an overview of Francois Mitterrand's presidency
Mitterrand, an overview
!!! 2016, is it too early?
!!! To pronunce the name of Francois Mitterrand, it's, nowadays, even today, in France, to stir up reactions and passions at such a point, that reasoned debate quickly becomes difficult.
!!! In this lecture held at the French National Assembly, on 2011 May the 9th, 30th anniversary of Francois Mitterrand's election in 1981, Jean-Luc Melenchon presents an reasoned overview of 1981 and of his presidency.
!!! For those who have grown and find this figure of power thrue the mediatic figure of that time, this report allows to reevaluate that period especially in balance with the liberalism of Reagan and Thatcher at the same time in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom.
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[color=#28a1c5]English subtitles transcription thanks to Bud Butley underneath[/color]
####Jean-Luc Melenchon's lecture at the French National Assembly
####an overview of Francois Mitterrand's presidency (1981-1995),
####drawing on history's lessons today
Paris, 2011 Monday May 9th
OK. Thanks for coming over. I'm not going to -- the status of this lecture is a bit out of the ordinary. It's not a Left Party meeting, in as much as what I'm about to tell you, in a way, is largely my own point of view. However, I felt I needed to speak up on this anniversary [of François Mitterrand's election] because there have been too many times where I've been either placed in a position which wasn't mine - with regard to the person of president Mitterrand or the policies he enacted and in which I participated in the modest place which was mine at the time - and even more because I was aggrieved and I'm still aggrieved by simplistic views I notice being developed about that extraordinary political phase we lived, and which they call « The Mitterrand Years » - a glib misnomer which contains many very different things which, frequently, are merely frothy, superficial and, by their nature, hint that any recital of the past is given in the present.
When we speak of the dead, we often speak of ourselves; when we speak of the past we do it to talk about the future we'd have preferred. So much so that we ought not to lose sight of the fact when we evoke 1981 and president Mitterrand that the recital can never be neutral. Historical science moves forward at it's own pace, highlighting contradictions which Time will resolve. But we're flesh and blood and have participated in that History – in this room there are men and women of the generation which was directly involved in this History and naturally didn't emerge unscathed. Each has a story, their vision, their memories which aren't comprised - contrary to what some would have us believe - merely of bitterness, regrets, disillusion. On the contrary: many of us emerged with the feeling we belonged in a long thread of Time to which they want to maintain their part, their commitment in all it's complicated, contradictory humanity - and still eager. Thus, to talk to you about this 10 May 1981 anniversary I'd first like to clear the telling of it, after this introduction, of several other objects which clutter our progress.
First, one must distinguish between details related to the evaluation of an individual and those which have to do with what really happened. As regards the individual, one's relationship with him should be set aside - that with François Mitterrand - and I'm not just talking about folks like me were fortunate enough to get near him, to know him and meet him often, but also all those among you who, taking up his fight, participating in that battle in the place which was theirs at the time, built for themselves the relationship which each of us normally creates with a leader - even though they don't meet him, don't know him personally - but with that peculiar feeling of sharing a combat where they use the same words, have the same inspiration - the same disgusts, the same delights.
As far as I'm concerned, I should start by saying that I won't burden the effort to convince, the attempt to convince you I'm making, with the nature of the personal relationship I then had with him. I'll set that aside. I'm spelling it out because a predilection for caricature and simplistic ideas expressed in [140 characters] - in short sentances, i.e.: media prose condemn us to being either François Mitterrand's mortal enemies or his choir of groupies. Between the two there's no room for anything else - at any rate it would seem, between the two, there's no space for smarts. I think that's precisely the desired outcome: one could not reasonably adhere to the combat there was for the United Left. That's precisely what we must rescue and take up, again, in these times.
Thus, I'll set aside the fact that human relations with François Mitterrand, when one is - like me - from a modest family background, people whom History shuttled around, who put up with it more than they influenced it: Pieds Noirs torn from North Africa after having been torn from Sicily and Andalusia -- all of it was way away fromthose who held power. Yes: it's something vivid which has stayed in my mind, the honour of having been able to get closer to my country's president, whose combats I shared. The personal relationship I had with him, and I'll not say more than this about it, on the human level, was always very diffident.
And that's how a strange seductive magic comprised of human deference and a vibrant attraction to his political mastery. Watching him do things, listening to him - subject like any man to complexes with relation to the father-figure - it's plain that, like all the others, I bowled up expecting validation - then re-validation - of any idea which came to mind. Laconic, he settled whatever matter thus suggested. Sometimes it was:
: « Ah yes: how interesting »,
: « Hmm, you don't say ».
: « D'you think so? »
Which afterwards had the sharp effect
: « How could I have said something so silly? »
I'll set all that aside. Nevertheless, a relationship with the man himself does have a political dimension. There has always been, on the RWing, what I term The Qualifying Trials. The trial begins: You're not the one and then the person is convicted once, twice, three times. Whatever a man has defended, he is accused by his past, his neighbors, hiscousins. They'll never take note of a break with the past when that's what it's about, they'll always prefer continuity when it's burdensome. Whereas at other times they'll seize on _ »a break with the past »_ if it's again the means of disqualifying a person's majestic, forceful, powerful commitment. It's as hoary as the RWing/LWing relationship.
The primary goal of RWing folks - of RWing propaganda - is to disqualify LWing spokespeople. For decades Jean Jaurès was depicted (maybe less; unfortunately he didn't live very long) with a bottle of wine in his pocket, not that Jaurès was a drunk, but that Jaurès who had a particular pact with his wife - a devout Catholic - had agreed that their children would take Communion. The RWing immediately attacked him:
: « _You're a hypocrite! You stump for secularism but your kids go to Mass! »
_ As though taking Communion would stop someone from being secular. And for years Jaurès was caricatured with a bottle of liturgical wine.
They kicked Léon Blum around because he had been an art critic, to pass him off as an inconsistent sort, and so on. Of course, more humble, now that you now see me taking the lead - the others having energetically pushed me from behind - they say:
: « What! - »
I read it in the NouvelObs:
: « What! How dare he speak for the People - with a PhD in literature!! » (if only I had!).
Though I ask myself why, if I had a PhD in literature, wouldn't I be able to speak for the People? How so? Must one be untaught? Did our parents devote themselves for nothing? The efforts I made to become literary would be pointless? Disqualify me? Quite the contrary!
Other times they exclaim: : « But you earn a bunch! How dare you! »
Yes: precisely. It's because of what I earn - it's what I'm paid to do: dare to run for election. The logic of it can't possibly be 'take advantage and shut up!'
We'll all get this Disqualifying Trial; perhaps in your time as an activist you've already come across that. The second stage of The Qualifying Trial, after having told you
: « Not You! Not that! You don't know what you're talking about - or rather, you know only too well that what you're proposing can never work. Thus, because you're an intelligent man/an intelligent woman, you know very well it will never work! But you propose it all the same. You're just a liar and a hypocrite! »
Then, back to where we began, with Disqualification.
We've all come across it; I gave Jaurès' example and modestly sneaked into the story. I could have mentioned Salandro who was driven to suicide - and many others. Those are the RWing's classic indictments.
Then comes the indictment from the Far Left: Indictment for Betrayal.
It was just an act, after all! The Traitor hid behind a mask, then one day tired of impersonating a socialist, he threw down the mask and revealed his true nature, at last. Ahh, the lambs must turn to the Good Shepherd -- and from here on in we have but the tears to regret the mistakes they make.
That - broadly speaking - is the line of thought which reduces History to series of detective novels where cardboard characters clash and from whom nothing much is to be expected. That's the Indictment of Betrayal.
As I said, it's the indictment the Far Left favors. Then, there's Trial by Social Liberals. Something else, again:
It was archaic to begin with, anyhow. All over the place: Doh! We took office with a program dating from the 70s, thought about in the 60s and considered in the 50s. It was over before we began! Why didn't we take notice sooner?Throw ourselves into DSK's arms – from whom I've borrowed that quote. Who are the cynics - if not those who, knowing it - pretended? Rather than those who, not knowing it, believed it?
