Bulletin N°507



13 November 2011
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

It was that profound Harvard scholar, Dr. Henry Kissinger, who first pointed out in his early scholarly work on the age of Metternich (entitled The World Restored) that if you had never heard of the existence of an elephant, you no doubt would be unable to recognize one when you saw it. In this vein I embarked on my readings about revolutionary periods from the past, to see what they looked like.

Last Friday evening I went with my family to one of the innumerable pizza restaurants in our town, Grenoble. The occasion, we invented, was the once-in-a-millennium date of 11/11/11. After we ordered our dinner, my 15-year-old daughter asked me what I've been reading lately. I explained that I had just finished Machiavelli's The Prince (1532) and was now reading Babeuf's Manifesto of the Equals (April 1796) and his defense at the sedition trial in 1797 which ended with his execution. Upon request, I gave my daughter a brief description of Machiavelli's 16th-century equivalent of the "Shock-and-Awe" doctrine, employed by the US military today in order to elicit co-operation, just as it was prescribe for use by the Renaissance Tyrant, Lorenzo il Magnifico.

This discussion of violent force grew pretty ugly, and my wife changed the subject before the pizza arrived. Then my daughter asked me about Babeuf: why was he executed by the First Republic of France? I explained that Babeuf was interested in applying the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (who had lived briefly down the street from the pizza restaurant where we were sitting). He had written a song that was popular in cafés across Paris, and was a member of "The Conspiracy of Equals" which had been infiltrated by the police. Babeuf's song Mourant de faim, mourant de froid ("Dying of Hunger, Dying of Cold"), set to a popular tune, began to be sung in Paris cafés, with immense applause; and reports circulated that the disaffected troops of the French Revolutionary Army were ready to join an insurrection against the government. It was also Babeuf who claimed that food, like the sunshine, should be enjoyed by all people. Ideas such as these would cost him his life . . . . [Note: I was unable to find the lyrics of Babeuf's song, nor was I able to find the 18th-century tune to which it was sung, despite a diligent search on Google.]

Meanwhile our pizza was served by an attractive young lady, and after an enjoyable meal with delightful small talk, my daughter roller skated home with us. We had to conclude that the Fifth Republic was more tolerant than the First in the sphere of "mental concepts" (as David Harvey would remark), but in the sphere of "social relationships" gross inequality remains the "norm" in France as elsewhere.

It is understood by most economists that wars serve as investment opportunities, a mechanism of last resort to pump public monies into private pockets (for the next cycle of production --the production of profits, that is!-- as rebuilding that which was destroyed gladly offers). International wars have served a second function, as well; they have been used to avert civil wars and to absorb the "surplus population" in times of high unemployment, channeling violence away from resistance to class oppression and toward an adventure with foreign conflict. This may sound too cynical to believe, but I think today cynicism is no longer a major obstacle to an understanding of political economy in contemporary terms.

During my recent re-reading of Richard Cobb's wonderfully insightful social history of The People and the Police and Peter Kropotkin's The Great French Revolution, I came across the voice of Marie-Antoinette, who had a complete grasp of these conveniences of international warfare. "Instead of a civil war, wrote her husband, Louis XVI, on 14 December 1791, "we shall have war abroad." On the same day, Marie-Antoinette wrote to her friend Fersen, describing the activities of the bourgeois Girondins in the Assembly who were pressing for war: "The fools! They do not see that they are playing our game." (Albert Soboul, A Short History of the French Revolution, p. 79) The trick, understood by Marat and by Robespierre, as well, was to divert popular attention away from the Monarchy by rallying a national defense. By encouraging the central European monarchies to invade France, fear was generated and revolutionary demands were dropped. Kropotkin describes the situation of May-June 1793 in these words:

