Fwd: thought you might

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Oct 20 12:41:41 PDT 2000

French Communists recruit Jesus, top models

By Lee Yanowitch

PARIS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - With their finances shaky, ranks thinning and leaders on trial for corruption, France's Communists are turning to supermodels and Jesus Christ to drum up some cash and boost their flagging image.

The cultural revolution started last week when the party's headquarters - known as ''the bunker'' - hosted a glamorous late-night bash for Italy's not-exactly-proletarian fashion house Prada.

Supermodel Adriana Karembeu, former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and other assorted stars nibbled on caviar and sipped champagne with Communists-turned-socialites like party leader Robert Hue, who is on trial with 19 other militants for illegal party financing.

''Those who think that communism rhymes with archaism are wrong,'' Hue told reporters as techno music blasted from the loudspeakers. ''Communism is about modernity and there's nothing decadent about creation.''

Equally surprising is the party's decision to stage an exhibition on Jesus due to open next week at the modern headquarters designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Thirty monumental works portraying Christ, mostly paintings but including some sculpture, will go on display on October 25 in the vast hall where the party's national committee holds its strategy sessions. Entrance is free.

''The message of the exhibition is clear and simple: the love of others. Communism has a heavy debt to pay. We can't forget the gulags, the Eastern bloc countries,'' Jose Fort, a Communist who writes for the party newspaper l'Humanite, told Reuters.

''It could be seen as an invitation to understanding and tolerance,'' added.

Or as an unorthodox way of raising money.

After two years of running a deficit, party treasurer Roland Jacquet presented a balanced budget in 1999 by selling various real estate properties owned by the party for four million francs ($530,000).

And 100,000 members have abandoned the movement in the last four years.

French newspapers have reported that Prada paid the Communists 300,000 francs ($40,000) to hold its show, which television comedians promptly dubbed ''the Pravda show.''

Communist officials, who neither deny nor confirm the sum, imply that it was designer Miucca Prada's extreme leftist background, and not their financial troubles, that made them open their headquarters to the fashionistas.

Not all militants are happy about this new orientation.

As the Communist party-goers reeled from their hangovers, some rank and file members launched a dissident petition called ''The Appeal of the 700'' to protest against the Prada bash.

The petition lambasted the party leadership for welcoming ''the jet-set arriving in black limousines for an evening of sequins and glitter verging on a rave party.''

Others saw the new practices as a way of opening the party to the modern world.

''Of course, it may seem as if a certain myth of the party is being shattered and that may shock people,'' said Rene Chevailler, a former Resistance fighter and Communist member of the Lyon city council.

''I don't think it's true. Perhaps they just want to show that Jesus was the first Communist.''

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list