Tuesday, April 18, 2017

France: The Force of People - The Program of Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Below is a translation of the Jean-Luc Mélenchon's election program for 2017 French presidential here).
elections (the original in French is available

Our collective intelligence can overcome all difficulties if we all put ourselves in the service of the common good.

The motto of our Republic, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity "sets a course for us.

We must assume our responsibilities not only for ourselves but also for universal humanity.

I am prepared for it. You are ready, I know.


The presidential monarchy is out of breath. It must be abolished. We want to put an end to the 5th Republic. The oligarchy and the caste in power do not represent the people.

For this, we propose to the French to write a new Constitution, that of the 6th Republic.

The sovereign people must redefine our democratic rules and define new social, ecological and emancipatory rights.


  • Convocation of a Constituent Assembly by referendum (Article 11 of the current Constitution)
  • Transparency throughout the writing of the new Constitution
  • Final referendum for approval by the French people

  • Allow all citizens to participate (paid professional leave during construction)
  • No parliamentary member of the 5th republic
  • Equal numbers of women and men
  • Proportional participation nationally, with participants drawn by lot
This will open a new era: the president-elect, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, will resign to allow the new rules of life to take effect, the newly acquired rights apply immediately.


Reviving the economy will not be enough to create jobs, we must break the financial dominion and limit the power of shareholders. The contract of employment alone does not guarantee the rights of workers and employees, it is the Law that protects. It is time to bring citizenship back into the business.


  • End Stock market dismissals
  • Prohibiting the payment of dividends to companies that dismiss in case of economic difficulties
  • Granting works councils a suspensive right of veto on redundancy plans
  • A right of first refusal to employees to form a cooperative in case of closure or sale of their company
  • Establish the ability of employees to take a vote of no confidence against company directors or projects with an obligation on a company to examine the counter-proposals submitted by the trade unions
  • Ensure the continuity of personal rights outside the employment contract (right to training, seniority, etc.)
  • Guaranteeing income in the event of loss of employment or withdrawal of activity, within the framework of occupational social security
An economic policy that creates jobs, useful ecologically and socially, new rights for employees and their representatives in companies.


The public justice system can no longer properly carry out its mission. The courts are wasting away, human and financial resources are lacking, litigants and legal professionals are entitled to demand an unprecedented effort.

  • Recruitment of staff to relieve congestion in courts and shorten deadlines
  • Renovation of prison premises and construction of courts
  • Increase in the number of prison officers to ensure dignity in prison
  • Putting to an end the reliance on prison sentences with alternative penalties
  • Guaranteeing the judicial protection of young people by giving priority to prevention and by using educational sanctions
  • Disestablish the Court of Justice to enable ministers to face ordinary justice
  • Guarantee judicial independence
  • Disencumbering police action by legalising cannabis and controlling the production and sale by the state
  • Repeal ineffective security laws and strengthen prevention policies
  • A judicial policy equal to the ambitions of equality of all before the law and which rejects the "double standards"

We need a police force of the Republic guaranteeing internal security and safety. Human and financial means must be provided to protect individual and collective freedoms. Prevention, deterrence, sanction: the fight for security will not be effective without resting on these three requirements.

  • An end to the aberrant policy of setting arrest numbers
  • Rehabilitate the local police by reorganising the municipal police forces and dismantling the Brigade anti-criminalité[1]
  • Give priority to the dismantling of trafficking (drugs, arms, human beings, corruption, terrorism)
  • Plan for the recruitment of gendarmes, police officers (2007 numbers), administrative, technical and scientific staff
  • Renovating police stations and improving public relations
  • End the state of emergency: exceptional powers do not protect better than the rule of law
  • Strengthen territorial intelligence by developing human resources
  • Fight the communitarian logic that seeks to divide us. Fighting against recruitment in prison
A justice policy commensurate with the ambitions of equality of all before the law and which rejects the "double standards"


Instead of fighting finance, Hollande and Valls helped it pillage the real economy. Revenue from shares in France is the highest in Europe. Financial bubbles threaten our jobs. We must protect the real economy from finance!

  • Separation of speculating merchant banks and retail banks that help investors in the real economy
  • Control capital movements to defeat tax evasion and avoidance and prevent attacks by speculators

  • An effective tax on financial transactions
  • Maximum wage ratio between the top and bottom earners within a single company 1 to 20
  • Supervision of the exorbitant revenues of the largest shareholders
  • Right of pre-emption for employees in the event of sale of their business
  • Reduction in bank charges
  • Compel Société Générale to repay 2.2 billion euros to the State following the recognition of its responsibility in the case known as Jérôme Kerviel[2]
  • Pursuing financial criminals
A policy of "definancialisation" of the real economy and fight against stock market speculation.


10% unemployment! 6 million unemployed workers. The fear of unemployment is an effective muzzle to prevent workers from claiming their rights and wage increases. It is not the "war to the unemployed" that must be carried out, it is to revive the activity and create jobs. Solidarity protectionism is at the service of the general interest against multinationals and financial globalisation. The great movements of the world must stop!

  • Creating 3.5 million jobs through reduced working time, energy transition, peasant agriculture, marine economy, civil service and youth contracts
  • Invest 100 billion euros to boost activity in major projects of national interest
  • Increase the net monthly wage to €1,326 and upgrade the frozen salaries of officials
  • Rejection of the international free trade agreements: TAFTA with the United States, CETA with Canada and TISA’s liberalisation of services
  • Mileage and Carbon Tax on Imports
  • Emergency protectionist measures to save strategic industries (steel, photovoltaic, ...)
  • Prohibition of child labour and trade retaliation against tax havens
  • Prohibition of stock market dismissals and the payment of dividends in enterprises using economic redundancies
A policy of creating new jobs, which protects workers by promoting production in France.


With the governments of Fillon/Sarkozy and Hollande/Valls, the retirement age has risen to 66 years with 43 years of contributions for a full pension! After years of work, "seniors" find themselves unemployed while waiting for a discounted and minimal pension. It's insane!

  • 60-year full-rate retirement with a contribution period for a full retirement following of 40 years.
  • Retirement pensions at the level of the average wage level for a full career and the minimum old age at 1000 € (200 € more)
  • To make the solidarity regime between generations sustainable by rejecting European policies in favour of funding retirement
  • Establish a solidarity tax on the financial revenues of enterprises
  • Expand the basis for contributions to the pension scheme by allowing self-employed persons, craftsmen, traders, small and medium-sized businesses to contribute to the general scheme
A retirement policy that guarantees the right to retire at age 60 and the augmentation of small pensions.


Equality between women and men is an important social issue! Even today, with equivalent positions and qualifications, women are paid less than men. The part-time constraints affect 80% of women. Maternity remains a "risk" for many women's careers. Consequence: many women in precarious situations, even poverty, and families in distress.

  • Generalisation of enterprise agreements against wage and career inequalities between women and men
  • Financial and criminal penalties against companies that do not respect this equality (including up to a ban on access to public contracts)
  • Parity between women and men in representative institutions (political, Administrative, etc.)
  • Parental leave of equal duration for parents
  • Strengthen family planning in its mission of training and education, for contraception and a right to abortion
  • Limiting the use of staggered shift schedules
  • Fighting Violence Against Women
A policy of equality between women and men and emancipation through the protection of the human rights of women.


30,000 children are homeless in our country. Nearly one million people are without personal housing, 4 million are badly housed, 12 million have rental problems or live in dirty or unhealthy housing. All have a right to a dignified life.

  • Prohibition of evictions without a relocation solution
  • Target of Zero Homeless: Everyone must be offered accommodation or emergency housing
  • Construction of one million public housing units to ecological standards
  • Ecological renovation plan to isolate 3.5 million dwellings and eradicate unhealthy homes
  • Establishment of a one-stop shop for the ecological renovation of the home of individual owners
  • Universal guarantee of rents to promote access to housing for all
  • Assist participatory and cooperative habitat initiatives (projects between several tenants and owners)
  • Progressive tax on transactions in excess of €1 million for private dwellings
A housing policy that guarantees a roof to the most vulnerable and gives new rights to tenants and owners.


