Monday, 24 May 2010

Plus ça change...

Or not.

I had a très rapide jaunt to Paris this weekend to attend the annual fête of Lutte Ouvrière (LO - Workers' Fight). This is the jamboree of one of the longest established of the French Trotskyist groups. The other long established French Trotskyist group, the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR - Revolutionary Communist League), dissolved itself last year to form, with others, the non-Trotskyist Nouveau Parti Anti-Capitaliste (NPA - New Anti-capitalist Party). As far as I can tell, it is now suffering a massive crisis of identité and efficacité.

I have been to the LO fête for many years (though not every year). It's a lot of fun in the sun plus a chance to keep my rusty French going and meet up with some old friends. I can't actually remember how old I was when I first went but I must have been in my mid 20s. What a frightening thought.

Anyway, this weekend gave me, among other things, the chance to reflect on some of the things that have changed since I first attended. When I first went to LO fête the following were not ubiquitous and I at least could only have dreamed of them:

mobile phones
the internet
a tunnel under the Channel, and the Eurostar - it took practically all day to get to Paris.
We did, however, have a Tory government...

Political debate at a previous year's LO fete


Karl-Marx-Straße said...

But has LO fete changed in any meaningful way over the last 20 years?

I've only been once (or was it twice) - and I felt I had been cast back in time to the 1970s. In a way, it was interesting and fun, yet I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but something about it all was more than just a bit disconcerting (and I don't mean the leather jacketed heavies there to catch young people smoking illicit class B drugs or drinking alcohol without food)...

Can you see what I might be vaguely getting at?

Citizen Barnet said...

Hi, K-M S (sounds like a hip hop act).

My views on LO haven't changed much since I first encountered them all those years ago, and probably run along the lines of yours.

They have a timeless approach to politics which is: build their own organisation through patient work in the working class, basic, socialist propaganda, and factory bulletins. The internal democracy of their organisation is not great, I understand. They finally expelled the permanent fraction l'Etincelle in September 2008, for, apparently, wanting to work with the proposed New Anti-capitalist Party.

LO is as humourless as ever. Everything in moderation, but most especially fun. Their serial and long-term presidential candidate Arlette Laguiller ran for the last time in 2007, and came 9th with 1.3% of the vote (the Ligue's Olivier Besancenot came 5th with 4%). LO are trying to promote some new female stars, presumably to get the media attached to some new figure, but it doesn't seem to be working.

Their criticisms of the Ligue at the LO fete seemed to me pretty just - you can read a report on the Workers' Liberty website. But if you were going to choose between a party that can get somewhere one day and one that will just keep doing the same thing forever without having a major impact on events... I'd like to say it would be the NPA/LCR. I think they just have a more responsive and imaginative approach to politics, that can build coalitions (not TOO broad!) and take initiatives.

Whereas LO are just totally sneering about such things as feminism, green movement; and support the burka ban proposed by the French government. There is that question of their internal democracy as well, and the fact that all their names are party names! And the leather jackets, etc.

An organisation that combined the serious orientation of LO to building in the working class at the grassroots with NPA/LCR political responsiveness and relative democracy would be good! Too bad it doesn't exist!

All the best, V

Karl-Marx-Straße said...

LO: humourless as ever. I'm not surprised. That's probably the main thing that got me about their annual jamboree. When anarchist Emma Goldman said "if I can't dance, it's not my revolution", she was wrong. I bet that LO types go in for very orderly ballroom-style dancing. Like how they seem to want everything else to be serious and orderly. That's not my revolution, or my idea of socialism.