Paris in the Spring

by John Q on May 26, 2013

It’s Mother’s Day in Paris, and also the occasion of a big demonstration against equal marriage, titled “Manif Pour Tous”, presumably with the unspoken reservation “sauf homos”. I ran into a bit of the crowd, coming back from this event [^1], and they were certainly loud and boisterous. The idea that this was a rightwing version of a “Paris Spring” occurred to me, and also to this commentator in Le Monde.

I’ve seen it suggested that resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages – everyone has to go through the same civil ceremony. I’d be interested in other thoughts on that.

Overall, the real appeal of the right still seems to me to lie in anti-immigrant rhetoric and, within Europe, on attempts to blame the people of one country or another for a crisis of the entire global system of financial capitalism. The backlash against equal marriage seems to me to be the last gasp of the cultural right, rather than the basis for a sustained upsurge. But then, what I know about social developments in France would fit comfortably on a restaurant menu, so I’d be interested in what others have to say on this..

[^1]: I’m actually in town for this conference, where I’ll be talking about bounded rationality and financial crises. Essentially a preliminary attempt to describe the “Black Swan” problem in terms of formal decision theory, with the hope that this will lead to a more developed theory of financial bubbles and busts.



P O'Neill 05.26.13 at 1:20 pm

That’s really an all-star conference on the uncertainty topic. I’m surprised it has escaped the Googling attention of Nassim Taleb though perhaps he considers everyone there to be BSers (ask d^2).

What I know about social developments in France would fit on the blackboard drinks list at a brasserie but one of the basics with France surely remains distinguishing Paris from the rest of the country and even inside the periphique Paris from outside. Notwithstanding ubiquitous socialists and communists in the media scene, it’s a fairly conservative country.


Matt 05.26.13 at 2:53 pm

How depressing. I like the idea someone suggested a while ago of saying something like, “come on, France, do you really want to be less progressive than _Iowa_?” (Nothing against Iowa.) Reading a bit on the web, apparently many signs said things like, “We want jobs, not gay marriage.” One things, “Why not both?” But, it’s perhaps one of the best examples I’ve seen of using “cultural” issues to distract from more fundamental ones. I’m sorry to see it’s so blatant outside the US, too.


ambzone 05.26.13 at 3:25 pm

Harper got his foot through the door in Canada by appealing to cultural conservatives enraged by gay marriage. Garden variety wedge issue, but effective nonetheless.

The kind of statistical electoralism conducted by modern right-wing parties has nothing to do with what you read in newspapers. They know what they are doing.


yabonn 05.26.13 at 4:13 pm

The demonstrations are certainly there, but then, the anti gay marriage never had a chance to repel that law.

So we have a love fest (and sometimes tear gas baptism) for the right, the far right and the catholics, but this is as much about the recent election – and unpopularity – of a Socialist president, the rebuilding of the right, etc etc, than about gay marriage.

Some see more tectonic stuff at work – maybe, we’ll see, don’t think so.


David 05.26.13 at 5:02 pm

For the most part, this isn’t the populist Right as represented by the National Front, but the traditional, Catholic, middle class, well educated Right (including many young people in my observation of previous demonstrations) for whom gay marriage is just one step too far. Such people are not necessarily anti-immigrant (except possibly in a genteel sense) and they tend to be pro-Europe. In addition, and as others have said, today’s demonstration (the fourth or fifth) is an opportunity for the Right to show a bit of unity, at a time when the UMP is assiduously tearing itself apart, and is threatened by the hard nationalist right as well. Ironically, what Hollande has done is to give the Right an excuse to ignore its divisions, and come together against him on one of the few issues that unites them. In reality, it’s more political and economic issues that have brought 150,000 people into the streets today, according to official police estimates.
The reason why people are holding up banners saying “jobs not homosexual marriage” is that Hollande has opted for the second, instead of the first. Jobs would have meant taking on the banks, big business, Germany and the EU, and he doesn’t have the spine for that. So he climbed down immediately on economic issues, and has essentially continued the neoliberal policies of the previous government. Part of the reason for today’s demonstration is actually widespread disenchantment with his failure to actually do anything new that might help the disastrous jobs situation, at a time when the private sector is continuing to slash jobs ruthlessly in search of profits. “Marriage pour tous” was supposed to be a distraction from this, a bauble held out to the Left, to show that Hollande was at least prepared to do one progressive thing. But all it’s done is to give the Right an occasion to stop fighting each other and start fighting him. Clever, that.


