37th Congress of the French Communist Party - Closing address by Pierre Laurent, National Secretary

Dear Friends, dear comrades,


I am so proud! So proud, my friends... As we conclude the work of our 37th Congress, I take the floor with the conviction that we have accomplished very much here. The face of the French Communist Party has shone out over these four days of debate. Far from media caricatures, we are the face of an incredibly modern, combative communism. Our debates have gone forward in an atmosphere of calm responsibility, even as we tackled very difficult issues. We listened to one another; we exchanged viewpoints with respect and consideration. And we brought our intelligence to bear on the burning questions of today, and were able to come together to draw our battle lines clearly.

To be a communist is to face the future with strong convictions for a better world. We will long remember the opening of our Congress when communist youth and students spoke to us. The flags of the Jeunesse Communiste stand out in all the photos of the movement against the proposed French labour law, in newspapers and on social media, and they show more than any words could just how up-to-date communists are. Bravo Camille, bravo Antoine! Bravo to all the young communists of France!

And while we are congratulating friends, I want to thank all of the comrades who worked so hard to create the excellent conditions in which our congress was held. Thank you friends! Your work and your commitment are our wealth – not subject to tax on net worth! Our wealth is our brotherhood.

Support and brotherhood, this is the message we send to our compatriots victims of the severe flooding that has hit much of our country. We are thinking of all those who have seen the work of their lifetimes, the houses they built, the gardens their children grew up in, washed away overnight – we must stand with them. We salute the commitment of local officials and employees who gave tirelessly of themselves to aid the population affected by the disaster. They illustrate the effectiveness of the need for public services. Monday, I will be accompanying a Party delegation to Villeneuve Saint-Georges, a city in the Paris region that was hard hit by flooding. For members of the Communist Party, solidarity has never been just the latest buzzword.

Solidarity, real solidarity is where it all begins, in France and around the world. I am delighted that so many international delegations were able to participate in our Congress..

Because it is our ambition to act at the very heart of the world in turmoil, we are confronted with complex issues that naturally lead to deep analyses in our debates, without concession. And at the end of these debates, we find ourselves united, which was my main goal.

United in a clear political approach: we seek victories for our people and for the country.

We want to build a victorious majority on a clear platform, to bring the country, Europe and the world out of the crisis, remove tensions and obstacles and eliminate wars. We will achieve this through struggle, by popular movements, by working to bring about a political programme to change the course of events. Yes, we want to govern this country. We want to win because our objective has never been to sit on the backbench! It is high time exit the 1% scenario that has played on too long. Let’s bring down the curtain! Time for the people to take the leading role!

Dear comrade, this Congress marks three important encounters: with France, with our century, and with youth. With France, because the French people are tired of being looked down upon, sold out, handed over to a predatory capitalist system that has driven us into a mire of social and democratic regression, submission to financial powers, abandonment of sovereignty and identity.

We have seen the result with the so-called El Khomri labour law. The President of the Republic, the government and its supporters have not understood what is happening. They have not taken the true measure of the people’s anger; they are mistaken about the state of mind of working people and youth. They are disconnected.

Their small-minded logic of competitiveness cannot embrace the aspirations of today. They do not understand that working people refuse unsecure jobs, conditions imposed unilaterally by employers, and piecemeal contracts. Today’s employees want to be recognized for their work, they want a say in production processes for goods and services, they want to be associated in decision-making, they want a fair share of the fruits of their labour.

And how does the government and big business respond? “Shut up and get to work!” Meanwhile, they peel back rights, worsen work conditions, increase exploitation, increase the pressure on salaried employees and create more and more precarity.

And when employees and their unions refuse these backward measures, they are treated with contempt, humiliated and repressed. They are called terrorists when they seek to defend their rights and labour laws and when they exercise their right to strike.

