Wednesday, February 14, 2018

France: We call for action and strike for women's rights on March 8th!

Feminist struggles have won rights and made progress towards equality between women and men. But this equality is far from effective. This is why the day of March 8th does not "celebrate" and is not the "day of the woman" but that of the fight for the rights of women! March 8 is an international day of convergence of all our struggles, those of women here and elsewhere.


Equality between women and men is unavoidable for us: it contributes to social progress. To allow inequality to continue, to exert violence against women and girls, is to bear the responsibility that retrograde ideas progress, patriarchy endures. And we will not stop repeating: the "cause of women" is neither secondary nor a communication operation. It is not limited to feminizing management positions by forgetting the majority of women glued to the sticky floor of part-time and precarious work. It requires not only political will at all times, but also significant human and financial resources to achieve it and sanctions against employers who do not respect professional equality. Our conclusion is irrevocable: the French government never put them in place. The employers put all their energy to fight any restrictive measure. And so in 2018, the urgency to achieve equality is still there.

Many women are mobilized. They denounce sexist and sexual violence at home, in public, and at work. They protest about persistent gender stereotypes in the media, at school, in public and private life. They condemn precariousness, poverty and unemployment. They refuse inequalities at work in terms of wages, access to employment, career, working time. And they recall the consequences of all these inequalities on the size of women's pensions. They denounce the consequences of the unequal distribution of domestic tasks on women's lives. They fight against the questioning of the right to abortion, to access contraception. They require the guarantee of public services for all, services to develop and balance across the territories, from early childhood to loss of autonomy. They fight lesbophobia and all the stereotypes relating to any other marginalised identity. They support migrant and refugee women. They do not admit to discrimination, such as against women with disabilities ...

This long list shows that there is a social system behind all these inequalities. This domination we reject and refuse. Until it stops. And for that we call to act throughout the territory, through strike actions, walkouts, rallies, demonstrations. Equality between women and men is a question of social justice and democracy. It is a lever to win the emancipation of all.

This is why we call on all our organizations to prepare the mobilizations of 8 March 2018 for the territories as a whole.

First Signatories: Collectif National pour les Droits des Femmes, Confédération Générale du Travail, Fédération Syndicale Unitaire, Union Syndicale Solidaires, Action Aid France Peuples Solidaires, Femmes Egalité, Union Nationale des Étudiants de France, Chiennes de garde, Encore féministes, Zeromacho, Réseau Féministe "Ruptures", Le Planning Familial, Mouvement National des Chômeurs et Précaires , ATTAC, Femmes Libres Radio Libertaire, Marche Mondiale des Femmes…

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Fight Transphobia in Feminism and on the Left

Lisbeth Latham

Over the past decade, we have seen a significant growth in the visibility of trans people, particularly trans women. This growth in visibility and the associated push to promote and achieve full democratic rights and overturn transphobic legislation and policies. In response to the growth in visibility and demands of the trans rights movement, there has been a significant backlash from transphobic forces in society. While many would expect this backlash to come from the political and religious right, and much of it has come from these forces, it has also come from individuals who identify as part of the feminist and left-wing movements the most notable section of these are the trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). The struggles between TERFs and trans women and their supporters have become increasingly visible and fraught. Part of the struggle, trans women have at times called on progressive forces and organisations that supposedly promote social inclusion – to not amplify or include transphobic voices - a call which is often resisted in the name of "free speech". A notable example of this has been the decision by the British left-wing paper to publish a large number of transphobic articles in response to the proposal by the Conservative government to review the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. These defenders of anti-trans voices within both feminism and the broader left rely heavily on misrepresentation and distortion of the character and impact of the anti-trans forces and who really has power in this debate.

While there are numerous examples of transphobes being given space within supposedly progressive institutions - the decision by the Morning Star newspaper, which is associated with the Communist Party of Britain, to publish a number of transphobic articles under the guise of "defending women’s rights" is particularly emblematic. These articles, the first of which was published have touched on a range of issues including:

There has been a range of critical responses to these articles, included a withdrawn motion at the Trade Union Congress’s LGBT conference calling for a boycott of the paper. These criticisms have sparked letters of support with the Morning Star's "stand for women" as well as articles, which while critical of the anti-trans articles defending the right of the Morning Star to publish the articles as part of a "debate". These arguments are fundamentally flawed because it isn’t a question of whether the Morning Star has the right to publish the articles, but whether they should publish them."

A number of authors who have been critical of the campaigns by trans activists and their allies against transphobic feminists have argued that the transphobia within feminism and the left is fundamentally different from the transphobia. In a 2016 article criticising the campaign calling on Cardiff University to withdraw it's invitation to Germaine Greer to give the University's annual lecture, Australian socialist activist Louise O'Shea wrote in Red Flag "Greer’s comments about the legitimacy or otherwise of trans women’s claim to the label "woman" are indefensible and utterly disrespectful … but it is also wrong to equate such ideas with outright bigotry and demand they not be heard". In the January 2017 issue of Socialist Review, TKS argues "There is a massive difference between Germaine Greer and the bigots shown in the recent documentary on Channel 4’s 'My Trans American Road Trip', which explored the reality of toilet bans in the states. The documentary showed right-wingers who insisted that gender was god-given, rather than a social construct. This is a far cry from Greer’s longstanding rejection of the passive acceptance of gender roles". In making these arguments, both TKS and O'Shea assert that a greater space exists between both the views of transphobic feminism and right-wing transphobes than exists in reality. Whilst there are differences in their argumentation and the expressed intention of their aggressive defence of an immutable binary demarcation based on biological sex and both groups are sex existentialists. As a result, both groups rely at times on the each other's arguments. Right-wing US psychiatrist Paul McHugh, who has relied upon heavily by the Christian Right to buttress their arguments, in turn, relies on the work of Australian trans exclusionary radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys.

