Extreme right meeting in Germany

This video says about itself:

(6 Apr 2016) Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and former head of France’s far-right National Front party, has been convicted of denying crimes against humanity for repeating that the Nazi gas chambers are a “detail” of World War II history.

A Paris court convicted then sentenced Le Pen on Wednesday to a 30,000 euros (34,000 US dollars) fine plus paying damages to three associations, plaintiffs in the case.

Le Pen, 87, was convicted of the same offence in 2012 for claiming the Nazi occupation of France was not “particularly inhumane”.

Decades ago, Le Pen was convicted for saying the gas chambers were “a detail of the history of the Second World War”.

He repeated the remark last year.

From Avaaz:

Dear friends,

It sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy — the top fascist leaders in Europe are coming together to plot their takeover from a remote German castle. But that’s exactly what’s happening this weekend, and we can expose them.

This affects all of us everywhere. There are elections in France, Germany, and the Netherlands this year — and the far right wants a clean sweep. If they get it, they’ll … rip-up human rights, and gut environmental and climate protections — causing irreversible global harm.

Join this global call to expose this summit for what it is — an assault on our future. If enough of us sign, the Avaaz team in Germany will deliver our voices directly to press at the summit.

Let’s stand up to reject the rise of fascism.

Here’s just a smattering of some of these politicians:

Marine Le Pen, France’s Front National.

Geert Wilders, Netherlands Party for Freedom: “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology, the ideology of a retarded culture.”

We’ve already got Trump in the United States, let’s not lose Europe to this tide of hate!

In just 4 days, Europe’s far right hopes to show the media that they are on the rise. But if we can launch a million-person strong movement to stop this extremism, Avaaz staff can deliver our voices to press in Germany and turn the story on its head.

Let’s stand up to reject the rise of fascism.

In dark times, great movements are born. We’ve shown that we can fight back and win against major corporations like Monsanto, major moguls like Rupert Murdoch and now we need to come together to beat a movement that threatens everything we love. I know we can.

With determination,

Iain, Danny, Alice, Nell, Risalat, and the whole Avaaz team.

More information:

Europe’s Rising Far Right: A Guide to the Most Prominent Parties (New York Times)

Germany’s AfD Divided by Le Pen Meeting (EU Observer)

Europe’s far right parties are holding their first-ever “counter-summit” in Germany (Quartz)
Europe’s far-right parties are holding their first-ever “counter-summit” in Germany

What Europe’s Far Right Sees in Trump’s Win (The Atlantic)

French Barbusse’s anti-World War I novel

Barbusse's Le Feu (Under Fire)

By Sandy English:

A century since the publication of Henri Barbusse’s antiwar novel, Under Fire

4 January 2017

In January 1917, French novelist Henri Barbusse published his novel Under Fire: The Story of a Squad (Le Feu: Journal d’une escouade), which related the experiences of a French army unit in the First World War. The book was based on the writer’s own experiences in the trenches facing the German lines in northern France, where he served for 17 months. The novel had been published in serial form toward the end of 1916, and appeared as a book in the first month of the new year.

After the passage of 100 years, Under Fire remains one of the most compelling works of art from the early part of the 20th century, and the first—and, in some ways, the most psychologically revealing—of the antiwar novels that the war of 1914-1918 produced in Europe and America over the next two decades.

Perhaps more importantly, the novel itself became a factor in the struggle against the war. It expressed, in the very middle of almost unimaginable destruction, the thoughts and feelings of millions of workers, small tradesmen and farmers from Europe, Canada, Australia and the colonies, and soon from the United States, as those around them were dying in fetid trenches, by poison gas, artillery bombardment and sniper or machine gun fire. Under Fire provoked an immediate reaction from hundreds of thousands of readers, and mirrored the revival of an antiwar movement in the French working class.

After the war, Lenin was to remark that Barbusse’s novels [Le Feu and Clarté (Clarity)], “may be cited as particularly graphic corroborations of the mass phenomenon, observed everywhere, of the growth of revolutionary consciousness among the masses.”

A year and a half of war produced a monumental shift in the opinions and sentiments of millions of people in Europe, both soldiers and civilians. It was inevitable and necessary that artists began to treat these earthshaking experiences in their fullest human dimension.

