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Golpe in Peru: Castillo under arrest, people demand a constituent assembly

 

 FRANCISCO DOMINGUEZ

It finally occurred. On December 7th 2022 Peru’s ruling parliamentary dictatorship managed to bring to fruition their top priority, to oust democratically elected president Pedro Castillo Terrones. Castillo, a rural primary teacher, elected to Peru’s highest office in July 2021, from day one faced the Peruvian oligarchy’s relentless hostility. Peru’s elite is strongly entrenched in Congress and controls all key state institutions (the judiciary, army, police), the highly influential business organizations (notably the Confederación de Empresarios Privados – CONFIEP), and crucially, the totality of the mainstream media.

Regardless of Castillo presidency’s evident shortcomings and mistakes, his ouster represents a grave setback for democracy in Peru and Latin America as a whole. His election last year took place on the back of an almighty crisis of credibility and legitimacy of a political system rigged with corruption and venality in which presidents were forced to resign on corruption charges (some ended in prison), with one committing suicide before being arrested on corruption charges. In the last six years Peru has had six presidents.

The rot was so advanced that no mainstream political party or politician could muster sufficient electoral support to succeed in winning the presidency in 2021 (the main right-wing party, Fuerza Popular’s candidate got less than 14% of the vote in the first round). It goes a long way to explain why an unknown rural primary school teacher from the remote Andean indigenous area of Cajamarca, Pedro Castillo, would become the 63rd president of Peru. In Cajamarca, Castillo obtained up to 72% of the popular vote.

Castillo’s election offered a historic chance to bury Peruvian neoliberalism. I myself penned an article with that prognosis, which I premised on Castillo’s commitment to democratize Peruvian politics via a Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution as the base from which to re-found the nation on an anti-neoliberal basis. A proposal that, in the light of recent experience in Latin America, is perfectly implementable but whose precondition, as other experiences in the region have shown, is the vigorous mobilization of the mass of the people, the working class, the peasantry, the urban poor, and all other subordinate strata from society. This did not happen in Peru under Castillo’s presidency.

Ironically, the mass mobilizations that broke out in the Andean regions and in many other areas and cities in Peru when they learned of Castillo’s impeachment solidly confirms that this was the only possible route to implement his programme of change. The mass mobilizations throughout the nation (including Lima) are demanding a Constituent Assembly, the closure of the existing Congress, the liberation, and reinstatement of Castillo to the presidency, and the holding of immediate general elections.

This would explain the paradox that right-wing hostility to president Castillo, unlike other left governments in Latin America, was not waged because Castillo was undertaking any radical government action. In fact, opposition to his government was so blindingly intense that almost every initiative, no matter how trivial or uncontroversial, was met with ferocious rejection by Peru’s right-wing dominated Congress. The Congress’ key right-wing party, was Fuerza Popular led by Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peru’s former dictator, Alberto Fujimori. In Peru’s Congress of 130 seats, Castillo counted on 15, originally solid, votes from Peru Libre, and 5, not very solid, votes from Juntos por el Peru. In the absence of government mobilization of the masses, the oligarchy knew Castillo represented no threat, thus their intense hostility was to treat his government as an abhorrent abnormality sending a message to the nation that it should never have happened and that would never recur.

One example of parliament’s obtuse obstructionism was the impeachment of his minister of foreign relations, Hector Béjar, a well reputed left-wing academic and intellectual on 17th August 2021, who, barely 15 days after his appointment and less than a month after Castillo’s inauguration (28th July 2021), was forced to resign. Béjar’s “offence”, a statement made at a public conference in February 2020 during the election – before his ministerial appointment – in which he asserted a historical fact: terrorism was begun by Peru’s Navy in 1974 well before the appearance of the Shining Path [1980]. Béjar was the first minister out of many to be arbitrarily impeached by Congress.

Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), an extreme guerrilla group, was active in substantial parts of the countryside during the 1980s-1990s and whose confrontation with state military forces led to a generalised situation of conflict. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that, after the collapse of the Fujimori dictatorship, investigated the atrocities perpetrated during the state war against the Shining Path, reported that 69,280 people died or disappeared between 1980 and 2000.

Congress’ harassment aimed at preventing Castillo’s government from even functioning can be verified with numbers: in the 495 days he lasted in office, Castillo was forced to appoint a total of 78 ministers. Invariably, appointed ministers as in the case of Béjar, would be subjected to ferocious attack by the media and the Establishment (in Béjar’s case, by the Navy itself) and by the right-wing parliamentary majority that was forcing ministers’ resignation with the eagerness of zealous witch hunters.

Béjar was ostensibly impeached for his accurate commentary about the Navy’s activities in the 1970s but more likely for having made the decision for Peru to abandon the Lima Group, adopting a non-interventionist foreign policy towards Venezuela and for condemning unilateral sanctions against nations. Béjar made the announcement of the new policy on 3rd August 2021 and the “revelations” about his Navy commentary were made on August 15th. The demonization campaign was in full swing immediately after that which included: soldiers holding public rallies demanding his resignation, a parliamentary motion from a coalition of parliamentary forces essentially for “not being fit for the post”, and for adhering to a “communist ideology.”

Something similar but not identical happened with Béjar’s replacement, Oscar Maurtúa, a career diplomat, who had served as minister of foreign relations in several previous right-wing governments from 2005. When in October 2021, Guido Bellido, a radical member of Peru Libre, who upon being appointed Minister of Government, threatened the nationalisation of Camisea gas, an operation run by multinational capital, for refusing to renegotiate its profits in favour of the Peruvian state, Maurtúa resigned two weeks later. Guido Bellido himself, was forced to resign ostensibly for an “apologia of terrorism” but in reality for having had the audacity to threaten to nationalise an asset that ought to belong to Peru.

On 6th October 2021, Guido Bellido, a national leader of Peru Libre, who had been Castillo’s Minister of Government since 29 July, offered his resignation at the president’s request triggered by his nationalization threat. Vladimir Cerrón, Peru Libre’s key national leader followed suit by publicly breaking with Castillo on 16th October, asking him to leave the party and thus leaving Castillo without the party’s parliamentary support. Ever since, Peru Libre has suffered several divisions.

Worse, Castillo was pushed into a corner by being forced to select ministers to the liking of the right-wing parliamentary majority to avoid them not being approved. All took place within a context dominated by intoxicating media demonization, accusations, fake news and generalised hostility to his government but with a Damocles sword – a motion to declare his presidency “vacant” and thus be impeached – hanging over his head.

The first attempt was in November 2021 (a few weeks after Bellido’s forced resignation). It did not gather sufficient parliamentary support (46 against 76, 4 abstentions). The second was in March 2022 with the charge of “permanent moral incapacity”, which got 55 votes (54 against and 19 abstentions) but failed because procedurally 87 votes were required. And finally, on 1st December 2022, Congress voted in favour of initiating a process to declare “vacancy” against Castillo for “permanent moral incapacity.” This time, the right wing had managed to gather 73 votes (32 against and 6 abstentions). The motion of well over 100 pages, included at least six “parliamentary investigations” for allegedly “leading a criminal organization”, for traffic of influences, for obstruction of justice, for treason (in an interview Castillo broached the possibility of offering Bolivia access to the sea through Peruvian territory), and even, for “plagiarizing” his MA thesis.

By then Castillo was incredibly isolated surrounded by the rarefied, putrid and feverish Lima political establishment that were as a pack of hungry wolves that had scented blood: Castillo would have to face a final hearing set by Peru’s congressional majority on 7th December. On the same day, in an event surrounded by confusion – maliciously depicted by the world mainstream media as a coup d’état – the president went on national TV to announce his decision to dissolve Congress temporarily, establish an exceptional emergency government and, the holding of elections to elect a new Congress with Constituent Assembly powers within nine months. US ambassador in Lima, Lisa D. Kenna, immediately reacted on that very day with a note stressing the US “rejects any unconstitutional act by president Castillo to prevent Congress to fulfil its mandate.” The Congress’s “mandate” was to impeach president Castillo.

We know the rest of the story: Congress on the same day carried the “vacancy” motion by 101 votes, Castillo was arrested, and Dina Boluarte has been sworn in as interim president. Declaring the dissolution of the Congress may not have been the most skilful tactical move Castillo made but he put the limelight on the key institution that obstinately obstructed the possibility of socio-economic progress that Castillo’s presidency represented.

Castillo had no support whatsoever among the economic or political elite, the judiciary, the state bureaucracy, the police or the armed forces, or the mainstream media. He was politically right in calling for the dissolution of the obstruction of Congress to allow for the mass of the people through the ballot box to be given the chance to democratically remove it. An Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP in its Spanish acronym) survey in November showed the rate of disapproval of Congress to be 86%, up 5 points from October, and staying on 75-78% throughout the second half 2021.

What was not expected with Castillo’s impeachment was the vigorous outburst of social mobilization throughout Peru. Its epicentre was in the Peruvian ‘sierra’, the indigenous hinterlands where Castillo got most of his electoral support, but also in key cities, including Lima. The demands raised by the mass movement are for the reinstatement of Castillo, dissolution of Congress, the resignation of Boluarte, the holding of immediate parliamentary elections and, a new constitution. Demonstrators, expressing their fury in Lima, carried placards declaring “Congress is a den of rats”.

In light of the huge mass mobilizations one inevitably wonders why was this not unleashed before, say, one and a half year ago? Castillo, heavily isolated and under almighty pressure, hoping to buy some breathing space, sought to ingratiate himself with the national and international right by, for example, appointing a neoliberal economist, Julio Valverde, in charge of the Central Bank, tried to get closer to the deadly Organization of American States, met Bolsonaro in Brazil and, distanced himself from Venezuela. To no avail, the elite demanded ever more concessions but would never be satisfied no matter how many Castillo made.

The repression unleashed against the popular mobilizations has been swift and brutal but ineffective. Reports talk of at least eighteen people killed by bullets from the police and more than a hundred injured, yet mobilizations and marches have grown and spread further. Though the “interim government” has already banned demonstrations, they have continued. Three days ago they occupied the Andahuaylas airport; an indefinite strike has been declared in Cusco; in Apurimac, school lessons have been suspended; plus a multiple blockading of motorways in many points in the country. It is evident the political atmosphere in Peru was already pretty charged and these social energies were dormant but waiting to be awaken.