Working people, young people, together we can win this labour law battle, we can force the government to sit at the negotiations table and reconsider every aspect of its initial proposal. Why should we give up now, when the country massively disapproves this bad law? Why should we agree to less protection and fewer rights for workers at a time when the balance of powers with the bosses – because of unemployment and the degraded quality of jobs – is already so unfavourable to working people? For what purpose? Employment? So say El Khomri, Valls and Hollande. But suppressing rights, slashing labour law and violating its spirit is a violation of the trust of those most in need of protection. In the 19th Century Henri Lacordaire said: “Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.

This government, and the president who pretended that he would confront the world of finance, have in fact absurdly submitted to it. To keep the fox out of the henhouse, would you lower the fence?

On the right, Sarkozy, Fillon, Juppé, Copé, Kosciusko-Morizet, and the Le Pen family are anxiously waiting to finish off the work begun by the Socialists after the 2017 elections. They would like to do away with labour law, do away with limits on working hours, do away with social measures, and as for unions – they would have them reduced to a role of keeping the social waters calm, little else. The right is chomping at the bit, hoping to return to power and exercise vengeance on the people of France, and erase the decades and centuries of struggle that have brought forth protective legislation that obliges owners and shareholders to respect workers’ rights.

Those who defend and represent the common interest, the interests of France, the future of France, are those who participate in rallies, mobilisations and strikes. I would like to congratulate all of the activists who have been participating in and supporting the movement every day for months. I would like to say that we express our solidarity with the many, too many, communists and other victims of repression and violence.

We refuse violence in social and popular struggles; violence is the recourse of those who feel their power waning. We are not on the side of the hooligans who have brought grief to the demonstrations; they have injured many of our comrades. But we see the real obstacle. It is the government. Some have called for the suspension of the movement, we say, “call off the debate in parliament!”

The mobilisation has already yielded some success. Youth and students have marked achievements. Entertainment workers came to an agreement that has been called into question by the MEDEF (French Employers Association). Some measures have been taken to improve the purchasing power of teachers.

It is through struggle, rallying, and unity that we will achieve victory. We will win with working people, with the CGT trade union, with young people and students. On the 14th of June, we will hold a huge national demonstration in the capital. I invite you to make every effort – and I know what we communists are capable of when we put our minds to it – to ensure that this national demonstration is a success. We will show our anger and our popular aspirations! I also call on you to for support for a citizens’ vote (votation citoyenne) to say no to the El Khomri law. The unity of salaries and youth will prevent the Prime Minister and the President from obtaining a majority in Parliament for their law, even if they use Article 49-3 of the Constitution to push it through without a vote! We will show how victory comes from struggle, mobilisation and political unions.

Today, we have decided to reclaim and renew the emancipatory values of the French Age of Enlightenment, the Revolutions of the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Paris Commune, the Front populaire, the Resistance and the Liberation.

These values brought about great social and democratic advances that have made France, even today, a model for the people and the working classes of the whole world.

Lets us open a new path towards great social utopia, great leaps forward: secure life courses, education and training for each and every young person, freedom and self-sufficiency for youth, zero unemployment for a society of sharing, the right to housing, fair income for all, the right to free medical care; also a further reduction of the work week, to 32 hours, a right to retirement, gender equality, the right to vote for foreign residents, welcome of migrants, citizenship recognized within the business sphere and sharing of powers; the VI Republic, and more.

Yes it is time for new breakthroughs in civilization.

Let us discover new horizons for life on earth and our world: peace, preservation of natural balance and the climate; development associated with industry, agriculture and environmental protection… We spent a lot of time debating environmental issues and have made much progress. This calls for new thoughts and considerations, and we will continue to study and debate, especially with regard to energy resources. Let me quote the French singer-songwriter Claude Nougaro:

Les parfums de la terre, les couleurs de l'eau, l'or de l'été
On est prié de laisser les lieux dans l'état où ils étaient.

