Sunday, June 06, 2004

Disagreements on the Left

Currently visible on the Internet poll page at Le Monde are the results of a survey of Web readers that numbered, when I last checked, 10,948 — a fairly sizable number. The question posted Friday was:

The presence of George Bush at the ceremonies commemorating June 6 1944...
...bothers you because of the US action in Iraq: 30.6%

...or pleases you: he is the representative of the country that liberated France: 64.4%

No opinion: 5%
On June 3, Libération reported that there were a few minor disagreements, shall we say, among the Greens on whether to protest Bush's arrival. Communist Party member of parliament Maxime Gremetz said that Bush "should be greeted with the respect due a head of state, the heir to our liberators." For his part, Gilles Lemaire, leader of the Green Party, says that Bush's presence is "legitimate" but that his arrival "calls for strong demonstrations." The results of Lemaire's words are visible in the actions of Green and PRG delegates blogged below. (Note that in that post I misspoke: Communist elected officials are attending all celebrations. The information comes from this article in Le Monde). Lemaire also told Libé that our "participation in the demonstration has met with no objections among the Greens."

This statement had to be corrected yesterday. Euro MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit (aka Danny The Red), a German elected to represent France, is currently on the campaign trail in Nantes. When he received the party's official communique, he reportedly hit the roof. "Bush must be greeted as the president of the country that liberated France. I was born nine months after the landings and, at this time, what is most important for me is gratitude. This is not the right time to demonstrate." (See this excellent debate between Cohn-Bendit and Adam Michnik over the Iraq war that originally appeared in Le Monde.)

One of the great things about the French national library is the National Audiovisual Insitute. The library itself, though highly controversial in design, is an amazing place to visit. It is located on the left bank of the Seine in the east of Paris not far from the Gare d'Austerlitz. The exterior of the structure consists in four glass towers shaped like open books stood on end at the corners of a rectangle. These buildings are where books are stored and contain some areas for library patrons. In the middle is an enormous garden that is set on a surface six or seven stories below ground and surrounded by the glass windows of the library, which is itself below ground and which also surrounds the garden. One enters the library and is immediately struck by the light which passes through the garden and then the windows, illuminating long corridors with blood-red carpets. It's quite something.

The Audiovisual institute is several floors down and it contains an enormous archive of radio, television and film. One can view DVDs of practically every television program broadcast over the French airwaves going back several years.

On the occasion of the D-Day ceremonies, the INA Web site is making a special selection of streaming video available from its archived footage of the war and the landings. Here is an hour of Vichy propaganda called France Actualités, lionizing the German response to the invasion giving a lengthy inventory of German military capabilities; all read by a man with a strong, nasal vichyssoise accent. (At least I think that's a vichyssoise accent). It includes a speech by Vichy information minister Philippe Henriot, who accuses the allies of using French troops in the invasion to protect their own soldiers. A large number of other editions of France Actualités are available here. There is also a selection of photographs. See here for a 27 second film from June 16 1944 with shots of newspapers "reporting" the allied invasion and showing German convoy on the Champs Elysées.

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