Though it is premature to draw too many conclusions about what this popular resistance might bring about, it is clear that the oligarchy miscalculated what it expected the outcome of Castillo’s ouster would be: the crushing defeat of this attempt, however timid, of the lower classes, especially cholos (pejorative name for indigenous people in Peru), to change the status quo. Peru’s oligarchy found it intolerable that a cholo, Castillo, was the country’s president and even less that he dared to threaten to enlist the mass of the people to actively participate in a Constituent Assembly entrusted with drafting a new constitution.

The appointed interim president, Dina Boluarte, feeling the pressure of the mass mobilization announced a proposal to hold ‘anticipated elections’ in 2024 instead of 2026, the date of the end of Castillo’s official mandate. However, it has been reported that Castillo sent a message to the people encouraging them to fight for a Constituent Assembly and not fall into the "dirty trap of new elections.” Through one of his lawyers, Dr Ronald Atencio, Castillo communicated that his detention was illegal and arbitrary with his constitutional rights being violated, that he is the subject of political persecution, which threatens to turn him into a political prisoner, that he has no intention of seeking asylum, and that he is fully aware of the mobilizations throughout the country and the demands for his freedom.

We’ll see how things develop from here. Castillo’s ouster is a negative development; it is a setback for the left in Peru and for democracy in Latin America. Latin America’s left presidents have understood this and condemned the parliamentary coup against democratically elected president Pedro Castillo. Among the presidents condemning the coup are, Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Honduras’ Xiomara Castro, Argentina’s Fernandez, Colombia’s Petro, Mexico’s Lopez Obrador, and Bolivia’s Arce.

More dramatically, the presidents of Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia issued a joint communiqué (12th December) demanding Castillo’s reinstatement that in its relevant part reads, “It is not news to the world that President Castillo Terrones, from the day of his election, was the victim of anti-democratic harassment […] Our governments call on all actors involved in the above process to prioritise the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box. This is the way to interpret the scope and meaning of the notion of democracy as enshrined in the Inter-American Human Rights System. We urge those who make up the institutions to refrain from reversing the popular will expressed through free suffrage.” (my translation)

At the XIII ALBA-TCP summit held in Havana on December 15th, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Saint Lucía, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Cuba condemned the detention of president Pedro Castillo which they characterised as a coup d’etat.

It is very doubtful that Peru’s oligarchy will be able to bring political stability to the country. Since 2016 the country has had 6 presidents, none of whom has completed their mandate, and the impeachment of Castillo has let the genie (militant mass mobilizations) out of the bottle and it looks pretty unlikely they will be able to put it back. The illegitimate government of Boluarte has on 14th December declared a state of emergency throughout the national territory and, ominously, placed the armed forces in charge of securing law and order. The armed forces, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the dirty war between the Peruvian state and the Shining Path guerrillas (1980-1992), were responsible for about 50 per cent of the 70,000 deaths the war cost. It is the typical but worst possible action that Peru’s oligarchy can undertake.

The demands of the mass movement must be met: immediate and unconditional freedom of president Castillo, the immediate holding of elections for a Constituent Assembly for a new anti- neoliberal constitution, and for the immediate cessation of the brutal repression by sending the armed forces back to their barracks.

The Political Foundations for a New Revolutionary Organization in France

Article from Revolution Permanente, December 27, 2022, translation published by Left Voice

 

On December 16, 17, and 18, the founding congress of a new revolutionary organization in France will be held, promoted by Révolution Permanente. Within this framework, several documents have been elaborated and submitted to the discussion in the preparatory assemblies which gathered nearly 400 people. They can be amended in the congress where they will be submitted to vote. This text constitutes the party document.

Growing geopolitical tensions, the return of wars between great powers, economic crisis, pandemics, destruction of the planet. In recent decades, the picture of the multiple crises that threaten humanity has rarely been so dark. This observation, shared more and more beyond Marxist circles, poses the urgent need for a revolution that will put an end to the rotting capitalist system.

However, if in the last few years popular uprisings have set several countries on fire on five continents, they have not called into question the foundations of capitalist exploitation. And for good reason: the transformation of revolts into revolutions is not a mechanical process, even less so as forty years of the neoliberal offensive and an absence of revolutions have greatly damaged our class consciousness.

Therein lies all the limits of the political frameworks based on what Daniel Bensaïd called “the social illusion,” namely the idea that social movements could, by themselves and without the intervention of a strategic operator, triumph over a powerful and highly organized system like capitalism. Linked to a legitimate rejection of a certain number of left organizations that had betrayed them, this type of spontaneist conception was very much in vogue in France at the very beginning of the wave of struggles that opened in 2016 and was then nourished by a reinforcement of the autonomist current, notably in the youth.

In a context of the decline of this current and the crisis and marginalization of the main organizations of the Far Left, it is decisive to pose the necessity of a refoundation of the revolutionary Left. This must both offer the new militant generations that are becoming politicized and radicalized a political and organizational framework and enable a substantial strengthening of revolutionaries and their capacity to influence future events.

Without such a recomposition, in France as in the rest of the world, there is a great risk that the economic and political crisis, and even the embryonic phenomena of political radicalization at work within the proletariat, will lead to the demoralization of our class and will be capitalized upon by reactionary variants of the Far Right. The new organization, which will be founded at the next congress, will have in this sense the objective of being a vector of this process of recomposition and of contributing to the construction of a revolutionary party of the workers capable of transforming revolts into revolution, thus opening the way to another future for the coming generations in place of capitalist barbarism, which threatens to destroy humanity and the planet.

From the Exclusion of the NPA to the Foundation of the New Organization

This urgency to refound a revolutionary Left that is equal to the challenges of the period has always been at the heart of the politics of the current that a number of us have been building for more than 12 years within the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA): the Revolutionary Communist Current (CCR). And it is because our project of refounding the NPA to make it a tool for the construction of a revolutionary party of the workers, with the class struggle as its center of gravity, was diametrically opposed to the perspective of recompositions with the neo-reformist, or even social-liberal, Left, that the historical leadership of the NPA decided to exclude us on the eve of the national conference to decide on the presidential candidate.

Having become the strongest opposition—with an online journal (Révolution Permanente) much more widely-read than the NPA’s website and figures from the class struggle like Anasse Kazib proposed as a pre-candidate at the national conference—it was necessary to kick us out at any cost. The subsequent evolution of the politics of the NPA and its complete adaptation to the NUPES coalition gave us reason to believe that a third Poutou candidacy would be made in the name of a project other than that of the NPA in its present form. With all its faults, the NPA at the time retained a certain political independence from the institutional Left. t is this that is being liquidated.

When we left the NPA in June 2021, we decided to maintain Anasse Kazib’s candidacy for the presidency and to try to obtain the 500 sponsorships of elected officials necessary. Beyond the predictable failure in obtaining the signatures, this campaign played a decisive role in the emergence of Révolution Permanente as a new force within the Far Left. It was also a vector towards political commitment, notably for a certain number of young people, many of whom are presently involved in the founding process of the new organization, which others follow with sympathy.

The congress that will take place in December represents the culmination of a process that—through the political struggle that we have waged within the NPA, the Anasse campaign, the national conference in June, the summer university and the creation of the committees of the new organization in the fall—has allowed for the fusion of former CCR activists, new militants, and organizers from other political traditions. At the same time, it represents a point of departure in the construction of a new revolutionary organization in France, whose main foundations are defined in this text.

To do this, we will start from the strategic lessons of the class struggle of the last few years, as well as from an assessment of the role played by the different components of the revolutionary movement.

A Long Process of Radicalization among Workers and Youth

Since 2016, a new cycle of class struggle has opened in France. This one has seen a succession of mobilizations of almost all sectors of workers, but in a dispersed and desynchronized way: the private sector and youth in 2016, the railway workers and the civil service in 2018, the impoverished sectors of peri-urban France with the yellow vests, the transport workers for pensions mainly in 2019, many workers at private companies struggling against layoffs and for wages from the end of the first confinement in 2020. Workers’ mobilizations to which we must add the dynamics of youth, high school and student, who mobilized in their places of study and in the streets for the climate, against gender-based violence, for LGBT rights, or against racism and police violence.

2016 marked a leap in the organic crisis in France, with the Hollande-Valls government stringing together an unprecedented liberticidal offensive in the wake of the 2015 attacks and a pro-employer reform of the labor code that led to a powerful interprofessional movement. This gave rise to a process of mass rupture with the Socialist Party, which had for decades constituted the “left pillar” of the regime, and, on the level of the vanguard, the expression of a certain anticapitalist consciousness, with an aspiration to forms of direct democracy and radicalism, notably around the phenomena of Nuit debout and through leading processions at marches. This also enabled a new generation of activists to experience the union bureaucracy as an obstacle to the spreading of the strike.

Meanwhile, in the political superstructure, the collapse of the Socialist Party (PS) (combined with the Fillon affair and the anti-Le Pen vote) allowed the election of Macron, supported by the bourgeois bloc. On the terrain of the class struggle, the crisis of political and trade union mediations combined with the offensive politics of the new government to open the way for forms of class struggle that were at once more explosive, uncontrolled, and confused; less “chemically pure.” The spontaneous movement of the yellow vests has constituted a kind of synthesis of the contradictions of the period, mixing social crisis, tendencies to radicalization, and weakening of the “intermediate bodies”. As Juan Chingo said in his book on the yellow vest movement, it has above all marked a kind of “return of the spectre of revolution.” The bourgeoisie was terrorized by the entry of a sector of the masses into the political arena, taking up a revolutionary imaginary.

If the movement was marked by a weak class consciousness and the absence of any questioning of the bosses, favored by the boycott of the union leaderships, this leap in the process of radicalization did not take long to impact the organized labor movement. First through a series of wildcat strikes in the most exploited sectors of the SNCF (French national railways), as in the case of the technicenters, and then at the RATP, whose workers, after ten years of social peace in the company, imposed on the union bureaucracies the call for an unlimited strike from December 5, 2019 and thus allowed the start of the powerful movement against the pension reform. In the context of the beginning of the pandemic, this ended up forcing the government to withdraw its project. While mobilizing strategic sectors of the proletariat, this movement had a non-corporatist discourse around the “struggle for future generations.” It forged links with other sectors such as teachers and cultural workers and sought, with some success, to go beyond the framework imposed by the union leaderships, especially when they tried to impose a truce for the Christmas vacations.