Importantly both groups have frequently joined forces to help each other to defeat legislation advancing the rights of the trans community and to defend and extend existing transphobic legislation. Last year in the US the Women's Liberation Front launched an amicus brief in support the legal case by evangelical Christian groups Focus on the Family and the Family Policy Alliance against the Department of Educations interpretation of Title IX Legislation against sex discrimination in education as providing protection based on gender identity and requiring schools and universities in receipt of federal funds respect the affirmed gender identity of trans students. During the debate on British Gender Recognition Act 2004 (which removed requirement for transgender people seeking gender recognition to undergo surgery but retained medical gatekeeping and requires transgender people to live as their affirmed gender for at least two years), prominent Australian anti-trans feminist academic Sheila Jeffreys said that in opposing the legislation the people she agreed with the most was the radical right, particularly Norman Tebbit, former chair of the Conservative party.

In arguing that the transphobia of anti-trans feminists and leftists is fundamentally different to that of the political and religious right, the defenders of the place anti-trans forces within feminism and the left are that efforts to exclude these forces from platforms, venues, and publications particularly those controlled by feminists and the left is a violation of freedom of speech. These arguments make some fundamental errors about both the amount of power that trans women context of free speech. The struggle for free speech is a struggle against the intervention of the state to criminalise or punish people for the idea they articulate – or potentially against employer actions against their employees for articulating unpopular ideas – but the trans community does not have this power – moreover the calls of the community have been for transphobic forces to not be given a platform either in the media or by invited to speak on campus – whilst these calls can be seen as a violation of freedom of speech – indeed O'Shea argued it is a reflection of an authoritarian outlook within the trans community – however as both Sam Hope and myself have pointed out – no one has a right to have a university sponsored public meeting, or for that matter have an article published in publication – indeed publications have editors precisely to determine what will or won't be published and the Morning Star has refused to publish articles by activists which accuse anti-trans feminists of transphobia on the basis that such claims are potentially defamatory. Result of this position is that the defenders of "free speech" on transgender experiences take a position of actively silencing trans women and their allies who seek to call out transphobia – and these circumstances they have a much greater power to enforce this decision.

Part of the argument to justify the defence of transphobes "free speech" and inclusion in the movement are not articulating "hate-filled bile". There a number of problems with this argument, the major one is that is primarily being made by defenders of the place of transphobes in progressive movements. Challenging the identities of the trans community and opposing basic democratic rights for the community is a violence, it wears people down and it is part of the broader transphobic discourse in our society and aimed at both blocking the advancement of rights and winding back existing rights. Beyond the arguments about whether specific articles constitute violence – the authors are part of networks of transphobic feminists which engage in the harassment and vilification of the trans community, particularly of trans women. Even if these articles being published by anti-trans feminists are less hostile in their language than that of other transphobes – the questioning of the validity of the identities of the trans community and challenging their right is a violence which has the potential to wear down the mental health of the trans community – just as the homophobia and transphobia – some of which was politely worded - which was unleashed during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in late 2017 which resulted in a 40% increase in the demand on mental health service by young LGBTIQ people. Moreover the claims of a lack of violence rely heavily on a sleight of hand where concerns about the consequences of self-identification is framed in terms of concern for the rights of "women and girls" against "men seeking to take advantage the system to gain access to women's spaces" which might seem reasonable and not targeting trans women, except that these anti-trans feminists see all trans women as men. By contesting the presence of trans women in women-only spaces on the basis of both a rejection of their womanhood and by posing all trans women as potential rapists - writers such as Jo Bartosch are not just being transphobic, but are contributing to atmosphere where trans women, and cis women for that matter, are at risk of violence for not only accessing women spaces but when moving through society generally

Justifying the publication of transphobic articles and the welcoming of transphobic people in the movement just ends up being a form of gaslighting of the trans community where their experiences of abuse, harassment, and trauma are trivialized and explained away. Given the concern about labelling transphobes for what they are - this questioning of transphobia as a form of violence leads to a situation where the defenders of anti-trans feminists become obsessed with the "violence" of the language directed by trans women towards transphobes. The consequence of arguments defending the place of transphobes in the movement is that these arguments not only enable transphobic discourse and behaviour but that it posits the cause of "problems" in the movement between trans people and transphobes are trans people (and their allies) who object to transphobia. This can not only lead to threats of their exclusion from the movement but also makes claims of support for the trans community conditional at best and only focused on the open and naked transphobia of the right.

Of course, things don’t have to be this way. The last year has seen a number of important demonstrations of support for trans rights from the British Labour Party, sections of the British union movement along with Irish feminists which all provide examples of seriously tackling transphobia.

