The Second Last Red

Le Beujolais est Arrivee
These signs popped up all over Paris last week, to the
delight of many bar owners.

Jospinomania! Turns Up in France for First Time

Paris:- Saturday, 22. November 1997:- After an entire lifetime devoted to error, Georges Marchais died last Sunday. He was 77.

For 22 of those years he was the number one French Communist, and with his death, he has left Cuba's President Dr. Fidel Castro as the sole survivor of politics - as they were once - made in Moscow.

As a result of resistance to change, he left the French Communist Party in a post-'Wall' shambles. Under Marchais, the PCF did not reform and did not move towards social-democracy like its cousin, the Italian PC, which entered mainstream politics and now acts like any other party.

Georges Marchais was certainly not entirely responsible for the long decline of the PCF, from its high point in 1946 to today. He joined the party in 1947, just after it polled 28.2 percent in national elections. This was its highest score.

In the 48 years until Robert Hue took over the PCF in January 1994, the party's score dropped from its high point to a mere 9.2 percent in 1993. Under Hue's direction, it has since risen to 9.9 percent in national polls.

From Calvados, from a modest background, Georges Marchais came to Paris at 16 to seek his fortune. He had a series of insignificant jobs until getting a place at an aircraft plant late in 1938. At this time he had no union or political affiliations.

During the war, between December 1942 and May 1944, what is known of his official history says he worked at the Messerschmitt factory in Bavaria. According to Parisien - Marchais Libération, high French Communist officials 'knew' whether Marchais was a conscript or a volunteer for wartime activities in Germany, but this still remains a public secret; the proofs were apparently purged from the mythical history of the PCF, by itself, in 1959.

Joining the party at 27, he was a late starter compared to most other top communists. He also joined the CGT, the communist-dominated labor union and in 1951 he was on the union's staff as leader of the metal workers in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Last Monday's front page of Le Parisien: 'The Last of the Communists'

He rose in the party by being close to its leader, Maurice Thorez; which also lead to 'management training' at the party's head office in Moscow.

In 1956, in a secret session at the party's 20th congress in Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev depicted Stalin as a demented despot. Khrushchev's report was subsequently distributed to party members worldwide - to many who felt they were the victims of a major deception.

'De-stalinization' was begun by men hand-picked by Stalin; men who decided on an external policy of 'peaceful co-existence' with the funky, capitalist west.

This resulted in conflicts between 'conservative' and 'liberal' communists in satellite countries neighboring the Soviet Union - with the low point being reached in Hungary when Soviet troops regained control of the country from the reformist Hungarian army and their allies of workers, intellectuals and peasants. The French Communist Party approved of the bloodbath which was caused by this.

Twenty years after these events, in 1976, Georges Marchais announced the end of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' in France. This lead in June of 1981, to communist entry into the French government, but the four named as ministers resigned in 1984.

Georges Marchais was the manager of the PCF as its influence was eclipsed by events. In 1985, Moscow took a decisive turn towards liberalization and in 1989 East Berliners knocked down the wall dividing the city. In 1991, the PC-USSR effectively ceased to exist.

Some people might argue that the world's communist movement was destroyed by Hollywood; if one can accept the idea that communist leaders were actual believers in Ronald Reagan's 'Star Wars' proposal.

However, the reason is probably more fundamental. Non-communist France could afford to export wheat to Russia - it is doubtful that the reverse could have ever been true under Communist management.

Ciao, comrade.

Jospinomania!

France's Socialist Party is having its party congress in Brest this weekend and the pinkos are celebrating it with a show called 'Jospinomania!'

This show is as unlikely as its name. For lo! and behold! - France has a popular Prime Minister. How rare! Sixty percent of the French says they have confidence in Lionel Jospin.

Amazingly, 40 even percent believe he governs France - as opposed to merely being its present manager. This Libe- Jospinomania recent polling is, of course, based on a sample of about 1,000 people over 18 - of whom probably not more than 10 percent have read the country's constitution entirely.

The last Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, who is mayor of Bordeaux - rarely had popularity ratings of over 30 percent after his first few months in office. Mr. Juppé was on TV last week, looking very laid back; possibly because the madness of Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated elsewhere.

