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Post Paris Protesters Desecrate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Created by John Eipper on 12/02/18 2:13 PM

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Paris Protesters Desecrate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (David Pike, France, 12/02/18 2:13 pm)

Tombe du Soldat Inconnu, 2018 Combat Zone

A wave of horror and disgust now pervades this capital. To bring it into perspective, we wait for Macron to say this on national television: In the four years that Paris lived under Nazi tyranny, never once did the Nazis desecrate the Tombe du Soldat Inconnu.

The only monument destroyed by the Germans was that to General Mangin. Even the 1944 final Nazi attempts at destruction spared all the monuments. Paris never burned. Certainly not in the mini-revolution of 1968 headquartered in Forteresse Odéon. Last night it burned.

Here is a moment to say that my book Paris Under Nazi Occupation contains an error, in the original printed version though not in the WAIS edition available free to everyone. I show a photograph of the German victory parade in June 1940 on the Champs Elysées, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. My original caption ran: "Wehrmacht troops march through the Arc de Triomphe," as indeed they appear to be doing in the photograph. But in actual fact, the German troops skirted, and continued to skirt, the Arc and the tomb at its center.

Not so Paris's infamous casseurs.

JE comments:  Disgusting is the only way to describe this.  The attack is particularly offensive given that we are just a few weeks past the centennial of the Armistice.  David, we're hearing news reports about a possible State of Emergency being declared.  What exactly would this mean for Parisians?

WAISers (and non-WAISers) who haven't yet read David Pike's Paris under Nazi Occupation can do so at the following link.  It's in many ways a startling book--it shows Parisians at both their worst and best.


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  • Paris Protests: What Are the Objectives? (Carmen Negrin, France 12/03/18 3:08 AM)
    Sorry to say that, for very different and not-so-serious reasons, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris was desecrated once before, during the 1998 Football Cup by a drunk Mexican who urinated on the flame, putting it out and thus provoking a serious diplomatic incident. There were two other unsuccessful incidents, in particular someone who tried to fry an egg on the flame.

    More seriously, yesterday's events were quite worrying, for many reasons, the fact that a rifle (probably not the right word for the instrument!) was stolen from a police car, the rare level of violence (not just in Paris), the apparent lack of control by the police, the demands themselves, which seem like a Christmas list for Santa Claus, the lack of an interlocutor. And strangely enough, the growing sympathy for the movement, although the number of protesters has diminished.

    It seems like an organized movement that doesn't really care about the objectives except that of disorganizing the state.  What's worse, both political extremes seem to be wanting to be part of it, in particular Le Pen who supported it from the very beginning, but also Mélenchon who "understands" the motivations. I personally don't see what there is to understand about desecrating, destroying a museum, or doing free "Xmas shopping"! Certainly the government has not always taken popular decisions, nor have its explanations been very instructive either, but we have had far worse governments, none leading to such a reaction.

    "They," whoever they are, have already announced, by individual messages on the Internet (possibly the same lists used by the "Manif pour tous" group lead by Frigide Barjit with the help of an extreme right-wing retired general) a followup on the 10th of December with a total blockade of access to food, roads etc. Let's see what happens next.

    In any case, since I live right next to where it all happened, I must say I don't regret not owning a car!

    JE comments:  "Manif" (manifestation) is a protest march.  (I had to look that up to be sure.)  Please stay safe, Carmen.  By the "free Xmas shopping," does this mean looting?

    Several comments came in overnight on the manifs.  Next we'll see a very different interpretation from Nigel Jones.

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  • Populist Outrage in Paris (Nigel Jones, UK 12/03/18 3:23 AM)
    While as a historian of WW 1 and 2 I share David Pike's disgust at the desecration of the Arc de Triomphe by rioters, I feel that a deeper analysis is required of the current wave of unrest sweeping France--itself part of the populist upsurge sweeping the whole of Europe.

    The fact is that the people, ordinary working people, have had enough of the arrogance of the so-called elite who have ruled--or rather ruined--the continent since 1945, and are at last in open revolt.

    Macron, or President Pédé, as he is known, is a perfect example of the type. A Goldman Sachs bankster with a Napoleon complex, he introduces tax cuts for his super rich friends, while screwing the rest. Wages are stagnant, prices rising, and the doors are open to migrants brought in to do ill-paid jobs on behalf of Macron's globalist masters.