[The fragrance of the land, the colour of the sea, summer’s gold
Please leave this place better than you found it]




It is not Hollande, Valls and Macron, nor the leaders of the Socialist Party who will bring the left and the people to their knees before the tyranny of Money. We will not be hemmed in by the old story of an irreconcilable split on the left. We will not be manipulated, we are working for unity, for France standing upright, the France we love.

During our Congress, we also marked an encounter with the century. I say with great conviction, communism is neither a 19th Century utopia nor a 20th Century ideology – communism is the movement for the 21st Century. It is time for the common good.

French society and the world have entered a new era that represents a revolution in the relationship between humans and the tools we design and use; even more deeply, it changes the relationships of humans to one another. At a time when the major media cannot stop dragging up experts to tell us what to think, millions of citizens feel the need to fully participate in making the political decisions that impact our lives.

Why has this movement picked up speed? Why do we observe it around the world?

For the first time in the history of humankind, the powers of domination, subordination and alimentation can be overcome. The boundaries between manual and intellectual labour are blurring, as are those between design and execution. Innovative organisations, winning organisations, leave more and more room for initiative, give more power to those who actually do the work. Individuals are ever more aware that what they produce, the services they provide and the means they use have an impact on the environment, the ways we consume, life in society and indeed life itself.

In many companies, workers are demanding the “right to work well”, just as they want to live well in society. The work-life balance is made of interactive elements.

Powerful scientific discoveries and technological revolutions make almost anything possible. When given so many options, the question of choice becomes crucial.

Who decides? And how? What kind of society do we want to live in? These are the questions that more and more people are asking and seeking to answer. Not as specialists in a particular field, but as informed, involved citizens. Responsible citizens. Globalisation has led each of us to discover, as the researcher Bertrand Badie said, “we are no longer alone”; the destiny of one is tied to the destiny of all.

This terrific new reality, because it is tangible for billions of individuals, runs headlong into the obstacles erected by the sad ambitions of economic competition and capital gains.

Politics itself and how the machine operates are called into question by the ongoing revolution. In today’s world, how would it possible to try to force happiness on people in spite of themselves?

It is time to liberate work. It is time to share life in society. It is time for peace. It is time for citizen politics. It is time for the common good.

Unable to meet the challenges of the 21st Century – work in the digital age, climate disruption, democracy and peace – neo-liberalism is obsolete. So let’s take this decrepit gang of mummies – in France their names are Gattaz, Juppé, Woerth, Lemaire, Sarkozy, Hollande, Valls, Macron – and leave them to furnish their outmoded world view with antique ideas.

The common good is the realistic utopia of our era; we will achieve it through a new focus on the people, their needs and aspirations; we will achieve it through democracy.

The age of the 1% is waning. The age of the 99% is the age of common good, the heart and the mind of the left. Our day has come.




I mentioned another important encounter during our Congress: young people. Too often in uncertain employment situations, mistreated, unheard, young people today may feel like they are afflicted with a hangover without ever having been to the party. François Hollande’s failure to live up to his sworn promise to make youth concerns a priority of his term of office leaves him on thin ice. And times are thin for our young people too, it’s pasta, not parties, in an effort to survive.

But youth have surged into the social movement, via Internet and the youtubers campaign On vaut mieux que ça [We’re worth more than this]. There is also the surprising Nuits debout movement – literally “up all night”. These rallies have made it possible to discuss, to share, to develop ideas and relationships. It has shown that young people thirst for democracy, and that thirst is not slaked by today’s institutions, organisations or politicians.

It is wrong to say that young people don’t like politics. They don’t like politics-as-usual. Just look across the Atlantic at the enthusiasm generated by Bernie Sanders’ campaign for proof that youth will commit to political action when given an opportunity that speaks to their concerns.

