Bulletin #24

From: Francis Feeley <Francis.Feeley@u-grenoble3.fr>

11 May 2002
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues:

At the International American Studies Conference I recently attended in the
Former Soviet Union, an official from the U.S. Embassy asked the rhetorical
question : "Why does the world hate America so much?" In my presentation, I
tried to address this question, with a reference to Montaigne's essay on
"Friendship": Friends, after all, help one another by telling the truth,
even when it is sometimes painful. (Constructive criticism is, also, why we
visit medical doctors when we are ill, and so on and so forth....)  I
concluded my talk by paraphrasing T.S. Eliot's warning from "Murder in the
Cathedral" : "...for there is no greater treason, than to do the right
thing for the wrong reason."  Indeed, America has many false friends, both
inside and outside the United States. These fair-weather friends are always
on the side of the victors, and when the bills come due..., well you can
read Shakespeare's play, Timon of Athens, for that particular insight....

The recently repeated claims that the French nation is anti-American
because of specific criticisms of U.S. policy is to ignore a long critical
tradition that pre-dates the creation of the United States. To many people
in this country and elsewhere, the immediate U.S. government response to
the Setember 11 attacks, by defining the events as an Act of  War, instead
of a Crime, was not simply an epistemological error, but a political and
ecomonic strategy, as well,  which aims at military hegemony for further
U.S. control of world markets.

The official U.S. Government response almost precludes an objective
investigation into the causes of these terrorist acts, and instead embarks
the American nation on the destructive path of psychological warfare and
mass mobilization, for a war without a name and without an aim. This is not
a sign of political and economic strengh, which would have been required
for a sustained investigation of the crime, but rather a sign of weakness
and vulnerability, so often the hallmark of aggressive behavior and wanton

Many critical intellectuals around the world reserve the right to
differentiate between the Official Policy of the U.S. Goverment and the
interests of the American people. Social critics of "The War on Terrorism"
are not just sitting on the wrong side of the football stadium, cheering
for the wrong team, they are attempting to contribte to an on-going
investigation of real Crimes, using the time-honored method of searching
for real causes and effects.

F. Feeley

Below are two essays on the recent French presidential elections, written
by researchers associated with the Grenoble Center for the Advanced Study
of American Institutions and Social Movements : Arthur Mitzman and Mathieu

A. from Arthur Mitzman:
Dear Francis,

The following letter on the French elections, published in the Financial
Times on April 29, may be of interest to our friends. What I had no room
for in the letter (and no reason to address to the readership of that
newspaper) were the following thoughts, which I would particularly like to
communicate to Christophe Aguiton, Susan George, and other representatives
of the French Left at our conference last January in Grenoble.

Most of us realize that the sources of much right-wing xenophobia and
malignant hatred of "Europe" are neoliberal "reforms" mandated by the
Maastricht Treaty, which have seriously dislocated major parts of French
society. Indeed, it was largely EU regulations that lay behind Jospin's
privatisations and undermined popular support for his government, incapable
of implementing most of its social promises. The huge May Day mobilization
of the French Left against Le Pen (1.5 million demonstrators),
as well as the heavy first round vote (24.5%) for six parties to the left
of the Socialists and opposed to their spinelessness with regard to the EU,
offer an unparallelled opportunity for translating the popular opposition
to the far Right into a viable positive program, one that might counter the
Socialists' supine acceptance of Maastricht.  It is imperative that as many
as possible of those parties enter an electoral alliance so that a genuine
Left bloc can be represented in the Assembly. The function of such a bloc
would be to push the Socialists, who may be dependent on it to form the
next government, to seek, within the EU framework, basic revision of the
Maastricht Treaty, so as to permit the achievement of the Social Europe to
which the PS has long paid lip service.



French leftists opposed to handling of globalisation
     Financial Times, April 29, 2002

Sir, Dominique Moisi ("France's vote of no confidence", April 23) correctly
calls the elimination of Socialist Lionel Jospin from the final round of
the French presidential elections "a vote of no confidence in France's
political class" but wrongly attributes it to the exasperation of families
"with a state that does not protect them properly from rising crime, yet
takes too much in taxes".

If everyone voting against the political class had been so motivated,
Jean-Marie Le Pen would have received not 19.3 per cent but 43.8 per cent,
since the anti-establishment vote on the left - Trotskyists, Communists,
Greens and the supporters of the left-Socialist Jean-Pierre Chevènement
-amounted to 24.5 per cent, more than the far-right vote. Leftists voting
against "the political class" did so not because of crime and taxes but
because of globalisation and the French reaction to it. Most leftist voters
opposed the Jospin government's supine acceptance of neoliberal economics
which, through a programme of privatisations greater than that of the
preceding (conservative) government, had contributed to the mood of
insecurity. Like Mr Jospin they are pro-European but they insist that the
present European construction, which represents largely the interests of
banks and multinationals, should be replaced, or at least balanced, by a
concern for the economic security of all European citizens: a "Social Europe".