Taken together, it's a great big noise machine rather than reasoned opposition; this way the ground is prepared to spread the following idea: It's no use doing anything; our bosses are all Traitors. Victories lead to nothing at all, there's no point in taking power. In this way small messianic chapels are forever replicated - for the greater happiness of the owner class who enjoy [the show]. In short, François Mitterrand, trapped by these three trials, assembles those of us who shared the Common Programme combat with him - and in the end, those who indict him accuse him of their very own sins. We will be speaking about 1983, but isn't it strange that when 1983 comes up, they only talk about him?
While we're hammering out the record, wouldn't we expect to hear from Jacques Delors, then the minister who was always saying « pauses » were needed? And who was the Budget minister who proposed we embark on the road we took? How is it that Pierre Mauroy never defended one single day the nationalisations he'd decided on himself when he was PM? Why does no-one provide any sort of account or overview of the reasons which lead to the move from that policy to another? All of that: shovelled on top of François Mitterrand - now he's no longer around to explain himself everything's dandy. Agreement broadens: I note - for example - Alain Krivine saying
: « Yeah, we blundered on the Common Programme! It was Left Wing! »
But it's a frightening error to have been « mistaken » on such a subject. Here Ibear witness as someone involved in it all: I wasn't a member of the Communist League, I was a member of a different Trotskyite organisation. Hang on: 20, 25K young people, boys and girls - disciplined, educated, full of life, ardent in the fight, were sidelined from the great battle which was to transform their country and allowed others, no doubt dedicated but much less informed than they about political fights, much less determined, to somehow inherit a programme they'd mostly only known how to surf [to victory]?
Well then: isn't that a lesson for us, today? It will be one of the lessons to draw from it today, after suspicion of calumny and the detective novel as History. Thus, once everything personal's set aside, along with associated impressions, let us partake with befitting humor of the new Tonton-mania [« Tonton » means « uncle » and was an affection nickname for François Mitterrand] which prevails. Here we have all sorts of recalcitrants whom I've seen much less ardent, who fight for the front row in cemeteries and who lately scurry around carrying icons, true relics, to present the Newly Blessèd Son of Socialist History - of which they themselves have retained absolutely nothing, apart from appearances. For after all, I can't see how we could replay a remix of the Common Programme with the programmes put before us, today. [i.e. : in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election] I'll deal with that. When we consider this issue of [his] record, let's have the intellectual lucidity to understand that this Record will change several times yet again
As time passes, the deep trends which were, in a way, merely triggered in the period of which we speak and which were hidden from those who lived it, reveal themselves for what they were. We're today's humans, who know what the period means, but when we were in it, all we had was the compass of our principles and, for a few of us, Historical Materialist method for thinking - and our enthusiasm, which took care of the rest. Even as events which ledto the Common Programme originated in the secretive capitalist production organisation, in the general geopolitical organisation of the great powers - something was being modified which transformed post-WWII conditions. In 1971 the president of the United States of America ended the equivalence between the « $ » sign and it's and gold, which was it's material counterparty. It's a « technical issue » which a great many people have missed entirely, but which on that day gave the USA unbelievable power and allowed it to overturn what had been the spirit in which the war had ended, with the Bretton Woods Agreement and the Copenhagen letter of intention - and arrogated to itself all the power - i.e.: the ability to print currency with engravers' plates as much money as they wanted thus forcing the rest of the world to finance their deficit. Well then, whilst that type of capitalism, which will suddenly produce billions and billions of fictitious capital, engendering quasi-automatically -- because of concentration in dwarf economies: the oil monarchies -- fantastic concentrations of unusable capital which was therefore recycled by international finance seeking high returns.
In short, this major mutation of capitalist organisation went almost unnoticed. In France the Common Programme was built on a confrontation with monopolistic State capitalism which was unaware, at the time, that it'slast hour had sounded in August 1971 with Richard Nixon's decision. The trend which had only just been triggered, then unfurled and - by the time we took office in 1981 - Margaret Thatcher was there in 1979 ; Ronald Reagan got in in 1981, and they'll become the political personalities who then implemented the political programme of this New Capitalist Age, established it's foundation and organised universal deRegulation. During which time, those superior minds who now read us Lessons saw nothing, understood not a thing. They're the ones who suggested to us -- who suggested a strategy which led us into a dead end.
Now I'll deal with the issue of 1983 - but to get there I propose we first re-situate 1981 in it's historic context, with it's political components and it's scope. In the sequence - please: I know it isn't an illness likely to strike anyone in this room -- we must break with Disneyland ideas of the sort which generates admiration for Kate and William's wedding & a fascination for episodes of the magnificent Bin Laden soap opera.
Start from the facts, from the analysis they themselves elaborate: 1981 is most certainly not « an unprecedented surprise ». It's the result of a long, long journey which shook French society to it's depths. From the perspective of relative social forces, 1981 is the child of 1968 first and foremost. It's the deferred effect, political, of the 1968 General Strike. I'll not retell it for you, of course, but May 1968 can't be summed up in the student rag Daniel Cohn-Bendit organised. No, even if it is a very important part of the battle for moral freedom, no: 1968 is not merely boys and girls who decided to change residence, girls at the boys' places and boys in the girls' rooms. No. 1968 is first 10 million workers on strike, with, in every one of their enterprises, Strike Committees - which were on the verge of federating at the national level due to the incapacity of representative living political organisations which proposed nothing at all. Except one person - and it's not meaningless to name him - in that enormous upheaval there was just one person who said
: « If that's how things are, I'm ready to assume my political responsibilites, »
strengthened by his having been common candidate in the 1965 presidentials: François Mitterrand - who at the time was dubbed a « putchist » and a character who abused a social situation via political recuperation.
Yes, my Friends: those are the facts. From 1968 we must draw a second lesson: an unbelievably powerful movement which has never since been equalled, was incapable of providing it's political translation, for at the end of 1968 we took the most exhaustive electoral beating the Left had seen in 20 or 30 years. And we on the Left who, in 1967 only missed by one seat an absolute majority in the National Assembly were sent to the dungeons by the results of the 1968 elections. This shows - and it's presently debated - that it's not enough to say, or even to have made the most powerful social movement, not enough to call for « General-Strike! » « General-Strike! » There must be a project and a political horizon of power, the conquest of power. Otherwise Left Wing action is confined to the registers of romantic twaddle, sometimes - but not always - agreeable, and utterly without effect. And as you know - if you don't, let me appraise you of it - entire peoples do not embark on Revolution for ideological reasons. They make Revolutions to settle practical problems - when the entire political structure in presence proves incapable of settling them.
That's what all genuine Revolutions have demonstrated - starting with 1789, through 1870 and on to 1917 right up to the Arabian Revolutions we have before our eyes. Consequently, the link between 1968 and 1981? How was that forged? That's the heart of the matter.
That link IS the Common Programme and the effective unity on the Left. The key which unlocked the contradiction between the power of the social movement and it's political helplessness is the political response constituted by the writing of the Common Programme - and the fact that that it was adopted by 3 parties: The French Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the LeftWing Radicals. So what happened?
There too, further consideration is required, examination, a look at History.
Who was it wanted the Common Programme in the first place? The Communists. Never forget it. In 1959, at the 15th FCP Congress the party announced: The Union we recommend must be founded on a programme of democratic and national renewal which all have discussed and everyone has accepted. In 1964, at the 17th FPC Congress Valdek Rocher succeeded Maurice Thorez as General Secretary. He confirmed the « Unity » line which, it must be said, wasn't the easiest thing to do, at the time - when the state of the Socialist Party is taken into account. I ask you to give it thought: a Right-leaning party, deeply compromised, soon to settle - in 1958 the worst damage has been done, compromised up to it's neck in the War on Algeria: riddled with contradictions – and I ask you properly understand this: even back then French Communists who, like other Western European Communists, were looking for some way of finding a second wind following the Liberation in order to reformulate the socialist transformation of society question.
