Corsican nationalism

Corsican nationalism is a nationalist movement in Corsica, France, active since the 1960s, that advocates more autonomy for the island, if not outright independence.

Europe location Corsica
Location of Corsica

Political support

The main separatist party (Corsica Libera) achieved 9.85% of votes in the French regional elections, 2010;[1] however, only 19% and 42% of those who voted respectively for Simeoni's autonomist list Femu a Corsica and Talamoni's separatist Corsica Libera were, according to polling, in favour of independence.[2][3] By 2012, polls showed support for independence at 10-15%,[3] while support for increased devolution within France was as high as 51% (of which two thirds would prefer "slightly more" rather than "much more" autonomy).[4] Among the general French population, 30% of respondents expressed a favourable view on Corsican independence.[5] In what was viewed as a "setback" for Nicolas Sarkozy's decentralisation program, the government's proposal for increased autonomy for Corsica was turned down in a referendum in 2003 by a result of 51% negative and 49% affirmative votes expressed by the local electorate.

In 2015, Gilles Simeoni's pro-autonomy coalition Pè a Corsica won for the first time ever in the French regional elections, getting 35.34% of the vote and 24 out of 51 seats in the Corsican Assembly.[6][7]

History

The Corsican Republic (1755-69)

A sense of Corsican particularity can be traced back to the mid-18th century, when the island was fought over by the Genoese Republic, the Kingdom of France, and the Kingdom of England. Pascual Paoli led a rebellion by Corsicans against the various foreign powers contesting the island, founding a short-lived independent state governed from Corte. Inspired by the Enlightenment political ideas currently becoming fashionable in Europe, Paoli set up a liberal constitutional republic: a deliberative assembly, the Diet, was elected through universal manhood suffrage, with evidence to suggest that female suffrage also existed. Paoli's practical exercise in Enlightened constitutional government was inspired by thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau, but also in turn inspired them, being the sole example of their political philosophies put into practice until the American Revolution a decade later. The French conquest of 1767 put an end to the experiment (with the exception of a brief English-governed separation from France during the French Revolutionary Wars), and the island was incorporated into the Kingdom of France. The memory of the brief period of self-rule would act as an inspiration to later regionalist and nationalist movements, even as many among Corsica's educated elites accepted a place in the French state, with Napoleon Bonaparte becoming the French head of state less than thirty years after the island was conquered by France.

The Fin-de-Siècle and the Interwar (1890-1940)

As with most European national-separatist movements, the 1890s saw the first stirrings of a consciousness of a distinct regional way of life, and the first ideas that regional culture should be reflected in distinct political institutions. With Corsica in an agricultural depression, misruled by powerful local political bosses, subject to mass emigration devastating rural communities, and increasingly confronted by the culture of the French state (which was encouraging cultural assimilation and administrative centralisation, through the establishment of the countrywide laic school system), stirrings began of a movement to defend the Corsican language and way of life.

The first group to do so formed in 1896 around the newspaper La Tramontana ('Beyond the Mountains'), but this small group of intellectuals remained a minority within the political landscape of the time. A new generation carried the torch with the foundation of A Cispra newspaper in 1914, which made the first demands for a Corsican political separatism: "Corsica is not a department of France. It is a nation that has been conquered and will rise again."

It was World War One that generated an audience for these previously marginal ideas. Conscription affected agrarian communities more than industrial ones, and the death-toll for France's rural regions was consequently higher than the national average, with Corsica the department with the highest ratio of casualties per capita: the trauma of losing a dozen young men in a small village caused many Corsicans to begin to question the French state. For some this prompted a desire for greater administrative decentralisation within the French Republic (this was the focus of the Estates-General of Corsica, a 1934 conference held in Ajaccio); for a few, it triggered a desire to work towards an independent Corsican state; and for yet others it, along with the perception that neighbouring Italy was being regenerated under a dynamic modern regime, prompted a desire to integrate into Fascist Italy. These different ideas were centred on the Corsican nationalist newspaper A Muvra (The Moufflon). Hostility to the French state grew following military operations on the island in 1930 to root out the popular bandit, Spada.[8]

1923 saw the foundation of the Partitu Corsu d'Azione, under the leadership of Petru Rocca, an Italian irredentist who initially promoted the union of Corsica to the Kingdom of Italy, and Pierre Dominique, a prominent political journalist who soon after joined France's ruling centre-left Radical-Socialist Party. World War Two modified this sentiment, as Italian troops occupied the island: after the war the sentiment evolved in favour of promoting changed to promote Corsican decentralisation, via the new Partitu Corsu Autonomista. Rocca in 1953 demanded from France the acceptance of the Corsican people and language and the creation of the University of Corte.