    To anyone shocked by the violence in Paris, I can only say: You ain't seen nothing yet.

    Update on the latest populist win: In Spain, hitherto thought immune to populism because of memories of Franco, the "far right" VOX party has just entered the Andalusian regional government for the first time with 12 seats, depriving the ruling Socialists of their majority in Spain's biggest region, hitherto their rock-solid power base.

    In next May's elections to the fake European Parliament, populist parties will win yet again.

    By the time Britain finally gets around to leaving the EU, it will either have imploded or be run by nationalist populists. About time.

    JE comments:  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how fuel taxes can fuel (sorry, bad pun) such mayhem.  We Americans aren't big on manis, preferring instead quiet griping at home.  Then we get up and drive to work.  Nigel, is immigration one of the protesters' specific grievances?  The laundry list of "issues" among the Yellow Vests seems to veer both Left and Right.  Perhaps this is precisely what today's populism looks like.

    Next on the Troubles of 2018:  Tom Hashimoto.

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    • France's Troubles: The New Normal? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/04/18 4:38 AM)
      Amazingly I can actually agree with Nigel Jones's statement (December 3rd), which is applicable to many European and US national governments: "A Goldman Sachs bankster with a Napoleon complex, [Macron] introduces tax cuts for his super rich friends, while screwing the rest. Wages [in France] are stagnant, prices rising, and the doors are open to migrants brought in to do ill-paid jobs on behalf of Macron's globalist masters."

      I strongly hope Nigel is wrong about "To anyone shocked by the violence in Paris, I can only say: You ain't seen nothing yet."

      Carmen Negrín mentioned that this degree of cultural violation is unusual since in the past "the government has not always taken popular decisions, nor have its explanations been very instructive either, but we have had far worse governments, none leading to such a reaction."

      Perhaps this is a new normal, a sign of things to come as the social political economic situation of many nations have deteriorated beyond hope of repair. I dread the day the evidence becomes too obvious, but our beloved USA seems to be in the same gliding pattern.

      Time to go back to the WAIS files and consider past discussions of such issues.

      JE comments:  A thought exercise:  what would you do if you were Macron?  Rescind the fuel tax?  Engage in "constructive dialogue"?  Send in the tanks?  Quit? 

      And while we're at it, what do we mean by a "Napoleon complex"?  French presidents often get this label, but to my mind it fits better with Sarkozy than with Macron.  For starters, Macron is too tall (5' 10"/178 cm).

      Next, a further analysis from Carmen Negrín.

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    • Six Clues to Understanding the Paris Protests (Carmen Negrin, France 12/04/18 6:49 AM)
      I don't fully disagree with Nigel Jones, for once (December 3rd), except for the motives and for Nigel's looking forward to the already experienced disastrous consequences of movements such as the current protests in Paris.

      First, I don't know anyone who calls Macron the "President Pédé," among other things, because nobody I know cares about what he does in bed. That was one of the themes (fake or not) injected during the Presidential campaign without much impact.

      Second, French living standards are objectively far higher then before or after 1945. Everyone in France has access to schooling, including university (almost free), health insurance, minimum wages, a minimum income if unemployed, assistance under a number of circumstances, etc. There has always been a difference between the country people (where it supposedly all started) and the city people, with advantages and disadvantages on both sides. Remember La Fontaine's "Le rat de ville et le rat des champs"?

      Third, immigration, we lack workers, and certainly they are not received or integrated in the best of ways, but if the leitmotif weren't immigration, it would be color or religion.

      Fourth, taxes. The general increase in gas taxes is coherent with the requested climate change programme, which is also demanded: Hulot was the most popular Minister (in charge of the transition towards an ecological world). The tax was not brought about very intelligently, granted, but proposals to make adjustments for the most needy, were made and rejected. Reading the lists of the protesters' demands, it seems obvious that the taxes were just a pretext to bring protest--and I don't doubt that many people were sincere.

      Fifth, concerning the arrogance of the President, at least one doesn't feel ashamed of him when he talks in public or writes.

      Sixth, tax cuts for the rich. Yes, that was/is very unpopular and perhaps a mistake. I for one, don't believe wealth trickles down unless forced to. But note that the same measure had the opposite effect in the US (at least among the same political public).