The Communists considered the perspective was formation of a common party with the Socialists. I know this is surprising for many of you. I refer you to their texts. Let me tell you that, once the Socialists had created the movement needed for the « Unity » line - I'll get to it in a tick - they also believed that shared action in the struggle, beside Communists, would bring the two parties close enough to merge them - and in any case they said - making the Union work would transform both parties - and the Socialist Party in particular said it was ready to change itself.
Thus, it was the Communists who initiated the combat, and Valdek Rocher in particular. All the following Congresses stuck to that line, and it was Communists who made demonstration gestures to prove the Line worked. First, in 1965 they're the ones who made the Common Candidacy. When François Mitterrand entered the hall where he announced - proposed - himself as candidate - somebody else told me this - he knew the Communists were on board, he otherwise would not have proposed his candidacy; believe me, that's the lesson I learned. When he entered the room, somebody ran up to him and told him
: « If you don't announce you're the candidate, today, we'll support you »,
and handed him a letter. Mitterrand folded it, took a seat, and announced he would be candidate. Because from the moment he knew he bridged the gap - him and his tiny organisation - with the powerful Communist Party he knew that all the others had no choice. They could hop on the Unity train - or perish. Popular aspiration for Unity is so powerful, onevery occasion, that it makes mincemeat of anyone who gets in the way. Thus, right then, it can be said that the Communists' work, which was to enthrone a person who, debatable in innumerable ways, did in fact completely clear a political landscape totally frozen by all the post-War years where we'd seen the SFIO with Christian Democracy, all brands of Centrist parties - all bound, polluted, hobbled, dragging themselves from one shambles to the next. That's how an especially spectacular decision for Unity unlocked the situation.
And here's what must be noted, next. After 1965, the Communists gave further demonstrations. In 1971 - I observed it in my Commune - by proposing Left Union lists in cities where they themselves enjoyed a majority, they let Socialists lead the lists. That happened in Massy, my Commune, and so forth. Here, I've gone from the period where Communists offered it directly to those where the issue had been settled. But - I want to pause for a moment on the Communists: they have their own reading of their history, but the Communist Party - or at least, the past Communist Party doesn't belong to itself. It's the common heritage of Left Wing History and our duty, all of us, is to reflect on what it's done, the advances it's achieved and mistakes it might have made. It isn't just Communist business, it's a matter for all on the Left. If you've the patience, study results of the elections and you'll see that the Communists always stayed in the lead, as long as they carried the Unity message. It's true that the renewal of the Socialist Party had put it in a sort of symbiosis with the new, urbanised, middle classes – though the Communists stayed in the lead throughout. An inversion occurred for the first time in the 1978 Legislatives, following interruption of talks on the Common Programme. The issue of the responsibility of WHO provoked the break was a tough ideological battle: I can attest to that, I was there. The Communists did what they could to convince everyone it was the Socialists' fault, they wouldn't update the Common Programme properly.
I was then a Socialist activist: we did the same thing in reverse. I can tell you it was an unbelievable thing, which further anchored the unitary culture and the Common Programme in the mind of the greater number. I was a young Assistant Secretary of the Lons-le-Saunier section, in the Jura. Thanks to my elders' trust, I called a meeting to explain the failure of talks on re-actualising the Programme. We had Chevènement come over and we did the whole thing in a week. It was at Lons-le-Saunier; there's a public festivities hall. I won't tell you that this Department has the most Revolutionary Proletariat in France. It's traditions are marked by Centrism, Left-Wing Catholicism and Being Rural. Well then: when we called that meeting at short notice, 600 people showed up. Workers from the main factories came - wearing blue overalls. Back then one wore bright blue workingman's overalls as a sign one belonged to a class. And for the first time in my life I saw - to see them again only in 2005 - notebooks at a meeting. Folks attended and took notes. They listened to it all, read everything to learn WHO had busted the Great Dream.
It was a battle and responsibility for it was disputed between Communists and Socialists. Obviously, there was an environment which led folks to discern, or to think, that it was the Communists who were responsible. It was from there onwards that the Communist Party slipped behind the Socialist Party. Such that, for my part I reject the simplistic vision which has it that Unity would have « benefited the Socialist Party » - or the equivalent simplistic view that « Unity had damaged » the Communist Party.
To whom is « Unity » of benefit? « Unity » benefits « Unity ».
It's the big lesson to remember: the first to leave the train, is dead.
If you'll be kind enough to take a look - and I'll end my comments on this past which I lived, here - with another legend according to which it was the Common Candidate which exhausted the FCP as a driving force. As for me, I don't credit it. In 1965 the Common Candidate was François Mitterrand; in 1969 there was a Communist candidate and a Socialist candidate: the Communist candidate was in favor of Left Wing Unity, the Socialist candidate was for union with the centre. The Socialist candidate got 5 pct - the Communist candidate did almost 21 pct - in spite of there having been no Communist candidate in the previous election.
In 1974, the next election, there was no Communist candidate, there was a Common candidate, François Mitterrand again. Then, in the following election, 1981, there's a Socialist candidate and a Communist candidate. We're in 1981; as I told you, after the battle which opposed Socialists and Communists, opinion had concluded responsibility for the failure rested with the Communists. Well: between 1969 and 1981, Communists electoral score went from 20 to 16, i.e.: they only lost 4 points. All the same, it's an extraordinary demonstration of strength, for between the two dates there had been the failure of May 1968, the unfair attribution to the Communist Party of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the business in Poland, the [USSR] intervention in Afghanistan, the Common Programme collapse - events which aren't all of the same nature, in which French Communists had no responsibility, for most of them. But for which they were blamed. Well: the Communist Party only lost 4 points -- against the figure who embodied Left Wing Unity both in 1965 and in 1974. Thus it is shown that the determinative factor in every case is the political orientation and the position taken with regard to unity. Not Unity for it's own sake, but unity on content, for the entire battle over updating the Common Programme was about what it contained: what were we going to do?
Then the 1981 Programme was the enactment of the Common Programme, for the most part. What's more, Socialist Party documentation - which I don't have with me here, but they'll bring - Laurent, can you give it me so I can show it? - there are people -- you have to see it because these objects exist - this way, when you're browsing book resellers you'll buy them, there aren't many available, anymore. Thanks, Laurent. We fight over pinching each others' books. I'll end this part: this is a vital document « Changing Course » published by the FCP. The Communists went door to door endlessly, selling this book and explaining what was in it.
The Socialists had this programme, written in 1972: this is the updated version. It was the Socialist Party's government programme. This is the Socialist Party's updated version of the Common Programme; I won't read you the introductions - as you see, all you need is to read 3 books to grasp how they beat each other up. Irresponsible!
And this is the Common Programme - the version published by the Communist Party. Many of us carried this book in our knapsacks and kitbags and went door-to-door, activists, young as we were, who knew zero about most of the issues in it: you had to train yourself. I did the Woodworkers' network, mostly: I'm a great artist in the Woodworking Network... Or on Retirement at 60, to explain to folks why they were to retire at 60 - which coming from a guy who was then 26 was a bit much.
I'll never forget how people responded to it, which showed me at the very earliest what is, in the bottom of people's hearts, the limit we encounter. Resignation, doubt. People said: Retirement at 60, that would be lovely. You'd see the parents worn out by hard work, often folks themselves were worn out; we still had very tough production routines, physically - I'm not saying it's any easier, today - retirement at 60? It was just a dream, impossible...wouldn't happen. We explained that, yes, it would, how it be financed gna-gna-gna. Of course, even back then they told us: No, it can't be done, it's impossible. It would be ruinous, catastrophic... and on top of that, we'd have the Red Army! Thereare folks here who don't believe me, especially in the younger generation - but I could find my fliers where you see it had been announced that the Red Army was less than 24 hours from Paris and thus their tanks would show up. [Cartoonist] Reiser did a comic strip to make fun of that, where there was a fellow opening his door to someone who was saying : Aaaa! The Commies are coming, they'll take everything! My car? I don't care, it's bust
the fellow replied
: Your car! Your house!
