Six months before the presidential election, “La France Insoumise” (LFI) is holding its “Convention” in Reims last weekend. People have always seen themselves less as a party than as a political movement. The name can best be translated as “The defiant France”.
The LFI won almost 20 percent in 2017 with its presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (JLM), who was their only known figure at the time. Affected with the stigma of the empty formula “populist” and pelted with dirt of all kinds, attempts have been made in vain to destroy him and the LFI. Not least with well-tempered people, JLM has certainly damaged its Mediterranean temperament. He has been a member of the National Assembly with 16 other members since 2017. These years have not spared him, but thwarted the version of a politician on the lonely ego trip. Now for the third time applicant, Mélenchon appears discreetly in the audience in Reims, leaving the field to the many, now familiar faces. Mathilde Panot, the youngest parliamentary group leader ever, receives stormy applause when she takes the stage.
There are around a thousand delegates, composed strictly on an equal footing, one third delegated from activist groups, two thirds from the camp of supporters drawn by lot. The place is a normal congress center, in the plenary hall a spacious stage and a wide screen hold the position. The color scheme is far from the red and green colors of earlier times. The cleverly composed music combines individual chords of well-known battle songs with softer tones. In the auditorium a pleasantly friendly mixture of old and young, male, female and also very diverse ethnic origins.
Enter Manuel Bompard, the young campaign leader. He asks for a minute’s silence for the teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered a year ago. His throat was cut in order to punish him for discussing cartoons of Mohammed. An alleged closeness between Islamists and the left – despite their clearly secular positions – has been maliciously and maliciously developed into one of the main ideological lines of the past few years. The LFI opposes these ethnic and religious hysteria with a clear social program and propagates the “unity of the people” that is to be established because it has been damaged. This may sound strange to German ears, but in France the word “people” has a generally positive connotation.
Class disdain unleashed
In order to gain clarity in the face of abusive surveys, the LFI commissioned a professional agency to conduct its own survey. This resulted in a very high level of approval for their agenda. The political filtering function emanating from the influential media in France is based on facts that can hardly be concealed: nine billionaires own over 90 percent of all publications, and the executives of the public broadcasters are hoisted into office by those in power. Therefore, LFI continues to make massive use of its presence in social networks.
Based on the 2017 program, the Reims edition will be updated for 2022. Thousands of proposals were evaluated and came from our own ranks, the trade unions or non-governmental organizations. Clémence Guetté, not 30 years old, is responsible for coordinating the content. She reports on a wealth of ideas and intelligence that were put into the project. It recalls the movement of the yellow vests and their part in the program. It remains a mystery to many that what was initially a rather apolitical movement quickly became politicized within a very short time. How did an extensive elimination of the racist and anti-democratic impulses that initially existed come about? One can speculate about this as well as about the questions: Does a hegemony of “left” thought still exist in all parts of the people? Isn’t it inconsequential today that “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” are emblazoned on the front of public buildings?
The LFI has always rejected the fact that the political and media attacks against the yellow vests were sometimes characterized by unleashed class contempt. Mélenchon: “Stay with them, it’s ours!” Police violence in the ranks of this protest resulted in five amputated hands, 32 eyes destroyed by rubber bullets, countless skull injuries, smashed jaws, broken joints and feet. Tens of thousands of arrests and draconian prison sentences ensued. Amnesty International and various EU bodies protested against such repressive measures. In the German media – if you compare their justified outrage against official attacks in Russia or in China – there was little to be found on this.
The agricultural engineer Loïc Prud’homme presents his topic: Where is a planned, socio-ecological conversion of agriculture going? The goal: to secure the food autonomy of France with one hundred percent organic farming. At the same time, this means banning the import of food from unsocial and non-ecological productions – keyword solidarity-based protectionism – and fending off EU-induced social and environmental dumping. This alone required 300,000 more farmers, an initial subsidy for all newcomers, and debt relief for existing farms. According to the LFI, the necessary finances should primarily come from the profit margins of the food companies. The agricultural sector is just one example of a lack of meaningful work, but of means. MEP Danièle Obono spoke about how to fight violence against women. One billion euros should be available for this in the future, which is not an exaggeration, considering that in this country one murder of women is committed on average every two days. Finally, the LFI is promoting the phasing out of nuclear energy and shows the individual steps to take. President Macron recently unveiled a plan to regenerate billions in old acws and build many smaller reactors.
When the first part of the convention came to an end, Clémence Guetté made the historical reference to the French Revolution of 1789 and the 1945 program of all Resistance forces. The beautiful title: “The happy days”. It is noticeable that the Popular Front of 1936, which is resented by the denial of solidarity for the beleaguered Spanish Republic, is not quoted. The events of May 1968 also fall under the table of episodes worth mentioning. Although they brought in ten million striking workers a lot, they were also devalued by the later résumés of many student activists who turned out to be revolutionary gesticulators.
And then the attention of Congress is on the non-voters, who are seen to be two main groups: the poor and the young. It is explained in detail which materials and which methods each and every one of them can use to address this group, which is so crucial for the LFI. Training units are offered in some of the adjoining rooms. One of the forms of action is called “caravans”, with which the quarters of the underprivileged are to be found. Her slogan “If you don’t care about politics, politics will take care of you”. It is about help with applying for electoral ID cards, but also about other things. Many French people fail because of the daily bureaucratic hurdles. Young LFI members also want to use synergies here – with free musicians, cartoonists or game developers who move more or less closely in the LFI’s gravitational field. At the end of the convention, the Marseillaise sung. Whoever stays in the hall afterwards cannot be taken away the international to agree. On the return trip to Berlin I read about the new occupations of the roundabouts by the yellow vests.