Bruce Wilder 05.26.13 at 5:10 pm

I’m inclined to see tectonics. “Gay marriage” represents, I expect, the globalization of culture, alongside the globalization/euro-ization of politics and economics. Quiggin instinctively suspects, “attempts to blame the people of one country or another for a crisis of the entire global system of financial capitalism.” Leave aside the condescension implied in “blame” and take notice of the sense of powerlessness, which the failure of the Euro has entailed. France is going off the cliff and even a Socialist President, with all his pretensions otherwise, is apparently powerless to do anything, but enact the imperatives of global culture and act as a hand maiden to the predators of financial capitalism.

As globalization stumbles or fails, localisms of various kinds and complexions, are bound to compete, in the emergent re-organization to follow. Mass membership organization is at a particularly low ebb, but its latent power should not be doubted. On what principle, source of fellow-feeling or symbolic rallying point, mass movements might assemble, I hesitate to speculate. That they will assemble, I have no doubt.


Jeremy 05.26.13 at 5:14 pm

Over at Taki’s Magazine, they see it as a clash between the “legal country” and the “real country”:

But the “other French,” as Georges Bernanos called the denizens of the real France, have not vanished from the field despite their lack of political representation in the organs of political power. Some are dispossessed Pieds-Noirs and their descendants, and a few hold dear the memory of Marshal Petain. But most adhere to one or another of the various strands of French Royalism: Action Français, Legitimism, the Alliance Royale, and many others. They read journals such as Rivarol and Chire. Divided as they are over such things as the succession dispute between the Senior and Orleans branches of the House of Bourbon, they do come together over certain things–without a doubt they will turn out in force on the 13th.
So, pretty much a bunch of people who like being on the losing side of history.


yabonn 05.26.13 at 5:27 pm

an opportunity for the Right to show a bit of unity

The demonstration certainly seem to have energized and brought together the far right and part of the right.

But the fault line run right in the middle of the main right wing party (UMP) : some leaders went to the demonstration, some didn’t, some warned against. The “official” Right had a bit of fun fighting the law in parliament (they put cameras in there), but gained nothing in the end, except yet another division.


David 05.26.13 at 5:48 pm

@Jeremy. This of course is Charles Maurras, and the distinction between the “pays légal” (ie French citizens, including Jews, Socialists, Communists and everybody else he hated) and the “pays réel” (people like him, of which there weren’t very many). I agree that the post-Maurrasians (ugh!) are out in force, but I think we have more people than could be comfortably accommodated in the church of St Nicolas de Chardonnay and similar places. The banners saying “Hollande resign!” are one indication that this is a genuine mass mobilisation of the Right, including elements (though to be fair not all) of the mainstream UMP. But the anti-1968 discourse is not new, and it’s more mainstream than many realise. In a little noticed speech during the 2007 election campaign Sarkozy said that France faced its greatest moral crisis since 1940 (when Pétain took over). In government, he many times insisted that his real enemy was the legacy of 1968. He, and many of those who demonstrated today, see an opportunity to finally kill off the 1968 legacy, and establish the France they want: hierarchical, deferential, plutocratic, authoritarian, religious, and economically liberal while being socially conservative. It’s worrying there are so many of them.


clew 05.26.13 at 6:22 pm

Traditional heterosexual marriages embed several layers of economic hierarchy (wife below husband, daughters below sons, families of spouses in a negotiated alliance) so it’s actually quite reasonable for those who are fighting to preserve a hierarchical, dependent society to object to marriages that don’t have the hierarchy obviously built in.


Bruce Wilder 05.26.13 at 7:04 pm

David: . . . the anti-1968 discourse is not new. . . the France they want: hierarchical, deferential, plutocratic, authoritarian, religious, and economically liberal while being socially conservative. It’s worrying there are so many of them.

It was Gaullism that bleached out the poisons, and baked the reactionaries safely into the French cake of the Fifth Republic. 1968 was just frosting. The brilliant political magic of DeGaulle deserves much more appreciation. He took away the military and the colonies, which had long sustained the worst elements of the French Right.

The hostility to change evidenced now is nothing compared even to the relatively mild “moral hygiene” rhetoric of French social conservatism, which was still current in the 196os.