In the same edition Quentin Peel ("Nothing left") describes Mr Jospin's
defeat as signifying a "sharp shift to the right". It does not. Exceeding
the Socialist vote by less than 1 percentage point, Le Pen's tally was only
about 2 per cent larger than seven years ago. That it grew at all was
probably because voters for the anti-Maastricht rightwing Villiers/Pasqua
group, unable to run this time but  recipients of more than 4 per cent of
the vote in 1995, felt more at home with Mr Le Pen than with the
pro-Maastricht parties of the right. In any case, of the eight parties on
the right only two were anti-Maastricht parties (logical, considering the
proximity of the right to the neoliberal ideology that has shaped the
economic union). Whereas of the eight parties on the left, six disagreed
with the Socialists' implementation of the Maastricht Treaty. This
principled difference with most of the French left was what Mr Jospin
succumbed to, not a rightwing tidal wave. The anti-Maastricht left
outnumbered his supporters by nearly three to two.

There is a growing European resistance to the idea of a union based rigidly
on free market principles. Both the collectivist/ Keynesian left and the
nationalist right oppose it, with the result that governing from the
neoliberal centre - alternatively occupied by conservatives and social
democrats - is becoming a tight-rope act, increasingly incompatible with
democracy itself.

Arthur Mitzman, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of
Amsterdam, 1077 GC Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 1995-2002

B. from Mathieu O'Neil :

The Happy People
by Mathieu O'Neil

In an opinion piece entitled "The Angry People" published on April 23, 2002
in the New York Times, Paul Krugman, well-known Professor of Economics at
Princeton and liberal apologist of free trade, draws a parallel between the
presidential campaigns of Al Gore and Lionel Jospin. According to Krugman,
both featured a "slightly left-of-center" candidate, who, "though by every
indication a very good human being, is not a natural campaigner"; his
"professorial style" appears "condescending and humorless" to many. Despite
having led his country through a period of great peace and prosperity, he
is brutally shot down by the combined impact of irresponsible leftists who
engage in "political theatre", campaigning against him whilst having no
chance of winning (be they Trostkyites in France or Ralph Nader in the
United States) and apathetic, complacent moderates, who either believe that
this progressive candidate will win, or that the election will make little
difference. As a result, he is eliminated and the "hard right" rushes
forth, either to stun the world by winning through to the second round of
the elections in France, or by grabbing power outright in the United States.
There is some truth in this version of the facts: voter apathy, as
expressed by abstention, reached historic proportions in the first round of
the French presidential election (almost 30%). The figure in the United
States, of course, is even higher. But much remains unsaid; so much, in
fact, that one may be inclined to wonder if, in the alternate universe
which New York Times columnists are said to inhabit, the fitness of the
news to be printed derives from criteria which can only be described as
disinformational. What,
then, is being omitted? And to what purpose?
The most striking omission (and perhaps not such a surprising one, given
Krugman¹s position as a member of the Fourth Estate) concerns the role of
the media vis-à-vis the electoral result. To speak in the broadest terms,
the North American mass media, in its quest for maximizing profits,
trivializes the national political process to an extent that almost seems
to defy belief. In the particular instance of the 2000 presidential race,
the inaccurate polling of Voter News Service (VNS) combined with the closeness
of the result and the TV networks¹ wish to scoop one another caused the
networks to call the election for one candidate, then the other, before
retracting their predictions, thereby contributing to the deleterious
climate surrounding the Florida poll. Similarly in France, many have
criticized the influence of the media on the election. To be sure, the
French media¹s coverage of "insecurity" as the dominant theme of the
campaign and its constant representation of incidents of criminality
contributed to increasing public sensitivity to this issue, thereby
possibly increasing the vote for the far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le
Pen. The same could be said of the dozens of pre-election polls asserting
that Jospin and the incumbent, Jacques Chirac, would be in the second round
runoff, which
almost certainly increased the abstention rate.
Another series of omissions concerns French electoral arithmetic. Jospin¹s
Socialists were not alone in governing France for the last five years - a
fact of which Krugman seems unaware, or is perhaps unwilling to
acknowledge. Their "plural majority" also comprised Greens and Communists.
Both "theatrical" parties (to use Krugman¹s terminology) chose to present
candidates for the presidential ballot, as did several Trostkyite
organizations. None of these parties was new: while some increased their
showing, and others saw theirs falter, their electoral base has been a
constant in French political life for thirty years. What was new, and
probably fatal to Jospin¹s candidature, was the creation of former
Socialist Defense and Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement¹s
"Republican Pole".
Chevènement¹s appeal to the "values of the Republic", and his railing
against Europe and the loss of French sovereignty, echoed that of Charles
Pasqua, also a former Minister of the Interior, but for the right. Pasqua,
however, did not succeed in getting his campaign for President off the
ground. If he had, Jacques Chirac might not have finished ahead in the
first round. Through luck and/or political skill Chirac managed to keep a
serious threat out of the running, while Jospin did not. Chevènement got a
disappointing (for him) 5%, enough to ensure that Le Pen would slip ahead
of Jospin. In any case, Chevènement can hardly be described as an
Krugman calls those voters who gave Le Pen (and Bush) their ballot "the
angry people". They are, he writes, angry about the abandonment of
"traditional values" which translates into attacking "godless liberals" in
the United States and "immigrants" in France. Given his distinguished
economic credentials, it might have occurred to Krugman that these people
may be angry about their deteriorating standards of living, or about losing
their jobs. After all, there have been many factory closures in France in
recent years, leaving workers with little to show for their decades of hard
labour. This is borne out by the fact that many previously staunchly
Communist constituencies are now voting for the National Front. But for
Krugman, it seems that morality and politics take precedence over economic
Corporate disinformation is an active, dynamic process which does not only
distort reality: it aims at banning some ideas altogether, at rendering
certain statements impossible to utter. In the case of anti-globalization
activists, for example, the usual strategy is to dismiss them as kooks,
describing their claims as intrinsically unreasonable. For an analysis of
the methods of elaboration, dissemination and integration of dominant
ideology, visit the CIESIMSA web site <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and read in Atelier No. 11, on "L'idéologie capitaliste à l'époque des
multinationales," Article 3 by Stevenson, Article 7 by Eagleton and Article
11 by Channinig.