Sharing of wealth is also achieved through taxation. Our country is rich. But the money is taken by some, instead of being made available through taxation to be put in the service of the general interest. It must be re-founded on a clear and redistributive basis. Everyone already pays unjust taxes like the value-added tax (VAT) or the contribution sociale généralisée (CSG)[3]. With the tax revolution, everyone will contribute according to their real means.

  • Make income tax more progressive with a 14-slice scale instead of 5 today
  • Impose on income from capital as well as labour through a broad and unified tax base
  • Remove tax niches considered unfair, socially inefficient or environmentally harmful
  • Surcharge on income above € 400,000 per year (€ 33,000 per month)
  • Reducing VAT on basic necessities, cancelling recent increases and reinstating a "luxury VAT" to finance these decreases
  • Reinforcing the solidarity tax on wealth for assets over one million euros
  • Increase inheritance rights on large estates (no tax on inheritances of below 130 000 euros per child)
  • Create a maximum inheritance for fortunes above 30 million euros (the richest 0.01%)
This tax policy will lower taxes for people who earn less than 4000 euros per month and will reduce inequalities by redistributing wealth.


Climate change requires the emission of greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power is not a solution for the future and an accident will have disastrous consequences with no going back. We have to get out of it. It is a significant technical and human challenge. Scientific studies show that this is possible by 2050. Only political will is lacking. We have it!

  • Stop subsidies for fossil fuels and any prospecting of shale and coal gas, and oil
  • Ending reliance on nuclear power by starting with the immediate closure of the Fessenheim plant by guaranteeing the employment of employees and their training
  • Abandonment of Nuclear Reactor Projects and Nuclear Dump Policy near the village Bure in the east of France
  • Energy transition plan to renewable energies based on sobriety and efficiency: 100% renewable target by 2050
  • Public Centre of Energy to lead a coherent national policy, renationalizing EDF[4] and Engie[5]
  • Development and investment in the search for alternative, non-polluting energies, particularly renewable marine energies
An energy policy that respects the ecosystem, serves the general human interest and guarantees the viability of the planet.


We will ensure a decent life for all, by ensuring access to drinking water and energy. According to the UN, the world will face a global shortage of water by 2030. Water is a common good that cannot be monopoliSed by private interests.

  • Establish free access to the necessary quantities of water for a dignified life
  • Prohibit water cut-offs and flow reductions at home
  • PenaliSe the misuse and waste by introducing progressive pricing
  • International support for global access to water and sanitation
  • Prohibiting the discharge of polluted water into rivers and the sea without prior treatment
  • Ensuring public ownership of sanitation
  • Return to a public water authority by not renewing the management contracts of private companies
  • Involving users, elected representatives and professionals in public bodies
A policy of free access to the first 1000 litres of water and public management of its access.


Agriculture provides most of our food. Yet the current agricultural model destroys everything: the ecosystem, the health of consumers and that of the peasants. We can do things differently: producing food differently for better nourishment.

  • Ban GMOs, and banish harmful pesticides (glyphosate, neonicotinoids, etc.)
  • Moving towards a 100% organic local food in collective catering
  • Reducing the proportion of meat proteins in the diet to the benefit of vegetable proteins
  • Facilitating the installation of young farmers to create 300,000 agricultural jobs and a renegotiation of the Common Agricultural Policy[6]
  • Stop projects from factory farms where animals are abused
  • Focus on local distribution networks, and limit the margins of large-scale distribution to guarantee remunerative prices for producers
An organic agricultural policy ensuring prices accessible to consumers and remunerative for farmers.


The European Union is on the verge of dislocation. It did not want to listen to the refusals of the peoples since the French referendum of 2005. The European Commission, made up of bureaucrats and dominated by Germany, wants to oblige the countries to repay debts the majority of which are bank debts!

  • Stop liberalisation and privatisation of public services requested by Brussels
  • Amend the Statutes of the European Central Bank so that it can lend directly to states
  • Disobedience to the absurd rule governing state deficits at 3% (stability pact)
  • End of the directive on the posting of workers in France: the social contributions must be the same for all
  • Negotiating a democratic, social and ecological restructuring of the European Union
  • Submit the result of the negotiations to the sovereign French people to decide the participation or the exit of the European Union
Plan B
  • Suspension of France's contribution to the budget of the European Union (€ 22 billion per year of which € 7 billion of "net" contribution)
  • Transformation of the euro into a common currency which is no longer singular
  • Control of capital and goods at national borders
A policy to exit the European treaties which impose budgetary austerity, free-trade and destruction of public services.


France is a universalist nation. The quinquenniums Sarkozy and Holland locked France in NATO and in the wake of the United States' military follies. To promote peace and cooperation, regaining independence is an absolute necessity!

  • Refuse any military intervention without a United Nations mandate, the only legitimate body guaranteeing collective security
  • Leaving NATO and refusing any permanent military alliance
  • Stop the Europe of the Defence, which prepares the war under the command of the United States
  • Building peace in Syria and Iraq through the establishment of a universal coalition under the aegis of the UN
  • Revise hypocritical alliances with the Gulf's petro-monarchies (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, ...)
  • Recognise the Palestinian state and support the two-state solution peacefully coexisting
  • To end Francafrica by respecting the sovereignty of the African States and that of the peoples
  • Join the BRICS Development Bank (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and build a new Anti-Globalist alliance
A sovereign and anti-globalization policy that ensures the return of the strength to the UN to face imbalances and threats to stability and peace.


Migration is too serious a subject to reduce it to opportunistic outbidding and uncontrolled drives. The first task is to allow everyone to live at home because emigrating is always a suffering for the one who leaves.

  • Apply active and independent diplomacy to the cause of peace to stop migrants needing to flee from their country by stopping wars and ending unequal trade agreements that destroy local economies
  • Rethinking the European policy of control of external borders by refusing the militarization of migration control
  • Working towards the creation of a United Nations-linked World Organisation of Migration
  • To reaffirm the right of asylum by welcoming refugees who come under it through an administration adapted to this mission
  • Respect the human dignity of migrants, particularly in host camps
  • Ensure the fundamental right to family life by stopping the placement of children in detention centres and assisting unaccompanied minors
A policy that respects migrants and seeks to address wars, global warming and free trade the which cause migration.


The French health system has long been the best in the world. But today, austerity and commodification have abused it. Health must become a right again for all!

  • National plan for the prevention of diseases related to pollution, pesticides, food, drug and alcohol use, suffering at work and stress
  • Department of general practitioners, State officials, who will work in rural and regional areas
  • 100% reimbursement of prescribed care: free dental, optical and hearing care and equipment, lower glasses price
  • Public centre of medicine to lower prices and protect medical research from financial speculation of pharmaceutical laboratories
  • Increased capacity in hospitals and recruitment of doctors, nurses and assistants to make the public hospital a service of high medical and human quality
A public and preventive health policy tailored to the needs of all people, regardless of where they live and whatever their income.


Education is not a commodity. It is the basis on which we build our person. It is time to repair the damage by educating better and more.

  • Compulsory education from 3 to 18 years, adapting the pedagogies and the school trajectories.
  • The materials and associated activities free of charge: canteen, transport, extracurricular activities, textbooks, supplies
  • Reduce the number of pupils per class in primary and nursery schools and support networks for the students in difficulty
  • Revision of the school map to ensure social mix
  • Valorisation of the profession of teacher through their remuneration, their mission and the means of exercise
  • Recruitment of 60,000 additional teachers in 5 years
  • Repeal of the Carle law which obliges municipalities to finance private education
  • Restore the duration of the professional baccalaureate to 4 years[7]
  • Organise a complete territorial network by increasing the number of vocational schools
A policy of education that gives meaning to the mission of instruction. Everyone has the right to be educated and qualified.


Culture is the basis of individual and collective emancipation. Today it is the victim of decades of destructive liberalism. Creation and artistic practices in all their forms deserve to be encouraged. Our cultural policy aims to develop art, creation and knowledge, to guarantee a stable and lasting status for artists and cultural actors.