We hear the voices of youth and are ready to engage in conversation. We are listening to all youth: from “the projects”, from high schools and universities, from the elite grandes écoles; youth who are over-qualified for the insecure jobs they hold. To all of them, we say: “You are looking for a place to express yourself, looking for new ideas, new networking opportunities. You are seeking a stable environment where you can speak freely and be heard and your ideas taken into account. You want to find a place where you can perform useful actions of solidarity, brotherhood, and innovation. Our Party is yours, we welcome you, you will be given the space you need and be able to assume responsibilities”




I spoke of three encounters – with France, with our century, and with youth. Let us go forward without delay, to create a chapter in human emancipation, to provide relief to millions of citizens who cannot wait any longer wait for better lives. The Communist Party is ready to assume responsibility for supporting the left, keeping hope alive at a time when so many voices are enfeebled, or traitorous, or only chant the dirge of resignation.

Politics is the power of the people, if the people appropriate it and do not leave it to the dominant few.

The “1%” would like to make all the decision that affect our lives: what hours of the day or night we should work; where and how we should live; what we should consume; where we can go and when we can go there.

The elite minority do as they will. And they would decide what we should be allowed to do. This is true in politics too. The few want to decide for the many. Of course, they say, you can vote in 2017. But meanwhile, they are in charge of everything: programmes and candidates; with their opinion polls they can even tell you who is going to win. There is no need to tire yourself or even to make an informed choice. They have it all lined up for you.

See how they have cast their nets to drag us all in together. Their political scenarios resemble TV series.

There is the sitcom “Modern Macron”. The latest episode is “Macron goes door-to-door”. It promises to be a hot episode, with lots of guys in their “Macron door-to-door” T-shirts going up and down the stairwells knocking on doors – what a gag!

The fact is, Macron never went door-to-door in his life, but through the magic of television, you could almost buy into the fantasy. Last week, the stairwells of France were full of Macron supporters knocking on doors. Enough of these fabulations!

And worse, there is “Extreme Makeover: The Real Le Pens”. Just last week, a grab-bag of far right ideologues gathered in the city of Béziers. Marion Marechal Le Pen played the star. And all the TV cameras were there, filming non-stop as if it were just another reality show about a family called Le Pen.

But are we really aware of the poisonous hatred that is being injected like ether into the European consciousness, to prevent the people from uniting against the powers of finance and those who serve financial interests with disastrous consequences?

Don’t let them get away with it! Don’t let them divide our people. Don’t let them point accusatory fingers at a growing segment of French youth because of the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs. Don’t let them shatter the French Republic, social and secular, the republic of equality and fraternity. Here as elsewhere in the world, the crisis of decadent capitalism has reinvented the war of religions. Beware the smouldering fire!

Eighty years ago, Maurice Thorez reached out to the faithful. Today, I would like to reach out to all of those who practice religious belief in France – Catholics, Jews, Muslims – and say: let us turn away from hateful speech and divisions. To young people living in working-class districts, I say: you are the colours of France. Let me express my agreement with Pope Francis, who said, in an interview with La Croix, that he speaks of European roots in the plural because there are so many. “When I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones.” Francis strongly backed the separation between church and state, saying states must be secular: “Confessional states end badly.”

Another “series” that is constantly set on “replay” is the tired old tale of “the irreconcilable split of the left”. According to this scenario, there is the modern, reformist left, moving forward with Valls and Hollande; then there is the left stuck in the past, sectarian, uptight and even violent – that would be us!

Right now, there is an episode of this series on every night, during the 8 o’clock news. With this non-stop propaganda, it is not easy for our compatriots, for the 11 million voters betrayed by François Hollande, to grasp the realities of the situation.

I call upon all of you: let us not give in to the siren song of division. The proposed new labour law is not a creation of the left, it was invented by the MEDEF business association. Revocation of nationality, the state of emergency, the dismantlement of local authorities and public services – the oxygen of the Republic – were not brought to the table by the left. These actions do not correspond to politics of the left, these policies aim to kill the left, kill the hope of winning a new majority fighting for transformation and social progress.

So I would like to launch an appeal to all women and men of the left in this country, to all socialist voters, to all socialists: look at the evidence. After all we have been through, François Hollande cannot be your candidate, he cannot be our candidate, he cannot be the candidate of a victorious left in 2017. Together, let’s right a new script: for a candidate who can renew hope for social progress in France.