1916 was the bloodiest year in European history up to that point. The Russian Brusilov Offensive during the summer, in what is now Ukraine, cost 1,600,000 dead and wounded, mostly Russian and Austro-Hungarian.

The Battle of the Somme (from the River Somme, in northwestern France), fought from to July 1 to November 18, 1916, killed or wounded 1 million Germans, French, British, Australians, Canadians, Indians and New Zealanders. On the first day of the battle alone the British suffered 57,470 casualties. The Somme was notable for one of the first military uses of the new horror of air power.

The Battle of Verdun (February 21 to December 18, 1916)—fought in northeastern France primarily between German and French forces—was the lengthiest battle of the war and drew in nearly three-quarters of the French army. Estimates of the casualties range from 700,000 to 900,000 men, about half German and half French.

Battle of the Somme

One historian of the latter battle, Alistair Horne (The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916), notes: “Though other battles of the First War exacted a higher toll, Verdun came to gain the unenviable reputation of being the battlefield with the highest density of dead per square yard that has probably ever been known.” By the end of the year, over a million French soldiers (out of a male population of 20 million) had died in the slaughter of the first imperialist war.

French government censorship did not allow accurate reports of the scale of destruction to reach civilians behind the front lines, but reports trickled in from soldiers on leave. And by 1916, living standards behind the lines in France were deteriorating, with food shortages and steep price increases for staples such as flour and eggs.

Rank-and-file members of the Socialist Party were increasingly discontented with the abject pro-war attitude of their party’s leadership. Party officials sought to suppress knowledge and discussion of the socialist antiwar conference held in Zimmerwald, Switzerland in September 1915. Dissatisfaction among French workers would erupt in a strike wave the next year. The French government sought to ban Leon Trotsky’s antiwar Russian language newspaper Nashe Slovo, and succeeded in expelling Trotsky from France in March 1916.

Barbusse enlisted in the French army in 1914, at the age of 41, in the midst of the patriotic fervor. In a letter that month to the pro-war Socialist Party newspaper L’Humanité

L’Humanité only became pro-war after an extreme rightist had murdered its anti-war editor Jean Jaurès just before the official outbreak of World War I.

he wrote that he supported the war as a fight against “the sabre, the jackboot, and the crown” of German militarism.

Barbusse was raised in a household devoted to the ideals of the Enlightenment. He lived in the artistic Bohemia of the pre-war years, had a career as an editor and published poems in the symbolist style. His one early novel, Hell (L’enfer, 1908), is about man in a boarding house who can spy upon his fellow-boarders though a hole in the wall. What he sees is generally unflattering to humanity, although there are passages critical of nationalism and militarism, growing tendencies in France at the time.

During the war Barbusse served as an enlisted man, not an officer, and was awarded the Croix du Guerre for bravery and reassigned from the front for health reasons in 1916 (pulmonary damage, dysentery and exhaustion). By all accounts by 1915 he had become thoroughly disillusioned with the war and began to take a pacifist attitude. While working in a clerk’s position behind the lines, Barbusse began to turn his painful experiences into a novel.

The characters in Under Fire make up a single army squad (14 to 16 men), each from a different region of France and each a worker, farmer or small tradesman. A soldier who is apparently an intellectual narrates, but he stays in the background for the most part, letting the experiences and thoughts of his comrades take center stage.

The novel begins with the mundane details of life in the trenches for the poilu (ordinary French soldier): the dirt, the cold and the disease. Soldiers write letter to their wives, search for food, grumble about rations.

Generally, the soldiers show a mixture of sympathy for and anger at their German counterparts. Many blame the war entirely on German militarism. Some of them are not above killing a stray German for his matches, but German soldiers smuggle one French soldier, a fellow Alsatian, who has helped them bury their dead, behind the lines to see his family.

The novel progresses through more and more devastating scenes, both emotional and physical. The chapter called “First-Aid Post” shows a field hospital full of the wounded and dying. It is bombarded and light comes though the demolished roof: “In it you can see the faces flaming or morally pale. Eyes closing in agony or blazing with fever, bodies wrapped in white, patched in monstrous bandages. All these things that were hidden are brought into the light.”

