2019 10 – News From France


La Fête de l’Huma

La Fête de l’Humanité is the festival organised every year (since 1930) in September by the newspaper of that name; it is a mixture of politics and entertainment.

The newspaper l’Humanité used to be ‘the newspaper of the Communist Party’.  Now it calls itself ‘The newspaper founded by Jean Jaurès’, that is, it is no longer the voice of the CP.   Nevertheless, the CP dominates the festival.

The huge space is divided in streets (Bobby Sands square, avenue Mandela etc), open air music platforms, immense marquees housing one publishers stands,  six venues for debates, stands of foreign CPs and other political  organisations (Sinn Fein was there), plus camp site.  Publishers included mainstream and others; authors were present to answer questions.

Half a million people attend and the Paris transport system employs extra staff to manage the crowds.

Dilma Roussef spoke through an interpreter during a 2 ½ hour session ‘Free Lula’.

Thomas Piketty presented his new book “Capitalism and Ideology” and answered questions.

He spoke in a half hour session, sitting on a platform in a packed hall with people standing at the back.  He was strongly applauded, even though part of his message was that Russia and China were the strongest allies of liberal hypercapitalism, and that centralised state socialism had obviously been wrong.

The Communist Party was present through its local federations and their large stands offering food and drink on trestle tables and long benches, and political posters and photos.  Other stands included one for Marwan Barghouti, one for Venezuela and Maduro, the CGT, a stand for ‘Pole de renaissance communiste’ en France, a group of communists who try to put the CP back on the tracks of working class politics.  A stand of communist senators and MPs.

The colour red was everywhere, but not the hammer and sickle.  The logo of the CP is now a red star, with a little curlicue on top which looks like it’s there to hang the star on a Christmas tree.  The hammer and sickle is present on the stands of foreign CPs (the Free Marwan [Barghouti] stand had one) and on the stand of the group ‘for a renewal of the Communist Party and its youth wing.  One federation at least had a mix of the two: a star enmeshed in a hammer and sickle.

The most visible political activity by the CP was a large stand situated near the entrance devoted to the government online petition for a referendum on the privatisation of Paris Airport.  Visitors were asked to vote as they entered the fête.  If the national petition reaches 4.7 million signatures before 12th March 2020, the government will be obliged to launch a referendum asking the population whether they support the privatisation of Paris Airport.  These initiatives require the support of 1/5 of MPs and 1/10 of the names on the electoral register.  The required number of MPs have signed, it is now up to people to sign, hence the efforts of the CP.

A second petition, this time organised by the CP itself, demanded an end to hospital closures and the creation of 100,000 new posts in the health service.

A third petition, organised by some members of the CP but not official and not supported by all members of the National Committee, demanded the liberation of Assange.


Text of the Assange petition

This petition is addressed to the French president, Prime minister and members of parliament.

“Dear President,

“Dear Prime Minister,

Honourable Members of Parliament, elected representatives

France is the country of human rights and you have been mandated to represent it. It is therefore your duty to intervene on your own behalf and with the European Union to ensure that these rights are respected in a new worldwide Dreyfus affair.

We have reason to fear that Julian Assange is dying in prison and being subjected to systematic torture, in an old European democracy, England.

Since 11 April, the famous whistleblower has been held in a maximum security prison after being taken by the British police forces from the Ecuador Embassy in London, which had granted him political asylum since 2012. The police were able to enter the embassy on the grounds of a “minor offence under the British Bail Act”. An offence that is clearly a pretext against the man who revealed and proved the existence of war crimes committed by the United States in Iraq, and corruption against sovereign countries. Since then, Assange has been targeted by American institutions.

Julian Assange is reportedly the victim of deliberate psychological torture, the effects of which on his health are manifest. An accused person who cannot tolerate prison and whose life is at stake must be released. This was done in the case of Pinochet after all, and Julian Assange is innocent. So you must demand:

  • That an independent UN commission be appointed to visit him in prison and if his life or his mental balance are in question, that he be released.
  • that he not be extradited to the United States, which has made no secret that the fate they have in store for him is comparable to that of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, torture and isolation, and summary sentencing to up to 175 years in prison.

Julian Assange’s Defence Collective

A group of Gilets Jaunes met at the Fête de l’Huma announced their plan to come to London on Saturday 9th November to demonstrate for Assange.


Popular music and L’Oreal

Froggy enjoyed the experience of the Fête de l’Huma.  You can say that the ‘partners’ of the Fête, presumably financial backers, included Orange and L’Oreal alongside coops and political groups, you can say that most young people came for the cheapest pop music festival around and that when the main stage was occupied by Fabien Roussel, the new CP leader, making a speech, some of the young people took a break;  the special Sunday issue of l’Huma devoted to the programme was 80% about the music groups;  lots of people came for the beer and the old communists didn’t always attend the debates, knowing their opinions would be disregarded.  Some people say: the Fête de l’Huma is still going?  I thought the paper was finished!

Well the paper is not finished, communists are still there trying to find alternatives, and supporting heroic movements across the world.