Corsican nationalism was a minority movement during these decades, and many Corsicans participated in the French state as administrators, soldiers, policemen and several cabinet ministers; indeed during the interwar some of the most prominent political figures within France's countrywide political organizations were Corsicans (see Jean Chiappe, Horace Carbuccia, François Piétri, Cesar Campinchi, Gabriel Péri). However, the work of the smaller intellectual, cultural and political groups formed the prehistory to the modern nationalist movement that would find a mass audience after the political crisis of 1958.

Corsica in the 1960s

The end of the 1950s saw the high point of Corsica's population and economy. Since the end of the 19th Century, Corsica had continued to decrease in population, culminating in a precarious economic situation and a huge delay in the development of industry and infrastructure.

Corsican society was then further affected by two events:

  • The first was the collapse of the French Colonial Empire. The Colonial Army and colonial enterprises were the principal form of employment for Corsicans. In 1920, Corsicans made up 20% of colonial administration, despite only making up 1% of Metropolitan France's population. The end of colonialism deprived young Corsicans of the opportunities of their elders and forced many to return to the island. This situation resulted in the emergence of a regionalist movement with the objective of increasing the number of opportunities for the islanders. During the uprisings in Algeria in 1958 and 1961, Corsica was the only French départment that joined the insurgent colonists.
  • The second shock was the arrival of people returning from the former African colonies, to whom the state controversially granted land in the eastern plain. At the beginning of the 1960s, before the arrival of returnees from Algeria, they represented around 10% of the island's population.

Origins of the modern regionalist movement

Many Corsicans began to become aware of the demographic decline and economic collapse of the island. The first movement appeared as the Corsican Regional Front, a group largely formed by Corsican emigrants in Paris. This evolved into Corsican Regionalist Action, which demanded that the French state take into account the island's economic difficulties and distinct cultural characteristics, notably linguistic, greatly endangered by the demographic decline and economic difficulty. These movements caused a major revival of the Corsican language, and an increase in work to protect and promote Corsican cultural traditions.

But these movements felt that their demands were being ignored and saw the state's treatment of the returnees as a sign of contempt. They argued against the idea that Corsica was made up of "virgin land" where there is no need to consult the local population on repatriation, and criticised the financial support and aid received by the new arrivals through the Society for Agricultural Development of Corsica (SOMIVAC), which had never been offered to the Corsicans.

The Aléria incident and the birth of the FLNC

Corbis-0000316676-003
FLNC militants during a statement

In a situation that many considered dire, the group Corsican Regionalist Action (ARC) decided to choose more radical methods of action.

On 21 August 1975, twenty members of the ARC, led by the group's leader Edmond Simeoni, occupied the Depeille cave, in the eastern plains near Aléria. Equipped with rifles and machine guns, they wanted to bring to public attention the economic situation of the island, particularly that regarding agriculture. They denounced the takeover of lands in the east of the island by "pieds-noirs" and their families. The French Interior Minister at the time, Michel Poniatowski, sent 2,000 CRS and gendarmes backed with light armoured vehicles, and ordered an attack on the 22nd at 4pm. Two gendarmes were killed during the confrontation. A week later the cabinet ordered the dissolution of the ARC. The tension rose rapidly in Bastia and scuffles broke out in the late afternoon, which turned to riots by nightfall that included armed confrontation. One member of the ARC was killed and many were wounded.


