Because ‘our time has come'

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A fiery debate has erupted in France over the holding of meetings on issues of discrimination to which are admitted only those who are affected by such prejudice. In this opinion article, Mediapart’s publishing editor Edwy Plenel says the furore over such gatherings is but the latest offensive against the self-organisation of those who are dominated in society, whether that be because of their appearance, religion, gender or social condition.

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“Wake up France, reflect upon your glory”: it was on January 7th 1898, six days before his celebrated open letter “J’accuse…!” in defence of army captain Alfred Dreyfus appeared in the daily newspaper L’Aurore, that Emile Zola published a “Letter to France” in which he beseeched “all free minds, all large hearts” to rally together in face of the anti-Semitic hate that was ruining the country. “France, if you are not wary, you are heading for dictatorship,” wrote Zola, before declaring that: “The [French] Republic is invaded by reactionaries of all types. They adore it with a curt and terrible love. They embrace it [in order] to suffocate it.”