This is Libération's front page for Friday. With it, the first public use of the word 'Jospinomania' and probably not the last.

Robert Hue, general secretary of the PCF, made a blitz passage, to salute the 'brother party.' Lionel Jospin seems to have taken complete control of the Socialist Party, which is united for once - and in power.

Jospino and/or jospiniste, the party congress nevertheless finished with the 'Marseillaise.'

Jacques Chirac: 'No Comment'

In the face of a long weekend of Jospinomania! in France, the President of the Republic has decided to visit Guiana in South America; from where he could say, 'No comment' when asked silly questions about Jospinomania!

Between last weekend's visit to promote Francomania in Hanoi, Mr. Chirac has managed to squeeze in a visit to Luxembourg - taking a shot at the Socialist's proposed 35-hour week - and another to Salamanca, for a French-Spanish summit meeting. Next, he will go to the Côte d'Ivoire in Africa.

The French press displays an odd characteristic when the head of government is of one party and the Prime Minister is of another. For as long at it lasts, the press endlessly questions 'whether it is working,' as if it is an extremely extraordinary situation.

Since the two men seldom engage in fisticuffs, the press spends its time quoting spokesmen who say 'nothing is happening' 756 different ways. I can honestly report that I do not think Mr. Chirac passes his time riding in airplanes, listening to how 'Chiracomania' rolls off his tongue.

Crime Watch: Garment District Swindlers

Early Tuesday morning, 300 police agents swept into Paris' Sentier garment district and rounded up about 72 owners of businesses in the area, and also a few others in the Nice and Metz areas.

The dawn raid was the result of a Police-Judciaire investigation going back to July. The two prosecuting judges on the case are investigating something like 750 companies for organized fraud, fencing and swindle.

Of these, 300 are suspected of active fraud, with a hard core of 55; but untangling the purely fantom ones from the real will be a major task.

Investigators believe that at least 370,036,900 francs has been bilked from no less than 17 banks; many of them major institutions. Estimates of the amounts lost range up to a billion francs.

It was all done with paper. Buyers - of clothing for example - would give a bank paper to manufacturers, which guarantees payment on delivery of goods. With this paper, the manufacturer ccould get an advance from the bank. However, if no goods were manufactured and when the banks went looking for the money they've advanced, there is also no manufacturer - then the bank has been taken.

One dodge was to set the fantom goods on fire, and police recovered declarations for two different fires, which had apparently destroyed identical goods; right down to identical typographical errors.

Banks are normally reluctant to press charges, because it looks as if they'll give away money to anybody who asks for it. In reality, the business of the papers, the guarantees, the insurance, all of it - could only be organized by operators L'Ecluse Madelaine with a good knowledge of how banks operate, and by creating a plausible mountain of fiction with which the banks would deal.

No wild scenes of revelry are near this wine bar on Friday, only a day after Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived.

Seven of the big banks started to smell something fishy and when they got together in secret and found that the same 300-odd companies owed all of the huge sums - over 100 million just between the seven - so they called in police investigators.

The police actions continued for the rest of the week, with many snared in the roundups still held in jails while the investigation continues.

Many thousands of honest merchants in the Sentier garment district are bitter; they had problems borrowing rolling capital before this happened and now they're afraid it will become impossible.

Faute Grave: Crédit Lyonnais

The bailouts in repetition of Crédit Lyonnais have not ceased. Once the world's largest bank outside Japan, Crédit Lyonnais got caught in the same squeeze as many Japanese banks, after pumping money into a rising worldwide real estate market in the late '80's turned sour in a falling market in the early '90's.

Unlike Japanese banks, Crédit Lyonnais is a state-owned bank and it is facing its third tax-payer supported bailout and this one is the biggest yet: an estimated US$25.7 billion, or more than 150 billion francs.

Since the government cannot just take public money and toss it into this bottomless pit, the European Commission is calling the shots on this one. Crédit Lyonnais will probably be called upon to divest itself of some of its foreign holdings, such as the Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft, its prize German subsidiary.

Ed's Note: the Trial of Maurice Papon

Last Monday, the trial of Maurice Papon stopped again before it started for the week, while the president of the court read a medical excuse, saying that Mr. Papon's pleuro-pneumopathy had worsened, again.

