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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Politique et bonheur, l’attirance parfaite

by Mina Kaci and Marie-José Sirach

Politics and Happiness, in Perfect Mutual Attraction

Translated Wednesday 11 April 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The atmosphere was festive, and combativity was in full force. 70,000 persons had come, yesterday [1], to the Place du Capitole, in Toulouse, to hear Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of the Front de gauche in the French presidential election.

Toulouse, by special envoys

The narrow streets converging toward the heart of Toulouse beat with the rhythm of thousands of men and women, young and less young, who advance slowly. It would have been necessary to push back even the arcades surrounding the Place in order to accommodate the joyous and brightly colored throng who attempted to find a passage in order to participate in the assembly of the Front de gauche. Dozens of busses arriving from nearby departments [2] were parked along the Allée Jean Jaurès. The busses and tramways in Toulouse are stopped — on strike — and may this remain the case! Everyone has come as best (s)he can, in order not to miss this rendezvous considered by no small number to be a truly historic event.

From La Bastille to the Capitole, a shock wave

Hours earlier, on the train bringing him from Limoges, where, the previous day, he spoke before an assembly of 9,000 people, Jean-Luc Mélenchon writes his speech — in red pen, of course. He still hesitates on a choice of citation from Jean Jaurès, the elected official, the deputy of the miners in Carmaux, the founder of the newspaper l’Humanité. "There are texts of Jaurès with deep meaning concerning sovereignty, concerning the nation ...," said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, his pen paused. At the podium erected in front of the façade of the Capitol, he quotes Jaurès from memory: "Any political struggle comes down to the question of political sovereignty of the people." This thought of Jaurès is the Ariadne’s thread of the discourse by this "pretender to the Elysee Palace", whose accents do not fail to recall those of that earlier historic figure.

While most interventions by Mélenchon are designed in such a way as to respond to current events, those he delivers during the "occupation" of city squares, as yesterday in Toulouse, provide keys to open broader perspectives. There is a spirit of pedagogy that characterizes this unique campaign. With no safety net, just a few notes scribbled on scraps of paper, the candidate has running through his head "like a little music", ever since the march to the Bastille, the shock wave whose after-shock is felt here today. Before this crowd, he returns to the subject of national defense, which he wants "independent" and based on "a new global anti-globalization alliance" [3]. France is not a Western nation ... it is a universalist nation," he says.

Credited with 15% in the last CSA poll, Mélenchon has become the third man, beating the candidate of the National Front and giving the lie to all predictions. At 15%, "Mélenchon becomes a problem, and is no longer a laughing matter," says Eric Coquerel, adviser to the candidate, "because the alternative is becoming serious, and attacks founded on social class come flying in from all directions." At first surprised, the political staffs of the other candidates became annoyed, irritated, and have now become venomous toward the candidate who has restored the confidence of the people on the left.

Myriam Martin, former spokesman of the NPA, cannot contain her joy at being here, with the Left Front. "It has created a dynamic, bringing together thousands and thousands of individuals. Today, in the Left Front, much resistance is expressed. This is a surprise encounter, extremely positive, between those who do not want to hunker down and those who want an aggressive campaign to the left of the PS."

Christian Picquet, spokesman for the United Left, added: "This is also the debate that we bring to the rest of the left. We want the left to win. We want it to get together and to govern in a real perspective for change. We do not want the defeat of the right to be followed by a terrible disappointment. "

"Hope is born, no force can resist it"

Remarks that hit right on the target. These days, the media have a good laugh about the "inconsistency" of the proposals of the Left Front candidate. Some commentators express disdain toward the "utopia" of the program of the Front de gauche. Nicole Borvo Cohen-Seat, communist senator from Paris, says: "For thirty years we have had failures, disappointments, set-backs. Today, hope is born, no force can resist it. The Left Front has given back a voice to the workers, employees, citizens of this country. They symbolically took back the Bastille on March 18. "

In the crowd, Christophe is hard at work since yesterday morning. He offered stickers, sold pins and umbrellas stamped Front de gauche. The reception of bystanders, rue Saint-Rome, was warm. "Mélenchon managed to do what we have long awaited: to re-unite the people. As a youth, I was a militant in the CFDT, today, at FSU. I have always voted for the left of the left, Juquin, Besancenot, but in 2007 I voted for Ségolène [4], to ensure that the FN not be able to get past the first round. In 2012, this sword of Damocles no longer exists. I was like many people, desperate, and now Mélenchon renews my interest in politics."