On 4 May 1976, some months after the events in Aléria, nationalist militants founded the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC), a joining of Fronte Paesanu di Liberazone di a Corsica (FPCL), responsible for the bombing of a polluting Italian boat, and Ghjustizia Paolina, reputed to be the armed wing of the ARC. The founding of this new group was marked by a series of bombings in Corsica and in mainland France. A press conference was held in Casabianca, the location of the signing of the Corsican Constitution and where Pasquale Paoli declared Corsican independence in 1755. Although claiming to be influenced by Marxist ideology, most separatist leaders have been from the nationalist right or "apolitical" backgrounds.

Themes of Corsican nationalism

Corsican nationalism
Road signs in Corsica with the French placenames blotted out
  • Political sovereignty of Corsica: independence from France or increased autonomy in France. Separation from France is partially based on cultural and ethnic differences between the island and the mainland. The imposition of a revolutionary tax was practised in the 1980s, and continues to be imposed by the FLNC, or people claiming to be associated with it. The bombings against state buildings have been constant: attacks against prefectures, prisons, tax offices, military camps, the assassination of Claude Érignac, etc. But greater in number are the bombings of second homes belonging to foreigners and mainlanders.
  • The promotion of the Corsican language, and its compulsory teaching in schools.
  • The limiting of tourist infrastructure and policies promoting tourism, and in its place another way to boost economic development.
  • Compliance with building permits.
  • Compliance with coastal law.
  • Recognition of political prisoner status for imprisoned members of the FLNC, including those who have been convicted for common-law violations.

Corsican nationalism and international investment

The Corsican coast is less developed than mainland France's Mediterranean coast, due in part to bombings attributed to the nationalist movement against a number of second homes belonging to non-natives.[9][10]

U Rinnovu, a Corsican nationalist movement commonly referred to as being close to a splinter group of the FLNC known as "of 22nd October", describes the construction of second homes for the benefit of non-residents as "heresy" and "against economic sense".[11] The slogan Vergogna à tè chì vendi a tò terra ("Shame on you who sell your land") is also the title of a song and nationalist anthem.

At the Matignon process under the Jospin government, Article 12 of the Matignon Accords provided for an adjustment of the coastal law making it easier to issue building permits on the Corsican coast. On the day of the discussion of this article in the Corsican Assembly, activists from the organisation A Manca Naziunale surrounded the villa of André Tarallo of the French petroleum company Elf Aquitane in Piantaredda, against the granting of contested building permits.[12] The article was subsequently rejected.

Notable people and parties

Parties
People
  • Leo Battesti (b. 1953)
  • Yvan Colonna (b. 1960)
  • Gilbert Casanova, founder of the Movement for Self-determination (MPA) and ex-president of the Corse-du-Sud Chamber of Commerce, imprisoned in 2008 for drug trafficking.[13][14]
  • Gilles Simeoni, (b. 1967)
  • Napoleon, French military and political leader was a passionate Corsican nationalist in his younger years.[15]

Bibliography

  • Jean-Louis Andreani, Comprendre la Corse, Gallimard, 2005
  • Daniel Arnaud, La Corse et l'idée républicaine, L'Harmattan, 2006
  • Emmanuel Barnabeu Casanova, Le nationalisme corse : genèse, succès et échec, L'Harmattan
  • Ange-Laurent Bindi, Autonomisme. Luttes d'émancipation en Corse et ailleurs 1984-1989, L'Harmattan
  • Gabriel Xavier Culioli, Le complexe corse, Gallimard
  • Marc de Cursay, "Corse : la fin des mythes", L'Harmattan
  • Pascal Irastorza, Le guêpier corse, Fayard, 1999
  • Marianne Lefèvre, Géopolitique de la Corse. Le modèle républicain en question, L'Harmattan
  • Jean-Michel Rossi / François Santoni, Pour solde de tout compte, les nationalistes corses parlent, Denoël
  • Pierre Poggioli, Journal de bord d'un nationaliste corse, Éditions de l'Aube, 1996
  • Pierre Poggioli, Corse : chroniques d'une île déchirée 1996-1999, L'Harmattan, 1999
  • Pierre Poggioli, Derrière les cagoules : le FLNC des années 80, DCL Editions
  • Edmond Simeoni, Corse, la volonté d'être. Vingt ans après Aléria, Albiana
  • Bonardi Fabrice, Corse, la croisée des chemins, L'Harmattan, 1989

