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A Letter from the Streets of Paris–The Anti-Sarko demos

May 8, 2007

Andy Podell, Playwright, filmmaker, and activist, writes from Paris:

Greetings from Paris where Sarkozy has just won the national election. Last night there were protests across France and a large demo in Paris’ Place de la Bastille where teargas was used and cars were burnt (click for pictures). I watched the returns come in (while standing by the door) at a soccer hooligan bar. When Sarkozy’s victory was announced, the all-white, all-male crowd burst into applause and shouts. It’s like they got their dicks handed back to them…

I went to a number of demos against Sarkozy, leading up to the election that had a strong anarchist presence (be prepared for some anarchist terminology, below). The protests weren’t pro-Segolene, but firmly anti-Sarkozy. For the past two months there’s been Reclaim the Streets style actions in front of Sarkozy’s campaign office (provocatively placed in an ethnically diverse neighborhood).

I went to a planning meeting at a beautiful and airy squat in a former factory for one of the anti-Sarkozy demos. The majority of the activists were young women, and when they spoke the men in the group listened attentively.

I also went to the May 1st parade from Place de la Republique to the Place de la Nation, which lasted the entire day. The different factions of Turkish labor organizations took one hour to pass by. It took one hour alone for the Marxist, Leninist, Maoist, or Trotskyite Turks to pass by.

The CNT-f (Confederation Nationale du Travail) had a very large presence. Both of the two French CNT branches define themselves as anarcho-syndicalists (with CNT-ait claiming more anarchist membership). The majority of the two or three hundred CNT-f members who marched by were in their twenties and thirties. A truck with a band playing French neo-punk traveled with them. There was a definite street-fighting strut to their walk and their costume of

choice was red and black fetishism.

The friendly gentleman at the Federation-Anarchiste bookstore on the rue Amelot told me that CNT-f has a membership of up to 2,000 that has been growing steadily since the mid-90′s. He said that it’s unclear which CNT is more anarchist based and that both branches offer contradictory information about just how “red” or how “black” they are. I asked him if the CNT has been successful in organizing in the workplace. Not so successful he replied. His organization, the Federation-Anarchiste, has been around since 1946 and it has “three streams” of membership; individualist anarchists; libertarian-communists; and anarcho-syndicalists.

Personally I find it astounding to see sixty year old organizations (anarchist, labor, or communist) that have survived in apparent health and have been allowed to continue in an unbroken line since their founding. Makes a good American anarchist get downright flirty with the European State.”

Andy Podell

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