On June 4 and 5, more than 100 delegates — representing more than 300 activists across France — gathered in a Paris suburb to take the first step in a process to create a new revolutionary organization in France. Initiated by activists of Révolution Permanente after the end of the presidential campaign of Anasse Kazib and their exclusion from the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in Spring 2021, the conference is the preparatory one for a founding congress of the new organization that will be held later this year.
Over the two days of the conference, delegates took the podium to discuss the international and national situations and what a new organization would look like. They included public transit workers from the Paris RATP; workers from France’s national rail company SNCF; workers from the aeronautics, food, and petrochemical industries; and students — all of whom have taken part in the country’s major struggles over the last five years, from the Yellow Vests movement to the strikes against pension reform, along with the Grandpuits strike, the anti-racist mobilizations of July 2020, and demonstrations protesting violence against women.
Even before its founding, the new revolutionary organization counts more than 300 members spread across most of France’s major cities: Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, Metz, Strasbourg, Montpellier, Le Mans, Grenoble, Chambéry, Lyon, Lille, and so on. The atmosphere at the conference was one of enthusiasm and determination, and the discussion of the delegates allowed them to lay the groundwork for an event unprecedented in France since the 1960s: the emergence of a new revolutionary organization in France outside the historical traditions of French Trotskyism embodied in the LCR, Lutte Ouvrière and Lambertism.
Translator’s note: The Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR, Revolutionary Communist League), was the French section of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec), one of the main international organizations of the world Trotskyist movement. Officially founded with the LCR name in 1974, it traced its origins back to the founding of the Fourth International in 1938, but its more immediate origins were in the May-June 1968 uprising in France that brought the country to the brink of a revolutionary situation. A major component of the country’s Far Left for several decades, the LCR voted overwhelmingly in February 2009 to dissolve itself into the New Anticapitalist Party — a “broad front” that it was a leading force in creating as part of a process the USec majority undertook to liquidate independent revolutionary Marxist parties based on the historical program of Trotskyism.
Lutte Ouvrière (LO, Workers’ Struggle) is a Trotskyist party in France with its origins in a small group founded in 1939. Over the decades, it has grown to become LO and play a very key role in the French Far Left. There were fusion discussions with the LCR from time to time. While its presidential candidates typically get a very wide hearing, LO is distinguished by its deep orientation to workplaces and its semi-clandestine functioning.
Lambertism is a reference to the Trotskyist organizations connected with the legacy of Pierre Lambert, a leader of French Trotskyism who led an organization that refused to join a 1963 reunification of worldwide Trotskyist forces that had split 10 years earlier. Over the decades, the Lambertists have attempted several fusions with other international Trotskyist groups, and established its own broad party in the country with tendencies that included former members of the Communist and Socialist parties as well as anarchists, but dominated by the “orthodox Trotskyists” of the Lambert current. Today in France, they are found in two organizations — the Parti ouvrier indépendant (POI, Independent Workers Party) and the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID, Democratic Independent Workers Party) — resulting from a split in 2015, some seven years after Lambert’s death.
Rich Exchanges on the National and International Situation
The conference opened with discussions of the growing militarism that has emerged since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the world economic crisis and its meaning for the working class, and recent class struggle phenomena across the globe. Delegates also discussed Macronism in France, the emergence of the Nouvelle Union Populaire écologique et social (NUPES, the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union) and its contradictions,1Translator’s note: NUPES is a left-wing coalition formed after the election that saw Emmanuel Macron reelected to the French presidency. It brings together the major parties of French reformism in an effort to win the legislative elections and thus compel Macron to name Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the failed presidential candidate of La France Insoumise (LFI, Unbowed France, a social-democratic populist party) as the country’s prime minister. In the first round on June 12, it achieved a virtual tie with Macron’s candidates. and — in particular — a balance sheet of the major mobilizations in the country over the preceding five years.
The discussion sketched out a perspective for the future based on this balance sheet. Two RP delegates, railroad worker Anasse Kazib and Gaëtan Gracia, an aerospace worker and member of the CGT trade union confederation, raised the issue of inflation, the wave of wage-related strikes in France, and the need to support and coordinate these struggles, based on experiences such as the RATP-SNCF Coordinating Committee and a similar effort for aerospace workers that they initiated. Another delegate, a main organizer of the strike over wages of Roissy airport workers that subsequently took place on June 9, spoke of the preparations for this historic mobilization.
