Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear ambassadors and representatives from our companion parties,
Dear friends, dear comrades,
It is always an immense pleasure for me to address you, progressive thinkers, members of political organisations, trade unions and associations.
The meeting this Saturday is one that we all note in our agendas, year after year.
It is a special moment for me, the opportunity to speak to you of course, but above all to listen, to exchange and to find common ground.
We live in turbulent times; we are called to battle. Tomorrow at 4 p.m., during the “grand meeting” at the fete, I will outline the focus of our coming actions. So let me take this time to take a step back and look at the approach that has led us here to this year’s Fête – once more a great success.
First of all, I heard the cries of joy, the emotion and elation expressed by the young people from the INSEP National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance at the official announcement of the attribution of the Olympic Games to Paris.
A magnificent seven-year journey now begins for them.
For the next seven years, they will be working and training – training hard! They will dream. Dream of becoming better, becoming the best, for themselves, their families and the country.
Dreaming of a magical festival of brotherhood, peace and friendly competition. Of being at the heart of a planetary party.
Not only would I like to share their dream, but I hope that all of the young people and indeed the whole population of France will share in it too.
I hope for seven years good luck!
I hope that all of our youth and all of the country will support the young athletes in the years to come.
By recognizing that work is the most beautiful, the only true wealth, and not an unbearable cost centre for business.
By recognizing that what we can accomplish alone pales in comparison to what we can achieve with collective effort.
By recognizing that useful investment is not a source of debt for the country and future generations but a source of enrichment.
By recognizing not only that “money isn’t everything”, but that money corrupts everything.
These are the Games we want!
No one person holds the ultimate truth on his or her own.
This timeless reality is underscored by the constant evolution of the world today. We witness incredible leaps in science and technology; digital development opens new horizons to humanity. At the same time, the gap between haves and have-nots is wider than ever; work has become insecure and thus is society undermined; the risk of war looms ever larger; global warming and political irresponsibility – among world leaders as well as shareholders in multinational corporations – combine to subject people, especially the poorest among us, to risks and misfortunes that should no longer plague humankind in the 21st Century.
It is important for me to express, here at the Fête de l'Humanité, the Communist Party’s solidarity with the populations of the Caribbean, Cuba and the Southwest United Sates in their distress and loss following the hurricanes that struck their regions.
Here, at the Fête de l'Humanité, as well as around the world over the past week, initiatives to provide aid to the victims of these terrible hurricanes have emerged.
The hurricanes also shed a bright light on the breadth of the income gap. The millionaires’ St. Barth homes are a world away from the shacks of Haiti.
This world is growing unbearable for all humanists.
Hurricanes draw their unbelievable power from the warming oceans. They demonstrate cruelly that the fight to keep the global temperature from rising is a priority for the future of humankind.
For us, this period in human history is deeply marked by the insufferable chasm between the needs of people and the future of the planet on the one hand, and the ultra-competitive capitalist system focused only on short-term profits and incapable of uniting the planet for the universal common good, on the other.
Opening a new era for humanity, a world of solidarity, cooperation, equality and justice for all individuals and peoples, is more urgent today than ever before.
I will be saying this again tomorrow, at the “grand meeting” on the main stage: we want to contribute to opening a new era of human civilisation.
We want to be the “builders of the commons”.
We will do so through multiple exchanges of ideas and actions that are constructed in the respect of all partners.
To change the world today, we must do more than simply rally around a project or an idea – and certainly not around an individual – but we must patiently build bridges to connect all women and men who are working for human and social progress, whether within associations, trade unions, NGOs or political movements.
The Fête de l’Humanité is a three-day bridge-building event. And I am here, and the Communist Party members are here, to build with you, to work towards creating the commons, with respect for each and every one.
No one person holds the truth, I said a moment ago. We all have an interest in sharing common ground as we face the anti-social and anti-democratic whirlwind that now threatens.
The balance of political powers, as the spring elections in France proved, is on the point of shattering.
Macron performs a masquerade, the pretence of novelty, “neither right nor left”, but there are cracks in the veneer.
Since early summer, one announcement after another pushes the country farther and farther to the right.
The promise of political renewal is fading fast.
A different reality has quickly surpassed that promise: while the President has a majority in Parliament, he does not enjoy the support of the majority of the population on the issue of the dismantlement of the Labour Law by executive order, housing allowance cutbacks, suffocation of local government through deprivation of funding, the elimination of subsidized employment contracts, and other measures.