References

  1. ^ Résultats des élections régionales 2010, Ministère de l'Intérieur
  2. ^ "Les Corses plus indépendantistes aujourd'hui qu'il y a 40 ans", Corse-Matin, 9 August 2012 (in French)
  3. ^ a b Jérôme Fourquet, François Kraus, Alexandre Bourgine - Les Corses et leur perception de la situation sur l’île: Résultats détaillés
  4. ^ Jérôme Fourque - Enquête sur la situation en Corse: Résultats détaillés
  5. ^ Les Français et l’indépendance de la Corse - Résultats détaillés, IFOP, October 2012 (in French)
  6. ^ Territoriales : les résultats définitifs du second tour - France 3 Corse ViaStella (in French)
  7. ^ Elections régionales et des assemblées de Corse, Guyane et Martinique 2015, Interior Ministry of France (in French)
  8. ^ J Pellegrinetti and A Rovere. La Corse et la République: la Vie Politique de la Fin du Second Empire au Début du XXIe Siècle. Paris, 2004. pp 230-50
  9. ^ "Recrudescence d'attentats contre des villas en Corse", Le Figaro, 24 April 2006
  10. ^ Marc Pivois, Les assurances ne veulent prendre aucun risque en Corse, Libération, 7 October 2004
  11. ^ U Rinnovu
  12. ^ Communiqué de Manca Naziunale Archived 20 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Xavier Monnier, Parties de belote aux Baumettes Archived 14 September 2008 at Archive.today, Bakchich, 28 July 2008
  14. ^ Antoine Albertini, Trafic de cannabis : Gilbert Casanova, ex-figure du nationalisme corse, interpellé, Le Monde, 24 June 2008
  15. ^ Frank McLynn (1998). Napoleon. Pimlico. ISBN 0712662472.

External links

  • Les plumes du paon (in French): Site with many sources, including much unpublished material regarding the Corsican question
    • Corsican-Myths: Mirror site of the site above, totally translated in English with new unpublished material regarding the Corsican question and more
  • Unita Naziunale (in French): Corsican nationalist website presenting a number of analyses explaining action against villas on the Corsican coast
  • Corsica Nazione Indipendente (in French): Website of Corsican nationalist movement
2015 Corsican protests

The 2015 Corsican protests were a series of marches by several hundred Corsican nationalists that began on 25 December, in Ajaccio, capital of Corsica. During the initial demonstrations, a Muslim prayer hall was burned down and Qur'ans were set alight. Further protests were organised after the initial march despite a government ban on protests until 4 January 2016. The protesters claimed to be acting in revenge for an incident that occurred the day prior when firefighters and police were assaulted in the neighbourhood of Jardins de l'Empereur; however, outside observers labeled the ensuing riots as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. The Corsican nationalist politicians have claimed their view does not legitimise xenophobia, blaming the protest on French nationalism instead. Scholarly opinions on this claim are divided.

Armata Corsa

Armata Corsa (literally "Corsican Army") was an underground separatist terrorist organization in Corsica, today disbanded.

Corsica Nazione

Corsica Nazione (Corsican Nation) is a Corsican nationalist party which aims to gain control over Corsica from France, regain national rights, and promote the Corsican national identity. The Corsican Nation have been struggling for a national identity since the Treaty of Versailles (1768) when they were annexed to France and claim to be repressed culturally, economically, and socially.

Corsican Nationalist Alliance

The Corsican Nationalist Alliance (Corsican: Accolta Naziunale Corsa) is a political party endorsing Corsican nationalism. It is headed by Pierre Poggioli.

Corsican Workers' Trade Union

Founded in the mid-1980s, the Corsican Workers’ Trade Union (STC, Syndicat des Travailleurs Corses), an offshoot of the island's nationalist movement, quickly became the island's most popular organization for workers on the island. Besides agitating for the economic agenda one would expect of a labour union the STC has an agenda pushing for greater cultural autonomy from France.

