of last year, these protests look like a very restrained reaction. This proves what many French intellectuals and politicians of the left said then : that the French suburb-dwellers’ riots had nothing to do with religion, that they represented a social movement against discrimination, agaisnt economic and social exclusion, but that they were neither fomented by religious movements, nor indicatied a ‘clash of civilizations’, as US neocons would have liked to see them.
The issue of the complaint filed by the Muslim organizations and the secular MRAP isn’t yet certain…

Continue reading “French responses on the cartoons issue”

Eric Marliere on the French riots

    Ace JWN commenter Christiane tells us that
    Le Courrier International

    has an interesting interview with a sociologist specializing in the life
    of the suburbs here. She even sent us a translation.

    Thanks so much, Christiane! I am really glad to have something fresh, interesting, and well-informed to put up here– especially because I have been really busy leading a real life these past couple of days. Too complex to write about here, but I’ve had many experiences that I can reflect on, over time. So without further ado…


Religion has nothing to do with the (French) riots

To sociologist
Eric Marlière, a researcher at
the CESDIP1)
the author,
among other books, of Young in the suburbs, diversity of biographies or
common fate?
2), there is no relationship between the riots
shaking the suburbs and the fact that the young men belong to the Muslim

Q. On many occasions, these past days, in the
European media notably, we could read that the riots having burst in the
suburbs are mainly the fact of small groups of young Muslims who in this
way want to fight their personal jihad against the hated symbols of the secular
Republic. Is that true ?

. We can’t say that.
The violences are sparked by social motives, not by religious ones, even
if many of the youth launching them are effectively
of North African origin and thus we can suppose – because there are no statistics
on this matter – that they are of Muslim religion. They are sons of immigrated
workers, frustrated by the impossibility to become workers one day by turn,
because of a social exclusion lasting twenty-thrirty years, because of discriminations
and of the racism they are suffering every days
. The fact that they are Muslims is absolutely unimportant. That’s not the

Q. What kind of role are the religious Muslim authorities playing in the
riots ?


clerics tend to stay aside of the violences, they don’t take part in them,
they don’t enter in the political debate. Even the most extremists, a tiny
minority, are keeping a low profile these days, and anyway, they are marginalized
by the most part of the the Muslim population. Sometimes, the local political
leaders may ask the imams for an intervention, but they mainly want them
to use their moral authority in order to calm the youths
and to remember them that Islam condemns violence and anarchy, like
other monotheists religions.

Q. What is the youths’ profile ?

They aren’t thugs. The discontent is also expressed by young graduates
who would like to enter in the active life but don’t succeed because the
doors of the employement world stay closed to them. These youths
share a deep feeling of economic injustice, which crystallizes in
the riots. They feel socially insecure in


, as if they were an internal enemy in their own country. That’s why I think
that we aren’t facing an ethnic conflict, but a social conflict, animated
by youths of the working classes who have no future

Gian Paolo Accardo




The CESDIP, Centre de recherches sociologiques
sur le droit et les institutions pénales (aka Center of sociological research
about law and penal institutions) is a public academic institute engaged
both in academic teaching and research.

2) Eric Marlière « Jeunes en cité,
diversité des trajectoires ou destin commun ? » (L’Harmattan, 2005)

