Blog post

The Pretext of Fighting “Mélenchon”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon describes the slander campaign that has been carried out against him in the lead up to France's snap legislative elections.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon28 June 2024

The Pretext of Fighting “Mélenchon”

Originally published in French on Jean-Luc Mélenchon's blog.


When I see how this “Mélenchon” chap gets treated, my emotions freeze up. The media’s hatred for him is so venomous, so total — something truly rare. I didn’t think it was still possible these days: it has been a long time since we saw anything quite like it! Of course, Jean Jaurès and Léon Blum took quite a hit back in their day. Jaurès was called an “agent of the Germans” and a “secular hypocrite” whose children took Catholic communion. Then Raoul Villain assassinated him. Blum was attacked for his supposed gold tableware, and many other delusional accusations. He was arrested and “judged” by the agents of Pétain and Maurras, then deported. Before that, Jaurès was beaten on the floor of the National Assembly by a parliamentary colleague, and Blum was attacked in the street. How many abuses they suffered! I mention only these two to give an idea of the great leap backwards that has suddenly afflicted the French media-political sphere. The comforting thing, of course, is to sense the kinship among the falsehoods created over the ages.

In these past cases, as in that of “Mélenchon” today, all the accusations were bogus. But, with the benefit of hindsight, we know what the context of those times was and how things turned out. It makes it easier to understand what the violence directed against these leaders was really about. When you think about it, you also better understand what is at stake in the disgrace so unashamedly heaped on “Mélenchon”. And you see that it’s heavy stuff! I am reminded of the treatment of Salvador Allende before his victory — and how this victory was then overturned by the barbaric far-right putsch for which this treatment had readied men’s minds. I hope that “Mélenchon” will escape the same fate. Hasn’t he, too, already survived two plots to kill him? For the moment, his assailants are in jail, one for nine years and the other for eighteen. Their accomplices are also in prison. As well as plotting to kill him, they were also planning attacks on mosques... “Mélenchon”, like eight other France Insoumise MPs, has faced constant and concrete death threats for months. His phone has been hacked, bombarded and ultimately put out of use, as have those of five other France Insoumise MPs. While it’s a pity that no investigation has ever been concluded — if there ever was one after the legal complaint — you’d almost think he’s lucky. I hope his luck doesn’t desert him.

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Still, the current defamation campaign has two remarkable new features compared with past ones. The first is that which, in the name of the fight against antisemitism, leads people to offer their second-round votes to a far-right party with a more than virulent antisemitic past. Indeed, this isn’t only in its past. The news site Mediapart has drawn up a list of forty-five RN candidates who continue to make antisemitic comments even in the middle of the campaign. Water off a duck’s back. This transfer of votes to the RN seems to be meeting little resistance. On the contrary, there is a great wave of collusion in this regard, today being more or less openly expressed. Sometimes this comes at the cost of unashamed and unrestrained self-abasement, such as that which led a hero of the fight against the former Nazis — Serge Klarsfeld — to recommend voting for this party, the RN, which counts a Nazi among its founders. Yes, this unabashed version is the unmasked face of a process that has now spread far and wide.

Here, “Mélenchon” offers a pretext. Mentioning “Mélenchon”, people who suddenly no longer want to hide their true intellectual identity authorise themselves to vote for the far right. Any expression of the fight against antisemitism is now accompanied by a call to vote against “Mélenchon” and his Insoumis friends. Since they form the numerical core of the New Popular Front, we can see how this attack is well-targeted to make this shameful move look like a good one. It offers a double advantage for the attackers — and doubles the error made by their accomplices within our own ranks. Firstly, because the largest reserve of votes for the New Popular Front is today among France Insoumise supporters. In their great number, they are disgusted by these attacks — and they will not be ever so keen to vote for people who insult them via me. On the other hand, many people who believe what these “moderates” have to say may be scared off. The resumption of the attacks against me by [Socialist Party “moderates”] Mayer-Rossignol, Guedj and co. thus mechanically works to lose votes for the Left across all sectors of society. The media class plays a central role in this operation, which is repeated night and day in the media of the nine billionaires who control 90 percent of these outlets. The state is no better. We saw the reprisals on public radio against journalists who’d signed a petition to vote against the Front National. It was a bludgeon to re-establish the discipline of thought everywhere. A full salute to the victims of the media purge now underway. From now on, only insinuations, frontal attacks and insulting questions against La France Insoumise are permitted. Which also means that they are recommended. The inquisitors then rely on the old joke: “a model avoids eating so they can stay in shape, a journalist stays in line so they can eat” [le mannequin ne mange pas pour garder la ligne, le journaliste garde la ligne pour manger].

We may well wonder whether the fight against antisemitism has not become the core of the election-time offensive against the radical left. All over the world, this campaign is only unleashed in force and in public for elections in which the Left has a chance. And it strikes against the Left alone. I remember how Libération faked a statement by Hugo Chávez in order to turn it into a "manifesto of antisemitism in Venezuela" (see my 2006 blog entry on this). The method consists of relentlessly pounding away at everything, without pause or respite or concern for plausibility. It works like the rumour mill: by force of repetition. Until this pressure cracks each expression of resistance and crushes all the solidarity built around it.

