Friday, March 16, 2012

French Left Front: "There Is A Good Common To All of Humanity"

Translated by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble
15 March 2012

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the Left Front candidate in the presidential election, received us at his headquarters in les Lilas [1], to share with us his political project. As his campaign is taking off, he took the opportunity provided by our meeting to send to the youth a message of optimism.

Huma: Why don’t you devote more time to ecology in your campaign?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Ecology occupies a place for us that it has never found in any program of the traditional left. Check: the economic program of the Left Front is built around the concept of ecological planning. There is an intuition of communism which is verified by political ecology, namely that there is a common good of humanity. If we consider only what is good for us, we will include corporatisms, but if we think about what is good for everyone, we will have a chance to get hold of an effective solution. This is what lies at the foundation of the Republic: the common good, that which is good for all. So political ecology is the reforming paradigm of communism, of socialism, and of humanist universalism. We carry its ideas because we are the voice of the social class which, by its material conditions of existence, has no particular interest other than the public interest.

Huma: You announce a referendum on nuclear power; what is the strategy of the Left Front?

Jean-Luc Melenchon: First, get out of carbon energies, which are the source of the greenhouse effect and of the climate bifurcation which will soon run its disastrous course. I realize that this is a huge technical challenge but we are human: nothing is beyond our reach, nothing can stop us! The human mind is capable of solving all problems, so it is a source of optimism and enthusiasm. Then comes the question of nuclear energy, of great importance, which poses a security problem and is thought-provoking for everyone. The issue is that of hazard assessment. That is why we favor a referendum. Anyone who thinks we should discuss this can vote for the Left Front. Finally, we can develop abundant alternative energy sources, such as the movements of the sea and geothermal processes in the Earth. With geothermal power, we produce more heat than we know how to use. What do we do with the rest? We can organize district heating, greenhouses for growing vegetables and fruits that grow out of season, and so we will no longer need to bring these from the ends of the earth. It can help us grow strawberries in Moselle in winter ... It’s a double ecological gain. But to achieve this, we must create competence in many domains; we need engineers, architects, plants, etc.

Huma: How do you count on renationalizing the privatized companies?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Why should we do this? Because, since privatization, prices of electricity have soared (nearly 30% increase). However, we prefer to lower consumer prices by lowering energy prices rather than wages. We are therefore looking to establish a public economic pole[the word "pole" is commonly used to describe a government-established center of activity to produce certain goods or to control some activity in the pubic interest.] in order to remove from the market what can not reasonably be conceived of as a property dependent upon the law of supply and demand.

In practice, we can propose a vote on nationalization. We can also convoke the representatives of the State on the boards of directors of privatized companies (EDF, GDF Suez ...) and give them instructions: this year you do not distribute dividends. Not the next year, nor the year after that, either. That is to say that during the five years of office there will be no dividends. What happens normally? Those who have private money in there are gone. Because they have invested money not by ideology or because they are interested in energy, but because it pays. So they go, and prices fall: this is a good time to nationalize. That’s how I take it. But I have other tricks up my sleeve ...

Huma: As some say, are you the vote-stealer from François Hollande?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: It is the Socialist Party (PS) and the extreme right who put this idea into circulation, but no one is stealing votes from anyone. The Left Front is a new force that is constructed in a common struggle whose objective is to contribute to the success of the citizens’ revolution that is inevitable in our country. We are led by a political elite overwhelmed by situations over which it has lost control because it is unable to think about the future. It’s a sort of political parimutuel in which the beautiful people of our country, the mediacrates and the big shots, continue to believe. They do not realize the gulf that has opened beneath their feet.
Otherwise, let the Best Man win! What we don’t do now will have to be done later, anyway. For there is no Mr. and Mrs. "Most" in the Left Front. We base our work on the lives of people. It is not a little bit with Hollande and a little bit more with Mélenchon. No, there is a great deal better with Mélenchon and the Left Front, and nothing with Hollande.

