France: New Anti-Capitalist Party launched; Responses to French Socialist Party's shift to the right

The question in the graphic for a poll published by Le Figaro asks: “over the last month which of the following personalities was the best opponent to Nicolas Sarkozy?”. The New Anti-Capitalist Party's Olivier Besancenot came out on top for the fifth month in a row. From Liam Macuaid's blog.

By Sam Wainwright

Paris, February 14, 2009 -- On the weekend of February 7-8, more than 600 delegates and as many observers attended the founding conference of France’s New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), held at la Plaine-Saint-Denis in the working class suburbs to the north of Paris.

Less than a week before, on January 29, around 2.5 million people took to the streets across the country in a nationwide strike against the efforts of the President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to foist the burden of the capitalist economic crisis onto working people.

The idea for the NPA was publicly proposed in August 2007 in the wake of the country’s presidential and legislative elections by Olivier Besancenot, the presidential candidate of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR).

Since then 465 regional committees in support of the project were launched and more than 9000 people have joined.

Besancenot’s vote of 4.7% surpassed that of the once mighty French Communist Party’s (PCF) candidate. The elections established the LCR as the most recognised and authentic anti-capitalist voice in French politics.

Widely rated as France’s most popular politician, Besancenot, or “the postie” as the media calls him in reference to his job, recorded a 54% satisfaction rating in the latest opinion polls, his highest since the election.

Besancenot’s strong showing in the last two presidential elections was the immediate catalyst for the formation of the NPA; however its origins lie in important transformations in French politics over the last decade.

Following a massive public sector strike in late 1995, regular waves of workers’ struggles have surfaced against cut-backs, casualisation and privatisation.

While these struggles have been defensive and only partially successful, they have been sufficient to keep alive the traditions of struggle and left-wing ideas.

Despite the massive rejection of the neoliberal agenda by the working class, the traditional or “institutional” parties of the left — especially the Socialist Party (PS) — have faithfully tried to implement the neoliberal austerity program.

Furthermore the PS has effectively drawn both the PCF and the Greens into its web, offering them cabinet posts and electoral deals in return for their support.

Their integration into PS governments has eroded the PCF’s once significant base among blue collar workers. In the case of the Greens, their image as a fresh and radical party has been badly tarnished. In fact, without the PS electoral deals, both parties would struggle to win any national deputies

In this context, the LCR tripled in size from 1995, growing to over 3000 members. It also started to develop a significant base in some of the country’s industrial heartlands that had once been the sole domain of the PCF.

However, the LCR recognised that there existed a much wider audience for a resolutely anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-worker and pro-environment political force.

This audience includes people from different political traditions, and even more people without any previous political identification. The NPA is an attempt to reach out to those people.

To guarantee the success of the NPA,the LCR decided it had to completely dissolve into it.

This decision was designed to demonstrate to the rest of the NPA that it would be one united party of equals, and to allow for new and fluid debate to take place in the new organisation.

As Pierre Rousset, a long time leader of the LCR, explained, “One of the worst things the LCR could bring into the NPA would be its old debates”.

On February 5 the LCR, born of a fusion between a current of French Trotskyism and some of the leaders of the student protest movement of May-June 1968, held its last ever congress.

Alain Krivine, a central leader of the youth revolts of May-June 68 and founder of the LCR who did time in prison when the organisation was banned in the early 70s, was joined by other members of his generation at the front for an emotional rendition of the Internationale at the congress close.

But the tears did not last long. The next day, as the NPA congress began, delegates spontaneously rose to their feet to chant “All together, all together ... General strike!” before getting down to the practical business of adopting the raft of founding principles, policy and structures needed for the new party.

Exciting much interest, especially among the corporate media, was the NPA’s policy regarding possible electoral alliances in the upcoming elections to the European parliament.

Neither the NPA, the PCF nor the newly formed Left Party (PG) are likely to achieve the 10% threshold required. Both the PCF and PG were frantic that the NPA agree to deal.

Congress delegates were presented with two counterposed positions regarding the European elections. The position presented by the commission established for drafting policy declared that the NPA should be open to running on a joint ticket with these parties (and others).

But they argued an agreement must first be reached on some basic common policy — including a commitment to not take posts in pro-capitalist administrations.

However, the PCF appears addicted to the trappings of office and it’s unlikely that it will agree to refuse posts offered to it by the PS.

An amendment from members in the Clermont-Ferrand region proposed that the NPA accept in principle a joint ticket with the PCF and PG, with the precise basis of the agreement to be worked out later.

This amendment was overwhelmingly rejected, only winning the support of 16% of the delegates.

For commentators in the capitalist media this was proof of the NPA’s “immature” refusal to accept the “responsibility to govern”.

Is this a sign that the media may turn against France’s favourite postman and try to transform him from charming idealist into dangerous villain?

Already there has been an abortive attempt to tar him with a bogus allegation of workplace harassment. Last year, listening devices were discovered in Besancenot’s home. The boss of a company that imports taser guns is currently being tried over the affair.

To counter this the NPA is moving rapidly to broaden its image and promote its other spokespeople.

The NPA’s revolutionary politics is likely to gain greater currency among French workers as the economic crisis deepens, hardening opinion against the conservative Sarkozy government.

