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Address by Fabien Roussel, elected National Secretary of the French Communist Party on 25 November 2018.

38th Congress of the French Communist Party
Address by Fabien Roussel
Ivry-sur-Seine
25 November 2018

 

Dear friends,
Dear Comrades,

Our party has been in motion for weeks, months even. Communists have been discussing, debating, amending  … The Communist Party is more alive than ever! And the message that you have all sent together is very clear: stay united and ever more combative!
Yes, stay united, because that is our greatest strength, and has been for nearly a century now. We have always known, as Communists, how to unite around our common ideal, that of a society turned toward all that is human, and not handed over to financial markets.
We come out of this Congress unified, boosted by the many contributions that have given our project a coherence and power that is rarely achieved.
I applaud the determination and fellowship of Pierre Laurent, the confidence and sincerity of our work together and with all of the activists; we worked tirelessly to achieve this success.
And I would like to thank you first of all, Communists, section and federal secretaries, you who told us in the clearest and most imperative terms that we had to unite during this Congress.

So we have succeeded in carrying out an incredible democratic exercise, whereas other political parties would have given in to partisan sniping and division. But not us, certainly not us!

Yes, we are ready for all battles, ready to carry our project forward, ready to be present in the struggles of our country, like the current movement rising up around the issue of purchasing power.

I said it again this morning: we stand resolutely with workers and pensioners who are hard hit by the hike in fuel prices, whether they wear the “yellow vest” or not.

And we are also in favour of meeting the challenges of climate change, but not through punitive taxation!
Yet this is exactly what is happening with this shortsighted tax on fuel that penalises working people.

And the motive is not to have funds to invest in renewable energy and transport infrastructures, but to fill in the gaping holes left in the French budget by gifts handed out to the wealthiest.

The government is fooling no one with its futile attempt to disguise the measure as “eco-friendly”.

Out of the 37.7 billion euro that the Taxe Intérieure de consommation sur les produits énergétiques would bring in, only 19.6% are slated for environmental transition projects. This type of trickery unleashes the people’s anger.

Yellow Vests and also White Coats: yes we are also supporting the nurses protesting the proposed health plan, through our “Tour de France” of hospitals that we have been carrying out for months.
How dare they demand 900 million euro of savings from hospitals in 2019 while eliminating the wealth tax (ISF) that would have raised 3.2 billion? We demand the creation of 100,000 jobs in hospitals and 200,000 in our nursing home system (EPHAD), which is literally on its last legs.
The National Education system is another public service where anger is reaching a boiling point; from the nursery schools to universities, teachers are lacking the means to carry out their mission.

And what is the government’s response? Cut backs! Cut back on services that are vital to the people.

The Yellow Vests, the White Coats, the Black Robes of justice, and the Blue Collar workers all have reason to raise their voices.

For many people, local public services are disappearing. For others, the paycheck seems to be shrinking. And when they compare their paycheck to the amounts received by “big bosses” who are more eager to stash their money in tax havens than to create jobs in France, anger mounts. It is nothing short of indecent.

Carlos Ghosn! He raked in at least 20 million euro a year, that’s 1.6 million a month. 1.6 million a month!
A worker on a Renault production line could never in his lifetime earn what the boss collects in one month!

And yet, he must be aware of the lives of the workers in Renault’s Douai plant, whom I met. He must have heard them say that even after 20 years on the job, some only earn € 1,400 net, and at great personal cost in difficult conditions.

These workers are broken by furious production speeds, like something out of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Burnout, humiliation and even feelings of guilt for “underperformance”: this is what these stubborn, tough workers put up with; they are proud of their work despite harassment and lack of consideration.

What can we expect but resentment and disgust when faced with the scandalous remuneration levels of big bosses in France, the “market whizzes” who seem to admit no limits.
In 2017, the average remuneration of the CEO of a company listed on the CAC 40 was over 5 million euro a year. This was up 14% from 2016.

Have salaries and pensions increased 14% over the past two years?

It is the understatement of the year to say is that workers’ salaries have not risen at the same rate!

We really seem to live in different worlds. In their world, the 15 top-earning executives in France are paid 100 times more than the average salaried employee.

This is why we demand not only ceilings on remuneration, but also, most urgently, an increase of € 200 net in the monthly minimum wage as of January.

The government must quickly open negotiations for a general pay raise in the private and public sectors and for civil servants.

We must broaden our campaign to obtain an increase in pensions for our retirees, who have been unfairly sacrificed on the altar of financial capitalism, so dear to our president.

