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Summary of the report to the National Council, 3 March 2017, by Pierre Laurent

The objective of the National Council:

To work together to come to an understanding of the situation and its contradictions, to decide on new initiatives to undertake, to adjust the direction of our campaign in the weeks leading up to the first round of the presidential elections, and to plan for the legislative elections that will follow.

A difficult context.

Millions of French citizens are wracked with anxiety on a daily basis and when they think of the future.
The noxious atmosphere of the campaign has heightened these anxieties, as people contemplate what dangers the day after the election might bring.

Everything is arranged so that citizens are reduced to the role of spectator, powerless and transfixed, with no way to influence events or major political choices.

Our involvement in the campaign.

The battle is fierce: together we can confront it, by helping each other and sharing guidelines; by identifying obstacles and bringing perspective to the intense class struggle in which the workers and citizens of our country are thoroughly enmeshed, although they are not always fully aware of it.

It is time to build the Popular Citizen Front: we strive with all our energy to create this movement to rise to today’s challenges, through a long-term battle and mobilisation on the political, electoral and social fronts.

The report has three sections:

1) The national and international context;
2) The electoral campaign in France;
3) The Party, its role, its future.

 

1) The national and international context in this electoral period.

a) Situational analysis.

We are clearly confronted with an historic challenge, both new and vast in scope, linked to the unprecedented crisis of global capitalism. The capitalist system causes and exacerbates problems around the world. It is time for a new age of human development, a change from capitalism. But everything works against this change.

New, progressive answers must provide for the long term. We are not in an all-or-nothing battle, but a constant battle of meaning, in every field: the outcome will determine whether or not we will enter a new era.

b) The social and economic crisis.

- France

Serious poverty, life-long precarity, social insecurity – in France these are no longer marginal issues. Nearly nine million of our fellow citizens – 15% of the population –  live below the poverty line.

Our political engagement requires that we multiply our initiatives for real solidarity.

In the first national campaign meeting in Port-de-Bouc, we gave urgent priority to the need for new social ambitions. Contrary to the dominant political discourse, we put social issues first.

This battle will be deeply rooted in our daily work on the ground, our local initiatives, and our active presence in every struggle for employment, wages, and public services.

- Around the world

These tragic realities are the daily experience of millions of people around the world, including in our neighbouring European countries: the inequality gap is widening with regard to wealth and its production.

83.4% of accumulated wealth in the world is held by 8.4% of the population, and every day this situation grows more unbearable.

- The capitalist response

Capitalism and finance have worked out their answers: make their model of competition more desirable or acceptable and try to give it a new image to push people to accept or submit to their vision of civilisation.

The new face of capital has a name here in our country, one that is well known in the world of finance: Emmanuel Macron.

The capitalist camp is ramping up nationalism, conservatism, racism, authoritarianism, and discrimination under the false pretence of stopping unfettered ultra liberalism. That delivers power to the ilk of Trump or Le Pen.

c) The risk of war.

In this phase of global ultra capitalist regression, rivalries among world powers are reignited, along with a new arms race that only adds “chaos to chaos” internationally and creates greater inequality within nations.

The main trends of this reactionary, ultra-competitive and militaristic offensive are found in Europe.

d) New responses.

In these new conditions, in Europe and around the world, the forces of left and of progress are faced with crucial choices

New alliances are forming on the left, in Europe especially.

These are the forces of globalised solidarity, progress and peace, seeking to emerge; today we must support them in France, to prevent a series of elections that would marginalise the left.

Our responsibility is to keep the false alternatives of ultraliberals / ultraconservatives, already well advanced in many countries, from taking hold in France.

This brings me to the election campaign in France and its developments.

2) The election campaign in France: some initiatives, some directions for the weeks leading up to the elections.

The stakes are high in the battle for the French elections, as I have just mentioned.

I° Our country is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. 

Three reasons:

a) The violence of the crisis.

The brutality with which austerity policies have been set in motion over the past ten years has sent the lives of millions of our citizens into a descending spiral in a very short time.

The harm done in every area of human society is considerable.

Many people no longer feel that their children will have a better life.

b) The “hyper-executive” powers of the president.

The marginalisation of parties, Parliament, and intermediary systems of representation has left us with a system where money, campaign spending, and the media with their polling organisations have become the decision-makers, setting the schedule and pace of the campaign and spotlighting their chosen favourites.

