World Politics

France: 2nd Congress of NPA debates

Tribune of 4 positions (January 6th)

The New Anticapitalist Party of France (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) is  the major far left organization in France. Originally formed at the initiative of the LCR, the most important section of the Fourth International, it is a major regroupment initiative bringing together not just a large number of Trotskyists, but also forces not associated with Trotskyism. Its founding Congress saw the Party having about 9200 members, far larger than the LCR. Its principal spokesperson has been Olivier Besancenot,) From 12 February, the NPA has begun its Second Congress.  This is the fourth brief summary of the NPA's ongoing pre-Congress debate posted on the NPA website. The four positions are those of the four tendencies which have presented documents on the political situation and on the orientation and construction of the NPA for the congress. Translated from the French by Giselle Gerolami

Position 1

Let nothing go...from NPA's initial project

The social movement from the fall suffered a legislative defeat on the retirement issue. But it won the battle for ideas. The policies of the rich and their implementation are becoming more bitter to make the working class pay for the crisis. But millions of the victims of these policies have lucidly resisted. It's a point of support to pursue the largest resistance possible. There is also a stake in expressing a clear political orientation. Whereas mobilizations rise in Europe as well as the stakes involved in the depth of the crisis, it is necessary to rally those who refuse to resign themselves to the austerity measures driven by the right as well as the left, those who want an anti-capitalist and ecosocialist rupture from Athens to Tunis, from Lisbon to Paris.
This is the orientation of Position 1 combining radical social struggles, united vitality and steadfastness in the requirement of independence vis-a-vis the liberal left. The road that separates us from decisive victories for our social camp is long and difficult. It is this that the comrades from P2 and P3 are underestimating; each in their own way is proposing shortcuts.

The P2 comrades denounce the record described as electoralist of the outgoing majority, forgetting at the outset that the NPA as a whole went through its baptism by fire last fall.  They are demanding a "purity" as if being harder on the rest of the political, trade union and community left could erase the difficulties we are confronted with.  The consequence of this isolationist option would put us in great difficulty. The P2 comrades in the outgoing Conseil politique national (CPN)  have fought against signing the Copernic Appeal, something which would have left us on the outside of the series of meetings that resulted from that.  Is that reasonable?

The P3 comrades insist on the lack of focus in struggling with the presumed partner, the Front de gauche. As if you can paint the program and strategy of the PCF/PG red. The comrades are however aware of the divergences that were expressed in the social movement. It would be audacious to pretend that the Front de gauche has broken with the PS and social liberal politics. Contrary to what they sometimes announced during the regional campaigns, don't the elected members of PCF/PG/GU vote social liberal budgets in the regions led by unions of the left?

The shortcuts proposed by P2 and P3 are really deadends. Without sectarianism, with opportunism, let's affirm with P1 the will to let nothing go...from the NPA's initial project.

Position 2

Faced with the crisis, a party for the overturning of capitalism

It's unfortunately more and more of a hypothesis from which we must draw all consequences: the worst of the crisis is ahead of us. After Greece and Ireland, the debt crisis could touch Portugal, Spain, the point that the euro and the EU will be brought into question. The politics of austerity are worsening on a continental level which could make the coming year a dramatic one for the working world.

At the same time, we are beginning to see the first reactions. The popular mobilizations are multiplying at this level. In France, the working class by coming back on the scene, has given the period an anti-capitalist tone. Beyond the question of retirements, it's the refusal to pay for the crisis which has been expressed. Through the high school mobilizations is the question of a whole generation's future which has been set. The retirement struggle is not over in the sense that it can rebound in more than one way, in more than one place and constitute a step in a general and longer lasting movement in the reconstruction of a working class political consciousness.

It's in any case from this perspective that we should draw choices for the NPA. It is possible to overcome the crisis we have known, notably during the regional elections, linked to the fact that there remain many illusions about the possibilities that elections offer.  The two years we've lived since the foundation of the NPA have brought forth concerns and questions about the orientations and functioning of the past as well as the future. To overcome these concerns and move forward collectively, we must continue to discuss everything, our record and our orientations in the struggles.

