National Secretary of the French Communist Party
"Today the struggle for world peace is the greatest battle of all."
Fête de l'Humanité, Sunday 14 September, 12:00, Communist party stand
Speech as delivered in French prevails over this translated document
Dear friends, dear comrades,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
"Today the struggle for world peace is the greatest battle of all." These words were spoken by Jean Jaurès in 1914, and they echo down the century with growing urgency.
This year is the Centennial anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Jaurès, founder of l'Humanité newspaper, deserves our lasting admiration for seeking to prevent this butchery; he was assassinated because of his opposition to the war. He was right to strive for peace and international solidarity: history has proved that Jaurès was right!
His words have meaning for us today because we are also at an extremely dangerous crossroads.
Like you, I am troubled and outraged Troubled to see violence and war growing and spreading around the world, especially in countries where the people already suffer from extreme poverty and humiliation. Outraged to see the leaders of the world's most powerful nations, who have been talking about the "war on terror" for 20 years now, falling back on the same old methods – beginning with military strikes – that always make the situation worse and do not even serve their own purposes.
These world leaders come to mutual agreement among themselves in regard to establishing world order. They support all kinds of dictators, from Saddam Hussein to Ben Ali and Bachar Al-Assad, up until the day that those dictators are no longer useful to them. They do not base our countries' growth statistics on salaries, average purchasing power or reindustrialisation, but rather on arms trade and control over oil and gas resources as well as the natural resources of entire continents. This is abundantly clear in the case of Africa, where decades of "structural adjustment" have left countries without the means to treat the Ebola epidemic – we need to show our solidarity with these countries now more than ever.
War, war alone is offered as a solution – and yet destroying what has already been destroyed cannot enable the construction of the future.
On arms trade – Jean-Yves Le Drian, Defence Minister, demonstrated unbelievable cynicism when he boasted on September 9th:
"We should congratulate ourselves: results for 2013 are on a steep upswing, despite stiff international competition and a trend towards reduced spending in western countries which drives the export market down. France, though a concerted effort, has achieved even better results than in 2013. In one year, arms exports rose nearly 43%, with a total of 6.87 billion euros of orders in 2013. These results, which are exceptional with regard to recent years, are also promising for the future, enabling France to remain among the five leading defence equipment exporters in the world, alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and Israel. "
He went on to say, "Without arms exports, France's trade deficit, from 2008-2013, would have been 5 to 8 points higher every year." No mention is made of the fact that this trade supports repression, war crimes, arms trafficking, private wars and mercenary activities that the government claims to oppose in its foreign and defence policies.
Who did those profitable arms sales benefit in 2013? Where were they used and who profited? What terrorist threat what stopped? Some were sold to Turkey under Erdogan, and used to repress demonstrators on the Taksim Square, where 6 were killed and more than 4,000 wounded. Other arms went to Tunisia's Ennahda administration. Others went to Israel, which alone accounted for more than 35 million euros of sales, and most likely the weapons were used during the bombing and ground operations that resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians and left more than 12,000 injured last summer.
To the Palestinian people, I would like to say, once again, here at the Fête de l'Humanité, that we express our solidarity, our fraternity and our commitment to obtain sanctions against Israel, the suspension of agreements with the European Union, a total removal of the blockade, and the liberation of political prisoners. You have seen our broad campaign for the liberation of Marouane Barghouti and the Palestinian prisoners; the recognition of the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital; the opening of genuine peace negotiations under the auspices of the UN. I call for an energetic engagement in October demonstrations, to demand sanctions on Israel. Israel must be contained. We will be present for demonstrations on October 10th and 11th; there will be a call for national action on October 18th.
The current government holds that arms sales support the balance of foreign trade and should be carried on. We are also told that "to contain the spreading threat of terrorism, we must intervene militarily."
Where do these dark, massively destructive forces such as ISIS come from? They do not appear out of thin air. Have our leaders learned nothing from the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya? Who among them would be honest enough to admit that these operations have deepened the misery and humiliation of the people of these countries? Who among them is ready to drop their tidy hypocrisy and recognise that they have played with fire: alliances of convenience; using weapons and men supplied by regional powers; contributing to the dissolution of entire nations as in Iraq, Libya and Mali by fanning the flames of religious and ethnic division; enabling the expansion of extreme poverty.
Yet there are voices that dare to speak out, including the former chief of the Paris CIA bureau (1984-1989), and Director of Operations in the Near East and South Asia (1979-1984), Charles Cogan, who declared in an interview with the Figaro newspaper last July: "The war in Iraq was certainly the biggest mistake in the history of the United States." No ambiguity there.
Cogan is merely confirming the many warnings issued at the time, by the French authorities in particular, concerning this military intervention that pushed the region to "the tipping point". Today radical Islamists and jihadists draw strength from the chaos and misery the war left in its wake.
And what solutions are these eminent strategists suggesting now? The same thing!