Riots in France persisting

The anger-fueled rioting in the banlieues (suburbs) around Paris and some other big cities in France has gone on every evening for the past ten days now. It seems very diffuse and ill organized and looks really tragic. Who knows at this point if it will harden into some recognizable and lasting social movement supported by the marginalized, mainly immigrant-origin families stuffed into the banlieues?
One of the friends who came to our place for dinner last night commented that while the US news broadcasts he’d seen all tended to focus on the fact that most of those rioters have been Muslim, the BBC had given a lot more stress to the fact that the anger came out of the “housing estates”– that is, to give a socioeconomic interpretation to what was happening.
Here on JWN commenter David made some reference to “the Paris intifada”. That launched an interesting discussion, which didn’t really belong on that post and should anyway have its own post, so I’ll reproduce it at the end of this post.
I’ll just note here that the anger of this generation of mainly French-born young adults from immigrant-origin families seems largely parallel to the anger of their counterparts in the immigrant-origin communities in Britain– though in France, the anger has not yet spawned a violent, Qaeda-linked underground like the one that killed 55 people in the London Underground in July.
Here in the US, members of the “white”-dominated political elite are slowly coming to grips with the idea that the country’s self-image and actual practice of social interactions needs to change to incorporate the facts of the growing empowerment of African-American and other non-white citizens, and the growing empowerment and increasing numbers of Hispanic-cultured citizens, in particular. I see it as a pretty exciting, challenging and open-ended process.
In Europe, the pressing facts of demographic change have been quite a lot slower to become reflected in the self-image and social practice of the “indigenous” and dominant white majorities. I’m not sure whether the proportion of non-“white” residents is noticeably higher in the UK and France than it is in other European countries. But it is certainly interesting that it is in those two countries– the two that maintained the largest overseas empires for so long, and that for so long even defined themselves by reference to their worldwide imperial role– that the children and grandchildren of the formerly colonized have been most bold in staking their claim to equal rights with the indigenes of the metropolis.
Bill the spouse, who has done a lot of research on the modern history of North Africa, suggests that many of the young people now rioting in the banlieues of France may well be the children and grandchildren of the harkis, the Algerian indigenese who had been impressed into the French colonial forces and who, when De Gaulle finally took the French forces out of Algeria, were allowed to retreat with them rather than face the wrath of the FLN.
As anyone who has ever read Fanon will recall, one special feature of French imperialism was the conceit that the French cultural administrators spread within their various colonies that the indigenous people could actually become “French”, if only they could learn the language of Racine and Voltaire with enough flair and become sufficiently au courant with all the latest in Parisian literary thinking. (My ex-spouse, who grew up Lebanese and went to a number of French-run schools in Lebanon, vividly recalls all the pupils being taken out of school on quatorze juillet and given little French flags to wave in the streets as they shouted “Vive la France!”)
So you could see how Algerians or other North Africans who had fought for France against the FLN, then fled to France, and had been raised with this idea that they and their families could actually, seamlessly become French, might find the reality of the situation once arrived there fairly disappointing…. the kind of disappointment that might easily harden over a further generation or two, if most of the members of that community remained on the economic, social, and political margins.
… Social change ain’t easy. Our small city of Charlottesville here in Virginia is nowadays sometimes called by its detractors the “People’s Republic of Charlottesville”. That’s because we have a strongly Democratic-dominated city administration, a general commitment (not always well implemented) to support the full empowerment of the 50% of the city’s residents who are African-Americans, a strong-ish peace movement, and a general commitment to decent, generous, liberal values.
Back in the 1950s, however, the whitefolks who dominated the city council voted to close the city schools rather than accede to the federal government’s demand that the seperate white and black school systems in the city should be integrated. The whitefolks just couldn’t see their sons and daughters getting any benefit– or even, being safe!– if they sat down in the same classrooms with Black kids. The city’s changed a lot– in its self-image, aspriation, and practice–since then. Not enough, I might say. But certainly, significantly.
Are there forces in the “indigenous” white communities in France and the UK who, jointly with immigrant-origin leaders, can spearhead some analogous moves towards far greater inclusivity? I hope so. Certainly, I hope the streets of Europe never ring again to the cries of race-hatred that dominated so many of them back in the 1930s…
Anyway, here are what Christiane (who’s Swiss) and Hammurabi wrote earlier in response to david’s comment about a Paris “intifada”:
Concerning the riots in Paris which are now spreading in other provincial cities, I don’t understand why you call them Intifada. No-one in France name them so, not even the participants, at least I didn’t hear it.
What we have in France has nothing to do with terrorism; it’s a wide social movement which is caused by joblessness and exclusion.
They have much more to do with the right wing policies a la neocons which were imposed on France by Chirac and above all by Sarkozy : many many funds were cut in social programs aimed at integration, while more resources were put on repression. Sarkozy developped a theory of “zero tolerance” which has produced the opposite results.
After an incident (which isn’t yet completely clear but for the fact that two young people who took refuge in an electric transformator died electrocuted – with or without the police chasing them, that is the question) the whole leftover suburbs went in flames. At first they responded to Sarkozy’s provocation, because he named them thugs to be cleaned away. But sure enough if the whole suburbs are now burning since a week, it is for other serious social reasons. Since 1968, I haven’t seen such an important social movement. Hundreds of cars are burned out. And also a police station, some schools and many public busses.
Beside the many social workers and mediators trying to cool the spirits, there are two different groups pushing to the riots : the gangs and drugs dealers holding the different suburbs, who fight to extend their territories and also perhaps, some Islamist activists.
It is not impossible that Islamist movements try to organize this social movement. But it isn’t the only force around. And Muslim movements come with different flavors. I hope that this movement will cause the fall of Sarkozy. It is well possible, because he has been so irresponsible in his provocations. On the other hand when elections take place after riots, people tend rather to vote for the right parties, for the restoration of order.
au contraire…Sarkozy understands the need to coopt the Le Pens on the far right (by taking a strong law and order position and on illegal immigration) while making the French citizens from North Africa stakeholders rather than seething “outsiders”…that is why in the home of egalite and French “grandeur”, he favors meaningful affirmative action policies… “I think some people accumulate so many handicaps that if the state does not help them, they have no chance of making it,” he explained. Europeans pride themselves on their commitment to multiculturalism but in practice there is far less of the melting pot diversity that serves as a safety valve on the other side of the Atlantic. He also favors public financing of mosques in the land of banned head scarves.
With high unemployment, an aging nativist population and an increasingly alienated and growing Muslim population, France – like many European countries – faces a demographic challenge not just to funding its generous pension and other social programs but to help prevent Islamic extremists from exploiting the situation.
… [Back to HC] Thanks so much for those contributions. Everyone is warmly invited to continue this conversation here.