And when Communist MPs demand that the government restore purchasing power to the people, the appalling answer is “it’s too expensive”! But what is expensive is the give-aways to the wealthiest and policies that favour big capital. This is exactly what we are calling to account.

This campaign on the cost of capital and in favour of the purchasing power of the French people is essential today. It is a question of human dignity. The French Communist Party must ramp up this campaign in the coming months: with the people of France, employees, pensioners – let us win the battle of purchasing power through a general increase in salaries and pensions!

In the coming days, let us take a national petition to the French to bring this demand to the government!

Our local governments are also suffering from a crying lack of consideration and means. The government has dried up funds for towns, planning to diminish grants by 13 billion euro over the presidential term of office. These methods are disheartening to mayors and locally elected council members.

Half of all mayors in office now do not plan to run again in 2020! This is a serious concern: local elected officials are the sentinels of democracy, in direct contact with fellow citizens.
Our 36,000 communes are real assets for our country. They were created with the French Revolution more than 200 years ago, and make our French system unique, with our town halls, services and public spaces.
So let us resist the European Union orders to encourage communes to merge and blend in to agglomerations. We love our towns and villages and will defend them tooth and nail!

Let no one say it is a question of money, the economy, the deficit!

France is not out of money, far from it! But only a very few have the benefit of our wealth. A tiny but insolent minority enjoy great prosperity. This are the true beneficiaries of “social assistance”, having so many advantages offered to them in recent years!

Do you know exactly how many people fall into this favoured category? It is spelled out in the report on the ISF that was presented to the finance commission of the National Assembly.

In 2017, the number of tax-payers subject to the wealth tax was 358,198. The total assets of this population reached 1,028,782 million! That is 1,028 billion! Half of our annual GDP held by a mere 0.5% of the population. For them, elimination of the wealth tax was clearly an urgent issue! (report by the Cour des Comptes, 2018)
Maybe if the wealthiest actually paid their normal income taxes …. But even that seems beyond them.

They are often caught red-handed in tax evasion. They never have enough. They are addicted to money the way some are addicted to drugs or sex.
And it only gets worse. The rich have never been richer and tax evasion is a worldwide problem that threatens the very existence of nations by depriving them of financial means.
Forty percent of the profits of multinational corporations are transferred to tax havens.
France is loosing 100 billion in tax payments every year due to tax cheats. On the scale of Europe, it is 1,000 billion!

And not only do liberal governments let them get away with it, they continue to cut into our purchasing power, sell off our public services, and set people off against each other to drive wages down!

This is a subject for advancement in the upcoming European elections and we shall demand, among other things, a worldwide “COP” on taxation, modelled on the COP on climate change.

Greenhouse gasses are responsible for holes in the ozone, and tax evasion is punching holes in public financing!

Let us join in a united struggle for fair taxation in France, in Europe, and around the world!

France, the EU’s second-ranked economy, can set the example. The modern Communist Party should propose a new tax to counter corporations who shift profits realised in France to other countries for the purpose of avoiding taxation. After all, this government was able to implement income tax withholding on salaries, effective as of next 1 January.

So why not a withholding tax on corporate profits before they are transferred out of the country and into a tax haven?
International corporations should pay taxes just as our SMEs and shopkeepers do, at the very least!!

Yes our small and medium-sized businesses are all suffering under the current financial system and the globalised economy; the Communist Party of the 21st Century needs to listen to them and take their concerns into account.

Tax withholding on international corporations would be a new tax that would raise new budgetary resources for the development of public services programmes to meet the challenges of climate change.

I would also ask – how can they say there is no money to develop public services in Europe, fight poverty or support sustainable agriculture when the ECB hands 3,000 billion euro to banks, unconditionally, and without going through the States?

Yes, finance has taken over and that is why we are in dire straits today. By taking back power over money, over finance, we will be able to meet the needs of the people of Europe, without setting them in competition against each other.

This is the big challenge that we will address with Ian Brossat, who will be at the head of what I hope will be the brightest, broadest, most unified list to send Communists to the European Parliament. Let us go forward now!

The campaign is beginning now!
By the end of the year, we must multiply our initiatives on purchasing power, public services, tax evasion and posted workers!

Our work is cut out for us.

Many struggles are to be carried out, but we have considerable forces to take them on.
You are the force: 49,393 Communist activists, our incomparable advantage.

We should be proud, you should be proud of what you do, proud to be activists for human dignity, for brotherhood, for social justice. We need more people like you in our country.