This is why the party needs to deepen and clarify the politics that have belonged to it since its foundation, politics for the overturning of capitalism, for breaking with the institutions, independent of the PS and its affiliates, and most of all that address workers directly, supporting the needs and aspirations and the consciousness of that base which seeks to resist attacks at the same time it seeks the path of its own emancipation.
More than ever, the construction of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist party is a necessity in the current period.

Position 3

What wishes for 2011!

First of all, we don't want to endure a fifth year of the reign of the monarch who is deriding us. Kärcher (Sarkozy) first and his affiliates, Marine Hortefeux (an amalgamation of the names of the anti-immigrant Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and National Front Vice-President Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen) and his hordes of hate, out with them all and without delay.  So many retorts and low blows that stir up anger...After the theft of two years of retirement breaking into our lives, the announced social security heist to further strain solidarity! 2011 needs to sound the defeat of a political power indecently imbedded with business. To put them out of their misery, we know - and last fall reminded us - that we need a gathering of forces for a social movement that is radical as well as unified...

Our second wish relates to the hope generated by the Appel de Montreuil launched Feb. 13 at the end of the NPA Congress. The message clearly affirms that faced with social, political and ecological urgency, the NPA won't cultivate its isolation, that, on the contrary, it is calling for a regrouping of all social, political and community forces, of all militants who reject the inevitability of capitalism and who have the will to transform society. The content of this rupture with capitalism can remain up for debate if we agree on the urgent measures which radically challenge the social liberal changeover proposed by  the PS...To concretize the alternative to the changeover, we need to sustain the struggle carried out in the fall to maintain retirement at 60 years with full benefits which generated such interprofessional solidarity into a regrouping, a social and political front for the struggles and the elections. For the presidential election, the Appel de Montreuil proposes a united candidacy recognized by the social movement that can regroup beyond partisan interests.

The third wish relates to the NPA. Building a new political culture is a difficult challenge especially if we don't confront the different political cultures, "openness" being cantonized in little groups coming from the Trotskyist far left. The openness of the NPA to other traditions, to the social, trade union and community movements should compensate for this difficulty. We need new confrontations in order to build a party of struggle against all forms of oppression that intersect in society and that refract in the organization, to create a collective that is owned at the same time by each and by all.
May the year 2011 be the one where the project of a large, open, pluralist and united party can be put back on track!

Position 4

A revolutionary party for workers in struggle

The events of the fall have changed the equation. Certainly, the government was able to impose its reform with the collaboration of the trade union leadership who blocked the lead up to the general strike. However, the new fact is the awakening of class consciousness which puts the reconstruction of a working class movement on the agenda at the moment where the crisis of capitalism makes the radicalization of class struggle inevitable.
Our party came ill prepared for this confrontation. In our opinion, the ambiguities of the founding principles, proposing the construction of a party without clear class delimitation and refusing to draw the line between reform and revolution are at the heart of our weak establishment in the big working class bastions as well as the constant tailism of the outgoing leadership with regard to reformists.

The NPA needs to make a radical turn. We are not for building an electoralist party but a working class, revolutionary party forged in the class struggle, integrating the most radical elements from the new generation which is emerging.

As to Melenchon's project of electoral revolution, we should oppose a strategy to win, but support the revolutionary mobilization of workers and the constitution of their own government which will expropriate the capitalists, destroy the bourgeois state and build a socialist society by democratic planning of the economy.

To the treasons and days of actions without perspective of the trade union leadership, we oppose a policy of workers united front which will help the class have its experience with the former as we put all our forces into the struggles to develop self-organization (strike committees, Interpro), into the convergence of struggles and the general strike. We will fight at the same time in the unions for a cross-union workers' current.

To the capitalist crisis, we oppose a transitional program inherited from the Fourth International, linking immediate demands to the objective of workers power. It is only by doing this that the NPA can attract the most combative elements from the fall and constitute itself as a revolutionary  workers alternative to the trade union leadership and reformist parties. It will help the working class break with the spiral of defeats and advance towards its emancipation.