Tag Archives: France

Subversive Historian – 08/27/09

The Kellogg-Briand Pact

Back in the day on August 27th, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in the city of Paris by fifteen nations pledging to halt wars of aggression. In the wake of the ravages of the First World War, the United States and France had originally approached the notion of the pact through a bilateral agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand discussed formally abolishing any possibility of war solely between the two nations, when Kellogg thought it best to extend the invitation to all nations. Among the initial signatories to the pact that called for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy” were France, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan. Forty-seven nations would follow in formal adherence. Of course, wars of aggression would also soon follow, as was the case, for instance, when Italy invaded Ethiopia.

By not clearly delineating the boundaries of self-defense and having no enforcement behind it, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was practically useless in achieving its aim as evidenced most tragically by the outbreak of World War II.


A Grin Without A Cat

French filmmaker Chris Marker’s three hour epic cinematic meditation on the rise and the fall of the new left has finally arrived to home video. His documentary “A Grin Without A Cat,” traverses the world over from Vietnam, to Cuba, to Chile, to France in compiling a mosaic of rare historical footage from the late 60’s and early 70’s.  The barrage of suggestive images – including the above clip of the U.S. bombardment of Vietnam – provokes thoughts of retrospection looking back at the times that saw the rise of the French Popular Front, the fall of Allende’s path to socialism and the death of the violent revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.  Indeed, as the fourth part of the film suggests “From Allende to – ???” Where we go from this hopeful and tragically traumatic period of history is up to us. It is an epilogue to “A Cat Without A Grin,” that has yet to be filmed.

In the meantime, Chris Marker’s magnus opus is available via KPFK’s pledge drive which is ongoing now. You can pledge for it online:


Subversive Historian – 05/08/09

The Setif Massacre

Back in the day on May 8th, 1945 French colonial forces began massacring Algerians in the Setif and Guelma regions of the North African nation. The cruel irony of history is that the wanton killings by the colonizers began on the very same day that France joined much of Europe in celebrating the surrender and defeat of the Nazis in World War II. As such celebrations also took place in Algeria, peaceful protesters wanted to remind France and its allies of Algerian nationalist aspirations. General Duval was a principle architect of the repression that followed as unarmed crowds were fired upon in Setif, and others were summarily executed in Guelma. Lasting days, the disturbances claimed a disputed number of lives. France pilfered out a highly questionable death toll of 1,020 following the massacre while the Algerian state has placed it much higher at a staggering 45,000.

The blood spilt starting on May 8th marked a turning point in the Algerian anti-colonial struggle, as understandably, the population did not want to be occupied, shall we say, like “Vichy.”

Subversive Historian – 03/18/09

The Paris Uprising

Back in the day on March 18th, 1871 an uprising took hold in Paris, France that would eventually lead to the establishment of the Paris Commune. The immediate political catalyst for the insurrection in the capital city was the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War. In negotiating an armistice, members of France’s National Assembly sought a return to monarchical rule and were favorable to the terms of the occupiers. Others, including sectors of the French working class, found the peace terms disagreeable. Sensing tension, provisional government leader Adolphe Thiers sought to disarm the wartime National Guard citizen militias in Paris, but they refused setting the stage for the rebellion. In time, Thiers was forced to call a widespread evacuation of the city leaving only the Central Committee of the National Guard to govern. Elections calling for the commune soon followed thereafter.

The first government of the working-class lasted through much of Spring until May 28th of that year when it was violently destroyed. But as the great Chilean poet of the 20th Century Pablo Neruda once said, “They can cut all of the flowers, but they can not detain the coming of the spring.”

Subversive Historian – 01/26/09


Exactly seventy years ago on this day in people’s history, the leftist libertarian youth paper, “Ruta” or “the path” ended its publication within Spain. On January 26th, 1939, the city of Barcelona fell to the Nationalist forces of General Franco. With the fascists in control, an outspoken radical paper such as Ruta could no longer function in Spain as a consistently issued weekly. Prior to its demise, Ruta had been an independent outlet for the left in Spain during the civil war and published critiques of the collaborationism of organizations such the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) Ruta resurrected itself in France where it became an opposition voice in exile to the tyranny of the Franco dictatorship by publishing exclusive on the ground reports from Spain.

In time, Ruta would once again be on the move after Guallist France repressed anti-Franco publications. The paper’s new home would be found in Venezuela where it published once more on the anniversary of Spanish Escuela Moderna founder Francisco Ferrer’s execution.