All of these actions follow a script that has been running on a loop for decades now: the cost of labour is too high; employees’ rights prevent business development; laws and collective bargaining infringe on freedom of enterprise and necessary competition, etcetera, etcetera.
One example of the false nature of this logic is the attack on national railway employees as the “privileged few” (when in fact the fight against climate change calls for more rail and less road traffic). The railway workers are held up to the disapproval of those who are stuck without rights in the “uber economy”, while the wealthy are granted tax relief and corporations are given exorbitant powers over the lives and working conditions of their employees. This idea is as old and worn-out as capitalism itself.
This is politics at the service of the powerful, politics that regards the most vulnerable among us with the disdain and arrogance associated with ages past.
This is why the president’s approval ratings have plummeted.
And the people’s growing awareness is at the source of the big turnout for last Tuesday’s trade union action, which surprised more than one commentator.
It is unbearable to listen to Emmanuel Macron berate and condescend to the French people for their opposition to his so-called reforms.
The President talks about revolution, but he should beware because the French are in fact so fond of true reform for social progress that revolution is a familiar remedy!
What exactly is happening in our country?
Presidential and legislative elections revealed that the French people have a strong desire to shake up the political system and the parties that have dominated French political life for 40 years, constantly forcing us to tighten our belts – and yet we see no positive results for individuals or for our country.
The French people have disrupted a succession of political set-ups including the exclusive focus of public debate on the presidential election and the deliberate confusion that obscures the vision of potential alternatives.
Undoubtedly, this situation led to the provisional victory of Emmanuel Macron, but Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s breakthrough demonstrates the search for a new alternative on the left.
A very big majority of the French clearly rejected the danger represented by Marine Le Pen, using the second round of elections as a springboard for the next phase.
Despite in inequity of the electoral system, which devalues the Parliament and makes legislative elections a kind of “third round” presidential vote, the French people elected combative MPs, a Communist group with new and younger Members, and a France insoumise (“France Unbowed”) group.
I know that many of them are here at the Fête and I congratulate them.
Since they have taken office, these men and women have worked tirelessly to oppose the policies of Macron and his Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Based on these facts, I would like to share two convictions with you:
- The first is that, despite the “neither right nor left” smokescreen cast by Macron, a potential majority exists for a union of true left forces that would break from the politics of austerity.
This majority includes the voters who abstained, the 7 million who cast a ballot for Mélenchon, those who voted Benoît Hamon – who I welcome here today – and even some voters who chose Macron in the first round.
The majority includes many locally elected officials who are thunderstruck by the austerity measures hitting their communities.
The majority includes those who are seeking a progressive solution to the many contemporary challenges – social, ecological and democratic –, and we owe it to them to offer a credible and mobilising perspective.
All of these considerable forces can only be effective as a majority if they unite, if spaces for dialogue are created everywhere: the Fête de l'Humanité is such a space.
Each one of the forces has its own field of action, its own agenda, and takes its own initiatives; this is the case for the Communist party. That is a legitimate position.
But will all must create the conditions that enable each initiative to encompass as many people as possible and to draw strength from the diversity that is found in the progressive camp.
Create the conditions that prevent splits and rifts in our front and favour bridges and genuinely common ground.
This is what the Communist Party strives for.
This is my vision of our role and our usefulness.
We are completely receptive.
- My second conviction concerns mobilisation against Macron’s executive orders and, more generally, mobilisation against the mad intensification of austerity policies that have been announced and which will strike blows against municipalities, housing, social security and public services.
The truth about Macron’s orders is now coming to light. Many debates have been organised here at the Fête and will help reveal the dangers of his plan.
Basically, two opposing logics are at play: one that says that employees have no future in work other than as pawns of globalisation; the other, which we defend, says that now is the time – in the era of globalisation, the digital revolution, and because it is time for a new model of social and environmental development – for a new concept of work, new empowerment, and greater security for workers.
This is the debate we wish to open and in fact impose upon the government that is trying to force through its own agenda.
The first kind of logic is stuck in the old world of excessive capitalist competition.
Our logic looks to a future with a new social model of cooperation and solidarity, based on workers’ right to intervene.
In the coming battle, we will defend alternate proposals for the Labour Law, secure employment, education and training.
Tomorrow I will speak from the main stage, on behalf of the French Communist Party, to announce our project to ramp up our response.
I want to commend the trade unions, who are on the front lines, and especially the CGT and its president, my friend Philippe Martinez, the FSU and its Secretary-General Bernadette Groison, and Solidaires, whose spokesperson we welcome here today.
