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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: "Où sommes nous tout ce temps?"

by Jean-Luc Mélenchon

"Where Have We Been All This Time?"

Translated Thursday 22 March 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

Jean-Luc Mélenchon addresses the crowd assembled in the Place de la Bastille, at 5 pm Sunday afternoon, March 18, on the anniversary of the declaration of the Paris Commune. We provide an English translation of the entire address, as available on the web at the site of the Front de gauche.

But where ever have we been all this time? How had we all disappeared? We’ve been missing one another, hoping to get together, to meet. We’ve finally made it: here we are, all here.

Genie of the Bastille
 [1], you who preside over this entire square, we are back. We, the people of the revolutions and rebellions in France, are the red flag, and are the red on the flag, the open hand proffered in solidarity, the hand that gives force, making a fist to communicate its energy.

We have gathered because we are going to turn this election into a civic insurrection that, by fixing a rendezvous at the polls, will begin the citizens’ revolution that must be carried out in order to change, in depth, the life of the suffering people and to open the breach awaited by all of Europe of its French volcano.

Yes, we can see it, we can feel it, we can know it: spring is three days from now, and with every dawn that breaks, light’s dominion stretches further in the day, and night recedes. May the season of cherries (le temps des cerises) and days of happiness arrive!

Such is our first message here to all who hear us and listen to us on this square, in the crowded adjacent streets from where it is impossible to advance on foot, and in every home where we are being watched, here, in the mainland, or overseas, and wherever the French language is spoken, wherever one dreams in French, because so much is expected of France: this great movement that will bring liberation not just where we are, but wherever there is servitude.

We address a fraternal salute in solidarity to the Greek people that is suffering, to the Spanish, to the Portuguese, to the Italians, to all those who currently bear on their heads the weight of oppression from the vile Troika [2] that decided from now on to control each people with the result — so the tune goes — that we would have to ask permission to dispose freely of ourselves. Here on this square we solemnly swear that if we are called upon to re-write the rules of the game for our country by convening a constituent assembly, which is necessary, then the sovereign power of the people will never again, not even once, be delegated without the people first being consulted by referendum.

The people’s sovereignty, such is the great issue at stake, which from now on is going to preoccupy all of Europe — as Europe once more finds itself embarked on an enterprise founded on the same mistake
as in the previous stages of its history — for Europe has been built without the peoples’ consent and without democracy.

So we’ve come to the right place to begin this vast enterprise first of all here, in France, for here, in this square, was first taken the oath to assemble in order to prevent the fascists, by all means at the people’s disposal, from seizing control of this country. In this square in 1935 gathered that feminist demonstration that already wanted to break the chains of patriarchy by demanding that suffrage be truly universal. In this square the kings’ last throne was burnt.

In this square everything always starts, being the starting point of all our revolutions, beginning with that which took place in 1789 by pulling down the tyrant’s citadel, that which was done with words and principles that made it possible ever since to be French — no matter where you are in the world and, whether your parents were French or not, even here in France, as long as you agree to declare and recognize as equal whoever says, like us, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

This is the right date — March 18, the beginning of the great and glorious Paris Commune [3]. Here among us is the shadow of a woman, Louise Michel, to whom we dedicate ourselves. We in our turn are answering the call of Jules Vallès and his Cri du Peuple, [4] who concluded his call to the first insurrection [5] with these words: "Place au Peuple, Place à la Commune!" And once more we say nothing different today.

The right date: 50 years after the end of fighting in Algeria — I declare in the name of the people gathered here:
“Yes, the war is over and we shall not permit it to start again here. Peoples of the Maghreb — Arab, Berber peoples and nations — and we, the French people, are one family! Now that arms have fallen silent we owe to our children their peace of the heart. I ask all French people to meditate, on this occasion, on the terrible lesson of our history: wherever human equality or the total freedom of conscience and political rights or fraternity are banned, then France is no longer possible.

That is why today, in this France disfigured by social, territorial, cultural inequalities, and inequalities between men and women, we must once more turn the page on the old regime, start a new chapter that will make it possible — as is our tradition, and taking our diversity into account — by founding our Republic anew, to re-found France itself, and by founding the Republic afresh, all together, to rebuild ourselves as a single people, free, fraternal, and equal.

And we shall begin where we must begin — namely by convening a constituent assembly. Which will provide the first opportunity to establish the first of all the equalities it is essential to establish, namely parity between men and women: this constituent assembly itself must be elected strictly on a one-man-one woman basis.

And so the march to equality shall begin. Equality with which everything begins in France — equality that will lead us to proclaim the end of capital’s privileges, the establishment of citizens’ rights in the workplace — which will make good what was left uncompleted when — as Jean Jaurès said — the great revolution "made French people kings in the city and left them serfs in the workplace" — these new workers’ rights being the rights to veto, the right to pre-empt the property of capital and set up workers’ cooperatives, the rights of requisition by the Nation when a property is deemed to be a common utility. And we shall inscribe this new right into law that there is a collective human property of basic goods, such as water and energy.

We it is who shall give its full place to the dignity of human love by extending to all couples the rights that accrue to heterosexual couples. Liberty! Liberty is what we want to advance along the road to equality. Liberty, the basic rights of the human person must be guaranteed
in this constitution, the first being the right to dispose of oneself without any constraint whatsoever. We it is that shall inscribe the right to abortion in our constitution so that no one is tempted to tamper with it when threats multiply as is now the case, for the right to abortion recognizes for each woman the right to dispose of her body, which is no one else’s property.