Giving time to serve others; defending a hospital threatened with closing, a local maternity ward, a Post Office in a village, a plant; extending a hand to a person in distress, French, foreign or refugee: it is a rare thing, but as Communists it is part of our DNA.

We belong there, standing with the “Arjos” who battled for 1,615 days to save their factory at Wizernes.  Standing with the employees of GE Hydro in Grenoble, who fought to keep their jobs when the American giant reneged on its promise to create more than 1,000 jobs after the purchase of Alstom Power. Standing with GM&S Industry in the Creuse region and with ASCOVAL employees who stepped up to save their company, standing with families in sub-standard housing and refugees treated as less than nothing.

We should be proud of our activism and our battles.

We should be proud of our commitment against all forms of domination, against sexist and sexual violence, against racism and xenophobia.

We are activists for brotherhood, humanity, living together in harmony; we organise local banquets and festivals in towns and neighbourhoods.

We are the people who, every year, bring about the incredible, unique magic of the fête de l'Humanité!
The Fete would not exist without the activists who organise debates, serve meals and drinks, and ensure security.

And we have 7,000 elected officials who are fighting, all over France, in cities and villages, in regional and local councils, in the National Assembly and the Senate. This is also part of the force that enables us to keep hope for a better world alive.

We should be proud of our elected officials; they also give of themselves, give their time, and not incidentally contribute part of their remuneration to the Party. The goal we share with them is to be useful and certainly to remain true to our values once we are elected; we do not seek office for personal enrichment. For us, being an elected official is not just another job, it is a total commitment to others!

We should always keep the fire burning, keep our capacity for outrage, our distance from money, our availability to others, for the organisation of a meeting, selling l’Humanité at the local market, visiting a neighbour in need.
Communists are unique for all of these reasons.

My dear comrades,

Let us be proud to be activists for happiness, because personal commitment is becoming rare in our country. Political parties and trade unions are not in style? But where would democracy be without them?

To those who doubt, I say: come join us, get involved, join a union or a party and see what it’s like from the inside. Shake us up when we need it!

This is why we have to grow stronger, grow in numbers, get better organised in our cities and towns and at the workplace.

We must quickly launch membership campaigns to mobilise women and men who question, who doubt, who aspire to life in a better world, but do not know how to achieve it. Yes, the Communist Party can and must grow stronger, more organised, and more present throughout the country, more open to society in evolution.

Let us reach out to those on the left who feel rootless, who have been disappointed by politics as usual, those who do not recognize themselves in any of the existing forces of the left, and let us set a goal of 55,000 members by the end of next year!

This is how we will best carry forward our ideals for a society that is fair and fraternal: with a Party that is better organised, head in the stars and feet firmly planted on the ground!

Peace.
Peace is also a major focus of our concerns.

In this regard, our place is alongside people who are suffering; families displaced, harassed, tormented; children deprived of the right to a carefree youth; all the people who are shaken by a world that is undermined by isolation, self-centredness and nationalism.

We stand with them, as we stood against apartheid and for Nelson Mandela.

Today we continue to stand with the Palestinians and other people who only seek to live in dignity and peace.

Yes for a country for Palestine and Peace for the people of Israel and Palestine!
Let us support the Kurdish people in their combat for independence and all of the Turkish democrats imprisoned by Erdogan.

Promoting peace also means staying honest.
It means being coherent. Everyone wants Peace. But some call for peace and take part in the arms race. Never have so many arms been sold throughout the world. And so there have never been so many conflicts, so many wars.

And France is now a leading arms exporter, just after the United States and Russia. How can we sell arms to Saudi Arabia – 11 billion euro of orders in nine years – while shedding crocodile tears over the atrocities committed by this cruel, reactionary regime?

How can this position be credible? What resonance can be achieved by a speech, however lyrical, praising peace on the commemorative date of 11 November, when France is so deeply involved in the nuclear arms race?

Five billion euro per year, 14 million per day scheduled through 2025 for nuclear dissuasion: is that really useful given our needs and our ambition for peace?
Instead of investing in French nuclear submarines, why not build maternity clinics and schools?

So yes, let’s make Peace a priority and mobilise for a nuclear-free world!

To conclude: we have looked at the issue of finance, the question of Peace, and now one more major issue, which is climate change.

The Communist Party of the 21st Century will place this concern at the heart of our actions, because the planet and humankind are truly threatened. But here once again, our actions must match our words.