The action organised for the 12th of the month is an essential step that would not have been possible without their hard work.
The action on the 21st will be another important step.
We will be there for the marches and rallies when unions call for action.
It is in everyone’s best interest that we raise awareness of the work done by those whose main responsibility is defending workers’ rights, helping them achieve satisfaction for their demands, and expanding their rights.
There will be no social transformation, no political project for social transformation without the trade unions’ power to mobilise workers, nor without the many associations working at different levels.
We need one another.
We need to learn from our many different experiences.
We need to engage in dialogue, to understand each other – not a fused relationship, but one that preserves diversity!
I agree with Philippe Martinez who is quoted in l'Humanité Dimanche: “There is no link between the level of protection of employees and the level of unemployment.”
In fact, I believe that the best way to fight against unemployment and the inequalities that it creates is, on the contrary, to extend employees’ rights, at the workplace and in civil society, and to look at work not as a costly burden but as an asset.
The new civilisation we seek to create is that of the commons, an extension of all rights, an extension of democracy.
This is a political project, the political project of our new generation of communism that will replace the logic of alienation with the logic of individual and collective emancipation.
The contradictions of the capitalist system today obstruct the possibility of liberating the immense potential of a new era of work.
There is nothing new in the system we are subject to today.
We have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of Karl Marx’s work “Capital”, which demonstrated the mechanisms and predicted the evolution of the capitalist system.
From the outset, the system was terribly cursed: injustice and inequality, exploitation and alienation of workers, environmental destruction, violence and war.
All of these afflictions are integral to capitalist society, which “bears war within it as a sleeping cloud bears the storm”, as Jaures said.
Yet while capitalism was from the start a system of injustice, violence and war, at the same time it also brought “fantastic” developmental progress, as Karl Marx said, for the countries concerned.
Today globalised capitalism, having gone to the extremes of its logic, has come to the end of the road.
I can affirm that its progressive mission is now past.
The system continues to survive only to destroy, to sharpen inequalities and tensions; it survives thanks to the poverty, insecurity and regression it creates; it survives at the risk of destroying the planet and human civilisation, at the risk of letting the barbarians in at the gate.
“Because the world
is made this way
our dreams must be
even more stubborn”,
wrote Abdellatif Laâbi.
This is why our combat, the Communist combat, far from being outdated, is urgent today and urgent for the future.
The 21st Century will be the century of combat for a new mode of post-capitalist development, if we are able to invent a world that will meet the challenges of humankind today.
The world cries out for the emergence of the commons.
It the only way we will be able to meet both human and environmental challenges at once, to ensure the development of each and every one, to satisfy wider social and cultural needs while avoiding destruction of natural resources and the exploitation of the labour force.
This is the new civilisation we must invent. This is our battle as Communists.
That said, I do not wish to imply that I am a party leader who is always self-assured and that my ideas are immutable.
I affirm that Communism is the movement that can build the commons.
It is a path of constant invention, the opposite of a dogma to be applied.
I affirm therefore at the same time that these struggles and this quest must be reinvented constantly. The time has come for the Communist Party, engaged in the struggle, to carry out a revolution within, with strength and courage.
The Communist Party has greatly evolved, deeply modified its ideas over the past decades.
We have commissioned work, carried out research, conducted trials, proposed programmes and fine-tuned our projects.
All of this we did while under constant attack by neo-liberal forces that have left our people, and especially those on the left, stunned.
Under attack, we did not know how and were not able to take our conceptual advances forward to accomplishment.
Now is the time to do so in the disjointed political landscape.
It is urgent because the threats are massing as economic liberalism grows more obstinate in the implementation of destructive policies and tensions mount around the world.
But above all it is urgent because new aspirations are knocking on the door insistently, because these aspirations will lead to new victories.
The political disruption of the last election period is the symptom of the unease felt by our people who see themselves trapped, led down a blind alley.
But the people are a powerful source of energy that can be set free.
Our answer is to spring the traps that shackle the popular movement.
One of these traps is the alleged end of politics, of democracy, of parties.
Some would have us believe that evolution necessarily results in “post-democracy” and the end of political parties; they do not seek to usher in a new world, but rather to prolong the destructive agony of the old one. They favour unabashed economic liberalism and the National Front. They also favour the shameless liberalism of Macron and those who have jumped on his bandwagon, whatever their point of departure.
This ideological campaign also seeks the divestment of the people.
For economic liberals, from Macron to the leaders of the LR party (Les Républicains) and social liberals, the fact of voter abstention and the marginalisation of the working classes is not a problem, it is a goal.