Huma: What do you think of the support by Robert Hue for François Hollande?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: I find it distressing. It has caused a lot of pain to many Communists.

Huma: Do you have a problem with women? During your debate with Madame Le Pen, would you have been so courteous if the candidate had been a man?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: You are a bit like Mr. Le Pen, you think a woman is not able to defend herself? That evening, I did not debate with a woman, I debated with the head of the National Front. If I had fallen upon a stupid ignorant man, I would have acted the same way. Moreover, at the distribution of prizes, the father took as much as the daughter.

I am the only man who co-chairs a party with a woman. The Left Front is the only political structure with strict parity. Its eight spokespersons are four men and four women. I think we’re the front of feminism. This does not mean that others are not, but they have much progress to make in order to be as feminist as the Left Front.

When asked who supports the creation of a Ministry of Women’s Rights, everyone says yes enthusiastically. When I ask who is in favor of raising the minimum wage to 1,700 euros, I am told that this has nothing to do with the question. I say that 80% of minimum wage earners are women being paid the SMIC [2]. This is a concrete right of women. The right to decent wages. Similarly, 85% of women have insecure employment. For these proposals, where are the enthusiasts?

Jean Michel Aphatie, who works for RMC and the Grand Journal, saw in the use of the term "insane" proof of my misogyny. Well, I regret to say that there are demented men and demented women. The xenophobic obsessional neurosis of Ms. Le Pen is a serious imbalance and I’m very sorry for her. She needs to be helped: it is not normal to be so anxious about foreigners. It is not normal to be afraid of what’s on your plate, and to see Islam or Judaism hidden in a steak.

Huma: What is the strategy of the Left Front to convince citizens in the metropolitan suburbs? What makes you different from the Front national?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: The Left Front has the advantage over the National Front of actually being in the suburbs. I spent twenty years in a suburb. Ms. Le Pen, she has spent most of his life in a palace paid for by her father. We talk to people in the suburbs as we speak to all people. We do not accept the territorialization of human existence. The politics of the suburbs are all general issues for society. In a suburb we need schools, teachers, health centers, these are matters of public spending.

Many people confuse the suburbs with the four or five oddballs that everyone sees on the television. Those who wear face-masks and carry baseball bats. Those are buffoons. We have nothing to say to them. We think of all the others who want to live in dignity by their work. We think of those "who have a lump in their throat" because their families have sacrificed for them to do studies, they have a degree but they do not get jobs because they do not have the right address. How can we solve these problems? First ideologically, by conducting political warfare.

Then, we have problems between Françoise and Yasmina as long as there is only one job for the two of them. But when there are three jobs for two, there is no problem, they hire everybody. I experienced this situation in 2001, in Loire-Atlantique, the shipyard in Saint Nazaire. At that time, we had 2.5% growth. The bosses went to the plant gates to compete for workers. This is how we will solve the problem. If we raise the activity, many discriminations will fly to pieces. The solution to most of our problems can be summed up in one word: money. And money, there is.

Huma: In your program, you speak of the right to the city, and you wish to restore multicultural/multiracial communities. What instruments will underpin this move?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: By having designed a neighborhood in Massy, this is something that I know: mix people, it works. You put together the rich, it’s deadly, you’re bored to death. They put digicodes everywhere, they are barricaded in their homes, climbing the walls topped with barbed wire, they pay night watchmen. Nobody wants to live in the 6th or the 7th arrondissement in Paris. I live in the 10th, a normal district, with people of all colors, it’s fun, it’s alive.

If you put all the poor together, it’s the same scenario: there is only misery to share. So you start to see people holding up the walls, you start to see all the psychological distress that emerges from social deprivation. For example, in New Caledonia, there are Kanak on one side and the Caldoche the other. Nobody mixes, and the result is a volcano for a century and a half. Therefore, the principle of social mix, it is a principle of life. If anyone can tell me about another form of happiness, I’m waiting to hear about it. Is it possible to influence the social mix of a neighborhood by a deliberate policy? The answer is yes.

