On 4 October, I attended the 70-strong Lille and district conference of the New Anticapitalist Party, the revolutionary socialist party founded in February by activists of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire and many other independent socialists.
The NPA now has about 10,000 members. The LCR had around 3-4,000 members. Discussions centred on the political situation — strike struggles against the Sarkozy regime have fallen away in recent months — and organisational consolidation and development in an organisation where the majority of members are new to socialist groups, with little political baggage.
I spoke to Damian Scali, a Lille university student who is a member of the NPA’s National Youth Secretariat.
The founding congress of the NPA was eight months ago. How have things gone since then?
Quite well. The party is still being built, but it is a big step forward compared to what we had in the LCR. There was an initial burst of enthusiasm, but now we are concentrating on the practical tasks.
What were the main issues at today’s conference?
We discussed our analysis of the current political situation, and what this implies for our tasks. We also discussed the development of our internal structures at a city and regional level. But I will concentrate on the political questions.
The main factor in the political situation is the crisis and the bosses’ attempts to make workers and youth pay. Last year, before the summer, there were many, many struggles, in response to the crisis and the government’s policies. However, we didn’t win and the balance of forces is still for the government. The problems remain the same, but it is now more difficult even to build local struggles.
Our aim is to popularise what have been called transitional demands, for instance, increased wages and a ban on sackings. The NPA is planning a campaign about the issue of jobs. But these questions have to be posed in the framework of breaking with capitalism.
In the conference we discussed the extent to which we must focus on propaganda. I think it would be a caricature to say anyone thinks we should only be propagandist. But my view is that the big struggles are ahead, and it is a priority to agitate in the class struggle.
What is your view on united fronts?
Well, more or less the classical united front — the broadest unity in action, from the Socialist Party and the Communist Party through to the anarchists, but maintaining our own politics and criticisms. That is the basis on which we fight, right now for instance against the privatisation of the post. But elections are a different matter. I do not think we should have common electoral slates with the reformist parties, for obvious reasons.
What is the NPA’s intervention among youth?
The government’s goal is to break the rights and living conditions of the working class — starting with the youth. In the crisis, it is the temporary workers who suffer most, who are fired first, and so on — and usually this means young workers.
As part of our campaign on jobs, we will be campaigning against casualisation. Among students, we will be opposing the government’s university reforms, as our activists in the universities did last year. These reforms are linked to a project to turn the majority of students into casual workers.
Does the NPA have a youth section?
Before the NPA we had the JCR [Jeunesses Communistes Révolutionnaires, LCR youth section], which was an independent organisation. The NPA youth are not independent. Why? Because we decided on a unified approach to overcome some of the divisions that have existed in the past. Inside the NPA, however, we have autonomy.
Not all young people in the NPA are active in the youth committees. Active within the committees, however, we have about 600 comrades. It’s hard to be exact, but they are mostly students and school students.
At the same time, we are recruiting more and more young workers. In some towns there are good young workers’ committees. We are trying to develop this intervention at a national level by producing a national young workers’ bulletin.
In October we will have our first young members’ conference since the creation of the NPA. We need to decide a more precise orientation in the difference areas of activity; the question of our structures, leadership and so on; and whether to have a separate youth paper.
What are the NPA’s international links?
The NPA is not affiliated to the Fourth International; the FI’s French section [the LCR] is dissolved.
But international links are very important. We want to keep links with the FI, while also raising the question of a new internationalist organisation, based on the recomposition of different political tendencies. We want the left in different countries to overcome its sectarianism, as for instance has been happening in Greece since the youth movements last year.
The NPA is not Trotskyist. What is it?
It is hard to be precise here because things are still developing. The NPA is anti-capitalist, working-class and revolutionary. There is a lot of politics in the texts of our founding congress. For instance, do we see the existing state as a vehicle for overcoming capitalism? Are we focused on elections, or on class struggle?
There is enough of a common base to move things forward, to organise educationals and so on.
At the same time, we don’t say — I certainly don’t say — forget the past. There are theoretical gains that must be preserved. But we need to learn from the past, to draw the best from different traditions, including Trotskyism, to create a new common tradition.
With rapid expansion and many new people, there is a lot of potential for disagreements. However, I don’t think those disagreements will be about the class nature of the USSR! They will be about the immediate questions of the class struggle — and, of course, Trotskyism has a lot to say on those questions too.
More on the NPA, www.workersliberty.org/lcr-npa