  • 1% of GDP for art, culture and creation
  • Defence of international exception and diversity cultural
  • Develop cultural awareness through training in culture from all levels of education
  • Creation of a public online media library, with a legal offer platform for music, films and cultural content
  • Removal of the ineffective Hadopi law [8] and introduction of a universal subscription on internet subscriptions to finance non-commercial downloading
  • To perpetuate the regime of intermittent performers on the basis of the agreement of 28 April 2016 and extend it to precarious artistic professions
A popular and ambitious cultural policy. Let us not reserve culture to a privileged minority.


With 11 million km2, France has the second largest maritime territory in the world. It is a space to explore activity for the ecological recovery. Energy, food, medicine, transport, so many resources are within our reach if we know how to use them with intelligence and awareness of the ecological issue.

  • Create 300,000 jobs focused on the marine economy
  • Open a public maritime vocational high school in each coastal and overseas department
  • Develop "blue classes" so that each child can see the sea
  • Renewable marine energy (EMRs) to at least 13 GW by 2030 and 30 GW by 2050
  • Nationalisation of the Alstom Marine Energy division sold to General Electric
  • Implementing a plan for overseas energy self-sufficiency
  • Establish a plan for the renewal of the fishing fleet under ecological conditions, beginning with the 1,700 vessels over 35 years old
  • Developing offshore aquaculture around off-shore wind farms
A policy that engages France in an ecological "Sea Plan" by creating 300,000 jobs.


Space is a formidable challenge for humanity. Our nation, focused on space, can spearhead the research and development of related technologies. It is the object of commercial lusts. It is, in the same way as air or water, a common good, which must be protected from the rapacity of the financial oligarchy.

  • Continue scientific discovery of the universe via terrestrial and space observatories
  • Following up on the Rosetta mission, which, together with the Philae probe, enabled us to improve our knowledge of the origin of living organisms
  • Developing Interplanetary Missions (Mars)
  • Launch a land-based orbit clean-up program
  • Launch a light pollution control program that deprives part of the population of the sight of the stars and harms the observations
  • Ensure a permanent human presence in space
  • Launch the renewal of the International Space Station
  • Propose the creation of a permanent base on the Moon
An ambitious space research policy in the service of knowledge and international cooperation to enable more nations to have access to space.


The digital world is a new frontier of humanity. The activities related to the virtual, the Internet and the robotics are an opportunity for France! Private interests seek to profit from it. If this field is left to the multinationals, they will make it a space of submission to the financial logics and restriction of freedoms. We must affirm the general character of the digital revolution.

  • Remove Hadopi law, an ineffective and costly law against piracy
  • Ensuring broadband Internet coverage across the country
  • Prohibit generalised filing and delete the "honest people" file (TES file)
  • Protecting personal data, including those hosted abroad, and fighting against their mercantile use
  • Reclaiming public control over digital and telecommunications technologies (submarine cables, satellite launches)
  • Guaranteeing net neutrality to ensure unrestricted and unrestricted access
  • Encourage the creation of collective places for the creation of digital tools (Fablabs)
  • Fostering French creations in the field of video games
A policy that puts the digital revolution and technology at the service of human progress.

1 An arm of the French National Police which specialises in interventions into public housing estates.
2 Jérôme Kerviel - a French trader who was convicted in the 2008 Société Générale trading loss for breach of trust, forgery and unauthorised use of the bank's computers, resulting in losses valued at €4.9 billion. Société Générale characterised Kerviel as a rogue trader and claimed Kerviel worked these trades alone and without its authorization – claim which is widely viewed with scepticism.
3 CSG is compulsory flat levy which funds French social security system
4 EDF is France’s largest power company formed in 1946, it the French government partially privatised it in 2005, floating 15% of the company on the stock exchange.
5 ENGIE is France’s second largest power company and one of the world’s oldest multinational corporations, the French government holds a 33% stake in ENGIE.
6 The Common Agricultural Policy is the agricultural policy of the EU. It includes the administration of subsidies.
7 Vocational degree, which is currently earned after two or three years depending on the type of secondary education.
8 law dealing with copyright, which allowed individuals who had been found to have violated copyright laws to have their internet access suspended (this aspect of the law was suspended as it was deemed disproportionate) and for fines to be issued.


Friday, February 24, 2017

France: Indefence of the NPA's struggle against Islamophobia

The fight against Islamophobia: When Lutte Ouvrière Reverses the Hierarchy of Standards
by Julien Salingue, Christine Poupin, Ugo Palheta, Selma Oumari
Originally published February 2 on npa2009.org

On January 15, Lutte Ouvrière (LO) posted on its website[1] an (unsigned) article "The trap of the “fight against Islamophobia”", drawn from the most recent issue of their monthly magazine Lutte de Classe. Anyone who has followed the positions and analyses of LO concerning the "debates on Islam", which have regularly shaken up the French political field for the last fifteen years, would not have been surprised at the substance of the "Argument”. But LO's arguments and reasoning, not to mention its attacks on individuals and organisations, merit attention ... and deserve a response.

Fight against the fight against Islamophobia
We know LO's precision and rigor, and cannot fail to notice that the use of quotation marks in the title of the article is not trivial: "The trap of the "fight against Islamophobia ". The problem is not, therefore, the term "Islamophobia", the relevance of which LO has regularly challenged, but the "fight against Islamophobia" itself. This is confirmed by the content of the article, whose target is not those who defend the use of the term "Islamophobia" but those who intend to combat Islamophobic violence and discrimination.

It is indeed a novelty: even if LO continues to call the term "Islamophobia" "ambiguous", we are no longer in the phrasing of 2010[2], when we read that " Islamophobia often implies a rejection of all those who share the Muslim faith, which is a nonsense, not only when it refers to the attitude of the revolutionary communists, but even as regards the attitude of French imperialism and those who serve it at the highest level ". Indeed, LO recognizes the existence of discrimination against Muslims, and even adopts the formula "specific oppression": "A part of the French political class currently rejects and discriminates Muslims, at least the poor, those of cities and factories, for it certainly does not reject the billionaires of the Gulf theocracies. And it is understandable that many young people feel they are victims of a specific oppression, which does exist."

It will be noted here that some formulations remain "ambiguous", but even if LO does not recognize or explain this evolution, it is clear that from "the nonsense" to "specific oppression", the path has been traveled In recent years, probably because of the increasingly visible rise of Islamophobia, gained strength after the attacks of 2015-2016. But it is not the least of the paradoxes that we can not find in the rest of the text any analysis of the development of this oppression that constitutes Islamophobia, nor any concrete proposals to combat stigmatization, discrimination and violence targeting Specifically Muslims (or presumed as such). Instead, LO engages in a widely ignorant diatribe of debates and work on the issue [3], thus aiming to legitimize in advance those who are fighting these fights, and to propose as their only perspective the fight against religion in general, and Islamic fundamentalism in particular.

This was accompanied by recurring attacks against the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (New Anti-Capitalist Party - NPA), which was accused of "demonstrating a good deal of demagogy towards Islam " and implicitly abandoning any framework of Marxist analysis.

Statements of intent and ill-adjusted attacks
In a first step, the article of LO undertakes to list various initiatives organized by the "anti-Islamophobia galaxy" (gatherings, meetings, conferences, etc.) and to demonstrate, by "presenting" that these initiatives were "forums for Islamist and communalist organizations", with the support of a part of the extreme left. LO specifies its objective: "These different initiatives do not necessarily lend themselves to criticism. The question is who organizes these initiatives, what ideas they express, and what activists who call themselves extreme left do and say at them. A mere declaration of intent, for even by reading the article carefully, one will never know "what ideas have been expressed" in these initiatives, nor what the militants of the extreme left "did or said".