: Don't care, I don't own it. Then: They'll control what you think! : The parrot in it's cage went: Co-Co! : The doorstepper says: See? It's already started.
It was a humorous way of demonstrating the crudity of their arguments - so you see, today, they haven't invented anything. The huge jackhammer Nothing can be done/everything's down the drain -- and the Communists will steal your freedom and the rest are incoherent revolutionaries -- none of it dates from today. At any rate, first among thepolitical components is the Communist Party - and obviously, the Communist Party - like the Socialist Party - was tempted, though not from the same point of view - to break talks. I've just told you that. So now let's look at the Socialist Party - briefly. Following 1968 there's the 1969 disaster -
But take a closer look: the 1969 disaster is because they don't want Left Wing Unity. Then there's the Unity Congress which happened in two stages, and in 1972 the Congress was held. I'll stop here for a moment to tell you that, as usual in this sort of situation, there's 90 pct agreement - each backing the other into a wall and leaving space only on the Left - and then fighting over the ultimate goal which would drag it all to one side or all over to the other. Such that the Party had surrendered; at this point in the talks, everyone agreed there'd be a Common Programme with the Communists - it was already amazing to hear it said. But - there were some who said: There won't be a Common Programme with the Communists UNTIL ideological issues have been settled - because there are 2 Left Wings: the Revolutionary liberty-killing Left which is a problem, and the democratic Left which is the paragon of every virtue. Thus we must, via thorough debate with the Communists, settle this matter.
And the other point which was to say: We're in 1972, there's an election in one year: do you believe that we'll settle, in ONE YEAR, an ideological issue which has been dragging around since 1920? Any similarity with with the present situation is 100 pct accurate.
(Here it is). So this side said: Let's do a Governing Contract, and we'll have the ideological debate while we're doing it; it's via practicalities we'll settle these issues; do we need one single party or should there be two, and so on.
This is how François Mitterrand presented the issue: In 1973 the Party as a whole accepted the electoral agreement with the Communist Party - but do you believe you can enter an election without telling the French what it's for? It would be to create a framework for failure. What will the ideological dialog resolve from now until 1973? The problem of 2 philosophies, two modes of thought, of two concepts of mankind in society? There'll be no electoral alliance if there's no electoral programme. There'll be no common majority if there isn't a Majority Contract: there won't be a Left Wing Government if there isn't a Government Contract.
As a result, the majority motion concluded as follows: The dialog with the Communist Party should not be conducted as a vague, ideological debate but start from the concrete problems of a government whose mission is to set in motion the Socialist transformation of French society.
In this discussion, I find echoes of 2 things. First, this debate which I had with our NPR comrades, according to which it would first be necessary to clarify - ideologically - who's who, on the Left, before agreeing to forge an Agreement - we - The Left Party, the FCP, the Unitary Left - all think the contrary. That it is by making an Agreement - a Government Contract - an agreement for each time - specifically - targeted at the level of power at which we aim: regional, European, cantons - that one in fact moves forward. And the second element: the radicalness we bear can only be a concrete radicalness - which is translated by concrete programmes which have in their favor objective credibility - I'm not saying compatibility with capitalist society. « Concrete radicalness » doesn't signify giving up on one's goals, but to make one's goals coherent with each other in an overall policy which stands scrutiny and offers the whole country an Alternative.
Even those who haven't read Karl Marx, who didn't follow the quarrels about Trotsky, those who know nothing of the 1972 Common Programme and our glorious History ever since we've been The Left, must be able to recognise themselves in a programme and turn to the red banners as to battle ensigns and markers where they gather - on preoccupations which simply have to do with their lives. Thus, the Epinay Congress dedicated the Communist Party to the « Union of the Left ». This was a vocation ceaselessly questioned - casting a long shadow of bad habits. I'd remind you that Gaston Defferre went on making municipal majorities with « Centrists » right up until 1983! And that when I entered the Senate - in 1986 - the year they had to use winkle-pickers to remove the last old SFIO players, who went on presiding Commissions by agreement with the RWing. Which is to say how long those shadows were in that regard. What's more, it didn't take long: at the first difficulty with the Communists we had a Rightist current which formed, using LWing vocabulary, to snatch us from Unity with the Communists, save us from all the world's sins - and from the Common Programme itself, of course.
That was the Rocardian current, which then had all kinds of heirs. We used to say:
: « Union of the Left, an alliance with the Communist Party and LWing Radicals, »
: « Union of Popular Forces ».
But who are the « Popular Forces? » - we've just named the LWing parties for you - what's left over? At the time we didn't name the Extreme Left, they weren't interested - which was silly. So they'd say « Uh, various associations, Mutualists, Co-ops, etc. » But we didn't know what it was all about - though we did figure bigger fish lurked under therocks, and you didn't have to thrash around to catch sight of them. As soon as talks on renegotiating the Common
Programme began, whenever we dealt with nationalisations, some said: « 100 pct » and others: « 51 pct » - we also saw some knitting done the other way when we made shares available to reduce the State's holdings in nationalised entities. Thus it cannot be said that Socialists had become virtuous and solidly anchored: Socialists no more than the Communists. In a political combat there's always a temptation to think one can pull the rug over to one's own side and take everything on it - against the rules of Unity, in spite of the rules of Agreement between the LWing parties. And it didn't stop, following 1981. Of course the Common Programme was up and running, but there was an immediate flowering of Theses, theories on a change of course necessitated by the archaic nature of the Programme we were implementing, etc. It's amusing to recall that those first to theorise on the necessity of breaking with former unitary doctrines espoused by the Socialist and Communist movements were some younger folk who, at the time, published an article in [afternoon daily] Le Monde which made a lot of noise within the Socialist movement and was entitled: « To Be Modern, Let's Be Democrats » : 1984. Bill Clinton had just begun to take over the Democrat party. They wrote
: The dogmatic concept of the working class, the notion that individuals belong to supportive social groups, the affirmation of a timeless political programme - all of it must be abandonned. (All of that must be abandonned.) In fact, the Left is not an economic project but a value system. The authors call for acceptance of modernisation of the whole of society.
They even added
: Beyond Right/Left divisions, the principles on which our society is built should be affirmed, [those]on which it rests imperatively.
Not new, then. It will be understand that folks like me who witnessed it all - who participated in the rough and tumble on this issue - have never been naive about the fundamental political orientation which motivates these characters. I'm telling you so you'll remember it for what follows.
Once this context - this political sequence and it's political components have been laid out, one must look at the scope of events which 1981 brings. I have a note: when I was a Socialist activist, we had an unbelievable thing - it was a videotape - perhaps some still have it - it's about 25 mins long. There's music and lines roll down the screen (I'm not going to do 25 mins) - you know, every time you talk about 1981 --
Yes - but 1983!
Hang on: 1981 came first. Let's take a look a what's in it. Yeah: but Mitterrand - you know. The scandals -- Which ones?
They don't recall. These are reflexes, versets: they abolish thoughts.
That's what they're for: no one thinks any further. But hey: better forgotten -- right? It could give folks ideas: sharing of wealth --
- retirement at 60;
- 5th week annual leave;
- 39-hour work week paid 40 hrs basic wage raised 10 pct;
- old-age minimum raised 20 pct,
- family payments up 55 pct;
- reation of a tax on wealth: created in 1982, abrogated by the RWing [Chirac PM] in 1986, re-instated by the LWing [Rocard] in 1988;
- the upper level of taxable revenue raised from 60 to 66 pct;
- application of an exceptional additional contribution of 25 pct on revenues above 100K Francs - not much, is it?
