Jean-Luc Mélenchon had his Paris rally today, exactly five years to the day after his big one of the 2012 campaign, which I attended and took pics of. Both serendipitously happened not only on a weekend but also on the anniversary of the birth of the 1871 Paris Commune, the French left’s most hallowed moment of history. The 2012 march set off from the Place de la Nation and ended at the Place de la Bastille, where JLM gave his speech. Today’s began at the Bastille and proceeded to the Place de la République, which is considerably larger than the Bastille, so can thus pack in more people. The turnout was impressive: larger than the 2012 march and considerably more so than François Fillon’s Trocadéro rally two weeks ago. The organizers announced 130,000; perhaps it was two-thirds of that, maybe more. It was certainly the biggest gathering of the ‘left of the left’ in a while: of JLM’s new movement La France Insoumise and the constituent parties of the Front de Gauche—the Communists and Ensemble the most important, along with JLM’s Parti de Gauche (now indistinguishable from FI)—which still seems to exist (JLM has pronounced the FDG defunct but the PCF says no, that it’s still alive and well). In American terms, these are Bernie Sanders supporters—on his left flank—though JLM is not the French Bernie; that distinction goes to Benoît Hamon; JLM is to Bernie’s left.
A few remarks on JLM’s speech, which went a full hour (if one wants to watch it, go here). First—and something we already know—he’s quite an orator, one of the best in the French political class, his speech replete with historical and literary references that one would never hear from a politician outre-Atlantique (and certainly not one who writes his/her own speeches, which, it goes without saying, JLM does). Second, a salutary detail of organization: JLM was not preceded by a series of politicos no one came to see and who could drone on and waste everyone’s time. There were short prerecorded videos projected on the big screens of FDG and other personalities speaking in favor of JLM—Pierre Laurent, Clémentine Autain, Danielle Simonnet, Eric Coquerel, Liêm Hoang-Ngoc—each thankfully lasting two or three minutes. The warm-up speakers were musicians and writers—none known to me—who sang leftist folk songs and read poetry. Nice. Third, JLM made not a single reference to any of his political opponents. There was an indirect one to Marine Le Pen and a couple of mentions of the Loi Macron (loud boos) but otherwise no personal attacks on anyone, which was admirable, though JLM clearly disdains everyone not in his political corner and does not envisage collaboration with the PS or anyone else outside the FI/FDG. The principal focus was on his populist vision for a direct democratic “6th Republic,” which is so half-baked and utterly unlikely to ever happen that, IMO, it’s not even worth debating. The constitution of the 5th Republic has some serious flaws but which could be fixed by amending a half dozen articles, not replacing the whole thing. I’ll elaborate on that matter at the opportune moment.
As usual I took photos of the event and with commentary—click on the pics (there are 92) and scroll with the arrow—which I put into an album here.