by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Straws in the Wind: Le System / Apocrypha: Dave's lost column / Ides of March / Sin
, May 18, 2002
Le SystemThe political map of France and the distribution of her basic political allegiances have changed surprisingly little since the French Revolution.
Indeed, some of the current slogans on parade date back to that Revolution. Barring Napoleon, France has been psychologically polarised for two centuries - as if in a time warp.
Consequently, at least 90 per cent of French public politics appears to outsiders as attitudinising and street theatricals; the blowing of rusty bugles and the shouting of stale war cries in which very few really believe. For example, Jacques Chirac's pitiful final speech before the second round of the Presidential election. France's private politics have been bureaucratised, elitist and, only too often, deceitful.
Since de Gaulle and Pompidou, France has had almost three decades of self-satisfied, semi-corrupt presidential rule: d'Estaing (one term), Mitterrand (two) and Chirac (now a second term). Not as long as the poor Italians, but too long for any society aspiring to believe in justice, or probity, or patriotism in its national affairs.
The first round presidential vote may have signified the end of legitimacy for the Socialists, and a rebuff for Chirac-style conservatism. This was not a protest vote, but more like a general rejection response. France is fortunate she is not in economic crisis as in the 1930s, but she is
in a kind of social and political deadlock.
The fault lines - mass migration (mainly African), rising crime, the European Union, and growing contempt for the debased examples and hypocritical posturings of the political class (le system). It would seem as though France, along with much of Western Europe, is in a condition of political confusion and as a consequence, moral paralysis. Hence the once great Socialist Party initially got 16 per cent, and the conservatives 20 per cent. French voters have lost all patience - being, as it turned out, neither as greedy nor uncaring as their governors.
In passing, the Western press conducted a blanket demonisation campaign against Le Pen as they did against Haider, and do against Berlusconi, by calling them fascists. None of them are - and our journos would soon experience the difference were a real
fascist to come to power. Yitzhak Rabin's intending assassins and their right-wing backers portrayed him as a Nazi in the election campaign, just before his murder. Perhaps we should all use these terms with more care.
The electoral alliances cobbled together for the Chirac victory will almost certainly fragment, with no long term solution to the collapse in credibility of traditional Left and Right and the general odium in which Chirac is held.
The new Assembly soon to be voted for could be as disintegrated as during the worst days of the Third Republic. A happy hunting ground for deals and new corruption. A weak Assembly would suit Chirac; but he appears without either the policies or the presence to fashion a personal rehabilitation.Apocrypha: Dave's lost column
Some little time ago, after the Flood, but before the Second Temple, I used to read a very witty column by a nice, unassuming man, Dave. His column, called "One Minute Parking", appeared in the Sydney Tribune
and Melbourne Guardian
, communist papers. His was often a good and funny read in an otherwise grim and feverish radical world: that of the beleaguered Left. Operating in the midst of Australia's great post-War boom before Gough, Bob and Paul stitched us up - and with Menzies having achieved almost everything except walk on the water - (earlier on he'd nearly drowned attempting that) - and Black Jack saying that any government which allowed unemployment to rise over three per cent deserved to be chucked out - and would be - and meaning it; the CPA had found it hard to convince anyone that capitalism was on its last legs and the Australian workers were going down the gurgler. (The latter was
to happen later. Under "Labor", to the enthusiastic cries of their newly rich mates.)
For those few who cared to learn what was happening in the big communist systems - not very difficult - the news went from bad to rotten. The great projects were monstrosities, slowly turning turtle.Beware the Ides of March
So the Party had to do what all Flat Earthers do. Scour the world for happenings, premonitions, intimations that the whole sick exploitative capitalist system was unravelling and the dispossessed of the earth were beginning to rise. A dock strike in Valaparaiso? A shoot out between police and farmers in Mexico? The collapse of the world betel nut market? All warning shadows of the tornado to follow? (By the way, this is the same chiliastic, superstitious mind set our public media political astrologers, employ
Anyway, the end of the world as we've known it, is at hand.
But meantime, dear, another six pots. Revolution can be thirsty work. Nowadays, it's chardonnay and free tickets to hear Bill Clinton.
This was a period when single-issue movements were taking off: they
were relevant, the older parties weren't - it was said. The unions were all right so long as they were Left and cooperated. And the term "Liberation" was the grease which lubricated all middle class ideational artefacts.
