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Review: Memoirs of a Revolutionary – by Victor Serge

memoirs of a revolutionary

This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read, a first witness account of some of the most important world events of the first half of the twentieth century, a rich period for revolutionary events and the author, Victor Serge, a Belgian born Russian, is perfectly poised to give detailed personal encounters with many of the key protagonists. Serge is a revolutionary, who participates in the Russian Revolution from 1919 as a core Bolshevik. He meets and works with Lenin and Trotsky and his European roots make him critical to the emerging infrastructure of Soviet Russia. Serge writes often with a critical frankness of the core movements of which he is part, a fact that later endangers him as (correctly identified by the author) the Revolution seeps into Totalitarianism, culminating in the great Stalinist Purges of the 1930s. Initially the book flirts with the rising tide of working class socialism in Western Europe. Paris is a hotbed for leading international figures of the Left. Later, in Barcelona, Serge makes key contacts that will come into fruition for his analyses of the Spanish Civil War. From there he embarks for his never seen before motherland (his family were anti-Tsarist exiles). The post 1917 revolution is enduring its honeymoon, yet the whole survival of the Bolsheviks comes within a blink of an eye as the Civil War almost leads to their destruction in Petrograd as the Whites make gains. Serge, as he moves up the ranks, rapidly becomes disillusioned with the turn that the Revolution is taking. He warns against the Cheka and GPU. He is a peaceful man and holds onto the non-violent tenets of socialism. Later, when the party splits – Serge is a key figure in the alliance against the Party Centre and Politburo, which culminates in his expulsion from the Party and exile in Orenburg. His suffering in prison shows how lucky he was to retain his life, in a period where the executioner’s bullet was only ever a step away and was freely used. Serge’s fame as an author, especially in France, managed, through international outcry, to keep him and his young family away from the true harshness of life as an exile and ultimately secured his freedom back to Western Europe. The outbreak of world war was predicted by this great political visionary. His tracts against Stalinism often made him an enemy of…

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Review: A Social History of France in the 19th Century – by Christophe Charle

a social history of france

This is a translation from the original French and as such I feel that sometimes reads a little strangely as an academic study in that it sometimes has an unusual technique for presenting ideas. It is quite rich in statistics and sometimes the data can be overwhelming. The book is neatly broken down into chapters which focus on the different effects during multiple time periods on the individual classes which compromised 19th century French society. It is clear that each of the revolutions that occurred during this period, even though often initially driven by the lower classes, all had a tendency to ultimately favour the bourgeois status quo among society’s political elite. Even though peasants and working class often bore the brunt of society’s effects, it is also apparent from the study that by the end of the century, in particular during the Belle Epoque, living conditions and standards had actually risen. France caught up with the rest of the Western world in terms of its industrialisation and a more cohesive labour movement gradually improved the lot of wage earners. France moved during three major periods during the nineteenth century. We have the July Monarchy, the Second Empire and the Third Republic. There are good regional examples of the different events that form the country’s social history. I particularly enjoyed the details about various industrial regions such as the mining districts and also the variations across the land from North and South. It is a worthy read, even if sometimes this book does get bogged down in detail.

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Review: France 1815-1914 The Bourgeois Century – by Roger Magraw

magraw france

This book focuses on post-revolutionary France, during a period where the bourgeois consolidated their gains from 1789. Three further revolutionary changes of power occurred in France during the studied century and again it was the bourgeois who gained the most from these changes. We see a period of a modernising country, catching up with other industrialised nations. Capitalism endures a fight with the emerging political left which campaigns on behalf of a peasantry and working class whose standards of living are in general on the rise due to new technologies and modernisations. The study goes into each of the classes in depth, during varying periods. Political focuses on anticlericalism, workers’ rights, education and preparing the country for impending military dangers from abroad are varied. Often Magraw will introduce a fairly difficult concept as a topic and through the subtle use of repetition he will develop each of these ideas until by the end of the book the text is fast-flowing and comprehensively understood. I particularly enjoyed the focus on the lower strata of society and the impact of the varied political changes. The book definitely compliments other study I have made on the France of this period.