The violence of the war reaches its climax in the chapter “Dawn,” one of the most harrowing depictions ever written of the hell of the First World War, or indeed any war. After a bombardment and a heavy rain, the trenches have been decimated and the ground is strewn with dead men, many of whom who perished by drowning.

Of the dead, both German and French, the narrator says: “All their efforts to escape from the ditch, with its sticky embankment, slowly, fatally filling up with water, only served to drag them further to the bottom. They died holding on for support to the earth as it slid away from them.”

The chapter is especially tragic because the beginnings of an understanding among the soldiers of the meaning of this experience, that is, of the real character of the war, has begun 60 pages earlier.

The narrator, as he wanders in “the midst of this dark chaos,” meets Corporal Bernard from his squad who is sitting on the embankment of a trench. He has recently killed German soldiers in battle and says, “‘How will they who come after us … how will they think of these massacres, these deeds, when even we who commit them don’t know whether they are like the exploits of heroes … or the doings of bandits! ‘And yet,’ he went on, ‘there is someone who has risen above the war and who will shine out for the beauty and extent of his courage …’ He exclaimed in a clear voice: ‘Liebknecht!’”

Critics have termed this scene “incongruous.” But it is just the opposite: it bears, more than almost any artistic depiction of the First World War, the imprint of the historical logic at work in the war: the emergence of the social revolution.

This logic was fully apparent only to a few in 1916, including the man named in this passage, the German Marxist Karl Liebknecht, leader of the antiwar tendency in the German working class. The handful of internationalist socialist leaders included Liebknecht’s comrade, Rosa Luxemburg, imprisoned since 1915; the Bolshevik leader, V. I. Lenin, who was still in exile in Geneva; and Leon Trotsky, who would shortly be expelled from France by a government which could sense where events were heading.

At the end of April 1917 large sections of the French army would be racked by mutinies as a result of the failed Nivelle Offensive, although the March Revolution in Russia and antiwar dissent in the working class behind the lines were also influences. In one protest, French soldiers bleated like sheep as they paraded past their officers to show they knew they were being led to the slaughter. The role of Under Fire in fanning this sentiment cannot be discounted.

Under Fire ends with a passionate discussion among the squad—those who remain alive—about social equality. “‘The people are nothing and should be everything,’” one soldier says. The narrator remarks, “These men of the people … are the Revolution greater than the other [the French Revolution of 1789], with themselves as its source—rising already, rising in their throats, repeat ‘Equality.’” [10]

The novel sold tens of thousands of copies, and won the most prestigious French literary award, the Prix Goncourt. Many French soldiers testified to the authenticity of Under Fire‘s descriptions. Particularly striking for the time was the frank language of the poilus that he reproduced. Because of the popularity of the novel and because of his exemplary war record, Barbusse could not be persecuted by the government.

Seasons, new wildlife film

This video says about itself:

Directed by: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

Seasons: Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Documentary

On 26 December 2016, I went to see the wildlife film Seasons.

The film aims at showing the history of wildlife and its interactions with humans from the last ice age till today.

The film says that in the northern half of Europe during the last ice age, the Weichselian ice age, there were not really seasons. There was winter for 80,000 years.

The film shows that with footage of animals adapted to cold: a snowy owl, reindeer and muskoxen, which still live in Norway.

About 12,000 years ago, the film says, the ice age was over, and the golden age of forests started. Now, there were clearly seasons.

These seasons meant migration of animals. The film shows flying cranes, flying grey lag geese, and thousands of bramblings landing in trees.

That ‘golden age’ is the longest part of the film. It shows many beautiful images of forest animals: lynx, wolves, pine marten, red foxes, moose, red deer, European bison, wild boar, edible dormice, red squirrels, blackbirds, owls, fire salamander and frogs.

The ‘golden age’ ended with the start of Neolithic agriculture.

Some wolves became dogs; and other wolves were exterminated.

Gradually, much of the forests was cleared to make it suitable for hunting.

Roads, at first for horse-drawn carts, later for cars, divided biotopes for animals; creating new dangers for, eg, hedgehogs.

Many forests changed to open fields.

That meant new chances for some wildlife: jackdaws, hoopoes, roe deer, little bustards.