- nationalisation of the 36 main deposit banks and large industries: Alcatel-Alsthom, St Gobain, Pechinney Thompson-CSF, Rhone Poullenc and tutti quanti. 14 July 1986 - I want to remind everyone when they say: « -- Yes, but the privatisations...! » suggesting that Mitterrand, having nationalised, privatised once the mask had dropped away. Everyone appears to have forgotten that, on precisely 14 July 1986 - you know how François Mitterrand liked symbols -- he refused to sign the privatisation decrees - in particular those on Havas, Matra, TV Channel 1, St-Gobain, the Société Générale and BNP-ParisBas.
- more on sharing wealth: Red Laws on Worker Rights the right of workers to discuss their working conditions, obligation to fund Works Committees,
- the right of wage-earners to withdraw in case of danger.
- emancipation and Liberties: graduates doubled in a single 7-year term under François Mitterrand;
- the professional baccelaureate was created in 1985;
- abolition of the death penalty; pirate radio legalised,
- suppression of the State Security Court and military tribunals; certain riot laws abrogated;
- male/female equality: the Roudi Law forbade gender-based discrimination which until then was legal: a help wanted ad could say, back then, that a job was specifically for a man, or for a woman
- voluntary termination of pregnancy covered under Social Security.
- the « crime » of homosexuality was abolished;
- budget for Culture doubled -- went to 1 pct of the Budget; creation of the Music Festival - you'll recall - the Zenith was created and town museums.
- Protection of the country's nature and wilderness areas: law on coastal areas.
I'll stop there, or we'll be here all evening. What each must see or remember is that it's an mmense undertaking, a genuine social transformation carried out in those years. And it's why this memory is so uncomfortable, for the owner class - who'll stamp on François Mitterrand's tomb until the end of time, the way they did for ages with Jaurès until Sarkozy rehabilitated him, only very recently, because it's the worst souvenir of their lives!
I remember a Socialist orator, Michel Berson, who - when the law on nationalisations was rejected by the Constitutional Council. That law was returned to parliament, and Michel Berson who was an MP from Essonne where there were folks who could write - did a teriffic speech in the Assembly, saying
: « You're not here to defend the common interest - you're defending your families' interests. »
And one by one he ticked them off - we'd researched it properly - saying
: « You, whose wife is on the BOD of such-n-such company, you - who are a shareholder in the thingy Bank, you you – you... »
But we did alas make one unfortunate mistake on the list: we put the president of the Constitutional Council of whom we reminded of his family links with shareholders of nationalised companies. It was the very thing not to do, so it was a HUGE story. A paper which no longer exists, called Le Quotidien, published a small photo of Michel Berson with a huge enormous headline:
We had it framed.
But it was already not going too well. I've given the scope, and now it's time to provide what is my personal appraisal. Obviously, that's after having spoken of the broad scope, having warned you about all those who do History as a police report, and all those who one way or another will be telling you nothing's worth doing and it isn't worth governing.
On the other hand, it's worthwhile considering the limitations of it all, but try to do it in a spirit which isn't a cops' point of view. There's a lot of talk about the « 1983 about-turn », but not very good talk.
What was the situation? We'd had 4 currency devaluations. We'd installed exchange controls and a forced loan. The country hit the money wall. What was to be done?
One strategy could have been to say: We'll rely on massive social Revolutionary movements to defend the achievements of a Left Wing government. Fine: where was the mass movement? There wasn't one.
Why? First lesson: because there was a totally institutional conception of change. To caricature it: Change was top-down.
The Citizen Revolution which represented the 1981 Left Wing victory had, in a way, been so thoroughly institutionalised - a citizen revolution requires institutions - but it needs more than institutions, it also needs _revolut_ion. That Institutional vision of the manner of governing isn't, either, merely a theoretical issue. We must recognise that at the start of the first 7-year term we had the opportunity of judging whether we'd stay within the existing institutional framework, or not. That was when the Constitutional Council decided to annul the law on nationalisation it was done on a Constitutional principle which states: When there's a nationalisation, indemnification must be given first, and be « fair ». It was upon the word « fair » that the Constitutional Council requested indemnification be re-evaluated - whichwas, on one hand, to make a Left Wing government pay more for nationalisations and, obviously, attempt an arm-wrestling match. Right then I was young 1st Secretary of a Socialist Federation; we were The Mountain in 1st Socialist Secretary meetings. « The Mountain » was a section of the hemicycle: we sat there because it was romantic - of all the most Left Wing 1st Federal Secretaries in the Party. Thus, we insisted straight away there be a mobilisation. We wanted heads to roll, and so forth. We asked our managers: What'll we do? Call out a protest - where's the assembly point?
Protest? No protest -- it's not the issue. Watch it: you can't just go out in force like that. We must be very careful about what we do - so let's write a brochure. There you are: confronted with an enormous social and political show of force - the answer was a brochure.
Politics doesn't hand the main dish round twice. Give in once, tomorrow the strength you didn't match and beat turns against you. Obviously.
From then, the institutional vision and fear of a clash with the institutions and the RWing led to what I term « The Allende Syndrome ». You need to know that in the first RWing demos, following our '81 victory, one of their slogans was: « Allende, we did you! Mitterrand, we'll get you too ».
All of our heads were filled with the 1973 business in Chile. All of us. It wasn't a myth - it was concrete all right; most of us had been aware, as adults, of Salvatore Allende's failure. Which led to saying and doing stupid things -- for example: when certain sectors got moving. When the truckers went on strike, you'd better believe that Chilean nightmares crowded in - because that was how Salvatore Allende [economy] was strangled. But when the Special [Auto mobile] Workers in Aulnay went on strike: that was when it went off the rails. The response we made at the time -- I said « we », put myself in it, but I had nothing to do with it – was a totally mistaken response, blind to the social dynamics we could draw from such a movement. What did we say? I'm embarassed to tell you (thankfully everyone's forgotten it) it was said to be a Plot. Jean Ourou said it was because we were watched by overseas, which wanted to make us fail. And there was worse: Pierre Mauroy said it was a problem with « the Shi'ites ». 1981 - 82.
You can see how « The Allende Syndrome » gave an absolutely inappropriate view of what was really going on. So it's quite clear that when you've got movements like that, the CGT AND CFDT Unions refused to allow an Agreement: they wanted to negotiate it themselves. The government went around the Unions and negotiated directly with PSA's management. What the workers wanted was that, since jobs were preserved and safeguarded at the Renault factory, the same would have to apply to their business. That's what they wanted.
It was the government which negotiated directly - so a new « social plan » came out of it with half as many layoffs - but there was still half. The Unions refused to sign that Agreement. It's only a micro-example - I've given you 2, which we must look at lucidly, to understand why things happened the way they did, and not from a cop's point of view. I've given you the Constitutional Council example and the example of the relationship with social movements. As you can see, it's contradictory as for the most part, at the beginning of the 80's, we had strikes by RWing corporations, mostly. Everything got muddled. Institutional vision, and then - as corollary to that Institutional vision - the sustaining of that institutional framework itself.
If you begin by saying that when 9 persons - the Constitutional Council - feel that nationalisation hasn't provided « a fair » indemnification - and those 9 have the power to put the entire country to a tax -- a bit like the banks are doing to Greece, today - well, no doubt about it: you'll keep that constitutional framework going.
I think maintaining the Vth Republic and it's institutions is the second lesson of the mistakes we should take from that period. Nonetheless, it would be unfair to say that nothing was attempted; it's quite untrue. Once again, let's look at it from a critical standpoint, taking as example of the type of consultation. It was altered in 1986. It was a proportional Departmental consultation: it would have sufficed in 1986 for Socialists and Communists to have presented joint lists in the proportional Legislative elections for us to have remained in power. Take a look at the numbers for yourselves. At the time, the entire RWing piled into single lists everywhere: that's the way they beat us – and the Extreme RWing was there. What lesson was drawn from it?
We were immediately accused of this disgrace, and told: « It's you who play this dirty game and gave the Extreme RWing seats in Parliament » Everyone pretended to have forgotten that this first proportional election wasn't one we - the LWing government - had decided, but by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the European elections - and that the first ExtrRWing victory didn't result from that election but in 1983 in the – commune - That's it. Ms Stirbois, there y'go.