Instead, a series of attacks on some of the organizations and individuals associated with these gatherings or rallies will be necessary, which, if they contain some of the criticisms we can share, testify above all to the profound ignorance regarding these organizations, or even a propensity for selectivity that borders on bad faith. Thus we learn that the 
Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (Collective against Islamophobia in France - CCIF) could be summarized by the fact that one of its spokesmen, Marwan Muhammad, is a "former stock trader" who once held a common platform with a fundamentalist imam, signed texts with a leader of a conservative association and "[he] affirmed that polygamy did not concern him". That's all? That's all.

We will not know "what ideas" the CCIF defends in the initiatives complained about (against Islamophobia or the state of emergency), and one will not know either, which is not surprising coming from LO , Which is not in the habit of forgetting to propose class analyses, that this "communalist organisation" pronounced, last spring, against the Labor Law, and called for mobilisations against it . No mention was also made of the statement signed in April 2016[4] by the then CCIF spokesman Yasser Louati, who criticized Valls' anti-social policy and accused him of trying to "mask his budget" by a Speech stigmatizing Muslims. Finally, there is no mention of the article published on the CCIF website last November, whose explicit title should not have escaped LO: "Burkini fiasco: A distraction from the attack of El Khomri’s Work Law on workers.
A few lines are also devoted to the Union des organisations islamiques de France (Union of Islamic Organizations of France - UOIF), present during one of the incriminated initiatives: the meeting of 6 March 2015 "against Islamophobia and the climate of war security", during which, Let us specify it since LO forgets to do so, the UOIF did not take the floor. But LO does not need to talk about the slogans of the meeting, nor about the content of the speeches: only the presence among the signatories of the UOIF is sufficient. Again, the demonstration is a little short. Or it will be necessary for LO to explain why, in October 2004, one could find on its site an invitation to join a demonstration "against anti-Semitism, racism and all discrimination" whose appeal had been signed by many organizations, among others LO and ... the UOIF. Was it because LO felt that the issue was important and the slogans relevant? Probably. Does this mean that for LO the fight against discrimination against Muslims and against the "climate of war security" would be a lesser challenge? It would seem that the answer is yes.

False arguments, real pretexts
The "arguments" of Lutte Ouvrière are in fact very weak, and more resemble pretexts to justify non-involvement in the struggle against Islamophobia. The article is in fact incapable of reporting a single pronounced sentence or a single idea defended during these various initiatives, which would make it possible to qualify the latter as "communalist" or "Islamist" rallies. Obviously, it is not a question of adopting an acritic position in relation to the positions defended by these or other initiatives, but in this case LO ignores these positions - to take an interest in the "ideas which express themselves there". What were these ideas? A critique of the government's discriminatory, authoritarian and war policies, a denunciation of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, solidarity with oppressed peoples, etc. One reality, everyone will admit, poorly adjusted to the political and theoretical framework of LO. Unless it is the other way round?

We will spare ourselves here, even if we are tempted to do too much about the three lines devoted to the gathering organized on January 18 in Paris against Islamophobia:
"At the rally of January 18, 2015, young people waving flags Algerian, Turkish, Moroccan, panels bearing suras of the Qur’an, and a large banner: "Touch not my prophet". Commentaries worthy of an article by L'Express or the pitiful attempts to delegitimise, on the part of the Zionist mouth pieces, demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people. In this respect, one can not fail to notice that the method of trying to detect at any price the traces of "Islamic fundamentalism" within the fronts of the struggle against Islamophobia is, to be mistaken, similar to the methods of those who try to detect at any price traces of anti-Semitism within the fronts of fighting the policy of the State of Israel. "The current campaign should not make the revolutionaries lose any compass," LO told us at the beginning of his article. We can here only return the compliment to him.

Behind these pretexts, it is difficult not to perceive the total lack of will on the part of LO to mobilize concretely against Islamophobia and to participate in fronts alongside organizations whose anti-capitalists and revolutionaries can also be very distant. A policy which LO is able to carry out when the "cause" seems to him to be just, without requiring certificates of good conduct from all the components of the front, even if he sometimes renounces certain principles that seem suddenly intangible when he " Is working with Muslim organizations.

It will be remembered that on March 6, 2004, LO had the choice to parade, during the annual mobilization for the International Day for the rights of women, in the procession organized by the association Ni putes ni soumises (Neither whores nor subjects - NPNS), which had refused to sign the appeal of the Collectif national pour les droits des femmes (National Collective for Women's Rights - CNDF). Fadela Amara then explained: "Today, the priority is to defend the values of the secular Republic, not to stand against the government[5]. LO, who felt that the urgency of the day, in the midst of a "veil debate", was to express solidarity with women denouncing Islamic fundamentalism, decided to march with the "defenders of the Values of the secular Republic ", and Arlette Laguiller thus found herself, in the lead contingent, alongside, among others, Nicole Guedj, then Minister of the Chirac-Raffarin-Sarkozy government, known to stand on every occasion on the side of the exploited and the oppressed. Strange compass, that of LO ...

The "race" and "white feminism": theoretical confusion ... voluntary?
The "targeted attacks" of LO are, as we have seen, are very awkward and unconvincing, in particular in that they reveal indignations - and principles - of variable geometry, and ignorance of the actors and actions of the "galaxy of anti-Islamophobia ". It is probably to mask these paradoxes and ignorance that the article develops, in a second step, an argument that is more "theoretical", especially regarding the concepts of "race" and "white feminism", but also of the Marxist analysis of religious phenomenon.

Concerning race, LO pretends to believe that to speak of "racialised" implies to affirm the existence of the races in the biological sense, and thus to align themselves with the extreme right (although the extreme right has now swapped its biological racism for a cultural racism much more accepted in the political field). The social implications - both material and ideological - of racism, which are manifested in a systematic inequality of treatment between whites and non-whites, in other words the social construction of white domination and a division which tends to become structural within the proletariat, between those who suffer racist discrimination and those who, on the contrary, are not the object of it.

To deny these social implications is to deny racism and to refuse to see that, according to whether one appears white or not (and one knows how the fact of being identified as Muslim-Sarkozy had spoken of the " Muslim appearance"- can immediately shift to being non-white, access to a job (and especially to a properly paid, stable job, etc.), or housing, will be very uneven. They will not receive equal treatment from institutions (particularly by the police), suffering regular harassment, even humiliation, and so on. The non-existence of biological races in no way implies the absence of oppression and social divisions on the basis of skin color or religion.

Speaking of "racialised" or "social races", political anti-racist activists (but also many human and social scientists) say nothing other than the persistence of racism and material divisions which it creates, consolidates and reproduces within the very bosom of the popular classes. This is not a purely theoretical debate, because a practical consequence immediately follows from this: to put an end to these divisions, it is not enough simply to remove the word "race" with a stroke of the pen, or to banish it from its vocabulary "(as the LO article says); strange way, for so-called materialists, to believe in the power of words (or their absence). In order to put an end to "races" (in the social sense), that is to say, with racial divisions and discrimination, we must end racism as an institutionalized system!

If LO is incapable of admitting the persistence of racial groups (which are the products of racism), but also of structural inequalities of gender, linked to sexuality or disadvantage, it is probably that this simple fact denies the idea of a homogeneous working class that a party could embody through mobilization in the workplace alone. Far from concealing this domination under the carpet of workers' unity, denying or minimizing the implications of this oppression, anti-capitalists and revolutionaries must put them at the heart of their action in order to achieve class unity on the basis of an equality between its various components. This requires active support in the self-organization of the oppressed, as well as the defense of the democratic demands that emerge. Whether it is for women, people who are victims of homophobia, people with disabilities, transphobia, etc., our principle is the right to organise, and if they wish autonomously. The emancipation of the oppressed will be the work of the oppressed themselves!

This constant attention to oppression - in all its forms and in all strata of society, as Lenin argued[6] - is a strategic necessity for addressing the most oppressed but also often the most combative elements of the proletariat. In this sense, the existence and development of women-led feminist organisations, as well as other self-organisation, and therefore potentially autonomous, initiatives such as the decolonial camp, are encouraging signs for the movement that we want to build and for class unity. For this is never given; it is the product of a constant struggle against everything that, in a concrete capitalist society, works daily to divide those who should be united – workers - and to unite those who should be divided - capitalists and workers.