My point is that responsible leaders would not add conflict to conflict, but would find new political solutions – not only military, not choosing armed intervention as the first recourse, but lasting political solutions.
Any military solution involving a coalition under American command, but including the powers that have financed the Islamic State, may slow ISIS down, but will not wipe it out and will leave the people of Iraq alone to face this malevolence. These leaders should admit their mistakes. For example, the Kurdish people were previously designated as terrorists, whereas now they are the lone force of resistance. The PKK has been removed from the list of terrorist organisations.
Yes, the world is dangerous because of the vast inequalities among people. Fanatics feed on extreme poverty, injustice, inequality and the humiliation of these circumstances. They take advantage of the unmet needs of the population in failed, corrupt States, and of the suffering of societies torn and divided by regional and racial hatreds.
It is true that poverty has diminished slightly in emerging nations, in particular in Latin America. Nonetheless, a minimum-wage worker in France today would have to work from two to four million years to accumulate as much money as is held by the world's largest fortunes. In the year 2012, 1.3 billion people, nearly a quarter of the planet's population, was living below the threshold of extreme poverty. The average standard of living in OECD countries is three times higher than the world average. The average income in the United States is 42,000 dollars a year; the average in Ethiopia is 980 dollars. Nations are at a disadvantage dealing with multinationals (this would be exacerbated by the Transatlantic Treaty) and banking and financial institutions. And yet some countries, such as Ecuador and Argentina, have decided to face down these institutions and fight for the interests of their people. France should be supporting these countries rather than TAFTA, which benefits multinationals.
The only countries where poverty has dropped off dramatically, where education and literacy are progressing, are countries where the people have chosen to free themselves from the domination of banking and financial institutions, the IMF and the United States. This is a change that brings a ray of hope.
After 9/11, there was talk of a so-called "shock of civilisations"; in fact this was fabricated through the manipulation of public opinion. For a country like France, to identify with the term "western nation" is not only to suggest superiority, which is a terrible thing in itself, but it is a concept that is completely out-dated, reminiscent of the colonial mindset. This is not the true spirit of France. France represents internationalism, freedom, rights, equality and brotherhood/sisterhood among all the peoples of the world.
My conviction, and the conviction of French communists and millions of men and women in France, in Europe and around the world who believe in progress and democracy, is that we should strive together, with more energy than ever, to stop the machine of war.
International financialised capitalism and its historic crisis, with deep roots and of a scope never before experienced, is dragging the people of the world into a pit of suffering. In some countries there are forces that would establish theocracies that are nothing if not medieval; in these countries there are democratic, progressive forces as well that are resisting and need our support.
The United States remains the world's leading power. They impose their will on world order and on international relations, with the help of leaders who, as in France, have sacrificed the independence and sovereignty of their nations. But in fact, the United States are now unable to control events. They have been overwhelmed by the monsters that they themselves helped to create for the purposes of dividing and weakening whole societies.
Yes, the world has changed significantly. The drivers of change have been the expansion of capitalism, increasing inequality and humiliation brought about by systems of domination. But at the same time, change is being pushed forward by peoples' liberation movements.
We are also in a new world of technological progress; when used for good purposes and shared, this progress should benefit all humankind. But instead it is unavailable to millions of women and men, of all generations, and it is especially tragic to see millions of young people and children deprived of the advantages of new technology, with terrible, even life-threatening, consequences.
The economic war that intensified in the 1980s under neo-con and ultra-liberal influences, has led to a situation of even greater insecurity, more poverty and horrors perpetrated against people who have been robbed of their rights to self-governance. But the world has changed significantly, because people have struggled to maintain or regain collective ownership of their lives and their futures. This is especially true in Latin America; Cuba, as a precursor, continues to fight against an illegitimate and illegal blockade. It is our duty to fight for the liberation of The Cuban Five.
The world is dangerous because democracy is not the rule, and because international relations are not based on equality among nations. The superpowers (G7, G20) are few in number and losing ground, yet they would impose their control over the rest of the world, the majority of humankind.
The Cold War is over; NATO has no more reason to exist. This political and military organisation is an anachronism that has no legitimacy with regard to international agreements and law and the United Nations Charter. The crisis in Ukraine has shown that NATO actions only fuel the flames of conflict.
The fact that NATO fosters insecurity is clear in the comments made by General Secretary Rasmussen, just before the Newport Summit on September 4th and 5th, whereby it was decided to place 4,000 troops on the border with Russia, and to create a rapid intervention team for action around the world, requiring European participation. Ukraine could have been a hopeful situation, an opportunity to promote peaceful resolution. Instead, NATO would like to transform it into an advance base. This is madness.
"Since the end of the Cold War, we have enjoyed a relatively peaceful world. Now we are confronted with a significant shift. This calls for more investment," Mr. Rasmussen declared. "Politicians tried to reap the benefits of the peace dividend at the end of the Cold War. That is understandable. But now we are in a totally new situation in regard to world security." He is trying to prepare us for a new world of war.