The sudden arrival of the pandemic had a contradictory role in this process. On the one hand, it marked a kind of halt, in a context where the material conditions for mobilization had become complex and where the fear of the virus, unemployment, and poverty was a blow to workers. But on the other hand, the pandemic exposed to the eyes of millions of workers the true face of the capitalist system and of class society, the central role of the working class, and posed in an embryonic way the question of workers’ control over production and the running of society. The withdrawal rights and production stoppages in many factories during the pandemic, and then the strikes of essential workers from the end of the first lockdown, testified to elements of subjective recomposition of large sectors of the class that had not necessarily taken part in strike movements until that moment.

The return to work that has just taken place with the strike in the refineries and its impact (see the document on the national situation), show that the wave initiated in 2016 has not been stopped by the pandemic. On the contrary, the pandemic constitutes the origin of the anger of refinery workers. Indeed, like many workers fighting for wages in recent months, they were among those essential workers who worked at the peak of the pandemic in fear of the virus, while their management was holed up in second homes and shareholders were raking in record profits. The pandemic has also put into perspective, through the debate on “the world after,” the functioning of capitalist society and its irrationality.

To all this we must add the profound phenomena in the youth. The scope of an anti-racist movement against police violence, independent of the state, in which the collectives of the families of the victims play a central role, has been a very important vector of politicization in working-class neighborhoods and among young people who have been called the “Adama generation.” The important rallies of June 2020 called by our comrades of the Adama Committee at the end of the first confinement were a demonstration of this phenomenon and worried the most reactionary sectors of the bourgeoisie. Similarly, the politicization of the feminist and LGBT terrain has been accompanied by the emergence of radical “anti-capitalist” wings, critical of programs centered on the interpellation of the state, which manage to mobilize thousands of people in demonstrations that pose a challenge to the most integrated directions of the institutional Left. Finally, on the terrain of the environmentalist movement, sectors of the youth mobilized since 2018 have experienced the impasse of institutional solutions and COPs, even if this has given rise to tendencies to radicalize modes of action whose content remains centered on calling for state solutions.

All of these elements open up certain conditions favorable to the action of revolutionaries. The recompositions allowed by the crisis of political and trade union mediation are not, however, unilateral, and the elements of “radicalization” mentioned above can benefit “new ways of thinking,” to use Gramscian terms, on the Left as well as on the Right. From this point of view, the ebb in terms of consciousness of large sectors that took part in the struggles of 2019–2020, affected by the grip of conspiracy and confusion at the time of the pandemic and then tempted by an “anti-Macron” vote for Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election, show the need to take the anger and radicality to a class and revolutionary terrain and to anchor it there. Faced with the impasse represented by neo-reformism, the organizations that claim to be revolutionary have an important role to play in this context. However, it must be noted that during the entire period opened in France since 201, it is unfortunately passivity and skepticism that have prevailed.

The Far Left, Nowhere in Sight

Drawing an assessment of the intervention of the Far Left on the last cycle of the class struggle is a necessity, not to distribute good and bad points, but because a revolutionary organization draws its legitimacy from the responses it brings to new and complex political situations and from the contributions it makes to the working class and its struggles. At a time when we are creating a new organization, it is essential to point out the limits of the Far Left that we want to try to overcome.

On this front, as Paul Morao points out in an article for RP Dimanche: “to return to the policies carried out by the two main organizations of the Far Left in France in the last episodes of the class struggle implies, paradoxically, a work largely ‘in hollow’ or ‘pointillist’” because it is “difficult to remember striking interventions and demonstrations, strikes led by these organizations, bold policies carried out in the movements since 2016.”

This observation “does not mean that these organizations have stopped intervening in the class struggle, but that they have largely abandoned some of the tasks that revolutionary organizations traditionally gave themselves in these struggles,” namely, 

the battle for self-organization first, to allow workers to take their movement into their own hands; the struggle for the enlargement of the movement and the unity of the working class, as well as the work of alliance with all the oppressed sectors; finally, the fact of relying on the experiences of the class struggle to make a bridge towards the necessity of the revolution, by convincing sectors of the vanguard to commit themselves, beyond a fight, in the construction of revolutionary organizations.

The abandonment of these specific tasks that are incumbent on revolutionaries explains the paradox that after almost seven years of intense class struggle and a process of radicalization of sectors of the working class, combined with a broad ideological process of anticapitalist bases in the youth, the extreme Left is weaker and more marginal than ever. This observation is not unrelated to the strategies of the two historical organizations of French Trotskyism, marked by passivity and defeatism regarding the specific role that revolutionaries must play in the class struggle.

From the Failure of the Founding Project to the Opportunist Debacle of the NPA Leadership

The crisis and the relative paralysis of the NPA are not a new fact. The expansive dynamics of their initial project, which dreamed of occupying the space to the left of the PS, thanks to the popularity of Besancenot and the crisis of the old apparatuses that had participated in the government of the plural Left, quickly came up against the recomposition of a reformist bloc around the Left Front constituted between Mélenchon, freshly out of the PS, and the French Communist Party (PCF). This reminder of reality very quickly led to a crisis that highlighted the ambiguities of the founding project of the NPA as a broad party.

This project was based on the idea that the border between reform and revolution had become more blurred, or even that it no longer had any reason to exist, and that it was necessary to make a clean sweep of the debates of the revolutionary movement of the twentieth century in order to invent a “new strategy.” But this was a clear failure. Rather than allowing us to gain political ground on the reformists, this strategic vagueness has produced a right wing of the NPA that seeks to liquidate the project of an independent revolutionary organization. As a result, many of the right wing ended up leaving the NPA with hundreds of militants to join Mélenchon.

The idea that, in order to expand, it was necessary to have an organization that was less militant and less attached to implantation and intervention in the class struggle has forged an organization whose practice is summarized, as one of its leaders confessed, in “the intervention of militants from the middle or upper strata of society, from the outside and as lecturers who do not practice the class struggle by themselves, whether in the companies or in the working class neighborhoods.” 1 A party where different, even contradictory, strategic projects coexist, kept artificially alive thanks to presidential campaigns and the popularity of its spokespersons, as well as to the fear on the part of oppositional currents of finding themselves isolated in the event of an explosion or split.

The crisis of the NPA seems to have arrived at a crossroads: the majority tendency of the NPA now considers, as indicated in its text for the party congress that will take place in December, that 

unlike the period of its foundation…this party will have to build itself not only within the framework of mass experiences in which clarifications will take place, but also in interaction/confrontation with the other currents of the Left. We currently want to represent the most combative and subversive wing within the framework of a unitý of the proletariat, and the party will be the fruit of settlements, of recompositions on the basis of the political problems that arise in action.

Behind the convoluted formulas about “the framework of a unity of the proletariat” is the idea that the NPA should represent “the most combative and subversive wing” of the NUPES. An idea on which the majority leadership of the NPA has publicly elaborated in recent months, theorizing that the NUPES vote “contributes to the reconstruction of class consciousness” 2 and seeing in the popularity of Philippe Poutou a sign of “the will on the part of the voters that the revolutionaries situate themselves within the unity.” From this she concludes that the future of the NPA will be played out in its ability to become part of an electoral and parliamentary front of class collaboration including bourgeois organizations like the PS.

The majority of the NPA’s leadership is thus explaining, despite other passages in the text designed to cover itself from criticism on the Left, that the political and organizational independence that the NPA acquired when it was founded in 2009 is no longer on the agenda. In this context, as we anticipated after our exclusion, the majority of this organization is giving the oppositional currents an ultimatum. Either they agree to renounce all fractional functioning and expression, or the congress will result in a “separation.” In both cases, it will most probably be the end of the NPA in its present configuration.

Before our exclusion, we systematically sought to form a front with the other currents on the left of the party (L’Étincelle, Anticapitalism and Revolution, and Revolutionary Democracy) against the liquidating orientation embodied by the majority of the “Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International.” In our discussions, we referred in particular to the experience of the FIT-U (Front of the Left and Workers – Unity), which for more than ten years in Argentina has brought together most of the Left that calls itself revolutionary in a common political and electoral front.

At the time, our proposals met with little response because some of these currents were still betting on forms of conciliation with the leadership, which unfortunately led them not to firmly oppose our exclusion. Depending on the outcome of the NPA congress and the conclusions they draw from it, this discussion could arise again with these comrades.

More generally, offering an organizational perspective to sincere revolutionary activists, whether they are party orphans or are still members of the NPA, is for us an additional reason for launching the new organization.

The Wait-and-see Attitude of LO Cannot Be the Only Alternative to the Far Left

In the very likely scenario of a political turn of the NPA, the extreme Left would henceforth be essentially embodied by Lutte Ouvrière (LO). However, despite its presence and certain organizational qualities, this organization unfortunately does not constitute an alternative to the opportunist drift of the NPA leadership.

Lutte Ouvrière is indeed deeply impregnated by skepticism and considers that, beyond the elements of conjunctural mobilizations, we will be in a period of regression for several decades. On this level, the assessment of the last five years made in the national document of its fifty-first congress  is clear: 

“The bourgeoisie has reason to be satisfied with Macron’s first term. With his parliamentary majority, he has carried out the policy he had promised and he has passed the trial of fire. The very popular mobilization of the yellow vests has not created a major political crisis and has not threatened the bourgeois order. Macron even used it to perfect the authoritarian arsenal of the state. He has also been able to manage the health crisis and the successive confinements without the big bourgeoisie paying the price.”

This statement greatly minimizes the elements of political crisis from above and social anger from below. From this point on, Lutte Ouvrière considers that the role of revolutionaries is limited to “trade-unionist” type tasks in the enterprises, to which is added a relatively abstract communist propaganda, aiming above all at preserving the flag until the wind changes. While Lutte Ouvrière has forces far superior to those of the NPA and an implantation in important strongholds of the workers’ movement, this logic leads its militants to refuse to carry out policies aimed at coordinating the vanguard sectors, at fighting the union bureaucracies, and at taking the offensive in order to influence the form and content of the movements in which the organization intervenes.

At the same time, this current considers that defending the centrality of the working class implies that all questions that do not directly concern capitalist exploitation are secondary, or even would or could become factors of distraction and division of the proletariat. A working class logic by which LO justifies not taking on feminist, LGBTI, environmentalist, or anti-racist questions, and not participating actively in the struggles of those who fight against these oppressions, including from their working class establishments.

