The November 11 anti-Trump mobilisation in Paris is a real advance for the anti-war movement in France, reports Susan Ram
On November 11, between 1,500 and 2,000 people braved the elements, legal constraints and a colossal Paris police containment operation to protest the presence in France of Donald Trump.
The demonstration, restricted by the Paris police to a ‘static’ assembly in the Place de la République, had to contend with a cold, dank afternoon of relentless, mizzly rain. Blocked from marching through the city, participants seized the chance to explore multiple ways of expressing their anger. Banners and placards, some in English (with the foreign media in mind), conveyed their message admirably: “Mr Hate, Leave Europe!’, ‘Stop the Hate!’, ‘No Justice, No Peace!’, ‘Pour Trump et Macron, la paix c’est la guerre!’ (‘for Trump and Macron, peace means war’).
At the heart of the mobilisation, encircling the emblematic Monument of the Republic, a giant banner declared ‘Trump = Guerre’ (‘Trump equals war’).
The combative spirit of those present was enlivened by the presence of 'Trump Baby’, the London-based blimp whose orange hue, nappy and petulant expression now commands instant recognition across the globe. In revealing contrast to his real-life inspiration (whose failure, because of the weather, to turn up at a key armistice centenary event triggered national outrage), Trump Baby seemed to revel in the rain; for three hours he bounced away without so much as a snivel, effortlessly capturing the attention of the media. The decision to send him over to Paris was a stroke of genius and shows the impact of the demonstration against Trump in London earlier this year.
Despite the limited numbers present, this mobilisation represents a real step forward for the anti-war movement in France. The core organiser, the Collectif ni Guerres ni État de Guerre (‘neither war nor state of war collective’), announced in October its intention to protest Trump’s presence in France for armistice centenary events. Fifty or so organisations, both national and overseas, representing a range of issues and political positions, pledged their support. Chris Nineham, Vice-Chair of the Stop the War Coalition attended a planning meeting and brought solidarity from Britain. Key organisational help was supplied by Paris Against Trump, described on its Facebook page as “a collective of engaged international citizens committed to transnational social justice and solidarity against Trump’s policies.”
The rising French anti-war movement can therefore be seen to involve a coming together of diverse groups whose hostility to Trump and the global growth of the far right derives from a variety of perspectives.
The radical left was strongly represented, with the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) actively involved. Other participants on the anti-capitalist left include ATTAC France and the Parti de Gauche, whose member Éric Coquerel (also a deputé for La France Insoumise) took part in Sunday’s mobilisation.
Trade union participation was provided by the anti-reformist, socially aware Union Syndicale Solidaires, which helped organise the November 11 mobilisation.
Campaign groups whose focus ranges from anti-fascism and Palestine liberation to women’s equality and gay rights also formed part of this incipient rainbow coalition.
Sylvestre Jaffard, a member of Paris Against Trump and an organiser of the November 11 protest, sees the event as “definitely an advance. The Collectif ni Guerres ni État de Guerre was the key in the organising, and it can hopefully build on the links built or revived.”
As the movement builds, it can expect fierce, no-holds-barred countermeasures by the state. The ten thousand police mobilised in Paris to contain the Armistice Day protest; the closing of metro stations to hinder access; the peppering across the media of scaremonger stories of possible participation by the Anarchist Black Bloc: such strategies suggest a determination on the part of the French state to come down hard on any effort to oppose war or build a movement with an anti-militarist, anti-racist thrust. In Macron’s vision of the world, as much as Trump’s, militarism rocks.
Susan Ram is a writer, editor and journalist based in south-west France. She's currently at work on a book about the French Left, for publication in India, where she lived for many years.