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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.editoweb.eu/nicolas_mau...

Interview with the National Secretary of the PCF, Fabien Roussel, with the correspondent of La Pravda, Andrey Dultsev

Translated Sunday 11 October 2020

Interview with the National Secretary of the PCF, Fabien Roussel, with the correspondent of La Pravda, Andrey Dultsev

The XXXVIIIth Congress of the French Communist Party elected you as National Secretary of the FCP. What are your next tasks? What is your vision of the party’s tactics and strategy?

We are in an emergency situation. When I was elected National Secretary, there was no question of a global pandemic. At the time I was elected National Secretary, an economic crisis was ripe in France: even then, we were saying that the concentration of capital and the power of multinational corporations were threatening the French economy and the future of our country, that we risked a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty in France. The congress elected me as the new leader of the French Communist Party to signal the danger of an economic crisis, to show that capitalism is dangerous for our country, that it is urgent to abandon this economic model and to open the way for a new social project.

Therefore, the party’s program, approved by the delegates to the XXXVIII Congress of the PCF, is fundamentally different from the previous one. Our task today is to give hope for changes in the country, significant changes for our society. We must restore the influence of the French Communist Party. We need a stronger, more influential, more organized party, with a better trained militancy, ready to lead the ideological struggle in our country and to convince the French people of the need to abandon capitalism in order to build a new social and ecological model of society.

At the XXXVIII Congress, you voted on the party’s alternative program "For the Manifesto of the Communist Party of the XXI Century". One of the ideas of the program was the withdrawal of the PCF from the Left Front, in which the PCF delegated full powers to the leader of the Left Front, Jean-Luc Melenchon, for almost ten years. Why did you take that step?

The party’s new program, approved by the congress, declares the need for a stronger Communist Party, the need for our participation in the national elections, in order to allow the French people to choose a new economic model in order to insist on the need for profound revolutionary transformations. In the text of the program, we have confirmed the path towards the strengthening of the party, towards our participation in the national and presidential elections. For the first time in the party’s history, a program was approved that was an alternative to the former leadership’s draft program: the reason was that the majority of the party’s members wanted a change. But I am making these changes with Pierre Laurent, the former national secretary, we share a common goal and the unity of the party is important to us.

As for the Left Front: In previous years, the French Communist Party actively participated in its creation with Jean-Luc Mélenchon. As part of the Left Front, we supported his candidacy for the 2012 presidential elections. In the last presidential elections of 2017, the Left Front effectively ceased to exist, one year before the XXXVIII party congress. Therefore, we have only confirmed that the time has come for the PCF to restore autonomy, in order to conduct a direct dialogue with the workers, with civil servants, to defend our social model - communism, to prove its relevance. Therefore, in the XXXVIII Congress, we announced not our withdrawal from the Left Front, which at that time was already dead, but a confirmation of the need for a strong communist party.

The French Communist Party has been deeply rooted at the municipal level for decades. The last municipal elections in France clearly confirmed this. What is your strategy for the future and for working in coalition with other leftist forces at the municipal level?

In the municipal elections, we had mixed results: we managed to win in several cities, but unfortunately we lost in some places. The main result is that in the big cities we showed that you can win by uniting with voters who do not belong to any political party, but who are eager for change. To do this, we have formed coalitions with other left-wing political parties and environmentalists. Sometimes the communists were at the head of these coalitions - that’s how we won the elections in Villejuif or Bobigny, and sometimes our partners were at the head of the coalitions. In any case, this tactic enabled us to win seats on the councils and executives of cities like Marseille, Montpellier, Nancy and Strasbourg - something that has not happened for many years.

Indirect elections to the Senate are coming up, in which we expect a strengthening of positions thanks to the votes of our elected representatives in municipal legislatures. Therefore, during the next departmental and regional elections in March 2021, this spirit of coalition work must be strengthened. As in the municipal elections, we say: let’s work together, let’s unite to defeat the right and the liberals, to prevent Macron from gaining a foothold in the regions and departments.

As for the legislative and presidential elections, this is another form of voting. This is a national election, and a different approach is needed here, because these elections open a discussion in which each political force can present its project for society, and according to the results of which the French can vote for the ideas closest to us. Therefore, we want to prepare well for these elections.

Don’t you think that the voting system for the presidential election in France with two mandatory rounds and two candidates - the winners of the first round - is outdated? Are there constitutional restrictions that need to be reformed?

We really need to reform the State and public institutions to make them more open and to give citizens the opportunity to feel a taste for politics again, to give them the opportunity to express their opinions, the ability to influence the actions of the executive power at any time. We are in favor of an in-depth reform of the institutions of power, for the abolition of the existing presidential republic - we are trying to ensure that our country is not led by a single person, but by the collective leadership of the representatives of the people.