Gerard Prunier on ‘la francophonie’ under threat

I was pretty certain that my theory of the dangers of “the death-throes of la francophonie”, or perhaps, more modestly, “la francophonie under threat”, as described here yesterday, was not totally original.
Well, aujourd’hui I was just re-reading along in Gerard Prunier’s great 1995 work, The Rwandan crisis; History of a Genocide and I came across this seasoned French scholar’s take on the subject… Commenting on the military and political support that the Mitterand government gave to the virulently anti-Tutsi government in Rwanda during the four-year-long civil war against the Tutsi-led RPF that preceded– or perhaps, prefaced– the 1994 genocide, Prunier wrote of France’s relationship with the Habyarimana government:

    the casual observer imagining that money is the cement of the whole relationship would have the wrong impression. The cement is language and culture. Paris’ African backyard remains its backyard because all the [African] chicks cackle in French…

Continue reading “Gerard Prunier on ‘la francophonie’ under threat”

Lorsque des voisins tuent leurs voisins

Alors, je vois que jusque vers le fin de mon dernier message j’ai ecrit que peut-etre quand le monde de la francophonie se sent encircle, c’est bien possible que les francophones commencent de tuer leurs voisins anglophones…
Mais je sais bien que le monde n’est pas assez simple que ca. Alors, je m’excuse a tous les lecteurs d’origine francophone s’ils m’ont mecompris. Beaucoup de mes meilleurs amis sont des francophones! En plus, si vous avez bien lu le blog “Actualites d’un monde just” pendant les mois derniers vous auriez su que j’admire beaucoup le bon monsieur Dominique de Villepin. Dommage qu’il n’est plus le ministre des affaires etrangeres, eh?
(Et je m’excuse pour mon francais rudimentaire. Mieux que rien, non?)

France, wars, and churches

Today, I finished writing a CSM column, scheduled to appear Thursday, that draws a little on my experience of being here in a bustling and unified Europe.
The question I ask is how Israelis plan to build the kind of respectful relations with their neighbors, the Palestinians, that alone can assure their own longterm wellbeing. The examples I drew on were the way France and its Allies treated Germany after WW1 (punitive, harsh) versus what they did after WW2 (visionary, rehabilitative). I didn’t mention the war memorials here. Probably, I should have.
Tomorrow we drive up into Belgium. Definitely through WW1 trench country. I’ve found one part of our route that is called “La Route des Fortifications”. Maybe that would be the Maginot Line, folly of follies. Like Sharon’s Maginot Fence in the West Bank.
But generally, this trip seems to have had Romanesque (10th-12th century) churches as a major theme. Boy, France was a rich area back then, to support the building of so many, such huge churches, abbeys, etc.
Last Friday, we hiked two kilometres down to this little church at Thines:
The next day…

Continue reading “France, wars, and churches”

A view from Europe

I arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport Monday morning, had a few hours wait for the flight to Bordeaux. I spent some time keeping my eyes open for well-known Francophile Richard Perle who must fly through CDG a lot. But I guess he sticks to the First-Class Lounges…
The lead story in Le Monde was titled “Tourisme: l’ete des mauvaises nouvelles” (Tourism: the summer of bad news). The follow-on story talked about the “cross-atlantic slowdown which touched the Old Continent”, along with general global fearfulness and some local problems with forest fires etc. Folks in the French hospitality industry talk about the Americans staying away as the main factor.
But the most interesting thing I picked up at CDG was Monday’s Financial Times. It had a long article by Stephen Fidler and Gerald Baker titled “The best-laid plans? How turf battles and mistakes in Washington dragged down the reconstruction of Iraq.”
Well, the title more or less tells you what these guys’ thesis is. It seems they have talked to a lot of people in and around DC. It comes as zero surprise to me that they report,

    According to several participants [in internal administration discussions], the Pentagon ignored the extensive work done by the State Department and relied on a different group of advisors, including Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress exile group.