Since the announcement of the Review of the Gender Recognition Act in July, which followed calls by Jeremy Corbyn, the National Union of Teachers LGBT+ caucusinitiated a statement in support of the right of transgender people to self-identify and have that identity legally recognised – the statement was formally adopted by National Union of Teachers at its national conference as basis for lobbying MPs in support of adopting self-identification. When transphobic feminists and their allies in the right-wing press attacked Lily Madigan’s election as a Constituent Labour Party Women’s Officer - leading party members defended her right to stand and be elected and to participate in the Labour Party's women's leadership program. When, Venice Allan, one of the transphobic feminists who had been targeting Lily, and a regular transphobic troll on social media, turned up to a Labour Women’s Network with the intention of harassing Lily - she was asked to stop, then asked to leave and was excluded from the event. The leading party members including Jeremy Corbyn and Stella Creasy have spoken out to defend the rights of trans women and confirmed the reality that trans women are women - this has included a National Executive Committee statement, in the face of a threatened legal challenge, that confirmed the Party’s view that trans women have a right to stand for and be included on All Women Shortlists, which aimed at improving the representation of women in parliament. The party has also reportedly initiated disciplinary action against members who have engaged in transphobic online harassment and vilification - with at least one member suspended pending investigation of their harassment of trans women.

In January, British anti-trans feminists announced a "We Need to Talk Tour" of Ireland to promote opposition to the Gender Recognition Act in Britain - in response Irish feminists issued a statement, 11 organisations and 1168 individuals, making it clear that the tour is unwanted colonialist intrusion by the anti-trans feminists. The statement says in part:


"Trans women and men in Ireland have the legal right to self-declare their gender. Trans people and particularly trans women are an inextricable part of our feminist community. The needs of trans people are part of our campaigns. There is no difference between ‘feminists’ spreading transphobic and transmisogynist ideas or spreading racism or homophobia. We want no part of it, and we don’t want it here. So yes, we do need to talk.
"We can see from your social media posts about your tour and its contents, that your opposition to the GRA is based on the idea that feminist organising and women’s rights will somehow be harmed through trans inclusivity and organising with our trans sisters. We know this is not true. We, the signatories of this letter, organise hand in hand with our trans sisters. Together, cis and trans, we are Irish feminism. Trans women are our sisters; their struggles are ours, our struggles theirs. They were our sisters before any state-issued certification said so and will always be no matter what any legislation says, either now or in the future".


The actions by trans allies in the unions, the British Labour Party, and within Irish feminism demonstrates clearly ways in which it is possible for left organisations can stand with the trans community, particularly trans women, but it means not just criticising the transphobia of the right, but taking a clear stand against transphobia from within feminism and the broader left.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

France: "Pigs and their allies are right to worry": Caroline De Haas and feminist activists respond to the column in "Le Monde"

Originally published by Franceinfo
10/01/2018

Some thirty personalities and members of associations react, Wednesday, January 10, on Franceinfo, to the arguments of the text of 100 women defending the "freedom to pester" of men after the movements "#balancetonporc" (#exposeyourpig) and "#Metoo".

A paper that does not pass. 
Tuesday, January 9, 100 women have signed a forum published in Le Monde where they defend the "freedom to importuner", after what they call a "campaign of denunciation" targeting men accused of sexual harassment in the wake of the Weinstein case. A text written by several renowned authors, including Catherine Millet and Catherine Robbe-Grillet, and signed by figures such as actress Catherine Deneuve and journalist Elisabeth Lévy, who defend, among other things, the "freedom to pester" scoundrels face "public denunciations and impeachment of individuals (...) placing them exactly on the same level as sexual assailants".

The text drew a response from feminist activist Caroline De Haas who wrote one, in turn, co-signed by thirty activists and feminist activists, to denounce what she considers a "#Metoo, it was good, but ... ". Whenever women's rights progress, consciences awaken, resistances appear. In general, they take the form of "it is true, of course, but ...". This January 9, we had a "#Metoo, it was good, but ...". Not really new in the arguments used. We find the same arguments in the text published in Le Monde as we see at work around the coffee machine or in family meals. The letter is a little like the embarrassing colleague or boring uncle who does not understand what is happening.

"We could go too far." 
As soon as the equality advances, even half a millimetre, good souls immediately alert us to the fact that it risks falling into excess. Excess, we are right in it. It is the world in which we live. In France, every day, hundreds of thousands of women are victims of harassment. Tens of thousands of sexual assaults. And hundreds of rapes. Every day. This is a caricature.

"We can not say anything anymore." 
As if the fact that our society tolerates sexist remarks - a little - less than before, such as racist or homophobic remarks, is a problem. "Well, it was frankly better when we could treat the women as quiet sluts, huh?" No. It was less good. Language has an influence on human behaviour: accepting insults against women means allowing violence. The mastery of our language is a sign that our society is progressing.

"It's Puritanism." 
Portraying feminists as stuck up, or even badly fucked: the originality of the signatories of the letter is ... disconcerting. Violence affects women. All women. It weighs on our minds, our bodies, our pleasures and our sexualities. How can one imagine for a moment a liberated society in which women freely and fully dispose of their bodies and their sexuality when more than half of them claim to have already experienced sexual violence?

"We can not flirt anymore."
The signatories of the letter deliberately conflate a relationship of seduction, based on respect and pleasure, with violence. To conflate everything is very practical. This puts everything in the same bag. Basically, if the harassment or aggression is "repeated pestering" it is that it is not so serious. The signatories are wrong. This is not a difference in degree between dragging and harassing but a difference in nature. Violence is not "increased seduction". On one side, we consider the other as his equal, respecting his desires, whoever they are. On the other, as an object available, without taking into consideration her own wishes or her consent.