Even more seriously, this current joins a certain secular tradition of the French Left which, under the pretext of fighting religious prejudice, ends up legitimizing mechanisms of stigmatization and discrimination of workers and young believers. This was clearly seen in the adoption of the law on the wearing of the veil in schools in 2004, supported by Lutte Ouvrière (and also by the Revolutionary Communist League, LCR), or more recently in their refusal to speak out clearly against the banning of the burkini or in support of the fight of the hijabeuses against the discrimination of young female soccer players wearing headscarves.

We are convinced that the young generations who are mobilizing in large part today around issues of oppression or the environmental crisis, as well as workers who want to fight against oppression, deserve an alternative. That of a political organization which, while being firmly revolutionary and committed to the conquest of positions in the workers’ movement, articulates the whole of these struggles which cross, among others, the working class itself in the service of the seizure of power and the destruction of capitalism.

A Revolutionary Alternative to Neo-reformism

The risk otherwise is that the impotence of the Far Left leaves the field free for the reconstruction of a neo-reformist mediation and the recycling of the old Left. This is why the task of building a revolutionary alternative to the NUPES has a strategic character today. Because this project aims mainly at reinforcing illusions in the possibility of a peaceful and republican way out of capitalist barbarism, shifting the center of gravity of the struggles towards parliament and preparing new failures and disillusions.

At a time when the perspectives of war, of a crisis that risks plunging millions of people into poverty or even famine, of the destruction of the planet, pose in an increasingly obvious way the revolutionary urgency, to be satisfied with asking for a little limit to the super-profits of the capitalists, by waving the hope of a distant electoral victory and a good left government, constitutes quite simply a dead end. After the resounding failures of Syriza and Podemos, we need only look at the current situation in Latin America, often claimed by the Melenchonists themselves as a “political laboratory.”

In Chile, the much-acclaimed election of Gabriel Boric by the French Left, far from being the founding act of a so-called citizens’ revolution, was rather an instrument of demobilization and institutional channeling of the revolt that had taken hold of the country in 2019. This operation was the reason for the defeat suffered by the new government in the constituent referendum last September. There are too many cases in recent history of popular uprisings that have been sidetracked by this type of operation for us to continue not to learn from them.

Not far away, in Brazil, the election of Lula, at the head of a coalition including members of the neoliberal Right like Geraldo Alckmin, has obviously not made the most radicalized wings of Bolsonarism disappear. On the contrary, the Bolsonarists launched roadblocks throughout the country, with the complicity of some of the police, to contest the result of the election and even to demand a military putsch. In this context, the PT’s conciliatory policy of “peace and love” disarms the Brazilian proletariat to confront the fascist tendencies inscribed in the Brazilian situation.

In such a context, it is not a consensual project with a Left that manages capitalism, nor a “gaseous” organization made to measure for electoral deadlines, but a revolutionary party of the workers, conscious of the irreconcilable character of capitalism to the interests of the working class, the youth, and the popular neighborhoods, and that prepares to intervene in convulsive events where, progressively, the perspectives of revolution and of a fascist counterrevolution will confront each other more and more. Our new organization will be placed at the service of the construction of such a party.

Which Organization for Which Strategy?

The trajectory of our political current shows, on a small scale, that it is possible, by means of a determined intervention and with clear strategic perspectives, to link up with movements, to make contributions to them and to merge in the fire of common experience with the most advanced elements of the new worker and militant generation that the current cycle of the class struggle has given birth to.

Let’s just recall several examples. The online newspaper RP became, in 2016, less than a year after its launch, one of the main media sources to obtain information on the movement against the Labour Law, becoming a real collective organizer and proposing analyses and orientations to hundreds of thousands of readers every month. With only two activists working at the SNCF (national railways), we were at the genesis of the inter-station meetings that brought together throughout the struggle against the rail pact hundreds of railway workers around an alternative line to that of the union bureaucracy in 2018. It was the collective emanating from these meetings that launched, with the Adama Committee, the Saint-Lazare pole to organize the support of labor, youth, and popular neighborhoods to the yellow vests movement.

In 2019, it was our comrades, notably Anasse Kazib, who were at the heart of the construction of the RATP-SNCF coordination that played a key role in the struggle against the pension reform, as an expression of the base and to thwart the attempt by the union bureaucracy to end the movement on the eve of the vacations. Finally, it is also largely thanks to our intervention that isolated and difficult conflicts such as the strikes at Onet, Total Grandpuits, or, to a lesser extent, various struggles in the aeronautics industry have gained a regional or even national echo and have become, in various ways, exemplary strikes.

In order to embody an alternative to the institutional project of the NUPES and to the passivity of the extreme Left, we think that the construction of a political organization that intervenes with this logic is decisive. An organization whose objective is not only to strengthen the struggles of our class, but also and above all to carry the strategic perspective of a social revolution that overthrows the bourgeois state, replaces it with a democratic power of the exploited majority through its organs of self-organization, and puts an end to private property over the means of production.

Thus, the new organization is in the revolutionary Marxist and Trotskyist tradition and fights for a society free of all forms of exploitation and oppression, without classes and without the state: communism. This strategy and objective has many implications for the politics and the type of organization to be built.

Workers’ and People’s Alliance, General Strike, and the Hegemonic Role of the Working Class

On a political level, any revolutionary strategy raises the problem of the subject of social transformation. In contrast to populist conceptions that dissolve the class of workers into “the people,” our new organization considers that the working class in the broad sense—that is, all those who are forced to sell their labor power in exchange for a salary and who are neither in the chains of command nor in the forces of repression— is, because of the central place it occupies in production, the only force capable of leading an authentically emancipatory, i.e., socialist, revolution.

However, far from any workerist conception, we are convinced that the transformation of the working class into a revolutionary subject passes precisely by the fact of not being preoccupied only with the economic questions concerning it, but on the contrary by taking charge of the whole of the problems of society, those of the impoverished middle classes, but also the fight against the totality of oppressions facing it, and in defense of the environment. This observation is the basis of the necessity of an alliance between the working class and all those sectors that have an interest in the destruction of capitalism.

Thus, it is through a workers’ and popular bloc, uniting all the exploited and oppressed, that it will be possible to defeat the bourgeoisie today gathered behind Macron, in no case through a “unity of the left.” It is by becoming a hegemonic subject that the working class can set in motion the transformation of a social movement into a political general strike, which paralyzes the march of the capitalist economy and poses the problem of who rules society. This implies an eruption of the masses as a whole on the political scene, even if the concentrated and strategic sectors of the proletariat obviously play a determining role.

It is in this sense that we take up the Leninist conception of the revolutionary militant as a “tribune of the people,” not content to be a good trade unionist or to intervene in their own sectors, but on the contrary

 knowing how to react against any manifestation of arbitrariness and oppression, wherever it occurs, whatever class or social stratum has to suffer from it, knowing how to generalize all these facts to compose a complete picture of the police violence and of the capitalist exploitation, knowing how to take advantage of the slightest occasion to expose before all its socialist convictions and its democratic demands, to explain to all and to each one the historical and world scope of the emancipating struggle of the proletariat.

Fight against the Bureaucracy; Self-organization; and the United Front

This conception implies a fight to the death against the political and trade union bureaucracies whose precise role is to maintain divisions between different sectors of the class in order to prevent partial struggles from converging and advancing towards a global political struggle against the capitalist system. From this point of view, as Trotsky explained, the bureaucracy constitutes an agent of the bosses inside the workers’ movement.

The struggle against the bureaucracy, to wrest control of the unions from it and to recover these organizations as a tool of a class struggle policy, is a duty for every revolutionary organization. Its weakness or absence constitutes one of the main limits of the current extreme Left.

But the trade union struggle is not enough. The trade unions, although they continue to play an important role in organizing sectors of the workers’ movement, only structure a tiny part of the workers’ class, often the least exploited and least precarious strata, because they have historically conquered a more important balance of power. This is why, if the new organization resolutely fights for the construction of class struggle and anti-bureaucratic fractions in the unions, it will have to push in each struggle, for the establishment of frameworks of self-organization and coordination, bringing together members of different unions but also non-union members, and ensuring that the actors at the base have the control of the movement, not the bureaucracy.

In the march towards the seizure of power, these frameworks of self-organization will progressively become a real tool of dual power, in the image of what the soviets or sometimes the factory committees have been in different revolutionary processes, to be transformed into organs of direct democracy and pillars of workers’ power.

The struggle against bureaucracy and for self-organization does not exclude the constitution of united front blocs around precise objectives. However, contrary to the conception of the majority leadership of the NPA, unity with the reformists must remain exclusively on the tactical terrain. The strategic objective sought is the reinforcement of the political influence of the revolutionaries on the basis of an experience of the masses with their leadership, which implies not mixing the revolutionary program with that of the reformists.

Internationalism and Anti-imperialism

Capitalism being itself a globalized system, a revolution, while starting on the national plane, develops on the international level and can only succeed on a global scale. Thus, internationalism, much more than a moral injunction, is a sine qua non condition for the revolution in a country, lest it be strangled by a union of the bourgeoisies of the region with the support of the great imperialist powers who always know how to work together to suppress a revolution.

This implies not only that we must not give in to any form of national sovereignty and to consider that our allies are the proletarians of all countries and never our own bourgeoisie, but also to always be on the side of the peoples oppressed by the imperialist powers, especially when it comes to French imperialism.

In the same way, the construction of a national revolutionary organization can in no way be seen as dissociated from the necessity of rebuilding a revolutionary International. For this reason, the new organization asks to join the Trotskyist Faction for the Fourth International (FT-QI), while reserving for its members, especially those coming from other political traditions, the right not to join.

A Militant and Democratic Organization

In order to be able to lead struggles and influence the course of events, an organization must have forces and positions from which to deploy its politics. This is why the new organization will make its establishment in the main strongholds of the workers’ movement a central task, continuing the efforts in this direction that have been made up to now by the militants of the ex-CCR.

At the same time, we are convinced that one of the main signs of the health of an organization that wants to be revolutionary is its capacity to dialogue with and attract the younger generations of revolutionary militants. This is why building Le Poing Levé (The Raised Fist) as a national student current in the colleges and high schools, Du Pain et des Roses (Bread and Roses) in the feminist movement, as well as working to better establish itself in sectors of working-class youth and neighborhoods, will also be an important challenge for the new organization.