There was Student Liberation, Teacher Liberation, Gay Liberation, Children's Lib, Women's Lib, Animal Lib. Third World and Prisoners' Liberation. Black, Aboriginal and, of course, Abortionists' Liberation, Pornographers' Liberation, et al. In reality, this term is applicable to anything which stands or moves. And the Greens were starting to rev up their engines. Solar-powered, of course.
The CPA, steadily losing members, was accused of being irrelevant, out of touch with the young and the new. They should entice all these new people in, otherwise they'd go elsewhere. As they did. Lucky, lucky Labor!
The CPA traditionalists said: "NO WAY - these people don't share our goals or beliefs - either they'll destroy the whole point of our endeavours or make trouble and then leave". And take some of our members with them, for the easy, silly stuff. Save the cross-eyed bedbug. Go back to candles to preserve fossil fuels. Let the student unions choose the vice-chancellors. You know it?
Dave, as his contribution to the debate, and being a tonsorial virgin - a Gaelic Yul Bryner - was all set to announce the formation of a new Liberation Movement. Bald Liberation. He would be President and Treasurer, but would need a Secretary and Politburo - oops, Committee. In time, so many MPs would have to be bald; similarly ballet dancers, TV presenters, boxing referees. Liberate the underprivileged bald! Moon nuts of the world unite!; Desert heads to the barricades!
I'm told the boys loved it - but said no, no, NO! All those humourless, bourgeois sods out there would never forgive the Party! Just think, Dave. No more Popular Fronts. And remember the delicate, touchy little flowers we're trying to con. Er ... convert.
The doubters were right. Those people did come - then went. Whereas, elsewhere, they have entrenched themselves in the main parties. There is little evidence that they were or are interested in the goals, values or cultural histories of our Labor or Conservative movements. Nor, come to think of it, of our countries.
The midget political parties they have spawned on the side are little more than gabble boxes or drive-in opportunity shops. Libertarians didn't bring down the CPA - but they just about filleted Labor and, consequently, a sizeable part of Australian society. The replacement of Solidarity by Narcissism.
So Liberation groups are modern - and relevant: as modern and as relevant as McDonalds and Channel Nine.
But I hope that Dave, wherever he is, still sees the funny side of politics.
Oxymoron?Sin is not a geographical concept
Antony Beevor, who wrote that riveting book on Stalingrad, now tells us, in Berlin: The Downfall
of the dreadful scenes acted out by Nazis and Russian soldiers during the last days of the Third Reich. When the Russians entered Danzig, they found the Anatomical Medical Institute that manufactured soap and leather from "the corpses of citizens of the USSR" and they discovered 89 human heads in the fridges.
Fifty-seven years on, we are just being allowed to learn of the depth and breadth of the organised barbarities inflicted upon a great many Europeans by the Nazis; partly because Holocaust scholarship of the early 1970s has dominated World War II history telling.
Before the 70s, on account of NATO's dependence on German ground forces and bases , (it was thought that only the British and the Germans would stand and fight the Russians if they came), criticisms, let alone a proper examination of the continent-wide toll of Nazi occupation - especially in the East - was never on the agenda. The chance came when the West's military reliance upon German troops eased - but that chance was lost.
So, the fate of many millions of Europeans, who may not have suffered a Holocaust - though the Danzig story gets pretty close - but who went through many kinds of Hell - remains a footnote in establishment history telling.
But so has Russian behaviour in Germany and Austria, in particular, been under-reported. Simon Sebag Montefiore reviewing Beevor's book in The Spectator
, retails the mass rapes of German women wherever the Red Army went. Not only that, but Red Army soldiers organised mass rapes of Russian
women newly-liberated from slave labour camps.
A front line Russian political commissar writing to Georgi Malenkov, quotes one Russian girl:
"I waited for the Red Army for days and nights, and now our soldiers treat us worse than the Germans did."
As Montefiore adds, "The Russian ambassador has recently complained about this most inconvenient reality, even half a century later - for it is still dynamite". As was the Russian massacre of Polish officers in Katyn Forest.
I can only add if Israel's present leaders continue to mishandle their public relations as they have been doing over Jenin, the Church of the Nativity, etc., they could end, at least in some quarters, being tarred with the same brush. Indeed, many Muslim critics are already starting to do just that. An undesirable outcome, surely.