There’s a letter in today’s (UK-based) Daily Telegraph by that famous KGB-defector and media-darling, Oleg Gordiesvsky:
Sir – France always had a cult of revolution. The French public fully supported extremist political parties, Communists and Trotskyists, which had political violence as an integral part of their programmes.
Now they are reaping the fruits of it.
Oleg Gordievsky, London WC1
It’s not so much that this letter is wrong on its facts that I take issue with, it’s the “now they are reaping the fruits of it”, as if until now politics in France had been like a Scandinavian country run by clones of Sir Geoffrey Howe permanently drugged to the eyeballs on Mogadon.
It’s true that the last 30 years of French history have been relatively peaceful, but we’ve still had numerous motorway blockades, McDonald burnings (as an aside, by a man who became a folk-hero, though the story is rather more complex that it seems, as with much of French agricultural legend).
But the 30 years before that, ie 1945-1975, saw one of the least peaceful periods in any western country’s recent political history. The political instability of the fourth republic, with its weak centre and powerful extremes, the constant blow-back from Algeria, leading to a near-attempted coup d’etat in 1958 and 1962 by rogue Army elements, and what basically was an actual, if legal, coup d’etat by De Gaulle, whose Presidency was blighted by continual terrorism and assassination attempts, and nearing the end with the (probably least violent, but most well-known today of French protests) 1968 riots, when months later bodies of those shot dead by the security forces were still be found in the Seine. Oh and De Gaulle had fled to Germany at the height of it all. Most of this can be read in more (if not particularly illuminating) detail here.
It’s not all so silly in The Telegraph. A better letter (though I wouldn’t agree with all of it) notes the idiocy of Mark Steyn, their star columnist, who has argued that this is what multi-culturalism gets you.
Sir – Mark Steyn, in his enthusiasm to link France’s current unrest (and Europe’s apparently imminent doom) to multiculturalism appears to have forgotten that France has been consistently and stridently opposed to multiculturalism, disparaged by Left and Right alike as “le communautairisme Ã l’anglo-saxon… this conception of citizenship is deeply problematic; it means the French state is incapable of acknowledging that the present crisis is connected to years of topographical, economic and social marginalisation along patently ethnic lines. This, ironically, puts it in rather the same position as those, such as Mr Steyn, who would denounce its supposed indulgence of multiculturalism as being somehow a factor behind the violence.
W. L. Duffy, West End, Queensland, Australia