Again the president of the court ordered an independent medical opinion, and suspended the trial until Thursday, 27. November.

Certain of the witnesses and survivors attending the trial every day are as old as Mr. Papon and nearly as infirm. They want to see him confronted with his acts, but one of their lawyers pointed out that the age and illness of the defendant was an unavoidable reality, and not necessarily a tactic of the defence.

Last week the trial was to have dealt with the specific acts, upon which the actual charges in the trial are based.

Web sites devoted to the History and Trial of Maurice Papon

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

Watch Your Step in the Forest

The TV commercial shows a casual and well-dressed couple taking a walk in the autumn forest, accompanied by two frisky ten year-old boys. It looks like the Meudon Forest or maybe the Parc de Saint-Cloud, and the sun is shining.

The boys get bored and bound off from the path, which is also used by horseback riders. Amid the fallen leaves they find a can-shaped metallic object, and one of them pounds on it.

The scene cuts back to the strolling couple. Their conversation is interrupted by a blast and they immediately look around for the boys, and then race to a rising cloud of smoke.

There are loud and hysterical wails from the mother and forms can be seen on the ground. The scene fades and a voice-over says... "Mines..."

If it was the Meudon Forest, you should remember that the Gestapo used the Standard Club as a headquarters during the Occupation - it was therefore a possible Resistance target - so the possibility of anti-personal mines there is quite real.

Time Machine

You take off from Paris at 11:00 this morning and you land in New York at... 8:45 the same morning. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Air France's Concorde flights that beat the clock heading west across the Atlantic Ocean.

The supersonic aircraft was actually put into regular service on 21. January 1976, doing aller-retours to Rio; while it took long fight in court to obtain US landing permission.

Only 20 of the time machines were built, and six of them are parked in museums today. Air France keeps a spare in New York and another at Roissy, to ensure that the daily flight leaves on time. After every 12,000 kms of flight, each plane goes for a nine-month long checkup, costing 40 million francs.

With the round-trip Paris-New York fare set at 40,000 francs, Concorde's operators make a bit of spare change with charter flights. A Middle-Eastern oilman missed a regular flight, so he hired a Concorde to catch up: cost 1.4 million francs. Two of the craft have already been rented, to fly into the year 2000 at the speed of sound.

Sports News I: Why Trezeguet Isn't Parisian

The answer is simple; David Trezeguet plays for Monaco because their team can afford to win. In a nutshell this explains the routine dismal performance of the capitol's football club, PSG.

This is why Monaco beat the pants off PSG at the Louis II stadium in Monaco on Thursday evening. Score: PSG 0, Monaco 3. This is why Saturday's Le Parisien says PSG is 'depressed.'

Sports News II: The New Stadium Works Okay

Meanwhile, two other teams tried out PSG's new home stadium on Wednesday evening. This was at the brand-new Stade de France, which will be next summer's Paris location for World Cup games.

This game started off with a boules competition, held from nine in the morning until 17:00. During the day other sports activities were centeredFrance 98 tickets around and in the new stadium and at 19:00 homage was paid to the 2,000-strong construction crew. Participants in the various events were teams formed by the stadium's sub-contractors.

This is the World Cup official ticket office on the Champs-Elysées. I forgot to go in and ask if they have any left for sale.

Finally, at 19:30 the first football match got under way in the new stadium, with about 8,000 sportsfans trying out the new seats.

A team formed by the construction workers took on the team of the Variétés Club de France, led by Michel Platini. Variétés beat the hardhats, 6-0.

Besides having the game, the purpose of the evening was to test the stadium's equipment - the lights, the sound system and the sanitation facilities. After the game a hardhat commented, "Okay, we were beaten by Variétés; if they had built the stadium we wouldn't be playing here today."

Sports News III: 20th Paris-Dakar

Eh oui, that's right; January's coming sprint to Africa is being run for the 20th time and for this one it's a return to the traditional Paris depart and non-stop drive south. To date 371 teams have signed on for the 10,245 km sortie, which will take 18 days, baring accidents.

Start location is the place des Armes in Versailles and start date is 1. January 1998. Everybody still running should make the final sprint on the beach at Dakar on 18. January; baring high tide.


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