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Europe, France, Labour market reform

Why French radicals are marching – Interview with Mélenchon

As French radicals march in Paris Sunday against the austerity policies of Socialist President Hollande, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, co-leader of the Left Party and last year’s Presidential election candidate for the radical Left Front, argues for a broad popular front of resistance. Interview by French Communist daily Humanite:

Francois Hollande’s poll rating is very low. How do you explain that?

What is decisive in this is the about-face of the head of state, which has led him to embrace the goals of the [employers association MEDEF] and reject any consideration whatsoever for employees…. He who is supposed to represent change in the country, does the opposite. It is not enough to have a favourable opinion among employers to earn the loyalty of the French.

The government blames austerity policies in Europe and in Germany for the difficulties in France. How do you react?

We will always support that which allows us to move forward. On the one hand, the Socialist Party incorporates our discourse on austerity Europe and rejects the argument that it is the only possible policy. This is positive. On the other, he blames Angela Merkel for policies that are his own responsibility, policies he is implementing in France. It’s a communication con

The government is to impose changes to labour laws and rejects an amnesty for trade unionists and other protests

This confirms the extent of political changes by the Socialist leadership. See the violence with which they attacked the president of the National Assembly, calling him a demagogue, for asking questions of the clash with Germany. This change has its origins in the 1980s, when European Socialists reformulated the social democratic doctrine. France’s modernisers, England’s Blairists, Germany’s Schroedérites, supporters of Massimo D’Alema in Italy place themselves outside the class struggle between ‘companies and employees’ and sometimes even outside of the right-left frame.

A cabinet reshuffle has been suggested. How could it be a solution? You have said you are available to become Prime Minister?

The Left Front is about concrete radicalism. Our political line is not to wait until 2017 or 2022 …We are ready to bring about the change we want immediately. We have programmatic tools, political methods. That is why I have said: “I’m ready to be Prime Minister.” To show that we are a force for government, not [standing by in politics as] witnesses . Now, either Holland tightens his grip over government to continue the same policy, or it changes course. In this case, we are open to discussion.

Disillusionment, anger does not seem to be resulting in strong social mobilisation, but instead is benefitting the far right …

The situation is contradictory. The volte-face of Holland has created considerable damage. Thousands of people do not understand why the opposite of the expectations created [in the Presidential campaign of] of 2012 are happening. Either they conclude that they have been betrayed, which demoralizes them, or that it was not possible [for Hollande] to do otherwise, which is also demoralizing. The other consequence, with the impotence of the majority party, is that the extreme right and the right-wing, which tend to have an all-encompassing ideology, can then appear among segments of society, as the solution at this time .

In this situation, what is the responsibility of 
the Left Front?

The strength that we achieved during the presidential election [in Spring 2012] – 4 million votes – is not…ephemeral. It could have since been diluted… But this is not the case. It has held steady and polls show this. Especially, if we are able to give leadership not only to the popular anger, but to popular hope.

With this in mind, what are the ambitions of the Left Front with the March of May 5: a warning shot against government policy, or a desire to assert an alternative to the Left?

Both at the same time. The Left Front has a responsibility to the country following the Cahuzac affair . We must explain things and propose solutions… After the betrayals of the government,  May 5 will be charged with social content. This warning shot you speak of will be heard during the vote on the labour law reforms in the Senate on May 14 and on the social amnesty bill on May 16, at the National Assembly. We have a political strategy, that of building the widest possible popular front and we’re entering into the collective imagination as a possible alternative to the Left.

Humanite

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

Report of Sunday’s protests

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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