Journeying from Tahrir in 2011 to Tiananmen in 1989, passing via the Paris Commune-era Hôtel de Ville, Libération is spending three weeks surveying the now-symbolic places where citizens defied the powers-that-be in the name of democracy and individual freedom. Today we look at the square in front of Paris’ Hôtel de Ville.
David Bell's hostile review of Eric Hazan’s work is not surprising: clearly, the tradition of “people’s histories”, inaugurated by A.L. Morton’s A People’s History of England (1938) and continued, amongst others, by Howard Zinn and Chris Harman, is unlikely to find favour in the corridors of Princeton’s History Department – at least, since the retirement of Arno Mayer. However, aside from the silly gripe about the cover image (ever heard of artistic licence, David?) and the contemptuous tone of the piece, it is worth dwelling on the sneering reference to “the eccentric Trotskyite [sic.]-anarchist militant Daniel Guérin”.
The forms anti-Semitism takes today in France are very varied, and often have little or nothing in common. Since the Second World War, anti-Semitism has no longer been supported in France by a certain abject consensus (which in the 1930s was even shared by many celebrated writers, such as Céline). It persists in the form of disparate minorities, some publicly active, others concealed.
Andy Merrifield, Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester, has written a glowing review of Eric Hazan's Paris Sous Tension, where he goes in great detail about Hazan's incisive analysis of modern-day Paris:
And, possibly, its future:
What’s happening in Paris, then, is a revealing microcosm of a larger macrocosm. Paris is a cell-form of a bigger urban tissuing that’s constituted by a mosaic of centers and peripheries scattered all over the globe, a patchwork quilt of socio-spatial and racial apartheid that goes for Paris as for Palestine, for London as for Rio, for Johannesburg as for New York. […] Nowadays, the poor global South exists in North-East Paris, or in Queens and Tower Hamlets. And the rich global North lives high above the streets of Mumbai, and flies home in helicopters to its penthouses in Jardins and Morumbi, Sao Paulo.
Like Occupy, Hazan’s notion of insurrection represents a hypothesis, a daring hunch that, for people who care about democracy, for people who know our economic and political system is kaput, change is likely to come from within, from within excluded and impoverished communities, through collective experimentation and struggle, through action and activism that overcomes its own limits, that experiments with itself and the world.