      I do think that there is a general trend for revenge, to call it some way, of the neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist losers; anarchists, as usual, have joined in, thinking naively that if you destroy everything you can rebuild an ideal world. Students are now complaining about the reforms of the Baccalaureate, nurses about their working hours, etc. The so-called General that I mentioned in my previous WAIS post, has been saying that Macron is unconstitutional and previously he and his right-wing followers came up with the slogan that Hollande was not "their" President. One could go on for ever.

      As for Andalucia, I presume Ciudadanos will join Vox rather than Podemos. In a way it is a good thing, since this will publicly confirm what we all know and that is that Ciudadanos is a derivative of the PP which is a derivative of Alianza Popular, etc. The PSOE maintained the highest percentage in spite of almost 40 years of democratic government, but not enough to govern.

      Corruption is certainly as responsible as erosion for its fall-back; on the other hand the President of Vox is not immune from corruption. But new is beautiful and grass is greener on the other side.

      Just one more point, the highest scores of national-populism in Europe are in Austria, Switzerland and Denmark, not exactly the poor unsatisfied countries.

      JE comments:  Carmen Negrín's six points go far to untangling the Paris mess.  Might we sum everything up with one richly ambiguous (and French!) word, "malaise"?

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  • Paris Protests in the Context of Post-Modernism (Tom Hashimoto, UK 12/03/18 3:56 AM)
    David Pike's post (2 December) made me think of "post-modernism." (Sorry; I know this is a fuzzy word, but I couldn't find a better one.)

    Characterised by a doubt on the existence of universal morality, this school of thought tried to explain (and even to justify) secularism to the point of painting religious organisations as something less intelligent or less trendy. As such, youths in cities are no longer looking up to clerics with respect. Of course, various scandals (embezzlement, child abuse) poured fuel over the fire.

    I think the same can be said of military or police forces today. We used to respect soldiers and police officers. Now, you see more and more people openly detest such professions and this disrespect or even hatred is justified under the blanket of progressive liberalism.

    I am not arguing that this is right or wrong. I am simply saying that the vandalism of monuments (including those dedicated to unknown soldiers) might not be surprising, given how our political philosophy is moving.

    JE comments:  Have the authorities (not sure who they are) determined whether the desecration of the tomb was intentional (pre-meditated), or rather the result of general hooliganism?  If the Yellow Vests are right-wing populists, I wouldn't expect them to attack military symbols.

    Another question about the protests:  are the immigrants participating or staying home?  Both?  I just looked up the death toll, and it stands at two.  That's more or less what you might expect at a medium-size music festival.

    Greetings, Tom!  What's the latest in Warsaw?

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    • Progressivism, Progressive Liberalism, and Trumpish Capitalism (John Heelan, UK 12/04/18 10:31 AM)
      Progressivism or Progressive Lberalism

      Wikipedia reminds us that "In the late 19th century, a political view rose in popularity in the Western world that progress was being stifled by vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor, minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with out-of-control monopolistic corporations, intense and often violent conflict between workers and capitalists, and a need for measures to address these problem."

      So what has changed in the last 200 years?

      --Vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor? (if anything GINI has become wider as the "Greed is Good" mantra is preached by the Trumpster and his acolytes)... erm No!

      --Minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with out-of-control monopolistic corporations (some of those are the vendors of energy products on whom states are reliant for tax revenues.)... erm No!

      --Intense and often violent conflict between workers and capitalists. (e.g. "gilet jaunes" who see the situation getting worse year by year.)... erm Yes!

      --A need for measures to address these problem? (An open door waiting for a dictator to push through?")...erm maybe so!

      Trumpish capitalism: Socialism puttinesca make the future for our children and grandchildren increasingly bleak. They are too smart not to recognise that the world really is "going to Hell in a handcart." They want to do something about before it is too late, as we older generations continue failing to provide them with a secure future.

      JE comments:  I'm not sure I understand "socialism puttinesca."  Is it a reference to the puttana, or to Putin?  Either way, John Heelan's pessimism is the perfect followup to Tor Guimaraes's from earlier today.  But John raises the hope that the younger generations will stop the handcart before it descends to Hell.  I find similar idealism in my students, especially in matters of environmental and social justice.

      Is there any reason to expect a 72-year-old greed-is-good hotelier to care about the future of our planet?

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  • Wounded Paris...and Elsewhere: Why? (From Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 12/04/18 3:56 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Paired with David Pike's moving elegy for wounded Paris, and Nigel Jones's
    exclamation, Carmen Negrín's comments from the Paris flames (December 3)
    help capture perhaps the most profound echo in the yellow-vest/casseur violence.  Not just the shock, but the mystery:  Why?