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Review: Revolutionary Syndicalism and French Labor: A Cause Without Rebels – by Peter N. Stearns

revolutionary syndicalism

This short book, written in 1971, is a study of syndicalism and its effects on the French Labour movement in the twenty years preceding World War 1. French workers had learned the effectiveness of striking to improve their wages and conditions and there was an increase in strike activity which was mainly co-ordinated by syndicalist labour leaders who drew on the ideas of theorists such as Proudhon. Syndicalist Unions organised their members and there was a shift in awareness among the working classes of how to unite and fight a class struggle. Syndicalism mainly avoided politics and focussed on the economic path to fighting for workers’ rights. Ultimately the non-syndicalist unions came to the fore to champion the workers and as wages increased and conditions improved as a result of strike activity, the thoughts and ideas of the syndicalists lost favour and faded away. The book analyses why the conditions were ripe for syndicalism. The artisanship of the workers, the lack of industrialism, and the regionalism of employers and lack of large companies, all meant that France, during this period was ripe for the syndicalist ideas to flourish.

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Review: Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité at Work – by Steve Jefferys

liberté. égalité and fraternité at work

This is a relatively concise look at Employment relations in France. Taken from a contrastive Anglo-Saxon point of view, the author explores the intricacies of the French economic system and how industrial relations are different in France than other Western capitalist nations. In France, strikes, in particular by public sector workers, are notoriously common and tend to make headlines around the world. This study reveals some of the reasons for the French workers’ propensity to take strike action. The government tends to have a major effect on working life and state intervention is common in the French economy. From the effects of Vichy to the Gaullist dirigisme through to the more recent Aubry laws to the present day, the effects of the state, mixed in with the demands of employer and employee associations, there is a complex web of interactions. Trade Unionism in France is relatively undersubscribed but has a large ability to mobilise the workers en masse. There is a myriad of acronyms relating to the various unions and other associations. The CGT, the CFDT, the FO, the employer association Medef. All of these contribute in their own right to forming the employment relations. France has a strong welfare element to its state and has also moved away from its more traditional family-owned patrimonial role of the employer to being more Americanised in its business models with international pension funds being more predominant in the stock market. This book is a great introductory text for my History of French Labour course at Cardiff University and I felt that the author does a very good job of explaining how the French economy operates. I would imagine that over the next year I will be regularly thumbing the pages of this text for reference.

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Wez G – Les Chansons Des Îles

les chansons des îles

Listen to Wez G – Les Chansons Des Îles byWez G on hearthis.at Wez G – Les Chansons des Îles Je vais vous emmener sur un voyage musical à travers les Caraïbes francophones. Nous couvrirons les sons de la Guadeloupe, de la Martinique et de Haïti et nous aurons un éventail d’artistes talentueux pour vous assurer un plaisir d’écoute total. Reculez et détendez-vous. Les chansons des îles se dirigent vers vous … I am going to take you on a musical journey through the Francophone Caribbean. We shall be covering the sounds of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haïti and have an array of talented artists to ensure your total listening pleasure. Lay back and relax. The songs of the Islands are heading your way…. :::TRACKLISTING ::: BélO – Lakou Trankil Eric Virgal – Aimé Césaire Manno Charlemagne – Zanmi Jude Jean, G.Benoit – Ki Lang Ou Pale Emeline Michel – Le Poisson de Nuage Kassav’ – Chouboule Tiwony- Air Pur Joëlle Ursull – Ti Bébé (An Poésie Kréyol) Marlène Dorcena -Panama Perle Lama – La Fièvre du Zouk Love Admiral T – Retour au Pays Natal Artistes Variés – Je Chante Pour Toi Haïti Manuel Césaire – Rhapsodie Martinique: II. La traversée, les cales, révoltes et tempêtes

