Tomás Ó Flatharta

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“It is the Henri Weber who sang the Internationale with Higelin that we mourn, not the one at the service of the political apparatus of the PS” – Life of a French Activist who shifted from Anti-Capitalist Revolution to Pro-Capitalist Submission

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Often at Irish funeral wakes some people say “Never speak ill of the Dead”. They do not mean a word of it. Mourners relax, dump the fake insincere bland and pious words, and talk about the real person they knew, the Good, Bad, and Ugly sides.

One period in the life of Henri Weber is celebrated in this obituary, a life of revolutionary activism shaped by the May 1968 uprising in France.

Henri Weber, a Revolutionary in the 1960’s

In the 1980’s a second period began in the political service of social liberalism, which is not celebrated. Henri Weber died from the CoronaVirus as the Great Depression of the 2020’s started to cause global havoc. We will continue to lose people who are dying before their time.

Henri Weber was born in Leninabad (now Khujand), Tajikistan, Soviet Union on 23 June 1944. His Polish-Jewish parents had left Poland at the time of the German-Soviet pact but, refusing to become Soviet citizens, were sent to labour camp where he was born. They returned to Poland after the war but four years later left because of prevailing anti-semitism and moved to France. As a student in Paris Weber was recruited by Alain Krivine and became a leading member of the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (JCR) and of the Ligue Communiste (subsequently Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire LCR), French section of the Fourth International. In the early 1980s he ceased political activity and in 1986 joined the Socialist Party. A member of the leadership of the Socialist Party, he held elected positions as a senator (1995-2004) and then as a member of the European Parliament (2004-2014). He died in Avignon on 26 April 2020 from coronavirus. [IVP]

I knew Henri as a JCR activist in the years 1965-67. In the period after May 68, we were fairly close, since I was a student at the university of Vincennes where he was an assistant lecturer in the philosophy department. It was at this time that I had to coordinate the student sector of what was to become the Ligue Communiste. At the end of the Mannheim congress, I became a member of the central committee of the League (1969-70) following a proposal which he initiated. But in the framework of the activities of the defence service of the League, for which I was for a time responsible along with my brother Alain, Michel Récanatti and Romain Goupil, we worked a lot on projects of demonstrations and political events which made the League well known, and it is for this double reason that I saw a lot of Henri.

Henri was one of the leading figures of the JCR, along with Daniel Bensaïd, Janette Habel, Alain Krivine, Pierre Rousset, and in a less public way Gérard de Verbizier. They were the embodiment of this organization which came from the fight against Stalinism, solidarity with the colonial revolution and systematic anti-capitalist and anti-fascist activities, which stood out by its sense of political initiative, its dynamism and its fighting spirit, without sectarianism. Henri and his comrades had anticipated, already in 1967, the role of “sensitive plate” that the student movements could play. They perceived the embers which were heating up under the leaden shell of Gaullism and the inertia of the union leaderships and the PCF. In the demonstrations, they pushed for the radicalization of struggles and supported strikes which escaped the shackles of the union bureaucracies. May 9, 1968, when the JCR opened up its meeting to the movement and where Bensaïd, Weber and Cohn-Bendit rubbed shoulders, illustrated this absence of sectarianism. Unlike the “maos” who two days later invited the students to put themselves at the “service of the people” rather than building barricades, the Lambertists of the OCI, who in their logic of pressure group on the trade union apparatuses counterposed the “general strike” to the battles of “petit-bourgeois students ”and the activists of Voix Ouvrière (ancestor of LO) who learnedly explained that the battles in the Latin Quarter were only a “straw fire” with regard to the struggle of the proletariat, they understood that the straw fire was in fact “the spark that would set the plain on fire”! And when 1968 exploded, Henri and his comrades were ready, they were the ones who could be found on the barricades and in confrontations with the cops (alongside the anarchists). They knew that going to the barricades was in fact the way to the general strike. Henri was one of those who had the political intuition to understand that the events of 1968 opened a historic moment.
— Read on www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php

In the service of “those who led to the catastrophe that we know”.

The loss of his convictions led to a withdrawal from militant political activity and a gradual bifurcation towards the paths of social respectability, then to an increasingly close proximity with social liberalism, from Fabius to Hollande. Even though he maintained friendly personal relations with his former comrades, he put his talent and his rhetoric, which had become an empty shell, at the service of the political apparatus of the Socialist Party , which had long since taken on board the standards proper to the Bonapartist state. Once he had changed course, he went far down this route. The saddest thing was to see him sometimes summon the ghosts of revolutionary strategy to justify submission to those who led to the catastrophe that we know.

Today we will leave the eulogy of his renouncement to the chorus of defenders of these modern times. It is the Henri of the fight for emancipation that we mourn, the comrade, Tisserand and Samuel, the one with whom we trod the streets, La Jeune Garde in his shoulder bag, the one who sang the Internationale with Jacques Higelin, the one who was part of the youth that Liebknecht said was the flame of the revolution.