France Turns Hard to the Right
Defeat Sarkozy, End Class-Collaborationist Alliances
bonapartist ambitions... (Photo montage: The Economist)
Out of the most appalling presidential campaign that France has known in a long time, the candidate emerged victorious who most embodied chauvinist electioneering and the employers’ determination to put an end to the threadbare union gains still remaining after almost a quarter century of dismantling the “welfare state.” Nicolas Sarkozy has been installed in the Elysée (France’s presidential palace) in order to proclaim the death of the “French model.” Set up following the second imperialist world war in order to exorcise the specter of workers revolution, this model sought to maintain “social peace” in particular by providing a series of public services and measures improving working conditions. With the demise of the Soviet Union and the weakening of workers organizations in the West, the capitalists believe they have forever eliminated the communist “menace” that shook Europe. Henceforth, French bosses want to compete on the world capitalist market with their American, British and Japanese rivals without having to shoulder social “burdens” now deemed useless. The hour has struck for class war against the working people and the entire population considered to be “unproductive” (for profits!).
...must run up against a strong working-class opposition. Right: strikers at the PSA Peugeot Citröen factory at Aulnay-sous-Bois.
The candidate of the shareholders of the CAC40 (the stock market index of the largest French firms) and French multinational companies is using his election results to claim an unassailable legitimacy in carrying out the “break” that he intends to decree at top speed. The victory of the hard right at the polls is undeniable, the product of a climate of all-round reaction. But the vote spread between Sarkozy (53 percent) and his adversary Ségolène Royal (47 percent) is less than on other occasions under France’s Fifth Republic (inaugurated in 1959). In reality, the new president holds all the political cards in his hand because neither Royal nor any of the other leading candidates (François Bayrou, Jean-Marie Le Pen) presented a contrary program. “Sarko” vs. “Sego” was a contest between two competitors running on the same basic program, and a majority of the voters preferred the original to the copy. This policy represents a consensus among the French bourgeoisie, and the “socialist” Royal was in fact the candidate of a bourgeois coalition, backed by small capitalist parties such as the Left Radicals (PRG) and the Citizens Movement (MDC) of Jean-Pierre Chevènement. Had she been elected, Royal would have installed a thoroughly capitalist government.
As always, this popular front of class collaboration had the purpose of chaining the working people to a sector of the bourgeoisie. The responsibility for this policy does not rest solely on the candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), who comes from a colonial military family, went to the ENA (National School of Administration, where France’s political elite is educated) and is a “champagne socialist” rich enough that she and her companion have to pay the ISF wealth tax (on fortunes over €760,000, or roughly US$1 million). Also responsible are the trade-union bureaucrats, the French Communist Party (PCF), the leaders of the NGOs (“non-governmental organizations”) who campaigned for “anyone but Sarko” … as well as the five candidates to the left of the Socialist Party on the first round of the election who helped recoup votes from workers and residents of housing projects for the elegant popular-front enarque (graduate of the ENA).
If the presidential campaign demonstrated the bankruptcy of the “social-liberal” parliamentary left, it also laid bare the dead-end of a “far left” sunk in popular-frontism. To be sure, Olivier Besancenot for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) was able to somewhat improve his score, but overall the vote for the “left of the left” dipped sharply compared to 2002 due to the phenomenon of the vote util (“useful vote”) cast for the PS (see “The Far Left Adrift,” below).
Sarkozy’s program of all-sided repression won above all due to the absence of an alternative. When he sounded the refrain that the youth of immigrant origin in the suburbs1 must “love France,” Royal responded that every family should have a tri-color flag in its cupboard. She also had her supporters sing La Marseillaise, with its stanza about the “impure blood” of foreigners “irrigating our fields”! There hasn’t been this much xenophobia spewing out in an election since 1981, when the PCF campaigned to “produce French” and sent a bulldozer to demolish a dormitory of Malian immigrant workers in the municipality of Vitry. In their big televised debate of May 2, the candidate who sought to incarnate “La France presidente” (Royal) was reduced to a series of “yes, but” responses. Massive deportation of immigrants, refusal of across-the-board regularization of undocumented immigrants, prison sentences and regimes of military discipline for the youth? She agreed to all this, sometimes trying to bypass Sarkozy on the right. She only promised to carry out these draconian measures “more humanely.”
Man on a white horse in
the Camargue. Bush, or General Boulanger?
Recognizing the fundamental identity of the programs of Sarkozy and Royal by no means requires underestimating the danger represented by the newly elected president. His Napoleonic predilections are obvious to all, as illustrated by the front page of the Economist (14 April), which proclaimed him “France’s Chance.” His bonapartist appetites were also on display in the strange spectacle he offered during the campaign when he staged a photo op riding a white horse in the cattle fields of the Camargue. If he was trying to look like George Bush it didn’t work: rather than a French cowboy, he gave the impression of imitating General Boulanger, the man on horseback who posed as savior of the republic while seeking to eradicate it. But if Boulangism was doomed to defeat and its figurehead leader appeared rather ridiculous with his bellicose speeches, Sarkozyism promises to be more dangerous. When he called the youth of the suburbs “scum” (racaille) and “thugs” (voyous) and promised to “clean [them] out like a Kärcher” (a high-pressure water blaster used to clean graffiti), we know very well that the police are ready to carry out his threats.
At the time of the first clashes in November 2005 after the electrocution of two youths, Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna, who were being chased by the cops, the police response ordered by Sarkozy, at the time minister of the interior, was to encircle the housing projects in the suburbs and impose a state of siege. Chirac then generalized this by proclaiming a “state of emergency” with decrees (Nos. 1386 and 1387) that gave prefects (the administrators of France’s départements) almost unlimited powers. These are preparations for civil war, and if the parliamentary left and the electoralist “far left” did practically nothing to combat these measures, it is a proof of their impotence in the face of the Sarkozy danger. During the recent election campaign, a jack-booted police intervention at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris against a rider (falsely) accused of lacking proper documents provoked protests which were portrayed in the media as “violence” in order to feed Sarkozy’s “security” campaign. Ditto for his hunting down of undocumented immigrants, labeled dangerous criminals and hounded with huge squads of police, under the complaisant eyes of TV cameras whose job it is to record his “exploits.” Like Berlusconi in Italy, another politician with similar bonapartist ambitions, Sarkozy is fully capable of fabricating a casus belli in order to make a grab for absolute power.