It’s the political impotence of the Gaullist state and its previously all-powerful President in a European context that worries me. If the protest is “really” against the decrepitude of Gaullism, well . . . that could be a real problem.


Thomas Lumley 05.26.13 at 7:36 pm

My understanding is that the Netherlands also doesn’t recognise church marriages, and they adopted marriage equality without much fuss, so I.don’t think that can explain French hostility.


Stephen 05.26.13 at 8:09 pm

“So, pretty much a bunch of people who like being on the losing side of history.”

Within living memory, the winning side of history has been:

Nazi/Fascist triumph, up to late 1942.
US supremacy, up to … Vietnam? Iraq?
Soviet Communism, up to 1989.
Maoist China, up till I’m not sure when.
Japan as No 1, ditto.
Irresistible European unification, up to a couple of years ago.
Cuba, North Korea, the divine Khilafat (still going).

Forgive my doubts.


David 05.26.13 at 8:45 pm

De Gaulle did a phenomenal job, but essentially he marginalised what had previously been the dominant tendency on the Right, and turned it, for two generations, into a democratic and republican political tendency. The old unreconstructed Right continued to exist, though, and now it’s being brought back into the mainstream by unscrupulous politicians looking for votes. The difference between the Netherlands and France is that the Church was historically much more powerful here than in most other European countries, and enthusiastically supported every reactionary cause you can imagine until the 1960s. It was also politically powerful and well represented in the Army. Even today, the fundamentalist wing of the Catholic Church, which does not accept Vatican II, is quite powerful, and well supported. And France remains a pretty rural country, whereas the Netherlands is much more urban.


Tim Worstall 05.26.13 at 8:55 pm

“My understanding is that the Netherlands also doesn’t recognise church marriages, and they adopted marriage equality without much fuss, so I.don’t think that can explain French hostility.”


“I’ve seen it suggested that resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages – everyone has to go through the same civil ceremony. I’d be interested in other thoughts on that.”

I think it actually works the other way around. In Portugal the churches (or any other organisation) have no contact at all with what the State calls a marriage. Make the promises in front of the bureaucrat, in the eyes of the State you’re married in that state sanctioned contract. What you might subsequently (or previously) do in a church or elsewhere has nothing to do with it. And you must do the bureaucrat bit whatever else you do.

When Portugal did bring in same sex mariage the reaction was pretty much nowt. So, marriage is what the State decides it is. Why does that have anything at all to do with what “our church” says it is?

The French explanation for the opposition to gay marriage needs to be found elsewhere I think.


Bruce Wilder 05.26.13 at 8:57 pm

Well, the Netherlands had pillarization, which was the solution to a country, half-Protestant (of some pretty fierce varieties, historically, with deep nationalist claims) and half-Catholic.

In France, Catholicism was tied deeply to the patriotic identity — up until the Revolution, to be French was to be Catholic, by literal, legal definition — but, anti-clericalism was also deeply rooted in the national and republican identity.


novakant 05.26.13 at 9:09 pm

Laicite notwithstanding, two thirds of the French population are Catholics, so I don’t think it’s all that surprising that you see a significant bunch of them opposing gay marriageand the search for complex answers shouldn’t lead us to disregard the obvious. Heck, you can’t even get an abortion in Ireland, I wonder why.


Ken 05.26.13 at 10:14 pm

@David (@Jeremy): I find it disappointing, yet not surprising, to learn that saying “the people who agree with me are the real citizens of X” is not limited to the United States.


Neil Levy 05.26.13 at 11:16 pm

My impression is that John is misreading the Le Monde article. It compares the current demonstrations to spring ’68, not to the Arab spring. John underestimates the insularity of French political discourse. Recalling Mai 68 and the violence of the response to it, and especially the events of October 1961 reminds us how divided France has always been and how virulent the right is.


hix 05.27.13 at 1:24 am

EU,totalitarian dictatorship left or right all the same, just great )-:.


Carl 05.27.13 at 5:04 am

Left wing = pro gay marriage.

Who decides these things? Whatever happened to opposing that stultifying, hierarchical, bourgeois institution called marriage? Now we’re supposed to be attacking the nastys for not letting gays into their club? We’ve come a long way. What a petty crusade this is.