After that, what « the lesson » seemed to be was the proportional favors the National Front. OK, fine - but rather than doing away with proportional representation, we ought to have banned the NF: I mean it very seriously. If that party is a danger to democracy, it's a problem this country has already settled once: in 1936. We were the only European country to have passed a law banning the Fascist Leagues - such that we're the only Latin country and the only country at this end of the continent to have escaped a Fascist or Nazi government. The Spanish got one, the Italians got theirs, the Germans got one. There's a single country where it didn't happen, ours. Further, to be done with this country's working class and it's mobilisations a military defeat was organised. That's what ExtrRWing folks call « the divine surprise! » - a military defeat which allowed Marshall Pétain and the National Revolution to take power.
That's what it took to crush our working class; thus, we know their game! If we know they're dangerous for democracy, we ban them - but we don't play footsie - as we still do today - to frighten ourselves with the Big Bad Wolf while continuing to fund it with our tax money: like all other parties it receives State subsidies - and allow it to present itself for elections and then pretend that it's a great danger. It's one or the other.
Following 1986 then, the RWing [Chirac PM] was able to reinstate the 2-Round uninominal consultation via a grotesque gerrymandering - and nobody stood up to defend the proportional Departmental consultation. When I say « nobody » - to whom do I refer? The party of which I was a member, the Socialist Party which never, at any time, defended something which was already there. We could always redo it, mind: but you'll notice they're not proposing the proportional Departmental consultation. What they propose is to « infuse » a « dose of proportionality » in that inimitable Society dinner-table vocabulary. What's « to infuse »?
Why not take it all, as is? That's what they need to explain to us. Why? What do they regret about the 1986 consultation? That the NF got in? We already have the answer to that: ban it. Or allow it - because it's not normal that a political force which does 15 pct in every election, when you tot them all up: de Villiers, The Hunters, Ms Boutin and that crowd it's always the same -- I'll be charitable today, so I'll take Ms Boutin out – but it's around 13 - 14 - 15 in each election for the last 15 years or more. It isn't normal. If it's a political force like all the others it has a right to be present, doesn't it? We're present, although we don't do 15 pct.
As you can see, it's not true we did nothing - but when we did, nobody defended it, just as no one will defend the nationalisations, just as no one did defend retirement at 60 - among those who created it. I don't mean the Communists, of course: I mean the Socialists who said the subscription time should be lengthened as life expectancy increased. The carbon copy of the Liberals' European programme. That's one thing.
But there have been other attempts: In 1984 a referendum was proposed which would establish the right to hold a referendum on subjects other than Article 11 of the Constitution. We wrote the law, tabled it, it reached the Senate - where it didn't budge.
Another example - much more significant: in 1991 president Mitterrand announced he would create a commission on Constitutional reform. An extraordinary speech. As luck would have it, the day before we'd created the Convention for the 6th Republic with Julien Dray and Marie-Noëlle Leinmann - luck did things very well, back then - we were certain there'd be a blockbuster dialog about changing the institutions. What happened? Nothing. Nothing. A nun's fart on oilcloth, as François Mitterrand said. Why? Because the Socialist leadership didn't want it - and what I'm telling you here isn't not just the Facts, nor even what I lived as a Socialist office-holder, it's what the president himself told me when I asked him why nothing was happening about it. It was in 1991 - 1992 (was it? 91?) that the Socialist party held a congress which was - yet again! - to modernize gna-gna-gni gna-gna-gna (L'arche Congress)
There's a document as big as this - I didn't bring it - yes I did. I did bring it: you have it the bag, Laurent. Don't try and pinch it from me. And in this document -- it's just so you can see it, get a look at the objects (Thanks, Laurent.)
Here it is: look at all those pages. In there? Not one word on reforming the Constitution -- even though François Mitterrand has just launched the idea. There's only one text opposing that: ours, entitled: A 6th Republic for Social Change - I haven't the book with me to show. We only polled 8 pct - the vote was a fraud, as usual, but nevermind: 8 pct There are comrades in this room who were there. And the others obviously did 90,000 pct ........ minus 8 pct.
All that to tell you that institutional reform was on the table, right then; they're the ones who decided they'd do nothing about it. Obviously, it suits them just fine, today, to say « François Mitterrand, the Republican Monarch bla-bla and bla-bla. OK – it could all be true at the same time. But you guys: what did you do at the time? What did you propose? What was it you said? What did you put on the table? What idea did you launch? What mobilisation did you set in motion? Nothing: kilometers of empty sentences strung together in this book, made up to annoy Materialist folks with nonsense about the « dark side of mankind ». They first had that phrase: « Capitalism, an horizon never to be replaced » - I made them take it out - as well as « the cursed nature of mankind » - and all those shibboleths which wrap up « original sin » and other such nonsense which is of no use the the Socialist struggle.
That's what they were up to! Consequently, as you can see, when you set out the Record, it ought not, in anyway, be that of a man - it must be t_he record of a situation_. Thus, as I was saying: the mistake of maintaining the institutional framework. For us, the conclusion is The 6th Republic. No popular implication because of an exclusively institutional way of making changes. Which is the reason the issue of Citizen Revolution rests entirely on the idea that, this time, the Programme must be appropriated and carried out at the bottom. I've demonstrated how we could go about it I'm not telling you we can manage to achieve the same level of awareness -- but let's not underestimate the level of awareness already achieved by innumerable persons in our country -- in the 2005 battle, Altermondialism, with the magnificent work done by Attac, in the Union mobilisations on pensions in 1995 and this year . Yes! There is a capacity for a high level of political framing in favor of the Citizen Revolution's goals – which are within reach, on condition grass fires are set, that a horizon is drawn, that it catches fire, that there's leadership, that it be organised that political life isn't confused with a psychiatric couch where each goes to test the others' Ego - but where all our hopes are in a popular movement which is available. How can we go about it? We'll see what can be done with the Shared Programme. But I have seen that if we want to, we can - by moving the workers, wage-earners, their capacity forcollective intelligence, their inventiveness.
Yes! We will achieve energy transition by relying on the capacity for intellectual mobilisation of engineers, of specialised workers, on all industry's workforce. In nuclear power where they're capable of doing better than nuclear - like those in petroleum and in gas, who know how to produce machines and know the maps and the manner of geothermal prospecting which affords a way of imagining geothermal energy in all it's variations as an alternative to nuclear energy. And so on. I once organised a meeting with railway men, during the European election battle. As it was my 10th meeting with them I'd had it up to here with going on about railways and Europe, and I said – I've already told this story, but I'll tell it again -- I said :
Listen, I think we're Lefties, here? -- everyone chuckles -- I said:
: « What's more I bet you're all Communists? »
So they go:
: « I'm not »
and someone else:
: « Depends what you mean by 'Communist!' »
Stop. OK, fine. Everybody has another laugh.
So I then said:
: « For this once we'll change the order of question time. I go round telling everyone we'll be putting 6 wheelers on trains as soon as we're in office, between Belgium and Spain. But in your honest opinion, how much time's required to manage that? »
An extraordinary discussion then began.
There were 50 people in the room from all generations of railway men - men and women - believe me, they didn't hold back to see who'd speak up, first: they all talked at once. But it This/but it That – all shouting each other down -- Yes But, No but, -- after half an hour we hadn't got very far, and I told them - mockingly and a bit sarcastic - (I've a few Communist comrades with whom I spar with blunted points) saying : « Look at that! They say it's politicians who don't give plain answers Bravo! You're the railway guys and you can't bloody well tell us if it's 5 years, 6 years or 3 years to get all the truckers on trains ».
They all laugh.
