At its congress in January this year, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, one of the main revolutionary socialist groups in France, decided on a drive to reach out and build “a new anti-capitalist party” (French initials NPA) from below. (See www.workersliberty.org/lcr-npa).
The decision was based on the electoral and opinion-poll successes of the LCR, and especially its presidential candidate Olivier Besancenot, since 2002; and partly also on the relatively rapid growth of the LCR since then.
There are no other big organised groups involved with the LCR in its “new party” project, though Gauche Révolutionnaire, linked to the Socialist Party in Britain, is definitely taking part, and the recently expelled minority faction of Lutte Ouvrière, L’Etincelle, is interested. But, on the LCR’s reports, sizeable numbers have attended local groups, and a provisional “National Organising Committee” has been set up, only half of its members LCR.
The National Organising Committee met on 14 September, and a detailed account of its discussions is available on the LCR website.
The meeting took place, by a perverse accident, just hours before the world credit crisis spectacularly shifted into high drama, a development which must improve the chances for success in launching the new party and make it more urgent. A leaflet about the crisis issued by the “new party” movement on 6 October, and excerpts from another issued on 13 October, are translated on this page.
Unlike many of the responses of the British left, they focus on far-reaching political demands which challenge the logic of capitalism, such as the suppression of banking secrecy – what Marxists call “transitional demands”, the sort of idea we’ve discussed in Solidarity in recent weeks under the phrase “workers’ plan”.
The French revolutionary left, operating in a more politicised and confident working class, is generally bolder on this sort of front than the British.
On the other hand, you’d think all this “bankers’ socialism” would be an excellent opportunity to go beyond the negative idea of “anti-capitalism” to a positive argument about what working-class socialism can and must be.
The 13 October leaflet ends with a call – “In place of the logic of profit for a few, let us impose, without concession, the logic of the social needs of all” – which seems a bit “up in the air”. The idea of a workers’ government, or anything similar, is not discussed.
On 14 September, the meeting started with debate on attitudes to a campaign being launched by the reformist left around the threat of privatisation of the postal service.
A campaign for a referendum on this question has been proposed. The meeting reckoned that “the committees in defence of the public postal service being set up should not limit themselves to, or focus on, the question of a hypothetical referendum. Their chief concern should be the question of privatisation in general. The idea of a referendum is just a tool to use in that context…
“A few people were against supporting the call for a referendum, not thinking that it could help the other forms of struggle against privatisation, worried that it might serve to gloss up the image of the “plural left” [Socialist Party, Communist Party, Greens] and, worse, that the anger of post workers and service users could be channelled into forms of expression beyond their control”.
The meeting decided on the outlines of an autumn campaign for the new anti-capitalist party “focused on the question of the worsening of living conditions (wages, prices, public transport, health, public services more generally)”.
Different speakers saw the campaign in two different ways. It could be seen as a campaign to make the new party project visible, a campaign where building the new party is a central concern. That could take the form of a leaflet of a propaganda type, denouncing the misdeeds of capitalism, or of a more active intervention, for example around supermarkets.
Or it could be seen as a campaign of agitation aiming to shift the overall balance of forces between the classes, one in which one would take to address both the population in general, the activists of the other left parties and the unions, and their leaderships.
The meeting set dates for next January. 29 January is pencilled in for a congress where the LCR will formally dissolve itself; the next three days, 30 and 31 January and 1 February, will be the founding congress of the new party.
A website for the new party has been set up at http://npa2009.org, and it is holding its first big rally in Paris on 6 November.
“It is becoming urgent to break with capitalism”
Leaflet of the “new party” movement issued on 13 October
… It is urgent to put onto the agenda a ban on sackings and a general increase in wages.
In face of the “holy alliance” which the capitalists want to push us into [in response to the crisis], we need social unity of the working people and their organizations.
Let us demand full transparency – suppression of banking secrecy, the establishment of banking as a public service under the control of the population, by requisitioning the banks, to direct credit in line with the interests of the community.
In place of the logic of profit for a few, let us impose, without concession, the logic of the social needs of all.
Leaflet issued October 6
“I wish to say to the French people: anticapitalism does not offer any solution to the current crisis... The current crisis should incite us to refound capitalism on an ethical basis...” - N. Sarkozy at Toulon, 25 September
Who would have imagined that the bling-bling President would one day denounce the “excesses” of “finance” capitalism?Yes, the situation is serious. Yes, the insatiable drive for profits by a handful of the rich is putting all of society in danger. The endless accumulation of capital is not a distortion of capitalism but the heart of its operation. In his speech at Toulon, Sarkozy recognised that huge mistakes have been made, distortions. But, he claimed, that didnt really represent capitalism, because the true capitalism would be “moral, ethical, productive”. Hot air... The fact remains that his only proposal in the face of the crisis is to pursue and aggravate the anti-social attacks which he has already launched on all fronts.
Thus he has announced, in no real order: a new reduction in real wages and an explosion of job cuts; the continued pillage of the public health service; the acceleration of the states counter-reforms, with the boast that “next year will see an unprecedented total of 30,600 jobs cut from the public sector”; a fat packet of new handouts and tax cuts for the bosses.
In short, Sarkozy has promised that the state will come to the aid of the banks, insurers, and credit societies, if the latter find it necessary to default. As in the USA, we will “nationalise” the losses by financing them from our taxes. Already victims of low salaries, precarity and price increases, this way workers will suffer a real double loss.
At the same time, the privatisation of everything which could be profitable, will continue energetically. For example: the Postal Service, which the government has just announced will be “opened to capital” and will be floated on the stock exchange (a decision taken in the middle of the economic turmoil...)
The rich should pay for their crisis
All governments are worried for the future of the system and are now talking about the need for “new regulations”, of a greater state intervention in the economy. But whatever the degree of the sincerity of these declarations, they have one aim in common: to have the crisis, their crisis, paid for by the workers.
Its up to us to refuse to accept this and to take back from the financiers, the bosses and the shareholders all that they have stolen from us.
Struggles and resistance abound, but they remain dispersed and too often isolated. Let us help co-ordinate them, and unify them.
Amongst other mobilisations in the private and public sectors, the postal strike of Tuesday 23rd September was a success. A broad front of unions, political organisations and associations was formed at a national level. The battle which is beginning against the privatisation of the Postal Service could be the chance to put a halt to the attacks and to change the balance of forces.
Sarkozy has clearly identified his enemy: anticapitalism. There at least, things are clear. Neither ethical, nor moral, nor reformable, this savage system must be fought and overthrown. Come with us and build the NPA!