3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

June 15, 1997 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 1997.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

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--oOo--

From kessler@well.com Tue Jun 17 16:29:51 1997

Date: Sun, 15 Jun 1997 15:05:52 -0700 (PDT)

Subject: FYI France: Politics in France -- online resources

FYI France: Politics in France -- online resources

The elections two weeks ago, and the dismemberment of the European dream under way this week, create renewed interest in the politics of France.

A number of very good online resources for this "Politics in France" subject follow. Among these is the site mounted by the Front National, which features among other things the fulltext for their Mein Kampf: required reading for anyone wanting to understand French and general European mentalities currently -- the dreams, frustrations, fears -- later on, if "Europe" founders, or if even worse things happen, you will wish that you had read it...

* The Front National

http://www.front-nat.fr/

This party gained a single seat in the French Assembly this time, and -- perhaps more significantly -- 15% of the national popular vote during the "first round" of the general election.

All of this might be less important if the "FN" were not a rhetoric - oriented demagogic group, using techniques playing to base fears and insecurities among the genuinely unhappy voters.

This is not the "Prairie Populism" or "City Boss Machine" of US political history, however, but something darker and more disturbing, from Europe's own particularly - 1930's past. This is Jean - Marie Le Pen, who thinks that the "Holocaust" concept is overblown and doubts that Nazi concentration camps existed, and who doesn't like immigrants.

This group has its own para - military organization -- to have been outlawed, although the election may have changed this -- and its town mayors have pressured left - wing journals off of library shelves in the south (see FYI France for April 15, 1997 -- the letter published there turns out to have been in fact from "the librarians of the South", and simply was being published by the librarians at Strasbourg).

The Front National W3 site is very well - designed and maintained: political science "content analysts" and iconographers will have a field day -- note particularly the young - and - smart - and - feisty, very presumably blond and blue - eyed, characterization of the "Youth of France", very alarmingly and I fear deliberately reminiscent of "Hitler Youth" posters of the 1930s.

Outstandingly - useful among the many interesting features of the FN's W3 site is the fulltext of Bruno Megret's book, The National Alternative: The Priorities of the Front National: conceived perhaps while he was a UC Berkeley grad student, published now in his role as the FN's #2 and as the husband of one of those southern France FN mayors. The book text's URL is,

http://www.front-nat.fr/livremegret/lmegret.htm

it has chapter headings like -- get ready to wince -- "Le combat pour les valeurs", "La liberte' pour le peuple", "L'impe'ratif d'identite'", "Le renouveau du savoir", "De l'harmonie pour le pays", "La se'curite' dans la cite'", "La grandeur pour la nation", and, as his "conclusion", "Le printemps de la France"...

Read it! It may not win the Goncourt. But people didn't read Mein Kampf when it first came out, either.

* The Socialists -- 252 seats (289 is a majority)

http://www.parti-socialiste.fr/

Now the leading political party in France, its Lionel Jospin now is Prime Minister and already is being mentioned, prematurely, as a presidential candidate to run against Jacques Chirac in that next election.

The PS W3 site is boring: little orange logos marching across your screentop -- saying things like "The Campaign in Real Time", "Our Program", "Campaign With Us" -- slow - to - load frames, and a green background which comes up in fairly turgid hue onscreen. This is the party which now runs the country, but if it is going to appeal to its youth - vote -- it was elected largely on its promises to provide jobs for youth -- it could redo its W3 site, at least. Still, they do have a wonderful French - humor cartoon showing the now ex - Prime Minister sporting a very long nose and the caption "The Juppinochio -- His Nose Has Grown Again".

* The Communists (!?) -- 38 seats

http://www.pcf.fr/

Now the "swing vote" / "power broker" in the French parliamentary system, as their 38 seats plus the Socialists' 252 will put votes in the Assembly over the majority, although only by 1. But who ever would have thought that the Communist Party would find power again of any sort in, of all places, France? Who indeed, in places like Washington D.C. or Beijing, or Havana, or Moscow, in addition to Paris?

Lest anyone indulge in simplistic thinking about this, however, much well - informed opinion is betting that many of this particular "communist" party's adherents, if they do not get their way, are more likely to vote Front National as an alternative than any other (see H-FRANCE, below): the FN now is the "workers'" party -- politics in France are complicated.

The PC W3 site: now here is an effective site -- the Socialists should study it -- simple, clear, and effective message "Parti Communist Français -- Le Web", and the background is, well, red. Inside, one finds all sorts of interesting things to study and think about, from program and legislative information to online discussion groups and positions on Internet - related issues.

Too bad, at least from my own distant and American point of view, that the PC simply is so irrelevant now politically, in France or anywhere any longer: shame to waste a good W3 site. But the real disaster is what the new "swing vote" / "power broker" position of this otherwise dead party indicates more generally, both about the weakness of the leading parties in France, and perhaps the structural flaws in the French parliamentary approach. A "two - party system", anyone?