Even worse, today candidates who are under indictment, or soon may be, are calling on the people to shield them from due justice.

Clearly, we need to re-evaluate all of the consequences of this political regime at the heart of the current institutional and democratic crisis.

Without delay, the vital demand for a new Republic must be made central to our proposals.

c) The terrible damage done by the Hollande-Valls administration.

Their liberal offensive, implemented under the leadership of the so-called left, sowed confusion in the people’s minds. Emmanuel Macron is the direct result of this situation.

A major consequence of this state of affairs is that the political choices of a growing number of voters are constantly brushed aside.

And this leads us to a conclusion: right up until 18 June, one of the essential directions of our campaign and our initiatives is to enable citizens to speak out, to encourage the political expression of millions of people that are today dispossessed by the political process; to help them give voice to their aspirations and demands. Our Citizen Consultation revealed the underlying potential that persists today.

II° In the coming weeks, whom shall we confront, on what terms and with what objectives?

The danger is all the more pernicious for its many faces.

a) Marine Le Pen, hiding behind her “anti-system” rhetoric, continues to push the logic of war, which underpins modern capitalism, to its furthest limits.

She is one of a kind with Donald Trump, who has decided that the interests of American billionaires are the only thing worth defending in this world.

She tricks out her supposedly protectionist platform constantly, so that each issue adds a drop of poisonous division to her brew; in particular she would divide workers by declaring some worthy of protection and casting others into insignificance.

She has said she would write “national preference” into the Constitution, a deathblow to the principle of equality under the Republic, and the legalisation of discrimination.

What is certain is that we can never accept the “normalisation”, to any degree whatsoever – and categorically not the inevitability – of Marine Le Pen’s election to the presidency of the Republic. This is also true with regard to the election of a large number of MPs from her National Front party in the upcoming legislative elections.

Legislative districts are a good place to carry out our battle.

One last word on this matter – we will have to assume our own responsibility if Marine Le Pen should reach the second round of voting on 23 April at the end of the day.

b) The candidate from the Républicain party, François Fillon, is the face of the authoritarian, radicalised right, now discredited by the so-called “Penelope-gate” scandal.

The two leading measures of his programme, a decrease in 100 billion euro of public spending and the elimination of 500,000 civil service positions, are completely in line with the most retrograde intentions of the MEDEF – the French employers’ association – and is a call to arms against all working people.

This is an ultra-reactionary programme, taking us back to a time before the gains of the French Liberation and the Popular Front; it is a vengeful attack on the historic accomplishments of workers.

The arrogance of the candidate of the right (played out against a backdrop of inner-circle settling of scores), is all the more apparent in his claims that he is the victim of a planned attack to ruin him, and his refusal to understand why the people are appalled by his swindling. The candidate is going down a path that holds many dangers for democracy.

The publication of a book that I co-authored with Marc Brynhole and Alain Hayot, Front national, l'imposture, Droite le danger, 20 répliques à leurs programmes (“National Front, Danger on the Right, 20 responses to their programme”) is timely and and a useful tool for our battle.

c) The danger now also comes from the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a sizable Trojan horse accommodating  centre-right, neo-liberal forces.

Thanks to François Hollande, who promoted him and set him up in a central role in the administration and the State, and thanks also to his supporters in the business world, Macron the banker has managed to conjure up a new liberal party on the right, which he dubbed En marche, and which pretends to represent anti-system progressives.

Macron’s published programme clearly reveals his objectives clearly; it will come as no surprise that they are entirely devoted to defending market interests and the free-market philosophy of European treaties and free-trade commercial agreements.

No one doubts that at this time the financial world, in its great wisdom, is thrilled to have all its eggs in two baskets: Fillon and Macron. It’s win-win for finance.

III° Faced with all of these dangers, faced with the threats to workers’ rights, the decisions we made at the National Conference remain pertinent: “build a new political majority, and alternative to austerity, in the service of social struggle, through the pact for shared commitments”.

We have not veered from this goal, multiplying initiatives that support it, and calling for support of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy as a means to achieve it.

To reach our goal, we will have to commit considerable political effort and means over the long-term.

Our initiatives must therefore seek to increase the mobilisation of all voters on the left, as well as their convergence around shared objectives and a party that will break with austerity.

It is our duty to be lucid: this means that we must go beyond the single issue of the presidential election and take account of legislative elections as well as the work that will be needed to build up the left – work that will extend beyond the upcoming series of elections.

