The French Spring

Israel Shamir — shamireaders April 18, 2013

This year, spring in France is unusually cold and rainy, following on the heels of a frosty and long winter. Only the last Sunday was different: the sun pushed the clouds away for the first time in months, and immediately the lucid Parisian air warmed up and trees broke out in full bloom. The French were cheered up after the long, hibernal gloom and went out to the streets to protest – ostensibly, against the new gay marriage and adoption bill that the government is trying to push through Parliament despite popular rejection, but verily against the neoliberal policies of their new government. The French police, brutal as ever, wielded batons and tear gas. and arrested the demonstrators. Sixty-seven of them were in prison after the mammoth demonstration of March 24. (They were apparently released). The newspapers speak of the “French Spring”, echoing the Arab one.
The new President. Francois Hollande, is quite unpopular; his ratings are the lowest of any French president since presidential popularity began to be rated in 1981. And for one simple reason: His socialist party continues with the same neoliberal policies, this time in agreement with tame trade unions. The Wicked Witch of the West is dead, but her spirit is still with us. The ministers have offshore accounts they previously denied. By a new ‘national agreement’ (ANI), employers will be allowed to extend working hours, reduce salaries to the minimum and enforce «working mobility» by sending workers to far-away plants. If employees refuse to transfer they can be fired without compensation. Family allowances shrink, pensions stagnate and do not keep up with the inflation. France, like the rest of us, was robbed by the bankers, and working people are left to pay the bills. The families of French workers have difficulty making ends meet. They view the gay marriage and adoption bill as a part and parcel of this neoliberal attack on the French family, and the struggle against the bill has united working France. «Let them rather speak of gays than of work», was the government logic; but the trick failed: the protesters carried slogans against economic policies as well.
All but three gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg on the Left Bank of the Seine in central Paris are barred; the remaining open gates are controlled by riot police, since this is the location of the French Senate. In order to become law, the bill had to be approved by the Senate and then by the National Assembly, the lower house. The protesters manned a picket during the debates; featured was Cardinal Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, the Primate of the Gauls and the second highest ranking prelate in the Catholic Church in France. Still, the Senate approved the bill by a wafer-slim majority of two votes, both given by deserters from the Gaullist party representing the French overseas. Now the tents of the protesters are pitched in front of the National Assembly, and the police expect more trouble on April 23, the day of the final vote brought forth by the government.
The Socialist party and its allies, soft Communists and Greens, still insist on the unpopular bill. They care more about their sponsors, the wealthy gays who will be entitled to buy children or to order them from surrogate mothers at state expense, rather than for the ordinary French families who can hardly feed their own children, say opponents. The French Left has a strong anti-clerical tradition: the pre-war socialists were worse to their church than Stalin . This same spite inspires them now, too, and causes them to act against working families. The Church learned the ropes and this time it is supporting the popular cause, and it is not alone.
The biggest demonstration against the bill on March 24 gathered over a million participants in Paris alone. The French police claimed there were «only» three hundred thousand protesters. They learned from the American repression of the Occupy movement and falsified the photos of the demo. On the protesters’ site one can see the sloppily Photoshop-doctored photos: in order to fit their numbers, police erased not only the marchers, but the dividing lines and trees off the Avenue de la Grande Armée near the Arc de Triomphe.
The French people are really upset by the bill. Traditionally extremely tolerant to all sexual proclivities, they justifiably refuse to see it as a «struggle for gay rights». For them, this is an attack on family values, a new step towards the Brave New World of tube-manufactured children, towards inhumane capitalism where money buys all and ordinary working people are deprived of everything: of steady work, of respect, of families, of homes and even of their children.
The supporters of the bill are pushing with their standard soft-leftist anti-Stalinist agenda of caring for everybody – gays, lesbians, Jews, immigrants – everybody, that is, except for the working class majority who are castigated as «bigots, homophobes and antisemites». Indeed they took a page from Israel-supporters (who always defend their untenable positions by crying «antisemitism») and bewailed the «homophobia» of the protesters. They claimed that a gay was beaten up somewhere, and that the protesters (sic!) were guilty of incitement, though there is a considerable and well-publicised body of gays against the Bill who joined the demo and fought the bill together with the rest of the French.
