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France: ‘Third pillar’ established in Front de Gauche

On December 1, 2013, 100,000 people joined a march organised by the Front de Gauche to demand a "fiscal revolution" -- tax the rich -- and to oppose a January 1, 2014, increase in the regressive indirect value-added tax.

By Dick Nichols

December 5, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The formation of a “third pillar” in the Front de Gauche (Left Front) was finalised at a November 23-24 conference in Saint-Denis of delegates from four of the Left Front’s smaller affiliates: Alternatives (Les Alternatifs), Convergence and Alternatives (Convergence et Alternatives), the Federation for a Social and Ecological Alternative (Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique) and the Anti-Capitalist Left (Gauche Anticapitaliste).

The 200-strong conference, which gave the name Together! (Ensemble!) to the new formation, also involved unaffiliated activists from the social movements and trade unions, all members or supporters of the Left Front.

Together! sees itself as a necessary third pole in the Left Front, alongside the Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français, PCF) and the Left Party (Parti de Gauche). The main bases for the amalgamation of the four groups are the perceived need to build the Left Front as an involving activist organisation with its own membership and to maintain complete independence of the Left Front from the ruling Socialist Party.

Joining the four groups in the new formation were a number of militants from the Gauche Unitaire (Uniting Left), co-founder in 2009 of the Left Front along with the PCF and Left Party. However, a majority of the Uniting Left decided not to particpate in the new group.

The Uniting Left has been participating with the four other groups in the bulletin Trair d’Union (”Hyphen”), as has another smaller Left Front affiliate, Republic and Socialism (République et Socialisme), which is also not part of the regroupment. The other smaller Left Front affiliate, the Worker Communist Party of France (Parti Communiste Ouvrier de France) has not participated either in Hyphen or the creation of Together!

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal posts below the founding declaration of Together!, along with an account of a June 15 preparatory meeting that provides useful background on the process.

The translations are by Colin Falconer and taken from Nouveau Poireau Rouge.

Declaration of ‘Ensemble!' (Movement for a Left, Ecological and Solidarity-Based Alternative)

In France, more than a year after the election of [Socialist Party presidential candidate] François Hollande, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Those who voted for the left to get rid of Nicolas Sarkozy expected progressive change. Instead, they are now suffering from the effects of government economic, social and ecological policies which are hardly different from those of the past. While the rest of society is experiencing the effects of capitalist crisis, the employers and financial markets are pursuing their offensive to obtain more sackings and fewer public services. The conservative and far-right parties have dropped their inhibitions. After campaigning against equal marriage they are now, in an attempt to deflect popular anger, mobilising against taxation, charges on employers and laws protecting workers, all the time looking for scapegoats amongst “social scroungers” and foreigners.

Racist language is becoming more common, as Roma people are stigmatised and colonial images of black people and Arabs -- whether they are government ministers [as in the case of justice minister Christiane Taubira] or ordinary citizens -- are no longer taboo. Productivist lobbies continue to get their way, as the government treats environmental policies as the least of its priorities, pursues expensive and socially unnecessary projects such as the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport and refuses to commit itself to abandoning dependence on carbon-based fuels and nuclear power.

A dangerous political confusion is developing. The government is seen as illegitimate on the left, and a major political crisis could break out. A huge gulf separates popular aspirations for change from the operation of the present political system. To prevent right-wing and far-right parties from entering the breach and spreading their reactionary ideas we must find a way to galvanise the working-class movement and the general population.

The aspirations of a fairer, more egalitarian, greener and more democratic society are still a powerful driving force for numerous resistance movements amongst workers and young people and must be allowed to develop freely if we want to gain the upper hand. We have to provide a political perspective which starts from, and empowers, the radical demands of these movements and unleashes a force for emancipation, with the aim of winning a majority for our ideas within society. This is what guides us in our commitment with others to the Front de Gauche [Left Front]. Our ambition -- which is more vital than ever before is to encourage, in harmony with the social movements, the Left Front's potential for growth and development.

