Alain Krivine (1941-2022): Optimism of the will

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By Léon Crémieux

March 16, 2022 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Fourth International — Our comrade Alain was, for more than 40 years, at the heart of the life and leadership of our International and its French section, while contributing to the construction of other sections. He was one of the main spokespersons for our ideas and our internationalist struggles, always seeking to maintain the political achievements of our movement, to build it patiently, while always pushing to open up to new experiences, new mobilizations, with a permanent concern for unitary action and the absence of sectarianism.

Born in the middle of the Second World War, in a France occupied by the Nazis, his youth was obviously marked by the crimes of fascism, but also by the rise of anti-colonial struggles, the Cuban and Algerian revolutions, as well as many other major events of the second half of the twentieth century that stimulated the emergence of a new generation of tens of thousands of young people who, in all continents, joined the revolutionary struggle. It was during these years that Alain began a political journey that started in the late 1950s, leading him from the left opposition in the French Communist Party (PCF) to the Ligue communiste/LCR and then to the creation of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA). This path quickly crossed with that of the Fourth International.

Alain, like many post-war activists, began his activity within the PCF. An exemplary Communist militant, he soon found himself opposed to the PCF's position in relation to the colonial war in Algeria. An advocate of support for the Front de libération national (FLN) and the struggle for Algerian independence, he became involved in FLN support networks at the end of the 1950s, then, as a militant of the Union des étudiants communistes (Union of Communist Students - UEC), led the United Antifascist Front at the Sorbonne university in Paris. Having joined the PCI in 1961 (the French section of the Fourth International, in which his two brothers Jean-Michel and Hubert were already active), he played a central role in the construction of the left opposition in the UEC which led to the break with the PCF following the latter's support for the presidential candidacy of François Mitterrand in 1965 and the creation of the Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Communist Youth - JCR). Alain was one of its main leaders, while participating in the creation of the Comité Vietnam national (Vietnam National Committee - CVN) of solidarity with the struggle of the Vietnamese people.

In February 1968, together with the CVN, Alain and other comrades such as Daniel Bensaid participated in an international rally against the US intervention in Vietnam organized in Berlin by the SDS (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) with Rudi Dutschke. This gathering involved a demonstration of 20,000 people that would inspire the CVN in spectacular demonstration methods.

He was one of the most prominent leaders of the May 68 movement, the JCR playing a predominant role among student youth, especially in the Paris region. After all the far-left organizations, including the JCR, were dissolved by the Gaullist regime following the end of the general strike, Alain was incarcerated with other comrades during the summer of 1968 and then enlisted to perform his military service. At the same time, the militants of the JCR laid the foundations for what would become the Ligue communiste (Communist League - LC) which, together with the forces of the PCI, became, in the spring of 1969, the French section of the Fourth International. From then on, Alain's life would merge with that of the Ligue communiste for which he became the standard-bearer after the French presidential election of 1969 when he was a candidate for the Ligue. At the same time, with other young comrades of the Ligue, he became part of the leadership of the International alongside the elders, including Ernest Mandel, Livio Maitan and Pierre Frank.

He then became for 40 years the main political referent of activists in the LC/LCR, a daily pillar of the leadership and contact with the towns and cities. As chief spokesperson, the only one really known on a large scale up until 2002, he was the voice of the LC/LCR, the tireless moderator of hundreds of meetings for the sections of the Ligue, large or small. He was surely the leader who best knew the sections and the comrades in the town and cities, a living political map of the LCR. Attached to meticulous militant work, he was as attentive to the daily political activity of the party as he was to seizing every opportunity to organize unitary campaigns, to get in touch and collaborate with other militant currents.

At the international level, he showed the same energy, a tireless traveller, making our International benefit from the echo received by a figure of the French May, with many tours of meetings and initiatives such as that of Red Europe in Brussels or the anniversary of the Paris Commune in 1971. He had the energy also to develop solidarity with the Palestinian people, the FLNKS or the anti-bureaucratic resistance of Solidarnosc, solidarity with the anti-bureaucratic struggle in Czechoslovakia of Petr Uhl and his comrades, and links with the comrades in countries subject to neo-colonialism. His office in the premises of the Rotographie printshop in Montreuil saw visits from hundreds of comrades, representatives of anti-imperialist and revolutionary organizations, and he devoted much energy to visiting many countries to defend our ideas and meet the revolutionary movements.

In the 1970s and 1980s, as a daily reader of the PCF daily {l’Humanité}, he was always attentive to what was happening in and around it and the other CPs, to the international crisis of Stalinism. Thus, he was always interested, in France, in the possibilities of unitary work with currents coming from the PCF. He was anxious to go beyond the borders of the LCR to move towards a political grouping capable of taking the place of the PCF among the popular classes. Among the first to grasp the importance of movements such as those of 1995, the struggles of the undocumented, his passionate anti-colonialism led to active participation in the links with the comrades and organizations of Algeria, the Antilles, Corsica and Kanaky. After the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, he participated twice as an observer at the elections in 1984 and 1990, and also visited the Venezuela of the Bolivarian Revolution. Similarly, in the early 2000s, he made contact with the comrades who wanted to found an organization of the Fourth International in Russia.

His election as a Member of the European Parliament, from 1999 to 2004, with Roseline Vachetta, gave even more resonance to and possibilities for internationalist action, especially in a period of development of the global justice movement and the European and world social forums in Florence, London, Porto Alegre and Mumbai. This presence also gave more echo to Alain and Roseline’s support for many struggles and led to important work around common activities of the European anti-capitalist Left (among others with the Scottish SSP, Rifondazione of Italy, the British SWP, the Portuguese Bloco, and the Red- Green Alliance of Denmark).

Alain was one of the main promoters of Olivier Besancenot's presidential campaign in 2001 and a fervent supporter of the creation of the NPA from 2009. He contributed his political and human qualities right until the end.

In 2015, present for Mayday in Kiev, he then joined the conference of the Ukrainian left leading to the launch of the Ukrainian Social Movement (Socialny Rukh).

Alain was focused on the organization of our current, concrete political action to advance our ideas, unitary initiatives, direct debate with other international forces, other currents to find ways of common action. He was one of the architects of the strengthening and opening up of the Fourth International which made it possible to welcome activists and organizations from other traditions.

His intelligence tried to make optimism of the will compensate for the pessimism of setbacks. He taught us a revolutionary Marxism without arrogance, unitary and constantly seeking the path of concrete action, and we will try to remain faithful to it.