"It's women's responsibility." 
The signatories of the letter talk about the education to be given to little girls so that they do not let themselves be intimidated. Women are therefore designated as responsible for not being assaulted. When will we ask the question of the responsibility of men not to rape or assault? What about boys' education?

Women are human beings. Like the others. We are entitled to respect. We have the fundamental right not to be insulted, whistled at, assaulted, raped. We have the fundamental right to live our lives in safety. In France, the United States, Senegal, Thailand or Brazil: this is not the case today. Nowhere.

The signatories of the letter in Le Monde are in the majority of the recidivists in the matter of defence of paedophiles or as apologists for rape. They are once again using their media visibility to trivialize sexual violence. They despise the millions of women who suffer or have suffered the violence.

Many of them are often quick to denounce sexism when it comes from men in working-class neighbourhoods. But the hand in the ass, when it is exercised by men in their midst, according to them is the "right to pester". This strange ambivalence allows them to proclaim their attachment to the feminism of which they claim for themselves.

With this letter, they try to close the lead lid that we started to lift. They will not succeed. We are victims of violence. We are not ashamed. We are standing. Strong. Enthusiastic. Determined. We will end sexist and sexual violence.

Pigs and their allies are worried? It's normal. Their old world is disappearing. Very slowly - too slowly - but inexorably. Some dusty reminiscences will not change anything, even published in Le Monde.


Signatories to the statement:
Adama Bah, Afro-feminist and anti-racist activist; Marie-Noëlle Bas, President of the  Chiennes de garde; Lauren Bastide, Journalist, Fatima Benomar, Co-spokesperson of the Effronté.es; Anaïs Bourdet, Founder of Paye ta Shnek, feminist activist; Sophie Busson, feminist activist; Marie Cervetti, director of FIT and feminist activist; Pauline Chabbert, feminist activist; Madeline Da Silva, feminist activist; Caroline De Haas, feminist activist; Basma Fadhloun, journalist; Clara Gonzales, feminist activist, Leila H., Check your privileges; Clémence Helfter, feminist activist and unionist; Carole Henrion, feminist activist; Anne-Charlotte Jelty, feminist activist; Andréa Lecat, feminist activist; Claire Ludwig, communication officer and feminist activist; Maeril, illustrator and feminist activist; Chloé Marty, social worker and feminist; Angela Muller, feminist activist; Selma Muzet Herrström, feminist activist; Michel Paques, feminist activist; Ndella Paye, afro-feminist and anti-racist activist; Chloé Ponce-Voiron, feminist activist, director, producer, and actress; Claire Poursin, co-president of Effronté.es; Sophie Rambert, feminist activist; Noémie Renard, host of Antisexisme.net and feminist activist; Rose de Saint-Jean, feminist activist; Laure Salmona, co-founder of Feminists Against Cyberbullying and feminist activist; Muriel Salmona, psychiatrist, president of Traumatic memory and victimology and feminist activist; Nicole Stefan, feminist activist; Mélanie Suhas, feminist activist; Monique Taureau, feminist activist; Clémentine Vagne, feminist activist;  l’association En Avant Toute(s), l’association Stop harcèlement de rue, the association to Stop street harassment.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Olivier Besancenot: "Emancipation rather than rebellion"

By Bénito Perez
Originally published in Le Courrier
26 November 2017

The face of the radical left in France during the 2000s, the anti-capitalist activist took a step back but keeps a sharp eye on the political and social field.

Is it because Olivier Besancenot had never come to Lausanne? A large crowd on the night waiting to hear the spokesman of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-Capitalist Party - NPA) on Monday, November 13 for a fruitful evening exchange at Espace Dickens. The 200 people clustered in the small room Lausanne contrasts with the alienation experienced on the other side of the border, by the movement that succeeded the Revolutionary Communist League. It must be said that the former postman of Neuilly, twice a candidate for the French presidency in 2002 and 2007 (with more than 4% of the vote each time), now moved behind the counter at the Post Office, and in the shadow Philippe Poutou of the NPA, has lost none of his verve and his way with words. For two hours, he captivated his audience, plumping the shaky morals, deflating illusions of no future. Good grace, he even lent the little provocation guests: phosphorous on the success of France Rebellious (France Insoumise - FI) (where the NPA had failed), in the gathering of much of the left behind the single plume of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Echos.

Being rebellious in France today?
"Being rebellious is to refuse to obey the economic oligarchy and the political and cultural class that impose an unsustainable situation that is France and wider Europe. It is denied that the public coffers are empty to benefit the rich and businesses and then justify the sacrifices imposed on the vast majority of the population. For thirty years, this policy allows capital to take even more work. This will not stop itself. After attacking taxation and public services, they now weaken labour law and social security, tomorrow they will denounce too many paid holidays. They always have something to undermine at work to give the capital".


Where is Emmanuel Macron? 
"Emmanuel Macron and his men know perfectly the fragility of their political legitimacy. They know they have benefited from simultaneous attacks from the right and the left. That is why they are acting by ordinances. And quickly. Macron has understood that social and security issues are linked. The inclusion of the state of emergency law and the adoption at a run of the labour code reform are two sides of the same coin. When conducting an unpopular social policy, we know that there will be trouble and they are preparing repression. 

