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Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “A general reorientation of policy is what’s on the agenda.”

Translated Saturday 30 March 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

As the Parti de Gauche convention opens, its co-president, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, says “asking (the government) to shift” is no longer enough.

Your party congress is opening at the end of a period that put the governing majority to the test. Could these problems have been avoided?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Hollande is headed for disaster because his political line makes it inevitable. And yet, he’s aware of the failure of the socialist parties in Portugal, Spain and Greece. Economic disaster is certain – with a supply side policy in which labor, not capital, is targeted as the enemy – and with a political method of trying to avoid a power struggle: it amounts to unilateral disarmament. That’s why the Left Front, throughout the presidential election campaign, sustained the confrontation between the political lines that are possible for the left. At the end of a year in power, we can’t ask for a shift. What adjustments could Jean-Marc Ayrault make, having offered 20 billion euros to the private companies without any concession in the competitiveness plan or the National Inter-Trades Accord? A general reorientation is what’s on the agenda, with a change of government! The Left Front is ready to do the job.

What are the urgent measures that need to be taken?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: At the heart of it all, redistributing wealth in favor of labor and realizing an ecological transition in the system of production. To do that, we have to strike at the heart of the problems, the European Union. We need to make a break on three points. First, the Franco-German relationship. It’s completely unbalanced. It works only to the advantage of German capitalism. Second, the euro. We’ve always defended the idea that the single currency could be the fulcrum of a progressive policy, but we’ve gotten to the point where that vision is becoming inoperative due to the obstinacy of the European leaders. Finally, the Mediterranean arc. Hasn’t the time come to take notice of the fact that we have another center of gravity besides Germany – the Mediterranean countries?

After four years of existence, what role should your party play?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: We have to be a forerunner party in the forms of struggle. We have to be a sort of big think tank that puts ideological material at people’s disposition, as with ecological planning, the citizens’ revolution, the green rule, and now eco-socialism. Moreover, as the parties of the Left Front were unable to decide what role I should play after the presidential election, I am both the co-president of the Party of the Left – practically condemned to remain in that position – and the common property of the Left Front. The party’s got to deal with that problem. But, in a short period of time, it has attained the objectives that it set for itself when it was founded: to be a credible force outside of the Socialist Party, to make the Left Front possible, and to make an alternative government a credible possibility.

What balance do you draw from the cooperation among the forces in the Left Front?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: It’s been a success. It’s stood up to several elections, realized the feat of choosing a common candidate in the presidential elections, with the objective of opening up a left-wing breach in the two-party system, and has grown stronger. We have an orientation document that everybody agrees on! There are also weaknesses. Notably the problem of becoming more than a cartel. The Left Front is not an election label. We are the tool for a strategy: the citizens’ revolution.

Are you confident in the future of what has been built, at a time when new debates are cropping up on the position in relation to the government?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: We absolutely have to cure our movement of the bad habits of sectarian polemics and personality politics. I don’t think we should make a dogma either of supporting or of opposing the Socialists. Our goal is not to be a goad for the Socialist Party or an auxiliary. Of course, along the way, you’ve got to take everything you can! But let’s not beat around the bush – we are candidates for the exercise of power. We’ll get there within ten years. Not through the mechanical development of our electoral forces, but because the chain is going to break [1] in Europe. That’s the lesson of the real revolutions in South America and the Mediterranean basin. That will be accomplished against Socialist Party domination of the left.

Today, public discontent has not boosted the Left Front much. For example, in the by-elections in the Oise département, the Socialist Party’s losses made it possible for the far-right National Front to qualify for the run-off election…

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Nobody increased their vote in the Oise département! The Socialist Party collapsed. This is a matter of very great concern, but the main machine building up Mrs. Le Pen is in the French Presidential palace. To break the log-jam, we’ve got to be united and we’ve got to make very concrete proposals and we’ve got to be ambitious. But it doesn’t all depend on us alone. The Socialist and the Green deputies who voted against the European treaty have to take a stand. They cannot refuse to help us.

[1"A break in the chain of imperialist domination" figures in the analysis of the world situation in Foundations of Leninism, by Joseph Stalin. — translator’s note.

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