The strategic objectives we have defined above also imply a certain type of political organization. It is obvious that an electoral and parliamentary machine cannot function on the same principles as an organization that aspires to play a determining role in a revolutionary process tomorrow. The new organization defines itself as a partisan combat organization, whose members are not passive adherents or commentators, but active militants with intervention in the class struggle as the center of gravity of their activity.

Combat nevertheless also means ideological combat, to counter the dominant ideas and to rehabilitate a living revolutionary Marxism that will be a real guide for the action of the revolutionary generations to come, and political combat to impose revolutionary ideas in the national debate, using for that purpose the elections, as we have tried to do in a very small measure through Anasse’s campaign in the presidential elections, as well as through the role of the online journal Permanent Revolution (which will be given a new look at the occasion of the launch of the new organization) as a media and collective organizer.

For all this, it is obvious that some form of centralization is essential. This is why the new organization will have a political leadership, elected by the congress according to the rules established in the statutory charter. This centralization is not, however, contradictory with the broadest internal democracy, with the possibility for each militant to contest the orientation proposed by the leadership and to try to convince the organization, provided, of course, that it does not hinder the implementation of the orientation once it has been adopted by a majority of militants.

The conditions for a good democratic functioning are the militant character of the organization (which implies the same rights and duties for all), but also the political education of its members, who must have all the tools to have a critical look at the politics of the organization. It is also to see the organization as a framework of revolutionary fraternity, of bonds of comradeship welded by fights led in common, which try as far as possible to prefigure human relationships freed from all the burden imposed by the capitalist ideology with its batch of individualism, of competitive and oppressive relations.

Originally published in French by the Révolution Permanente Editorial Board on December 3, 2022.

Translation: Antoine Ramboz

Notes

Notes
1 Antoine Larrache, “The advent of a new left”, L’Anticapitaliste, May 2022. Available online.
2 Antoine Larrache, “Reinforcing the unitary dynamic, defending our orientations,” L’Anticapitaliste, June 2022. Available online.

Fifth Congress of the NPA: A door opened to hope

French far left politics is in a renewed conflict. We publish below one perspective, from comrades in the NPA. Another perspective will be published separately.

 

Taking stock of the fourth congress of France’s Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) in 2018, León Cremieux wrote the following: “The Fourth Congress of the NPA has ended leaving a situation which is open and, at the same time, closed. The next few months will tell in which direction it evolves.” In that congress the biggest platform, with 49.72% of the votes, was an inch away from obtaining the majority and the lack of that 0.28% of votes became a real difficulty in keeping the party alive.

Although among the other six platforms presented at that congress the strongest stood at 17%, the majority/minority that had the responsibility of taking the party forward has been confronted over these years with a factional dynamic where the rest of currents, without political agreement among themselves offering an alternative to the majority, united to block its political orientation. And over time, each faction has been consolidating its own structure, autonomous from the organic structure of the NPA, with the aim of turning the NPA into a front of factions (or mini parties) in total contradiction with the original project of the NPA.

In this context, for nearly five years the NPA has nonetheless been able to move forward, with a leadership that, despite the obstacles, has managed to keep the party alive, guarantee its public appearance, sectoral intervention and participation in unitary dynamics and electoral campaigns (whose orientation has always been defined in a National Conference, where the leadership always won the majority). At the last (26-27 June 2021), the departure of the CCR-Permanent Revolution faction modified the situation somewhat, giving more room for manoeuvre to the leadership, allowing the development of a campaign with a radical and unitary identity that, although it did not translate into votes, attracted sympathy from broad sectors of activists who, during the parliamentary elections, demanded that Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France insoumise (LFI) party prioritize an agreement with the NPA instead of the Socialist Party. A sympathy that also translated into an influx of new activists.

Thus, after the fourth congress the situation was open, it is true, but it was heavily burdened by the sectarian dynamics of the factions, in permanent competition with the majority of the NPA, blocking debate and political reflection and undermining the dynamics of the party (with their own funds, websites and structures, as well as public appearances in demonstrations differentiated from the NPA although always using the logo of the NPA, and so on).

Hence, at this congress, in addition to the political orientation, the fundamental problem posed to the NPA was to get out of the quagmire to which the different factions had led it: to break with a factional dynamic, which the different currents justified in the name of plurality and internal democracy, and to reaffirm the initial project of the NPA. Not an easy task in a party where respect for plurality and internal democracy is part of its DNA. And because, for a good part of the activists and those who supported Platform B, the possibility of excluding anyone due to political differences was inconceivable. Hence, the majority chose to hold out until the critical point of the congress so that the group of delegates could appreciate in situ the seriousness of the internal fracture and the impossibility of continuing with the factions integrated in Platform C.

How to put an end to this situation? The majority of the outgoing leadership (Platform B (Christine Poupin, Philippe Poutou, Pauline Salingue and Olivier Besancenot): 48.5% of votes) stated from its initial document that above and beyond the political orientation, continuing in the same group irequired agreement on the type of party to be built and the rules of functioning. In a word, to put an end to the system of taifas (fiefdoms) [1] that the party had become, which the text of the platform summed up as follows:

A party useful to its militants and to the exploited class must be a place of elaboration, of balance sheets of common experiences, a collective intellectual force capable of developing analyses and developing interventions in synch with the real dynamics of the class struggle.

We need a political tool capable of elaborating, of reflecting freely, we need tactical flexibility, experimentation, but also the sharing of our experiences to learn from them collectively.

We must resist the temptation to preserve the apparatus as an end in itself, for it is illusory to think that the NPA can continue to exist as before.

Without radical change, it can die little by little, demoralizing some, making others believe that they are taking small steps on the road to the constitution of a revolutionary party.

In fact, the factions push towards sectarian isolation and identity, seeing in the other non-revolutionary organizations of the workers’ movement only political adversaries to fight at all times and places, and extending this vision to internal disagreements. Any attempt to update our programmatic achievements to respond to new questions is thus dismissed as reformism or even treason.

Organizational issues are a concentration of political choices. We must realize that the existence of permanent factions is actually the juxtaposition of different organizations with different and even contradictory political projects.

Therefore, staying in a single organization is purely artificial. We must act on this separation that already exists in fact or implement measures capable of reconstituting a true party. The nature of these measures can be discussed at the congress; they are not administrative measures, but a political agreement to establish a certain level of centralized democracy that authorizes a right of tendency and a right of faction but limits the organizational structures that compete with those of the NPA and the systematic public expression of the micro parties that only belong to the NPA when they use its logo.

It is not a question of a position of principle (we are not opposed to the right of factions) but of re-establishing a functioning based on democratic centralism, of taking note of the state of degradation of militant relations and of the divergences, at this time immovable, of the orientations implemented by the factions so that they compete with those of the party.

Undoubtedly, this strong will to recover a situation of normality in the party, already announced during the summer university of the NPA, was what led the rest of the factions, except for the minority platform A (6.1%), to create a joint opposition grouping in Platform C (45.6% of votes, whose most representative figures are Gaël Quirantes and Damien Scali) in order to try to force a relationship of forces that would block the situation in Congress and, in this way, ensure that it continue as before. An outcome that Platform B ruled out in all circumstances.

Therefore, given the probability of a split, a local NPA committee, that of Tarn, proposed creating a parity commission in order to reach an agreement between all the platforms on the criteria that should govern the life of the NPA. In the five meetings that took place, the different factions that made up platform C did not at any point give up continuing to act as independent micro parties within the NPA.

In view of this, on the second day of the congress, after a debate plagued by accusations, lies and unprecedented verbal violence on the part of the factions towards the majority in the debate on the political situation and on the party model, before starting the voting session [2], Platform B requested a suspension to decide in a platform meeting on the critical situation of the congress and its future. The conclusion, a resolution adopted by 100 of the 102 delegates (one abstention and one non-vote), was that under these conditions it was not possible to continue in the same organization with Platform C, which was communicated to the other two Platforms who, for their part, continued the congress in separate meetings. In summary, the resolution reads as follows;

Since the fiction of a common political organization is crumbling, it is time to conclude, with the adoption of this text, that we are separate organizations. This means that, after this congress, we will no longer be organized together within the NPA, even if we have to cohabit temporarily for some time. Consequently, we will not choose a common leadership with Platform C at this congress. We want to continue in dialogue with comrades who want to keep the NPA alive as a living and democratic organization, without the permanent public “factions”.

We will continue our lives separately: on the one hand, those who have kept the NPA alive for years, its campaigns -especially presidential- its democratic bodies, its public expression, the coordination of its activities, its bookstore; on the other, factions that already have their own life and disagree with the project that presided over the founding of the NPA (although they intend to use its logo).

We consider that we embody the continuity of a political current, through an anti-capitalism that articulates the defence of revolutionary ideas and the need to build the unity of our class. It is this current that has led the LCR, and then the NPA, to become an established and recognized party in the national and local political landscape. We cannot squander this achievement, and we claim its name and its flag (Resolution: "Acter la séparation, continuer le NPA. Construire une organisation utile à notre camp")

This has put an end to an unsustainable situation for the NPA in a context of acute social, political, democratic and environmental crisis, of an authoritarian drift of the political regime and of a reactionary and xenophobic wave in ascent crystallized in the electoral advance of the extreme right, posing more than ever the urgency of building a revolutionary alternative from the perspective of recomposing the social and organizational fabric of the popular sectors, the mass organizations and of the left through a unitary policy to reverse the current unfavourable relationship of forces. A policy totally opposed to the sectarian self-affirmation proposed by Platform C.

Fundamental political divergences

The core of the political divergences of Platform B with Platform C at this congress can be summarized on two levels. The first is understanding the crisis. While for Platform B the crisis occurs in a disadvantageous situation – of unfavourable relationship of forces – for the popular sectors and can lead to the worst possible scenario, for Platform C, the crisis in which the capitalist system is immersed [the objective factors] “could converge and lead to real social revolutions”.

Hence, in terms of tasks, for Platform B the fundamental task is to work to recompose the structures of the workers’, associative, feminist, LGBTI, environmental and other movements; and to do so with an independent and unitary politics with both the mass organizations and the political forces of the left, while for Platform C, to ensure that the anger caused by the crisis in the popular sectors becomes political consciousness, the way forward is political campaigns by the party to set our class in motion, promoting the construction of a front of revolutionaries grouped around a project of self-affirmation and dogmatic denunciation of reformism.

