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Address by Pierre Laurent - the Fête de l'Humanité, Saturday, 15 September 2018

Dear friends, dear comrades,

Above all, I would like to dedicate this address to the memory of Maurice Audin, and to express the depth of my emotion to Josette and his children on this day, an emotion that is shared by all of the people here at the Fête, as we welcome the announcement made by the President of the Republic this week, on September 13th. The battle for truth has been won, after 61 years of combat! *

It is a victory against State lies, against torture, against colonialism, and for the honour of all who gave their lives while fighting this battle. Yesterday, we celebrated the event by inaugurating the place Maurice Audin here on the grounds of the Fête. For the newspaper L’Humanité, for the French Communist Party, for the Algerian people, for all of those who have struggled by our side, this is truly an historic day.

This victory confirms that those who fight for human dignity and against systems of domination are advancing with the course of History.

It is a beautiful lesson, and an important one in consideration of the barbarism of today’s world.

We must include in our thoughts the far too many progressive individuals around the world who are rotting in prison because of their ideas, because they seek a world of greater justice. Many are subject to torture and humiliation.

I would spare a special thought for Selahattin Demirtas, recently sentenced unfairly to over four years in prison by the Erdogan regime; and one for President Lula, jailed by a corrupt regime that is willing, by preventing Lula’s election, to make way for a new far-right dictatorship in Brazil.
I also keep Marwan Barghouti, Salah Hamouri and all of the Palestinian political prisoners in my thoughts

(Pierre Laurent welcomes Ahed Tamimi)

I dedicate these words to all freedom fighters.

More than ever, the world needs major human mobilisations for justice, freedom and peace.

We need vast mobilisations to bring humankind into unity with the planet, to deter the unfettered capitalist globalisation that destroys the planet and humans who live on it.
Our cause is truly unique.
“We work for the realisation of humanity,” wrote Jaurès in the first editorial published in the newspaper that makes this immense Fête possible every year.

Yes, a unique cause: a new humanity that will free humankind and the natural world from the logic of profit and predatory behaviour that enslave us. Contrary to what some would have us believe, it is not time to abandon the hope of improving the human condition.

The challenge of the 21st Century is to redefine the very meaning of human progress, by considering all of the ramifications of one essential fact: humankind and the natural world are now inexorably bound to share the same fate. If we consider one without taking account of the other, we are sure to fall into a spectacular deadlock.

“And yet … it burns!”

We could imagine Galileo’s famous phrase adjusted for today’s climate sceptics who refuse to accept the scientific evidence that demonstrates global warming. And now it is not only warming, but runaway climate change that we must face.

This is the message that Nicolas Hulot transmitted when he resigned his office of Minister of the Environment a few days ago.

The message is for us, for public opinion, for all of society.

I hear this message loud and clear! And so do millions of our fellow citizens in France and around the world; they expressed their alarm last weekend during the 2018 Walk for the Climate events.

What the marchers affirm, hundreds of thousands strong, is that we cannot be resigned to fatality, that women and men on this earth have the power to change the course of events, if we can identify the root cause of problems and take human matters back into our own hands.
People must be empowered to make the decisions that are now under the control of globalised capital.

Major financial groups that dominate the world and the governments that serve them dictate their own laws, seek to impose their own rules, their own way of life, their own systems of development and production. If these forces continue to dominate, we shall have to take them to court for crimes against humanity and the natural world…. But by then it would be too late.

In this world where profit is the ultimate goal, the accumulation of social, fiscal and environmental dumping leads to combined social and ecological catastrophes. Take one example – how have we managed to destroy both the timber industry and its jobs and the forests that represent a natural resource? The answer:  by overexploitation of the resource and the export of nearly 25% of our best oak trees, which are sent off to China as soon as they are cut down.
Consider a 7,000 km round-trip by road for a tree transformed into a finished product versus 28,000 km by ship: the carbon impact is multiplied by a factor of 17.

The same is true in all manufacturing industries: textiles, clothing, leather goods, metallurgy, rubber, plastics, etc. As a result, France has lost another 27,300 industrial plants and 530,000 jobs in these sectors over the past ten years.

Shall we continue this madness?

To counter capitalist globalisation, which treats people like pawns on a chessboard and shamelessly destroys the planet, we must work for the reshoring of manufacturing and jobs as a priority in the 21st Century.

To ignore this problem would be to bury our heads in the sand!

We must react immediately and get down to work!

A growing number of people now clearly identify the cause of our predicament.

The cause is capitalism, the race for profits and ever-increasing returns on investment for shareholders and financiers.
It is the “system”, whatever you choose to call it.
Jean Ziegler, who has a way with words, is blunt: “Capitalism cannot be reformed, we must destroy it before it destroys the planet!”
And he added: “It is time for a moral insurrection!”