    Even those expressing certainty (as
    with Nigel) seem only to deepen the mystery for the bewildered onlooker
    outside the convictions. JE's quandary (All this over a gasoline price hike?)
    works as well on the glimpses of larger complaints that deepen the mystery--and it opens a global panorama.

    "El Gasolinazo" became the name of recent
    national upheaval over gas prices in faraway Mexico, which segued into another
    pit of mysteries with a skyrocketing spike in Mexican lynchings--seemingly
    as irrational and cruel as they were smugly self-assured. And was it really so
    different that meanwhile the US agonized over its own violent mystery:
    the skyrocketing surge in mass shootings, as the seeming impossibility of
    the Las Vegas carnage proved not to be an outrider but a harbinger.

    All these bursts, so completely different in so many ways, converge in the
    deepest pit: the lack of an objectively understandable motive.  Once again, the haunting
    question: Why? Could it be that a rapidly populating and phenomenally
    transforming planet reaches unfathomable plateaus of growing-stage, including stages in de-sensitization and eruptions of grandiose feelings of
    entitlement, especially in those who feel left behind--whether on the left, right,
    or in some other pit?

    Tom Hashimoto's phrasing (again December 3) of an obvious
    explanation--that abandonment of old religious customs may be coming
    home to roost--is unfortunately said in any age, almost like saying it's
    because we're human. The Paris particularity demands particular
    diagnosis--as does Las Vegas, as do the unlucky strangers burned alive in Mexico.
    The impassioned say they know. But do they?

    JE comments:  What I take away from Gary Moore's analysis is that the Paris troubles lend themselves to almost any interpretation--Europhobia, disgruntlement with the elite, economic stagnation, xenophobia, existentialist angst, or old-school hooliganism.  We could come up with a half-dozen more.  Perhaps Parisians just have to blow off steam every fifty years--2018, 1968, 1918, 1848, 1789 (well, the math is not exactly right).

    Adrian College has exactly one student from Paris.  Yesterday I asked him what's going on.  He didn't know, but promised he'd ask around back home.

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  • French Resistance and Melville's "Army of Shadows" (David Duggan, USA 12/04/18 2:25 PM)
    In light of the recent events in France, WAISers and others may want to find (perhaps at their local library), Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows (1969, but digitally remastered more recently), a masterpiece depicting the Resistance.

    The opening scene has German soldiers marching down Les Champs Elysees, L'Arc de Triomphe in the background, for which Melville had to secure a special permit as German uniforms are forbidden to be depicted on the famous boulevard. Truly a remarkable film.

    JE comments:  I checked Netflix, which doesn't have Army of Shadows.  You can "rent" it on YouTube for $3.99.  I'd like to hear David Pike's take on the film.  Might it overly romanticize the Resistance?  One takeaway I got from David's Paris under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 was just how widespread collaboration was among Parisians.  We could start with Pétain (below).

    The bottom line:  the French Resistance seems to have grown in numbers exponentially...after the war.  If I'm wrong, please set me straight.

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    • Italian Partisans of WWII, Before and After (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/09/18 12:07 PM)
      When commenting David Duggan's post of December 4th, John E wrote, "The French resistance seems to have grown in numbers exponentially...after the war."

      I don't have great knowledge of the French resistance, but it probably is similar to the Italian one.  Therefore I will give some numbers about the Italian resistance.

      After the unconditional surrender (fake armistice) of Italy, some soldiers of the collapsed army escaped to the mountains. At the end of September 1943 they numbered 1500, mostly in Piedmont. They were the remnants of the army that was occupying eastern France and had withdrawn home.

      Then the communists started acting, using the ex-fighters of the Spanish Civil War as leaders of the brigades. By the winter 1943-44 the number of partisans reached perhaps 4000. In the late spring-summer 1944 following the call to arms of the RSI, many young fellows to avoid service went to the mountains. Later, the fall of Montecassino seemed to open the way North for the Allies. At this point the partisans jumped to 50,000-60,000.

      But in November 1944 following the great offensive of the RSI and of the Wermacht plus General Alexander's invitation to go home for the winter, the number fell to 20-30,000.  Approaching the end many opportunists joined up, and on 25 April 1945 the partisans probably numbered 80,000.