But between being capable of doing something and being able to successfully bring it off there is a quite a distance to be traveled. A politician like Sarkozy, who seeks to identify “genes of delinquency” at the age of three and who cooks up a law for the drugging of children so “identified,” certainly has appetites to install an authoritarian regime. There is also a near-universal tendency among the imperialist and semi-colonial bourgeoisies to introduce police-state measures in the name of fighting terrorism. But even with their whole repressive apparatus, their control of the media and their supposed legitimization at the ballot box, they can be beaten by far more powerful working-class mobilization. When in May 1968 the German government –a “grand coalition” of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats – sought to introduce laws for a state of emergency (Notstandsgesetze), it had to beat a retreat in the face of huge protest demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of students and workers called by the previously quite docile trade unions. But above all, for Sarkozy’s anti-worker reform bills and his repressive measures to run into an effective resistance, everything depends on a truly revolutionary leadership, which doesn’t exist at present and which must be forged.
Sarkozy presents himself as a convinced supporter of free-market economics and finds the current labor code too rigid because it doesn’t make firing employees as easy for the employers as he would like it to be. He wants to reform – i.e., to destroy – the present model of social security, which is falsely blamed for being behind the government’s budget deficit, what with tax exemptions and public subsidies for the profits of the big private corporations totaling more than €100 billion over the last several years. Even though he held back at the time of the introduction of the CPE2 (first job contract) in 2006, above all in order to weaken his potential rival, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, it is certain that he has even worse proposals ready to be taken out of the drawer. There’s no doubt that the capitalist groups supporting him want to push Sarkozy to become a French Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan. It’s certain as well that the Socialist Party, currently in utter disarray, whose candidate proposed a “first chance job contract” almost identical to De Villepin’s, will offer no resistance. So what is to be done?
provocation at Aulnay-sous-Bois on the night of May 6. Where was the
workers defense of youths targeted by the cops? No one organized it.
It’s necessary to intervene in the struggles of the working people, the youth and immigrants in order to prepare and orient them for an inevitable clash with the regime. During the campaign, the possibilities for this were not lacking. The six-week strike at PSA Peugeot Aulnay (led in large part by workers of immigrant origin) was a perfect opportunity. Their demand for a €300 wage increase for all could have been taken up by broad sectors of the working people. The strike took place in the département of Seine St-Denis with a heavy working-class and immigrant population. Several towns in the département, including Aulnay-sous-Bois itself, have been the targets of police provocation. The strikers could have been mobilized to extend the strike to other factories and companies not only of the PSA group but also elsewhere in the region. Support committees and solidarity rallies should have been organized in all the towns of the département, including workers and youths, men and women from the immigrant districts, in order to march on Paris. But instead of this, the union leaderships led this like a routine strike. And when on May 6, following the announcement of Sarkozy’s victory, the police launched a provocation against a peaceful crowd in Aulnay, neither the unions nor the parliamentary left parties (PS and PCF) nor the organizations of the “far left” called on working people to go to the aid of the youths and the residents of the housing projects.
At the same time, discontent was spreading among Airbus workers, hit by layoffs which had already been announced (under the Power 8 plan) and indignant over the “golden parachute” for the head of the parent company, EADS, who will receive €8.5 million for bailing out while the workers will get a bonus totaling all of … €2.82! There were walkouts one after another, first at Toulouse, and then, when that ran out of steam, in the Airbus factories at Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. This took place on the eve of the second round of the elections. A movement of sit-down strikes should have been launched to occupy the plants, taking off from the demands of the EADS workers to extend them to nearby sectors. That’s how a genuine Bolshevik party would wage an election campaign.
Given the widespread awareness of the danger represented by Sarkozy, it is necessary to act with the perspective of a working-class mobilization, drawing in the youth in particular, which in order to win would have to assume the proportions of a new May ’68 … one that would go all the way, to the installation of a workers government. In fact, one of the factories in question was the former Sud-Aviation in Nantes, the first plant to go out in the 1968 general strike. But even far left groups who have made the general strike into their constant refrain, giving it a mythical character, did nothing to seize these opportunities. Why? Because no one wanted to ruin the electoral chances of Royal. Every last one of them was subordinated to the discipline of the popular front.
What must be done is to undertake a struggle to forge the nucleus of a genuine working-class revolutionary vanguard party. Such a party would draw the lessons of past struggles, and how they were sabotaged, as well as of this and prior election campaigns, notably that of 2002 when the whole of the left, directly or indirectly, backed Chirac against Le Pen. The party which must be built must break totally with the popular front in order to fight for the class independence of the proletariat, rather than engaging in electoral maneuvers in the shadow of class-collaborationist coalitions.
This party must be an internationalist party, which not only criticizes the neo-colonial military interventions in Africa (where Mitterrand’s “African cell”3 was implicated in the Rwanda genocide), but which fights every step of the way for the withdrawal of French troops from Lebanon and to drive out the French expeditionary corps in Afghanistan. Beyond opposing U.S. occupation of Iraq, such a party must fight for the defeat of its own imperialist bourgeoisie. This must not be a party of “all the revolutionaries” or similar formulas indicating an amorphous party without a clear policy. Only an authentically Trotskyist, Bolshevik-Leninist party built in the struggle to reforge the Fourth International will be capable of leading to a successful conclusion the looming struggle against a regime as determined as Sarkozy’s.
The “Far Left” Adrift
I: The LCR Votes for Royal “While Holding Its Nose”
Neither have the candidates catalogued as far left or Trotskyists adopted a more consistent policy of opposition to the latest popular-front candidacy of the Socialist Party (PS). Olivier Besancenot, the candidate of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), who with 4.08 percent of the vote finished at the head of the candidates to the left of the PS, certainly ran a more dynamic campaign than the others, which were more or less moribund. Boasting of being “100 percent to the left” of the PS, the LCR, which claims 3,000 members to its credit, sought to gain a hearing among those dissatisfied with Ségolène Royal’s offerings on the electoral market. At the same time, Besancenot seized every opportunity to underline that on the second round of the presidential election, his party would call for voting for the socialist candidate: “The LCR has not practiced the policy of ‘the worse the better’,” he told Libération (14 April): “In the past, the LCR either called directly to vote for the left while holding its nose, or it didn’t, while not calling for abstention and saying to the PS: ‘Go ahead and win our votes on the second round, no one is stopping you from doing it’.” This time, at exactly 8:30 p.m. on the night of the first round of voting, he announced in a way that no one was in doubt about the instructions to be followed:
“On May 6 we will be on the side of those who want to keep Nicolas Sarkozy from reaching the presidency of the Republic. It’s not a matter of supporting Ségolène Royal but of voting against Nicolas Sarkozy.”
