The French hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is to appear at a Labour party conference event for the first time, inviting Jeremy Corbyn to join a world club of leftist movements, reports The Guardian.
In his office at the French parliament before travelling to Liverpool, Mélenchon told The Guardian he sought to invite Corbyn to join an international club for like-minded movements. “I have a proposal to create a world club, a joint common space for parties and movements from different countries, including Africa and Asia,” he said.
Mélenchon, who heads the grassroots-led leftist movement, France Insoumise, or France Unbowed, won an unprecedented 19.5% in the first round of last year’s French presidential election and has positioned his parliamentary group as key opponents to Emmanuel Macron. He accuses the centrist, pro-business president of shrinking the state and dismantling public services. In turn, members of Macron’s party have accused Mélenchon of populism.
The leftist philosopher-orator famous for his firebrand speeches, has described France Unbowed as a “citizens’ revolution”. He will be a keynote speaker at The World Transformed fringe event in Liverpool on Monday night, discussing what he calls a new “era of the people” and is expected to meet Corbyn privately for the first time.
At 67, two years younger than Corbyn, Mélenchon said he saw parallels with the Labour leader’s support base, including the structures of a mass movement and “the paradox of an older man representing a cause that has been powered by millions of young people”. He said it was striking that in UK and France – and with Bernie Sanders in the US – these were older leaders “in some areas seen as caricatures of a certain left and yet we’re also seen as representing something fundamentally different and new”.
While Corbyn’s career was inside the Labour Party, Mélenchon, a former Trotskyist who began politics as a student activist in the May 1968 movement, spent more than 30 years in the French Socialist Party as a senator, a junior minister and was close to the president François Mitterrand, before quitting in 2008, criticising what he called the party’s rightwards shift.
Mélenchon said he was not coming to Liverpool with advice for Corbyn but rather to “watch and learn”. He said: “The first of us who wins will be right. We absolutely need a victory that reverses the path of decline that history seems to have taken, where capitalism is triumphant and incapable of doing the minimum to protect people, incapable of handling the financial sphere or climate change. We need a country to reverse that.”