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Le Filtre Français

facebook france filter

« Le succès du filtre Facebook rappelle que l’indignation est parfois sélective. » Selon vous : «  Est-ce une raison pour brocarder ceux qui l’adoptent pour exprimer publiquement leur solidarité ? » Après les attaques terroristes à Paris en novembre 2015, un filtre qui vous permet de changer votre photo de profil à celle du tricolore français est apparu sur Facebook. Ce filtre vous permet supposément de montrer votre solidarité avec les victimes des attaques. Le filtre s’est révélé très populaire et s’est répandu de manière virale à travers le monde occidental. Cependant, le filtre a également suscité des critiques de certains milieux et dans cet essai, nous visons à discuter une partie de la controverse entourant le filtre. Est-ce que l’indignation est parfois sélective ? Est-ce qu’il faut brocarder ceux qui adoptent le filtre ? D’une part, la popularité du filtre est un excellent moyen de montrer la solidarité contre les terroristes horribles. Que le filtre s’est répandu jusqu’ici et large montre comment offensé le monde occidental a été par l’outrage terroriste. D’autre part, l’utilisation du filtre peut être critiquée. Pourquoi un filtre pour les victimes de l’attaque au Liban la veille des attaques de Paris n’a-t-il pas été utilisé? L’utilisation du filtre démontre l’eurocentrisme et montre peut-être la limite de notre empathie. Non seulement il y a des attaques terroristes à Paris, mais aussi à Bagdad, en Syrie, au Pakistan, mais pourquoi ne changeons-nous pas nos drapeaux pour ceux de ces pays? On peut dire que peut-être nous valorisons les victimes occidentales, les femmes dans leurs chapeaux de magasins laineux, plus que ces femmes voilées du Moyen-Orient. Est-ce un signe de la suprématie blanche que nous choisissons de draper nos photos de profil avec le tricolore? C’est un signe d’indignation sélective. Mais on peut nous pardonner de faire preuve de solidarité avec nos voisins? Les attaques terroristes sont pratiquement sur notre porte. Paris est une ville où nous passons des escapades romantiques de week-end, que nous étudions en détail dans nos cours de français GCSE, la capitale de notre voisin le plus proche. Une attaque contre Paris est sûrement une attaque contre nous? Je pense qu’il est naturel que nous devions faire preuve d’empathie pour les victimes des attaques de Paris. Cependant, y aurait-il une meilleure façon de manifester de l’indignation contre les terroristes? D’autres groupes ont essayé d’imiter le succès du filtre français. Par exemple, les militants du mariage homosexuel aux États-Unis ont introduit un…

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La « New Jungle » de Calais

jungle de calais

La « new jungle » de Calais est-elle un problème français ou britannique ? Il existe beaucoup de controverse autour de la question de la « new jungle » de Calais. La « jungle de Calais », aussi appelée « camp de Lande », est une expression désignant les camps de migrants et de réfugiés installés à partir du début des années 2000 à Calais, Coquelles et Sangatte, aux abords de l’entrée française du tunnel sous la Manche et de la zone portuaire de Calais. Il y avait plus de 5000 personnes dans la « new jungle », la plupart sont des migrants qui tentent de pénétrer sur le territoire du Royaume-Uni en passagers clandestins. Même si la « jungle » est géographiquement française, comme une question de frontière, les problèmes liés aux migrants à Calais est en tandem un problème britannique. Quant à quel pays est le plus responsable de la situation dans son ensemble, qui est un débat que cet essai a pour but de répondre. La migration est un problème qui touche vraiment tout le monde et est une pomme de discorde à la fois sur la droite et la gauche du spectre politique. Les migrants de Calais sont détenus en France même si elles ont toutes une destination préférée du Royaume-Uni. Le gouvernement français sont obligés de nettoyer ce qui est essentiellement un gâchis anglais et la coopération entre les gouvernements des deux pays est essentielle si l’ensemble de la situation de la jungle est de ne pas devenir hors de contrôle. En France, alors que la « new jungle » est un problème pour les autorités officielles, au Royaume-Uni, il est laissé à des célébrités et des journalistes de journaux pour faire face à la situation. Célébrité de football, Gary Lineker, a récemment tweeté avec sympathie sur les migrants à Calais, ce qui porte l’ensemble de la question à un public de masse au Royaume-Uni. Ses vues ont certainement irrité beaucoup à l’extrême droite, y compris les politiciens. Chanteuse Lily Allen avait visité la « new jungle » et a écrit un article controversé pour le Vice qui a irrité le tabloïd presse britannique. Ces célébrités espéraient qu’en mettant en évidence la question qu’ils pourraient forcer leur gouvernement à agir et pour abriter quelques-uns des nombreux, pauvres, enfants réfugiés Les habitants de Calais croient que « Toutes ces histoires de migrants, ce n’est pas bon pour l’image de Calais. Ça fait fuir les touristes »….

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Review: Women and the Second World War in France, 1939-1948: Choices and Constraints – by Hanna Diamond

women ww2 france

This book focuses on the role of French women during World War 2 and the immediate aftermath. It is clear that the women of France bore the brunt of dealing with the occupier, very often their men away, detained as prisoners of war or, for example, sequestered to work abroad in the Fatherland, Germany. Women had to cope with running family businesses, looking after the family, acquiring food. They may have chosen to either be collaborationists or to have joined the resistance. I found it particularly interesting hearing of the women who collaborated with the enemy, either seeking roles within Vichy or directly engaging with the German soldiers. The shorn heads of collaborators at Liberation cast powerful images in the reader. Women became, I feel, more valued in society as a result of their wartime activities and although they may have gone back to their roles afterwards as second class citizens within the family and society, they did earn themselves suffrage and I feel moved women as a whole towards parity with their male counterparts. The book is written in feminists tones, though without being to alienist to the male reader. It is factual and interesting and provides a good basis for further study for the university course I anticipate studying on the subject of Women in World War 2 France.