A little further, Sofian, nineteen years, exudes joy. "Earlier, I was convinced that the candidates were ’all rotten, all liars’. I was about to vote without conviction for Hollande. Then I listened to the speech Mélenchon gave, and I almost fainted. Straight talk from the heart, speaking to the heart. And ideas. In each sentence, one idea. I read his program and felt a second realization. I did not think we could talk about human beings, about humanity, that way. "

The square of the Capitole rings with revolutionary songs of Nicaragua, of the Spanish Republic, filled with joy and happiness. "You can try to block the path of history ... ’, Jean Jaurès once said from the rostrum of Parliament. Tonight Mélenchon smiles.


Excerpts from the address at the Capitole in Toulouse [5]

From the video, (with time marks [-min-sec])

- [1m56s]: It is here, the force, you can feel it, it swells, it affirms itself, and I call upon you to continue, without stopping, to enlarge it from here to the rendez-vous, the first step in our citizens’ insurrection, which is the evening of the election [6].

- [2m21s]: I ask you to construct, in advance, this great force, politically coherent, educated, disciplined by freely given consent to loyalty to a program, not to a person.

- [3m35s]: We are in the month of Germinal [7], the buds, full of life, burst open already in flower, and give promise of fruit. Just so, our words, leaving the icy winter of politics, have returned, and, flying from mouth to heart, engender in each person new reasons to live and to hope. This word is to share, sharing, ... sharing, sharing of wealth, ecological planning, citizenship, fraternity, love, care for those who have fallen, that they may rise up, for those who have nothing, that they may be helped. These words travel, and are like keys that open the cages in which were imprisoned the reasons to live.

- [4m50s]: This is not to be confused with that insidious accounting from which we suffer each day, to have to choose between having food or being housed, or having light, or whether we will make this or the other expenditure, each impossible to do without.

- [5m13s]: Here it is, what I reply to you, Mister Sarkozy. You say, faced with a Mélenchon who creates more pressure with each passing day, that you share none of my objectives, none of my plans. That is true. We are not of the same camp, we are not of the same France. You say "In two days you will cast down what five years of effort have built." Those were not five years of effort, but five years of suffering, five years of being torn apart, five years of going backwards, five years of gross behavior, of vulgarity, of debasement of the nation.

- [6m06s]: To you in power, who each day come to demand of us an accounting, and who now reveal your calculations, dipped out with your big ladle, of how much our program will "cost" (when it would simply provide to each person the means with which to live their life in dignity and in peace), I demand of you an accounting: of the "cost" that represents the ignorance that you have spread by your suppression of teachers’ positions, the "cost" of health lost because we have not been able to receive treatment, the "cost" of those 564 persons who die at the workplace each year, of the 43,000 who, at the workplace, become handicapped for life, the "cost" of early childhood forgotten, of retirements postponed, the "cost" to society of having dismantled the system of justice for minors. I demand an accounting of this absurd society. I demand an accounting for your having caused life expectancy to drop in developed countries, where until recently it advanced with each passing year. I demand accounts for your having placed in question that which the great and glorious revolution of 1789 had installed as the most fundamental of all rights, the right to live.

- [7m53s]: Ah, no, "to live", does not mean to pass one’s time merely surviving. One cannot live happily in an ocean of grief. One cannot live happily with 8 million in poverty, with 8 million poorly housed in the fifth most powerful nation on the planet. One cannot live with fear for tomorrow, as is the case for ten million who have a precarious existence. I make this vow: our program is not realistic according to the norms of your accounting, but it is realistic according to ours, and ours is called the Right to Live.

