Gris was born in Rêvane, the younger of two sons, in a lower middle class family. His father was a primary school teacher, and his mother a postwoman. Both supported the Socialist Party, although they were not in any way politically active. At that time, there had never been any left-wing party in power in Ariddia. During much of Xavier's childhood, the moderately right-wing Liberal Party was in office (1944-1954), followed by twenty years of more hardline Conservative Party supremacy.
Young Xavier attended a francophone school, but his parents made sure he learnt English, the second major non-Indigenous language in Ariddia. Xavier also chose to attend classes to learn Wymgani, the language of Indigenous Ariddians. Later, he explained his decision by saying: "It seemed a shame to know so little about the people whose country this is, and who make up over a quarter of our population. I thought that if I knew their language, I could get to understand them better."
Xavier was an intelligent and studious child, obtaining good results at school, but the need to earn a living prevented him from attending university.
In 1957, Gris took a job as a mechanic in a garage. A few months later, he befriended a waitress, Sophie Marin, in a nearby fastfood restaurant, and spent a lot of time in her company. They got married two years later, and eventually had two sons (Fabien and Charles) and a daughter (Mélodie).
At the same time, Gris had become involved with a communist unionist movement at his workplace, and soon became one of its most active members, leading and organising protests against the governments' right-wing policies, and joining the Democratic Communist Party. He read extensively on topics of sociology, economics, communist theory, politics and history, becoming self-taught to compensate for his lack of a university education. He promised himself he would work hard to ensure his children would benefit from opportunities he had not had.
He became increasingly active in the DCP, writing pamphlets, political articles in newspapers, and eventually representing the party in public debates. Even his opponents remarked on his keen intellect and calm, rational determination. A tall, rather thin man with darkish hair and a moustache, Gris was not particularly photogenic, but he was a pleasant and confident debator.
In 1966, at the age of 25, he obtained a seat on the municipal council in Rêvane, and later stood unsuccessfully to be elected mayor. By the 1974 general elections, he had become a recognisible name in Ariddian politics, and was a plausible contender to stand as the DCP's national candidate for the office of Prime Minister (i.e., head of State and government). He was not chosen by the party, however, and the Liberal Party candidate, Sarah Jones, was elected Prime Minister. Not only was she the first ever woman to hold that office, but she had put an end to two decades of Conservative rule.
Jones' policies were somewhat more moderate than those of her Conservative predecessors, and were progressive in some aspects, but she remained committed to conservative continuity and a capitalist ideology. Gris held a DCP seat in Parliament, and was active in promoting discussions of social issues, including the question of Indigenous land rights. He expressed his views and suggested policies in the media, taking part in a number of public debates.
The 1960s and 1970s saw an increase in political diversity, with left-wing ideas becoming more and more popular. In 1974, the conservative Land Party, a relic of past centuries, disbanded, but the following year a Morality Party came into being, as a reaction against the rise of strongly left-wing ideals. It was an era of intense political activity and debate, and Xavier Gris was among the most active on the left.
In 1979, Jones was re-elected, and five years later the Conservative Party, led by Martin Grazer, returned to power, denouncing the country's "drift to the left" and re-asserting traditional conservative values. Ariddian society was becoming polarised, and, although the Conservatives and Liberals were still the two largest parties, the fragmented left - Socialists, Greens and Communists - were making steady gains with every election. In 1984, the year of Grazer's election as Prime Minister, Gris had stood as the DCP's candidate. He was now very much in the national limelight.
In 1985, massive strikes and demonstrations erupted in protest against Grazer's right-wing policies, unpopular amidst a large segment of the population. Grazer stubbornly forged ahead, pointing out that he had "a clear mandate from the sovereign electorate", and refusing to bow to the pressure of street protests. The crisis mounted. The economy slowed as strikes multiplied. Finally, the Liberal, Socialist, Green and Communist Parties formed a temporary alliance to hold a majority of seats in Parliament, and refused point blank to cooperate with the government. Without the support of the Liberals, Grazer could not govern. The political crisis had reached a head, and the Prime Minister was forced to call for fresh elections.
To the surprise of many, the election was won by Gris, who became the country's first left-wing Prime Minister. The election also made Ariddia the first country in Uhuhland to be ruled by a Communist party.
There was consternation on the right. Grazer, grim-faced, stated he could not believe that "our strong, proud nation now runs the risk of sinking to the level of a communist dictatorship". Gris, by contrast, promised that Ariddia would remain democratic, and that elections would again be held as scheduled five years later. (In fact, they were held after just four years, in 1989, which was five years after the 1984 elections.) "Communism," Gris explained, "is, in its very essence, democratic. True communism is incompatible with dictatorship. It's a contradiction in terms."
Gris began radical social reforms, and proclaimed the People's Democratic Social Republic of Ariddia. He also changed his title to that of "Prime Secretary". Many Ariddians emigrated, fearing Grazer's words would prove prophetic, but Gris was true to his promise. His policies, although controversial, proved popular, and in 1989 he was re-elected with an increased majority.
In all, Xavier Gris served three five year terms, and by the end of his third mandate in 1999, he had set a solid basis for the development of a radically socialist society. The Democratic Communist Party has been constantly re-elected ever since (the current head of State is Prime Secretary Nuriyah Khadhim), and Gris is remembered as the founder of the "Social Republic".
|Ariddian Prime Minister
|Ariddian Prime Secretary