As was obvious from the outset that it was going to do at the decisive movement, the LCR voted for the candidate of the popular front (a class-collaborationist coalition), even if it was only “holding its nose.” For that reason alone, one should not have voted for Besancenot. Moreover, the LCR never pointed out that Royal was also the candidate of small bourgeois parties like the PRG (Left Radicals) and Chevènement’s MDC. For the confirmed opportunists of the French branch of the “United Secretariat of the Fourth International” (USec), who follow the political line of the late Ernest Mandel, refusing to vote for a bourgeois candidate or political formation is not a matter of principle, as it should be for any Trotskyist. Quite the contrary. In his declaration, Besancenot claimed that “for the last five years, the LCR fought against the policy of Chirac and his prime ministers, in the streets as well as at the ballot box.” Yet in April 2002, the Political Bureau of the LCR declared that “we understand the voters who cast a ballot for Chirac in order to oppose Le Pen.” And in the street, under the watchword “All together against Le Pen,” the LCR organized “extra-parliamentary support for the ‘Republican front’ for Chirac, with only the most transparent fig leaf of “independence’ from the candidate of big capital” (The Internationalist No. 13, May-June 2002).
Royal, candidate of the PS, PRG and MDC, visits strike picket lines at
PSA Peugeot Citröen at Aulnay-sous-Bois, April 2. To defeat
Sarkozy it is necessary to break with the popular front of class
collaboration. (Photo: Michel
It is true that with the Besancenot candidacy, the LCR succeeded in reaching an audience among certain layers of the youth. It reportedly got up to 10 percent of the electorate between the ages of 18 and 24, and 1.5 million votes are not nothing. The meeting halls in the universities and several cities were full: 1,800 people at Caen, 2,100 at Grenoble, 2,700 at Toulouse… The candidate went to the suburban housing projects, as well as to strike pickets at PSA Citroën at Aulnay, Phillips at Dreux, etc. Yet so did Ségolène Royal, and Besancenot’s election results in the départements surrounding Lyon and Paris, with their heavily working-class population of immigrant origin, hardly surpassed his national average of 4%. But what did he say to the young students, to the striking workers, to the residents of the projects, and above all, what did the LCR do during its campaign? In reality, it was just as electoralist as the PS. In a visit to youth in the projects, as shown in an official campaign video, he speaks of racist discrimination against youth referred to as being of “immigrant origin” even though they were born in France, but in terms of what should be done, only the campaign and candidacies are mentioned. As for street mobilizations against police violence, the struggle against temporary work and for steady jobs, not a word!
The same is the case for any of the extra-parliamentary struggles that should be at the heart of a genuinely Bolshevik campaign. Suddenly, just after the first round of voting, Rouge (27 April) runs headlines for a “General Mobilization” and raises the slogan “Troops Out of Afghanistan!” Yet for the preceding ten months, such slogans and calls to action had disappeared from the pages of the LCR’s weekly. (At the most there were denunciations of American massacres in Afghanistan, practically nothing about the French forces there under the auspices of NATO.) In fact, since the dispatch of French troops to Lebanon at the end of August 2006, where they are acting as border guards for Israel and propping up the Siniora government in Beirut, one can look in vain in Rouge for calls for the withdrawal of French forces from this artificial state created by French imperialism as a Christian rampart (at the time) to control Syria. Why? First of all, because the Mandelite pseudo-Trotskyists observed an electoral truce on such questions. And secondly because they would have wanted to see French forces there to “keep the peace” and defend “human rights,” if they would only show some (fictitious) “independence” from U.S. imperialism, as the LCR called for in Kosovo at the time of the NATO bombardment in 1999.
While denouncing the “social-liberal” policy of Royal, the measures put forward by Besancenot in his “emergency program,” which were the heart of his campaign, were not qualitatively difference from those of Royal. He proposed a minimum wage of €1,500 a month net, right away; she suggested a minimum income of €1,500 gross, in five years. For the rest, the LCR took up the “emergency program” which Lutte Ouvrière has been touting since 1995: its principal demands consist of an across-the-board wage hike of €300, a 32-hour workweek, a ban on layoffs (in all companies, according to the LCR, or only in profitable enterprises, in the LO version), opening the accounting books of the capitalist groups and requisitioning empty apartments. Leaving aside the proposal to ban layoffs by law (a reformist illusion under capitalism), this is far from being a revolutionary program. The candidate himself underlined that for the “redistribution of wealth” that he foresees, it would take “a mobilization equivalent of 1936 or May ’68). But these mobilizations were missed revolutionary opportunities, or more precisely ones that had been sabotaged, and the gains that were won then were the price the capitalists were disposed to pay in order to avoid a social revolution.
In reality, the LCR has nothing to do with authentic Trotskyism: its politics are those of a left-reformist social-democratic party. Olivier Besancenot defines himself as a “revolutionary militant… more than as a Trotskyist.” And, as Libération summed it up: “His revolution? More May ’68 than October 1917. ‘300 euros more a month, that’s a 30 percent wage hike; the last time we got that was in 1968.” To want to simply repeat May ’68 is to look forward to another defeat for the working class, the youth and all the oppressed. A May ’68 that goes all the way, that’s something entirely different: not a general wage increase but the overthrow of capitalism by socialist revolution. The program that the LCR candidate presented in the course of his election campaign could be summed up as defense of the social gains of the “welfare state” against the “neo-liberal model” of Sarkozy and the social-democratic “light” version of Royal. The fake Trotskyists refuse to see that these social institutions and programs were “accepted” by the capitalists while gnashing their teeth as the price they had to pay to combat the “communist threat” during the anti-Soviet Cold War. With the fall of the Soviet Union and of the bureaucratically deformed workers states of East Europe and the concomitant weakening of the workers movement in the imperialist countries, they are no longer disposed to tolerate these “social expenses” henceforth judged to be “useless.”
It is no longer possible today to restore the “French model,” social-democratic version, of dirigiste capitalism (with heavy state intervention), with its extensive programs of public housing and superhighway construction, whose purpose was to preserve “social peace” (while enriching the big construction and building bosses). With the growth of retirement expenses of an aging population, the ruling class is determined to make the working people pay for it all. Any pretense that “another world is possible” without overthrowing capitalism is a dangerous lie, as it runs the risk of diverting struggles for revolutionary objectives and channeling them into the treacherous bourgeois electoral game.