      After the war, the Italian state recognized 393,341 people as partisans. This is quite an increase.

      Some presidents of the republic and many politicians of the left have quite often stated that the partisans defeated Nazi-Fascism and freed Italy. They evidently forget what the Allies did, but stating that they, the partisans or their heirs, are among the victors of WWII. The ridiculous knows no limits.

      In the schools, and not only there, the resistance is strongly supported and the few students who have the courage to question the resistance are threatened with failing grades.

      But the most important thing is that the resistance, especially its clandestine form in towns, was in violation of Art 1 of the Convention of The Hague 1907, in force during 1939-'45. Therefore it was a war crime and the countries that supported it with supplies or propaganda (tun tun run tuuuun V for victory and Beethoven's 5th, the identifying sound of the radio giving instructions in code) were committing war crimes.

      By the way, in the postwar years the new Geneva Convention partially modified the Art. 1.

      JE comments:  Nothing succeeds like success.  Eugenio, I've read very little about the Italian occupiers of France pre-September 1943.  Is there a definitive history in English of this event?

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      • Italy's WWII Occupation of France (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/12/18 6:08 AM)
        To answer John E's question of December 9th, I do not know of any definitive book in English about the Italian occupation of Southeast France during WWII. Anyway, here is my brief version:

        On 10 June 1940 the Italian Army assumed a defensive attitude. The idea (suggested by Churchill?) was to quickly reach a peace with Mussolini, repeating the miracle of Munich 1938. Instead France went on a bombing offensive, followed by the "Battle of the Alps" of 21-24 June. An armistice came on June 24th.

        Italy occupied a strip of land along the border, 832 square km with 28,523 inhabitants. Italy also received a naval base at Bordeaux, "Betasom," for its submarines.  After 8 September 1943 the base passed to the Navy of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana. These personnel surrendered to the Americans in May 1945.

        In November 1942 following the Allied invasion of North Africa, all the Free Territory of Vichy was occupied. Italy extended its presence to the river Rhone, and also occupied Corsica and Tunisia. There were almost no troubles, and for the Italian Army it was almost a vacation abroad. The French resistance, which started after the German invasion of Russia, did not give troubles to the Italians at least until the fall of Mussolini on 25 July 1943, but the new government started withdrawing troops.

        Probably the most bellicose action was an attack on a Vichy quarter to free some Jewish residents. About the fortunate situation of the Jews in the Italian Zone, to which they were moving from all over France, see Leon Poliakov, Jews under Italian Occupation (1983) or L'Etoile Jaune: La situtation des Juifs in France sous l'Occupation (1999).

        About this situation, Hitler sent Ribbentrop to Rome to try to convince Mussolini to deliver the Jews to the Germans, but without any success. Italian protection applied not only to the French Jews, but also to the Yugoslavian and Greek Jews. Mussolini during the war saved hundred of thousands of Jews with the help of his officers.  The latter received many recognitions, but the former (who gave the orders) only hatred. Something is wrong here.

        Giorgio Bocca was a fascist officer with the troops occupying France, but after 8 September 1943 he became a leader of the partisans in Piedmont. His book, Storia dell'Italia partigiana, is "politically correct" but nonetheless interesting. Anyway, his narrative is an attempt to recreate his "virginity." I have no idea idea if the book has been translated into English.

        JE comments:  I cannot find any English edition, although Bocca became rather famous as a journalist after the war.  He died in 2011 at the ripe age of 91.  Perhaps Roy Domenico can steer us in the right direction?

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  • Paris "Manis": 1968 and 2018 (John Heelan, UK 12/05/18 4:28 AM)
    Regarding the Yellow Vest manis:

    Fifty years ago similar "manis" happened in Paris and were violently suppressed by specialist police squads. Maybe the difference between past and present is the use of social networks to organise the disruption.

    How long will it be until a dictator bans the use of social networks? (Are they allowed in China? See http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41398423/social-media-and-censorship-in-china-how-is-it-different-to-the-west ).

    JE comments:  I'd say it's the other way around.  People were always good at organizing protests, social media or not.  But governments are no longer free to suppress the protests violently, due to universal video coverage and the ease with which any abuses can be uploaded for the entire world.

    Macron announced a postponement of the fuel tax increase.  Will this quiet down the Yellow Vests?  I doubt it.

    In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, maní is the word for peanut.  There's something profound about that, I think.

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