Any movement against oppression, even if its leaders do not pretend to pursue this objective, favors a higher level of unity of the exploited class, even when it appears at first to divide it . For it is by taking account of real divisions and by favoring the self-organization of the oppressed struggling to break down such divisions that concrete work is being done to create class unity and not by appealing for abstract unity around claims which, although they must obviously be defended and popularized, do not magically remove the inequalities and divisions within the class.

"Communism and religion"?
The developments relating to the Marxist analysis of the religious phenomenon are less surprising and original in that they echo much of the debates that we have already had, in almost identical terms, over the last fifteen years. It is essentially a divergence as to the practical consequences to be drawn from the contradictory nature of the religious phenomenon, as summarized in Marx's famous formula: " Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people" [7]

A contradiction which Lutte Ouvrière proposes to solve as follows: "Marx knew that religious prejudices were the consequences of oppression, and that they would not disappear before a profound transformation of society [...]. For all that, Marxists have always considered anti-religious propaganda indispensable. To be a communist is to be a materialist, and to be a materialist is to be an atheist. One can be an atheist and fight, in a strike, alongside a believing worker. But this does not mean that it is the duty of any communist revolutionary to not try to snatch the militants he wants to win over his cause, but even his comrades of work and struggle from the influence of religion. A proposition which is in reality only a negation of the contradictory character of the religious phenomenon.

For the whole problem is that "to be materialistic" is also to have a materialistic approach to the religious phenomenon. A materialistic approach which LO renounces, considering "religion" in an essentialist way, as a reactionary force everywhere and always, that it would be a question of fighting at all times and in all places by the dissemination of "anti-religious propaganda Independently of the political, economic, social and ideological forces. A materialistic approach summarised by Lenin in a 1909 article[8], in which he explains in particular that "the atheistic propaganda of social-democracy [= revolutionaries] must be subordinated to its fundamental task, namely: Class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters. Four years earlier [9], Lenin was already warning: "In no case should we be misled into the idealistic abstractions of those who pose the religious problem in terms of "pure reason", apart from the class struggle, as often radical democrats from the bourgeoisie".

To think of the religious phenomenon is to think of the material reality in which it is inscribed: Marx and the Marxists have repeatedly explained this by stressing that ideas, including religious ones, do not exist independently of the social forces that take it. "Religion can thus express different and even contradictory social and political dynamics: would it come to anyone's mind to pretend that" the "Catholic religion had the same meaning and the same significance, during the years 1960-1970, for the workers of Northern Ireland and for the dignitaries of the Franco regime? Obviously, no. Leon Trotsky[10] said nothing else in 1933 about the United States: "The baptism of a Black man is something totally different from the Baptism of a Rockfeller. They are two different religions. "

The same goes for Islam today: Islam practiced, even claimed, by certain categories of the population residing in France, cannot be considered on the same level as the Islam of the Saudi regime or the Iranian regime, even if, in the last resort, it were the same "religious dogma". In one case, Islam is a religion oppressed by the state; In the other, it is a tool of oppression of the state: this should not leave indifferent militants fixing for task the overthrow of capitalism and its institutions.
Let us go farther: in many cases - as analyzed in particular by F. Engels, R. Luxemburg or A. Gramsci [11] - religion has been the source of popular revolts, the language in which the will of the oppressed was expressed To overthrow the world, and thus the vehicle of their progressive and even revolutionary aspirations. From primitive Christians to liberation theology in Latin America, to the fringes of Christian youth in France in the 1960s and 1970s, the "dogma" could be interpreted in an egalitarian and militant sense, inclining to an action Aimed at bringing a world free from exploitation and oppression to life here without expecting any salvation in the hereafter.

When LO defends the reversal of the hierarchy of norms
Do not the Marxists have to give up fighting in France the influence of the currents of fundamentalist Islam? Obviously, no! But this struggle must be part of the existing relations of forces, and in the specific configuration of the class struggle in France: to paraphrase Lenin, this struggle is subordinated to the development of concrete mobilizations against the bourgeoisie and its capitalist state. The question thus arises: in France in 2017, the development of groups fighting against the authoritarian and warlike forward flight of the state and against discrimination that not only decimates the existence of millions of people but which, moreover, weaken the whole of our social camp, is it a positive or negative element on the scale of the global power relations between the classes? The answer is, from our point of view, in the question-LO's anti-religious obsession led the organization to refuse to participate in fronts that are nevertheless so many corners buried in the "historic block" that the French bourgeoisie is trying to consolidate by rallying to its cause entire fractions of the wage worker in the name of the "fight against terrorism". In this field, LO actually practices a reversal of the hierarchy of norms, subordinating the development of the class struggle to anti-religious propaganda and the struggle against fundamentalism. To reject a priori any specific alliance around a question - racism, here in the form of Islamophobia - which profoundly structures capitalist societies, and this in the name of so-called "materialistic principles", is to refrain to act in concrete terms in the relations of political and social forces.

Forgetting, in passing, one of the fundamental achievements of Trotsky, of which LO loves to claim, which explained in 1928, about the hypothetical alliances with the Chinese Kuomintang: "For a long time it has been said that agreements that are not binding on us in any way and create no political obligation, may, if it is advantageous at the moment, be concluded with the devil himself. But it would be absurd to demand at the same time that on this occasion the devil should convert completely to Christianity ... "[12]. Let us not be mistaken here on the reference to this metaphor of Trotsky: we do not wish to convert anyone to Christianity! But it must be emphasized that in other contexts, Marxists had the opportunity, when they felt that the situation required it, to come to terms with various currents, even very distant, without this signifying That they renounced their independence.

The fronts in which the NPA is participating are not in any way the frameworks in which we clasp our hands, nor the systems of alliance that would oblige us to abandon our criticism of religious fundamentalism, whatever it may be. Contrary to what LO suggests, an initiative involving an individual or a current claiming to be Islam is not mechanically a proselytizing initiative (such as the authors of the law of 15 March 2004, who claim absurd that the mere wearing of a religious sign is in itself an act of proselytism). Unless we consider that the Muslims would be, independently of the positions they defend and of what they say - since, let us recall, LO does not say a word about the content of the initiatives criticized in the article, by their nature proselytes.

Muslims, therefore fundamentalists according to LO?
It seems that according to LO, an alliance between Muslims and Marxists necessarily means that they [Marxists] are "making concessions", never questioning whether the Muslims do not also strongly admonished for having accepted to join initiatives where there are also atheists, even communists. This is the case, however, with fundamentalist currents which subordinate all activity to "Islamisation" and bluntly criticize those Muslims who are accused of compromise: a striking symmetry with the LO's invective towards a part of the far left.

And it is a rather striking element that this essentialisation of Muslim anti-racist militants as necessarily non-Marxists or necessarily from backgrounds resistant to the political culture of the radical left. Where LO only sees in Bibimoune Nargesse as a veiled woman (and according to LO as a "voluntary slave"), we also know from her that she is part of a generation of radically anti-capitalist militants whose Theoretical references are Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis. As she recalls in her book Confidences à mon veile[13]: "Tell them it is not you who pay us twenty-five percent less than men, tell them you are not responsible for the fact that one puts on eighty percent of domestic work, tell them that the polemic against you is again to question the appearance of women without ever focusing on their reflection ".

LO criticizes the NPA for putting forward community issues. But is it not to introduce the identity theme - and contribute to Islamophobia - to assimilate an anti-racist militant to Islamic fundamentalism on the pretext that she wears a headscarf? These remarks have nothing to envy to those held by so many ideologists - from Fourest to Valls, through Finkielkraut, Zemmour and Badinter - who have been working since the mid-1990s to transform secularism and / or feminism into instruments of stigmatization and exclusion of Muslims, and particularly Muslim women.