Huma: Concerning mass layoffs, we see more and more companies going overboard. What do you propose to do about it?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: To fight against layoffs, we must "stop the hemorrhage". For that, political tools exist and can be put in place for the emergency: prohibition of finance-oriented dismissals, veto power in the executive councils for worker representatives, right to preemption by workers as a cooperative. In a second stage, other measures are urgently needed: requisition of factories, the trial and punishment of traitors to their country. It is always considered normal to run after a thief of a motor bike ... but I find it normal to punish white collar cheaters and frauds.

Huma: Tell us about your project to legalize workers without legal papers.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: For us, the regularization of undocumented workers is a social anti-dumping measure and is humanly just. We can not let people live in fear. Note that with Sarkozy’s reforms, they transformed some of the people who had papers into undocumented immigrants. We challenge anyone to tell us how we proceed with the immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants. Today, 25,000 illegal immigrants are deported each year, yet we assume there are 250,000. That is to say that over the next ten years we will continue to run around the school doors to catch people?

Huma: Why, in your program, do foreigners only get to vote in local elections?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: The right to citizenship by birth, naturalization and the acquisition of nationality are measures to which the Left Front is partisan. The right to citizenship by birth exists since François I, but it has again apparently again become quite new. History teaches us that sometimes the same people requisition everyone because there are wars that arrive, and sometimes want to throw everybody out because we were beaten or because of external difficulties.

The word "French" bothers me a bit because it gives an ethnic definition of the French nation. I think that what describes French nationality is citizenship. The thesis that prevails among all those that compete in our coalition, is local citizenship. Once we have done that, the rest will be easier.

A big mistake has been uttered: Gueant said, if there were local citizenship, then the communities would demand a particular type of food. This is stupid. There are already 500,000 Jewish compatriots, some of whom eat kosher, and Islam is the second religion of the French. A response has been around since 1905, and it is secularism.

Huma: What do you propose to do about the "Hadopi" law?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: We do not accept Hadopi. There is a violence, a committee may break into your computer, you can be punished, initially without a judge, and the budget for all this is considerable. They cut you off, but they do not only deprive you of access to music or literature, they also deprive you of access to your tax account, bank account, and the possibility to receive reminders from the employment center : it is a violation of a dozen rights of which they deprive you.

Copyrights are an invention of the Republic. Free dissemination also poses a problem. But, under the regime of private ownership of the remuneration of creation, one wonders if we accept the remuneration of creators by the fee-for-act and without limit. I agree to respect the copyright. An answer has been found: the global license. Another possible? Let’s talk about it! But private property is not all! So we plan to make the suppliers contribute. We envision a public pole for routing of materials. I would also suggest measures which are special to France, such as a 0% VAT for books, rather than the 5% VAT on restaurant meals, which cost us 3 billion, that is to say, six times the reported savings from the RGPP (reduction of the number of civil servants).

Huma: Ecological planning? Why?

Jean-Luc Melenchon defines environmental planning as a "shift in demand according to our needs." According to the program of the Front de gauche, this policy "will clarify the policies and public investment necessary to launch an ecological transition and promote sustainable human development. It will be creative of employment and a factor of social equality." It will be based on "an ecological plan debated and voted in Parliament, together with a financial planning law." "The purpose is ecological, the method is the planning: the organization and preparation, the introduction of long-term thinking, where finance favors the short term."

Jean-Luc Mélenchon was interviewed by student journalists who volunteered to produce a section of the daily newspaper for Monday 12 March [3].

[1] Les Lilas is a working-class suburb on the NE border of Paris, where the Front de gauche has established its campaign headquarters in "l’Usine" (the "factory").
[2] the legally established minimum wage
[3] The authors of this article:

Fairouz Guedouar, 23 years of age,
Ludovic Berton, 21,
Cassandre Clairbout, 21,
Alessandra Vitulo, 23,
Marta Silva, 24,
Gabriel Joignant, 22,
Anastasia Tymen, 22,
Ludovic Teysseire, 19,
Julien Puchercos, 22

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