Corsican autonomy referendum, 2003

A Corsican autonomy referendum was held on 6 July 2003. Voters were asked whether or not they approved the restructuring of the system of administration on Corsica. Had the referendum been successful, the two départements on the island would have been abolished leaving only the Corsican Assembly which would be granted additional functions including some limited powers on raising and spending taxes. The suggestion was not approved, albeit by a very small margin. 51% voted against the proposal, with 49% supporting it. The difference between the yes and no vote was 2,190 votes.

Greeks in France

The Greek community in France numbers around 35,000 people. They are located all around the country but the main communities are located in Paris, Marseille and Grenoble.

Leo Battesti

Léo Battesti (born 6 November 1953) is a Corsican politician, journalist, and chess enthusiast.

List of political parties in France

France has a multi-party political system: one in which the number of competing political parties is sufficiently large as to make it almost inevitable that in order to participate in the exercise of power any single party must be prepared to negotiate with one or more others with a view to forming electoral alliances and/or coalition agreements.

The dominant French political parties are also characterised by a noticeable degree of intra-party factionalism, making each of them effectively a coalition in itself.

Up until recently, the government of France had alternated between two rather stable coalitions:

on the centre-left, one led by the Socialist Party and with minor partners such as Europe Ecology – The Greens and the Radical Party of the Left.

on the centre-right, one led by The Republicans (and previously its predecessors, the Union for a Popular Movement, Rally for the Republic) and the Union of Democrats and Independents.This was the case until the 2017 legislative election, when Emmanuel Macron's party, La République En Marche!, won a large majority in parliament. This caused a political upset, as it was the first time in French history when one of the two main contemporary parties had not won.

Another political party that has had sizable successes is National Rally (RN) (previously known as the National Front before a name change in 2018). Since 2014, the party has established itself as the third sizable party, finishing in 1st place in the 2014 European elections as well as in the 2015 local elections, although it still didn't manage to win any executives mostly due to the last-ditch alliance between the centre-left and the centre-right coalitions in Hauts-de-France region as well as in the South of France. Now many political observers talk about the "tripartisme" (English: tripartism) of the French political landscape. In the 2017 presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, under the banner of En Marche!, defeated Marine Le Pen.

Music of Corsica

Outside France the island of Corsica is perhaps best known musically for its polyphonic choral tradition. The rebirth of this genre was linked with the rise of Corsican nationalism in the 1970s. The anthem of Corsica is "Dio vi Salvi Regina".

Every June, Calvi is home to an International Jazz Festival and in September there are the annual Rencontres de Chants Polyphoniques.

National Liberation Front of Corsica

The National Liberation Front of Corsica (French: Front de libération nationale corse; Corsican: Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu; abbreviated

FLNC) is a militant group that advocates an independent state on the island of Corsica, separate from France. The organisation is primarily present in Corsica and less so on the French mainland. A Conculta Naziunalista is often considered to be the political wing of the organisation.Typical militant acts by the FLNC were bombings aimed at public buildings, banks, tourist infrastructures, military buildings and other perceived French symbols, in addition to aggravated assault against civilians, armed bank robbery, and extortion against private enterprises through so-called "revolutionary taxes". The attacks were usually performed against buildings and the island's infrastructures, but it was also not uncommon for the FLNC to have individual people as targets (such as Claude Érignac, killed in 1998). The overwhelming majority of their attacks on the French mainland took place in or around the cities of Nice, Marseille and Avignon.In 2014, and again in 2016,the militant organisation announced the cessation of its armed struggle. Nevertheless, a number of splinter groups have so far emerged and are still active.

Party of the Corsican Nation

The Party of the Corsican Nation (Corsican: U Partitu di a Nazione Corsa, PNC) is a Corsican nationalist and autonomist political party on the French island of Corsica. It was founded in Corte in 2002 by members of three nationalist parties, Union of the Corsican People (UPC), A Scelta Nova and A Mossa Naziunale.

The PNC advocates autonomy for Corsica. It rejects the violent action by the National Liberation Front of Corsica, as well as independence.

In the first round of the 2007 French presidential election the party supported Dominique Voynet, candidate for The Greens.

The party has one seat in the general council of Corse-du-Sud, eleven seats in the Corsican Assembly and one Member of the European Parliament, François Alfonsi elected in the 2009 European election (South-East) on the Europe Écologie list.