A large part of the Left and the Far Left - including LO - has been involved in promoting identity themes and in the development of Islamophobia over the last 15 years, Exclusion and disregarding for the words of the people concerned (in particular place Muslim women). We inherit this situation, and the weakness of our social camp, as well as the rise of reactionary and extreme right-wing forces of all kinds, is also an effect of our inability to struggle against the offensive Islamophobia that has been raging for so many years.

To conclude this reply, it should be noted that LO's article received the enthusiastic welcome of Fourest and Clavreul - supporters of Manuel Valls and defenders of a fundamentalist vision of secularism, clearly turned against Muslims - but also of Natacha Polony, a figure of neo-conservative thought. Obviously, we have the friends and the enemies that we deserve. But the essential is not there: it is in (at least) three important divergences between our two organizations.

  1. The first divergence concerns Islamophobia itself. Contrary to what LO wrote at the beginning of its article, Islamophobia goes far beyond a simple "illusion", "diversion" or "smoke screen". Moreover, as Pierre Tevanian reminds us, "for all those who are not smoking, who do not take this smoke in their mouth, it has the only effect of preventing them from seeing a part of reality. But for those who take this smoke in the face, it is dangerous, it is toxic, for veiled girls, for their families, for Muslims in general. This law not only reduces their field of vision, but reduces their field of life, turning them from school, dropping out of school, desocialising them, humiliating them, brutalizing them at an age where one is fragile. [...] If there is a smoke screen, let us not also forget that it smothers, it poisons a part of the population " [13].

    Islamophobia, then, is an oppression and, first of all, as an oppression, it must be combated because it has immediate consequences - material, ideological and psychological - for the lives of millions of people (in France and elsewhere), the vast majority of whom belong to the working classes. Indeed, it is not simply a "smokescreen", but an oppression that arouses and reproduces real divisions among the working classes, that it can play so central a role in the strategies of the French ruling class. For the last fifteen years, it has been on Muslim (but also immigrant), and therefore on the identity and racist grounds, that successive governments have sought the consent of one party to the less workers to the capitalist order - where, on the social ground, workers remain massively opposed to the neo-liberal purge and austerity policies.[14]
  2. A second divergence concerns the relationship to the first ones concerned by this oppression. The offensive of last summer around the "burkini" was a lesson of things from this point of view: it is always women who impose clothing injunctions, one way or another. But these injunctions are part of the oppression of women, of the control that some try to assume over their bodies. That is why last August, by protesting at the Port-Leucate beach against the municipal decision to prohibit the port of the burkini on the beaches (a decision which was rejected by the Council of State) We sang "too much covered or not enough, it's up to the women to decide". To put it another way, like almost all the feminist movements in the predominantly Muslim countries, sometimes mass movements that LO chooses to superbly ignore, we are equally opposed to those who want to impose on a woman to wear such or such a garment as to those who wish to force her to remove it.

    More broadly, we consider that self-organization is not a slogan for feast days: anti-capitalist and revolutionary militants do not have to patronize the oppressed on the best way to lead their struggles. The latter did not wait for LO to defend their interests, and they could have waited a long time, - as we have seen – as LO is more anxious to denounce the fight against Islamophobia than to contribute to it . What can we, as activists and as an organization, do is to make the best allies of the struggles of the oppressed, by popularizing their slogans, demands and proposals when they appear to us to go in the direction of a policy of emancipation and the fundamental interests of our social camp.

    It is only by participating in common organisations and common battles that we can convince ourselves that in order to really put an end to oppression we must build class unity and break down capitalist power by revolutionary means. In this struggle for the emancipation of humanity, what counts is not the opinion of the exploited and oppressed on God, salvation, or the origin of the world. As Lenin asserted, "the unity of this truly revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class fighting to create a paradise on earth is more important to us than the unity of opinion of the proletarians over the paradise of heaven." [15]
  3. A third divergence is, finally, in the conception of politics for a revolutionary organization. As illustrated by its presidential campaign, LO is characterized more than ever by a very narrow vision of the political struggle, largely reduced to conflicts in the workplace, to the defense of an emergency program composed of essential demands, but strictly economic (wage increases, prohibitions of dismissals, etc.) and an abstract propaganda for "communism" (of which LO does not say much if one pays attention to it). As we have said above, this economic reductionism is a thousand leagues away from the political practice of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky or Luxemburg. If a revolutionary organization revels in a position of guardian of the dogma and in a routine essentially destined to self-replicate, showing henceforth incapable of contributing actively to the political battles currently being waged against Islamophobia, Urgency or imperialist wars, what could be its usefulness to really change the balance of power in favor of the exploited and the oppressed?
1 Lutte Ouvrière, ‘Le piège de la "lutte contre l’islamophobie"’, Lutte de classe n ° 181, February 2017, http://mensuel.lutte-ouvriere.org/2017/01/22/le-piege-de-la-lutte-contre-lislamophobie_75202.html
2 Lutte Ouvrière, ‘Communisme, religions et intégrismes’, Lutte de classe No. 126, March 2010,
3 These include Abdellali Hajjat and Marwan Mohammed, Islamophobia . Comment les élites françaises fabriquent le "problème musulman", 2013.
4 Yasser Louati, “Vous revoilà encore, Manuel Valls, avec vos obsessions sur l’islam…”, Libération, 14 avril 2016.
5 Charlotte Rotman et Blandine Grosjean, « Un voile sur les combats féministes », Libération, 6 mars 2004, http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2016/04/14/yasser-louati-vous-revoila-encore-manuel-valls-avec-vos-obsessions-sur-l-islam_1446168
6 LO is far removed from the political tradition in which it claims to be registered. In What was to be done? Lenin opposed the revolutionary Social-Democrat (the word used in Russia at the time) to the trade union secretary (in other words, the trade unionist): "The secretary of a English trade unions, for example, constantly helps the workers to carry out the economic struggle, organizes revelations about the life of the factory, explains the injustice of laws and provisions hindering freedom of strike, freedom of picketing (to publicise the existence of strike in a given factory); It shows the bias of the arbitrator who belongs to the bourgeois classes, etc. etc.  and in a nutshell, every trade union secretary leads and helps to lead the '' economic struggle against the bosses and the government ''. [...] The Social-Democrat must not have as his ideal the secretary of trade union, but the popular tribune who is able to react against any manifestation of arbitrariness and oppression, wherever it occurs, whatever the class or the social stratum is experiencing it, knowing to generalize all these facts to compose a full picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation, knowing to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to expose before all its socialist convictions and claims To explain to everyone the historical significance of the emancipatory struggle of the proletariat ".
7 Karl Marx, Contribution to a critique of Hegel’s philosophy of the right, 1843, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.
8 Lenin, The attitude of the workers party to religion, 1909, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1909/may/13.htm
9 Lenin, Socialism and religion, 1905, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm 
10 Leon Trotsky, The Negro question in the United States, 1933, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1940/negro1.htm#prinkipo.
11 Michael Löwy, “Opium du peuple ? Marxisme critique et religion”, Contretemps.eu, 7 février 2010, Contretemps.eu, 7 February 2010, http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article28811.
12 Leon Trotsky, The Third International after Lenin, 1928, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1928/3rd/index.htm.
13 Nargesse Bibimoune, Confidences à mon veile, 2016.:
14 “À propos de Dévoilements : du Hijab à la Burqa. Entretien avec Pierre Tévanian”, Contretemps.eu, 24
15 Lenin, Socialism and religion, op. Cit.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I don't support a national day for Australia

Lisbeth Latham

There is an important discussion currently occurring about the status of “Australia Day” and the date of January 26 – particularly whether the day should simply be abolished or moved to an alternative date. I fully support the idea of there not being a public holiday celebrating Invasion Day. I personally I think that the debate is one that should be decided within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with the rest of society taking our queue from the resolution of this discussion by those communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been making powerful arguments explaining the need to abandon January 26 as a celebration – with articles written by Celeste Liddle and Amy McQuire being examples. However as some white groups and publications, such as New Matilda having argued for changing the date of Australia-- I will add my views as to why I think having a national day in Australia is problematic.