So here we are, back against the wall.

I know that sceptics will say it’s too late, that it’s a good idea but one we’ll never achieve.

I know that there are genuine obstacles. This afternoon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon will say that he is going forward in any event, that he has no time to loose in endless debate. Arnaud Montebourg is preparing to return to the public sphere. The greens are wondering how they can make their voices heard. And there are others who dream of a win in a primary vote, at the least.

I say, to those of you who have come this weekend in response to our invitation: “let’s stop the waste. It is not too late.”

We must be aware of our responsibilities. The right and the far right are a very serious threat. The France we love may have to pay dearly. François Hollande and Manuel Valls are leading the left off a cliff. We cannot wait until after 2017. Now is the time to meet the challenge. Tomorrow is already here!

How shall we overcome all of these obstacles?

The Communist Party – I am proud to be part of it – has worked this weekend to define a method. It is clear and we are rolling up our sleeves to get to work for success.

The key to that success, we have always maintained, is in the hands of the people. The people must speak.

Our proposal is to bring thousands of hands together to draft – with citizens, with all forces, public figures, declared or potential candidates who are willing – a pact of shared commitments that can serve to build a candidacy on the left.

The Communist Party will encourage all initiatives necessary. It will promote citizens’ initiatives such as the Appel des 100. We are beginning a series of national debates on work on June 20th in le Havre, on the Republic on June 23rd in Marseille. At the end of August, we are holding our summer university in Angers and we invite all those who wish to participate to join us.

And above all, everywhere, we will give the broadest scope ever to the citizens’ consultation that we have begun.

We have made the announcement. It is not just bluster or a pitch for publicity. We hope that 500,000 people will respond to our questionnaire.

Little by little, in each town, each neighbourhood, each company, we will report on our results. At the Fête de l'Humanité, everything will come together to reveal the breadth and power of what our citizens have written.

This is our commitment. In October, the pact for common commitments will be finalised. We want a charter that is simple, legible, easy to understand, that will shed light on the crucial needs of our country and the means to meet them.

We know that the people of France seek to rebuild the Republic.

The people want an end to unemployment and greater security in life, employment and income. The people want the workweek reduced to 32 hours, a national plan for housing, an emergency plan to fight exclusion and great poverty, the restoration of public services and social protection.

The people of France want a real fight against the world of finance and a different distribution of wealth. They desire a new model of development and want France to engage in a democratic and social reconstruction of Europe.

We will help the people to write up this popular mandate, spelled out in black and white.

And in October, with all the forces that have participated in the writing, we will submit the text to a national citizens’ vote.

We will set up thousands of polling stations around the country, so that citizens can speak out.

Once the citizens’ vote is completed, the pact for common commitments will make up our joint mandate. Some may say: “yes, but until then, nothing will stop me, I’m going ahead”.

And we say: “No, nothing will stop us. We are going forward.” Forward with a national citizens’ vote in October, to truly bring the people’s voice into the presidential election campaign.

So the forces engaged in this construction will be responsible for designating a common candidate. In the event that several candidates are available, we are open to all forms of citizen designation, citizens’ primary or any other collective process. And we are prepared to put forward a candidate within this approach.

But the most important thing is plain to see. By October, we will have a single roadmap: let the people’s voice be heard loud and clear, give room to their aspirations for change and union.

This process will serve a double objective: the presidential and the legislative elections.

For us, legislative elections are more than deals made between parties. For us, it is a question of democracy. To change politics, to give the power back to the people, France must not only change the president, we must change the majority. We must be able to rely on members of parliament who are accountable to the people and not to a president, whoever he or she may be.

Democracy is the power of the parliament under the control of citizens, not a presidential monarchy!

Dear comrades, it is time to dare, time to be bold, time to breathe life into the words of William Blake: “What is now proved was once only imagined.”

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