* Ecologists -- 7 seats

France has a number of "green" parties: a selection --

Please don't ask me to tell them apart, or to tell you anything about any one of them, or even to tell you which among them actually won the "Ecologist" seats in the recent national election. Others who read this are better qualified than I am to make all this analysis, and besides my own understanding is that all of these alliances and affiliations within the French ecology movement shift, dramatically and continuously.

One curious advantage of the parliamentary approach, though -- perhaps balancing the disadvantage noted above regarding the Communists, perhaps not -- is its ability to give voice to small but vocal movements like these ecologists. The US has no such party. Try talking to the Sierra Club, or Greenpeace, about the ease with which one influences the Democratic Party in the US.

The Eco - sites show soft fuzzy images of things like the earth and trees and wholegrains and flowers, in greens and blues and browns and "natural" yellows -- there are times when I come close to thinking that P.J. O'Rourke is right about these guys -- but the sites are well - studied by anyone wanting to see how ecological politics is done "over there".

* Union pour la de'mocratie franc,aise (UDF) -- 108 seats

http://www.udf.org/

One of the big losers during the election on the "Right Wing" in France. Their W3 site proclaims -- now, three weeks after the election -- "we still are working on the final version of this site". They should have finished it before. A respected W3 instructor whose advice I nearly always follow warns _never_ to say online that your site is "under construction" -- "if it isn't figured out yet, don't offer it..." -- what's true in W3 design perhaps is true in politics as well.

* Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) -- 131 seats

http://www.rpr.asso.fr/

The President's -- Jacques Chirac's -- party, also one of the big losers in the election, but at least a nice W3 site. Interesting and useful information to be found here includes much in the way of news, online discussion, question - answer, campaign documents.

* The National Assembly of France

http://www.assemblee-nat.fr

"The National Assembly as though you were there..." -- the site presents a friendly, informative, and very comprehensive introduction to the workings of this political structure of the Fifth Republic. It contains the fulltext of the country's constitution, in English as well as in French, although the site otherwise is in French.

* The Prime Minister -- Government of France -- History

http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr/HIST/HIST.HTM

An excellent introduction to the general context of French government, showing its structure clearly, and providing an interesting online history. In French, English, German and Spanish.

* Le Monde

http://www.lemonde.fr/elections/

Special "elections" feature of the very well - done Le Monde Online. The site includes sketches -- portraits and text -- of all the new government leaders. A convenient location for consulting all of the major French dailies, all of which will have some election coverage, is,

http://www.yahoo.fr/actualites_et_presse/quotidiens/

* "Elisabeth Guigou's Official Site" ["not", my kids would say]

http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/2584/webguigou.html

A chatty, talkshow version of the same sort of "general backgrounder", in French, with the additional virtues of offering both color image portraits of the various politicians and a little of their personal backgrounds.

(The women are "this blonde, discreet with a distant allure", and "this pretty and telegenic woman", and "this brunette with green eyes". I recall Mary Cunningham complaining that news reports of male corporate executives never described their figures or their hairdos -- although Mary did continue to work hard on both, I noticed -- plus ça change...)

* H-FRANCE econference

http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~france/about.html

For the informed outsider's view -- also some very good and occasionally violent recent discussion of the election, and the Front National, and racism in France -- this online discussion group is highly recommended.

The members are for the most part non - French professors of history who teach French subjects at universities in the US, Canada, and the UK. There are many actually - French "lurkers", however -- they pop up shyly and briefly (the medium is English), to provide local addresses or to correct someone's grammar, so you know that they are there -- and there is a broad assortment of non - professor, non - USCANADAUK participants as well.

Conversation usually is civilized, well - considered, and temperate -- except when Gallic or pseudo - Gallic tempers flare -- so that one would be hard - pressed to find a better discussion group online elsewhere, of things French which is conducted in English.

--oOo--

Two final, general editorial, suggestions, particularly addressed to non - Europeans who might be interested in diving into European politics, and / or to anyone -- European or other -- who either is uninformed about information technology or is generally naive:

a) Politics in Europe can be dangerous: not just theoretically but physically -- don't let 50 years of peace lull you into forgetting that two European wars wiped out entire generations during the previous 50, and that Europeans have made war on each other, and on others, pretty much every generation throughout this millenium. Skimming through "Front National" websites can get you involved in some personally and physically dangerous stuff, if they / someone can find out who you are... and,

b) They can find out who you are -- Internet connections are not secure in this respect. If you don't believe me ask the folks down at Netscape Corp. today, who just have found out -- from a programmer - bandit in Denmark who apparently is trying to hold them up for millions (US$) -- that their Navigator can be used both directions, i.e. by server sites to get back into your own computer's hard disk!

The best strategy for dealing with political and other sensitive subjects online -- if you worry about these things, as you should vis à vis "politics in Europe" -- is to http in to suspect things not from your own site, but from large university servers and other such sites, where your originating address will look like all the rest of thousands should some recipient try to track you down.

Whatever the firewall / encryption / security people say, me I unplug -- actually remove the wires -- both the electric power and the telephone line from my machine before I leave the office...

--oOo--

FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

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--oOo--
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