     The great question of the moment was the war. On the success of the armies depended the future development of the Revolution.
     We have seen that the advanced revolutionaries, like Marat and Robespierre, had not wanted the war. But the Court called in the German invaders to save royal despotism: the priests and nobles furiously wanted the war, hoping to regain through it their ancient privileges; and the neighboring governments saw in a war upon France the means of combating the spirit of revolution which was beginning to show itself in their own dominions, as well as a good opportunity of wresting from France some provinces and colonies. The Girondins, on the other hand, desired the war, because they saw in it the only way to succeed in limiting the authority of the King without appealing to a popular rising. 'It is because you do not wish to appeal to the people that you wish for war,'said Marat, and he was right. (Kropotkin, Black Rose Books, 1989, p.323)
The wealthy landowners and the nouveaux riches had no intention of sharing their wealth, nor their jealously guarded political power, any further than was strictly necessary. "The sans-culotte . . . is not a social or economic being; he is a political accident," observed Cobb (p.120). They were tactically useful up to a point; then they had to be discarded by the French bourgeoisie in light of a new strategy that would consolidate bourgeois power, bringing the French mercantile capitalists and their property-owning allies closer to political dominance.

François Noël "Gracchus" Babeuf is usually considered a representative of the most radical faction of the French Revolution. His Society of the Pantheon was identified and he was arrested on May 11, 1796. Already in 1786 he has written on his views of justice and equality, and he continued to write during the Girondist and Jacobin phases of the Great Revolution. It was in April 1796, after almost two years of moderate republican rule following the fall of Robespierre, that "Manifesto of the Equals" was written, calling for insurrection against the Directorate : "PEOPLE OF FRANCE!, the manifesto began,
For fifteen centuries you have lived as slaves, and have therefore been miserable. For the past six years you have scarcely been able to breathe, awaiting independence, happiness, and equality. (Babeuf cited by Albert Fried and Roland Sanders, in Socialist Thought, A Documentary History, Anchor Books, 1964, p.51)
He was busted for inciting insurrection on May 11, 1796, and his trial at Vendôme lasted from February through May 1797. During his trial he defended his actions saying that monarchism was taking hold of the people and that something creative had to be done to prevent it: "I looked around me and saw many people who were defeated, even among those patriots, once so fervent and courageous, who had made so many successful efforts to strengthen Liberty." (opus citatum, p.57)

Babeuf was executed by the French State on May 27, 1797, at the age of 36. At his trial he concluded his defense pointing out that his ideas had been taken from les philosophes, and that any judgement against him would be a judgement against French writers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. "It says in the volume printed by the court," the defendant pointed out, "that the draft of this statement (see below) is written in Babeuf's hand. I tell you it is only a copy. The proof that I am about to give you of this will perhaps suffice to place other such attributions in question. The original is from the hand of Jean Jacques Rousseau. I have no fear of compromising this new conspirator by mentioning him here, since he can be neither harmed nor tainted by the judgement of this tribunal." (op. cit., p.70)
Before the terrible words mine and thine were invented; before the existence of this cruel and brutal species of men called masters, and of that other species of rogues and liars called slaves; before there were men so abominable as to dare to have too much while other were dying of hunger; before mutual dependence had forced them all to become cunning and jealous traitors. . . .  I would like someone to tell me what their vices and crimes could then possibly have consisted of. . . .  I am told that people have been long disabused of the chimera of a golden age. It should be added that men have been long disabused of the chimera of virtue! (ibid.)
In the 9 items below we may identify patterns of responses to the financial crisis which threatenes to engulf all of us in the coming months.

Item A. is a message from Les jardins d'utopies, a local movement (which now enjoys a longevity of six years) on the University of Grenoble campus, and Professor Feeley's reply.
Item B., sent to us by Readers Supported News, is an article by Noam Chomsky on the role of pacifism in today's struggle.
Item C. is a series of reports on the "Occupy Oakland" General Strike of November 2.
Item D. is the "Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture" given by Noam Chomsky, at the "Occupy Boston" location on 2 November.
Item E., from Dr. Jim O'Brien representing Historians Against War (HAW), is a list of selected articles pertaining to our culture in crisis.
Item F., from The Real News, is an interview with Canadian economist Leo Panitch, discussing "irrationality of capitalism and the incredible struggle of people in the street."
Item G., from Francis Feeley, is his Nov. 5 message to colleagues in the Société des Anglicistes de L'Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) concerning events in the US after the Nov. 2 General Strike in Oakland, California.
Item H. is a 2008 report by CBS news "60 Minutes" investigative journalists, Joel Bach and David Gelber reporting on "The Huge Crash Coming"
Item I. is Michael Truscello's new film Capitalism Is The Crisis, which offers one more synthesis of our gloom and doom, along  with the cartoon version of George Orwell's Animal Farm to entertain us and instruct us during the collapse of the old regime and the rise of . . .?