Neil Levy 05.27.13 at 6:55 am


Left wing = pro equality. It is quite possible to think that gays should have the same rights as anyone else while being critical of the institutions from which they are excluded.


John Quiggin 05.27.13 at 6:57 am

@Neil My reading was that, from the Le Monde viewpoint, the Arab Spring is itself an echo of 1968. That’s also true, I think, from an Anglophone viewpoint, though with more emphasis on the Prague Spring.


Neil 05.27.13 at 7:14 am

John Quiggin,
The plausibility of that reading turns on how often “printemps” is used in describing 68: if it is infrequent than it is plausible that the author means us to hear it. Or do you have another piece of evidence? In any case, I just don’t know whether “printemps” is often attached to the events of May.


Thomas Jørgensen 05.27.13 at 8:22 am

This looks like a case of the right tying themselves to a stinker of a cause. The broader impact of same sex marriage is approximately nil. Which is very rapidly obvious in anyplace that has it, so making their stand here just.. What is their plan if they win the next election, divorce thousands of people by legislative fiat? That is not going to strengthen the institution of marriage any!

If the above looks like a concern troll.. eh. Not really. I just. Do. Not. Get. This.


Rakesh Bhandari 05.27.13 at 8:43 am

The debate has not only been about gay marriage but also homoparentalité–along with the morality of in vitro fertilization, sperm and egg donation, and surrogate mothering. The last chapter of Godelier’s book on kinship seems to take up these questions, and while he seems to argue (on the basis of the Verso website) that the acceptance of homoparentalité is inevitable in the West given the recognition that homosexuality is natural (meaning it occurs in nature) and the high valuation put on parenthood, he does not think that the West can simply export its values to other societies; moreover, he seems, based on my skim of the last chapter, fairly cautious or conservative in regards to the possibilities of reproductive technologies. Some interesting cases have been analyzed by Charis Thompson, e.g. a woman who had the egg of her daughter fertilized by her new husband and implanted. “Chinatown”, I guess as the new born could eventually recognize the egg donor as sister and mother. Then of course add stem cells to the mix, and it would seem that the right wing could strengthen itself through opposition to homoparentalité, the new reproductive technologies and stem cell research.
But there are possibilities for the exploitation of egg donors and surrogate mothers that will concern the left as well, and some of the reproductive technologies will be defended not simply in terms of the provision of choice but more specifically in terms of the traditional value of expanding parenting possibilities (and responsibilities).
There is a lot of left/right confusion in the discussion of such biopolitics.


David 05.27.13 at 9:08 am

@John Quiggin. The Le Monde story is, indeed, about the current demonstrations as an “anti May 1968”, designed to change French society as much as the original did, and using much the same methods. That can be debated, but the “spring” reference is really in the headline, rather than the story. And homoparentalité is indeed a large part of it: the placards have been reading “one mother one father one child”, and stickers left on lampposts by the extreme Right say “Homo, don’t forget you had a mother and a father”.
On the Left/Right point, I think the important thing here is that the Left in France, having abandoned any hope of introducing real economic and social improvements, has become little more than an umbrella alliance of special interest groups pursuing focused social agendas of their own. This is why, in a situation of economic catastrophe, French politics is convulsed by an issue which, as others have noted, will have effectively zero impact. The Right has historically allowed the Left to play with its toys, so long as the Right’s stranglehold on economic policy remains intact. Now, there are disturbing signs that, seeking to finish off its victim, the Right has decided that it might as well dismantle the Left’s social agenda as well.


Z 05.27.13 at 9:44 am

First, a disclaimer: I was personally surprised by the intensity and popularity of the protests. I would not have predicted something half the actual size.

I’ve seen it suggested that resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages

I think this explanation and those relying on the supposed influence of the catholic church are mostly off the mark. La Manif pour Tous (which in all fairness incorporates some gay activists, though of course in vanishingly small numbers) is the French Tea Party.