That France's institutional political culture still allows a small space of
protest against the forces of transnational capitalism is often denounced
as an antiquated irritant by Anglo-American pundits and politicians, who
would probably rather limit such opposition to colorful street parties or
anonymous cyber-activists. Indeed, the same phenomenon can be observed in
France, especially when a golden opportunity such as the rude eruption of
the far right into the sacred second round of the Presidential elections
arises. By focusing on the evils of Le Pen, it then becomes all too easy to
distract the citizenry from other problems, usually of an economic nature.
In this way issues such as deregulation, delocalisation, "right-sizing",
insider trading ­ in short, all the manifestations of market worship ­ fall
by the wayside, as the call goes out to unify against the forces of extremism.
 From a French perspective, an interesting omission in Krugman¹s article is
the prime beneficiary of all this fine republican fervor: the President of
the French Republic, Jacques Chirac (graduate of the Ecole Nationale
d¹Administration, the training ground for State oligarchs, former Mayor of
Paris, and former Prime Minister) who was handsomely awarded 82% of the
vote in the runoff against Le Pen. Not a word is said of him: of the 15.000
francs routinely spent on "fruit and vegetables" each day when he was Mayor,
of the 3 million francs in cash used to pay for holiday airfares for the
President, his family and his mates, of the immunity awarded to him by the
French Supreme Court for the length of his term in office, which has just
been awarded a five-year extension.
Faced with such shameless greed, corruption and hypocrisy, voter anger
seems not only to be a rational response, but also the only logical
reaction. Part of Le Pen¹s recent popularity may have been caused by his
willingness to attack Chirac directly: a willingness not shared by other
candidates or the media.
Comparing different political systems is always a tricky proposition, but
equating Jospin and Gore seems particularly absurd, unless the Democratic
Party of the United States of America has suddenly pledged to reduce the
working week to 35 hours, enforce strict gender parity of political
representation, and create a "Pacte de concubinage et de solidarité" or
PACS, otherwise known as "gay marriages" - all laws which the Socialist-led
coalition actually passed. Similarly, Krugman¹s assertion that House of
Representatives Republican Whip Tom DeLay and Attorney General John
Ashcroft hold views that are "in their way" as extreme as that of Le Pen is a
startling one, for Le Pen¹s oft-stated anti-Semitic and revisionist beliefs
obviously place him in the fascist camp. The problem is not so much with
the accuracy of Krugman¹s pronouncement, but with the reaction it implies:
if he truly believes what he says, why does he not join the Resistance? Or
(at least) urge others to do so?
In France¹s Presidential election, the far right was rejected, decisively.
Of course, some people voted for Le Pen, 18% of the population, the "angry
people". That makes the rest of us, 82% of the population, happy people.
Why don't we feel happy?