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a short polemic on "the Debt Crisis in Greece" :
The 64,000 dollar question ???

Answer #1
Farmer Heiko on the Greek debt crisis


Answer #2
Max Keiser: "Greece run by financial terrorists"

Francis Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Université de Grenoble-3
Director of Research
Université de Paris-10

from Les jardins d'utopies :
Date: 3 November 2011
Subject: Report from yesterday's General Assembly at the Jardins d'Utopies campus occupation and Professor Feeley's response.

At 23:50 02/11/2011, Jardins d'Utopie wrote:

Bonsoir a tous

Voici la liste des personnes qui se sont inscrite pour se tenir au courant et participer au soutien des jardins d'utopies. (pardon a ceux dont j'ai mal lu leur écriture et qui ne recevront rien...)
Pour s'en servir, on utilisera la fonction "répondre a tous" du dernier mel reçu vu que des personnes seront peut-être rajouté par la suite.

On se retrouve vendredi prochain (le 4 novembre) a 12h au jardin de la BU droit-lettre ou dans le grand espace de la fac de Stendhal s'il pleut (juste a coté).

Voici une modeste restitution des discussions et proposition du rassemblement de ce mercredi midi :

Replanter inlassablement et rendre l'action visible avec des panneaux --> ce qui a été très bien fait aujourd'hui, super!

Organiser une journée/soirée animé et festive a coté des jardins

Thibault est le responsable légale de l'association, pour éviter qu'il subisse des attaque en justice, il été décider de dissoudre l'association, l'opération est en cours

"On est dans un contexte mondiale "occupy", une attaque en justice peut être un bénéfice car ouverture d'une tribune, procès politique..."

Lancer un évènement que je nomerais "sème ton campus" ou "retourne ton campus" avec appel de personnes extérieur genre collectif de chomeur et autre...

Replanter des arbres fruitiers qu'on achèterais avec une cotiz de 0,50 ou 1€ symbolique dans une caisse de soutien

Inviter tout les membres des différends jardins de grenoble pour cette occasion (ou une autre)

Faire un texte de pétition

... je n'étais pas attentif a 100% il n'y a vraiment pas tout et le reste est a faire ...

Quelques infos a donner :

Lorsque qu'on est allé sur le jardin rasé on a croisé 2 encravatés (des hauts-placés mais je ne sais pas quel est leurs poste ni qui il sont) qui nous on sorti quelques remarques genre "vous n'êtes pas démocratique, avez-vous consulté les étudiants et la fac pour ouvrir ces jardins?" "On a fait ça dans l'intérêt des étudiants, pour qu'il n'y ait pas d'espace privé sur le campus" "une action en justice est lancé contre vous"

Une d'entre nous a discuté avec une personne qui bossait sur le campus. Cette personne fait partie de la société ISS (qui travail sur le créneau de l'entretien, espace vert, nettoyage, bâtiment...) une entreprise privé employé par l'université et qui a exécuté la destruction du jardin. Cette ordre a été donné par le directeur de l'UMPF (Spalanzani) et a fait l'object d'une convention de travail, comme c'est la règle pour tout travail demandé a un prestataire extérieur.
Il est possible qu'il passe nous voir demain a 17h (le rendez-vous jardinage hebdomadaire), mais je ne garanti absolument pas

(j'ai déjà peur de déformer les propos avec ma mémoire foireuse et que ça soit mal interprété)

D'ici vendredi et pour les semaines à venir, Que germes les graines de notre insoumission!
Qui rase nos jardins récolte la colère!