The government’s new-found mascot is a gross black woman from the French West Indies, the Minister of Justice, Mme Christiane Taubira, the fiery supporter of the bill. But she failed to carry the immigrant communities with her. «She’s gone mad», the immigrants say of her, as she was known as a steady supporter of family values before she jumped on the well-greased wagon of gay rights. While the January demo was mainly a native French affair, the March demo had thousands of Muslims joining the fray. Even if they were in the minority, these Muslims came from Rennes, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montreuil, Saint Denis, Aubervilliers or Mantes, reported Le Figaro daily. A young second generation Muslim girl born in France participated in the demo and said that “she had never felt herself as much French as now.” There were many Muslim organisations who joined the protest en masse: Children of France, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine St Denis, its counterpart in the Yvelines, Versailles association of Muslims, Muslim Children, Rennes and Lille associations, and others, were officially present, says Le Figaro.
The supporters of the bill are guided by their spite and alien interests, for there are no takers, no beneficiaries for the new bill. The gays will not rush to use it, for France has for ten years already had a state-recognised civil union (PACS) suitable for all genders and covering the same ground as legal marriage. Only 0.6% of all registered French couples are homosexuals. Even heterosexual couples enter marriage much less often now than in the past, for divorce is expensive and difficult. Libertine gays with their fleeting affairs are quite unlikely to rush for «marriage». The gay-support organisations are tiny – the most outspoken one, Act-up, has 150 members, a bigger LGBT – 1300 members.
Same-sex coupling is perfectly accepted in France, but it is rather an entertainment and a side trick, being taken seriously much less frequently than in other Western countries. I explain this by the famous charms of French women – they are smashing, and no doubt about it! William Dalrymple, the great Scottish travel-writer, ascribed the ubiquitous homosexuality of Turks to the quite limited sex-appeal of the moustachioed and squat Turkish women. The Brits can find their excuse in the figure of Margaret Thatcher, if the aunts of Wodehouse won’t suffice. American ladies were de-genderised by their feminist revolution and probably would sue you for harassment rather than respond to your flirt. But can one find a single fault with the girls of France? Non, non, non…
Still, the new bill will find its beneficiaries: young immigrant men in search of French citizenship. Until now they had to look for a willing French woman to enter a fictive marriage for a consideration of 5,000 to 20,000 Euro. Now they can «marry» a Frenchman, hopefully for less outlay. Though French gays do not plan to marry each other, they intend to use the new law and import youthful sex partners from Tangiers, the homo-capital of North Africa, as their rightful spouses.
Adoption agencies are glad, too. Each adoption brings tens of thousands dollars to the agencies, and now they will have new clients, for the new bill explicitly allows the gay couples to adopt children. Middle Eastern wars like the Syrian civil war encouraged by France will provide the desired orphans. Or not necessarily orphans: there was a famous scandal when the agencies imported children for adoption from war-savaged Darfur. The children were stolen or bought from their parents. Some of them allegedly ended up in the organ transplantation clinics.
The new bill will also give a shot in the arm to the intermediaries who supply surrogate mothers from the former colonies and poor Third World countries; the courts enforce the contracts so these women will have to part with their babies whether they want to or not. Indeed, the new neoliberal law restores the slave trade to the position it lost in 19th century. Moreover, bearing in mind the opening for transplantation, it can launch a kind of neo-cannibalism, too.
The Left accepts all this willingly. French Trots expressed their support for this practice for «a woman’s body belongs to her only, and she should be free to abort, to engage in prostitution or to be a surrogate mother». With such an understanding of “freedom”, there is not much choice between the Trots and Friedmanites. Actually, there is no choice at all. Both the Left and the Right have betrayed their voters.
Europe is in bad shape. This year I surfed on the crest of early spring through many small towns and villages of France, Italy, Spain; the old continent is dying out. Houses stay empty and boarded up; only tourists and immigrants remain at large. The big cities are overcrowded, the rest is dead, as if the dreadful prophecy of Iliya Ehrenburg (as detailed in his 1920s novel DE Trust) that big money will destroy Europe, has come true. The good old Europe was destroyed by a combination of Right and Left policies. Thatcher (and her counterparts in European countries) eliminated the working class, industry, education; shifted incomes from ordinary people to the rich. Afterwards came Blair (and his counterparts elsewhere) who completed the job by destroying the family and planting his surveillance cameras in every courtyard. The Right created debts, the Left came to collect and pay the bankers.
Now in France, the Left is losing the last vestiges of its old glory by enforcing the neoliberal gay adoption law, for the question of adoption annoys people even more than gay marriage. It is a conflict between two rights, the right of gays to marry and the right of children to live with their real mother and father. By preferring gay rights to those of children and their parents, the Left is digging its political grave.

