Friday, April 06, 2012

Resistance !

It's an old word, Resistance, one that had fallen out of fashion, replaced by compliance and resignation. It's a word whose nobility has been branded into generations of human beings who refused oppression, authoritarianism and dictatorship. From the battles on the plains of Gaul to the guerilla warfare led against the Nazi in France during World War II, its echoes had almost faded from our hearing range.


Resistance has been coming back into the groove these last few days. It's shouted and echoed by thousands of passionate voices. In Paris, at the Bastille, one hundred and twenty thousands voices lifted it up and sent it soaring up to the sky, challenging clouds and defeating a forecasted rain which never fell. The endless tides of people thronged the streets of Paris, answering the call of one man who managed the tour de force of uniting the true left of the political spectrum. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for the Left Party, is one among the ten candidates for France's presidential elections, and he's also the one man who has breathed in a sense of hope into a gloomy and beleaguered society.

At the turn of the year, Mélenchon was the butt of the pundits's jokes. He was a clown, a bully – pundits hate those who refuse to pay them homage and submit to their little branding games as a rule – and a scarecrow who might not even reach the 5% of votes necessary to receive funds for his campaign. Mélenchon was just an oddity, way out there, and often equated with the far right's Le Pen, in what was, as the pundits well knew, the worst insult they could throw at him, not to mention a blatant lie.

But time passed. Mélenchon set out to meet the people in all the corners of France. He set out to reconquer all those women and all those men who had given up on politics, given up on voting. He set out to confront the far right head-on, refusing to abandon to Le Pen the workers and the poor, all categories of people which the traditional left had simply written off their agenda. And something happened. People started to come to his meetings, to hear him talk. To hear Mélenchon explain, explain and explain again what politics is, the tremendous power people have and should never relinquish. To hear Mélenchon teach again the use of the word: Resistance. He's an exceptional orator, is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, someone versed in literature, who can quote Victor Hugo and hundreds of other authors on the fly, in complete improvisation. He's also someone who never let anyone write his speeches – not even himself : he jots down the main ideas, and then he dives into the battle of eloquence. He fences with words, spurred by inspiration and conviction. And you know what ? The sincerity in the man reaches out to the people who come to see him. It embraces them and sparks hope in their hearts anew.

Days went by, then weeks. And more and more people came to listen to Jean-Luch Mélenchon. Among them, young people, old people, some who had turned their back on politics, others who never thought they'd be interested in it. The audiences grew and, at last, the pundits were forced to acknowledge that Mélenchon was a true contender for the presidency. And Mélenchon overtook Le Pen in the surveys, becoming the third man, and taking back from the far right people it had deceived and lured toward it. Of course, the pundits did what they do best : they acknowledged his score in the surveys while nurturing their contempt for the man and using all the weapons at their disposal to belittle the ideas he defends – and to belittle the people who come in great waves to listen to him, to rediscover that politics is noble, perhaps the noblest of domains, and rediscover that, yes, they have power.

Then came March, 18th, 2012. The anniversary of 1871's Commune de Paris, the one great hope of the poor one hundred and forty years ago, crushed with sabers and guns and cannons, and rivers of blood. On that Sunday, one hundred twenty thousand people came to the Bastille from all over France, so many that Jean-Luc Mélenchon had to shorten his speech on the fly by half, in order to allow the people massing in the square and all the adjacent streets to move on before they ended up crushed against barriers.

The pundits watched, speechless.

And then again, yesterday, seventy thousand people filledToulouse's gigantic main square and the streets all around it. And Resistance once again soared up to the sky, echoed by all those voices.

I do not know what will happened on the evening of April 22nd. I do not know if Jean-Luc Mélenchon will end up third in the race. I do not know if the unthinkable will happen, and send him to the second round run-off. But I do know one thing : Jean-Luc Mélenchon's passionate words and oratory talents have rekindled hope in a great many people's hearts, re-empowering them, giving them back a power they had thought stolen from them forever. His project of social justice, his refusal to bow down before the threats and scorn of the pundits and the power-that-be, his willingness to relinquish power to the people and to lift them up from the black pit of resignation and indifference, of the life of blind slavery to a system gone mad find an echo. An echo that grows. It places politics back at the center of the game, it gives politics back the nobility the right and the social-democrats have sold piece by piece for their own comfort over the years, until politics was no more than filthy rags people didn't want anything to do with.

Politics is the heart and soul of a democracy. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reminding all of us of this fundamental truth. Power is in our hands. Nobody can take it form us, unless we allow them to. We can do something. We can change the world. We can turn the system upside down, if we gather. If we unite our forces. A revolution of citizens, peaceful, through the polls, this is the possibility he offers the French people.


And for that, for sparking hope and giving back politics its nobility, I for one am thankful.

I do not know what will happen on April 22nd. I can only hope, but even that is a gift.

Good journey, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, may it take you far, may it give you the leverage to force the socialists to lead a true leftwing policy if they end up in the Elysee.

Imagine, if the socialists win the preisdential, with Mélenchon's support, and if, one year from now, the socialists win the general elections in Germany with the support of Die Linke. Imagine, The Left Party and Die Linke having leverage on the socialists, enough to shape policies toward the left, more social justice. Imagine...

Resistance is trendy once again.

Good journey, and good luck.

And if you want to know more, as luck would have it the Guardian has a long paper about Mélenchon here : Jean-Luc Mélenchon: the poetry-loving pitbull galvanising the French elections.

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