Mélenchon: “Raising the Alarm”

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In an interview he gave to the AFP, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Front de Gauche’s presidential candidate, reckons he is “much more” of a socialist candidate than François Hollande and is “raising the alarm” to urge the left to reassert its true left-wing identity.

Article source: Julie Ducourau AFP, La Passerelle (03/01/2012)

 

QUESTION: What conclusions do you draw from Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency?

ANSWER: His victory in 2007 was not only due to the disarray of the left, led by the PS. It was the beginning of a new era. Finally, the French Thatcher was to confront the social state born after the Liberation! And then this man was cut down to size by something he was not expecting: time was called across the world on the free-market economy. Consequently, his New Year speech was just the recitation of a capitalist doctrine that has had its day. And now he even wants to dismantle the social welfare system and replace it with his so-called social VAT. Nicolas Sarkozy is France’s principal demolisher. No genuine change of course can come from him.

Q: What measures would you recommend to deal with the debt crisis?

A: We have to cut the Gordian knot, to put out the fire. As an emergency measure, the ECB should lend money directly to the European states at a 1% rate. And then we have to put an end to the mechanisms of speculation. And we need an immediate upward social and fiscal harmonisation in Europe. Otherwise, where are we heading? Workers are mistreated, the social State is on the decline, and as a result, life expectancy has already shortened in some European countries, including Germany. And all that just to be able to boast at the end of the day: “I’ve kept my triple A rating, I’m a top-quality andouillette ”.*

Q: What are the themes of your campaign?

A: The main idea is to reject austerity policies and the Europe of austerity which is a never ending spiral. The only way out of the recession is to boost economic activity. Firstly, by setting a common progressive goal: environmental planning. Then, with a method: the redistribution of wealth by taxing capital revenues just like workers incomes. We also need to put some just mechanisms in place in business, with, for instance, the institution of a maximum wage. My campaign is part of a project with a long history , that of the citizens’ revolution, under two catchwords: “resist” and “seize power”.

Q: Is it credible to propose a minimum wage of 1700 € per month during a recession?

A: A rise in the minimum wage, that’s what the left-wing is all about! How can you live on a thousand euros a month? That is my rallying call: if being left-wing doesn't mean calling for a state pension at age 60, for an increase in low wages, and for more democracy, what exactly does it mean? I am the candidate of the traditional left. I am as much the socialist voters’ candidate as François Hollande, and in some respects, much more than he is. I also want to remind those who claim to be François Mitterrand’s heirs of the fact that, when he was elected in 1981, the minimum wage was significantly raised. A lot of socialist voters tell me “when you’ve got a socialist heart and a socialist head, you feel closer to Mélenchon than Hollande. He wants to give a meaning to economic rigour and I want to give a meaning to the left.”

Q: Does it actually suit you to have him as a rival?

A: The fact that he has turned towards Bayrou and centrist policies weakens the whole left. When the left-wing candidate, who receives 30% of voting intentions in the polls, thinks the country needs austerity measures, just like the right-wing candidate, French politics loses its bearings and our work becomes even harder. The weapon of mass conviction for leaders of the PS is the argument of the “tactical vote”.** But the volatility of this election is unprecedented. Those who reject the whole system have never been so numerous. Whatever the case, we can already say that there is no possible victory for the left without the Front de Gauche.

Q: If the left wins, will the Front de Gauche, starting with the PCF, end up reaching a settlement with the Socialist Party?

A: The parties making up the Front de Gauche will make their decisions and I will speak last. As for me personally, I repeat that I won’t be part of any government except one I run myself. And, be warned, no party alliances of any kind will be able to force the hand of the French people.

Q: How do you intend to fight against Marine Le Pen?

A: The Front de Gauche is the most important force at grass-roots level, with a campaign aimed at involving and educating the working classes. The truth is, most right-wingers in the working class have now become FN voters. In a way, the workers of the UMP have followed their leaders’ ideas. The worst thing for us is having to bang our heads against the wall of unquestioning consent which surrounds Madame Le Pen in the media. She just proclaims herself to be the spokesperson of workers’ concerns. How so? When she is against increasing the minimum wage, retirement at 60, rent freezing, and the creation of a single public financial authority! The Le Pens of this world are still the devils propping up the system.

 

NOTES

* Andouillette is a tripe sausage. Mélenchon’s joke refers to the Association amicale des amateurs d’andouillette authentique (The Authentic Tripe-Sausage Lovers’ Association), the AAAAA. Editor’s note.

** That is: to cast one’s vote for a major candidate who has a chance to qualify for the second round, rather than “wasting” one’s ballot by voting for a minor candidate. Translator’s note.

 

Translation: Clémentine Rayer and Juliette Rosard

Editing: Sam Trainor

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