IV° Today, it is our responsibility to pursue efforts to achieve unity and convergence, and this must be one of the essential lines of our campaign right through to the legislative elections.

We are not starting from scratch: we had already set these goals during our Congress and the National Conference.

One year ago, we were prescient and thoughtful in preparing for this campaign, by inviting a broad range of people from the worlds of politics, associations and trade unions, and intellectuals, to debate on the future of the country and of the left.

Along the way, some had doubts about the feasibility of our road map. The debate was lively and far-reaching. Were we aiming too high?

We must continue to reflect. The solution to the question of unity, among others, is to be found in trusting what our people are capable of accomplishing when the stakes are high.

V° So, seven weeks from the presidential election, how should we move forward?
How should we carry out our campaign?

a) Our appeal to the people of France for a pact for a new majority for change, which we distributed massively last weekend, was genuinely welcomed by citizens around the country.

By bringing significant popular demands to the heart of the political debate with proposals that are supported by millions of our fellow citizens, we build up the idea that these proposals can serve as a base for a pact for a new majority. We have had a lot of positive feedback on this approach.

It is time to reinforce this approach by including the significant proposals prominently in our campaign material in France in the weeks to come.

b) There is also a national citizens’ petition for a single candidate that is gaining signatures: placing shared demands for unity and content at the heart of the debate makes hopes for a new political order credible, and therefore motivating.

c) This is the approach that we can intensify in all of our campaign actions by supporting Jean-Luc Mélenchon as well as our legislative candidates, and taking a maximum number of initiatives and organising public debates.

d) This is the approach that we carry forward through massive participation in the March for the 6th Republic in support of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy, this 18 March at 2 p.m. between Bastille and République in Paris. We will be there with our colours, our slogans, and the proposals from our appeal to the people of France. Our presence will be visible and active, with our literature, tables, the sale of l'Humanité newspaper and our books, la France en commun, responses against the National Front and the right, and party membership forms. 

e) This is the approach that we must push hard and far, together, and throughout the country, by applying it in each campaign action and clearly affirming our objectives – to achieve the politics of change that so many aspire to, in order to offer immediate solutions to the everyday problems faced by our citizens:
                  - on Europe: 17 March in Villerupt;
                  - on Industry: 29 March in Saint-Martin-d'Hères et Echirolles, in the Isère region;
                  - in all social mobilisations and ongoing struggles.

f) We are also fighting to preserve public services currently under fire:

                       - Defence of public rail service;
                       - Defence of the Post Office.

Generally, we must more deliberately focus our human, digital and financial resources on a grass-roots campaign, grounded in reality, in proximity and direct dialogue.

VI° A close relationship with voters is key to the legislative elections.

The study published by Viavocie during our January meeting on the Republic, held with candidates for legislative office, clearly showed how important it is for voters to feel that their MPs are close to them, committed to defending them and their districts, and unimpeachable in ethical terms.

a) We are already hard at work to present or support unity candidates in all districts for legislative elections.

On 14 January we ratified a number of candidates. As of today, we count 481 districts where we can present candidates that are associated with the PCF. We have not yet completed all of the local validation procedures. As of today, with our proposal to validate 416 candidates, with parity between women and men, we have 170 more candidates than on 14 January. I would remind you that 416 was the total number of PCF-associated candidates in 2012. So the number of potential candidates is increasing. We will validate the most recent proposals during the National Council that will meet after the first round of the presidential election. This is a signal event, marking the confirmation of the national impact of the PCF, and gives credence to our aspiration to keep a sizable Communist and Left Front group within a new political majority.

b) We are putting together our candidate list and our campaigns with a goal of creating the broadest dialogue possible with may different forces;  it is vital that the next National Assembly has a political group that serves the public interest.

The discussions that we are carrying out with our potential partners come with an exigency: nothing, no division, can impede the elections of MPs wherever it is possible. The working population will be in great need of representation in the time to come. We are therefore ready to enter into useful, win-win agreements at the level of the French départements, linked to the national campaign. These discussions are ongoing, nationally and locally.

3) To conclude I would like to say a word about the Party, its role and its future; all of us are well aware that we are entering a period of intense political redistribution.

I believe the Communist Party will have an essential role to play.

We acknowledge that we will hold this role if we show conviction in our efforts to develop and transform the Party.

After the elections, we will have to assess the road map we established during our Congress and promote the next phase.