However, humans divided animals in so-called useful and ‘noxious’ species. That meant killing ‘noxious’ animals; and animals which according to superstition brought bad luck, like owls.

Then industry arose in the eighteenth century and later. With its pollution. And ‘industrial’ wars like World War I. The film shows footage of a soldier in a trench using a lull in the fighting to draw a thrush in front of him. However, then the shooting starts again, killing the thrush.

The film then shifts to bees, killed by or dying from pesticides.

Then, as conclusion, the filmmakers say humans should rectify what they have damaged to animals’ biotopes. ‘It is not too late for that’.

The movie was recorded for a big part in nature reserves in France. However, it was also filmed in Poland, Romania, Scotland, Oostvaardersplassen national park in the Netherlands, and Norway.

There are two more or less problematic sides to this beautiful film. Sides which it has in common with Océans, the earlier film by its makers.

First: The images are joined together by relatively few spoken comments. This may be a weak point as many viewers will not know all the animal species in the movie, and hardly one of them is introduced by name. It may be a strong point as well, as it enables the viewers to concentrate more on the imagery.

Second: sponsoring of this fine film by not necessarily fine sponsors (named in the beginning of the movie). One of them is the French Fondation Bettencourt Schueller. Founded by millionaire Ms Liliane Bettencourt who also financed crooked French politician Nicolas Sarkozy.

French Sarkozy rejected by his own party

Sarkozy cartoon

This cartoon by Jeffrey Hill shows French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, whipping up hysteria on terrorism in order to become president again. However, today it has turned out that he failed.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Sarkozy already knockout in first round, he will not be president again

Today, 21:39

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has conceded defeat in the first round of elections for the candidacy for the presidency of his party. The counting of votes is still under way, but Sarkozy has trailed the votes of the two former Prime Ministers Fillon and Juppé all night.

With 80 percent of votes counted Fillon is ahead. He has received 44 percent of the vote and Juppé stands at 28 percent. Sarkozy remains at 21 percent. The two candidates with the most votes will go through to the next round, which will be held next Sunday.

Sarkozy, for his part, had praised Trump’s election as validation of his own claims to speak for the “silent majority” and as a victory for a democracy and the principle of “listening to the people.” Trump is unpopular in France, and Sarkozy’s open support for Trump doubtless played a role in his elimination in the first round. Sarkozy explicitly centered his campaign around stigmatizing Muslims: here.

French civil liberties in danger

This video from the USA says about itself:

State of Emergency in France: 2,200 Police Raids, 3 Closed Mosques, Hundreds of Muslims Detained

4 December 2015

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced Wednesday that authorities had carried out more than 2,200 raids since a state of emergency was declared following the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people. Under the state of emergency, French police can raid any home without judicial oversight. In addition, police have held 263 people for questioning – nearly all have been detained. Another 330 people are under house arrest, and three mosques have also been shut down. The vast majority of those targeted in the raids have been Muslim. We speak with Yasser Louati, spokesperson and head of the International Relations Desk for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.

By Alex Lantier:

French prime minister calls for extension of state of emergency

14 November 2016

In a BBC interview Sunday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for yet another extension of the French state of emergency, until after presidential elections in April-May 2017. Coming just after the election of Donald Trump as US president, Valls’ announcement points to the accelerating collapse of democratic forms of rule on both sides of the Atlantic.

As he demanded that the National Assembly approve the fourth extension of the state of emergency since Valls’ Socialist Party (PS) imposed it just after the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, Valls gave no indication of when, or whether, the French state of emergency would ever be lifted.

“It would be hard today to end the state of emergency,” Valls told the BBC’s HARDtalk show. “Especially since we will launch a presidential election in a few weeks with meetings and public gatherings. So we must also protect our democracy.”

“Besides,” he added, “the mechanism of the state of emergency also grants us the ability to carry out arrests and administrative investigations that are effective. … So yes, we will probably live for some time with this state of emergency.” He cited the July 14 Bastille Day attack in Nice, when [a mentally ill person] killed 86 people and wounded 434 by driving a truck through a crowd, as the type of attack the state of emergency was needed to confront.

