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At a Meeting in Paris, 1,200 People Put Revolution Back on the Agenda

Last Wednesday, 1,200 people attended a meeting of Révolution Permanente, the sister site of Left Voice in France. The group has been playing an important role in the fight against neoliberal reforms and the Far Right, while showing that a world beyond capitalism is more possible than ever.

Feargal McGovern

March 12, 2024
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“Let’s not wait for the bourgeoisie to wage war on us. Join us so that we can wage war together against the bourgeoisie!”

On Wednesday, March 6, 1,200 people attended a meeting in Paris held by Révolution Permanente (RP), the sister site of Left Voice and the French section of the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International. The objective of the meeting was to “put revolution back on the agenda.” The hall, with space for 500, was filled to capacity. 300 watched the meeting from in nearby bars, where it was projected on TV screens. A further 400 watched the meeting online.

The meeting was called during a period of relative working-class demoralization following the defeat of the movement against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, which saw the age of retirement raised from 62 to 64. This defeat was in no small part due to the betrayal by the union bureaucracy, which refused to call a renewable mass strike, instead calling for isolated one-day strikes in the hope of convincing Macron to engage in negotiations. Further, La France Insoumise (LFI), the reformist party of Jean-Luc Melenchon, played a similar role by trying to redirect militancy into electoral channels. Macron was able to force the law through against the parliamentary majority using undemocratic executive powers. 

The objective of Wednesday’s meeting was to regroup militants of the working class and social movements in preparation for struggles against Macron’s current wave of repression and austerity. A revolutionary program is needed as an alternative to Melenchon’s electoralism and the union bureaucracy’s sectoralism. Anasse Kazib, a Trotskyist rail worker, argued for a program that “breaks from defensive struggles” and enables us “to wage war with the capitalist system.”

The meeting was chaired by Elsa Marcel, an RP member and defense lawyer known for her appearances on French media denouncing Macron’s repression. Speakers included Kazib; Frédéric Lordon, radical economist and philosopher; Salah Hamouri, French-Palestinian human rights lawyer from the collective Urgence Palestine; Mariama Sidibé, activist for undocumented workers from the Collectif des Sans-Papiers de Paris; Christian Porta, RP militant and CGT union delegate currently facing repression by his employer; Daniela Cobet, member of the RP executive committee; and Sasha Yarapolskaya, RP member and activist of the socialist feminist collective Du Pain et Des Rose (Bread and Roses).

The speakers drew attention to the wide-ranging attacks being carried out by Macron, the bosses, and the Far Right. These include growing state racism and islamophobia, the criminalisation of palestinian solidarity and migrant workers, and anti-union repression not seen in France since the Second World War. Christian Porta is just one victim of this wave of reprisals against unionists, facing persecution for his role in a workplace struggle that won 32-hour work week with no loss of pay. If his employers are able to fire him, it could inspire bosses across France to take similar action.

The fragile nature of Macron’s Bonapartist government is forcing him to turn further to the right, leading to increasingly racist and xenophobic reforms, the recent immigration law being just one example. Mariama Sidibé said: “We are all children of immigrants, but above all children of workers. Macron and his government, as well as the employers, want to divide us by savagely attacking migrants, and we cannot allow it.” The laws against undocumented workers are as anti-worker as they are racist.

Salah Hamouri, brought the struggle for Palestinian liberation home, noting that it is also a struggle against French Imperialism: “The ongoing genocide is being committed with the complicity of the imperialist powers.” Palestine liberation can only come from the international workers’ movement. Militants in France have as big a role to play as those in Palestine.

Yarapolskaya highlighted the need to reclaim the feminist heritage of the Russian Revolution, not just as an academic exercise, but as a means of exposing the hypocrisy of liberal feminism. Liberals claims to empower women (if they are bourgeois), while simultaneously justifying the bombardment of women in Palestine: 

They are afraid that feminism is emerging from the liberal doldrums, returning to its socialist roots, to the struggles of the Russian women who in 1917 made the revolution and were the first to win legal abortion. They hate revolutionary feminism because they know that they can’t get it back.

Lordon stressed the necessity of breaking with the parties of the institutional Left, like LFI, since they are unwilling and unable to end capitalism and stop war. “Why do we have to be revolutionary?” he asked. “Because there is no other solution. Our task is to bring the impasse to light: It is a monkey’s dream to want to overcome the interests of the ruling class from within the institutions they have given themselves.” With a degree of humor he ridiculed the superficial radicality of the “anti-capitalist” LFI by invoking a 1971 speech by François Mitterand in which he claimed that anyone who didn’t accept the program for a rupture with capital could not be a member of the Socialist Party. In other words, reformists have at times been willing to give quite radical speeches.

Cobet addressed the topic of the meeting, to “put revolution back on the agenda.” Taking into account technological advances, “the communist perspective has never been so current and realistic.” She continued:

The development of industry, robotics, and artificial intelligence could be put at the service of the common good and not private benefit, allowing for a massive reduction in working hours and also in unemployment. New communication technologies could be used in the service of direct democracy, inspired by the councils or soviets that were the basis of revolutionary power during the first years of the Russian Revolution. The structures used by large multinationals to manage their immense logistics systems and supply chains could be put in the service of democratic and more effective planning of the economy, taking into account the environment as well as the needs and desires of people. […] Contrary to the liberal myth, communism is not the suppression of each person’s individuality, but the possibility of fully developing our individuality, in harmony with nature and with the community!

Echoing Rosa Luxemburg’s warning that humanity is faced with a choice between “socialism or barbarism,” Cobet, in the face of the drive to war in France and internationally, explained how we are increasingly faced with an all-or-nothing situation: 

The most effective way to halt the race towards war is with the class struggle, with the union of workers and youth against capitalism. Because one thing is certain: when the bourgeoisie are afraid of revolution, they think twice before going to war, especially when it involves arming a significant part of the population.

The final speaker of the meeting, Anasse Kazib, spoke about the tasks of the revolutionary Left in France:

We need to break with the logic that seeks to contain our anger to brief moments of struggle, and that makes us passive the rest of the time. This logic prevents the working class, the youth, and the poor masses from being an active force that directly influences the situation.

With the European elections looming, this means building a front of revolutionary organizations to give communist workers a voice:

I want to reiterate an appeal to the NPA-C and LO: together we could still constitute a revolutionary bloc in the upcoming European elections. It would be tragic if once again the Far Left, despite the disagreements we have, remains fragmented in these elections, despite our duty to present an alternative discourse and a revolutionary voice as loudly as possible.

Kazib closed the meeting with a call to join RP in its struggle against capitalism, and for the construction of communism;

Yes, we must fight against the Far Right and reactionary ideas, as well as the possibility of war. But we must also fight for a better world — we call it communism — a world without classes and without a state, and without this capitalist system capitalist that is waging war on us. Let’s not wait for the bourgeoisie to wage war on us. Join us so that we can wage war together against the bourgeoisie!”

The meeting was a big step for Révolution Permanente in the struggle to establish a new Trotskyist tendency in France. There were 1,200 participants because RP has been playing an important role in the fight against neoliberal reforms and far-right reaction, while showing  that a world beyond capitalism is more possible than ever.

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