Beyond that, the divergences with Platform C range from international politics (denouncing the unitary campaign of solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance under the slogan “Putin’s troops out of Ukraine”, which demonstrated on 10 December in Paris [3]), to the decision to participate in the unitary base structures Nupes inherited from the parliamentary elections, to the building of social movements such as feminist, ecologist or LGBTI; but above all it should be made clear that the unitary policy in relation to the Nupes does not represent in any case - as was proven during the discussions for an electoral agreement for the parliamentary elections - envisaging either in the short or long term the dissolution of the NPA in Nupes, but quite the opposite: starting from the conviction that these structures can evolve in the right direction and not fall prey to the ups and downs and electoral interests of la France Insoumise, the more recognition the militant activity of the NPA obtains in them. [4]

Moving forward

As the above-mentioned resolution points out, for a time and until the separation is resolved, two separate sectors will coexist in the NPA. Platform B concluded the congress alone and approved both the guidance documents and the various motions submitted to the congress, electing a new leadership that includes 19 new members (45%) and 24 women (56%), with four spokespersons (Christine Poupin, Pauline Salingue, Philippe Poutou and Olivier Besancenot), guaranteeing the NPA website and publications and announcing a rally in Paris for 17 January 2023. Platform C continued its sectarian discourse and extensive smear campaign. It remains to be seen whether the common shell within which the different factions were gathered will be able to coexist now the rules of the game that all of them wanted to impose on the NPA have disappeared.

In the short term, we will probably see two processes from now on. On the one hand, the result of the talks on the separation with platform C and the attitude adopted by platform A (which in principle is inclined to continue in the NPA with platform B); on the other hand, the congress is the starting point - and not the conclusion - of a process of separation with the currents-factions-groups. Depending on local realities, everyone will have to choose whether, at the level of their respective committee or locality, they can continue to work – or even meet – with the comrades who, having voted for Platform C, are not part of sectors organized in the current groups-factions which compose it. From what we know, there are already committees in which activists who supported different platforms in the run-up to the congress have decided to continue together.

But regardless of how the situation is resolved internally, the importance of the congress is that putting an end to factional dynamics gives the NPA a new breath to deal with the current political situation.

A complex political situation in which the full-fledged offensive of the Macron government (with the pension reform as its standard), but also with an increasingly active violent extreme right, as seen this December, requires being free of internal ties to be able to act with the capacity for initiative.

The turning point that this congress represents in the history of the NPA also comes at a political moment in which the terrain on the French left is moving and which demands political reflection, tactical flexibility and capacity for dialogue with the other political forces. Undoubtedly, in the coming weeks and months, the NPA will have to resume in a more serene and constructive atmosphere debates on aspects of strategy, tactics and party building that due to the need to respond to factional pressure were impossible to develop until now. More so in a context in which the left camp is in continuous development, as shown by the presidential election campaign and, above all, the parliamentary elections with the creation of Nupes and the loss of hegemony of social liberalism in this coalition.

The electoral success of Nupes also meant the emergence of new sectors in politics that continue to militate in a unitary and open way in the local Nupes groups, even though the reality of this is unequal according to localities and the weight of the political forces in them, and until now we cannot speak of a Nupes organized and coordinated at the national level. The development of these collectives is autonomous where they exist. In any case, they constitute a space in which to integrate, share space and develop unitary initiatives and debates with the activists (party or non-party) that are involved.

On the other hand, nothing is stable in any party today. Although having their own peculiarities, all the waters are turbulent: both in the French Communist Party (split in two before the next congress) and the LFI (in full conflict after the election of the new leadership [5] excluding figures such as Clémentine Autin, Alexis Corbière, François Ruffin and Éric Coquerel, as well as the very “moderate” position of the leadership vis-à-vis one of its members condemned for violence against his companion, which has already provoked collective resignations from LFI. The question is all the more sensitive as the person in question appeared, before his conviction was made public, as the most probable successor to Mélenchon). With regard to the Socialist Party, it remains to be seen how its congress (27-29 January 2023) will conclude, with two alternatives aiming to replace the current leadership, and how this will affect Nupes.

Finally, from January, the social question will be at the centre of the agenda. The pension reform desired by Macron should have been announced on 15 December (the deadline was postponed to 10 January following the unanimous agreement of all the unions to mobilize from January), the breakdown of public services (education, hospitals and so on), the working conditions prevailing in the latter, not to mention the high cost of living or the coming energy restrictions – all of this defines a political situation where, in order to prevent the social unrest that is accumulating fuelling the embers of the far right, the social and political left must promote unitary initiatives against Macron and his world. It is on this ground that the NPA must prove its usefulness, and its future is undoubtedly at stake. After this 5th congress, a door of hope has opened for the NPA.

Translated by International Viewpoint from Viento Sur.

[1Reference to the fragmentation of power after the dissolution of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, in the Muslim part of the Iberian Peninsula and the formation of multiple kingdoms (emirates) of independent taifas, making the whole unmanageable, taifa designating a party, group or fraction.

[2Nevertheless after voting on (and approving) the report of the Mandates Commission thereby legitimating the elected delegates. Translators’ Note

[3Union des Ukrainiens de France - Russie Liberté - Socialistes russes contre la guerre - Association des Géorgiens en France - Géorgie vue de France - Collectif pour une Syrie libre et démocratique CPSLD - Coordination des Syriens de France - CSDH Iran - A Manca - Assemblée européenne des citoyens - Association autogestion - Aplutsoc - ATTAC France - Cedetim - Club Politique Bastille - Confédération générale du travail (CGT) - Coopératives Longo Maï - Éditions Syllepse - Émancipation Lyon 69 - Ensemble ! - Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) - Entre les lignes entre les mots - Fondation Copernic - Forum civique européen - Fédération syndicale unitaire (FSU) - Gauche démocratique et sociale - Gauche écosocialiste - Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) - L’Insurgé - Les Humanités - Mémorial 98 - Mouvement national lycéen (MNL) - Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) - Pour l’Ukraine, pour leur liberté et la nôtre - Pour une écologie populaire & sociale (PEPS) - Régions et peuples solidaires (RPS) - Rejoignons- nous - Réseau syndical international de solidarité et de luttes - RESU France (Réseau européen de - solidarité avec l’Ukraine)- Réseau Penser l’émancipation - Union syndicale Solidaires

[4Nupes - Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale - New Ecological and Social People’s Union, a left-wing alliance of political parties created to contest the 2022 parliamentary elections.

[5By means of a representative assembly of 160 people from the LFI, of which almost nobody knew the existence and in which the hard core of the LFI participated, the rest being composed of people drawn by lot. A total absurdity of internal democracy, which led Ruffin to ask whether this is the democratic model of the VIth Republic that France Insoumise advocates.

Class Independence and the Broad Parties: A Response to Left Voice

Andrew Sernatinger 

December 31, 2022

In an essay published on Left Voice recently, Nathaniel Flakin takes up the broad left party concept, ultimately arguing (as the title suggests) that they “are a dead end.” It’s hardly the first time this argument has come up in Left Voice, but what’s different about this piece is that it’s branded as “a debate with Tempest.” The piece is constructed, first and foremost, as a polemic against Tempest. This would be perfectly fine, but it is customary to at least inform the other party if you wish to have a genuine debate. All the same, this does provide an opportunity to take up substantial questions about theory, strategy, and tactics, and discuss where we disagree and where that may be exaggerated for effect.

Where is the smoking gun?

Flakin’s article begins with its view of the problem: there’s a large audience for socialism in the United States right now, but there is no independent socialist party and “[t]he largest socialist organization in the United States, the DSA, campaigns for and runs candidates as part of a capitalist and imperialist party.” The piece does not elaborate on this set-up, and these three points (audience, absence, DSA being bad) are given off the cuff with no references or footnotes.

It moves from there onto the broad left party question, and more specifically Tempest’s approach to these broad party experiences. Flakin quotes one sentence from Tempest comrade Natalia Tylim, “We think it’s a mistake to reject with a single stroke the broad party experiences.” It then focuses on the transcript of a talk given by another Tempest member, “For [Aaron] Amaral, a “wholesale rejection” of “broad-party experiments over the last couple of decades” can only lead to “sterile propagandism.””

As a tactic, Flakin selectively quotes less than one full sentence to “gotcha!” Amaral’s position. Whereas the quote in full reads,

There is often a wholesale rejection of the varied socialist attempts to build broader formations, without taking account of the specific dynamics in different countries, the different approaches which marked these experiments, and the different stakes that came into play at different moments. While I agree that one clear lesson from these experiments is that revolutionaries need to maintain their own organized current in such left formations, the idea that broader organized formations are per se, everywhere and always, out of bounds is a mistake and often held in common by this third trend.

Neither Tylim nor Amaral make categorical arguments demanding support for broad left parties, as Flakin suggests. So, he attributes a position to Tempest with no evidence. He writes, “A ‘broad left party’ is ultimately a euphemism: it means a party uniting reformists and revolutionaries”. Except that this isn’t our position and Flakin must know that. This is evident by the fact that members of Tempest say almost nothing in the article that is ostensibly a debate with us. If there was a smoking gun, you think that Flakin would have found it.

And while there is a substantial portion of Flakin’s article devoted to SYRIZA and Podemos as evidence of why we should categorically reject broad formations, the immediate aim is the relationship of revolutionaries to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

The impression one would get reading this article with no other knowledge is that Tempest cheerleads the DSA, and this is because of our mistaken fidelity to broad left parties. Flakin lays out what the purported difference between Tempest and Left Voice when he writes:

If a neoreformist party is able to politicize and enthuse many thousands of young people, we — of course — agree that revolutionaries need to engage with them. This means fighting together for the rights of working-class and oppressed people, alongside members and even leaders of neoreformist parties. But this kind of unity in action does not require us to sign up for parties whose stated goal is to administer the capitalist state…We can say that the balance sheet of broad left parties has been dismal. Socialists should break with this failed strategy. We should not advocate unity with reformists in the form of broad left parties.

What I find particularly odd about this characterization is first, Tempest’s criticism of DSA is widely known, so much so that the “boss caucus” majority of DSA’s National Political Committee (NPC) believed that we were somehow behind every act of opposition the leadership faced (if only!). I do not see where Flakin could get the impression from our numerous articles on DSA (many of which have been cited by Left Voice writers in their pieces on DSA) that we are uncritical proponents of the organization.

