Jeremy Harding


12 June 2024

Macron en feu

Emmanuel Macron’s announcement a few hours after the polling stations closed on Sunday night that he would dissolve the National Assembly left his opponents – and many followers – wondering what the point could be in calling a snap election for the end of this month, with a second round, where necessary, on 7 July. Macron pitched his decision to the electorate as a way of bringing the recent ‘fever that has taken hold of public and parliamentary debate’ to a head – and presumably nursing the patient back from delirium after the crisis. But his chances of success are low.

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11 January 2023

Charles Simic 1938-2023

Charles Simic, who died on Monday, was a regular contributor to the LRB for nearly 25 years. Born Dušan Simić in Belgrade in 1938, he left Europe as a teenager in the 1950s and the family settled in Chicago. He became a US citizen in the 1970s, retaining dual nationality. In the 1990s he was intrigued by international press coverage of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Reviewing The Serbs by Tim Judah in the LRB in 1997, he argued that there was no deep-rooted concept of a ‘Greater Serbia’ driving Milosevic’s policies: it was just a bogus ‘Plan B’ after his ‘other schemes to extend his power over the rest of Yugoslavia had collapsed’. But ‘even if Mahatma Gandhi had been the president of Serbia there would still have been a Serbian problem to solve.’ Like many former Yugoslavs Simic wasn’t cut out for the reinvention of primitive nationalisms in Europe. Nor is his verse.

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27 October 2021

Subversive Activity

Last week the Israeli defence minister, Benny Gantz, signed an executive order designating six Palestinian NGOs as ‘terrorist’ organisations. One was Defence for Children International – Palestine, whose offices had been raided in July. Others included the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Workers’ Committees. The most distinguished ‘terrorist’ organisation under Gantz’s executive order is Al-Haq, a human rights NGO founded in the late 1970s, which focuses on legal issues in the Occupied Territories. Al-Haq’s primary purpose is to defend the rights of Palestinians under occupation.

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6 January 2021

Prêt-à-Partir

The late Pierre Cardin bought the château in 2001 and the arts school was acquired the following year by the Savannah College of Art and Design. That’s when the process of ruin in Lacoste underwent a curious reversal: the dilapidated castle was rapidly refurbished while the village beneath – population in the low hundreds – became a lifestyle showcase, like Cardin's high-end prêt-à-porter, as he began buying up property. Some of it was empty, but several residents were prêt-à-partir: his offers were too good to refuse.

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1 December 2020

Unreasonable Force

Lecturing at the Collège de France thirty years ago on the nature of the state, Pierre Bourdieu queried Weber’s notion that functioning states enjoy a monopoly of ‘legitimate physical violence’. Bourdieu already preferred the expression ‘legitimate and symbolic physical violence’, and in the lectures he commented: ‘One could even call it the “monopoly of legitimate symbolic violence”.’ In the last few years, the French police have overstepped the mark. The use of unreasonable force is nothing new. More worrying is the coincidence, on more than one occasion, of physical violence with sinister signals that make a mockery of the idea that the police are a ‘legitimate’ expression of symbolic violence on the part of the state. If they are, then France is in trouble.

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18 March 2020

Into the Bunker

Macron spoke again on Monday evening. His tone was more sombre; the time had come for a ‘general mobilisation’. ‘We are at war,’ he kept repeating. For most people, it turns out, the struggle will unfold without a trace of the martial virtues: these will be left to first-responders, medics and carers. The rest of us would simply have to crawl into the bunker and remain there ‘for at least 15 days’, effective from Tuesday noon, in the knowledge that the enemy, in Macron’s words, is ever-present, ‘invisible, elusive, making progress’. It isn’t inappropriate or tasteless to recall that in Camus, too, the plague ‘never ceased progressing’ or that it had ‘a characteristically jerky but unfaltering stride’.

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29 April 2019

Transparency

The fire in Notre-Dame de Paris was extinguished in the small hours of 16 April. But residual heat from the blaze has left several brush fires smouldering.

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7 December 2018

In the Fog of the Real

As the gilet jaune revolt moves forward and another destructive showdown looks imminent tomorrow in Paris, the government – and the president – have opted for the lesser of two contradictions. The greater: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you set aside progressive fiscal policy and tax rich and poor at the same rate, putting social justice – a grand French aspiration – in parenthesis. That didn't work. The lesser: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you get alongside low earners and help them through a difficult transition, even though the climate jeopardy of clapped-out diesel UVs is absurdly obvious. But that hasn't worked either.

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30 November 2018

Don’t pretend you can’t see us

Fighting on the Champs Elysées last weekend between French security forces and the so-called 'gilets jaunes' led to more than 100 arrests. According to the police, roughly eight thousand demonstrators took part. Barricades were built – and set alight – by what looked from a distance to be groups of rampaging lollipop people in dayglo yellow tops. But the gilets jaunes are not championing pedestrian safety: their revolt has been prompted by a sharp rise in the price of diesel and unleaded petrol at the pump, which they blame on President Macron's fossil fuel tax. This is a drivers' movement, at least at first sight, and despite the turmoil on the Champs Elysées, it is deeply provincial. Macron responded on Tuesday not with a U-turn, but with a concession enabling parliament to freeze the carbon tax – which is set to keep rising year on year – when the oil price goes up. A freeze is a very different proposition from a reduction and the gilets jaunes don't like it. They were out in force again on Wednesday and another big demonstration looks likely in Paris tomorrow.

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17 September 2018

Who killed Maurice Audin?

Last week Emmanuel Macron issued a declaration acknowledging the role of the French military in the murder of a pro-independence activist in Algeria sixty years ago. The lead story in France should have been Macron's plan to break the chain of hereditary poverty with an additional €8.5 billion for children destined for a life of hardship bordering on misery. Arguments about the sums (insufficient) and the targeting (contentious) were quickly relegated to the sidebar as editors took the measure of Macron's conscientious, damning remarks on torture and disappearance during the Algerian war, a period that still clouds French sensitivities on inward migration, secular dress codes and acts of violence committed by radical Islamists.

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