It is we who shall inscribe in our constitution the right of every individual to decide about his or her own end, and to be assisted, once the decision has been made.

It is we who shall firmly establish the most absolute liberty of conscience and for that, shall decide that secularism, already inscribed in the Constitution, shall be extended without any exception to all the Republic’s territories, so that the Concordat [6] shall be repealed. And the benefit of the 1905 law shall be extended to all French lands: Polynesia, Guyana, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, as well as Alsace and Moselle.

It is we who shall extend the territory of Liberty to the reaches where men’s inventiveness and genius have created new spaces. It is we who say that liberty on the web is inalienable, and that it will never be permitted to make laws like HADOPI [7].

It is we who will ban once and for all, thereby founding a new principle, the patenting of life forms and the private property of existence itself.

It is we who will set Justice free for good in such a way that, from now on, its independence be no longer guaranteed by a man, especially after seeing what use that one such man has made of that institution in the past. From now on we shall establish the independence of justice under the protection and surveillance of Parliament itself.

France, land of equality, liberty — you owe it to yourself to be also the land of fraternity and of fully accomplished human duties. We in our constitution shall regard all the children that are born to us in this land with an equal eye. From now on whoever is born in France is French. Those born in the land are French nationals, and no exception.

Such is the first duty of human fraternity. Here’s another, a new element that must be recognized, namely our co-responsibility for the system in which all human beings live and without which not one of them can live or fight any political battle whatsoever. That is why we shall fulfill our duty with respect to universal humanity by proclaiming that the French will constitutionally bind themselves to acquit themselves of their duty by paying back the ecological debt, and that instead of their god-damn golden rule, which concerns billfolds only, we shall implement the green rule that protects the planet.

Yes, our gathering starts an insurrection: the people that had "dissolved" into abstention, in their refusal to obey the injunctions of the petty know-it-alls, the bad people who advise them, and who, when it is their honour and duty to speak up on their behalf, when the French say "No" go and claim that we said "yes" — those who betrayed us, our first duty to start on our new march is to get rid of them — such is the first task that our insurrection must accomplish if it means effectively to proceed to set itself the great rendezvous with the citizens’ revolution.

Machado the poet said "The road is made by walking," This much we started at the Place de la Nation. Now we find ourselves here at the Bastille for a stage, and shall soon march on along the same trajectory
from the Bastille of revolutions to the square of the 6th Republic.

We are the cry of the people, of the working men and women whose lives are precarious, who are scorned, humiliated, left to shift for themselves. We are the cry of the people, that of the woman who gives birth to a child in a detention camp. We are the cry of the people, that
of a homeless child, who has no teacher when he or she goes to school.
We are the cry of the people, of all those who are ready
to contribute their intelligence, their creativity, who sometimes, leading good lives, refuse to obey the moral standards of egoism: "take your profits and shut up!"

I call on you to start this Peoples’ spring: by your paper ballots, open in France the breach through which later on will pass the Greek peoples’ vote, followed next October by the vote of our German friends who suffer from the supposed "marvel" of the neo-liberal model .

Here is the spring: do your duty by rushing to help wherever workers’ battles call you. Do your duty by discovering one another. Make the colour red fashionable. Invest the Republic’s squares and streets as best you can in each and every city and village in France. And you in Toulouse, on the Capitole square, in Marseille on the Prado, organize aftershocks of this 18th of March at the Bastille. Gather by thousands, remembering the sacred call addressed to you by those who preceded you in this struggle, inscribing in the 1893 Declaration of the Rights of Men and of the Citizen, "when the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred and the most indispensable duty."

Long live universal Humanity, long live France — long live the Republic — long live the Social Republic [8]!


An introduction to this address is available in an article from l’Humanité,
entitled We Must Turn the Page of This Ancien Régime, and a general presentation of the context of the event itself is provided in an article by Maurice Ulrich, entitled Storming the Bastille. A series of short interviews with participants in the march to the Bastille, is entitled Faces of this Popular front


This translation was made by Isabelle Métral, directly from the video of the meeting. The photographs were taken at the start of the march by Henry Crapo.

The photo of the Génie de la Bastille was displayed by Google Images as from img.over-blog.com/.../ Bastille-500X675.jpg, with original context
www.le-banc-moussu.com/ article-34719555.html.

[1Le Génie de la Liberté, standing atop the central column of the Place de la Bastille, represents "Liberty that takes flight, breaking its chains and spreading light." He is nude, his left foot on a sphere, the right leg raised, wings unfolded, a star on his forehead. He holds in his left hand the broken chain, in his right hand the torch of civilization. This sculpture in bronze was created by Auguste Dumont. (from Wikipedia, with photo Bastille-500x675-1.jpg)

[2Reference to the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the Central European Bank

[3La Commune de Paris, 1871.

[4The Cri du peuple was a daily newspaper created by Jules Vallès on 22 February 1871, becoming the most-read paper of the Commune. Banned for a short period, it resumed publication until the Semaine sanglante in May.

[51 November 1870, in Marseille.

[6The Law of Separation of Church and State, enacted in 1905, which ended the application of the Concordat of 1801 agreed to by the Bonaparte government and the Pope, does not presently apply in Alsace-Moselle, which in 1801 were part of Germany. Special relations with the Catholic Church also exist in other French territories.

[7French law 2009-669 of July 12, 2009, concerning the diffusion and protection of intellectual property on the internet. It restricts the sharing between individuals of files of text, images and music when such sharing may be considered an infringement of copyright.

[8The adjective "social" has come to be used in order to distinguish those aspects of policy and government that are in the interest of the general population and their organization into a society.


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