Anyway, if you can access that article, it’s a good read. I found it online today.
… Meanwhile, here we are baking in the hot French sun. We’re in a hotel near St. Emilion, which is a veritable Mecca (bad word, perhaps…) for wine-lovers. Nearly the entire landscape is planted with vines, which are meticulously pruned and trained into 60-inch-high rows that are cut square at the top. The ros are about four feet apart from each other and dead straight. As we look out from our window, it’s like looking down onto a sea of green.
Beneath the bright green foliage hang the bunches of now-blackening grapes. To my eye, the individual grapes look very small. I guess that’s from the drought they’ve been having hereabouts. Bill (who got here a couple of days before me and had a visit with a wine-grower on Sunday) says they’re hoping for some rain in September to plump up the grapes.
This morning I went out to run at around 9 a.m. and it was already really, really warm. But with a dry heat, unlike what we have back at home in Central Virginia. The French drivers give little consideration to runners, so where possible I ran along the broad strips left between the edge of the vineyards and the roadway. I ran around the Figeac fields and through many areas of Pomerol, including Cheval Blanc. Actually, I got a bit lost, but it was fun.
Tomorrow we leave this area and start driving across to the Ardeche area. I don’t know when I’ll get to blog again. I’m using a phoneline connection to AOL. It seems to work okay, but it was hard to get a connection this morning.


BLAMING THE FRENCH: This seems to be one of the slightly underhanded tactics that’s emerged from the Trio Con Brio summit over the weekend. It was certainly a fairly strong theme in Bush speech tonight. And there’s buzz from London that Blair might try to exploit the anti-French prejudice that’s still strong in the UK to shore up his very shaky position.
The main gist of the argument is that it’s the fault of the French that the Anglo-Saxon warriors didn’t get their eminently sensible, eminently flexible etc resolution through the Security Council. That if those darn’ Frenchies hadn’t had “the Gaul” (sorry about that) to announce their veto upfront, all those members of the putatively saleable six would have come singing along to Foggy Bottom for their respective payoffs, and the Anglo-Saxons would at least have gotten the “moral victory” of a strong-majority vote of nine members for the Blair/Bush resolution in the SC, even if the vote did not in the end prove veto-proof.
I think this argument is as weak and dishonest as many of the other arguments the warhawks have come up with over recent months. First, it relies on an unproven assumption that Angola, Cameroon, Chile, etc, could all have been bought. Baloney. As I wrote before here, the French looked set to do pretty well with the three African SC members. And by all accounts, the Chileans were pretty well pissed by the news accounts of NSA SIGINT operations at the UN that raised all their engrained fears that US intelligence agencies were once again interfering in their country’s democratic processes…
Secondly, this argument makes it seem like it was grossly unfair of the French to have showed their hands even before the vote was taken. Well, grow up. There were two dozen or more SC draft resolutions from the Reagan era on that sought to curb some of Israel’s excesses in the Occupied Territories, that the U.S. vetoed— and in many of those cases it had announced its intention to veto very early during the negotiations. For some of those resolutions, the US ‘no’ vote stood quite alone, against 14 ‘yes’ votes.
So if, on something they feel very strongly about, the French– whose veto in the UN is every bit as “legitimate” as Washington’s– should choose to use the veto, and to announce their intention to do so fairly early on– well, that’s how the game gets played in the security Council… Or it did, until recently.
Plus, of course, did I mention that the US has wielded its veto far, far more frequently over the years than have the French.
I’ve increasingly had the feeling that the whole UN process has been at best a diversion for the Bushies, while at worst they have been quite prepared to hold it hostage and threaten its viability as they’ve girded up for their fight-to-the-death against Saddam. Many of the Bushies and their supporters have expressed open contempt for the organization and have seemed openly gleeful that it has “proved” (to them, at least) its dysfunctionality this time, yet again.
It was Maureen Dowd who in her great March 5 column in the NYT, “What Would Genghis Do?”, revealed that in August 2001, the suits in the Pentagon commissioned a study of the strengths and weakness of previous stand-alone world empires… Well, if a new Anglo-Saxon “Rome” should emerge from the ashes of the ever-closer war, I know that I for one will want to line up with that feisty Gallic resistant, Asterix.