Our people are diverse in their composition, ideas, values and history - and these ideas must be presented in their entirety. We support the elimination of presidential elections in their present form and the establishment of a parliamentary republic. In the short term, we demand a change in the voting procedure for the next presidential election. We are against the second round of elections in France, which includes the two candidates who won the first round. It is the only election with such a voting system. We propose to open the second round to candidates who have obtained, say, more than 10% of the votes. This will allow a debate and will not be locked in arithmetic logic. The existing system pushes the political forces to unite to the detriment of the content, to the detriment of the program.

Don’t you think that the existing electoral system, in particular, is highly appreciated by the liberals who rule France, because the presence of such a traditional rival with a negative background in the second round, like Marine Le Pen, is an advantage for them?

Marine Le Pen exists thanks to the liberals, they are the ones who invented her, who gave her so much influence in the country with their political decision. Ms. Le Pen is the best opponent the Liberals can imagine. They are convinced that she is taking the votes away from the protesting electorate: popular anger ensures her access to the second round, in which she always loses. It’s a political stalemate. It is a very dangerous deadlock. Therefore, I am in favor of a clear political discussion with the French: to make them understand that voting for the National Gathering is a deadlock. If we really want to break with the current system, we must vote not for the extreme right, but for the Communist Party. That is why our participation in the public debate is extremely important.

What do you think of the "yellow vests" movement? Did they succeed in influencing the French government’s political change of course?

The first demonstration of the "yellow vests" took place in November 2018, on the day of the XXXVIIIth congress of our party. I immediately supported the yellow vests movement. Over the following months, I negotiated with them: I worked to support their proposals to establish a fair tax system, to increase the purchasing power of the majority of French people. And throughout the year, we saw that the demands of the "yellow jackets" were very close to those of the French Communist Party: the fight against tax evasion, demands for higher taxes for the rich, higher pensions, higher wages for workers ...

We ensured close cooperation, even if there were also moments of tension, because the yellow jackets first rejected the policy as such. We told them: not all parties are the same. These discussions were very intense. I think that the "yellow vests" influenced the government: they were able to prevent a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, because of their pressure, they reduced the tax on the pensions of poor pensioners. Above all, the "yellow vests" contributed to a great public debate: the French were able to express their painful concerns, and the president was forced to listen to them. I regret that the President does not want to implement the demands of the French people that were expressed during these discussions. But the yellow jackets have enabled us to make significant progress in the political process.

What are the proposals of the French Communist Party in the current crisis, given the neoliberal path of President Macron?

First of all, we propose, as already mentioned, fairer taxation. The wealth we create must be shared more equitably. We need to restore the purchasing power of the workers, to distribute wealth more fairly, so it is important to tax the rich multinationals, to tax the profits, to tax dividends and to give more money to those who create this wealth with their own hands.

But we can’t stop there - we want a revolution in production. It is not enough to tax the rich. We have to change the nature of production, the efficiency of cars, trains, turbines ... We have to put production at the service of people - taking into account the environmental situation. We propose to reduce working hours, to lower the retirement age to 60 and to increase employee contributions in order to have better social protection. And that means completely changing the nature of production. And in doing so, we will strengthen our contribution to environmental responsibility, which is essential for the planet today. We must give workers greater rights in companies, establish control over capital, over the spending of public funds. Employees should have the right to veto management decisions,

So the discussion of the antagonism of capital and productive labour is the key point of the FCP program?

Yes, and today we have many examples: let’s take what is happening at the Bridgestone tire factory in Bethune (for more details, see the article "No to liberal policy", Pravda, No. 87 (31019), 22-23 September 2020), where we see that the problem is not the cost of jobs, but the expectations of capital. Capital sets unattainable profitability targets and puts pressure on workers to achieve the desired level of profitability. The sacrifices demanded of workers are enormous. And at the Bridgestone plant, workers are now being forced to sacrifice jobs. Capital imposes its will. Thus, when we are faced with the choice between capital and productive labor, we say: first jobs must be saved. We are for the fundamental right to work.

How do you want to conduct this discussion within the framework of the neo-liberal European Union? What is your position towards the EU? Don’t you think that the EU today is primarily an organization through which Germany imposes its interests on its European neighbors?

The French Communist Party has always maintained, and for a long time we were the only ones, that it was impossible to change the economic model in France by playing by the rules of the European Union. The problem with the European treaties is that they are fundamentally liberal, they protect capital and put workers in competition with each other. And so we are trying to make France renounce the European treaties, we want to withdraw - not from the European Union, but from the European treaties. We are looking for a different framework of cooperation between countries based on mutual assistance and we want the abolition of the rules that encourage countries and peoples to compete with each other. This means that we must put an end to these contracts. In the last elections to the European Parliament, the French Communist Party said: there are political forces defending the European Union and the European treaties, and there are those who oppose them. Among those who oppose them, there is the extreme right, which proposes national isolation, while we, the communists of France, are in favor of cooperation and friendship among peoples. But we want to put an end to competition between nations.

