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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/fabien-rous...

by Julia Hamlaoui

Fabien Roussel, National Secretary of the PCF: “The Communist Ideal is More Relevant than Ever”.

Translated Saturday 11 April 2020, by Stephen Chalk

All week, L’Humanité has been questioning left-wing leaders about their vision of the “day after” the coronavirus crisis. Latest interview with Fabien Roussel, National Secretary of the PCF, who considers that it is possible to “immediately finance the reconquest of public services”.

L’Humanité, Friday, 10th April, 2020
Julia Hamlaoui

It looks as though the day after the health crisis is going to be the day of economic crisis. The Government has mentioned possible nationalisations, relocating certain productive sectors in France and even subsidisation measures. Is this up to the task? What policies do you propose in order to avoid mass unemployment and precarity?

Fabien Roussel. Emmanuel Macron is pretending to have discovered the role of the State and public services! This health crisis in fact reveals everything we lack in order to face such a pandemic: a powerful industry, strong public services and a strong State with budgetary margins for action. Capitalism has considerably reduced the role of the State, weakened our public services and at the same time encouraged the relocation of companies to cheaper labour markets, notably in the production of medicines. It is therefore essential to break with these logics of austerity and financial profitability, and immediately begin to prepare a new economic, social and ecological model. The communist ideal is more relevant than ever. We want a society in which the State plays its full role, with strengthened public services and a renewed democratic life, including in companies, with new powers for employees. In bringing our industry back to France, we need to regain control of the country’s major strategic sectors, which have now been sold to the private sector, relaunch research, in short, regain our economic sovereignty. Every citizen needs to be protected throughout their life, from school to retirement, with a decent job and wages. Everyone should be able to find their place in society. The human being is the priority!

The European Union has suspended its budget rules. Do you fear the return of greater austerity afterwards, and what changes need to be made at EU level?

Fabien Roussel. The situation shows the need for cooperation at the world and European levels. The European Union has indeed suspended its budget deficit standards on a temporary basis, but it has not changed its logic. There is therefore an urgent need to impose a different role on the European Central Bank and our currency: instead of fuelling capital, it should be placed at the service of an ambitious social model, developing public services, employment and wages, in order to organise a vast industrial recovery plan on a continental scale. This is possible, by calling upon the ECB’s liquidities in order to establish funds dedicated to employment, public services and the development of industrial sectors, instead of for the financial markets as is the case today.

Public services are in the front line in the fight against the epidemic. What lessons can be drawn from this for the “day after”? How can they be financed?

Fabien Roussel. Today, numerous public services are showing how valuable they truly are. Without them we would be lost. It is possible to finance their recovery immediately: 15 billion a year in tax breaks have been granted to the richest individuals and to multinational corporations. It is possible to immediately restore the wealth tax, abolish the flat tax [reference to the “prélèvement forfaitaire unique” flat-rate tax on unearned income from moveable assets, which replaced the progressive tax on this category of income in January 2018] and go back on the exemptions from social security contributions, which were granted without any obligations in return. This would make it possible to finance the public hospital to the amount of 10 billion euros. We also propose a tax of 75% on CAC 40 dividends to deter companies from paying them. This could supply a fund in favour of SMEs and very small businesses.

The health state of emergency has given numerous powers to the executive and experts have taken a predominant role. What democratic changes need to be envisaged?

Fabien Roussel. The indispensable mobilization of the nation calls, on the contrary, for a great democratic impetus, enabling Parliament and social and political forces to play their full role, including in the territories. We have long been calling for the emergence of new powers for employees in companies and public services. If, in the regions, the regional health agencies (ARS) were democratic, if employees were listened to and had real powers in their companies, do you think that 100,000 hospital beds could have been cut and that such a large number of companies could have been relocated to cheaper labour markets for the sole benefit of shareholders?

In recent months, you have called for the left to unite against the government’s pension reform, as well as for the municipal elections. Do the challenges to be met in the face of this crisis make this demand more vital?

Fabien Roussel. In order to impose major changes, the gathering together of all available forces is always a necessity. However, it must be based on rigorous content, not on the lowest common denominators, otherwise it will only lead to major failures. And it must not be conceived as a construction from the top, reduced to the leaders of parties. The mobilization of the whole of the social, political and intellectual forces is indispensable. The radical changes necessary in order to find the way out of the current model are still the subject of debate, and even of disagreement. They need to be engaged with openly and publicly, while ensuring that our people, and particularly the world of work and creation, make them their own. Today, we want to see the opening of a wide debate on the requirements immediately raised by the health crisis, as well as on the new model of production and consumption which is a most urgent need for humanity.


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