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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une rentrée exceptionnelle

by Pierre Laurent

A decisive confrontation lies ahead

Translated Thursday 2 September 2010, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

This past weekend the Summer University of the French Communist Party took place. What follows are excerpts of the address given by Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the PCF.

During this back-to-work period, a confrontation, perhaps the sharpest since the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of the Republic, is being played out between the people and the state, between the working class and capitalist interests. Look, we are not involved in an vain exercise to create a political spectacle, we aren’t posturing. We are working, we are building, with one single objective: to sharpen our ideas, the projects, the political moves that will permit us to render our actions useful to those who wish to open, as quickly as possible, a political alternative to the power of Nicolas Sarkozy. And in so doing, we thus run the risk of disappointing those who are more interested in the casting of rôles.

We do not speak of the lucky man or woman who will by some miracle find the plum in the pudding in 2012 [1]. We are talking about a project to resolve the present crisis. We’re talking about joining together, about putting into motion a popular movement. A time will come to debate the candidature. When that moment arrives, the Communist Party, the Front de gauche, the actresses and actors of the social movement who share our path in this process, will not be found lacking in resources to arrive at such a choice in a spirit of unity. I am fully confident. But as for today, it is clear there are many other priorities.

The Urgency of a Counter-Attack

The first urgent matter is the worrisome political situation into which Nicolas Sarkozy and the UMP is trying to plunge our nation, and the enormous response now required. Since this summer, and in particular since his speech in Grenoble, we are passing through dangerous times. On that day, the head of state chose to dishonor the French nation, to befoul the values of our republic by rendering official what can only be called "state racism". It’s a strategy that encourages criminal behavior. Far from combatting delinquency, it makes use of the consequences of delinquency and manipulates the difficulties that it creates in our neighborhoods, in the workers’ housing developments and in now splintered families. It exploits the emotions engendered by social suffering, the pauperization of wage-earners, by economic fragility, by concerns for the future, by insecurity. And it calls out to the most authoritarian and xenophobic troops of the right wing, urging them toward the basest of acts. (...) In truth, the only security with which the state has seriously concerned itself these past three years is that of dividends, of financial markets, of the free circulation of capital, of fortunes well-protected behind the bouclier fiscal [2]. The only war waged by this government is a social war against the entire working population. A war that consists henceforth, across all of Europe, of making the people pay for the crisis of the worldwide capitalist system. That’s what the European leaders decided last 9 and 10 May in Brussels: super-austerity for the peoples, renewed support to the financial markets. They learned no lessons at all from the crisis. They are leading us headlong into a new and more dramatic collapse, worse than ever.

On all Fronts
For the communists, the September back-to-work period is, more than ever, active on all fronts. On 4 September, against xenophobia, for an equality of rights and liberties, we will be in all the demonstrations, arms linked with all the democratic peoples mobilized for that day. Nicolas Sarkozy keeps talking about division. He may well emerge even weaker from this convergent counter-attack. Clearly, 7 September will be the crucial rendez-vous for this month. The government is betting once again on a passage, by force, of its measures in the National Assembly. But the country has no intention of letting go. The success of the petition we launched has been remarkable. Nearly 100,000 signatures already collected. The 7th of September, in the morning, we will assemble before the National Assembly to deliver this petition. Our deputies will defend, in a parliamentary debate, our propositions for a different financing of retirement benefits.

So there you go, dear comrades, lots of work already slated. But the situation now developing in our country puts us face-to-face with another urgent matter, which, as a communist party, and as militant people enlivened with ambition to change the world, we can not avoid. This urgent matter is that of constructing an alternate political perspective to the present political power.

The Urgency of an Alternative

The growing rejection of Sarkozian politics, and more deeply, the terrible contradictions, the risks of regression in the wake of the capitalist crisis battering our country, Europe, and the world, all call for very deep changes. It’s the question of the two years from now until the elections of 2012. Are we able, in these two years, to be useful to the emergence of a change profitable to the people and to our future on the planet? Let’s be clear: in order to solve the problem, it does not suffice simply to increase anti-Sarkozy sentiment. The rejection of his politics will be a pressure point, but it may also turn out to be allied to many false solutions. It will not suffice, either, to sing out about change, albeit mixed with the best intentions for radical social transformation, to avoid the implementation of all the blockages to which the presidential logic holds the secret. Providential women and men will not be lacking. We enter into this decisive period with the risk that the presidential vice may crush the desire to think in other ways about the future of our country and of the world. To us, they keep asking one single question: "So who is your candidate?" We wish to let the project dominate the debate; we want to open the road that will permit women and men who search for that society in which they want to live, to act together to bring this project to reality, and to express it together, when the moment arrives, in the voting booths.

To Cause the Project to Emerge

To construct a political exit from the present crisis is to construct solutions
shared and carried by a majority of our people. In the dynamics of resistance and counter-attacks on all fronts of the battle, in the face of problems that arise throughout society, we must join efforts with all those who are available to participate in the effective construction of this alternative. (...) Our rôle is to do everything necessary to enable everyone to take up these questions, to construct, together, the responses to questions posed by the crisis and by the regime now in power. A recent opinion poll confirmed this once again: the desire on the Left is strong, but we also know that the Left is not up to the task. The communists thus have an enormous responsibility at the present time: to start with the concrete problems facing the French people, and with the battles we wage alongside millions of them, in order to bring about the emergence of a project capable of leading our country out of the crisis, and to put us on the path toward a new mode of human and environmental development.

At the Heart of the Left

It is because the Left was not, and still is not equal to the challenge, that we have engaged ourselves in the Front de Gauche. We have opened a road to hope, and we are proud of that. It is this path that we intend to pursue. We do not thereby seek to join with the extreme Left, as the journalists tend to say. That does not interest us. As always, we are a force at the heart of the Left, a force without which the Left is not itself. What we wish to do is to reset at the center of gravity of the Left those challenges away from which it should never have turned, if it wished to bring about this change. We wish to designate together the essential priorities, the unavoidable reforms that a new political majority on the left must absolutely set in motion.

This is what we have called the construction of a pact of popular union, which will be, in a way, the common program of those who will promise that the Left
will not betray the aspirations for change that it carries in face of Sarkozy and the UMP. In two weeks we will take an essential step at the Fête de l’Humanité with our partners in the Front de Gauche, in a sizable initiative to take place in the Agora de l’Humanité on Saturday at 17h, and during a another meeting at the Fête where I will speak, on Sunday at 16h.

The Pact of Popular Union

To this end, let us create locations throughout the country: workshops in the neighborhoods, in work places, social networks organized along major themes, youth groups, informal publications devoted to the project, committees to initiate requests to our elected officials ... Let’s be daring and inventive, so that all those who suffer from the politics of the present government and who seek a solution will be able to draft together the great transformations of which our country has such need. Let’s turn without hesitation toward all who join the demonstrations in this month’s back-to-work period, toward all those women and men with whom we have debated during the European and regional election campaigns. Go see them in their work places, our work places, in their neighborhoods and in our neighborhoods, and start organizing the first meetings. Address ourselves to those who, during the summer, signed the petition for a different financing of retirements. Go see the trade union representatives, organizers of associations who worked for the Front de Gauche. Build a movement, let this action be known, invite them to unite and work together.

(...) It is now, in these coming weeks, that the decisive steps will be taken. If the dynamism is not created now, any presidential aspiration will be vain. On the other hand, if we manage to do this, much will become possible. So, my comrades, off to work; it’s worth the effort we will make. Once again, be confident in our energy and in the intelligence of the people.

[1Date of the next presidential election.

[2"financial shield"

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