By campaigning to the left of Lutte Ouvrière, Besancenot and the LCR were better able to resist the pressure to cast a “useful vote” for the PS candidate. But make no mistake, the “left turn” will last no longer than a campaign. This is hardly surprising for anyone who knows the history of this opportunist outfit. Following the victory of the “no” in the referendum on the European constitution in May 2005, the LCR participated for several months alongside the PCF, supporters of José Bové and other petty-bourgeois forces in “anti-liberal committees” whose purpose was to designate a common candidate to represent the “left-wing no” vote in the presidential election (as distinct from that of Le Pen). But the “left nay-sayers” also included bourgeois formations such as the Greens or Chevènement’s MDC as well as anti-working-class Socialist politicians such as Laurent Fabius (father of the “dirty job” of austerity under Mitterrand and prime minister at the time of the scandal over tainted blood). In other words, the LCR was ready not only to take the back seat, but also to campaign for a popular-front candidate, on the sole condition that the candidate named by the committees follow a policy independent of the PS. Participating in these famously phony committees was a farce, while appealing to the PCF to renounce its alliance with the social-democrats amounts to calling on it to commit political suicide.
Moreover, a rightist faction of the LCR led by Christian Piquet, representing more than a third of the LCR’s forces has dismissed the belated decision by the leadership to withdraw from the “anti-liberal committees” and kept on seeking unity at any price. Some of them brazenly campaigned for José Bové, the leader of the Peasant Federation, who went over to Ségloène Royal on the eve of the first round of voting. (This Tendency 3 complained that the LCR’s appeal to vote for Royal on the second round was insufficiently explicit.) On the majority side, things are no better. Seeking to profit from his relative success at the polls, Besancenot called for the formation of a broad anti-capitalist political force to the left of the PS. This is the old Mandelite policy of forming parties of the “broad vanguard” in which all manner of centrists, “progressive” union bureaucrats, bourgeois anti-free marketeerrs, reformist social democrats and Stalinists can cohabit. This policy, which was the centerpiece of the strategy of Mandel and his epigones in the 1980s, has already borne fruit, with the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) … which threw out the USec supporters for not voting for the privatization of pensions (while other Mandelites stayed in Lula’s cabinet). Also in Italy, where they were just chucked out of Rifondazione Comunista for refusing to support the Prodi government on the issue of Italian troops in Afghanistan.
II: LO – Arlette Laguiller’s Candidacy Runs Out of Steam
The other large organization claiming to be Trotskyist, Lutte Ouvrière, with about 1,000 members and several thousand sympathizers, well implanted in industry, ran Arlette Laguiller as its candidate for the sixth and last time on an utterly economist and reformist basis. The “emergency program,” which she has run on for more than a decade, and which has now been borrowed by the LCR, does not link immediate economic demands (a wage increase of €300 for all, a minimum monthly wage of €1,500 after taxes and deductions) to transitional demands showing the need to overthrow the capitalist system. Laguiller admits that “this program … has nothing revolutionary about it, in the sense that it neither calls for the expropriation of capital nor the transformation of the private property of all the big companies into collective property, the property of the state.” She insists that these simple measures are “perfectly realizable” and she furnishes a detailed accounting showing how 750,000 additional public sector jobs and the construction of one million apartments a year will only cost €131.5 billion – which could be easily financed by eliminating subsidies to companies, reestablishing the 50 percent tax rate on profits, etc., apparently without even touching the military budget. This really is a reformist “minimum program” that could have been put forward by any social democrat in the 1940s or ’60s!
fireman” Sarkozy in the National Assembly, 16 November 2005. LO echoed
Sarkozy's racist insults of “thugs” against youth in suburbs. (Photo: François Mori/AP)
In claiming that its program in the presidential election is nothing but “the first measures of a truly socialist presidency and government” within the framework of the capitalist regime, LO defines itself as a left pressure group on the PS. In doing so, it abandons any possibility of winning over the layer of workers who are looking for a radical path to put an end to the system. LO, whose activity revolves around intervention in the big industrial plants, has been quite remote from the real struggles in recent years, notably the uprising of the youth in the suburbs in November 2005 against police violence and state racism, and the millions of demonstrators who forced the De Villepin government to withdraw the hated CPE in March 2006. Worse yet, instead of defending the justified revolt of the youth in the suburbs, LO echoed Sarkozy’s racist insults against the “thugs,” denouncing the “[drug] traffickers” and “two-bit neighborhood caïds [capos]” who “today [have] the support of a large part of the youth” (Lutte Ouvrière, 4 November 2005)! This is only logical for a party which expresses its solicitude for the police and which not only supported the racist law of 15 March 2004 outlawing wearing the Islamic scarf (hidjab) in schools, but whose teachers set off the whole affair with a campaign to expel two secondary school girls of immigrant origin in the town of Aubervilliers.
Arlette Laguiller visited the PSA workers in struggle at Aulnay-sous-Bois, as did most of the left candidates, but in fact her campaign gave a cold shoulder to large layers of the proletariat. In the end, the most radicalized workers and youth didn’t recognize themselves in her economist policies, and often preferred the more combative remarks of Besancenot, while on the other hand most of the more moderate workers fell back on the “useful vote” for the PS. LO ended up losing both layers, and its campaign imploded, winning a little over 400,000 votes (1.33 percent) compared to 1,600,000 in 2002. Then came the moment of truth. In 2002, LO “didn’t put out a call at the time for a vote on the second round and – its leaders admit today – this didn’t go over well with its sympathizers. ‘We can’t let the popular electorate reproach our campaign with being responsible for the left’s loss. In 2002, a lot of people accused us of that’ its internal bulletin recognized” (Le Monde, 13 April). This time, Laguiller repeatedly stressed that the meaning of her candidacy was to “put Ségolène Royal on notice” that “she doesn’t have a blank check.” And on April 22 at precisely 9 p.m., the LO candidate announced: “Therefore I will vote for Ségolène Royal. And I call on all voters to do the same,” adding that “this is only out of solidarity with those in the popular classes who say they prefer ‘anything but Sarkozy’.” So LO’s position was sheer tailism.
Laguiller’s appeal to support Royal, even without “illusions,” barely a few minutes after the first results were announced naturally provoked some grumbling among the most conscious militants and sympathizers of LO. When “Arlette” met “Ségolène” a few days later, some participants in the Internet Forum of Friends of Lutte Ouvrière said at first it was “intoxication” on the part of Libération, until Reuters confirmed the news. The justification (pretext) for such a turn – seeking not to cut oneself off from the workers who want to defeat Sarkozy – is so ridiculous that Laguiller had a hard time convincing a part of the membership that wants to base its politics on a Marxist analysis, not on the leadership’s beatific tailism. Yet this turn by LO was neither unpredictable nor new: in fact, Lutte Ouvrière supported the candidate of the popular-front, François Mitterrand in 1974 and 1981, using the same false arguments of solidarity with the illusions of the masses. It is a damning and logical expression of the economist politics, LO’s trademark in France, which Lenin long ago denounced and which via the least class-conscious sectors of the proletariat reflects the pressure of the ruling class, ending up voting for the candidate of the bourgeois left coalition (whether it is called “Union of the Left,” “the plural left” or, in Royal’s case, the gathering of the “modern left of the 21st century”).