I join in his appeal for a “moral insurrection”.

I want to be part of it!

The stakes are enormous, the challenge colossal, no simplistic solutions will suffice. Yet no initiative is to be rejected à priori. Something that is effective and well adapted in one place may be unacceptable in another.
Humanity must be a source of mutual support in the search for new means of production, and not a source of competition.

And especially, above all, we must keep our focus on moving in the right direction. One example would be fighting hunger in the world and ensuring healthy food choices for all.

How could anyone expect millions of humans to exercise frugality when they live in constant need? Because of the errors and misdeeds we have committed in our societies, under the sole guidance of the capitalist mode of production, should we therefore block off the road to progress for those who followed a different path? Or, on the contrary, should we not share technologies and experience and collectively consider how we could avoid repeating our ruinous mistakes? Competition does not benefit the planet, on the contrary, it exacts a high price.

And the price is paid by the people and by the planet, paid straight into the coffers of capital. That is where we must strike. And to do so, cooperation and sharing must prevail over competition.

I am sure that these efforts, this quest, will face resistance from the self-centred owning classes, the powerful interests and the lobbies that serve them, the logic of financial capitalism, and neo-liberal norms.
The so-called lobbies, while we are on the subject, are mostly smokescreens for multi-national capital.

So it is very important to know who and what we are fighting against, and indispensable that we seek to identify credible, effective, concrete alternatives.

And I am convinced that we must break down the division – at worst the opposition – between environmental and social battles. What we need to do is associate environmental policies with ambitious social objectives on all levels, in order to achieve the necessary scale of change: the enforceable right to quality food for all, starting with school cafeterias and food services in working-class areas and major employment zones; energy-efficient renovation of housing, starting with social housing; the right to non-polluting transportation, for example rail transport at affordable prices throughout the country, and even free non-polluting transportation in urban areas. These are examples of are socially beneficial and environmentally responsible policies that can shift the centre of gravity in our development models.

Without this effort, we will be stuck with piecemeal environmental policies that may give rise to great inequalities and fail to address the necessary, deep transformation of the system.
Obviously, this requires a total change of criteria for public finance, banking and the allocation of resources in corporations – changes focused on the needs of humans and the planet, rather than shareholder income and the logic of profit.
This is the new logic we must advance. Enough of handouts and exemptions for big capital: let’s have no-interest loans for social and environmental investments!

Yes, by changing the system, by building what we call “eco-communism”, it is possible to realize social and human progress, equality, sustainable development, resolution of conflict and global imbalances, better modes of production and consumption, a civilisation that respects the planet and biodiversity.

What is true with regard to climate disruption is also true for social barbarism, the “un-civilisation” of work which is the result of the absolute rule, the iron fist of finance.

President Macron is a good example, he is a pure product of the finance sector.

He wanted us to believe that a new world awaited France. In fact, within a few months of his election he was well ensconced in the golden palace and well-feathered bed of finance.

He talked about leaving the old ways behind! Out with the old, in with the new!
Just you wait and see, he told the people… and we have had an eyeful!

On the one hand, we have already suffered an increase in the “CSG” social contribution, freezing of retirement pensions, reduction of housing assistance, a freeze on civil service salaries, reduction of State allocations to local authorities, and the end of aided employment; on the other, the elimination of the “ISF” tax on wealth and tax measures that benefit the rich; the pockets of the poor and the middle classes are emptied, while the super-rich sit on piles of money that seem to grow endlessly higher.

You’ve heard of the trickle-down effect? What we are experiencing is the inverse – wealth is being sucked up from the bottom and it rains down on the privileged few in their high towers.
And what is left on the ground?
Unemployment? It is increasing.
Social precarity? It is prevalent.
Poverty? It is endemic.
Deficits? They are growing.
Society is torn apart by precarious living conditions and uncertainty; isolationist nationalistic and populist politics are having a field day.

We are tired of hearing that there is not enough money, when we see that it flows quite freely into the cups that are already running over.
Just one figure, just one!
The financial revenues of corporations and banks in the past year reached 342 billion euro!

What are we supposed to think when we learn that the governments new “poverty plan” will have barely 8 billion in funding and that all of our public services and public budgets are suffering from severe cutbacks?

And guess how much of that 342 billion-euro pot found its way into Social Security accounts last year?
Zero euro!!
Yes, zero euro because in our country, corporate financial revenues are not subject to any social contributions!

You don’t need to travel to the tropics to find a tax haven.
You can enjoy the benefits right here.
The “crazy wad of cash” Macron mentioned last June** is out there!
His attitude is scandalous, because building social protection for the 21st Century is one of humankind’s greatest challenges.