France’s Left Party: “Revolution via the ballot box”

By Sam Wainwright

Paris, February 14, 2009 -- The move to the right by the Socialist Party (PS), which drew the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Greens along in its wake, has been so clearly against the wishes of the support base of these parties that a significant vacuum in French politics has opened up to the left.

Even sections of the capitalist media refer to the PS as a “social-liberal” rather than “social-democratic” party, and dismiss the PCF and the Greens as its “satellites”.

The New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) and the Left Party (PG) represent two different responses to this opening. The PG was launched last year by former PS senator Jean-Luc Melenchon and a handful of other deputies who left the PS with him. The party held its congress from January 30 to February 1.

It claims around 4000 members.

While the PG’s program is not especially developed, it aspires to redistribute wealth via a “Scandinavian” welfare state model and draws on identification with the tradition of Jean Jaures, a pre-World War I socialist leader.

The party’s attempt to position itself in relation to the NPA is explained in an opinion piece titled “Revolution yes, but via the ballot box”, in the February 7 Le Monde by François Delapierre, a sociologist and delegate to the PG congress.

Delapierre said, “The policy question facing the NPA is revolution. It has to be asked of them then, what exactly this revolution is and by what route the NPA proposes to get there.”

He continued, “For our part ... we reject all means other than that of democracy. If a revolution is necessary, then it must be done through the ballot box.

“This is the lesson of the century past. And even the century now beginning, as shown by the democratic revolution sweeping Latin America. That’s how we’re inspired by the strategy of Evo Morales, who asks the people to vote, vote and vote again; not Che Guevara guerrilla fan clubs!”

Delapierre misrepresents the historical debate between revolutionary socialism and reformist socialism. In dispute is not democracy, but rather the nature of the state and the preparedness of the capitalist class to use violence to stop any measures that would take economic and political power out of its hands.

To be sure, the Bolivian and Venezuelan revolutionary processes have respected the pre-existing constitutional forms.

However at numerous turns the mass mobilisation of the population has been essential to stop violent attempts by the capitalists to quash these revolutions.

The Latin American experience confirms the revolutionary view, not that of Delapierre.

He might also get a surprise if he found out how popular a figure Che remains among the participants in these democratic revolutions! For instance, Morales, who has hailed Che as a martyr, led events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death at the site of Che's murder in Bolivia at the hands of a CIA agent.

Whether he is genuinely or wilfully ignorant of these facts is not evident from the article. However it demonstrates the opportunity and desire to create a socialist project that is qualitatively different to the NPA.

However, given that the PG is first and foremost an electoral party, it’s greatest concern is that the NPA agree to united electoral tickets in time for the European elections.

Mélenchon pleaded with the NPA to recognise the “historical responsibility” to sign up to a three-way ticket with the PCF.

[Sam Wainwright is a co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance in Western Australia and attended the LCR and NPA congresses as an invited observer. Wainwright is also a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist organisation affiliated to the Socialist Alliance. These articles first appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #783, February 18, 2009.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 22:58


Greetings from Malaysia!

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) would like to express our solidarity with comrades in France who will be attending congress of LCR on 5 Feb 2009, and the congress of newly formed party -- New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) on 6-8 Feb 2009.

We would like to apologise for not able to participate in this historical and meaningful congress. Yet, we are very excited with the development of the left in France and your effort to consolidate forces of the anti-capitalist left.

Capitalism is in its deepest crisis globally since WWII. This is a crucial time for the left around the world to unite under common programmes to resist capitalism and build socialism from below. We believe that we can only able to do this by mobilising the revolutionary masses.

We wish comrades in France to have a fruitful congress and keep moving forward with the revolutionary waves.

We are looking forward to more exchange of ideas and experiences with NPA and comrades in France. Your struggle is our inspiration.

In solidarity,
Choo Chon Kai

International Bureau
Socialist Party of Malaysia / Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 23:01


Labour Party Pakistan (LPP)

Dear comrades of the NPA,

Congratulation on holding the first congress of NPA. It is a great occasion not only for the revolutionary forces and working class of France but internationally. The setting up of NPA with socialist democratic traditions is a necessary and effective tool to end capitalism.

As the great revolutionary traditions of French masses are general guidelines for people across the globe, so is this unique and creative experience of uniting all the anti capitalist forces of France in NPA. This is a 100 percent Left initiative. We here in Pakistan are trying to build a revolutionary party under very difficult objective conditions. On one side, fighting imperialist aggression and also combating the cancer of religious fundamentalism. We are advocating the unity of working class on Marxist ideas regardless of their religion, cast, color and nationality.

The establishment of a strong anti capitalist party in France is a direct help to the revolutionary struggles in under develop countries like Pakistan. NPA is just that sort of help and solidarity that is needed here.

Please accept revolutionary greetings and solidarity from Labour Party Pakistan. Our fight against capitalism is one and same. Let’s unite to end capitalism.

Workers of the world unite: we have nothing to loose but our chains

Nisar Shah, General Secretary

Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson

Submitted by Zwelibanzi Ndlovu (not verified) on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 03:01


Capitalism is experiencing its deepest crisis in decades. This occurance has even confounded all the neo liberal zealots.There is no doubt that the wisdom of Marx, Engels and Lenin is uncontested.

Workers of the world unite!