As for the “Faction,” the minority tendency inside LO (which thanks to LO’s anti-Leninist, social-democratic practices acts as a “public faction”), it criticized the way LO went over to Royal, but ultimately it was to underline that they would have wanted the decision not to be taken hastily but after a more thoughtful discussion. At most, the Faction would have preferred an appeal to Ségolène Royal calling on her to win over far left voters on their own terrain, and to adjust her politics accordingly. But the “Faction” does not, in any case, unconditionally reject electoral support to a candidate of a popular-front coalition. In fact, the axis of the Faction’s politics (which on this point converged with that of public tendencies inside the LCR) has been to seek a more “unitary” posture on the part of LO toward the rest of the “far left.” In point of fact, this would mean a more popular-frontist political line than that of the LO leaders, who prefer a more solitary version of economist reformism. On other matters, the Faction supports LO’s reactionary, chauvinist and exclusionist policy on the wearing of the headscarf.
The third pillar of what is routinely considered the “far Left” in France, the Parti des Travailleurs (PT – Labor Party), put forward the candidacy of one Gérard Schivardi, a former member of the PS and mayor of a small rural commune, who ran as “the mayors’ candidate.” Following a complaint from the National Commission for Control of the Election Campaign, he had to change his label, become “the candidate of mayors.” While the main leaders of the PT, Pierre Lambert and Daniel Gluckstein, belong to the Internationalist Communist Current which claims to be Trotskyist, Schivardi doesn’t consider himself Trotskyist or a revolutionary, but rather “a socialist in the noble sense of the term.” He says he wouldn’t even have run for president if Fabius had been the PS candidate. In any case, with his pathetic score (0.34 percent), Schivardi’s campaign only had interest as a measure of the twilight of the Lambertist tendency…
Schivardi based his intervention on calling for France to leave the European Union, on which he pinned sole responsibility for the current state of the economy and unemployment. A partisan of France “one and indivisible,” he came out for the autonomy of all territories outside metropolitan France except Corsica. Add to this his “defense of the 36,000 municipalities” in France in order to save public services threatened by the Maastricht treaty (which set up the European Union in its present form) and you will see that Lambert & Co. are closer to the tradition of (bourgeois) secular Republican Freemasonry than to the Trotskyist program of proletarian revolution. In the course of the campaign, Schivardi and Gluckstein (on behalf of the PT) issued an appeal for “an authentic workers party.” But don’t be fooled, the appeal was directed, among others, to the mayors, the “supporters of secularism,” etc. – which would give the imaginary new party a bourgeois workers character.
III. Trotskyism vs. the Popular Front
To have five presidential candidates situated to the left of the Socialist Party, of which three were put forward by ostensibly Trotskyist parties, is a very French peculiarity and, more to the point, a reflection of the continued influence of the struggles of May 1968. In reality, the “far left” candidates were only a bridge to the candidate of the popular front around the Socialist Party. To vote for LO or the LCR on the first round, and the same goes for José Bové or the PCF, amounted to pressuring the PS and voting for Royal on the second, decisive round of the election. For genuine Trotskyists, to vote for any candidate whatsoever of a popular front is excluded, due to the bourgeois character of such a class-collaborationist coalition.
The basis of all Marxist politics is the class independence of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. As Engels remarked during the September 1871 London conference of the International Workingmen’s Association (the First International), following the defeat of the Paris Commune:
“We want the abolition of classes. What is the means of achieving it? The only means is political domination of the proletariat.... However, our politics must be working-class politics. The workers’ party must never be the tagtail of any bourgeois party; it must be independent and have its own goal and its own policy.”
–“Apropos of Working-Class Political Action”
This principle was then codified in the statutes of the IWA, under Article 7a: “In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party, opposed to all the old parties formed by the possessing classes.” This is contradicted by any coalition with the bourgeoisie.
In the rest of the far left, almost all the organizations gave their support, directly or indirectly, to the popular front. Among the several groups that have come out of the tendency led by the late Stéphane Just (who for his part had split from Lambertism), the Groupe Bolchevik (GB) called: “In the presidential and legislative elections, vote against the candidates of the bourgeois parties” (Révolution Socialiste, April 2007). This appeal translated into the advice to “choose, on the first rounds, a candidate of an organization of working-class origin (PS, PCF, LCR, LO) against all the bourgeois candidates,” and on the second round to cast one’s ballot for the “candidate of a workers organization … or to abstain.”
In the concrete, then, this meant voting for Ségolène Royal on May 6. The most curious part of the story is that the GB readily admits that the PS candidate is “directly supported by two bourgeois formations, Taubira’s PRG [Left Radicals] and Chevènement’s MDC [Citizens Movement],” and that if elected, the result would be a “bourgeois coalition government of the PS, PCF, PRG, MDC and other debris, presided over by Royal.” The GB also sums up the LCR and LO candidacies, with their virtually identical “emergency programs,” as “100 percent left reformism.” Nevertheless, it calls to vote for these lieutenants of Royal’s bourgeois coalition! The GB’s policy therefore amounts to “critical” support to the popular front.
For its part, the Groupe CRI (communiste révolutionnaire internationaliste), which has its origins in the Lambertist current, adopted a more left line in the presidential election. In an article published under the headline, “An Election Campaign With Nothing to Offer the Working People” (CRI des Travailleurs, April 2007) it rejected out of hand Royal’s candidacy and also registered that while “Besancenot [LCR] and Laguiller [LO] identify themselves with the working people and denounce capitalism,” they are “running a reformist campaign and preparing to vote for Ségolène Royal on the second round.” What’s more, the Groupe CRI announced in advance that it “will not call to vote for Ségolène Royal on the second round, but for a boycott.” That’s all very good. But at the same time, it called to vote for Besancenot or Laguiller. On what basis, one might ask? It argues:
“If we strongly criticize the reformist orientation of these two organizations, we consider it important that the largest number of workers and youth take up these two candidacies in order to express their rejection of capitalism, their rejection of the alternation between the governmental right and left and their will to combat this.”