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Here, we get to the second new thing. Today — all over the world — the “Mélenchon” type of target must fight on two fronts. In other words, they have to strike back also at their supposed friends, and even at their alliance partners. This is how Jeremy Corbyn was politically destroyed, to give just one example. This operation relies on two key foundations. Firstly, interpersonal rancour and the old score-settling or individual competition that this shameful campaign allows to be openly asserted, but now in the trappings of pure intentions. Nor should we ignore the effect of pure political manoeuvring, like that through which the so-called "moderate left" tries to marginalise its radical rival. The other base of support for this operation is the class cowardice of social circles that live off their good reputations. They cannot survive in their milieu without the symbolic gratifications that the system grants to those who bend meekly to the domination of official thinking. I am not naming any particular profession, here. I make that choice out of respect for the remarkable exceptions that exist everywhere and that endure despite constant and deadly professional rivalries. The one thing probably explains the other. In any case, the media class holds up the mirror. It takes a special strength of character to resist it. I've seen that character in [former Gaullist prime minister] Dominique de Villepin on TV or the lawyer Jean-Pierre Mignard’s tweet, or Emmanuel Todd in spite of everything that divides us. For his part, [former Socialist premier] Lionel Jospin also firmly rebuffed the harassing questions on [right-wing news channel] BFM. But not every Socialist is Lionel Jospin — far from it. His reply on BFM on Sunday 23 June is a textbook example of those dignified people who refuse to be tamed by a shameless journalist:


Jospin: “The Left must...” [interviewer Benjamin] Duhamel: .” you think there's a problem with antisemitism in La France Insoumise?” Jospin: “You've said that five times now, with a calm, smiling insistence. I'll tell you: our Jewish compatriots will never be protected by the RN, which is a xenophobic and racist party. The priority is also the fight against racism and xenophobia, OK?”


Conversely, François Hollande is delighted to be able to demand that “Mélenchon”... should “shut up”. Nothing less. The future candidate for the presidency — and why not, the prime minister’s office — is an expert in the art of manipulation. In his interview, he denies any conflict exists, at the very moment when he is organising it against me. The interviewer isn’t bothered. He purrs along. He’s there to stir people up against each other and he’s achieved that. Immediately, hundreds of miles away, his colleagues pounce on me at the end of my rally in Montpellier. Nothing I said there interested them. Their only demand: that I must reply to Hollande! Naturally, I made a point of not doing so. Otherwise, the media would immediately present him as a victim of my “harshness”. And then… put the odds and ends together, and abracadabra, you have the “antisemitic Mélenchon”. Because, at the moment, all roads still lead to Rome, and every opportunity leads to the unmasking of antisemitism in La France Insoumise. Hollande counted on this and won. The very next day, the anti-La France Insoumise hate figures in the Parti Socialiste came out of the woodwork and were welcomed on radio and TV to relay his message. On the ground, La France Insoumise voters are likely to take this pretty badly. Particularly for Jérôme Guedj, whose own running mate Hella Kribi has broken with him and put forward her own candidacy together with the Insoumis trade unionist Philippe Juraver.

This is the heart of all that for which “Mélenchon” is the name of the moment. Because I don't think Hollande is interested in who I am or what I think. What he dislikes isn’t me — whom he doesn’t really care about — but the programme of which I have been the emblem for the last three presidential elections. Signing up to a [New Popular Front] programme that cancels his “licence to kill” law, the provisions of the El Khomri type [the controversial 2016 Parti Socialiste labour reform under Hollande’s presidency] contained in the Macron laws, going back on the tax credits he granted — signing up to all these things doesn’t cost Hollande anything, because he thinks none of it will happen. But he also knows that if I’m in charge of it, then yes, it will happen and he will have to vote for it himself. Once again, the one thing probably explains the other. 

You might ask why I keep talking about “Mélenchon”. Is this perhaps a new form of my “antisemitism”? Why talk about him as if he were someone other than me? It’s because the “Mélenchon” referred to in this dismal reporting is not me. It’s an avatar, just a pretext. It serves as a pretext for some people to again proclaim “better Hitler than the Popular Front.” It is an excuse for right-wing and “polite-left” high society to cast a shameful vote without getting their hands too dirty. I’m not antisemitic and I still don’t see in what way I am supposed to be. I'm an Insoumis. Rebelling against what? The established order. It’s a political opinion. I am opposed by all those who profit from this established order — and also by their dinner table companions. But the established order is no longer capable, as in years past, of selling itself through its own merits, or its ideology. Nor, above all, can it sell itself through the promise of a desirable future. If the current battle looks like a battle taking place in a sewer, that’s because it is one. We will fight the battle in any and all contexts, even the most repugnant. Our force of moral resistance can be summed up in one slogan: another world is possible.


Translated by David Broder

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