As for the National Front vote, unless we counteract it, we will find working classes in a political ghetto, fenced off, victims of social and political apartheid.
The National Front is in a tough spot as we approach the end of the year.
I reiterate that we were right to call for voters to send a clear message to Le Pen during the second round of elections; it was imperative to stop her.
The abnormally high number of votes garnered by the National Front, we know, is one of the major obstacles to establishing a new political majority on the left.
We will never yield on this question and we are proud that Marine Le Pen’s loss in the second round of the presidential election ultimately led to the National Front’s incapacity to create a group in the National Assembly.
If we want to fully prevail in this struggle and open the path to an alternative for progress, I think that the best option is not to just keep shouting, “throw the bums out”; we saw how that type of political cacophony served forces as various as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
I believe we now must set resolutely positive and constructive objectives for the popular movement.
And this is also why I believe that we are not condemned to submit to “a populist movement”.
On the contrary, I believe we are witness to a great moment of democratic aspiration, aspirations that are frustrated, straight-jacketed and diverted by the proponents of obstinate economic liberalism.
Everyone is well aware that since the mid-90s, every time the people were able to express their opinion, it was to contest and disapprove of economic liberalism.
This was the case in 1995 when demonstrations were held to preserve pension benefits, again in 2005 when a referendum was held on the European Constitution, in 2006 against the so-called “first job contracts”, in 2008-2009 to refuse that workers assume the cost of the crisis, to demand protection for pensioners and more recently to protest the provisions of the “El Khomri” labour law reform.
Clearly this will be the case for the dismantlement of the Labour Law.
Time and again, neo-liberal leaders ignore the majority opinion to impose their reforms, whether by pure and simple dismissal of popular opinion – even when it is expressed through a referendum they themselves organised – or by bypassing parliamentary vote through a “49-3” measure or through an executive order.
In truth, capitalism, which is ever less capable of solving the great challenges of human development, is also ever less tolerant of democracy.
I do not mean to say that dictatorships are taking over everywhere, but it is evident that recourse to authoritarian and repressive practices, the state of emergency, and extensive presidential powers is increasing.
Complacency towards authoritarian regimes has become the rule even within Europe.
Just consider the invitation extended to Donald Trump for our National Day on July 14!
Neo-liberal leaders and economic oligarchies seek to prolong their hold on power by turning representative democracy into a meaningless pretence.
In France, this explains the movement to group communes and regions together and Macron’s projects for constitutional reform, the reduction of the number of Members of Parliament and local elected authorities.
The goal is to keep citizens far from power and to definitively isolate institutions and political authorities from the working class.
I am convinced that the struggle for democracy, for new rights and powers in all areas, ’is at the heart of the class struggle.
We shall keep up the fight.
At this moment in history, humankind seems to have the power to do just about anything, and yet we must take great care of what we do: the choices we make today are decisive for our future.
But who makes these choices?
Who decides what a company should produce, where and how, using what methods and raw materials, what energy sources?
Today it is only shareholders’ representatives who make these decisions and we know what their sole concern is: dividends.
Is this reasonable? Is it humanly sustainable?
I believe that a vast movement for democracy must enable salaried employees, researchers, farmers, citizens, people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, tenants, youth, secondary and university students, public service users – to give a few examples – to appropriate the structures of power or to create new ones.
I believe that new forms of democracy – participatory, cooperative, deliberative – must significantly expand the current scope of the people’s power.
I believe that democracy exists at every moment and not only at election time.
For me, communism, the common sharing of human capacity and natural resources, is totally in synch with democracy.
A new, expanded, permanent democracy.
Democracy is the power of the people and the means of development for humankind and each individual.
There are plenty of experiences to draw from: for example, yesterday I met with young employees who are inventing an alternative platform called “Co-op Cycles”, so that the 30,000 bike delivery workers in France can escape the modern servitude of companies such as Deliveroo.
“It is enough to blow on the embers to create a strong light”, wrote poet René Char.
I am raising my voice to encourage the Communist Party to support these experiments and help them multiply and grow.
In a world where the battle for power must be carried out at all levels – local, national, European and around the world, it is not enough to wait for an electoral victory and State power.
This is not how we envision meeting the challenges of our century, of supplanting capitalism and putting it behind us.
We will not spend the next five years just getting ready for the 2022 elections.
On the contrary, we must solicit and encourage movements for concrete, immediate citizen victories.