Obviously holding a celebration of Australia on the date that the ongoing dispossession and genocide against the First Nations people began, is seriously problematic and the celebration of that date needs to stop. My concern is that simply changing the date does not and will not fundamentally change the character of Australia Day. The idea of a national day - celebrating the nation- while fraught in any context is particularly so in the context of an imperialist colonial settler state such as Australia. To say moving the date will somehow change the character of the day, ignores that invasion and dispossession did not start and stop on January 26, 1788.

Some advocates of the date being shifted have noted that the day has not always been held on January 26. There have been other “Australia Days” held on May 24 and July 30 while other days have also been raised such as April 29. May 24, marked an attempt by Irish Catholics to subvert Empire Day held on Queen Victoria’s Birthday, while July 30 was used during the First World War to collect money for the war effort. April 29, was suggested by some members of the Australian Natives Association (a White Nativist organisation that had been central to the Federation project and subsequently to the institutionalisation of Australia Day) as an alternative day to January 26 (describing the date as a bad start). April 29 was the anniversary of Cook’s landing at Ka-may (Botany Bay).

Changing the date also doesn’t address the reality that Australia already has other public holidays to celebrate its imperialist and colonialist character such as ANZAC Day, which is a date that has been proposed as an alternative date for Australia Day, and the various state-based celebrations of invasion like Foundation day in WA. While ANZAC Day has changed in character over time, in my lifetime it has become even more of a celebration of war and imperialism, but it has always been an imperialist project – it was created as way to combat the widespread anti-war sentiment that existed in Australia after the First World War, particularly amongst returning service personnel.

All of these alternative dates were still celebrations of “White Australia” - and this goes to the question of what does "Australia Day" celebrate? I would argue it celebrates a project which fundamentally racist to its core and premised on the dispossession of the First Nations Peoples and a generally narrow definition of who or what is Australian (a definition which has expanded over the years but remains a basis for exclusion). Irrespective of the date you pick an Australian National Day will be a day that lends itself to jingoism, racism and attempts to erase the dispossession and genocide experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples whilst simultaneously marginalising these communities.


Friday, September 23, 2016

France: Thousands protest against regressive labour laws

Lisbeth Latham

More than 170,000 workers and students joined more than 110 protests across France on September 15 against new labour laws that dramatically deregulate France’s labour code.

The protests, called by four of France’s union confederations and three national student groups, continued the campaign of mobilisations against the anti-worker laws that began in March. They were the first mass protests since the laws were enacted in August.

Angering opponents of the laws, the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls forced the bill through parliament in July without a vote, invoking the undemocratic clause 49.3 of the French Constitution.

The new laws provide for a wide range of changes to working conditions and a significant weakening of the authority of unions in the workplace. Some of the most significant include greater ability for companies to increase working hours beyond the standard 35-hour week while cutting overtime rates.
Other changes make it easier for companies to sack workers and terminate collective agreements. The laws make it harder for unions to veto collective agreements.

As well as opposing the new laws, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT, France’s largest union confederation) has raised extra demands. The CGT is calling for cutting the working week to 32-hours to combat mass unemployment; restoring the retirement age to 60 and raising the minimum wage to €1800, up from €1466.

The September 15 protests mark a clear decline in the movement against the laws, which peaked with mobilisations of more than 1 million people on March 31 and July 14. The drop in size of the protests is linked to a sense of defeat now that the laws have passed, even though polls show about 70% of the population oppose the laws. Another factor is the growing levels of police repression against protests.

The September 15 demonstrations were met with large numbers of riot police, and the use of tear gas and other crowd control weapons. The most serious violence occurred in Paris, where Laurent Theron, an activist with the hospital federation of the militant Solidaires union, was hit in the face by a grenade and blinded in one eye.

In a statement, Solidaires said: “We strongly denounce the disproportionate use of sting ball grenades, tear gas and flash ball launchers that have left hundreds injured, sometimes very seriously. The General Inspectorate of the National Police has received complaints regarding many cases, especially by activists of Solidaires injured while they were demonstrating peacefully.

“To date, no sanction has been imposed and the main responsibility for this situation, the interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, is still in office”.

No new mobilisations have been called in the campaign, but the CGT is refusing to concede defeat. In a September 15 statement, the CGT stated that, like the laws aimed at young workers passed in 2006 but which were defeated shortly after they were passed, “nothing is set in stone. What has been passed can be annulled.”

However, the campaign is expected to shift into a new phase of legal challenges to the laws’ implementation. Mobilisations of workers in local enterprises are also expected, with the aim of using these struggles to give the movement new impetus.

This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly issue 1112


Friday, August 26, 2016

Victorian gender recognition legislation an important step for equality

Lisbeth Latham

The Victorian government announced new legislation on August 18 aimed at simplifying the process for trans and gender diverse (TGD) people's to change the sex marker on their birth certificates and records. This has rightfully been welcomed as an important step forward for TGD people rights.
The new legislation, which follows similar legislation in the ACT and 2013 changes to policies regarding sex markers on Commonwealth documents, is a start towards eliminating medical gatekeeping on the lives of TGD people.

The Victorian government announced new legislation on August 18 aimed at simplifying the process for trans and gender diverse (TGD) people's to change the sex marker on their birth certificates and records. This has rightfully been welcomed as an important step forward for TGD people rights.

The new legislation, which follows similar legislation in the ACT and 2013 changes to policies regarding sex markers on Commonwealth documents, is a start towards eliminating medical gatekeeping on the lives of TGD people.

However, significant steps remain in overcoming all of the formal legal and medical barriers that confront TGD people.

The new changes will remove two key barriers that have been a feature of gender recognition processes. With the exception of those living in the ACT, individuals seeking to change their sex marker have been required to undertake at least some form of gender reassignment surgery (GRS), and all states and territories require that individuals not be married.

The requirement for individuals to undergo GRS is a significant barrier to many TGD people having their affirmed gender recognised on their birth certificates, both because surgery is very expensive and because many TGD people do not desire to undergo surgery as part of their affirmation of gender.

The need to be single — which is aimed at ensuring that there are no marriages of people of the same sex — has meant that TGD individuals who are married have been forced to divorce to change their gender marker.

The Victorian government is arguing that its proposed change to the marriage requirement does not bring the legislation into conflict with the federal Marriage Act, which stipulates that marriages are between a man and a woman, because this requirement applies only at the time the marriage takes place and not subsequent to the marriage.

The proposed Victorian legislation, like the 2014 ACT legislation, allows TGD people to change their sex marker. The ACT legislation also provided for the introduction of a third sex marker on birth certificates of “X” for “intersex, unspecified, or indeterminate”.

In 2013, the federal government changed its policies for people wishing to amend their sex marker on their passports and with other commonwealth agencies such as Medicare and the Australian Tax Office. The changes removed the need for an individual to have undergone GRS and introduced a sex not specified “X” category.

With both the ACT and federal processes, applications need to be accompanied by a statement from a clinician that the patient is “receiving appropriate treatment or as being intersex”, which acts to pathologise TGD and intersex experiences. It also means that medical practitioners remain as gatekeepers on the lives of TGD people. The requirement for a TGD person's decision to be supported by a medical practitioner is absent from proposed Victorian legislation.

The only role for medical practitioners in the Victorian legislation is to certify that a minor wishing to change their marker is able to make an informed decision and that it is, in the medical practitioner's view, in the minor's interests to make the change. For those over the age of 16, it is assumed that they can make a decision for themselves.

An additional feature of the Victorian legislation is that it will enable individuals to have their birth certificates state that they are non-binary or list an alternative descriptor, with the only limitation being that the descriptor cannot be deemed to be offensive. This change is important as it allows a recognition of sexes and genders outside of the male-female/man-woman binary and reflects an individuals' actual identity.

The proposed Victorian legislation is important to the lives of TGD people, particularly trans women. Although trans people are protected by the Victorian Equal Opportunities Act from transphobic discrimination, under the Act and similar legislation across Australia, you cannot require a person to treat you as your affirmed gender unless your birth certificate states that it is your gender.

