In France, a celebration of struggles and alternatives

This year’s edition of the Fête de l’Humanité, one of the biggest political and popular events in France, had music, debates, sports, and campaigns which were attended by thousands from France and across the world

September 23, 2019 by Cyril Benoit
Humanite fest
Fabien Roussel of the French Communist Party greeting the gathering. (Photo: special arrangement/Fête de l'Humanité)

From September 13th to 15th, the park of La Courneuve in the suburbs of Paris saw once more the biggest political and festive event in France, the Fête de l’Humanité. Organised by the communist newspaper of the same name and made possible by the work of an estimated 25,000 militants and volunteers, the 89th edition of the festival was held despite significant obstacles.

Founded in 1930, the festival aims to be a large popular event, offering a wide range of activities – music, debates, sports, culture – and providing a space for all those who perceive the impasse of the current capitalist system and the need to opt for a different one.

Rap, zouk, rock, electro, jazz – all kinds of music were performed, attracting people of all ages. A cinema and a theater allowed visitors to sit for a while and enjoy cultural programs, something that is becoming increasingly inaccessible for many. The traditional 10 km run permitted visitors to stay fit while supporting the newspaper. And if running was not their thing, visitors could opt for over 15 activities presented by the Sportive and Gymnastic Federation of Labour (FSGT), from rugby to badminton.

A number of concerts were held on the occasion.

It would be impossible to list all the debates and conferences held on the various stands of the structures of the French Communist Party (PCF) and other organizations. In the current context, the issues are many, with the unrelenting attacks led by the Macron Government against the working class on one hand and the dangerous rise of the far-right on the other. A key subject of discussion was the ongoing attempt to destroy the pension system that was created after the liberation from fascism. A debate between Philippe Martinez (General-Secretary of CGT) and the newly-appointed minister in charge of the “reform”, Jean-Paul Delevoye, highlighted the real objectives of the government and gave participants the impetus to prepare and mobilize for the strike and demonstrations that will take place on September 24th.

The festival which was held in the vicinity of Le Bourget airport also saw an extensive focus on the campaign for the organization of a referendum against the privatization of the Paris airports. The signature campaign which was marked by a surge of enthusiasm in the beginning was seeing fewer signatures of late. That is why a number of stands dedicated their activity to informing the participants of the issue and collecting their signatures. There is still a long way to go to reach the required 4.7 million signatures, but the festival added 10,000 to the effort.

Internationalism is at the core of the festival and the ‘international village’, which welcomes organizations from all around the world, was one of the most popular sections. In his speech at the inauguration of the village, the director of L’Humanité, Patrick Le Hyaric, underlined the importance of international solidarity for the festival: “While the egoism of rival nations affirms itself everyday, our newspapers […] make a very different voice heard, that of solidarity, of global struggles for peace, democracy, social and environmental justice. Put together, these struggles form the coherence of a world of fraternity.”

Various movements and leaders from across the world took part in the festival. Former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff called for the unity of progressive forces against the rise of fascism. This was echoed by Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian lawyer fighting for the freedom of his country, who could not attend the festival last year as he was illegally detained by Israeli occupation forces.

Former Brazilian president Dilma Roussef was one of the speakers at the festival.

Fabien Roussel, the general-secretary of PCF, who spoke at the festival made five proposals for a France free from capitalism, calling on each and everyone to commit to this goal – a call that was heard, as 1000 people joined PCF and 200 joined Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France during the three days.

See you next year !

(Cyril Benoit is in charge of international relations in the Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF))