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French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon on ecology and nuclear energy

Socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon has emerged as the "third man" in the French presidential race, placing him ahead of right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen and just behind conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy and liberal/social democrat François Hollande.

Mélenchon's wants to introduce a 100% fat-cat tax, where the french state will be able to confiscate any earnings over £300,000. He also wants a return to full pensions for everyone from the age of 60, a 20% increase in the minimum wage, a cap on maximum salaries and the nationalisation of big energy companies. Mélenchon claims that his political party, the Left Front, is built around the concept of ecological planning. Something which he says can't be found in any program of the traditional left. According to the Guardian, Mélenchon is seen as "the great hope for a banker-bashing revolution that will transform the face of Europe and reinvent leftwing politics."

Why don’t you devote more time to ecology in your campaign?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Ecology occupies a place for us that it has never found in any program of the traditional left. Check: the economic program of the Left Front is built around the concept of ecological planning. There is an intuition of communism which is verified by political ecology, namely that there is a common good of humanity. If we consider only what is good for us, we will include corporatisms, but if we think about what is good for everyone, we will have a chance to get hold of an effective solution. This is what lies at the foundation of the Republic: the common good, that which is good for all. So political ecology is the reforming paradigm of communism, of socialism, and of humanist universalism. We carry its ideas because we are the voice of the social class which, by its material conditions of existence, has no particular interest other than the public interest.

You announce a referendum on nuclear power; what is the strategy of the Left Front?

Jean-Luc Melenchon: First, get out of carbon energies, which are the source of the greenhouse effect and of the climate bifurcation which will soon run its disastrous course. I realize that this is a huge technical challenge but we are human: nothing is beyond our reach, nothing can stop us! The human mind is capable of solving all problems, so it is a source of optimism and enthusiasm. Then comes the question of nuclear energy, of great importance, which poses a security problem and is thought-provoking for everyone. The issue is that of hazard assessment. That is why we favor a referendum. Anyone who thinks we should discuss this can vote for the Left Front. Finally, we can develop abundant alternative energy sources, such as the movements of the sea and geothermal processes in the Earth. With geothermal power, we produce more heat than we know how to use. What do we do with the rest? We can organize district heating, greenhouses for growing vegetables and fruits that grow out of season, and so we will no longer need to bring these from the ends of the earth. It can help us grow strawberries in Moselle in winter ... It’s a double ecological gain. But to achieve this, we must create competence in many domains; we need engineers, architects, plants, etc.

How do you count on renationalizing the privatized companies?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Why should we do this? Because, since privatization, prices of electricity have soared (nearly 30% increase). However, we prefer to lower consumer prices by lowering energy prices rather than wages. We are therefore looking to establish a public economic pole[the word "pole" is commonly used to describe a government-established center of activity to produce certain goods or to control some activity in the pubic interest.] in order to remove from the market what can not reasonably be conceived of as a property dependent upon the law of supply and demand.

In practice, we can propose a vote on nationalization. We can also convoke the representatives of the State on the boards of directors of privatized companies (EDF, GDF Suez ...) and give them instructions: this year you do not distribute dividends. Not the next year, nor the year after that, either. That is to say that during the five years of office there will be no dividends. What happens normally? Those who have private money in there are gone. Because they have invested money not by ideology or because they are interested in energy, but because it pays. So they go, and prices fall: this is a good time to nationalize. That’s how I take it. But I have other tricks up my sleeve ...

Ecological planning? Why?

Jean-Luc Melenchon defines environmental planning as a "shift in demand according to our needs." According to the program of the Front de gauche, this policy "will clarify the policies and public investment necessary to launch an ecological transition and promote sustainable human development. It will be creative of employment and a factor of social equality." It will be based on "an ecological plan debated and voted in Parliament, together with a financial planning law." "The purpose is ecological, the method is the planning: the organization and preparation, the introduction of long-term thinking, where finance favors the short term."

Mélenchon was interviewed by student journalists who volunteered to produce a section of the daily french Humanite newspaper. The interview has been translated by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble. Only parts of the interview has been published here on Green Blog. You can read the full interview here.

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