There are several circumstances under these acts where it is lawful to exclude individuals who are not of a specific gender, such as access to toilets, and the ability to play in sporting codes based on your affirmed gender or take up a position that is designated based on a specific gender. While this situation does not mean that organisations and companies have to discriminate in these circumstances, it does mean that they can lawfully do so.

While these changes represent significant advances in allowing TGD individuals the ability to determine their own lives, there are significant steps that need to be taken around the formal rights of transgender people.

Beyond pushing for all states and territories to adopt legislation similar to the proposed Victorian legislation, there is a continued need to decrease the gatekeeper role of doctors in determining if and when a TGD person can access medical technology to assist their gender affirmation.

Provision of hormones and other medical technology in Australia is guided by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care, which operates within a framework that pathologises TGD lives and ties access to medically-assisting affirmation technologies, such as hormones and surgery, to TGD people meeting doctors' expectations of what it is to be a particular gender.

TGD advocate organisations argue for an alternative model based on informed consent where individuals are able to access the medical technology they feel is appropriate to them, based on being informed of the possible impacts of that technology and consenting to use the technology based on them.

This model is at the centre of Argentina's 2012 Gender Identity Law which states “all persons older than eighteen (18) years ... will be able to access total and partial surgical interventions and/or comprehensive hormonal treatments to adjust their bodies, including their genitalia, to their self-perceived gender identity, without requiring any judicial or administrative authorisation”. This law also makes access to these technologies part of a Compulsory Medical Plan that covers all workers in formal employment.

An additional change that also needs to be made is ending the requirement for families of TGD children who wish to access Stage Two Hormones (the hormones associated with their affirmed gender) having to go to the Family Court to demonstrate that the child is able to give informed consent, a process which is both potentially traumatic and very expensive. Australia is the only jurisdiction in the world that has such a legal requirement.

There is still a long way to go to eliminate the legal and medical barriers that confront TGD people in Australia, and even more to addressing the high levels of social stigma and discrimination faced by TGD people.

However, the proposed changes in Victoria reflect the significant and rapid advances that are being made in Australia to make it easier and safer for TGD people to live their authentic lives.
This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1108


Sexist burkini ban based on Islamophobia, not secularism

Lisbeth Latham

Since the announcement of an ordinance banning the wearing of burkinis on the beaches of the French Mediterranean city of Cannes in late July, France has been swept up in a new wave of Islamophobia.

A further 17 municipalities have announced their own ordinances banning the burkini — the full-body swimsuit worn by some Islamic women. These bans have been endorsed not only by France's far right, but by the Socialist Party Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

On August 27, France's highest administrative court suspended the bans after they were challenged by rights groups. However, the ruling still gives local authorities the ability to impose the bans if they can show a “proven risk” to public order. Those supporting the bans have sought to justify them in terms of defending women's rights, France's secular society and social order. But in reality, they are sexist and anti-secular — and promote the further marginalisation of France's Islamic community. The July 28 ordinance in Cannes prohibiting the burkini states: “Access to beaches and swimming in Cannes is prohibited … until August 31, to any person not properly dressed, in a way which is respectful of morality and secularism and that respects the rules for hygienic and safe swimming.” David Lisnard, Cannes's Mayor and a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing Les Republicains party, has defended the city's ordinance on the basis that only radicals would be upset by it. Lisnard described the burkini as “the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion”. Lisnard has also argued that the ordinance is needed to maintain public order against a background of terror threats. But Lisnard's argument only makes sense if you accept the motivations that he projects onto women who choose to wear a burkini. France's Human Rights League and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, on the other hand, have challenged the bans as an illegal restriction on the religious rights of individuals. However, the Nice administrative tribunal's ruling, that upheld the ban in Nice, said: “The state of emergency context and recent Islamist attacks in particular in Nice … wearing a distinctive dress, other than a usual swimwear, can indeed be interpreted as not being, in this context, a simple sign of religiosity.” Supporting the bans, Valls said the burkini represents “the enslavement of women” and reflects an “archaic vision” of feminine modesty “not compatible with the values of France”. Valls also endorsed the idea that banning the wearing of burkinis could contribute to public safety by saying “in the face of provocation, the nation must defend itself”. Although Valls has avoided supporting the idea of a France-wide ban of the burkini, this should not be seen as opposition on Valls's part to France-wide attempts at controlling the clothes of Muslim women. In April, he publicly called for a ban on wearing hijabs at France's universities. The bans on burkinis are not the first time that women's rights have been mobilised in France to justify bans on the clothes of Muslim women. Similar arguments were made in support of the 2004 law on secularism and conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, which banned the wearing of hijabs in public schools. There was also controversy in 2010 around the decision by the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) to stand Ilham Mousaid, a member of the far-left party who chose to wear a hijab, as a candidate in regional elections, and to support the 2010 law banning the wearing of face coverings in public. This was effectively a ban on the niqab, although popularly referred to as the burqa ban. This mobilisation of public concern over the rights of women is problematic on a number of levels. First, as University of Toulouse academic Rim-Sarah Aloune suggests, it creates the idea that the struggle of women over the right to choose how they dress only operates to reduce the amount of clothing that women are required to wear. But, as Aloune says, “women's rights imply the right for a woman to cover up”. Indeed, women workers in a number of Western countries have struggled to desexualise the clothes they have been required to wear — for example, in the airline industry. Secondly, it creates a false dichotomy between “archaic” and “misogynistic” Islamic cultures and “progressive” Western cultures. This dichotomy ignores the sexism that exists in Western societies. Finally, these bans in the name of protecting the rights of Muslim women in France have all worked to exclude Muslim women from French social life — whether it is from schools; standing for election to public office; going out in public or swimming at the beach. This alone demonstrates the thoroughly sexist character and effect of such bans. Defence of France's secular society may seem an easy argument to support bans against “religious clothing” but it isn't. This is particularly the case with efforts to justify bans on the burkini — its advocates and defenders are also arguing that the burkini is not religious dress. This sleight of hand is primarily aimed to cover the idea that the bans are themselves Islamophobic. However, arguments justifying attacks on Muslims in the name of defending secularism (which are not limited to France) are clearly hypocritical. They are overwhelming concerned with the actions of marginalised Muslims, with little concern over the influence of Christianity on Western states. But they also reflect an extremely one-sided understanding of secularism. Secularism is not simply a question of religion not influencing the state. Secularism is also about freedom for people to practice their religions without interference from the state. Part of the problem with the debates around the clothes of Muslim women in France is that decisions by individual Muslims regarding the clothes that they choose to wear is perceived as being influenced by religion in a way that clothing decisions — and other actions — by non-Muslims are not. This results in Muslims, particularly Muslim women, being seen as having less agency in their actions, particularly their choice of dress. It results in the most mundane actions being perceived as being religious when performed by Muslim women. An example of this can be seen with the 2004 ban on hijabs in public schools. In response to this ban, some Muslim students began wearing bandanas — which other people in French society also wore. In some schools, the wearing of bandanas by Muslim girls was then policed by schools and if a bandana was deemed “too modest” then the wearer was liable to be excluded from school. This position was upheld by the French Council of State — France's highest court — in 2006 on the basis that the bandana was deemed by the court to have been worn for a religious reason. The wave of bans against the burkini is also motivated on the basis of promoting “public order”. Instead, it will achieve the opposite. As NPA member Ugo Paleta points out, linking the wearing of particular clothes associated with Muslims, such as the burkini, with support for terrorism creates an image of all Muslims as potential threats to French society. It works to strengthen the discourse within France regarding the alleged “incompatibility of Islam with the French Republic”. The effect is that Muslims come to be seen as a “foreign body” within French society. This language serves to not only justify the draconian actions of French police in fining and excluding Muslim women from the beach for wearing burkinis and other covering clothing. It also legitimises the rising levels of Islamophobic violence against France's Islamic community — and places responsibility for this violence at the feet of the community rather with the perpetrators of that violence. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1108


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