More precisely, I think the protests are best understood in the context of the recent political history of France. After 12 years of Chirac and rightwing policy by default, so to speak, the significant electoral victory of Sarkozy was considered a huge ideological boost for a new right: one much more tolerant or even in favor of extreme economical inequalities, one much more brutal towards immigrants, much more openly hostile to the public sphere and much more prone to direct arbitrary executive power. For about 25/30% of the electorate, this was a triumph. However, the last five years showed a complete inversion of the trope, with the right loosing all elections and being relegated to a share of the political power which is its absolute lowest in all France’s political history. This certainly came from the real lack of popularity of Sarkozy but was also a reflexive consequence of the strongly majoritarian bias of the French system. At its lowest, the rightwing parties could garner perhaps 48% of the votes, and yet they hold perhaps 5% of the actual political power. So there are 20/30% of the electorate which felt robbed. Merely 5 years ago, it seemed their political ideas were omnipresent and triumphant, now they have all but vanished. So they are on the streets, protesting against gay marriage and asking for the resignation of Hollande. Their american counterparts protested the GM bailout and wanted to see birth certificates.

As with the Tea Party, the right wing establishment (including the catholic church) doesn’t quite know what to do with La Manif pour Tous. The comparison with the Tea Party breaks down in that La Manif pour Tous will most probably be badly crushed in a very near future (see the disclaimer, though). Despite the protests, gay marriage is a hugely popular position in France and will in most likelihood become even more so when the first weddings are celebrated.

Apart from this, any chance you’re free for a drink in Paris one of these evenings John?


David 05.27.13 at 9:59 am

@Z Indeed, the Right lost every election under Sarkozy, and are now completely shut out of formal power. (This is likely to change soon, though). But at the level of ideas, they still dominate: an allegedly “Socialist” government is still trying to cut public spending in a recession, and the new Interior Minister, Valls, is almost as hard-line on immigrants as his predecessors. where it differs from the Lrft. The Right has coalesced around opposing” marriage pour tous” in a sense because it has nothing else to differentiate itself from the Left.


LFC 05.27.13 at 11:41 am

La Manif pour Tous … is the French Tea Party

The English translation of La Manif pour Tous is The Demo (or demonstration) for Everyone; is there some additional resonance in the French that I’m missing? Seems like sort of a strange name for a political movement, as opposed to a one-shot slogan.


John Quiggin 05.27.13 at 12:29 pm

@Z Free Thursday evening or Friday afternoon. Email me if that suits.


Z 05.27.13 at 12:38 pm


The only thing you might be missing is that this is a play on word on the name of the law: le mariage pour tous (marriage for everyone). In comparing them with the Tea Party, I was trying to suggest that a (maybe the) cause of this sudden outburst of protestation is the equally sudden complete ousting from power of a non-trivial segment of the electorate which had been in power for the last 15 or so years and especially powerful the last 5 but which was suddenly demoted. The hard core elements of La Manif pour Tous are definitely trying to turn it into some political force but partly because they chose to oppose a very popular cause, partly because the right wing establishment is very wary of them, my impression is that they will fail (whereas the Tea Party had some measure of electoral success).

@David. Yes, I agree with you. Also, I think that the Socialist Party was happy to push marriage equality to the front of media attention (thus channeling media attention towards the protesters as well) because it has not much else to boast about.

@Thomas Jorgensen What is their plan if they win the next election, divorce thousands of people by legislative fiat?

Exactly because of that and because the moderate right wing elite in France is actually relatively gay-friendly, the main right wing political party has kept some distances from the protests (the situation is slightly more complex, but even those who embraced them did it probably more to gain credentials in the upcoming battle for the control of the right wing party than because of their long-held convictions). The people marching in the streets are (for the most part) not at all those competing to win the next election.


Mitch Guthman 05.27.13 at 12:54 pm


As I understand it, “manif pour tous” is indeed intended as a one-shot slogan and as a counterpoint/play on words with one of the French descriptions for same sex marriages (mariage pour tous). I do not understand it to be the name of a political movement.


I would be guard against viewing French politics through the prism of American politics. From the news reports, it looks like the demonstrators are a mix of center right, UMP-types and elements of the FN with perhaps a sprinkling of centrists and disaffected PS who are unhappy that the only major action at the policy level has been same sex marriage at a time when France is faced with the most serious economic and political crisis since the Great Depression. Also, not everyone on the left supports same sex marriages, in part because of the civil/religious distinction that people have been discussing here.

Moreover, even the FN isn’t a very good fit as a French equivalent for the Tea Party. A great many of the social pathologies that gave birth to John Birch Society are unique to America or at least aren’t present in French society. They certainly have some very deep and bitter cleavages in their society but they are generally different from ours.