"Macron and social forces he represents have decided to pursue the second. For them, the time of cyclical market reforms has passed, it is now to tackle the structures. The crisis of capitalism, which we saw explode in 2008 but which persists, requires urgent deep "reforms". We have always seen a crisis of overproduction and over-accumulation. Their solution, which of course is not one, through the optimization of the power of capital over labour. Since Sarkozy, all presidents have made this political contradiction: 'France is on the brink. It is urgent to move ahead '! 

"Obviously, they realize that their promises do not come true, that the productivity gains that liberal reforms would bring are not benefits to workers. But they have their explanation: it is the fault of "zombie capital", this small charming name they give to non-performing economic sectors considered. Where reforms have not yet tendered their benefits, unlike other sectors. Hence the need to continue privatization, etc., etc. " 

The Front National risk 

"The vast majority of French are unhappy with the policy. But the default alternative for lack of better alternative, their anger is not expressed, it steeps. Or when they speak, they speak badly. The country where I come from is going through a terrible political, social and moral period, which is extremely tense. The leadership crisis within the FN does not eliminate the risk of the extreme right, because its ideas, is deeply rooted as the default alternative. Despite a bad campaign, the FN received 11 and a half million votes! 

"In this context, insubordination also means daring to fight against this nauseating atmosphere. Being clear on our values. Showing our support for the mass naturalisation of undocumented workers, and explain why. At the risk of losing votes at first. " 

Crisis of the Left 

"The weakening of the left and of the social movement, it's a collective trust issue more than collective consciousness. Part of the radical left think the exploited did not understand their situation and need to have it explained to them. For me, it's the opposite. They do not have professors red or pink, green or black: they are better placed than anyone to see that the system is crazy, unequal and based on the exploitation and discrimination. The problem is whether to have the conviction that anything else is possible. In France, we have not had a victorious major social struggle since 2006 and the contract of first employment. It was millions in the streets, attempted strikes renewable, but we lost! All over. 

"Still, the crisis goes well beyond France, everywhere the labour movement is disintegrating, everywhere the power relations deteriorate and populist movements and far-right are progressing. To the left, Greece was the big missed opportunity. We need to take stock. Why for example, when Syriza had moderated its claims, has it been crushed? " 

Towards unity of action 

"Rebellion cannot be imagined without emancipation. We are not up against a power in order to submit to a leader. The only form of authority that we should recognize is collective and pluralistic. We tried to convey this to the leadership of FI. There are signs that it begins to perceive it. Given the situation of the social movement, the urgency for organizations of the radical left, the movement which spans from Benoît Hamon [former socialist presidential candidate, ed] to Mélenchon, the Communist Party to Workers Struggle must convene soon and formalize our united agreement for the withdrawal of the Labor law and ordinances. 

The FI has a special responsibility because it has 19% [in the presidential elections], and gathered huge crowds, including a lot of militants ready to fight. A new radical social movement is now emerging. You see it in ecology movement, in the struggles of migrants, anti-nuclear, even in the labour movement. But the FI can not represent them all. Impossible. I never could. Sing the Marseillaise? You must not ask me, I could not! But that's okay, we can still do great things together!". 

Islamophobia 

"In part, the stigma of the Muslim community in France is not surprising. This country has been unable to do its work addressing its colonial history and the Algerian Revolution. On the other hand, it must be noted that part of the left is in the process of falling into stigmatising the community. It says something about the degree of regression of the public debate in France! 

"That said, the debate is not simple: how to reconcile the defence of secularism, women's rights and the fight against Islamophobia? The discussion runs through the left and even the NPA. " 

Wanting to govern 

"Although we have been describing it for years, we have not quite believed in the depth of the crisis of the system. If an alternative is needed, then we need to presume to govern. And think seriously about the policy we could take against our two enemies: the state and capital equipment. Take the latter: we must not tell stories, it will not be stripped so that we can finance the beautiful social program on which we would be elected. If we do not ask the question of the property accumulated by capital, we will never bend them. And it is not enough to create a public bank which remains subject to private competition: it will never argue in public service. This implies indeed an expropriation of the banks and the creation of a monopoly. 

"The state apparatus, too, will not just give up. That's why we put on the table the idea of de-professionalization of politics (limitation and revocation of mandates, revenue cap). Change does not happen just by changing the heads on top of the state. It will do that by involving everyone. 

"If you do not want the bureaucratic body separated from the rest of society, one must be aware of his total character, rooted in deep phenomena as the division of labour, the separation of manual and intellectual tasks or as professionalisation of power. Most people have internalized the idea that they could not represent themselves. That intermediaries are needed. That politics is a matter for serious people. When we introduce a postman or an autoworker for president, they say it's great ... but not credible. We must break this straitjacket. Speaking today, is the first act of resistance. Refusing to let others take it for us, this is the first act of emancipation. " 

THE NPA STILL ALIVE AND "ESSENTIAL" 

The NPA is the direct heir of the famous Communist League, which will be banned in the wake of May 68 and the Revolutionary Communist League. The formation founded by Alain Krivine and Daniel Bensaïd, member of the Fourth International (Trotskyist), had known, after the ebb of the 1980s, a certain success since the mid-1990s, driven by the emergence of the alternative globalisation movement and large strike movements (1995-2006) in France against the social security reforms or the First Employment Contract. 

