France

Veiled threats

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When a Muslim woman was stopped by police for wearing a niqab while driving in Nantes, western France, last month it gave a warning of what may be to come.

Legislation is due to be tabled this month banning the burqa and niqab in public places in France, including transport, universities, hospitals, job centres and post offices. Women would have to "keep the face uncovered throughout their presence" or face "a refusal to deliver the service demanded". This is despite the fact that less than 2,000 - out of an estimated 1.5 million Muslim women who live in France - are known to wear it.

Ilham Moussaid: A proud tribune of the oppressed

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The candidacy of New Anti-capitalist Party activist Ilham Moussaïd caused controversy in France because she chooses to wear a hijab. She spoke to Jim Wolfreys about challenging capitalism and Islamophobia

Nadine Morano, a member of the right wing government of François Fillon, was questioned recently about the compatibility between Islam and the French Republic. She replied, "What I want from a young Muslim, when he's French, is that he loves his country, that he finds a job, that he doesn't speak back slang, and that he doesn't put his cap on back to front."

Letter from France

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Undocumented workers in Paris are waging an extraordinary battle to win their rights, reports Vanina Giudicelli

On 12 October 1,500 sans papiers - immigrant workers denied residence papers - began a wave of strikes and workplace occupations around Paris. Every day a hundred more joined them, until by the end of November the movement was 5,000 strong.

The media has paid very little attention, but every report that does appear exposes the racist attitude of both the government and employers.

Double punishment for Calais refugees

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On the morning of 22 September French riot police razed a makeshift camp in Calais where mostly Afghan refugees were living as they waited to cross over to Britain.

Despite the presence of human rights activists, the police arrested 276 people - half of them minors.

Eric Besson, the French immigration minister, ordered the clearout of what was dubbed "the jungle" in order to "stop traffickers".

It is ironic of Besson to try to put a humanistic veneer on his action. Refugees set up the camp after French authorities decided in November 2002 to close the Red Cross camp in Sangatte that used to look after them. And the French government wasn't worried when most of the refugees found themselves on the streets at the beginning of winter.

New party to unite the French left

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The birth of the New Anti-capitalist Party in France is a welcome development for those opposed to neoliberalism. Over 9,000 people from different political backgrounds have already joined up. Jim Wolfreys reports from its founding congress and looks at its prospects and challenges.

The founding of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA or New Anti-capitalist Party) in France last month marks a new stage in the search for a means of translating revolt against neoliberalism into a durable and effective political form. It comes at a time of renewed combativity against President Nicolas Sarkozy's attacks on public services and working conditions with 2.5 million people joining the strikes and demonstrations on 29 January that opposed the government's handling of the recession.

Letter from France

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The victory of conservative Nicolas Sarkozy last year has led to disorientation for the mainstream left. But this can offer exciting possibilities for anti-capitalists, argues Denis Godard

Just a few weeks after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as president last year, many on the radical left were interpreting the electoral results as a whole society moving to the right. The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) leadership, meanwhile, started to talk about calling for a new anti-capitalist party in France. This initiative responded to both a necessity and an opportunity.

The "move to the right" theorists were right on one point. The election campaign and the period since have seen the whole establishment moving to the right.

Algeria: torture last time

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When Algerian journalist Henri Alleg published his account of being tortured at the hands of the French colonial regime it became an instant bestseller. Ian Birchall tells us why the book is still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago during the Algerian War of Independence.

More than 50 years ago France was fighting a vicious colonial war in Algeria. The enemy were so-called "terrorists", North African Muslims who wanted national independence. Many episodes from that war have striking parallels with the world today.

Henri Alleg was editor of Alger Républicain, the only daily newspaper in Algeria to oppose the French colonial regime, and a member of the Algerian Communist Party. In 1955 Alger Républicain was banned and the following year it was decided to intern most of its contributors. Alleg went into hiding.

Sarkozy's raids of the playgrounds

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At the recent inauguration of a Moscow memorial to the victims of the gulag Nicolas Sarkozy made a fervent speech about the importance of human rights, underlining the necessity of interaction between authorities and population.

In accordance with the republican tradition, he stressed that in France "no one is above the law". Curiously, the French president seemed to have forgotten that in his country the law is currently being reformed so as to contradict the very human rights he was referring to.

Sarkozy's newly created ministry for immigration and integration maintains an image of support for immigrant families and their descendants, while its new policies are by far the most aggressive France has witnessed in the last decades.

Sarkozy - Capital's Latest Helper

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The three main contenders for France's presidency last month were in agreement over one thing - the need for economic reform and increased accommodation for market forces.

But why are Europe's capitalists so desperate to embrace Nicolas Sarkozy's new vision of France?

The French presidential elections last month tell us something important about the condition of capitalism today. Virtually all mainstream commentators and politicians lined up to insist that France has to suffer a dose of "reform" - "neoliberal" measures such as increased working hours, cutbacks in social provision, "market testing" of jobs, privatisation and the slashing of employment rights.

Foreign Intervention: France - Wishing You Weren't Here

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France is intervening in two African countries, using troops and fighter aircraft to defend the regimes in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) from rebel forces. The interventions come without any debate in the French parliament.

There are about 1,300 French troops in Chad, following a conflict with Libya in the 1980s. They are now being used to assist the Chadian army, providing it with aerial reconnaissance, and transporting troops, medicine and weapons.

In the CAR, Mirage fighter planes were used last month to destroy rebel positions. The same planes were used in April last year to stop rebels entering Chad's capital, N'Djamena.

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