Personally, I have no absolutely no idea what’s going on in Paris right now and, frankly, the whole thing has come as a real surprise to me. From Le Monde and Le Parisie there are apparently some very far right elements participating and the occupation of the PS headquarters seems to have been done by usual “wine and sausage” crowd but that seems to be little more than a sideshow.

At this point, I don’t think we have enough information to know who is marching and whether they all agree with the agenda of the right wing organizers. My only point, really, is that these people don’t seem to be OAS or pied-noir remnants or even FN and that the Tea Party analogy in inapt.


Andy W 05.27.13 at 2:10 pm

Like Z above, I was surprised by the scale of the ‘Manif pour Tous’demonstrations: the issue’s brought a lot of catho-facho types out of the woodwork, but I think their level of mobilisation might give an exaggerated idea of how prevalent their views are. Anecdotal experience of small-town Brittany (traditionally a pretty strongly catholic region) gives me the impression that modern provincial France is well disposed towards homosexuality in general and gay parenthood in particular.

Part of the explanation may be generational: with 65% of practicing French catholics being over the age or 50, maybe I’m just not hanging out with the relevant demographic. What seems certain round here is that the lyceens are strongly pro gay marriage, viewing ‘Manif pour Tous’ as a bunch of homophobes, with homophobia in turn being the moral equivalent of racism. In that sense, MPT really is the opposite of Mai 68: not the claiming of power by the young, but a last gasp against its loss by the old.

On how this might play out politically, I think it’s likely to run in the socialists’ favour. As others have noted above, this issue splits the UMP pretty nearly down the middle: their fundamental problem is to hang on to centre voters while picking up extreme right ones, but with people like NKM and J-F Cope on opposite sides here, it’s not helping them put on a show of unity.

As for JQ’s suggestion that “resistance to equal marriage is stronger in France, because there’s no legal recognition for church marriages”, I don’t think it’s quite that. It’s a hard thing to put into Anglo-Saxon terms, but at times French people seem to have an almost magical view of the role of the state, as if the Republic could actually change reality merely by making official pronouncements. (Cf the idea that French is whatever the Academie Francaise declares it to be, regardless of how people actually speak or write it. See also the formerly widespread belief in the King’s ability to cure certain diseases.) The only anti-gay-marriage person among my friends (that I’m aware of, anyhow) is opposed to the reform on what seem to me to be purely linguistic grounds: by all means lets give gay people absolutely the same rights in all respects, parenthood and all, but don’t call it “marriage” or you’re redefining the word and that’s somehow arrogating powers that rightfully belong to… nature? Evolution? (He’s an atheist. Go figure.)


roger gathman 05.27.13 at 2:47 pm

The manifs are large, but the polls haven’t really budged. Here’s Le Point – a rightwing popular magazine – publishing a poll in April.
What has surprised me is that though 58 percent support gay marriage, essentially an extension of the Pacte, there has been a diminution of support for gay adoption, down to 48 percent. That is depressing. I live in Paris, and you do see a lot of right wing demos at the moment, but you also see the splintering of the UMP between Cope and Fillon, with Le Pen coming up on the margins. Sunday’s manif was also against abortion, among other things, and some leaders of the anti gay marriage movement – the rebarbative Frigid Barjot – refused to go to it..


PJW 05.27.13 at 4:49 pm

I don’t know if the suicide of extreme right-wing historian Dominique Venner, reportedly in response to the unrest in France, illuminates anything, but it’s somewhat interesting:


Mitch Guthman 05.27.13 at 5:00 pm

@ Roger Gathman,

I agree with a lot of the substance of what you say but I think the people at Le Point would be a little bit hurt by your description. Unless, of course, you consider l’Humanité a centrist newspaper.


David 05.27.13 at 5:17 pm

Here’s an article from Rue 89 today, pointing out (as some have already noted) that the UMP is now in something of a cleft stick. Even if the MPT has managed to mobilise a lot of the French Right together (which it has) it’s not clear that they have any idea what to do next, and the issue itself is divisive.
So it looks now as if we have a neat inversion of the usual pattern: the Left arguing that the law of the land must be upheld, and (parts of) the Right arguing that unjust laws should be changed, and if necessary opposed by force. It really is 1968 in reverse.
It seems that we have an ad hoc seminar group on French politics here in Paris. How interesting.


yabonn 05.27.13 at 5:53 pm

Another vote here for Le Point as (center) right.