But more to the point, members of Left Voice were also members of DSA – they just left the organization much sooner. Tatianna Cozzarelli, for instance, toured some DSA-adjacent podcasts circa 2018 and frequently introduced herself as being a member of the DSA. It would appear to contradict Flakin’s argument that revolutionaries should never become members of these formations. If anything, it seems that Left Voice made a similar calculation as Tempest comrades that it could be potentially useful to be part of DSA to win this new layer of socialists to revolutionary politics. Left Voice may have had a different set of criteria for when membership in DSA no longer served that aim. It would be useful to hear Left Voice’s account of when and why they made a change in policy.

Terms of a debate: independence

If Flakin’s article is mostly shadowboxing an imaginary opponent, and in practice the Tempest and Left Voice approaches to the DSA have been fairly similar, then what are we really debating? This comes down to class independence and its relationship to the development of a mass, revolutionary socialist left. The question of broad parties is related but subsidiary to that understanding.

Flakin represents the Left Voice position as one that draws a stark line: “We should not advocate unity with reformists in the form of broad left parties.” The conclusion Flakin draws categorically rejecting “broad parties” appears to be based on a particular conception of class independence and its relationship to reformism. Its admittedly a little hard to pin down because Flakin never defines “reformism.”

Reformism is presented as a monolith that is essentially the same everywhere at any time; it is presented as primarily an ideological phenomenon, intent on administering the capitalist state. This oversimplifies how objective relations produce reformist politics as we’ll see. But leaving that aside, the above definition really doesn’t accurately describe parties like Podemos and others. Flakin presents it this way to prepare his arguments: First, that reformism is the primary obstacle to socialism; and second, that class independence is synonymous with a revolutionary socialist program.

What Flakin is basically suggesting is that revolutionaries just need to raise the red flag and rally the class to it, even before the class itself has won political independence from the bourgeoisie. And because of this, Left Voice opposes or abstains from other efforts at independence that are not explicitly revolutionary. The model they propose seeks to export the experience of the FIT-U in Argentina, without regard to completely different conditions in the United States. This is the real sticking point.

Political Independence and Socialism

So, the debate here is about class independence. And if we put it like that, this isn’t really a new line of argument. For one, many of the so-called broad parties have been around since the 1980’s. But more generally this has been a recurring point of contention in the Marxist tradition.

Marx insisted that socialism had to be the real movement of the class and would develop in the course of struggle. Independence of the class, however strange it might appear at first, was critical in the development of class consciousness and the adoption of socialist aims en masse. He did not propose this in clean stages, though he emphasized that class consciousness developed rapidly when independence had been established. To try to get out in front of the class without basic independence would lead to sectist substitutionism. Soma Marik explains: 1

Marx’s concept of party building thus envisaged two alternative models. One was the creation of a broad-based labor party where independence was to be the minimum basis of unity. The other was that of a communist party to be built up when a significant section of the working class became aware of the necessity of communism and began adopting programmatic goals accordingly. (83)

Engels made this point more directly in a letter to Friedrich Sorge, when he advised about relating to sections of the workers movement internationally who were in the sway of ideas and organizations that were not Marxist:

The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the organisation of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party…That the first programme of this party is still confused and highly deficient…these are inevitable evils but also only transitory ones. The masses must have time and opportunity to develop and they can only have the opportunity when they have their own movement–no matter in what form so long as it is only their own movement–in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn wisdom by hurting themselves.

Participation in these formations were necessary for communists, Engels argued, because it would provide them with an important leadership position when the movement developed and inevitably split.

This view remained even after the question of reformism had come to the fore after the First World War and the split from the Second International. Lenin, in Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, starts by arguing that the experience of the Bolsheviks in Russia cannot simply be exported to other countries, and in following a Marxist method each country needs to take the general revolutionary aim and learn to apply it to the specific countries one operates in.

He spends the chapter on Britain confronting a position by Sylvia Pankhurst, when she puts out formulations that sounds quite like the arguments Flakin makes for Left Voice: “The Communist Party must not compromise…The Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure, and its independence of reformism inviolate, its mission is to lead the way, without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution.”

Lenin responds by saying that the working class in Britain had not yet had the experience of these types of reformist leaders, which is a vital class experience for the class to arrive at the necessity for revolution.

Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice, and that they should help the Hendersons and Snowdens defeat the united forces of Lloyd George and Churchill. To act otherwise would mean hampering the cause of the revolution, since revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, a change brought about by the political experience of the masses, never by propaganda alone.

I’m with Lenin. His perspective saw the realization of political independence as splitting the bourgeois representatives and thus creating more favorable political conditions for revolutionaries when their adversaries were divided. Lenin was unable to comment on whether British communists should join the Labour Party directly because he did not have enough information to determine if that would be tactically advantageous. He does not rule it out as a matter of principle. Likewise, participation in governments is not conceived of for the purpose of administering the capitalist state, but instead for demonstrating the insufficiency of the existing order to deliver for the working class in the real struggles that would occur. Together this would build support for the communists on the road to revolution.

Perspectives on broad parties

What do we make of broad parties then? Tempest comrade Charlie Post gives an orientation in a 2012 article for Socialist Register, especially in the post-World War II period,

[t]he active disorganization of the “militant minority” or “workers’ vanguard”—the mass layer of worker leaders who struggled and organized independently of the forces of official reformism put limits on the ability of small groups of revolutionaries to transform their organizations into even small mass parties in the 1960s and 1970s. Combined with the collapse of both social-democracy and the Communist Parties as effective forces of reform, no less revolution, segments of the labor and social movements sought alternative forms of political representation and organization. This is the social-material basis for the emergence of these “broad left” parties, with all of their contradictions and limitations. Put another way, these “broad left” parties are responses to material changes and will emerge and grow independently of the subjective desires of the revolutionary left. 2

This departs from a classical Trotskyist position (which essentially sees the Stalinists and social democrats as the false leaders of the class to be supplanted by the true, Trotskyist class leaders) and shifts to an analysis of development of the class and the conditions that brought about the more recent broad parties. Broad parties then can appeal to a larger audience than revolutionaries could reach on their own and could embark on a new project of class independence.

The success and failures of these experiments have huge variations. This has to be understood in a context where we have very few examples of socialist parties that have made real, lasting breakthroughs. Because let’s be honest, we have a whole lot of defeats. The degree to which workers’ organizations have frayed in the last half century, and the ability of the bourgeoisie to reincorporate the base of the old institutional left into existing political parties, has created an uneven experience for those embarking on the broad party project The specifics of their programs and constituent forces depends on the context of each country.

Anticapitalistas launched Podemos and grew its audience and cadres, though ultimately the Iglesias group won control of the party. Bloco Esquerda in Portugal formed in response to a major defeat for abortion rights. The common cause between Fourth Internationalists, Maoists, and left social democrats was that there was a functional role their unity could play in contesting elections. Bloco has been able to serve as an important political formation in response to austerity and unemployment, organizing precarious workers.

The Ligue Communist Revolutionnaire (LCR) attempted to form a broader party, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), but could not convince other forces, such as the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrier or the “left socialists”, to join them when they launched in 2009. The LCR dissolved itself to form the NPA and they ended up with a smaller “broad” formation than they started with as the LCR. Many LCR comrades deserted and went to the Front de Gauche, led by Mélenchon in competition with the NPA before he created La France Insoumise. The NPA was isolated, and its problem now is less that of combating opportunism than it is getting beyond sectarian in-fighting. Oddly, Left Voice describes this positively. The NPA is one example that has been important for Tempest: we should not liquidate revolutionary organization as we participate in broad formations.

The electoral efforts around Corbyn, Mélenchon, and Sanders don’t really conform to the broad party concept. None of these were launched by the far left, and the Sanders and Corbyn experiences have been much more constrained by their party affiliations. The appearance of these campaigns disoriented the far left of the mid 2010’s and accelerated crises in many revolutionary organizations, in no small part because revolutionaries had no guides for how to deal with a “democratic socialism” that grew rapidly.

Where we in Tempest really disagree with Left Voice comrades is that we don’t view the results of different projects in different countries at different times in the last forty years as foregone conclusions because of their organizational form. We openly criticize the DSA, and many of us now view that project as having run its course. But it presented an opportunity to advance the cause of political independence and train a militant layer, however imperfectly. At least until 2019, DSA was the place where tens of thousands of new activists were flocking to, initially with aspirations to break from the Democratic Party and to organize working class people. Those are goals we should welcome, and for a time there was a possibility that DSA could develop in a direction that was suited for the purpose. It took a kind of counter-revolution in the organization, which Tempest played a role in fighting ideologically and organizationally, to restore DSA back to its historic realignment position.

To say in hindsight that all these projects were simply failures can be used to dismiss anything. It creates an inevitability that fails to recognize the interests that competed as a process unfolded. And we gain no guide to action for the real mess of history when it happens.

Conclusions

Our position in Tempest is not “broad parties are good” as the inversion of Left Voice’s “broad parties are bad” – we’re open to formations depending on the circumstances. Many of the ‘broad parties’ appeared because of the deterioration of working-class organization and the capitulation of the old institutional left (communist and social democratic parties).

When they have momentum, when they house emerging struggles, these formations have potential to further class organization and independence, which revolutionaries depend on for the viability of our project. But they can just as easily lose that potential, by being captured by opportunists (as in Podemos and arguably in DSA) or by being a hothouse of left groups with no wider appeal.

The presence of “reformism” should not be the singular deterrent from participation in any formation. Reformism is the worldview of a distinct social layer that acts as a mediator between labor and capital – elected officials, the trade union bureaucracy, and movement organizations. The logic of reformism is about preserving existing institutions and reforms through legal/electoral means, even while most of those gains were won through extra-parliamentary mass movements. Revolutionaries, who also fight for reforms, may share similar goals with reformists, but the immediate differences will be our perspectives and our approaches to winning reforms.

Robert Brenner, in The Problem of Reformism, argues “if we want to attract people to a revolutionary-socialist banner and away from reformism, it will not generally be through outbidding reformists in terms of program. It will be through our theory—our understanding of the world —and, most important, through our method, our practice. What distinguishes reformism on a day-to-day basis is its political method and its theory, not its program.”

This requires that we understand where reformism comes from and the form it may take, and then understand how it operates and its limitations. Amaral’s statement, “the idea that organized formations are per se, everywhere and always, out of bounds is a mistake,” is an appeal to take seriously the conditions we operate in. This follows Lenin, who states,

The task is to learn to apply the general and basic principles of Communism to the peculiar relations between classes and parties, to the peculiar features of the objective development towards Communism which are characteristic of each country and which must be studied, discovered, divined.