- [8m53s]: For you who ask, what is this "phenomenon" that fills this place, the streets leading to it, and other nearby plazas, it is called the Citizens’ Revolution, which has begun. ... If it is me who is elected, when I call for you, you will be there. And no matter who is finally elected, this force will not fall back into the river-bed, the banks of which it has now overflowed.

- [10m45s]: Re-found our Republic. In a political nation like ours, where one is defined neither by religion, nor skin color, nor language, the republic founds the nation, not the inverse. To re-found the republic means to re-found the people itself, and the common land, disfigured as it is by inequality and by pillage of all sorts. We want there to be elected a constituent assembly, of which the first rôle will be to redefine the rules of our common life.

- [11m37s]: We cannot accept that, in order to face up to the gigantic challenge posed by the capitalist catastrophe that falls upon the entire world, and the catastrophe of productivism, which menaces the human ecosystem, when those in power are incapable of imagining a new world, a different organization, they abandon control over these catastrophic movements, and know no norms other than their own interests.
We can no longer allow these "norms" to weigh upon us, whether they be in our country of France, or in Europe,
where hang over us: the "right to free enterprise", "free and unfettered competition", and the competition of each person against everyone else.
We want, at the summit of the hierarchy of the norms of our society, that there be solidarity and cooperation.

- [12m47s]: We cannot accept that the liberty to go open a business be considered a fundamental right equal with the right to property, and that everything be secondary to that liberty. We believe, on the contrary, that the moment has come to establish citizenship everywhere, not just in the city, but in the workplace, and in consequence, to recognize as a constitutional right the right of pre-emption, which will lead to the creation of workers’ cooperatives so that workers become owners of the tools of production. We want the general interest to weigh more heavily than private interests. And when that becomes a reality, when a fundamental economic interest of the nation comes to reveal itself in one or another circumstance, there is for the government, that is, for the country itself, a right of requisition, which means that the scandals like those at Molex and la Célanèse will no longer be possible in our country. And to establish a right to veto for the wage-earners concerning strategic planning for the company, or the environmental impact of its production.

- [14m50s]: Here we follow the thread woven for us in this region by the great Jaurès. The politics of democracy, he taught us, is expressed in a central unity, or better, in a unique idea, the political sovereignty of the people. To obey only the law, to which we have each, personally, contributed by our vote, and to obey no other command than the common norm, which we have decided together. Sovereignty is the other name for liberty. You are not free when you are not sovereign.

- [16m11s]: At this moment, remembering what was the felony of the president of the Republic, when, after the people had voted "No", by 55% of the vote, to the European constitution in 2005, he nevertheless negotiated another treaty, which was a perfect copy of the original, and which he arranged to be adopted in congress at Versailles, with the complicity of those who abstained and who voted yes, I demand of him an account at this moment: Where is our liberty? And what is the sense of this very election, when you hide from the French people that, no matter how they vote, once they vote for one of the parties promoting the Treaty of Lisbon, it is preparing to vote the next treaty Merkel-Sarkozy, either by voting or by abstaining, as it has already done for the European Mechanism of Stability. Where is our liberty, what is the sense of this election, if he announces to you that, no matter what we do, under any hypothesis, we shall be obliged by international agreements to submit the French budget to the prior approval of the European Commission, to submit all our borrowings to its prior approval. So I say that when there is no longer any liberty, the citizens’ insurrection becomes a sacred duty of the Republic.

- [18m20s]: Where is our liberty, where is our sovereignty, when, step by step, without a vote by any body of government, you prepare, month by month, with complicity in votes by other parties, what you call the Great Atlantic Market, which in 2015, no matter which way you vote, will unite us definitively, without any customs barrier, without any legal barrier, with the United States of America.

- [19m00s]: Where is our liberty when, no matter how we vote, there continues what we do not want: that is, the liberalization [8] of public services, the continued use of a labor force from the other countries of Europe that we make work here at unjust low wages, to which is added "social dumping", internal re-localization.

- [19m49s]: Where is our liberty, but in our ballot, which, in giving power to the Front de gauche, will abolish all these measures, because France will no longer subscribe to them.

- [20m06s]:
Where is our liberty, when with our sovereignty, confiscated by our involvement in the integrated military command within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), we tag along, one after another, with all the expeditions sent by the champions of the shock of civilizations, ideology spread by the United States of America, which we do not want.