The students — some of them members of Le Poing Levé (Raised Fist), a collective of RP youth at dozens of universities and high schools — spoke about their recent mobilization demanding the same full rights for foreign students who are refugees from Ukraine that French students enjoy. They raised many other examples of entire sectors of French young people taking up the fight for a new society. Delegates underlined the potential for social explosions among French youth, driven by the government’s relentless will to create greater precariousness for young people and its reforms aimed at universities and high schools, along with young people’s growing mistrust of the ruling class in France. These delegates spelled out the need to build Le Poing Levé across the country to prepare for this outbreak.
Given the stakes, and with the NUPES sowing the illusion of a “break” with neoliberalism through elections, delegates turned to the betrayals of the Left that is in power in some countries throughout the world, and the need for a political perspective based on the need to overthrow capitalism. The discussion revolved around a revolutionary organization with class struggle at its center, one not satisfied simply with taking part in struggles, but one that seeks to transform them deeply and endow them with a winning strategy — in particular by challenging the union bureaucracies.
The Failure of the Far Left Requires a New Revolutionary Organization
The delegates reviewed the record of the Far Left in France and the paradox of intense class-struggle mobilization unfolding at the same time as the NPA and Lutte Ouvrière have found themselves in crisis.
“Fearing marginalization, the NPA has been quickly liquidating whatever political independence it has demonstrated, going so far as to claim that those who vote for Mélenchon are participating in a ‘reconstruction of class consciousness.’ This is a capitulation.” Thus noted delegate Daniela Cobet of RP in introducing the point on the agenda.
Another delegate, a worker at RTP, spoke of his experience at the annual LO festival and said, “Lutte Ouvrière completely refuses to criticize the trade union leaderships, to take initiatives in the class struggle, or to lead the struggle against, for instance, racist oppression. This makes LO incapable of dialoguing with the new generation of workers.”
These sorts of reflections led the discussion back to the task of building a new organization, beginning with the importance of implanting it within the working class. “Workers must be involved in politics,” declared Adrian Cornet, a refinery worker at Total Grandpuits and a local leader of the CGT trade union confederation there. “I joined RP after the pension strike, thanks to which we were able to lead an ongoing strike at Grandpuits through which we built unprecedented links with the environmental movement.”
“One of the strengths of Le Poing Levé is its link with the workers’ struggles,” a student delegate told the conference. “We must continue to build a pro-worker youth wing in the colleges and high schools.”
These interventions in the discussion, and those by others coming from different sectors and expressing a wide variety of interests, helped spell out the characteristics of the organization to come. It will be revolutionary, based on the centrality of the working class, and will seek to intervene in the class struggle on the basis of self-organization, the unity of our class, and coordination of the sectors in struggle — all with a commitment to unifying the struggle against all types of oppression with a decidedly anti-imperialist, internationalist perspective.
This was summarized in the call approved by the delegates at the end of the conference. “We call today for the construction of a new revolutionary organization, one that is equal to the urgent task of ending the capitalist system and laying the foundations of a communist society,” states the call, which is addressed to
all those who share our perspective and who do not see themselves in today’s Far Left, particularly the workers who have taken part in the working-class struggles of the last few years, the anti-racist, anti-fascist, LGBTQ+, feminist, and environmental activists who are convinced of the need for revolution, and the youth who know that this society has nothing to offer them. It is also addressed to those revolutionaries who seek to learn from the failure of the Far Left, even including militants still in the NPA, and who reject the turn taken by the leadership of that party, or that of Lutte Ouvrière.
What has been spelled out is an extremely ambitious project, but it is one that this first national conference has shown to be urgent and realistic. We invite all those who are interested to take part!
First published in French on June 9 in Révolution Permanente.
Translation by Scott Cooper
|↑1||Translator’s note: NUPES is a left-wing coalition formed after the election that saw Emmanuel Macron reelected to the French presidency. It brings together the major parties of French reformism in an effort to win the legislative elections and thus compel Macron to name Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the failed presidential candidate of La France Insoumise (LFI, Unbowed France, a social-democratic populist party) as the country’s prime minister. In the first round on June 12, it achieved a virtual tie with Macron’s candidates.|