It is time to bring the great work of Ambroise Croizat back to the drawing board, by achieving the full potential of the French Social Security programme, which is:

- Secure employment and life-long training instead of growing precarity and projects by the French business confederation – the Medef – to destroy the unemployment insurance system;

- Eradication of poverty by providing all people with income, housing, the right to nutritious food, the right to an education;

- Genuinely equal pay for women and access to all sectors and levels of employment without discrimination;

- Return to the path of progress for the pension system, so that each person can enjoy retirement in dignity, financed through universal solidarity;

- Build up the public sector response to providing needed care to elderly and dependent persons, paying heed to the alarm sounded by families and nursing home personnel;

- Restore the health care system, from hospitals to neighbourhood surgeries, by revamping a system that has been brought to its knees by blind policies of budgetary restrictions;

- Consideration for the status of in-home caregivers, that is 6 million people who today give their time to the care of a parent, a loved one, a school child, without any real support, legal standing, or right to rest breaks.

Social Security for the 21st Century must become our great cause.

Mr. Gattaz, the former head of the Medef, declared during a trip to China: “I come from a Communist country, France, and I have arrived in a capitalist one”.
He may have been wrong about the future of China, mistaking his dreams for reality.
But there is no doubt that his target was clearly the French Social Security system.
Yes, Social Security as designed by Ambroise Croizat is communism, and Social Security in the 21st Century is a great communist project that can be appropriated by all. *

I would also like to speak up on behalf of culture.
Not only is there a war against our jobs and our resources, not only are our salaries and retirement pensions siphoned off – the establishment seeks to colonise our consciences, subjugate our imagination, make us fear the other and the diversity of human cultures. And yet, individually and collectively, our humanity takes shape in the mosaic of diversity.

Yes, we must “de-Google” the world and our consciousness, or be held ransom to the GAFAM and subject to their dictates on how to live our lives.
The empowerment of workers will be accomplished by the workers themselves. But this goal requires the cultural empowerment of every individual: this is the great matter of the revolution.

Our dear friend, Robin Renucci, in an interview in l'Humanité last summer, responded to a question on his expectations of political parties, in the context of the cultural initiative he has launched, in these words: “it is not our role to involve political parties, it is up to parties to seriously take up the great cause of culture”.

The Communist Party is ready: this September 28th and 29th, we will hold our national conference for “art, culture and education”, in Aubervilliers, the beautiful city of Jack Ralite.

***

And for the same fundamental reason, we also support initiatives for the rightful development of sport.

As we approach the date of the 2024 Olympic Games, the already reduced budget for sport continues to be slashed shamefully. Sport has its own significant role to play in human empowerment, as a major agency for solidarity and humanity.
The human body is not merchandise!

Humanity’s new battle lines are drawn from all of these struggles and cross international boundaries.

***

For this reason, we come up to the European elections with great ambitions.

The vice of ultra-liberalism, which strangles social policy and public services in Europe, must be unclamped; the poison of racist and xenophobic nationalism, which foments a return to unfettered competition that punishes workers, must be eliminated.

It is a small step from the outrageous incitement to competition between peoples, to an incitement to conflict and even war. We have seen it happen throughout history.
President Macron’s politics are locked into the politics of the European Union. A fight against either one is a fight against both.

Next May’s European election campaign will focus on some basic issues, on the meaning we seek to confer upon our societies: are we moving towards a Europe of solidarity, cooperation and respect for rights, or a Europe in pursuit of neo-liberal policies, of identitarian closure and the rejection of others?
It is clear that the European elections could be mired in a dangerous trap. We do not want to be caught between a rock and hard place: the far-right and Macron.  Both are the product of ultra-liberalism.
We seek to question the European policies that have led to deep dissatisfaction among people around the continent.  Social dumping, austerity imposed by the straightjacket of the budget treaty, tax avoidance, the refusal to take climate issues into account, the indignity of policies towards migrants – all must be opposed by France and our people, in the perspective of a new “union of sovereign nations and peoples in association”, re-affirming a progressive, social project in solidarity.

These ideas must be brought before the public for debate and the French need members of parliament to defend them in the European assembly.

With our head-of-ticket Ian Brossat, Marie Pierre Vieu, Marie Christine Vergiat and Patrick le Hyaric, our outgoing MPs, we are putting together a list that will stand up for all social and citizen initiatives, a list open to useful political cooperation that can bring us closer to our objectives.
This is the new world that is knocking on the door!

I invite you, I invite all of us, to reach out for victories that are now within our grasp, I am sure of it.

Popular movements, progressive movements, and social movements are in need of wins! It is not dire poverty or hot anger that fuels the people: it is, above all, hope!

We bring hope into being, and it is for that reason that the establishment wants to make us go away, to kill hope.
“But where the danger is, also grows the saving power”, wrote the poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Gramsci spoke of  bringing together “the pessimism of the intellect, the optimism of the will,” in reference to Romain Rolland, and I would adopt that attitude as well.