Scuttling 

After the success in 2005 of the unitary campaign of the left against the European Constitutional Treaty and both candidates rather successful Olivier Besancenot presidential (2002 and 2007), the LCR nevertheless chose to scuttle to give birth in February 2009, a New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), meant to break organizational barriers between the various traditions of the radical left. But after a promising start, the LCR / NPA from 4000 to 10 000 members, the young party ebbs quickly. 

"We made the mistake of believing that alone we could collect all the left of the French left. But it is far too diverse and committed to its banner to gather in this way, "admits Besancenot today. 

Divided on strategic issues but also on political issues such as secularism, the new formation seen swathes leave, especially to the Left Front, where defectors formed the organisation "Ensemble!" 

"The NPA was on the verge put the key under the door, " says Besancenot. Especially since the party in vogue in the 2000s was sidelined in the presidential elections in 2012 and 2017, where its worker candidate Philippe Poutou harvest only a small percent of the vote, while the rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon flirts with second round. 

A new start 

Still, the relatively successful campaign of the Ford worker has e given new impetus to the movement. "I am proud to have campaigned Philip," said the former candidate. "I had a great time when he made the big candidates sweat on the television set, we were the only ones who can tell them what people dreamed of sending them across because we are not professional politicians. For that alone, the NPA must continue to exist! " 

And after the country has strengthened this conviction. "France Unbowed is trying to achieve in turn it is unable to unify the left. Moreover, its very directive behaviour on the social movement has been catastrophic. The NPA, we refuse to prioritize political and social over one another, we aspire to a merger of these themes but with respect for freedom of association ", defends the NPA spokesman. 

The future of the left of the left 

But the postman from the eighteenth arrondissement of Paris insists the future of the left of the left exceed the scope of its movement. "We must find a common area of action, combining democracy and maintaining our autonomy, our identities. Neither France Unbowed nor the NPA cannot do this, we have to invent something else", concludes Besancenot. 

 

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Still no easy pathway to marriage equality

Lisbeth Latham

Thousands of people gathered around Australia on November 15 to hear the results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

While the survey delivered the result that was hoped for by these crowds, there has been a growing awareness that a majority Yes response in the survey does not necessarily deliver an easy pathway to the legislation that would deliver marriage equality. Instead, a new battle is looming, to win not just the legislation that a clear majority of Australians support, but to defend anti-discrimination protections for LGBTI people.

The past four months have been difficult for the LGBTI community. As expected, right-wing homophobic organisations have used every opportunity to mobilise every tangential homophobic, transphobic and misogynist argument they can think of to support their campaign against equal marriage. At the same time as they constructed an increasingly violent and hostile atmosphere, they sought, with the aid of the mainstream media, to paint themselves as the real victims in the debate.

Despite this effort by the right, participation in the survey at 79.5% was far higher than anyone expected and it helped to deliver a very strong Yes response in the survey, with 7,817,247 people, or 61.6% of respondents saying Yes. This has created an understandable desire for parliament to deliver quickly and pass an amendment to the Marriage Act so that it provides for marriage equality.

This was reflected in the thunderous cheer at the Melbourne Marriage Survey Announcement rally to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's call: "Today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate". Indeed, parliament has moved quickly, with the Senate agreeing on November 15 to begin the debate on WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s private members bill to amend the Marriage Act. Based on the current schedule, it could be passed before Christmas.

Dean Smith’s bill

The Smith bill is seen as the consensus cross-party bill. On October 16, Labor’s parliamentary caucus endorsed the bill, arguing it “strikes an acceptable compromise” between marriage equality and religious freedoms. The Greens, who have historically opposed the inclusion of religious exemptions in the Marriage Act, have also endorsed the Smith bill. Greens leader Richard Di Natale was reported by The Guardian as saying the Greens would push for cross party changes to the bill, but would “not do anything to jeopardise” the bill if those changes were not supported.

However, the Smith bill is flawed, as it maintains the existing exemptions for religious organisations from the Sex Discrimination Act. These allow religious ministers to refuse to marry two people of the same sex or gender, if that is consistent with the beliefs of their church, and allows religious organisations to refuse to hire their venues. Also, as Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart told Fairfax Media on August 20, it would allow the Catholic Church and any other religious organisation to sack any of their employees who marries a partner of the same gender.

It would also extend an exemption to civil marriage celebrants via the creation of a new category of "religious marriage celebrants". Celebrants would be able to register as religious marriage celebrants and be able to lawfully refuse to perform marriage ceremonies on the basis of people's sexuality.

The problem with these exemptions is that they elevate the right of churches and religious individuals to hold their views above the right of LGBTI people to live their lives openly and exercise rights that the rest of the community takes for granted.

As bad as this legislation is, it could get worse as a consequence of efforts to further amend it. It has been very clear that opponents of marriage equality were not going accept the results of the survey if it did not go their way. It was always a cynical manoeuvre. Throughout the survey, the Australian Christian Lobby and other right-wing groups have sought to paint themselves as the real victims in the campaign and as the people in need of protection. The religious exemptions in the Smith bill are not seen as going far enough by more conservative forces both inside and outside of parliament, who have been threatening to move more than 100 amendments to the bill.

James Paterson’s bill

A glimpse of the types of amendments that could be moved was provided by Victorian Liberal Senator and former deputy executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs James Paterson. On November 13, Paterson announced his own bill to amend the Marriage Act – a bill that was described by Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre as "a Trojan Horse, which would allow unprecedented discrimination".