The party's candidate in the 2010 territorial elections, Gilles Simeoni won a record 18.4% of the vote in the first round and 25.88% in the runoff, his list winning 11 seats in the Corsican Assembly (up from five).

The PNC is a member of the European Free Alliance and is pro-European and regionalist.

It is part of the autonomist coalition Femu a Corsica ("Let's make Corsica"), grouping also the minor parties A Chjama and Inseme per a Corsica, that joined its evolution into a regionalist party of its own in 2017.

Pietro Rocca

Petru Rocca (Vico, 1887 - Vico, 1966) was a Corsican politician and writer who supported Corsican independence from France. Initially he supported autonomism. Then he supported the Italian irredentism in Corsica, he turned back to the autonomism of Corsica before World War II.

Pè a Corsica

Pè a Corsica is a Corsican nationalist political party in France, which calls for more autonomy for Corsica. More specifically, it is a coalition (led by the autonomist Gilles Simeoni) of the two Corsican nationalist parties active on the island; that is, the moderately autonomist Femu a Corsica and the strongly committed separatist Corsica Libera (which won respectively 17,62% and 7,73% of the vote in the first round of the 2015 French regional elections. The party is led by the autonomist Gilles Simeoni. The alliance was renewed for the 2017 territorial election.

Radical Party of the Left

The Radical Party of the Left (French: Parti radical de gauche, PRG) is a social-liberal political party in France. A party in the Radical tradition, since 1972 the PRG was a close ally of the major party of the centre-left in France, the Socialist Party (French: Parti socialiste, PS). After the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, negotiations to merge the PRG with the Radical Party (from which the PRG emerged in 1972) began and the refounding congress to reunite the parties into the Radical Movement was held on 9 and 10 December 2017. However, a faction of ex-PRG members, including its last president Sylvia Pinel, split from the Radical Movement in February 2019 due to its expected alliance with La République En Marche in the European elections and plans to resurrect the PRG.

Regionalism (politics)

In politics, regionalism is a political ideology focusing on the "development of a political or social system based on one or more" regions and/or the national, normative or economic interests of a specific region, group of regions or another subnational entity, gaining strength from or aiming to strengthen the "consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population", similarly to nationalism. More specifically, "regionalism refers to three distinct elements: movements demanding territorial autonomy within unitary states; the organization of the central state on a regional basis for the delivery of its policies including regional development policies; political decentralization and regional autonomy".Regions may be delineated by administrative divisions, culture, language and religion, among others.

Regionalists aim at increasing the political power and influence available to all or some residents of a region. Their demands occur in "strong" forms, such as sovereignty, separatism, secession and independence, as well as more moderate campaigns for greater autonomy (such as states' rights, decentralization or devolution). Strictly, regionalists favour confederations over unitary nation states with strong central governments. They may, however, embrace intermediate forms of federalism.

Proponents of regionalism usually claim that strengthening the governing bodies and political powers within a region, at the expense of a central government, will benefit local populations by improving regional or local economies, in terms of better fiscal responsibility, regional development, allocation of resources, implementation of local policies and plans, competitiveness among regions and, ultimately, the whole country, consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.

Union of the Corsican People

The Union of the Corsican People (UPC) (Corsican: Unione di u Populu Corsu) was a political party in Corsica, France, founded by Max Simeoni on July 4, 1977, which represented the branch of Corsican nationalism favouring self-government. The UPC condemned all violence, notably that of the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC).

In the 1982 regional elections in Corsica, the UPC won 10.61% of the votes and seven seats, but two years later it won just 5.21% and three seats. In the 1989 European election, the UPC obtained one Member of the European Parliament, Max Simeoni, running as part of the Green list headed by Antoine Waechter. The UPC was led notably by François Alfonsi, currently a Member of the European Parliament. In 2002 the UCP came to an end, merged into the new Party of the Corsican Nation (PNC).

Unione Naziunale

The Unione Naziunale (English: National Union) is a Corsican nationalist group of political parties seeking independence of Corsica from France. In the last regional elections, the movement won around 20% of the votes and formed a group in the Corsican Assembly.

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