But how can one express a “rejection of capitalism” in voting for candidates and parties who say to the workers that on the decisive round of the election, they should elect the candidate of a bourgeois coalition? (Even more so as that the Groupe CRI wrongly considers the PS to have become a straight-out bourgeois party, and not a bourgeois workers party, as Lenin characterized the reformist social democrats at the time of the Third International.) The consequences of this policy may appear somewhat opaque today in the absence of big workers struggles in France. But such struggles will reappear, and the slogans of the revolutionaries must prepare the most advanced layers of the workers and oppressed for what’s at stake in the coming battles.
Let’s take a historical case, where the outcome is already known: Chile at the time of the Unidad Popular (UP) of Salvador Allende. The equivalent of the policy of the Groupe Bolchevik today would have been to vote in 1970 for the MIR, the Communist Party or Allende, as the candidate of the Socialist Party (PS). Yet Allende was in fact the candidate of the UP, a popular front which also included small bourgeois formations such as the MAPU and the Radical Party. The policy of the Groupe CRI would have been to vote for the MIR, which in turn gave critical electoral support to Allende and the PS. But the urgent need at the time was to loudly say to the working class that it should refuse to vote for any candidate or party of the UP. It was necessary to split the popular front along class lines, to break with the bourgeoisie. Otherwise, by throwing up a roadblock to revolutionary workers struggle, the UP necessarily led to disaster, to a bloodbath such as took place and against which we warned at the time.
The policy of the pseudo-Trotskyists of the Pablo-Mandel current in Chile during 1970-73, which was expressed by the MIR (several of whose founders were members of Ernest Mandel’s United Secretariat), was to carry out their little maneuvers “in the shadow of the popular front” of Allende, just Trotsky had warned against in his July 1936 letter to the Dutch section of the Movement for the Fourth International:
“The question of questions at present is the People’s Front. The left centrists seek to present this question as a tactical or even as a technical maneuver, so as to be able to peddle their wares in the shadow of the People’s Front. In reality, the People’s Front is the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch. It also offers the best criterion for the difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism.”
This was also the policy of the Pablo-Mandelites in France during 1973-74, when they called to vote on the second round for Mitterrand, the candidate of the Union of the Left, a popular-front coalition, while the organization of Lambert and Juste (at the time, the OCI) called for voting on the first round as well for Mitterrand, “first secretary of the PS.” When he was finally elected president in 1981, Mitterrand formed a bourgeois government that carried out a social-democratic anti-Soviet Cold War policy on Poland and Afghanistan, and inaugurated the attacks against the workers gains in France, attacks which have not let up since. Today, the orphans of Lambertism and its Justian variant use the “workers united front” (FUO) to prettify their capitulation to the bourgeoisie. This is popular-frontism once removed.
IV. Parliamentary Cretinism of a New Type
Finally, in the constellation of the ostensibly Trotskyist “far left,” we must mention the Ligue Trotskyste de France (LTF), affiliated to the International Communist League (ICL). The LTF refuses to vote either for the candidate of the popular front, Ségolène Royal, or for the candidates of the LCR and LO, which “serve in this way to round up votes for Royal.” At the same time, in arguing for its refusal to administer the bourgeois state, the LTF has made an innovation, adding that in any case it would not run for executive posts, such as the president of the Republic. It presents this novelty as an advance over the policy of the Trotskyists at the time of Trotsky and Cannon (the main leader of American Trotskyism until the 1960s). In reality, the LTF policy, which it argues with a scholasticism that is increasingly distant from the class struggle, reveals a parliamentary cretinism similar to that of the Mandelite pseudo-Trotskyists.
Certainly the French bourgeoisie will breathe a sigh of relief upon learning that the LTF won’t be running a candidate for the president of the Republic. But for revolutionaries, putting forward candidates for executive posts such as presidents or mayors in no way implies that they intend to occupy these positions within the framework of the bourgeois state. As we always stressed at the time when the ICL, and the international Spartacist tendency which preceded it, stood for the continuity of genuine Trotskyism, we use elections as a platform for revolutionary propaganda. In the unusual case in which a revolutionary candidate had enough influence to be elected, the party would already have begun building workers councils and other organs of a soviet character. And the party would insist that, if elected, its candidates would base themselves on such organs of workers power and not on the institutions of the bourgeois state.
In reality, ever since Marx, we Marxists have been opposed to the election of presidents by universal suffrage, for this produces a semi-bonapartist executive escaping the control of legislative bodies. We are also opposed to the existence of a second, supposedly higher, legislative chamber as inherently anti-democratic. Should we therefore also refuse to run candidates of the Senate? The LTF explains its new line with the argument that running for an executive post “lends legitimacy to prevailing and reformist conceptions of the state.” But such illusions can also be fueled in the case of candidates for legislative posts, particularly when there are parliamentary regimes where the cabinet supposedly bases itself on a majority in parliament. In this case, one would have to insist that even if elected as a deputy, the revolution will not be made by gaining a majority in the chamber. On the other hand, using the argument put forward by the LTF to refuse to use such campaigns to make revolutionary propaganda implies that if they were elected they would follow the rules of the bourgeois parliamentary game. These are the fears of parliamentary cretinists afraid of their own appetites, and for good reason.
It is more probable, in fact, that a genuinely revolutionary candidate, for whatever post, would end up in jail, as was the case of Liebknecht in Germany or the Bolshevik deputies to the Duma in tsarist Russia. And there they won’t have the little problem which so concerns the LTF. Thus the real question is the nature of the politics of the campaign: either revolutionary, or reformist, or the crystallized confusion of centrism with its constant zigzags that characterize the politics of the ICL in recent years.
From Bourgeois Elections to the Struggle for Workers Power
We are now in the post presidential election period, which is also that of the legislative elections. The elephants of the Socialist Party have decided to put off for a few weeks the little party where they settle scores (which promises be a truly cannibalistic feast) in order to total up their losses in the third electoral round. Already the principal actors in this drama are racing to the right, to decide who will be best-placed to convert French social democracy into a carbon copy of Tony Blair’s New Labour in Britain … at a time when Blair is leaving Downing Street [the British prime minister’s office] in utter disgrace; or, alternatively, to form a new, overtly bourgeois party, perhaps in a rotten bloc with Bayrou, the rightist camouflaged as a centrist, as the leftovers from the Italian Communist Party are doing with their projected Democratic Party together with the debris of the Christian Democracy. For the PCF, on the brink of disappearing from the parliamentary chessboard, what’s at stake is saving what it can from the shipwreck by acting as an appendage of the PS. For the Greens, the war is over. In any case, the whole of the parliamentary left is preparing for a new extended period of political futility.