Paterson's bill went much further than the Smith bill in creating "religious exemptions". It also created two categories of marriage — "traditional marriage" between a "man and a woman" and "marriage" between "two people".

The protections proposed by Paterson would have extended the right to refuse goods and services relating to marriage to any person holding a "religious belief" or "conscientious" belief not just about the nature of marriage, but about having children out of wedlock or the existence of trans or intersex people.

The bill would also have provided wide protections against discrimination for people advocating and holding views regarding the character of "traditional marriage" and provided binding directives to schools regarding the delivery of the Safe Schools or similar programs.

While the Patterson bill was seen as having no prospect of success, it was designed, as Brown put it, as "a blatant attempt to punch holes in discrimination law and introduce special privileges for religious conservatives".

On November 15, Paterson announced he would be withdrawing his bill, saying: “It is clear the majority of Senators believe my colleague Senator Dean Smith's bill is where we should start. I will now work constructively with my parliamentary colleagues over the coming weeks on amendments to ensure that the strongest possible protections for the freedoms of all Australians are enshrined in the final legislation.”

Amendments

Attorney General George Brandis indicated on November 15 he would introduce an amendment to extend the right to conscientious objection to performing a marriage to all civil celebrants.

The Australian reported on November 16 that Treasurer Scott Morrison is leading efforts to incorporate into the Smith Bill Paterson's proposed protections for advocates of "traditional marriage" and for guaranteed "parental protections". These would require schools to inform parents of any discussions that might be expected to occur in class, "which parents might reasonably object to", about marriage, sexuality and gender, and enshrine the right for parents to withdraw their children from these classes.

While there are clearly the numbers in parliament to pass the Smith bill as it is, it seems odd, after a 13-year campaign to end discrimination in marriage and a survey that showed the majority of Australian voters support doing so, that the campaign would settle for legislation that not only accepts existing religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws but goes further — without an attempt to push for a reduction in these exemptions.

More importantly, failing to maintain the pressure allows the most conservative forces inside and outside the Liberal Party to push for amendments that will dramatically expand the right of religious bigots to discriminate against the LGBTI community. They are using the threat of blowing up the party, a threat that contributed to the survey being held in the first place, to help build the numbers to pass these amendments.

Conservatives will also rely heavily on arguments that they are seeking to protect the rights of the 40% of the population who opposed any change to the Marriage Act. It is important that we continue to be in the streets to remind parliament that the overwhelming majority of Australians support real marriage equality.

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Lisbeth Latham is a member of the Socialist Alliance
[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1162]

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Marriage equality: the fight is far from over

Lisbeth Latham

The results of the non-binding voluntary survey on same-sex marriage will be announced on November 15.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that by October 31, 12.3 million people (77% of the electorate) had returned their surveys – a much higher level of participation than initially expected.

This strong turnout has been viewed as favouring a Yes result in the survey. 

Irrespective of the outcome, we will need to continue to fight not only to achieve marriage equality but to combat the right's bigotry.

The survey was intended to eliminate marriage equality as a source of tension within the Coalition's party room and ensure that legislation was not put before parliament. The hope was that the survey would deliver a clear No vote.

The desire to avoid debating any legislation is reflected in the government's continued lack of clarity on what bill it will support in the event of a Yes majority.

The most likely bill – because it already has the support of Labor – is the private member's bill put forward by Western Australia Liberal senator Dean Smith in August.

The Smith bill expands significantly on existing religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act. It would enable churches to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples and civil marriage celebrants to register their objection to marrying same-sex couples.

It is objectionable that churches should be able to refuse to marry people on religious grounds. But to allow private citizens performing a secular marriage to do so sets a dangerous precedent in terms of legalising bigotry.

Smith has argued that his bill provides essential protection to "religious freedom". This refrain has been taken up by the Christian right in its campaign against marriage equality.

In late October, ultra-conservative Liberal MP Andrew Hastie called for the Smith bill to be dramatically modified. It is thought that Hastie will put forward more than 100 amendments to the proposed bill.

This is a cynical move, aimed at delaying the legislation and using marriage equality legislation to expand the ability of bigots to lawfully discriminate against LGBTI people.

 If successful, it would not only undermine marriage equality, but raise the level of discrimination and marginalisation experienced by LGBTI people.

The right's obsession with religious freedom is entirely cynical and divorced from the real historic struggles for religious freedom, which were about defending and protecting the rights of religious minorities from laws linked to state religions.

Organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), together with various far-right groups, have been at the centre of the right's campaign against marriage equality.

They have actively mobilised fear of polygamy as a reason for opposing marriage equality, despite there being no current push to legalise polygamy from those religious communities, including within Islam, where it is practiced.

These arguments are not just about saying that it is OK to discriminate against some religious beliefs; they actively seek to promote homophobia based on Islamophobic dog-whistle politics.

The right’s push to protect "religious freedom" is part of a broader assault to impose its conservative social attitudes via the state. It is a campaign that is anti-secular while seeking to violate the religious and social freedoms of those whose lives do not fit within the right's view of morality.

There are supporters of marriage equality who view these concessions as acceptable to achieve marriage equality. They argue that the amendments are irrelevant or that, once passed, the bill could be subsequently amended.

The reality is that these amendments will be used by bigots to marginalise and discriminate against LGBTI people. Moreover, once legislation is passed, it will be much harder to mobilise popular support to amend it.