Allow me to give a quick overview.

a) First of all, we should note the liveliness and quality of the democratic debate that has continued to take place among us since our Congress.

We are experiencing a period of intense activism, and the Party itself in undergoing a transformation.

The context is difficult, leading to doubts about the future: how could our collective of activists expect to be spared?
And yet, Communist presence on the ground has not wavered. The initiatives we undertake – door-to-door, at the markets, in front of office buildings and industrial plants – have been numerous since the beginning of the campaign.

We estimate that since January, New Years’ and other seasonally festive meetings or citizens’ banquets organised by federations and sections have assembled nearly 200,000 people.

For our campaign initiatives, 56,120 brochures La France en commun (France in Common) were printed, and between 40-45,000 have been distributed; 9,500 copies of the book on the right and the National Front have been ordered.

b) Election periods are a time for increasing membership.

The number of new memberships since the beginning of the year – more than 500 – encourages us to believe that the total objective for new memberships set during the Congress – 6,000 –   can be attained in 2017 if we keep up our membership campaign throughout the year. A newsletter on this subject is being printed now and will be with the federations next week. The campaign could be organised in four phases: during the election campaigns, during the summer months, at the 2017 Fête de l'Humanité, after the fête and through the end of the year. 

I would add that the involvement of our comrades in the campaign and the life of their political party has also led to an increase in revenue from membership dues and subscription results that were better than last year.

c) These figures, in my opinion, show that the Communist Party is well grounded and influential; nonetheless we all know there is room for improvement.

The figures also show that we have the capacity, underused at this time, to cover the whole country, to know our members better, to organise in cells, sections and networks depending on the area and with regard to the new organisation of local authorities. The battles underway, in particular for preserving public services, will allow us to make progress in keeping track of our members and their organisations, especially in the SNCF (national railways), the Post Office, Air France, etc. But the work of redirecting our actions to the workplace has only just begun.
We are busy in all of the areas identified during our Congress, moving forward one step at a time.

d) Redeployment of activist training and political education.

Training activities, in addition to our summer university, are now readily accessible to activists, who have shown growing appreciation for them: regular sessions for cadres (two are planned for March); basic programmes in the federations. We are considering and developing the content of these programmes and bringing in new trainers.

e) In this spirit, we hope to create a new role for a Communist Party publication.

As of the 2017 Summer University, using the lessons of the La Revue du projet enhanced by new objectives, we will launch a new publication, a well of information from which Communists can draw to study the Party’s issues and put them to debate; a publication that will provide food for thought and explore themes that we may be unfamiliar with; a new PCF political review with the beautiful name Cause commune (Common Cause).

f) We are implementing our decisions in terms of communication.

- The federations have received the first set of materials for communication: two poster campaigns (“La France en commun” and five thematic posters) and a banner to bring out the vote; two national flyers on paper and a series of digital flyers; stickers; two books (our programme and the book on the National Front and the right). At the outset of the campaign, we have made a special communications effort for our programme and other content. 
In the days to come, we are going to publish a new national flyer, reprint get-out-the-vote banners and newsletters.

- Beyond these “traditional” media, we have set a new social network strategy in motion, and it is beginning to take off.

-  This is why we carried out an analysis of all of the existing accounts associated with our Party and changed our social network identity. 

- At the same time, we launched a campaign site, parallel to the Party’s national platform: 2017.pcf.fr aims to collect information on campaign activity and provide our comrades with tools for mobilisation.

-  We have started work on a new national site for the French Communist Party.

- We have also instigated implementation of another resolution from our Congress: use the potential of Internet for audiovisual production. Currently, we are webcasting one news video each week, presented by our spokesperson Olivier Dartigolles, as well as thematic videos (on Europe, housing, digital issues, etc.)

g) Much remains to be done, in particular with the federations and in answer to their needs; we have started working in this direction.

We must work to improve public knowledge of our political message and to publicise all of the activities of our Party in the regions, as well as the diversity of our forces. We have available resources, but they are dispersed and so less effective than they might be. We must achieve long-term recognition of the PCF’s visual identity: innovative, striking and effective. To this end, we must reinforce the mobilisation of all of our members for better communication.

h) The national headquarters is a hive of activity and all of our efforts and events are very successful; recent examples include the organisation of an anti-racism day, an evening devoted to Fernand Yveton and another to the digital revolution.

i) We are preparing for major events to mark our centennial celebration in October 1917.

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