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‘Whatever differences there may be between the radical left and the far-right candidates, they mean nothing compared to their similarities.’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon campaigning in Paris. Photograph: Mesyasz/Sip/Rex/Shutterstock
‘Whatever differences there may be between the radical left and the far-right candidates, they mean nothing compared to their similarities.’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon campaigning in Paris. Photograph: Mesyasz/Sip/Rex/Shutterstock

Jean-Luc Mélenchon should be French president. Here’s why

Four days before the first round of the French presidential election, Europe is terrified by the prospect of a runoff between Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Whoever wins, we are told, the wheat will grow thin, nuclear winter will fall over the continent, and frogs will rain down from the sky. Whatever differences there may be between the radical left and the far-right candidates, they mean nothing compared with their similarities: they are both Eurosceptic demagogues tapping into the base instincts of their compatriots.

I support Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and have done for years. I have co-authored a cartoon adaptation of his programme, spoken at meetings of his movement, La France Insoumise (France Defiant), and run a blog dedicated to explaining our policies and dispelling endless rumours and falsehoods. You can imagine how I feel when we are conflated with our worst enemy, and I would like to set the record straight. We are not out to destroy Europe: we are out to save it. And we might very well be the last opportunity to do so.

In 2005, Mélenchon campaigned against the European constitution on a leftwing platform because he had made the following diagnosis: ever since the Maastricht treaty (which he voted for), Europe was being turned into a space for competition, not cooperation. Fiscal dumping forced states into a race to the bottom; once impoverished, they were forced to downsize social programmes and disenfranchise large parts of their population. The noble principle of freedom of movement was perverted into forced economic migration, which undercut wages and stirred tension between peoples. Europe had to be fundamentally reoriented if it was to be saved. Through the years, this diagnosis was confirmed at every step, and the need to transform Europe has only become more pressing.

Contrary to what I often read, we don’t plan to leave the EU: we aim to force the renegotiation of its treaties by means of unilateral disobedience. From the moment we come to power, we will implement a massive, environmentally focused Keynesian stimulus funded via a public bank, thus kickstarting the French economy and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

We will not apply privatisation directives. We will opt out of the posted workers programme, but we will not reduce freedom of movement. We will implement a salary scale: the highest salary will never be more than 20 times the lowest. We will cap revenues at €400,000 a year. We will regularise the situation of all working illegal immigrants, and we will not implement quotas for refugees.

In the face of popular resentment against a political class that has shown nothing but scorn for voters’ decisions and love of corporate lobbies, we will call for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution for France.

We are proposing nothing less than a peaceful, ordered revolution towards a fair and truly democratic society. There is a reason why our programme, which is routinely caricatured with references to Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro or even Stalin, is the highest ranked of all candidates in a comparative study of the views of 20 NGOs and experts, and is reported favourably by Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Oxfam.

But I am waxing lyrical, and you do not believe me. Perhaps you are thinking that it cannot be done. If you are a French speaker, there is an easy way for you to snap out of depressive scepticism: you can watch the thousands of hours of footage of conferences, auditions and debates featuring economists, professionals, diplomats and civil servants that we have put online. You can also read the reasons why economists from 17 countries, including Ha-Joon Chang, support Mélenchon’s candidacy. If you do not speak French, you will have to take my word for it. But let me ask you: since when has Europhilia been infected by such scepticism? Since when has the defence of Europe been predicated on the belief that there is no alternative? What does that say about European ideals?

Over the past few years, I have been appalled by the readiness to accept, in the name of Europe, the wrecking of Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, and the martyrdom of Greece – the Piigs in the parlance of European technocrats. I have been terrified by the hardening of the cognitive dissonance between high-minded ideals and ruthless policies. During the showdown between Syriza and the troika, I helped organise rallies in support of Greece and despaired at the small number of attendees: I feared the European spirit was well and truly dead.

Imagine, then, how wonderful it felt when Mélenchon swore during a rally in Marseille that, should we come into power, France would come to Greece’s rescue, and a huge crowd roared its approval. When did you last witness such a powerful feeling of solidarity between one European people and another? Was the European idea not always about solidarity between peoples? If you answer no, then let Europe be damned. If you answer yes, spare a wish for our victory on Sunday.

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