We can renew our commitment to communist values and the French workers’ movement that created Social Security, holiday camps, social tourism, social housing policies and so much more.
And we ourselves must build up power by harnessing digital technology.
By multiplying initiatives, genuine solidarity, citizen groups for debate, social manufacturing, we seek to release the energy of democracy, create meaning and bring movements together.
In the age of internet and social networks, it is possible to associate these various citizen initiatives, to breathe life and meaning into them, from the grassroots to the national level, and ultimately around the world.
In order to carry the fight to the finish, the Communist Party must consider deep changes of its own, and that revolution starts now.
We have changed a lot over the past decades; I am proud to say that the Communist Party, more than any other party or political movement, has become an organisation where every voice counts equally.
We are an organisation where all members make the decisions together: on approaches and initiatives as well as on party leaders and candidates.
All are free to speak, pluralism is respected. Everything is subject to debate.
Just look around at this huge democratic forum that is our Fête!
We are right to be proud of the considerable changes that we have pushed forward within the PCF. This is all the more true as we watch other parties announce miraculous innovations that we view as regressions in opposition to our own democratic innovations.
So what direction will the Party’s revolution take?
First of all, it will target victory aggressively because, as I said earlier, the bold revolution within our Party shall not be the result of renunciation but, on the contrary, should give us the arms for a winning strategy of immediate citizen victories, experiments set in motion.
We seek to be a “platform” party: a cooperative platform of networks that frees up activist initiative.
First of all, the Communist Party must once again become a quality network for popular, activist education in the 21st Century, a place for individual and collection learning, open not only to party members but more broadly to workers, employees, those on salary and independent professionals, all of whom may benefit from a higher level of training and culture; the goal is to enable those who live off their labour to express themselves forcefully.
Thus working people will truly have the power and the cultural know-how to defy the dominant class.
Thus will we engage and win what Gramsci called the “war of position” for the accomplishment of a political and ideological hegemony necessary to the social transformation process.
Today Marxism, freed of its dogmatic, inflexible excesses, has a new lease of life. The Communist Party can thus assume the ambition of becoming a space for research and popular education, where the work, thoughts and practices of researchers, academics and working class activists can interact.
The Communist Party must grow its network of active solidarity.
In recent years, we have multiplied and begun to generalise practices that benefit the people.
One PCF initiative allowed 40,000 people to enjoy a trip to the seaside this year.
Another is the organisation of our farm-to-consumer fruit and vegetable markets which have been highly successful and have spread to more and more towns.
Local initiatives to grow solidarity have become a reflex among Communist activists, and that is very good news.
In addition, we have seen many initiatives to help migrants in all regions of France.
Our party must also redeploy our international network: in particular campaigns for solidarity with the Palestinian people, and the liberation of the political prisoners Salah Hamouri – whose wife, Elsa Lefort is here with us at the Fête – and Marwan Barghouti.
We will fight to the end for their liberation, for peace and for the defence of freedom wherever it is threatened or challenged.
Our networks: cultural enhancement, solidarity, political experimentation for the acquisition of new powers, international action.
This is the Communist Party of the 21st Century.
The Communist Party wants to be a crucible for all movements, all endeavours for social, environmental and democratic transformation.
A crucible for debates, an open citizen space where people look for answers, exchange ideas, experiment, share in the struggle to achieve a great transformative movement.
Our work is cut out for us and certainly party members will add to the list as we gather for the 2018 Party Congress.
* - * - *
Dear Friends and Comrades,
I have given you an unvarnished picture of my convictions, and also of my intuitions.
I do not underestimate the difficulties presented by this period of time, nor the complexity of the world we seek to transform, nor the severity of the battle to begin.
But I would ask you to measure these challenges against the amazing resources that exist in society and in the world.
We are at that daunting and dangerous moment when the system tips one way or the other.
As it tips, we can push it to towards a new civilisation.
This is our hope and our struggle.
It is in order to live up to this struggle that the Communist Party must carefully reflect, reinvent a strategy, and carry out an internal revolution.
Communists will look into this for themselves during our Congress; our expectations are high.
But others are concerned as well.
I intend to meet with you, to hear what you have to think about all of this, to listen to your reactions and your own insights.
Communists need your expertise, your opinions and also current research on society and its future.
Consider this an invitation to share your opinions with us without hesitation.
In the weeks ahead, we will multiply the opportunities for meeting and exchanging ideas and we will participate in all occasions to share with those who are open to questions and debate.
As poet Eugène Guillevic wrote:
“We will go with you
If you find the way.”
le 10 October 2017