Stalin and Thatcher

The Left set out on its present road with de-Stalinisation. Let’s be clear about this: Joseph Stalin was a rough and hard man who confronted Hitler, Churchill and Truman; he ruled in difficult times, and he can’t be seen a model for today’s politics. However, he – or rather the Party of Stalin – cared for workers. In his day, a qualified worker’s salary was equal to that of a professor; the media belonged to the workers’ state; workers were entitled to free, all-included seaside vacations; children had wonderful summer camps and free education. Unemployment was unheard of. Housing was free, as well as heating, electricity and telephones. Abortions were forbidden by law. The family was strengthened. He even re-established the Church after the Trotsky-led excesses.
Financial geniuses, abortion quacks, gay activists and Zionist leaders (including my late father) were free to pinkwash each other in a friendly labour camp in hospitable Siberia. It is not by accident that the name of Stalin is now making a great comeback in his Russia as a battle cry against neoliberalism. In the cities ruined and devastated by the neoliberal reforms, people dream of putting the guys with big offshore accounts up against the wall, Stalin-style.
Stalin was as rough with the bourgeoisie as Thatcher was with the workers. If Forbes, the leading American publication for the rich, said: “We desperately need more leaders like her”, and the Economist, the leading publication of the British bankers, dared to say “What the world needs now is more Thatcherism, not less”, perhaps it is the time to remember Stalin’s legacy. He nationalised, she privatised, he cared for family, she destroyed it; she gave all to the rich, he gave all to the workers.
And to devotees of non-violence I say: without Stalin, there would be no Gandhi. Or rather, the Mahatma would have been shot by the colonial masters as were his predecessors in 1856. Without Stalin, we would have no Swedish socialism, we would have no welfare state. We would have no decolonisation. If the bosses played fair with us, it was because they were afraid of Stalin. For the Western workers, he was like a hard-boiled elder brother: perhaps he hung out with wrong guys, maybe he belonged to a gang; but because of him, a younger brother would be safe.
In France (as well as in Italy), the Stalinist Communist Party was the second largest party in the country, enjoying massive support. Since de-Stalinisation was forced upon the Party by Khrushchev, it went downhill to its present weak position.
The Communist movement had to be reformed and updated, but de-Stalinisation was too drastic a medicine. The Left lost its beacon and proceeded to swallow every tempting morsel thrown to it by the Masters of Discourse, and choked on it.
One of these morsels was the gender issue. Lenin famously stayed clear of it. He was shocked when Clara Zetkin, the German Communist leader, told him that they discuss sex and marriage with the female comrades. Stop this nonsense, he told her. “Is now the time to amuse proletarian women with discussions on how one loves and is loved, how one marries and is married? Now all the thoughts of women comrades, of the women of the working people, must be directed towards the proletarian revolution, [dealing with] unemployment, falling wages, taxes, and a great deal more.” I can imagine how he would respond to the present gay-marriage brouhaha.
Still, some updates to Marxism are needed. First of all, in its relation to the Church. Now, as the Church is going out to support the workers’ families, the French Left may reconsider its attitude to it, and cooperate with the Church as the great French Communist and a leading intellectual Roger Garaudy has called for: “Marxism will be poorer if it were to forget St. Paul, St. John the Baptist or Pascal; and Christianity will be poorer if it turns away from Marxism”. The enemy is so strong, and his plans are indeed diabolic; we need to integrate Marxist and Christian humanism in order to save mankind. A step in this direction has been made by contemporary Russian communists who successfully interact with the Church; the two work together to stop the liberal attempts to enforce an anti-family agenda. The French should follow their example.

Israel Shamir is back in Russia after a stay in France, and he can be reached on adam@israelshamir.net

English language editing by Ken Freeland

Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.

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