Indeed, we cannot place any hope in NATO; all of the members have been reduced to mere vassals of the United States. France has no place, nothing to gain in this alliance that deprives us of our political and diplomatic independence, and which leads us down the path of war.
François Hollande has been using this bellicose language since he entered office: last year the president called for interventions in Syria where, to counter social discord, Bachar Al-Assad chose to turn the conflict into a military and international issue. There were French interventions in Mali and Central Africa. He called for French participation in the military coalition under American authority in Iraq, conditional upon a UN mandate that was certain to be obtained. Now the president is suggesting military intervention in Libya, whereas he is well aware that, from the very beginning of his term in office, the country has been in a period of terrible instability; it has become a reservoir of Islamic combatants in the greater Middle East. This destabilisation was in fact the very root of the problems that later arose in Mali.
In every case, the response has been a military one, and military only. But in every case, these situations of violence and destruction came into place over several years and it would have been possible to make other choices, pursue other policies based on development, cooperation and solidarity. Our objectives should be the elimination of poverty and establishing security in all areas, including health care, education, housing, employment and the fight against trafficking.
The language that François Hollande should be using in our name is the language of united, free people, enjoying independence, equality and sovereignty. He should call for the dissolution of NATO and a more democratic UN, with an expanded Security Council and greater emphasis on the founding principles, the role of the UN and its agencies and in particular the General Assembly, where each country has one vote.
We cannot let the world situation stand as it is, and there is no easy answer to the crises we are going through. But we do know that there are two possible choices: competition, injustice and domination; or equality, cooperation and solidarity.
Last June, the second path was chosen by the 133 countries present at the Group 77+China Summit in Bolivia. Their objective is to work together for "a new world order of well being", which implies a different international economic order based on fair trade, a democratic international monetary system freed of the domination of superpowers and the US dollar, where knowledge is shared and technology transferred.
The role of Europe should be to stand by the countries, rather than drilling deeper into capitalist madness. A different future is possible in Europe. At the heart of the São Paulo Forum, we decided to strengthen our ties to the Party of European Left to defend a vision of Europe based on values of solidarity..
The UN has been weakened and paralysed by "a small elite"; the G77 expressed its idea of a United Nations operating with respect for multilateralism, acting as an instrument for cooperation among peoples. Ignored by the mainstream international media, the Summit criticised neoliberal policies and pointed to the failure of the Millennium Development Goals which were supposed to be achieved by 2015.
The G77+China Summit adopted an action plan that calls for democratisation of the UN, restructuring the financial system and identifying new priorities for growth, reducing inequalities and promoting development. And this action plan has many other items. Where is France in all this? Spectacular in its absence.
After years of fruitless meetings of the G7 and G8, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa announced the creation of a Development Bank, funded with 100 billion dollars to be made available to nations for financing development, in particular for the creation of infrastructures. At the same time, they set a reserve fund enabling access to currency as required to face up to financial crises, capital flight, disequilibria in the balance of payments and IMF injunctions. This bank should make States less vulnerable to financial markets as well to the domination of Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the United States and their allies.
These two political events and the results they will bring prove that real alternatives exist and that they are moving ahead. We need to make these alternatives known: hope exists, confidence may be restored. We can also go to work in France and in Europe with these aspirations at heart and define our on solutions: we plan to launch the first Forum on Alternatives in Europe in 2015, to be held in France.
Key elements in the struggle for peace are development issues, resources and the global common goods that belong to all humankind, education, health, food sovereignty, the right to energy, and of course disarmament.
The common cause that centres on stopping global warming does not mean that emerging countries should be restricted in their capacity for development. In the same way, the battles against deregulation and against free-trade treaties are ways to work for a peaceful world – a goal we are constantly told is merely an illusion. The climate summit will be held in Paris. The PCF will be working with our international friends and partners to prepare this forum.
Yes, "the struggle for world peace is the greatest battle of all" because all efforts have been deployed to prevent people from aspiring towards and building peace. On the contrary, all is cause for division. We have been told that "a world without a leader" cannot work, and that we might as well accept the leadership of the United States and their NATO allies.
Do not be fooled: a world without a leader does not mean a lawless world, a world without rights. The people of the world crave equality: equality before international law, equal access to development, equal sharing of resources and the benefits of democracy.
As communists, we shall be present on all fronts at all times, side by side with those who are ready to act, to think, to innovate in France, in Europe and around the world. The challenges are staggering. Capitalism cannot satisfy the needs of humankind; we must invent new methods of development and production, begin the transformation to an environmentally friendly society, and ensure education, health and training for those who are sowing the seeds of peace along our pathway to the future.
This September 21st, let us make International Peace Day and exceptional event. Let us answer Jaurès: "Peace for all humankind is possible!"
le 01 October 2014