Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Front de Gauche staged a big march this afternoon, from Place de la Nation to the Place de la Bastille, culminating in an address by Mélenchon to the masses in front of the Bastille Opera. The event was a huge success. There were several tens of thousands, considerably more than the 30,000 that had been predicted. It was the biggest march in France of the peuple de gauche not directly organized by trade unions in a very long time, with legions of aging PCF militants, probably every last member of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche, and activists from other sundry hard left associations and groupings. People of all ages. The other campaigns were certainly following the event very closely, particularly Hollande’s—which will be concerned by its success, as it wants as many of these folks as possible to vote for him in round one—and Sarkozy’s, which will be pleased by the success, as they hope Mélenchon will create problems for Hollande. Here are some of the photos I took. (N.B. I attended as an interested spectator. I am not a sympathizer of J-L Mélenchon or the French hard left, and definitely not of the Communist party. Politically speaking, this is not my cup of tea, even if I am not unsympathetic to some of the discourse and positions on given issues.)
As it happens, today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Paris Commune in 1871, an iconic event in the imaginaire of the French left, along with the storming of the Bastille in 1789. And the Faubourg Saint-Antoine was the heart of revolutionary Paris and the sans culottes in the 1792-94 years. Lots of symbolism here.
Sharon from Milwaukee sees Communists for the very first time.
Demanding the regularization of sans papiers, i.e. legalizing undocumented immigrants. Mélenchon supports it. So do I.
Mélenchon speaks, toward 5:10 PM. Impossible to get near the stage, or to even move.
The speech wasn’t that long, around half an hour. He’s a good orator. The rhetoric was solidly républicain and gauchiste. Mainly boilerplate. Biggest applause lines: attacking le grand capital.
I only saw one small hammer-and-sickle, on a homemade sign. Communists ain’t what they used to be.
Singing L’Internationale. It’s stirring. Has to be sung in French, BTW. Doesn’t work in English.
Singing La Marseillaise, the greatest national anthem in the world.