What is the difference between the French communists and the other left-wing parties today?

In our country, on the left, there is a discussion between those who believe that the capitalist system can be corrected, improved, and those who believe, as we do, that we must break with it. Today we talk a lot about climate and ecology, and we are the only party that says that for a true ecological and social revolution, we must abandon capitalism. You can’t paint capitalism green. It’s an illusion. When I hear someone from the left talking about ecological capitalism, the problem is not ecology, but capitalism. We have to abandon capitalism. It’s an old discussion between social democrats (social-liberals) and revolutionaries. It is the continuation of the debate that took place a hundred years ago at the Tours Congress of the Socialist Party, which laid the foundations of our organization.

You talk about revolutionary changes. To what extent is the PCF a revolutionary party?

Today we have to respond to two calls. The first challenge is the social emergency: there have never been so many super-rich people in the world, including in Europe and France, and so many poor people. All means must be used to eradicate poverty and unemployment - this is our first priority.

The second challenge is environmental: we know that if we don’t respond to the climate emergency, if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions, if we don’t change the way we produce in the next 10 years, then the day will come when it will be too late. To meet these two challenges, we must abandon capitalist production relations - a model in which profitability and the exploitation of humans and natural resources are ends in themselves. We must abandon this logic, and we have no choice but to build a new and radically different model of society. This is a revolution.

How do communists evaluate the French colonial past? What are the communists doing to fight modern French neo-colonialism?

We have a painful history associated with many of these countries, mainly North African states: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia. First, the French Communist Party is seeking to declassify military archives, access to which has been restricted for more than 60 years. Why are there still so many "top secret" files - documents showing what France has done in these countries? Last year, France finally declassified the case of Maurice Audin, a French Communist who was tortured to death in Algeria by the French army. It is important to talk about what happened: it is important for the memory of the Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian people, it is also important for the French - transparency is necessary.

Another problem is the relationship between France and African countries today: the heads of some states, provoking protests from their own people, are supported by France. The people of Africa do not understand France’s attitude towards them: the French continue to behave as if these countries remain their colonies. Sometimes French policy is aimed at exploiting wealth - I am talking mainly about Mali and Niger, where France is mining uranium and where the stakes are very high. France’s de facto support for tyrannical heads of state is unacceptable. That is why we are building ties of friendship and cooperation with the progressive peoples and communities of these countries, and when a French military contingent is present there, as is the case in Mali, we try to achieve so that this military presence is the subject of public debate in France, which does not exist at the moment. The fact that the Malian people today consider France to be an occupying force is a very disturbing fact for us. We must help, not occupy. We are defending friendship with the African people, without military force. This is obvious when we look at what France has done in Libya. It is France that bears full responsibility for the chaos that reigns in that country today. It must never happen again.

What is the PCF’s policy towards Russia?

We believe that the peoples of our great Eurasian continent must cooperate peacefully with each other: the geographical proximity that unites us and allows us to work together is indisputable. The French Communist Party strongly condemned the sanctions against Russia in 2016, and today we continue to call for their lifting, because we do not want to be a country subordinate to the United States in the confrontation of two military blocs. This is the logic of the past. We reject the politics of blocs and economic wars, especially today, when, in the context of a global pandemic, we must put an end to economic "confrontations", which can degenerate into a real "hot" war. We call for an end to economic sanctions and for a healthy relationship that allows for cooperation. The French Communist Party is today the party of peace, fraternity and friendship of peoples.

This is my message to my comrades of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and to all Russians in the hope that we can build bridges of fraternity between our two peoples. This is why the PCF says that NATO has no right to exist. The Warsaw Pact has dissolved and NATO must dissolve in the same way, because there is no longer any justification for the existence of this alliance. The logic of military blocs must be abandoned, which is why we demand France’s withdrawal from NATO.

This year the PCF celebrates its centennial. What is the party doing to popularize communist ideas in contemporary French culture?

This year we are celebrating the centenary of the PCF - given the current sanitary and epidemiological conditions, the festivities are complicated. Nevertheless, we are planning a number of public events: those that we will not be able to organize because of the restrictions related to the pandemic, we will postpone to next year. But we will organize most of the events, and I would like the 100th anniversary of the French Communist Party to be an opportunity to reflect on the century to come that we want to build in the name of peace, friendship and human dignity. The PCF is a tool for change, so there is no need to convince the French people of the usefulness of the French Communist Party. I am not a store manager. We have united in our party to prepare for change. We tell the French people that we want these changes with them, why we need to be more, so that more people will help us. The centenary of the PCF is above all an opportunity for us to project into the future.


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