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

Sixty Million French Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was…

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million French Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was…

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was…

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Review: On Paris

On Paris by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 4 of 5 stars This very brief work is a collection of Hemingway’s writings as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. The author’s bright prose lights up what I believe to be the most fantastic city on earth, during the turbulent times of the 1920s. Paris was in a post-Versailles dilemma, the politicians fighting for German reparations and dangerously questing into the Ruhr valley. Hemingway vibrantly details the glamorous life in the French capital. The post-absinthe hedonism, the cafe culture, the nightlife of the Moulin Rouge. He contrasts the French joie de vivre with that of other European capitals and with a flamboyant passion for Paris, he brings to life this exotic city for all his readers. View all my reviews

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Review: Tudors

Tudors by Peter Ackroyd My rating: 4 of 5 stars The second volume of Ackroyd’s history of England, this work covers one of the most astonishing and exciting periods of English history. Two of the most revered and famous monarchs existed in the Tudor period, that of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The whole reformation and what it entailed, really separated our Isles from continental history and led to our definition as a modern race. Henry’s time was defined by his cataclysmic relationships with two wives fouling foul of the executioner and he became also a pioneer of the use of divorce. It is interesting to see how the Tudors interacted with other European powers, always on the dividing line between the struggles of France and Spain. I found the Elizabethan period to be the most interesting. The Virgin Queen was truly a great monarch and it is interesting to see how this mysterious woman steered our country onto a great imperial path. It was the time of the early explorers and the start of Empire and the infamous defeat of the Spanish Armada is a highlight as is the conflict with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was ultimately dispatched at Fotheringay castle, a place I once visited as a child and a whole story that was most inspiring. I look forward to see how England progresses beyond the Tudors. It, for sure, can be said that they were a dynasty set apart from others and that their influence can still be felt today. It was a fascinating period of English history and I eagerly anticipate to see how history develops from here, as Peter Ackroyd’s six volume history continues to progress. View all my reviews

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Match Report: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13) W 4-1

Man Of The Match:  Prior to the whistle there was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Whatever your views on Mandela there is no doubt he was an icon of the twentieth century and he did have links to our football club. After he died, I found this post online showing photos of him meeting the Liverpool team and also sporting a Liverpool top. This is enough for me to wish he rest in peace. http://www.thisisanfield.com/2013/12/liverpool-football-unites-pay-tribute-nelson-mandela-died-aged-95/ The match got underway, with further tinkering in the centre backs. Rotation seems to be a fixed policy. Martin Skrtel seems first choice and a constant, but Daniel Agger was dropped today in favour of Mamadou Sakho. I think that Sakho has good potential and he did very well recently for France in their critical world cup qualifiers. West Ham’s attack aren’t great so maybe that elusive clean sheet will come good today? Luis Suarez looked keen and lobbed an early attempt wide, he was linking well with Philippe Coutinho too. West Ham are likely to hole up their defence today (like they did last season) but our attack could be very dangerous. West Ham gave a bit of tit-for-tat and got an early corner at their business end of the pitch. It was straight back up the other end, though, with Jordan Henderson this time putting West Ham under pressure. West Ham were surprising tactically – Rather than shutting up shop, they set up in quite an open formation and were giving as good as they got in terms of attacking. It was an open game and could go either way. Modibo Maiga latched onto a good cross, and finding a good gap between the central defenders, put a strong header in on goal only for the superb Simon Mignolet to save well. It took until 40 minutes for Liverpool to get their breakthrough. Jussi Jääskeläinen saved a blast from Luis Suarez but unluckily for the Hammers it rebounded into the goal off their own player, Guy Demel. Liverpool were a goal to the good and Luis, perhaps angry at not being able to claim this goal, was straight back up to almost get another, this time shooting over the bar. West Ham had done well first half, and we’ll need another goal to secure this game in the second half. Just after half-time Martin Skrtel stepped up to double the lead. Steven Gerrard delivered a free…

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