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Politics and Happiness, in Perfect Mutual Attraction

Translated by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble. The atmosphere was festive, and combativity was in full force. 70,000 persons had come, yesterday [1], to the Place du Capitole, in Toulouse, to hear Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of the Front de gauche in the French presidential election. Toulouse, by special envoys The narrow streets converging … Continued

Translated by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble.

The atmosphere was festive, and combativity was in full force. 70,000 persons had come, yesterday [1], to the Place du Capitole, in Toulouse, to hear Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of the Front de gauche in the French presidential election.

Toulouse, by special envoys

The narrow streets converging toward the heart of Toulouse beat with the rhythm of thousands of men and women, young and less young, who advance slowly. It would have been necessary to push back even the arcades surrounding the Place in order to accommodate the joyous and brightly colored throng who attempted to find a passage in order to participate in the assembly of the Front de gauche. Dozens of busses arriving from nearby departments [2] were parked along the Allée Jean Jaurès. The busses and tramways in Toulouse are stopped — on strike — and may this remain the case! Everyone has come as best (s)he can, in order not to miss this rendezvous considered by no small number to be a truly historic event.

From La Bastille to the Capitole, a shock wave

Hours earlier, on the train bringing him from Limoges, where, the previous day, he spoke before an assembly of 9,000 people, Jean-Luc Mélenchon writes his speech — in red pen, of course. He still hesitates on a choice of citation from Jean Jaurès, the elected official, the deputy of the miners in Carmaux, the founder of the newspaper l’Humanité. “There are texts of Jaurès with deep meaning concerning sovereignty, concerning the nation …,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, his pen paused. At the podium erected in front of the façade of the Capitol, he quotes Jaurès from memory: “Any political struggle comes down to the question of political sovereignty of the people.” This thought of Jaurès is the Ariadne’s thread of the discourse by this “pretender to the Elysee Palace”, whose accents do not fail to recall those of that earlier historic figure.

While most interventions by Mélenchon are designed in such a way as to respond to current events, those he delivers during the “occupation” of city squares, as yesterday in Toulouse, provide keys to open broader perspectives. There is a spirit of pedagogy that characterizes this unique campaign. With no safety net, just a few notes scribbled on scraps of paper, the candidate has running through his head “like a little music”, ever since the march to the Bastille, the shock wave whose after-shock is felt here today. Before this crowd, he returns to the subject of national defense, which he wants “independent” and based on “a new global anti-globalization alliance” [3]. France is not a Western nation … it is a universalist nation,” he says.

Credited with 15% in the last CSA poll, Mélenchon has become the third man, beating the candidate of the National Front and giving the lie to all predictions. At 15%, “Mélenchon becomes a problem, and is no longer a laughing matter,” says Eric Coquerel, adviser to the candidate, “because the alternative is becoming serious, and attacks founded on social class come flying in from all directions.” At first surprised, the political staffs of the other candidates became annoyed, irritated, and have now become venomous toward the candidate who has restored the confidence of the people on the left.

Myriam Martin, former spokesman of the NPA, cannot contain her joy at being here, with the Left Front. “It has created a dynamic, bringing together thousands and thousands of individuals. Today, in the Left Front, much resistance is expressed. This is a surprise encounter, extremely positive, between those who do not want to hunker down and those who want an aggressive campaign to the left of the PS.”

Christian Picquet, spokesman for the United Left, added: “This is also the debate that we bring to the rest of the left. We want the left to win. We want it to get together and to govern in a real perspective for change. We do not want the defeat of the right to be followed by a terrible disappointment. “

“Hope is born, no force can resist it”

Remarks that hit right on the target. These days, the media have a good laugh about the “inconsistency” of the proposals of the Left Front candidate. Some commentators express disdain toward the “utopia” of the program of the Front de gauche. Nicole Borvo Cohen-Seat, communist senator from Paris, says: “For thirty years we have had failures, disappointments, set-backs. Today, hope is born, no force can resist it. The Left Front has given back a voice to the workers, employees, citizens of this country. They symbolically took back the Bastille on March 18. “

In the crowd, Christophe is hard at work since yesterday morning. He offered stickers, sold pins and umbrellas stamped Front de gauche. The reception of bystanders, rue Saint-Rome, was warm. “Mélenchon managed to do what we have long awaited: to re-unite the people. As a youth, I was a militant in the CFDT, today, at FSU. I have always voted for the left of the left, Juquin, Besancenot, but in 2007 I voted for Ségolène [4], to ensure that the FN not be able to get past the first round. In 2012, this sword of Damocles no longer exists. I was like many people, desperate, and now Mélenchon renews my interest in politics.”

A little further, Sofian, nineteen years, exudes joy. “Earlier, I was convinced that the candidates were ‘all rotten, all liars’. I was about to vote without conviction for Hollande. Then I listened to the speech Mélenchon gave, and I almost fainted. Straight talk from the heart, speaking to the heart. And ideas. In each sentence, one idea. I read his program and felt a second realization. I did not think we could talk about human beings, about humanity, that way. “

The square of the Capitole rings with revolutionary songs of Nicaragua, of the Spanish Republic, filled with joy and happiness. “You can try to block the path of history … ‘, Jean Jaurès once said from the rostrum of Parliament. Tonight Mélenchon smiles.

[1] Thursday 5 April, for a meeting starting at 19h

[2] France being divided into 100 départements

[3] Since this article contains relatively few direct quotations from the address at the Capitole, we have appended copious excerpts, taken from the video of the event.

[4] Ségolène Royal, candidate of the PS

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