- [20m32s]: That’s why, whether it’s the European Treaty, or this participation in NATO that we no longer want, we the Front de gauche proclaim that we will submit these two engagements to a popular referendum. France must quit NATO’s integrated command, and the NATO alliance itself.

- [21m12s]: France must propose to the world, in conformity with its history, an alternative, word-wide alliance [9], independent of the United States of America.

- [21m27s]: France must undertake to reform the unique international order that can be legitimate in our eyes, not that which results from the G8 or G20, and from all those sinecures where the powerful dictate to the rest of the world what and how they should suffer. To the contrary, the organisms of the United Nations, will be remodeled by the actions of France, a France that will no longer practice unevenly the defense of the rights of man, rights which she has used as an excuse for dubious international adventures. A France that will at last promote, in all instances and before the world, never lowering her eyes, the causes that animate her being, to make clear that her revolutions were never merely revolutions for the French, but for universal humanity. France will defend the universal rights of man, and fight on an international scale, so that there will be recognized in Europe and in the rest of the world, the right to abortion, sovereignty over one’s body for half of humanity.

- [23m00s]:
Before the entire world, we must fight against the death penalty, not only in China, but in the United States of America.

- [23m20s]: We must fight, before the entire world, saying, here we are, the French, and we propose to join the cause championed by Evo Morales, president on the left in Bolivia: France proposes to create, as he suggested, an international tribunal to punish ecological crimes committed against humanity.

- [23m53s]: No, Mister president, the greatest danger, despite what you have said in your seizure of power, is not the confrontation between the Occident and Islam. The greatest danger is that France be transformed into a spare tire of the imperial war machine that is the first cause of unrest in the world.

- [24m24s]: The France of the Sixth Republic, which we wish to construct, is not an occidental nation, it is not merely formed by its variegated mix of people, nor by the fact that it is present in all the oceans of the earth, the fact that it exists in proximity with five continents, from New Caledonia, Polynesia, La Réunion, Mayotte, the Caribbean, French Guyana, with the longest frontier in France, 800 km with Brazil. No, France is not an occidental nation, she is a universalist nation. We are, and we wish to be, with the history handed down to us, the first model of the universalist nation. We must therefore live up to the level of our principles, and it is to this great task that you are called, and not to that miserable bou-gli-bou-gla of the political horse-race betting to which you are called by the chiefs of the rag-collecting crew.

- [26m03s]: Once more, we must be the fiery crater, from which will burst forth anew the flame of revolution, and which by contagion will become the common cause of all the peoples of Europe. We will open the breach. Henceforth we need no one’s counsel or authorization, because we are an adult force, conscious, disciplined, educated, politicized. We will open the breach through which our brothers and sisters in Greece will put an end to the abject dictatorship of financial suffocation, that has plundered their country. We will open the breach through which will pass, next October, the German people themselves. We will open the breach in the wall of resignation, when resignation has, everywhere, seized the people by the throat, and when we are repeatedly and ceaselessly told that we are the cause of ruin when it is they who have organized the ruin, and who have provided the proof, wherever their putrid politics is applied.

- [27m43s]: Yes, we are in the month of Germinal. The buds, full of life, already burst into flower, announce the promise of fruit. France, beautiful and rebellious, viennent le temps des cerises, and days of happiness, Vive la France, Vive la République, Vive la République sociale.


Original photos were taken by the translator. Those with a sign-language interpretor in the corner are screen-shots captured from the video, as posted
on the site placeaupeuple2012, filmed and originally posted by Dailymotion.

[1Thursday 5 April, for a meeting starting at 19h

[2France being divided into 100 départements

[3Since this article contains relatively few direct quotations from the address at the Capitole, we have appended copious excerpts, taken from the video of the event.

[4Ségolène Royal, candidate of the PS

[5transcribed by the translator from the video of the event

[6Sunday, 22 April

[7Germinal is a month in the republican calendar, coming at the beginning of Spring, when the earth is reborn

[8privatization

[9"alliance altermondialiste", in French


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