Action for the protection of the environment must be positive, not punitive. These actions should be open to all and not reserved for urban dwellers with comfortable incomes. As Nicolas Hulot said, we must not oppose the need to avoid the end of the world and the need to pay the bills at the end of the month.

The tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel are unfair, because they hit the less affluent workers the hardest. Rich people aren’t bothered by having to pay more to run their cars.
But workers, home health aides and nurses, employees in rural areas and the mountains – what does it mean to them?
This is why we demand the cancellation of the increase on in diesel and other fuel taxes. It will translate into a new, unfair loss of purchasing power: up to 370 euro per year in 2022 for those who drive 20,000 kilometres a year.

Above all, there are other ways to reduce hydrocarbon consumption and protect the environment.

We propose a tax on kerosene, or heavy fuel oil used by container ships. Or an exceptional tax on oil company profits. Why not subtract environmental investments from the calculation of the deficit, as Nicolas Hulot suggested?
Why doesn’t the ECB lend to States at zero interest, at least in an initial phase, to help finance investments in environmentally friendly measures?
These are new steps that would lead us down the path of the environmental revolution that we hope for.
Instead of taxing motorists, we should re-open railway lines – not shut them down!
To encourage motorists to leave their cars in the garage, we must offer other, less polluting modes of transportation.
Yes, we believe that trains, light rail service and underground transportation systems are essential levers for defending the planet. Our focus is the development of public transportation, accessible to a majority of the people.

This is why we demand more funding for local authorities and VAT at 5.5% for public transport, in order to provide transport free of charge, whenever possible, to those in need, and perhaps even for all users.

And when will our automobile manufacturers finally come out with a vehicle that is truly environmentally sound, something other than an electric car?

For years, comrades at Renault have been pushing for the launch of a hydrogen engine for automobiles, something that already exists for buses. This type of engine operates on air and water – what could be more eco-friendly!

Protection of the environment should be an issue that permeates society: land use planning and development, food production, consumption, housing and urban renewal, energy and the public control of energy, urban and rural matters – there are challenges to be met in every area. These challenges are huge and we are ready to meet them.

Yes, let us be sincere eco-Communists, écolo-coco! That is also what it means to be a 21st Century Communist!

Let us invent this new environmentally friendly economic and social model that we need to escape from capitalism, which is a predator for humankind and our natural resources!

1.1.2. You have probably heard the quote attributed to Chief Seattle, the 19th century Native American leader, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow It from our children.” It was a favourite proverb of Antoine de St. Exupery.

Today we might add: what children will our earth inherit?

It is our responsibility, as Communists, to work to create the conditions that will enable our children, the children of tomorrow, to live in dignity while committing to build a world of brotherhood and solidarity, more respectful of the planet.

My dear comrades,

We have marvellous challenges to face up to together. The world is changing and capitalism is adapting.

The Communist Party and our activists are preparing.

We must focus on what makes us strong: tirelessly serving the cause of the people, in their diversity, their beauty and power, but also accepting the people’s excesses and contradictions.

We want to build on common ground, build our project for a society that places human values and the planet at the heart of our choices: this is Communism. In the 21st Century, Communism is still a new idea!

We will continue to work for greater unity, for the union of the people of France; that is our history, the history of French Communists, of our elected representatives, and it is certainly what sets our Party aside from all of the other political forces of the left.

Dates in our history include 1936, the Front populaire; 1940, the Résistance; 1945 with General de Gaulle when it was time to rebuild the country bled dry; in 1968, with trade unions and students; in 1981 with the Union de la Gauche; in 2005 in the movement to demand a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty.
The French Communist Party was active in all of these great moments of French history, working with others to achieve major social victories.

Unite in brotherhood, with respect for the ideas of each individual, this is our way in the French Communist Party.

Who could say as much?

So let us continue, let us do everything possible to give new hope to the left, to build broad-based union, for that is the only way that we can move past today’s crisis; no single force on the left can reach this goal alone.

Let us go forward with a Communist Party that is stronger, more influential, more combative; let us prove the existence in our country of an original, sincere, combative force, open-minded and dedicated to the ideals of peace, sharing and brotherhood in all of our struggles.
Let us keep our arms open wide to work with all of those who want to turn the page on capitalism and build a new world freed of the tyranny of finance.

Let us take our message to the workers, to the teachers, to shopkeepers, farmers, nurses, and all those who are ready to join in the struggle.

Let us shine a ray of hope on our country, with one thought in our minds and in our hearts, l'Humain d'abord – Humans First !

Long live the French Communist Party!
Long live the Republic!
Long live France!

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