At 09:09 03/11/2011, Francis FEELEY wrote:
Cher(e)s Camarades,
merci pour les infos.,
et voici deux petits morceaux des informations intéressantes :

"Robin des bois" à Paris !
Prendre aux riches pour les pauvres,
taxer la finance ! taxe Tobin


Occupons la Defense(4 novembre 2011)

Francis Feeley

from Reader Supported News :
Date: 5 November 2011
Subject: Revolutionary Pacifism as a tactics, and not a strategy.

Can Revolutionary Pacifism Deliver Peace?

by Noam Chomsky

fromOccupy Oakland :
Date: 3 November 2011
Subject: Reports on "Occupy Oakland"



For a chronology and an update on the Wednesday, 2 November, General Strike in Oakland, California, please see :


Also excellent coverage of Occupy Oakland and more can be found at today's broadcast of Democracy Now! :

from RSN :
Date: 2 November 2011
Subject: Noam Chomsky Speaks to Occupy Boston.

A Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture
by Noam Chomsky
speaking at "Occupy Boston" location

from Jim O'Brien :
Date: 2 November 2011
Subject: HAW Notes 11-2-11: Links to recent articles of interest.

"A Saturday at 'Occupy Wall Street'"
By William Loren Katz, on his blog, posted October 31

"'Occupy' Protests: Not Tahir Yet"
By Mark LeVine, Alhjazeera, posted October 27
The author teaches history at the University of California Irvine

"The New-York Historical Society Sinks to New Low with a Black-Tie Gala for Henry Kissinger"
By Jesse Lemisch, History News Network, posted October 24
The author is an emeritus history professor at John Jay College, CUNY

"Imperialism and Democracy: White House or Liberty Square"
By James Petras, DissidentVoice.org, posted October 24
a historical discussion

"The Victory of Popular Resistance in Occupied Iraq"
By Nicolas J. Davies, War Is a Crime.org, posted October 22

"The Son of Africa Claims a Continent's Crown Jewels"
By John Pilger, JohnPilger.com, posted October 20

"America: With God on Our Side"
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Los Angeles Times, posted October 16
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University

"SOS" (Remarks at Occupy Youngstown, October 15)
By Staughton Lynd, FirstoftheMonth.org
The link is to a symposium in which Lynd's speech is the third document

"The Populist Movement Reborn, at Last, in Occupy"
By Rosalyn Baxandall, On the Issues, posted October 14
The author is an emeritus professor of American Studies at SUNY Old Westbury

"The Price of the Libya Intervention: Surface to Air Missiles for All"
By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted October 14

from The Real News :
Date: 4 October 2011
Subject: The irrationality of capitalism.

Euro-Chaos and Global Capitalism

Leo Panitch: We are witnessing the irrationality of capitalism and the incredible struggle of people in the street

from Francis Feeley
Date: 5 November 2011
Subject:  [SAES] Discussions on "How best to respond?" after the General Strike in Oakland, California on 2 November 2011.

Dear Colleagues,
For those of us still interested in learning lessons from past experiences,
and specifically lessons from experiences in US society, the two short
videos below on "thinking globally and acting locally" offer important
information on strategies, tactics and logistics in the weeks and months to come . . . .
November 5, 2011
Occupy Oakland Closes the Port
Davey D: Occupy Oakland is built on the shoulders of decades of struggle
November 4, 2011
Hundreds of Community Activists Gather in Baltimore
Fair Development Conference held to discuss local organizing strategies


Francis Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Université de Grenoble-3
Director of Research
Université de Paris-10

from CBS New Program, "60 Minutes" :
Date: 15 December 2008
Subject: The Big Crash Coming.

The Huge Crash Coming

from Francis Feeley :
Date: 12 November 2011
Subject: Political power, the give and the take.

Capitalism Is The Crisis