On the government side, Sarkozy is preparing the “break” (rupture). The era of Mitterrand- or Chirac-style “cohabitation” is history. Even if one or another “socialist” minister takes a seat alongside Prime Minister François Fillon – such as veteran anti-Soviet Cold Warrior Bernard Kouchner – what is envisaged is hardly a government on the model of the post-WWII popular front under De Gaulle, but rather a strong regime in the Pétain tradition, which also included ex-“socialist” officials (and some future ones, like Mitterrand). If Sarkozy proposes to introduce some “reforms” gradually, not abolishing the 35-hour workweek in one blow but “making it more flexible,” it is clear that he is preparing for a showdown with the unions, particularly transport unions. He wants to crack the hard core and give them a lesson, like Margaret Thatcher did in England in crushing the 1984-85 coal miners strike and destroying their union. And the union bureaucrats have made it clear that they have no intention to lead a deep-going resistance: they only want to be consulted. Thus the stage is set for bitter class struggles under conditions in which the working class is greatly weakened.
As for the electoralist “far left,” its response varies according to its results in the presidential vote. For the LCR, which came out ahead among “the left of the left,” it is the hour of the legislative elections. If the last campaign was done mainly with state financing (a token of loyalty to this bourgeois state), this time it plans to spend more than €1.6 million [U.S. $2 million] on 450 candidates. The party of Krivine and Besancenot also talks of “resistance,” and all of a sudden calls for mobilization which had disappeared during the electoral “truce” have reappeared. The sans-papiers (undocumented immigrants) are back, and even strikes! It’s “The Struggle Afterwards” (Rouge, 18 May): everything that it carefully avoided “before,” in order not to disturb Royal’s campaign. But pay attention! This “resistance” will only serve as window dressing during the election campaign. For LO, the word is: “After the Election of Sarkozy, Take Up the Road of Struggle Again!” (Lutte Ouvrière, 18 May). Suddenly the vote means nothing, ballots are only pieces of paper, and it’s back to the union struggles of yesterday.
The smaller groups are singing the same tune, each according to its particular musical score. “Prepare Resistance to Sarkozy’s Attacks: Build a Coherent and Consistent Anti-Capitalist Political Regroupment,” proclaims the Groupe CRI (leaflet of May 10). For them it is the workers united front, and it accepts all the LCR’s propositions for an “anti-capitalist force,” meaning joining with the likes of Bové or the bourgeois altermondialistes (“another worlders”) of Attac; they have also relaunched their appeals to form united-front oppositions in the unions. The LCR, as well, is calling for the formation of union oppositions. For the Groupe Bolchevik, the axis should be to fight for the union leaderships to refuse to participate in negotiations with the Sarkozy-Fillon government. All these initiatives are intended to pressure the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy, and their platforms all follow the “emergency” minimum program of LO and the LCR. A genuine class-struggle opposition against the capitalist offensive would have to go beyond economic struggles to raise transitional demands and struggles which surpass the strictly union framework to lead toward a struggle for workers power.
Riot police in suburb
of Corbeil-Essonnes south of Paris, 7 November 2005. It was necessary
to call on workers and youth to march on the housing projects to defend
the residents encircled by the police. (Photo: Michel Spingler/AP)
Take first of all the situation of the so-called youth “of the suburbs” or of immigrant (and colonial) origin. The sentiment of despair is such that in many housing projects around the large cities up to 80 percent voted for Royal. And that in spite of her ultra-repressive policies – calling for “boot camps (encadrement militaire) for minors,” for “reinforced educational centers” (reformatories), for building “closed penal centers” for serving “sentences adapted for first convictions,” etc. Why didn’t the candidates of the far left get a better hearing in the working-class and immigrant suburbs? Because they did absolutely nothing to defend the residents who were subjected to ferocious police repression in November 2005. At most a few small protest demos in Paris … in the Latin Quarter (student area) and even the Champ de Mars (the elegant gardens next to the Eiffel Tower)! Where was the march on the Cité des 3.000 (a vast public housing project in Aulnay-sous-Bois), or Les Minguettes (a housing estate on the outskirts of Lyon), to break the encirclement by the CRS riot police? There wasn’t any. But what is to be done now, when it is clear that with Sarkozy as president, the repression will intensify?
We Trotskyists of the League for the Fourth International have called for worker-immigrant defense of the suburbs against police repression and racist attacks. The fact that many of the housing projects are located near industrial areas, big companies and factories facilitates this perspective. The town of Aulnay-sous-Bois in the department of Seine Saint-Denis can serve as an example. This is an area that is regularly invaded by the paramilitary police, who have consciously provoked incidents, as we have seen. And it is located right next to the PSA factory, which just experienced a six-week-long strike in the middle of the presidential election campaign. Visting the picket lines, as Royal, Laguiller, Besancenot, Buffet and Bové did is merely a gesture of sympathy – which costs nothing and also contributes nothing. It was necessary to generalize the strike to the whole auto sector and to march on the capital. There should have been a call on the workers and union militants to mobilize in defense of the population besieged by the police. Thousands of workers on the spot would have prevented the police “running amok” on the night of May 6 in Aulnay – and it would have also served as a warning to Sarkozy that the next time he tries to “clean [them] out like a Kärcher” he risks setting off a civil war.
There is also the terrible situation of the undocumented immigrants (sans-papiers). From June 2006 on, there have been thousands of deportations among the 23,000 people whose request for regularization was refused under the so-called Sarkozy Circular. Thousands of school children are at risk. The police have arrested parents as they came to pick up their children at school, even a grandfather outside the school in Rampal Street in Paris. The school principal was locked up for objecting (along with others) to this shameful arbitrary arrest. Teachers went on strike to protest, but what did the left do? In the debate with Sarkozy before the second round of the election, Royal opposed any large-scale regularization, explicitly saying she was in agreement with her “adversary.”
Worse yet, ten days before the first round, the goon squads of the CGT, CFDT and FO labor federations drove out a collective of undocumented immigrants who had been occupying the Bourse de Travail (Labor Exchange) in Paris where various unions have their offices. In December, when a hundred or so undocumented immigrants occupied an abandoned swimming hall in Saint-Denis, the PCF mayor of the city called the cops to throw them out. The same operation was carried out, right before Christmas (!), at the University of Saint-Denis where the left-wing university administration – with the active participation by PCF officials in the regional council – called on the CRS riot police to militarily expel undocumented immigrants who were occupying an amphitheater! And the candidates of the “far left” did nothing to support the struggle of the immigrants, save for some rare and timid expressions of sympathy. Massive demonstrations of tens of thousands of people to prevent the deportation of the sans-papiers and to demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants would have shaken up the election campaign. But they did not take place… in order to avoid disturbing the candidate of the popular front.