It's very relaxed, we're all comrades -- and then, among them was a Communist -- ugh. It didn't suit him that a guy like me had the last word. He stood up. He was used to speaking up: a Union man, you can't catch catch them out. He stepped up and said:
: « Listen Mélenchon, 6 years or 3 years, it all depends who's asking. »
There you have it. If it's the working men who manage the issue, well yes: it could be done in 3 years, because they've done more in less time than that. But if it's The Others who come in to beat them about the head and explain they'll be working more for much less pay there's little chance of it happening in 10 years or more.
In any event, for me that popular involvement isn't merely being involved in barricades and protest demos. Sometimes barricades must be done. It's better if you don't have to do them often - we're mostly easygoing folks. Protest demos must be done - but it's preferable to get things done without protest demos - but if we must, we're ready to do a protest.
The popular involvement to which I refer is involvement of intelligence, of know-how, all the workforce's creative potential: wage-earners, intellectuals. That's popular involvement as well. All that know-how put in the service of the common interest -- the common interest in crushing parasitic private interests which are preventing human progress and any development in society. That's what I'm talking about when I speak of popular involvement. Which brings me to the last point, because this is crucial. I told you earlier what was happening in 1983: we hit the money wall. There was debate. But, honestly, I want explanations from all those who were there at the time. I was young -- too young and not influential enough -- thankfully. Because I was like many others: discontent by what I was seeing - but I didn't know what else to do. And when they said : But what else can we do? we were like stunned mullets -- because to say justdoo - mustdoo – doodoo in a country with 4 currency devaluations and a forced loan isn't good enough. You couldn't go to the workforce saying: Forward march! That's not the way it goes. Folks were nervous about vacationing - those who took vacation - withcontingent sums. It had really upset people. Then, the forced loan was contributed by all, not just a few: it went quite deep down in the middle classes - it wasn't big chunks of cash - but we all had to fork out. You perhaps don't recall it yourselves, but I do. Here in the front row there are folks who, Yes: they remember the forced loan very well. Can you imagine what it represents in the collective imagination, in each person's mind? Like: the country's financial catastrophe happened right inside your home. Why did it happen like that? Instead of hurling insults at each other?
What happened is that capitalism changed it's nature and that we're confronting an adversary which is no longer the principal adversary; the main adversary has transnationalised itself; the principal adversary makes a mockery of frontiers to imprison the people - whereas formerly it was capital itself which was imprisoned behind national frontiers and which provoked wars because of that. It has now invented another strategy -- which is to say: Since we cannot carry out this political program in a single country, we'll do it at the pertinent level, i.e.: at the European level Which at the time was Europe x 16 - not Europe x 27. (16's right, isn't it?) 'What's that?' Who cares? someone here tells me. Right: 16.
Should you wish to refer to them, you've got all kinds of essays, not by internationalist revolutionaries, not Trotskyites preaching the United Socialist States of Europe, not Victor Hugo calling for a European Constitution for Humanist reasons the continent represents - at least Victor Hugo had the decency not to chuck churches at us as a reason to stick together. He brought up the Renaissance - much more interesting - and the _Enlightenmen_t. But that's not it: these are Social Democrats – it's those Michel Rocards and the others who say: Social Democracy and a compromise is only possible with rules - Laws - in common, accepted by all because they're voted by all, thus (an article published in 1993, in [Socialist monrning daily] Libération entitled Social Democracy in Modernity's Mirror. Thus, said they: let us create that corpus of laws and then we'll be able to prolong the Socialist goals which we haven't attained in our country.
That was the project. But all of that pre-supposes a capitalism which, already, back then, no longer existed. And we'll be thrust willy-nilly into that orientation - right up to the Maastricht Treaty. There, obviously, some saw it coming quicker than others: the CGT in particular grasped that the Maastricht Treaty would place a garotte on the neck of all Europe's working classes, that the single act which contained no social counterparties, no social guarantees - will be a disaster. Jean-Pierre Chevènement understood it, and others in the Extreme Left.
There were many of us to grasp the argument which was presented; it is of two orders - three - firstly: you'll have the proper scale at which to implement your Socialist policy. Secondly, François Mitterrand told the more rebellious among us - secondly: The RWing can no longer conspire against you with devaluations because you'll have a single currency. Thirdly: you'll nail the Germans' hands to the table, in Europe.
Well, my Friends: among these reasons not all are superficial, let me tell you that each of them merits consideration at each stage of the story. But what did change is that the Europe which is set up is a Europe which decided on the principle of free and unhindered competition, on opening EU borders with the rest of the world and on the rule that any new countries - especially when we admit 10 in a single go - will finance their economic and industrial catching up with the rest of Europe only through social dumping since there's no more money to allocate to them - because Liberals don't want a European-level Budget with a European tax which would finance structural funds allowing or these 10 new countries, what we had been able to do for Ireland, for Portugal and for Spain. Thus the mistake arose from an erroneous analysis of which adversary we're confronting. We carrying on as though we were able to rely on a national or European capitalism with which we'd then confront the rest of the world, exactly as in former times at national level - an agreement between labor and capital was possible in the face of other imperialisms, if we use an earlier vocabulary. For those who don't understand that, I can put it another way: each country can have common interests which align working classes and wage-earners with their bosses to compete with the others. It's been forgotten that this national capitalism no longer exists: the one in control is transnational capitalism, which has neither country nor origin nor face, apart from being connected with the USA, in the end, to USA rating agencies, to USA pension funds or with leveraged buyouts initiated in the USA. And because that's not understood we're still stuck in the 19th Century mentality from which still have not emerged the likes of François Hollande and those other Great Minds such as Strauss-Kahn & Co. It isn't the 19th century any more.
As a consequence, it's transnational capitalism which must be confronted. Therefore a policy is needed which is a balance of strength -and of a break with means which enable this capitalism to dominate: it doesn't dominate through anything other than political decisions - therefore the strings must be cut -- and first by social, ecological and fiscal filters upon entry to Europe; 450 million people is an adequately sized market. 80 pct of French external trade is with partners within Europe - not with the rest of the world. We're not about to sacrifice the European project to the commercial prospects of German sales reps flogging machine tools. What are they thinking? In a few years that'll be finished: machine tools will also be made -- in China, in India -- and between times, we'll have been bled dry and everything will have gone. In short, cutting the strings is to have European protectionism, abolish the rule on free and unhindered competition in a certain number of domains which must be removed from the market: public services wherecertain monopolies must be re-instated. There: that's the policy which must be done. Confrontation.
What is a political programme worth, even if it includes a few promises, for the workers? If it doesn't state how it will fight the banks, it'll be beaten the very next morning. Do you believe that the money wall, which didn't muck around in 1981, when it sees Social Democrats bleating merrily show up, will say: Oh those guys are too cute. We prefer Strauss-Kahn. Phew! We escaped having Mélenchon! Who can believe such nonsense?
They said that in Greece, too: Phew! We didn't get the Communists! Did they immediately say: Let's see how it goes with nice Mr Papandréou. He doesn't seem at all dangerous. (That was QED.) No, the next day they went for histhroat. They got their teeth into Greece over a debt scarcely equal to 1 pct of the wealth produced by Europe in a single year – that's the Greeks' accumulated debt -- all of their accumulated debt. And they let rating agencies and banks do as they please. The Greeks were forbidden from borrowing from the ECB - under the the Lisbon Treaty, you know as well as I do and thus, if Greece is in crisis - contrary to what was said on the radio this morning, it isn't due to the way he's managing Greece - but due to the political conditions which the EU has created: nothing else! there it is.
Thus, tomorrow, if there's a government, the same rating agencies - the same ones who even risked arm-wrestling Mr Obama when the American Budget was being voted. They're run by neo-Conservatives. Well then: these banks won't let it happen to them. Why? They did Greece: nobody said anything.