Together, act with the Left Front

  • Support the December 1 march for a “fiscal revolution” (taxing capital, cancelling the increase in value-added tax) and demanding that members of parliament vote against the government's austerity budget.

  • Continue the fight against the unjust pensions “reform”, which no left-wing government should have introduced, and for a return to a normal retirement age of 60.

  • March against precarity (especially amongst women and young people) with the unemployed associations in Paris on December 7.

  • Resist the racist offensive with anti-racist groups and unions on November 30; on December 7 around the Appeal for Equal Rights on the anniversary of the historic March of 1983. We must also also oppose the policies of [Socialist Interior Minister] Manuel Valls, and in particular those concerning Roma migrants, undocumented immigrants and the deportation of foreign school children [i.e. children whose parents are in breach of immigration law].

Working with environmental activists, we must force the authorities in France and in Europe to take the measures required to make the “energy transition” with all its industrial consequences, in the light of the latest IPCC world climate warning.

Enough is enough! It is time to change direction and build a genuine left alternative.

We want to build a movement uniting all those left-wing and “green” forces, including ordinary voters, militants and elected representatives, who share these demands. We must work towards a new majority block capable of imposing authentic left-wing policies and for another government -- one which is prepared to take on the markets and the MEDEF [the French employers' federation] and break with the policies of scapegoating. We must unite a wide range of forces around our goals of social and ecological transformation and equal rights, and against the narrative which claims that there is no alternative to paying the debt and submitting to the effects of the crisis, and that we must put up with injustice and inequality, as well as a model of development which is leading to disaster.

The key to the situation lies in the hands of ordinary people. Public discussion, with the aim of creating a real popular dynamic, must first of all be organised with the majority of citizens, with activists in the social movements who are looking for a political way forward corresponding to their daily militant activity, with the Left Front, with those in the Socialist Party and Europe Ecologie-Les Verts [i.e. the current governing parties] who can no longer support this government's policies, as well as with those groups on the radical left who share our aims.

The time for an awakening to unite and change the left -- to rebuild hope -- is now.

The elections in 2014 are another opportunity to modify the balance of forces on the left. In the town and city council elections, on the initiative of the Left Front, we can put together lists of candidates who are totally independent of those who support government policies, and are prepared to turn local councils into a base from which to resist austerity, relying on a popular and citizens' dynamic. In the European elections, the Left Front must succeed in affirming a left-wing alternative, bearing the message of a radically reformed, social, democratic and ecological Europe freed from the treaties which have plunged it into generalised austerity.

To achieve these goals, we need a Left Front which is united, open and democratic and allows for the involvement of ordinary citizens. It must live up to its ambition of contributing to building a vast movement of the majority, solidly rooted on the left. It must take up the challenge of encouraging debate and action to build a people's counter-offensive, not feeding competition between its component forces. It must contribute to unity and cooperation with other political and social forces, and become a vector for an alternative to the policies of the government.

Ensemble! Mouvement pour une Alternative de Gauche, Ecologiste et Solidaire.

Several political forces and groups of militants within the Left Front have now agreed to set up a united organisation, known as "Ensemble!" [Together!], committed to all struggles for emancipation, which also welcomes individual members. We believe that political innovation will come from the confrontation and interaction of different experiences and cultures -- a political métissage. We hope to initiate a contagious process transcending and bringing together forces coming from different political traditions; to create the basis for the emergence of a movement of social and political transformation.

Our sole purpose is to defend a global project for the Left Front and in this context will make every effort to advance towards the formation of a political, social and popular front capable of confronting the ruling classes and building an alternative to the policies of the present government. Our objective is to contribute, with others, to creating new perspectives for social transformation -- for a social, ecological, feminist, internationalist alternative to the logic of capitalism and productivism; to create a tool for autonomous organisation and self-management, popular unity and emancipation.

Conference of June 15, 2013, to debate the merger of five organisations belonging to the Left Front

[The following article was published in French by Gauche Anticapitaliste.]