Today the struggle of the undocumented immigrants continues. What can be done? The unions should be mobilized in their defense. There are plenty of opportunities. In Lyon, a PCF local official, François Auguste, is being put on trial for having urged passengers on an Air France flight to oppose the deportation of some undocumented immigrants on board the plane. The day after the second round of the election, hundreds of demonstrators came out to support him. If the entire labor movement came to his defense, the next time there could be thousands. And it is necessary to do on a massive scale what this courageous militant tried to do by himself in physically blocking the deportations. A second example: LO’s organization in the Ile-de-France region called attention to the case of immigrant workers in the Metal Couleur factory in Val-de-Marne: 19 of them were fired in January for supposedly having “false papers.” When the whole of the workforce, with the backing of the CGT, made clear their intention of occupying the workplace, they were able to get provisional visitors papers for their comrades. This example should be publicized and generalized.
Or take the case of the SNCF railway workers and Paris transit workers of the RATP, who are some of Sarkozy’s favorite targets in declaring war on their “special pension systems,” presenting them as “privileged” workers. The new president has announced that he will impose a “minimum service” in transit during strikes. “The calendar of political democracy cannot be brushed aside by the union calendar,” he pounded away. The union bureaucrats of the three main federations (CGT, CFDT, FO) only asked to be consulted, basing themselves on a law for the modernization of social dialogue passed by Sarkozy’s UMP (Union for a Popular Majority) that calls for “prior consultation.” They did not, in contrast, insist on defense of the right to strike and of the pensions. One can foresee, then, that the necessary struggle to defend these union gains will be carried out against the labor federation tops. One must begin to establish the militant ties to prepare determined workers struggles, laying the basis for elected strike committees which can be recalled at any time. This is also a means to overcome trade-union divisions and establish unity in struggle that would also draw in the non-unionized workers.
But to do this requires breaking the discipline of the union apparatus and to forging a revolutionary trade-union tendency. And there’s the hitch. When the “far left” organizations want to build union oppositions, they intend to do so with their own members who today are in large part low- or medium-level union bureaucrats. To definitively break with the labor fakers would cost them their jobs. Thus all their slogans, their references to class struggle, their invocations of a general strike are intended to pressure the union tops. This is the road to defeat. Take the experience of the 1995 struggle against the Juppé Plan. People endlessly chanted “Tous ensemble, tous ensemble” (All together now), and they were fully “motivated” (title of the strike movement’s theme song). The question of a general strike was posed not as a ritual formula or a mobilizing myth but as an immediate task. But how to get there? It was necessary to bring together the most combative sectors in the struggle (PTT postal workers, RATP transit workers, etc.) to break the iron grip of (FO chief) Marc Blondel & Co. But despite repeated mobilizations of hundreds of thousands of workers, the strikes failed rather than being generalized, the workers remaining under the heel of these reformist union bureaucrats.
This poses the key question: that of revolutionary leadership. Luckily there are today numerous militants, workers and youth who are quite critical of the most representative organizations of the far left and who refuse to follow the latter to a certain political suicide. These are the ones who with their will to fight for the political independence of the working class represent the future of Marxism in France. The lesson that can be drawn from the recent jolt of the presidential elections (a “thermometer” of the political and social situation), but above all from the social struggles over the last decade, is the urgent and necessary regrouping of orthodox Marxists in a revolutionary workers party. Yet it must be emphasized that this must be an authentically Trotskyist party. If not, it will be doomed to defeat. It is noteworthy that in the writings of the “far left” organizations considered to be Trotskyists, almost all of them call not for building a Trotskyist party but a “broader” party that will unite “all revolutionaries,” etc.
In a period of all-sided ideological confusion, of the collapse of Stalinism and the bankruptcy of social democracy, we need above all programmatic clarity. At the electoral level, it is necessary to fight for an unconditional break with the popular fronts of today and tomorrow, to put an end to the secret backstage negotiations and tactical games. The revolutionary party must be forged on the basis of an implacable struggle against all sorts of social-democratic opportunism, and not on circumstantial convergences. We must draw the lessons of the struggles of 1995, of 1968 and of 1936 – of revolutionary opportunities sabotaged by the treacherous charm of centrism when what was needed was revolutionary firmness. Today’s “emergency” minimum programs are obviously not up to the necessary struggle to defeat a bourgeoisie so determined to crush all opposition that it chooses as the manager of its affairs a “pyromaniac fireman” like Sarkozy. Even more dangerous than the reformist program of Besancenot and Laguiller would be the reappearance of a centrist variant, as in May 1968, when Ernest Mandel replaced the demands of the Transitional Program for workers control with the ersatz of “anti-capitalist structural reforms.”
To build the proletarian vanguard party we need today, Trotskyism is not just a historical reference, as the leaders of the LCR, LO and also the small groupings pretend who have abandoned the revolutionary programmatic essence of Trotsky’s Fourth International. In the face of the need to defend China and Cuba, bureaucratically deformed workers state, against counterrevolution, there can be no question of blocking with tendencies who hailed counterrevolutionaries like Yeltsin [in the USSR] in 1991 and Walesa [in Poland] in 1981, who “howled with the (imperialist) wolves” against Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. In the face of a new rise in popular-frontism, we must insist on the lessons learned, at a great cost in workers’ lives, from the experiences of Spain, Indonesia and Chile. In order to lead to the victory of new proletarian revolutions, we must firmly maintain the theoretical and programmatic fundamentals of Red October and of the struggle waged by the Trotskyists over more than three-quarters of a century for authentic Bolshevik-Leninism. This is the task that the League for the Fourth International takes upon itself. n
The Bankruptcy of the Parliamentary Left … and the Electoralist “Far Left”:
Forge a Genuine Trotskyist Party!
1 In contrast to residential patterns in the United States, in France the poor and working-class population (including most immigrants) is largely consigned to live in housing projects in the suburbs surrounding the big cities while the bourgeoisie and well-off petty bourgeoisie inhabit the posh districts inside the city walls.
2 Massive worker-student demonstrations in March-April 2006 against the CPE (which provided for sub-minimum wage jobs from which youths could be fired without cause) forced the government to withdraw the law after it had been approved by the National Assembly. See “France: Workers Mobilize to Beat Back Attack on the Youth,” The Internationalist No. 22, May-June 2006.
3 The secretive “cellule africaine” in the president’s office has run France’s policy toward its ex-colonies since the time of DeGaulle in the 1960s. Under Mitterrand, it was headed by his son, Jean-Christophe.
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