The Christian right will not just rely on right-wing MPs and senators to stop or amend any marriage bill – it will broaden its campaign of vilifying the LGBTIQ community.

The ACL is likely to follow the approach of the US Christian right, from whom it borrowed its campaign against marriage equality, to push for the right to discriminate same-sex couples and amplify the marginalisation and vilification of the transgender community.

In the face of the right’s determination to roll back our rights, it is vital that we continue to mobilise in support of the LGBTIQ community.

Mobilising helps to build solidarity and reassert our right to exist and live our authentic lives.

Mobilising will also help create pressure to ensure that legislation is introduced quickly to parliament and help prevent a situation where Labor and other parties that support marriage equality accept amendments that expand the right of bigots to lawfully discriminate against the LGBTI community.

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Lisbeth Latham is a member of the Socialist Alliance
[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1161]

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Friday, October 27, 2017

France: Unions debate how to fight Macron’s anti-worker reforms

Lisbeth Latham

One of France's largest union confederations, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), held a strike on October 19 as part of the campaign against the anti-worker and anti-union ordinances adopted by the Emmanuel Macron government.

The mobilisations were far smaller than the previous three days of protests and have further fuelled discussion within the movement over how to overcome divisions and weaknesses and mobilise the widespread latent public opposition to the government's attacks.

The October 19 strikes and mobilisations by the CGT were announced on October 9 – a day prior to a public sector workers’ strike – with the aim of driving forward the movement. However, the result was about 100,000 workers participating in the October 19 mobilisations – roughly half the size of the September 21 mobilisations and about a quarter of the size of the September 12 protests, the largest mobilisation of the campaign to date.

The call for the strike came after the first inter-union meeting involving all the union confederations was held on October 9, the first of its kind during the current campaign. It was widely known that the CGT would call the strike and that the militant trade union Solidaires would support, but there was no effort made at that meeting to draw the other confederations into the mobilisations.

Conservative unions

The failure to seek to draw other unions into the mobilisation reflects deep problems in the current campaign.

This includes the refusal by conservative unions, particularly the French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT), to join the movement.

The potential of drawing them in seems even bleaker following the publication in Le Monde on October 23 of statements made by CFDT secretary general Laurent Berger at the confederation’s October 18-19 National Council meeting. Berger described the joint mobilisations as a “demonstration of weakness” and the CGT as “the Titanic, who wants to ride on the Titanic?”.

However, the left unions have also displayed an inability to engage and draw in more militant members of conservative unions.

While this objective is easier said than done, the CGT has been heavily focused on individual sections of its own confederation rather than trying to find ways to broaden the movement. While this has at times achieved some gains – such as truck drivers and wharf workers securing concessions that would limit the extent to which enterprise agreements can undermine sectoral agreements – the isolated strikes have had a tendency to leave the more militant sections of the movement on their own.

Where they have won concessions, those victories have undermined the capacity to mobilise these militant and strategically-located workers in support of the broader movement.

New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) militant Robert Pelletier, writing in the NPA's l'Anticapitaliste, argues that a major problem undermining mobilisations has been the determination of the leaders of the major confederations to participate in "dialogue" with the government.

The worst perpetrators have been the leaders of Workers Force (FO) and the CFDT, who despite anger from their rank-and-file and lower-level leaders, have accepted the attacks and argued that engagement with the government has served to limit the damage and helped to make progress in building "social dialogue".

However, this engagement has not been limited to the more conservative unions. CGT leaders have also engaged in dialogue and are seeking to participate in the next round, which will focus on the government's proposed attacks on vocational training, apprenticeships and unemployment insurance.

Pelletier argues that this engagement undermines the extent to which the government fears union threats of mobilisation. He argues that the focus should instead be on building upon the existing resistance by workers – particularly through the calling of indefinite strikes – while moving away from union-by-union and sector-by-sector strikes towards a united movement.

United convergence

Solidaires has continued to push for united mobilisations supported by all union confederations. It had been seeking to bring union leaders together for a discussion on a united response since May – that was only achieved on October 9.

In a statement following their leadership's October 17 meeting with the government to discuss the ordinances, Solidaires called for the rejection of the current ordinances, the repeal of the anti-worker 2016 El Khomri Law brought in by the previous Socialist Party government and rejection of the government’s prioritisation of "flexibility" over security for workers.

Solidaires is working to win agreement for a mid-November convergence of the struggles of workers, unemployed and retirees. It presented proposals for how to achieve this convergence to the inter-union meeting on October 24. Solidaires stated that "the constitution of a strong and determined social movement is urgently needed".

An agreement was reached at the October 24 meeting between the CGT, Solidaires and the FO for a joint mobilisation on November 16. Although opposed by the CDFT, the call has also been endorsed by UNEF, France’s main university student union, and two high school student unions. These student organisations played a critical role in the early stages of the 2016 protests against the El Khomri Law.

Another organisation pushing for a united mobilisation has been the Social Front (FS), which was established in late April by activists frustrated by the collapse of the 2016 movement.

FS has been building up its support with more than 130 union, social justice and political organisations from across France affiliating to the organisation.

It also successfully built a series of united mobilisations against Macron following the first round of the presidential elections in April. FS has called for a joint protest on November 18 against Macron’s policies. Activists from FS addressed the October 24 inter-union meeting seeking to win support for the mobilisation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[This article was originally published inGreen Left Weekly #1159]

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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