Valls’ arguments for the state of emergency are a reactionary political fraud. The state of emergency is not an anti-terrorist initiative to defend democracy, but a police state regime targeting the working class above all. It aims to whip up far-right forces, stimulate militarist and anti-Muslim hysteria, and send police to crush rising opposition in the working class to PS austerity policies, like this spring’s mass protest movement against the PS’ despised labor law.

The fact that Valls does not foresee any end to the state of emergency only underscores that powerful factions in the ruling class intend for the suspension of democratic rights to be permanent.

It is now clear, as even sections of the political establishment have admitted, that the state of emergency does not prevent terror attacks. It clearly proved incapable of preventing the Nice attack, and a parliamentary report this summer overseen by conservative deputy Georges Fenech found that the state of emergency had “limited scope” as an anti-terror measure. In fact, the state of emergency has not cut off terror networks, because they are key tools of French and NATO war policy.

In February 2016—after the vast majority of police actions under the state of emergency had taken place—the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) published an accounting based on Interior Ministry figures. The CNCDH counted 3,824 searches and seizures, 392 assignments to house arrest, but only 29 investigations of terror-related offenses. These included 23 charges for a vaguely-defined offense of “apologizing for terrorist actions,” i.e. verbally supporting Islamist groups, and only six cases sent on to anti-terror prosecutors.

In the meantime, however, thousands of European Muslims are traveling to the Middle East to join Islamist militias that are NATO’s main proxies in its war for regime change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to estimates from the Soufan Group, a private intelligence firm, some 1,700 people from France alone have already traveled to join militias in Syria. A flow of fighters on this scale is impossible without the knowledge and complicity of European intelligence agencies.

An examination of the individuals involved in recent terror attacks in Europe—the Charlie Hebdo and November 13 attacks in Paris last year, and the March 22 attack in Brussels this year—clearly illustrates this complicity. The leaders of the terrorist commandos were well known to intelligence agencies, often as high-ranking operatives. Yet they were able to cross borders, access tens of thousands of euros, and acquire weapons without hindrance.

*The Kouachi brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attacks were removed from surveillance shortly before they carried out the attack, even though they were in contact with top leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

*Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the leader of the November 13 terror commando, was allowed to travel across Europe even though he was well known to intelligence services as the public face of the Islamic State [ISIS] militia’s recruiting efforts on social media.

*The March 22 attackers and their targets were identified to Belgian authorities by Turkish, Israeli, and Russian intelligence before the attacks. Nonetheless, they were not stopped, nor was security tightened around their targets. It also emerged after the attack that the location of November 13 accomplice Salah Abdeslam, who was in hiding in Brussels and described in the media as “Europe’s most wanted man” until his capture shortly before the March 22 attack, had been known to Belgian police forces the entire time.

The French political establishment and media have used lies about the Syrian war and the Paris and Brussels bombings to reorient official politics far to the right, in order to continue imposing policies of war and austerity that have no popular base whatsoever.

For nearly two years, the masses have been bombarded with lies, taken from the arsenal of the far right, presenting these attacks not as the outcome of a politically criminal war in Syria, but of Muslim delinquency. The PS used this poisonous atmosphere to divide working people, promote the police and military, ram through billion-euro increases in military spending, and justify repeated police assaults on peaceful demonstrators against its labor law.

It led to attacks on democratic rights that are unprecedented since World War II, such as bans of “burkini” swimwear enforced on French beaches in defiance of court rulings, and Valls’ attempt this summer to ban peaceful protests by workers and youth against the labor law.

Conditions are emerging for even more bitter class battles in France and across Europe. Amid a constant danger of a NATO-Russia war over Syria, with the right-wing The Republicans (LR) and the neo-fascist National Front (FN) rising in the polls, an even more ferociously right-wing regime could easily come to power in France. It would have at its disposal the juridical and technological infrastructure of a police state, built by the PS, to be mobilized against working class opposition to austerity and war.

The precondition of any victorious struggle against war and to defend workers’ basic social rights is to oppose the reactionary fraud of the French state of emergency.

By setting up a single database centralizing information on the entire French population behind their backs, France’s Socialist Party (PS) government is giving the state vast repressive powers. Coming amid the state of emergency, it constitutes a fundamental threat to democratic rights, in particular to opposition within the working class to austerity and war: here.