For Tempest, we don’t view “Leninism” as an organizational form or program to emulate. That mythology hardly represents the actuality of Bolshevik practice or Lenin’s views, but comes from Zinoviev in the degeneration of the Russian Revolution.

When we bring this back to the United States, the Left Voice perspective is making exactly the kinds of impatient mistakes that Marxists have warned against for generations by demanding a form of political independence that wants to skip the real development of the class. When you pose this against DSA, which has consolidated in opposition to class independence and carries little social weight, it’s an easy punching bag. But if, say, trade unions made actual movement towards an independent political party, rejecting support of and participation in this labor party because its reformist would be disastrously short sighted. “The great thing,” Engels reminds us, “is to get the working class to move as a class; that once obtained, they will soon find the right direction, and all who resist…will be left out in the cold with small sects of their own.”

 

Notes

Notes
1 Marik, Soma. Revolutionary Democracy: Emancipation in Classical Marxism. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2018.
2

Post, Charles. “What Is Left of Leninism? New European Parties in Historical Perspective.” Essay. In Socialist Register 2013: The Question of Strategy. Pontypool, Wales: The Merlin Press, 2013.

 

From Left Voiice

MOROCCO: A football victory does not erase the Hogra

Jawad Moustakbal of CADTM Morocco was interviewed by Éric Toussaint.

On Sunday 4 December 2022, a national march was organized in the city of Rabat. This march, which brought together around 3,000 people, had the slogan: "All against the high cost of living, oppression and repression".

It was organized by the National Social Front, which brings together several political, trade union and human rights organizations, to denounce the wave of soaring prices and the regime’s repressive escalation against all dissenting voices.

The first march since the covid pandemic

This national march was the first since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, which the authorities took advantage of to ban all forms of collective expression. Participants in the march chanted slogans denouncing the recent attacks on purchasing power and the head of government, the billionaire Aziz Akhenouch, with placards that read: "Akhenouch out".

The structural reasons for the deterioration of the living conditions of the majority of the population are linked to the neo-liberal economic choices that have been adopted by those who have governed our country for decades. The policies of liberalization and privatization, for example, benefit a local elite that revolves around the "palace" and often joins forces with Western multinationals to monopolize territories (water, forests, land, mines, etc.) or the most profitable public enterprises, or even strategic and vital sectors such as water distribution, energy, education or health.

These structural factors are primarily responsible for this situation, as they also limit the state’s capacity to cope with economic conditions by constantly reducing the budget for public services and increasing our dependence on food and energy. This increases our fragility in relation to fluctuations in the prices of products that are essential for our people and our economy. Added to this are the effects of drought, which has become more intense and frequent over the last 20 years, in connection with the global ecological crisis and global warming.

The government’s response to crises and inequalities: repression

Social inequalities in Morocco are also the highest in the region according to the latest Oxfam reports. Repression appears to be the only response the Moroccan state has to deal with these multiple exacerbated crises. The regime has succeeded in creating a climate of terror where people are prosecuted and convicted for a simple Facebook post, or even for clicking on the "Like" button

Regarding the victory of the national team in the World Cup, the regime has already launched its media machine to make the most of it and promote a so-called national unity and put the masses to sleep. Unfortunately, people today need even an illusory sense of victory given the multiple failures and distress they suffer in all aspects of their daily lives.

But I think that this joy will be ephemeral and that, even if a football victory succeeds in making people forget for a few days their terrible living conditions, the feeling of discontent and contempt (Hogra) of the working classes will return. What we can’t predict is when this feeling of discontent will be expressed in collective mobilizations equal to the violence of the attack of the ruling classes.

UKRAINE : Class Struggle in Wartime

By Elias Vola

 

Ten months after the beginning of a bloody conflict, Ukrainian workers are confronted with the horrors of war as well as the offensives of a neoliberalism unconcerned with the suffering of a population exposed to martyrdom.

With about 15 million refugees, a GDP in free fall by 35%, nearly five million jobs lost, deaths – civilian and military – in the tens of thousands and, most recently, the systematic destruction of energy infrastructure at the beginning of a harsh winter, it is an understatement to say that the country is on the verge of asphyxiation.

Obviously, the priority interest for Ukrainian workers remains ending this brutal invasion, which necessarily involves the withdrawal of Russian troops from the entire territory. With 80% of deaths at work related to acts of war in the unoccupied areas, murders, tortures, disappearances and the physical elimination of all forms of protest in areas under Russian control, the struggle for a real improvement of daily life can only be conditioned by this central objective.

Unfortunately, war is not the only enemy of Ukrainian workers, who are simultaneously facing frontal attacks from their own government on labour rights and trade union freedoms. These reforms, initiated in 2019 by the Zelensky government, were blocked by the mobilization of workers and the coordinated action of the UPF and the KVPU, the two main trade union organizations in the country. Taking advantage of martial law, which considerably limits protest capacity, the Ukrainian right has opportunely returned to the offensive since the beginning of the war. One of the pieces of legislation, passed by the Ukrainian Parliament last August, deprives employees of small and medium enterprises, i.e., 70% of employees, of the protection of the Labour Code. Trade union confederations, trapped by martial law and facing a new anti-union law, are redoubling their international efforts to try to put pressure on the Zelensky government: a constitutional appeal, a challenge to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the incompatibility of the law with the application for entry into the European Union, an international petition promoted by the European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine (ENSU).

This disastrous panorama should not, however, hide the underground resistance, like that of the miners of Novovolynsk who, during the summer, refused to work for the new director accused of corruption: “The people are the government. We do not need new leaders imposed on us. Go back to where you came from, we won’t work with you.” Although the class struggle is difficult in wartime, the workers, having taken over from a failed state in many areas, will not feel compelled to tolerate these attacks indefinitely.

From International Viewpoint

Radical Socialist Statement on the Legalisation of the EWS Quota

 

Radical Socialist (RS) strongly opposes the SC judgement upholding the BJP government's policy proposal to enable 10% quota reservations for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in Central government public sector employment and for access in its higher educational institutions. This judgement further enables state governments to do the same if they wish. Given that a host of non-BJP parties---one of the few exceptions being the DMK---have welcomed this judgement, the states they rule will try and implement the new policy. Any individual not of the SC, ST or OBC categories having a parental income under Rs. 8 lakhs annually is now eligible. The immediate electoral-political benefit will likely be to the BJP in the coming polls in Gujarat, where Brahmins and upper castes are around 33% of the population, and in HP where Brahmins and upper castes are around 50%.This demand for EWS quota has also been raised by Marathas.

 

            Why does the RS oppose this policy? To begin with, let us understand the basic moral rationale for affirmative action for particular groups. Affirmative action---of which reservation quotas are the strongest form--- is to be given to those communities that have been socially oppressed historically. The enduring character of caste and tribal stigmatization/oppression and its ascription by birth makes it different from economic deprivation of individuals (and to an extent even for groups),  for whom there can be, and often is, escape and exit within a lifetime. A better-off Dalit Adivasi or lower caste is still a Dalit, Adivasi, lower caste even as the broader overlap between the class poor and these sections of Indian society remains in place.

 

·         The new quota specifically excludes SCs, STs, OBCs which means that the principal beneficiaries---and this is the intended aim of the BJP---will be Brahmins and upper castes, the very sections guilty of perpetuating caste discrimination against their 'inferiors'. No matter how poor individual members of SCs, STs, OBCs are, they cannot apply for EWS reservation.

 

·         As things stand, it is more difficult for the class-wise poorest sections among SCs, STs, OBCs to corner most of the allotted vacancies as compared to those better-off among them who do. There is no mechanism for ensuring that the most 'degraded' sub-castes within the SCs or the poorest Adivasis benefit from subsequent placement rounds.

 

·         In the case of OBC reservations, there is a "creamy-layer" cut-off barring those whose parental income is at or above Rs. 8 lakhs annually. But this is a ridiculously high level since some 90% or thereabouts of the whole Indian population come below it. What this means is that of the 27% quota for OBCs, most are taken up not by the lower OBCs or by the Most Backward Castes (MBCs) but by its upper ranks. The original creamy layer cut-off for OBCs was RS. 4.5 lakhs annually. In 2013 the Congress-led UPA government raised this to Rs. 6 lakhs and the Modi government in 2017 pushed this up to Rs. 8 lakhs. In 2020 a Committee (which has not so far arrived at a decision) was set up to consider raising it to Rs. 12 lakhs annually.

 

·         Since the OBC category at an all-India level is between the range 45% to 55%, its quota unlike those for SCs, STs, is not in proportion to its weight in the overall population. The justification for keeping the quota at 27% was that the total quota for all reservations must not exceed 50% or half the total population. Now reservations are exceeding this but not for OBCs who suffer from this disproportion but for Brahmins and upper castes. Technically, Muslim and Christian SCs who are not eligible or recognised as coming under the SC quota, could apply under the EWS category. But one would have to be extraordinarily naive, politically speaking, to think that they will benefit from this policy supervised by Indian governments that are committed to either hard or soft Hindutva. No, this new quota is to electorally-politically win over Hindu Brahmins/upper castes who are angry with the existing system of caste-based quotas. They too can now get their share of the overall 'pie' and keep their caste prejudices and hatreds intact.

 

·         Is there a case for reservations based on economic criteria alone? Any serious, even if not definitive case in favour of this, could only be considered if the cut-off level is much lower than the currently stipulated and now legally sanctioned Rs. 8 lakhs annually. This is clearly not the case. And it would have to be available to all castes, religious groups, ethnicities.

 

·         Whether the SC, ST and OBC communities in part or whole will now take umbrage at this new pro-upper caste policy remains to be seen.

 

            The existing policy of caste reservations is necessary and must be supported. But we need to note two other points. First of all, there is a clear hypocrisy at work: this government is systematically pursuing a neoliberal policy of greater privatization thereby cumulatively reducing the overall number of jobs available in the public sector for all who are eligible for reservations while pretending to be committed to helping the oppressed castes and the poor. Secondly, in the absence of crucially needed structural reforms like land redistribution, democratic forms of collective ownership of farms/factories/firms, generation of universally available and quality public welfare measures, and various other measures; reservations remain a stop-gap practice that tends to reinforce caste divisions rather than being part of a wider process of steadily eroding and eventually destroying the caste system itself.

 

[November 8, 2022]

 

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