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Comment and Opinion

Daniel Mermet: “The working classes are now almost entirely formed by the young and people from immigrant families.”

Translated Monday 28 December 2015, by Adrian Jordan

Interview with Daniel Mermet, journalist for La-bas.org website.

How do you respond to the results of the regional elections?

Daniel Mermet I am troubled. One can celebrate the fact that the Front National (NF) did not win any regions. However, the fact that it has beaten its records in regard to numbers of voters is very troubling. Victory for a right or left-wing government as the result of makeshift alliances does not reflect the real situation.

The left is for whom?

Daniel Mermet First of all, what left are you speaking of? The right-wing left of the neoliberal government which leads the country today? Or rather the left of the traditional left – opposed to capitalism, which defends the oppressed and working classes? A confusion exists which is detrimental to the left itself. It’s blurred, it’s vague. We should give new meaning to this word “left”, responding to the social realities of this country. This right-wing left has betrayed the working classes. It offers no answers, no choices. To make alliances with a Socialist party that supports the Valls-Macron government, which follows the same politics as Merkel in Germany, is suicidal. A clear left-wing stance must be made again! This may take time but it is necessary.

How do we achieve this?

Daniel Mermet We must take back the things the National Front has stolen from us. The FN has stolen all the analyses, stances and plans of the far left. For a long-time their basic selling point has been the “insecurity caused by immigration”. Then they added social struggles, inequality, the tyranny of finance and profit. In short, one may say the exact image of ATTAC proposals! It’s a scam and it works! We need to pull ourselves together! It is total confusion: the extreme right copies the real left and the left copies the real right! It is disconcerting, but the FN is the only party to actually practice real politics today. They no longer just collect the discontented and resentful but make plans, even cultural ones. I was reading the FN reference to Jean Vilar in the supplement in Le Monde. For me, that was like someone spat in my face. It’s crazy that Vilar, a left-wing figure, pioneer of the Communist Party, could now be borrowed by the FN! How could they do that so easily? It is for us to take back the social, cultural and economic domains. And that of Europe.

Why does the left not manage to relate to the working classes it should represent?

Daniel Mermet It’s ancient history! The working classes, today, are almost entirely formed by the young and the families of immigrants, and people from former colonial countries. The far left is not at ease with this section of society. Old issues need to be settled so that this section of the working classes feels part of the left. During my childhood in the communist suburbs, efforts were made to unite the Communist Party and Christians. Today we must take Islam into consideration. There is another front – that of the environment. This is not a secondary issue because it allows us to directly challenge capitalism. It is equally important as the social struggle. On this point, the left should be much more radical. Finally, there’s that elephant slap-bang in the middle of the room – unemployment! It’s the biggest issue – it’s the main reason for the enduring rise of the FN.

But how do you explain that the campaigns which have challenged capitalism, including those aforementioned issues of ecology, have not managed to break through?

Daniel Mermet I don’t see the plan of the far left concerning Europe, in terms of economy, social matters, the fight against unemployment, for the suburbs, in respect of security, of the wearing of the hijab, etc. The left is completely absent. Recall Lionel Jospin, who refused “the sociological excuse”. Police brutality in the suburbs, the state of emergency, checks based on appearance, searches: who is there to defend against this inadmissible class prejudice and islamophobia? Residents are left to turn to the mosque. There are plenty of associations which exist but cannot mix in politics for fear of losing government grants. In Brazil, during the demonstrations by displaced farmers, left-wing political groups didn’t wait for these deeply religious farmers to give up their faith before going into action and mobilising. They did this with an element of working class compassion and so demanded redistribution of land and wealth-sharing. Today, we must put an end to this disregard for the suburban residents, and the distrust and abandon deeply felt by the disfavoured classes, whatever their origin.


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