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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/congres-le-...

by Julia Hamlaoui and Maud Vergnol

Congress. The PCF Enters the Heart of the Debate

Translated Monday 15 October 2018, by Henry Crapo, Hervé Fuyet

Published in l’Humanité on Monday, October 15th, 2018

After the communists voted on the "common basis" of their congress, their leaders met this weekend. Europe, plans for action, strategy, leadership ... everything is on the table.

A week after an unprecedented vote that placed a text at the top of the agenda other than the one proposed by the PCF leadership, the PCF National Council, in their meeting this weekend, expected trouble around the corner. "The question has become less dramatic. The National Council took place in a very constructive atmosphere, according to Pierre Laurent yesterday. There is a shared willingness to recognize the result of the vote, to build a policy text that unites, to hear the message from those who are asking for a stronger party assertion and for changes in the way we fulfill our strategies. "The National Secretary, in his introduction, reiterated his "availability" for a new term. "I stress the need to build a new management team. No national secretary, neither I nor anyone else, can face the problems we now face without it," he said.

The National Council of the Communist Party was meeting this weekend at "Colonel Fabien", as it was here in 2016. Photo: Patrick Nussbaum

However, he is no longer the only candidate. The deputy from the North, Fabien Roussel, one of the signatories of the "Manifesto", which has become the "common base", has also declared himself "available". "My name was mentioned. If my experience, my mandate as a member of Parliament can be useful, if it can bring people together, if it can give the idea of a Party that is moving and renewing itself, then I would be happy to make myself available. Not to divide, not to campaign against Pierre Laurent," he insisted, asking to meet with him "to discuss it. "In our party, there is no team, no elephant behind whom we line up. We must all win," added the Northern Federation official, reaffirming that the debate must first focus on the substance of the project rather than on the name.

The choice is now in the hands of the communists

But, among the other supporters of the "Manifesto", the positions are not unanimous, some fearing that the orientation debate will be ignored in this way, others arguing that the candidate’s names should indeed be on the table. The question is now in the hands of the communists, who must meet in local and then departmental congresses, but also of the "candidatures commission". The objective of the latter, explains Gilles Ravache, one of its facilitators, is to present, at the time of the convention, a list of leadership candidates (the first name on the list being in principle that of the national secretary) that will avoid a clash between several proposals. The possibility of creating an "alternative list" in the event of disagreement remains open. For Frédérick Genevée, one of the initiators of the text "For a Springtime of Communism", "things are starting to get clearer concerning the candidates, but on the fundamental questions, it hasn’t changed". While everyone has taken note of the results of the vote (the "Text Committee" has been modified accordingly with new members and a co-direction), many believe that the debate is not over. "The migration issue is a subject on which amendments will have to be made, the Communist Party is concerned with freedom of settlement and movement", emphasizes, for example, Cécile Dumas, from the Alpes-Maritimes. "The Communists by their vote wished to indicate a course, they made a political choice," says economist Frederic Boccara. "This text can be amended without any problem, with the objective of bringing together as many people as possible, provided that we do not go back on its fundamental orientations," also explains André Chassaigne, MP. For his part, Pierre Laurent made a series of proposals to organize the debates: "We have a new starting point with the text of the "Manifesto". It is now up to the communists to build the end point that will be the policy text adopted at the congress," he said.

The European, "first practical work of the congress"

At stake are five main issues "on which the debate should be deepened": the definition of "communism of our time"; the gathering and role of the PCF; the political situation and the ongoing recomposition; globalization, internationalism and Europe; and finally the transformations of the PCF. But, a few months before the election, and with the PCF already in campaign, the European elections represent the "first practical work of the Congress", notes MEP Marie-Pierre Vieu. The chosen text, while insisting on the need to "put an end to the current European construction", also refers to the various proposals under discussion, without taking a decision. It is this "contradiction" that Olivier Dartigolles, PCF spokesman, pointed out yesterday during a working session devoted to the European campaign. "I intend to welcome the content of Ian (Brossat)’s report, and the direction it provides. It is in our interest that our congress decisions and our work on the text be linked to the way it leads in campaigns. For the time being, it’s not. But I hope that we will achieve this in the coming weeks. »

Earlier, Ian Brossat, leader for the May 26, 2019 election, had outlined in his report the main lines of the campaign he intends to lead. "The European Union is no longer a dream for anyone. They promised us peace, today it is war that threatens us. They promised us prosperity. The European Union is exactly 87 million poor people... They promised us democracy. Where is the EU when some multinationals dictate their law? ", he denounces. "We are the only left-wing political force to have rejected all the treaties without exception that put that Europe in place," says the leader, who calls for "a positive transformation of the European Union. "The key to this transformation is clear," he says. For us, it is about being people’s lobby against the money lobby that the EU is today. »

The "gathering strategy" still under discussion

While a majority of communists seem to agree with the four main campaign issues proposed (work - public services - money- ecological issues), the "rally strategy" is still under debate. "This campaign will allow the communists to regain visibility. I am convinced that we can exceed 5%," says Pierre Lacaze, Federal Secretary of Haute-Garonne. "In the current political context, the stakes are much higher than to have fun and count oneself! ", says Bob Injey, from the Alpes-Maritimes. "The essential question is the usefulness of the ballot paper that will be proposed and its ability to embody hope, depending on the political balance of power," says Lydia Samarbakhsh, head of the international sector.

"At a time when Macron is moving forward with his anti-social policy, when the extreme right is threatening, no one would understand if we were not able to find ourselves around a table," explains Ian Brossat, who has already appealed to the forces of the left "who share with (us) the need for another Europe". A letter will be sent to them today. It remains to be seen whether the outstretched hand will be seized.

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