Roughly : left : Charlie /Huma/Libé, center : Le Monde, right : Point/Express/Echos/Figaro.


roger gathman 05.27.13 at 5:54 pm

“So it looks now as if we have a neat inversion of the usual pattern…” I have to disagree. The right has always urged the coup d’etat – the OAS against Degaulle, before that the fascists against the Popular Front, in a pattern that goes back through L’action francaise etc. While the Left, on its good days, urges revolution, and on its bad days, urges nudgery in the name of marginal policy gains. Hollande is most all about nudgery, and has still not decisively broken with the Sarkozy-Merkel program of austerian reaction. But at least the administration came through on the marriage promise.


David 05.27.13 at 6:30 pm

@roger gatham. I agree about the Right and violence, but what I had in mind was a change in rhetoric, as much as anything else. The ideas of principled civil disobedience, publicity stunts to get laws changed, high profile individuals risking prison in defence of their beliefs etc have been part of the political theatre of the Left for decades, but not really for the Right. I think that (parts of) the Right may now be about to try the same thing, and it will be interesting to see how the Left reacts, rhetorically and otherwise.


Matt 05.27.13 at 7:02 pm

The demonstrations should sound familiar, because it’s at heart just another branch of the NOM family-tree-o-bigots.

Except in France, they’re already doing the fascist salutes in public, instead of only at Klavern meetings:


David 05.27.13 at 7:14 pm


Jacob McM 05.27.13 at 8:00 pm

Dominique Venner was a pagan who criticized Christianity for its universalism. He chose Notre Dame for its cultural importance and because it was built on an ancient pagan worship site. Although many Anglophone sites bizarrely referred to him as Catholic, despite suicide being a mortal sin, most of the comments I’ve seen from French Catholics indicate that they had little use for his stunt, whatever their personal opinions on gay marriage are.


Matt Heath 05.27.13 at 8:06 pm

In Portugal the churches (or any other organisation) have no contact at all with what the State calls a marriage.

This definitely wasn’t true 5 years ago (when I was married in a church there). The Catholic Church (but no other) had it’s weddings recognised.

I’m pretty sure that is still the same.


Fabien 05.27.13 at 8:33 pm

Here’s a vote for Le Point as center (of course the center in France is generally allied with the right so center right maybe).

But Le Monde is clearly left-wing although soft, liberal, Sciences-Po educated left-wing.

And those demonstrations were the Church’s. The logistics was its and the rethoric as well. The majority of UMP leader don’t really care about the issue, well Cope of course will do anything that seems popular to him… The people in the streets were right-wing yes but the leadership was completely different from normally.


nick s 05.27.13 at 8:51 pm

My understanding is that the Netherlands also doesn’t recognise church marriages, and they adopted marriage equality without much fuss

There appears to be an element of “what Napoleon created, let no man put asunder”, which is a little less meaningful in the nations where civil codes were imposed after French invasion and subsequently replaced with native ones. I suppose there’s a superficial similarity to the Tea Party’s reverence for the Holy Constitution, although the civil code is an slightly odd thing to get reverential about.


Barry 05.27.13 at 10:29 pm

Carl: ” Whatever happened to opposing that stultifying, hierarchical, bourgeois institution called marriage? ”

I’m not sure that gay marry is hierarchical (which might be another reason for the right to oppose it).


Suzanne 05.27.13 at 11:20 pm

@21: The encomiums to the superiority of the married state, its benefits for children, and the joys to be found in the bosom of the nuclear family that have accompanied the marital equality fight have afforded me some amusement, coming as they have from some unexpected quarters.


MapMaker 05.28.13 at 2:45 pm

If only the ECHR would force states to recognize polygamy, then we could unite left-right, green-red, etc. in a street demonstration against “anti-European” “foreigners” … not today, but soon…


James Wimberley 05.28.13 at 11:14 pm

David in #9: “St Nicolas de Chardonnay” is too good to be true. Ste. Geneviève de Cabernet? St. Rémy Merlot?


Z 05.29.13 at 8:28 am

David in #9: “St Nicolas de Chardonnay” is too good to be true.

Almost too good to be true. The correct spelling of the name of the church is chardonnet (from the fact that the ground was there covered in thistle, chardons, during the middle age).


Antoine 05.29.13 at 3:04 pm

Actually : Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet

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