Tag Archives: Alliance Citoyenne

Making Reality from Fiction:  Underground Soccer Leagues

Pearl River     Remember way back in another lifetime, pre-pandemic, before the coronavirus global killer wave?  It seems years ago, but it was only last summer that ACORN’s French affiliate, Alliance Citoyenne, gained huge attention throughout France and all of Europe and the Francophone world, when our members and leaders led actions with Muslim women and girls in Grenoble and Lyon who were refused entry to swimming pools, even with their children, if they were wearing any face covering, like a burqa.

This was about more than French cultural chauvinism, valuing their historic view of the world over any other concerns, social or religious.  They banned such clothing from all public places, not just swimming pools.  They also banned any women wearing a burqa from public employment in outright employment discrimination.

Now their hypocrisy is showing even more clearly.  During the pandemic, masks were de rigueur.  As France opens up now, they are also requiring that anyone using public transportation wear masks, yet the burqa bans continue to be in full force and effect.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just in France, but widely across the European Union and even in Quebec in North America.  Civil rights groups are reportedly gearing up to challenge the bans.

Having led the fight in France, I wasn’t surprised when the head organizer of the Alliance, Adrien Roux, told me in our weekly call that they had been contacted by a group of thirty Muslim women soccer players who wanted to be able to play with any kind of head covering they thought appropriate in line with their religion.  Coincidentally, in a rarity for me, I had been reading a dystopian novel, called The Resisters by Gish Jen set some years in the future.  I had stumbled on a reference to it in a sports page that piqued my interested because it mentioned that baseball was a dominant theme throughout the book.  Our heroes, the resisters, in the book, are Surplus, the vast army of the unemployed, after artificial intelligence has eliminated millions of jobs and nation states have consolidated in a new economy dominated by the Netted.  Our heroes create an underground baseball league from various Surplus communities and go to great links to keep Aunt Nettie, as they call the constant governing surveillance force, from finding them playing and stopping the games.

So, why not an underground league of Muslim women soccer players in France and perhaps throughout Europe?  Why not challenge other teams to play in defiance of the rules, just as white and black college basketball teams played each other in defiance of segregation norms in the United States in the 20th century?  I have a feeling I know who would win eventually.

Picture this as well.  In a 50-person Uber call in New Orleans among members and of ACORN’s Louisiana affiliate, the fear of the virus and the concern for more effective masks provoked some amazing discussion.  In fact, there was a serious proposal to re-purpose Spanx as a full head covering for neighborhood African-American women.  If you can imagine that, it’s not hard to see a burqa as perhaps a better virus solution and absolutely a more comfortable one.


Giving France’s Yellow Vest Their Due

Gulf Shores     The Yellow Vests or Gilets Jaunes protest in France began in the middle of November of 2018.  In July in rural France in the Rhone/Alps region when ACORN International organizers met at an old farm house fifteen kilometers from St. Etienne, less than ten minutes from our meeting place, we could still see the signs of the Yellow Vests as we passed through our last traffic circle before hitting the farm.  Nearby, just outside of the circle, a tent and plywood headquarters for area Yellow Vests and their protest was still standing and active, even if not fully manned and at the top of their lungs as they had been months before.  Though they might be the scourge of Paris, they seemed accepted and supported here in the countryside.

What is the real story on the Yellow Vests?  Was this a rightwing, Le Pen movement of the angry and anti-Semites protesting modest steps towards climate change or something different?

Yoan Pinaud, head organizer of the Alliance Citoyenne’s local group in Aubervilliers, the lower income, working class suburb of Paris, affiliated with ACORN International, had argued in Social Policy  that the Yellow Vests were a movement erupting to oppose the government for the right reason, mainly its support of the rich and the increasing burden placed on the rest of the population.  Was our organizer just a lonely, hopeful voice in the spring speaking more from hope than reality or was he onto to something?

An article in Harper’s Magazine for August by Christopher Ketcham entitled “A Play With No End:  What the Gilets Jaunes really want,” puts the finger of Yoan’s scale and weighs heavily in the direction that we were making the correct call.  Ketcham found no indication in his discussions with many, both in Paris and outside, that indicated anything other than direct anger at the neoliberal program of current President Macron and his predecessors, even from the Socialist Party.  He finds, with us, that this was a movement based in righteous anger at policies that were excluding the masses and benefiting the rich, where the last straw was the unequal fuel tax on rural and depopulating villages in France.   He cites an Oxfam study from 2015 that found that “the wealthiest 10 percent of French citizens emit some seventeen metric tons of carbon per capita…while the poorest 50 percent emit less than five,” noting in the US that the ratio is 50 metric tons for the same rich percentage versus eight for the poorest 50 percent.

In fact, Ketcham argues that the French establishment “slandered” the Yellow Vests “in service of class interests.”  And, then the established Western media ate it up like candy and repeated the false analysis raw.  The French bourgeoisie reacting to the disruption was as afraid of the Vests as they were in the 1800s of the sans-culottes in the French Revolution and the subsequent terror.  He finds them to be progressives looking for a party and politicians to oppose neoliberalism that has hurt them terribly, especially outside Paris.

They have also won results from their actions that we should all applaud.  Macron made $5 billion euros worth of concessions.  Lower-income families received a tax cut. Pensions were indexed to inflation.  Public service cuts were forestalled, including shelving Macon’s plan to cashier 120,000 public service jobs.  The privatization of Paris Airports has now been stymied and may be defeated.  Of course, Macron also rescinded the fuel tax which had ignited the protests.

Furthermore, and this is perhaps most telling, just as our observation of the Yellow Vest still active outpost outside of St. Etienne, Ketcham writes, it’s not over and still goes on,

“They have refused to be mollified by what they perceive as crumbs tossed from the throne of power.  Their war against the rich, in the age of climate change, is one driven by an understanding unique among protests movements in France:  that the privilege to lord and privilege to pollute are one and the same, and that confronting the climate crisis means a confrontation with unregulated capitalism.  It is a call to arms that should resound across the world.”

They hear it clearly in France, and I swear, I can hear it in the United States and everywhere I go these days.


Please enjoy “I Only Cry When I’m Alone” by Beth Bombara.

Thanks to KABF.