For the environment, for society, for democracy, it is urgent that we retreat from the system that has reached the end of its civilising role, that we leave capitalism behind.

I can affirm today that, possibly for the first time in the centuries of social class divisions, for the first time in modern history, and for the first time in the history of the French Communist Party, this departure from capitalism and the construction of a classless society, which I call Communism, is very clearly on the agenda for the 21st Century.

It is clear in the ever-renewed aspiration for respect for the quality of work and its social utility, as opposed to the dictatorship of financial returns. It is clear in trade union struggles.
It is clear in the social economy of solidarity, in movements to support locally grown produce, in pilots for no-fee public transport and school cafeterias, in cultural initiatives, in participatory democracy, in feminist positions and struggles, in the aspirations of environmentalists, in the movement to defend “the commons” that Communists and digital activists have invented.
It is clearly demonstrated by the actions of citizens welcoming exiles.

These goals and initiatives bear the seeds of a better tomorrow, the transformation of our country, Europe and the world.

By virtue of their existence, these challenges can be met, even as we recognise the difficulty of doing so. In response, our Party has decided to organise an extraordinary congress at the end of November in Ivry-sur-Seine.

I know that media observers have a very limited view of these developments, preferring to focus on political squabbling – in our party and others –, on “politics as usual” or personality clashes – all of which are quite foreign to our concept of selfless engagement.

To the media I say, “You are missing the point”.
Yes, to bring about the Revolution, we must start from within, we must rise to the challenge of today.

To my fellow Communists, I say, do not yield an inch! We are advancing on three fronts to establish our position and once again take on a major role in national life and politics: confidence in the current relevance of Communist ideas; unity of spirit; innovation and audacity.

Let us keep that which is worthy, starting with our empowering ideas, the magnificent generosity of activists and our spirit of brotherhood, so precious and rare in today’s world.

And let us change what must be changed to enable us to play the role that society and working people need from us, beginning with a renewal of our creativity and spirit of initiative.

And yet the debate continues; journalists say, “you seem a bit agitated”.
What could be more natural, given the scope of the task we are facing; but do not forget that in the Communist Party, the members make the decisions, on the basis of one person, one vote, whatever the title or office of that person.
We believe that this is true democracy and dignity in politics.

Dear friends, dear comrades,

Because I just mentioned renewal of our spirit of initiative, I would like to conclude with three proposals, addressed to you here, participants in the Fête, members of associations, trade unionists and political activists:

We are all united here today for the Fête de l’Humanité.  The Fête is a unique opportunity, each and every year, to share our projects.

I believe it is time to fight, not only against the world order that we reject, but especially, now, to fight for the world we want.

1) It is time to develop, right away and throughout the country, the social and environmental laws our country needs. Let us do it without delay, directly, without waiting to be in power; let us work through struggles, in citizens’ workshops on legislation, in the Parliament with those MPs who are on board.
Let us develop, for example: a law establishing the right to good quality food for all, with immediate and long-term measures to support it; a law for hospitals; for the care of dependent persons; for recognition of informal caregivers.
Let us develop a law for retirement pensions that will stand up against the current government travesty.
Let us work together to determine the objectives for our immediate struggles and those to come, while identifying the necessary funding needs and the new financial institutions to be created.
In this way we will take over an advanced position and send a signal to those who are struggling that another kind of politics exists.

2) Let us unite our forces against the logic of finance in order to put the issues of social and environmental progress back on the agenda throughout Europe. Let us do it before it is too late, to fend off the escalation of neo-liberalism and nationalistic despair, and preserve hope for a more humane world, a Europe of solidarities and fairness; a world at peace.

Together, as of 2019, let us prepare for an Assembly –  États généraux – on social and environmental progress in Europe, to change the political agenda and bring the European elections to the heart of public debate, with focus on popular demands for progress.

3) And lastly, without delay, let us launch a great democratic initiative on the future of the Republic. If, by misfortune, the establishment once again attempts to revise the constitution to concentrate even more power on the executive level, to make the office of president akin to an absolute monarchy, we must demand a referendum so that the French people can have the final say; let us demand the institution of the 6th Republic.
Let us begin now to prepare for local elections, which will be the battleground between a Republic dedicated to equality and public service and a damaged Republic of neglected regions and populations – the ruined landscape of Macron’s slash-and-burn policies on allocations to local authorities, grass-roots associations, and public services.

To these ends, and in a spirit of broad inclusion, let us embark upon a citizens’ journey of common projects to build!

Here are the campaigns we must now carry forward: major social and environmental laws to define the progressive future of our country; an Assembly on social progress in Europe; a new Republic for France.

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