The national conference of five organisations[1] belonging to the Left Front (informally known as the “Group of 5”) was held at the University of Saint-Denis on June 15, 2013. The discussions took place in a fraternal atmosphere, demonstrating a shared intention to move towards a united organisation. Most of the 200 people present are involved in local experiences of joint activity. The five organisations were all present, along with a number of well-known independent socialist, trade union and environmental activists. (In a transitional period it is expected that all five organisations will maintain a separate identity, but there will also be individual membership.)

The two organisations with the most representatives on the day were the Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique (FASE) and Gauche Anticapitaliste (about 80 in the case of GA). Convergence et Alternatives and Les Alternatifs were also present. Gauche Unitaire was represented by two groups: that around Christian Piquet, which has adopted a more cautious approach to the new grouping, sent observers; the other group took an active part in the debates. A sixth group with links to the “Five”, République et Socialisme, decided not to attend.

The morning discussion revealed the progress already made in the unification process in many regions. In the afternoon, attendees divided into four working groups to discuss the new organisation's general program, internal organisation, strategy in the Left Front and the 2014 local elections. All four discussions proved constructive and interesting.

On the program, there seemed to be general agreement on fundamental questions, with some debates unresolved around the question of Europe, employment, job security and the reduction of working hours, the ecological transition and the term “eco-socialism”. As far as organisation is concerned, many questions are still up for debate, but the general picture is one of a desire to move forward together. On the local elections, a statement is still to be written, but everybody agrees that the Left Front should stand independent lists of candidates wherever possible [i.e. independent of the Socialist Party], and that, while the Communist Party and the Left Party were expected to decide on their own attitude towards taking part in local executives, the members of the “Five” had a common position consisting of maintaining complete independence from the Socialist Party.

All round, there seems to be a strong tendency towards convergence of the five organisations -- something which could not be taken for granted given their different backgrounds and traditions.

At the end of the day's debates, a summary of conclusions was unanimously adopted, setting out an agreed timetable:

November 23-24, 2013: an assembly to formally launch the process of forming a united movement.

Before then:

Setting up of local groups in every town and region of France;

Carrying on the exchanges around the four themes discussed above, with the aim of reaching a fnal agreement at the next national meeting;

Organisation of a day school on August 23, the day before the Left Front's annual summer school/conference;

Common publications depending on events, in addition to the existing bulletin (Trait d'Union, published by the Group of 5 with the participation of République et Socialisme).

Setting up of working groups, to be coordinated by the Liaison Committee, on:

1. the 2014 local elections,
2. debates and initiatives within the Left Front,
3. internal organisation and the tools needed for our new movement,
4. the name and logo.

An important step has been taken, although it is too early to say if the new grouping will succeed in taking form and facing the storms ahead (the pensions battle, local and European elections etc.). It is important to recognise how much has already been achieved, as well as what remains to be done to put together the pieces which were scattered with the break-up of the LCR/NPA [Revolutionary Communist League/New Anti-Capitalist Party], and to associate in the same political movement three different political cultures, one post-Communist, one coming from the old Parti Socialiste Unifié and the third "revolutionary-Marxist" (mainly originating in the LCR).

This process of political unification is of decisive importance. It is obviously insufficient considering the problems of the period: the answer is to be found in a broader recomposition based on a widening of the Left Front and a moving away from its domination by a few separate -- and often rival -- organisations (what can be called its “decartelization”). However, our unification is a necessary first step, and the involvement of Gauche Anticapitaliste is important to guarantee its success.

Notes

[1] The five (or four and a half) components of the unification process:
FASE: Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique), “post-Communist” with others. Founded December 2008, joined the Left Front in 2011;
Gauche Unitaire (ex-LCR/NPA), founded and joined the Left Front in 2009;
Convergences et Alternative, left the NPA and joined the Left Front in 2011;
Gauche Anticapitaliste, left the NPA and joined the Left Front in 2012;
Les Alternatifs, a “red-green” party with roots in the Parti Socialiste Unifié (1960 to 1990), founded 1998, joined the Left Front November 2012.

The four remaining components of the Left Front, not involved in the unification process:
Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français);
Left Party (Parti de Gauche);
Worker Communist Party of France (Parti Communiste Ouvrier de France);
République et Socialisme.

 

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