They all ran around looking for money to « bridge the gap » at a prohibitive rate. They then went to Ireland. Nobody said anything to them. The Irish were punished. Then they went to Portugal. Nobody said anything – but it's already getting more exciting: we see a Socrates, Social Democrat, who isn't a fu -- ouch: I'd better be careful about
adjectives I use on camera. Between Papandréou who couldn't face a minute of fire, and Socrates who presented an austerity plan, the parliament didn't want it, he resigned. Once he'd resigned he negotiated with the IMF and the EU Commission to bring them into the country. He tried to say no: « Oh, not the IMF! »
It tells you much they respect each other. « Not the IMF, Europe maybe... We'd like to try the Chinese, first! » They tried the Chinese first. The Chinese? I'm usually attributed those - but here it was him who went looking for them, to sell them whatever he could and borrow money from them. So you can see from the way it went it's encouraged them, and they'll go on and do Spain, my Friends.
Then the Euro will collapse - for the reserve fund we've got is 750 billion euros. What do you think's in it? Where'd that 750 billion come from? Who's got them? Nobody. Nobody has it.
Governments said: We'll provide it.
They have no money. What will those governments do? They'll borrow - to put in the fund. From whom will they borrow? Not from the ECB! From The Banks! Thus, these 750 bln will be borrowed from the banks to lend to the States to repay the banks. Isn't it a jackpot, that sort of thing? I'm not joking: that's what's happening.
Thus, the 750 bln fund is composed of State contributions by States which have no money - they'll have to borrow, a loan from the Commission and a part of the European Budget which is financed in this manner. The 750 bln do not exist, my fellow Citizens, they'll be loaned - in this way the catastrophe will be propagated. You'll recall having seen Aurevoir Mr Strauss-Kahn on television; in the film it was explained to us how, sometimes folks just don't like the medecine prescribed by the the Good Doctor - that's what he calls himself -- but it's to get better.
You can tell the Greeks are getting better. Their debt has become an abyss -- it's reached 150 pct of GDP, everyone cries « 150 pct! » The Americans are up to 200 pct - no: it's the Japanese, 200 pct. It's all rubbish to frighten folks. At any rate, they weren't up to that, they were at 90, and now they've popped up to 150! They'd been borrowing
23! Do you see what it means? 23 percent: quite simply usury. They're selling everything: the airports, roads, sea ports, regional agencies, the telephone, water, electricity: everything. There's nothing left to sell.
Yes - the Germans said: You could sell your islands... they've started to - what's left to sell? The coastline? Their exclusive maritime space? They'll sell everything, spontaneously. What for? To achieve nothing at all. Now everybody knows: Greece cannot get out of this dead end. It cannot - I'm not doing the demonstration, here.
That's the capitalism we're confronting and it's the lesson of 1981. It's not worthwhile, it would be easy if there were traitors we could execute - perfect: you say who they are, shoot them and it's over. You know as I do the procedure's never been effective - and it won't be this time, either.
There aren't any traitors: people are feeling their way; we're humans. Some say: don't overdo it. Others: it's OK as it is. The poor are always with us: fine, that can continue. Others say: Don't overdo it or the whole thing will fall on our heads.
Others say: We must break with it.
That's our programme: Break with it and confront it. We can strike the adversary as violently as they strike us. I said that once without being gainsaid: Between a lender and a borrower there is a balance of strength. Of course a lender has the upper hand: he lends to you or he doesn't. But the borrower has leverage, too: he repays, or he doesn't repay. Note this: when one is leading France, non repayment isn't the Greek story -- what's more, the Greek story does have a French address, in case you didn't know. Greece is in hock to 6 banks, 3 of which are French: what theyterm « The Markets » has a Paris address and we do know the names of the folks who live there. There's nothing mysterious about it.
That lucidity in the analysis of capitalism is the final lesson I propose, here.
Let us recapitulate. What can be learned from 1981? Not everything, or I'd have to re-read my 8-page note. Firstly: the Programme, the Strategy and the Party are three interlinked notions. If you establish a programme to break away and to combat, you can't apply it to anything other than breaking away and combatting - and you can't do it except by an alliance -- the strategic issue – between those interested in that break and that combat. The three hold together. When you toss out the Break away programme, you generally toss out the Rupture Alliances and in the end, you toss out the Rupture Party.
With the Primaries that's what will happen to the Socialist Party, and will end the series. It's the opposite with The Left Front; we'll have a programme - the Shared Programme. We have the equivalent of a Party, The Left Front, made up of 3 parties. A strategy, a Party, a Programme.
The strategy is Unity - but that Unity cannot be achieved with anything other than political coherence. If you do Unity without content, or Unity achieved on contradictory content it's no longer Unity and the rigging will explode when it's running. Thus, the programme issue is the central issue afferent to the political moment, as it is to the political struggle as well as to the political expostulations we must have within the Left.
Third point: popular involvement is both the means & the end of our action - it's why our Revolution is named Citizen. It's a Revolution; it breaks with the property régime in sectors which are withdrawn from The Markets; it breaks with the Institutional system - that of the Vth Republic and the Constituents are called. It breaks with the hierarchy of values since it replaces free and unhindered competition with co-operation and solidarity.
It's a Citizen Revolution since it's through universal franchise it will happen and which it agrees, in advance, is sovereign. It is « Citizen » because that means that power is exercised by the People. It therefore accepts no constraint in the exercise of that sovereignt unless controlled by the People. It therefore cannot be a question of continuing with the Lisbon Treaty straitjacket - neither economically nor politically. This straitjacket must therefore be cast off, the EuroPlus pact ejected, the European Trimester chucked in the bin with various other inept blather the Lisbon Treaty contains. We are certain that were France to call for a different European development model, it would be heard.
The truth is that nobody's proposing anything other than what's going on.
Fourth point: the price of credibility. One cannot come before the People except with a vocation and arguments for government. Credibility therefore obliges us to bring a concrete radicalness to life.
Finally - the core of the programme will never be anything but the sharing of wealth, in society. All the rest is built around that. The goal of Ecological Planning is another manner of sharing wealth.
The goal of the 6th Republic is another fashion of carrying out the sharing of wealth. It is the central issue in our society - the one which those who won't examine, who - by definition - think that any confrontation would inevitably be to their disadvantage.
If there must be confrontation and a Rupture Programme it is because wealth must be shared. Fundamentally, following 1981 there have been two types of balance sheet. First pass: those who will have concluded that nothing at all can be done, either because they've evaporated in a revolutionary isolation which won't get them anywhere, or they concluded all that can be done is what has always been done.
As for the Socialist movement, it's shipwreck is complete. In the European Socialist party line and approval of what Mr Papandreou's doing – and that entire business - was in a way crystallised by what happened in 2005 - and of which we reap, today, the political consequences.
We have courageously drawn other lessons from it, and, above all we've provided ourselves with the means of going forward. This magical means is The Left Front. It isn't a question of knowing whether great events will happenon the Old Continent - the only issue is when.
We are convinced that the world we have before our eyes will crumble as fast as the Ben Alism [Tunisia], faster than the Moubarakism [Egypt] and, in my view, at least as fast as events which only took a few weeks – events which occurred in the East Block countries which you well recall.
We are certain - because everything's set up for it - there'll be a huge systemic effect, blind leadership, totally ideologised, persuaded that nothing except what they're doing can be done. Those folks, in a splendid colorful expression, are driving straight at a wall, honking their horns. Though nobody wants to stop the machine.
If you'd listened this morning to my dialog [with an official Expert] it's a terrifying sight to see.
Those people have understood nothing, guessed nothing, foreseen nothing. They recite empty formulae on European economic governance which, apparently, is happening. On Social Europe which, it appears, is « on the march ». I don't think there's a single person who listened to us who can believe such a thing. However, they believe it. Others are at least as blinded; I was able to see how Dominique Strauss-Kahn puts it. In particular. There it is.
I've reached the end of what I had to say.
I hope I made a presentation which gives, of my view of events and 1981 lessons something different from what you'll be hearing a lot. I wanted to conclude by reframing Jean Jaurès lovely expression : Of  some have kept only ashes; we have kept the embers. To honour his memory, I'll settle for this François Mitterrand quote:
It's normal that, with each generation, whatever is done is done differently
english transcription subtitles thanks to Bud Butley