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A Party of Movements

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| Categories: France, Statements

On the New Anticapitalist Party in France
At the beginning of February, a new party was founded in St. Dénis, a suburb of Paris, whose aim it is to unite the French Left and to initiate a new era of class struggles in France: the „Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste“, the New Anticapitalist Party. As of yet, it is not clear what role the NPA will play in France in the future because its political basis is as broad as its name suggests.

Formation and structure
The project of a „new anticapitalist party“ originated after the French presidential elections in May 2007. The presidential candidate of the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire(LCR), Olivier Besancenot, received 1.5 million votes. (According to some polls, the young, charismatic mailman is more popular than the French president Sarkozy!) Subsequently, the LCR called for the formation of a new anticapitalist party. In September of the same year, „Committees for a New Party“ emerged all over France which were supposed to establish local structures and work towards the creation of a new party. Officially, about 300 committees with 9-10000 members were formed, 50 of which were youth committees.

The LCR (and its youth organization JCR), the largest single organization within the NPA with about 3,000 members, dissolved itself prior to the NPA’s founding conference. They gave up their openly Trotskyist image: the NPA as their new organization does not base itself on Trotskyism but instead tries to combine the „best ideas“ from different socialist, communist and anarchist traditions. Olivier Besancenot for instance doesn’t see himself in the tradition of Trotsky, but rather in that of Che Guevara – even though it’s unclear what exactly the French radical left can learn from the Guevarist concept of the guerrilla.

Different currents of the French radical left were present at the conference. Their orientations differed so much that they couldn’t even find an alternative to the name NPA, which was only supposed to be a working title. The NPA wants to distance itself from supposedly „outdated“ concepts in order to speak to a new generation and create a „Socialism of the 21st Century“.

Since most of the NPA’s members were never politically organized before, it can only be seen as a success that the LCR was able to broaden its influence enormously with this project. But the price they had to pay is that the LCR – which has been veering away from its Marxist heritage for decades in order to better adapt to each new movement – is drifting more and more towards the right.

Political Program
The NPA’s founding principles were adopted by a large majority at the conference (540 of 590 delegates). Given the enormous variety of currents present, it is not a big surprise that the program is very vague in certain aspects.

On the one hand, the program says clearly that capitalism is responsible for the threefold crisis (economic, social, ecologic) that the world is in, and only an environmentally responsible socialism can overcome this crisis. It rejects private property of the means of production, demands the self-organization of production according to a democratic plan and it constantly refers to the working class. What is missing, on the other hand, is an explicit strategy of how these aims are to be achieved. This is because the different currents within the NPA are in complete disagreement about the strategy and tactics necessary to overcome capitalism. One example of this is the debate about the aim of the NPA: socialism, eco-socialism or something else entirely? As mentioned earlier, the majority decided on „Socialism of the 21st Century“. In any case, this is an unfortunate choice because the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has already proclaimed a „Socialism of the 21st Century“. Even though the NPA’s structure hints that its goal is different from the „Socialism with Businessmen“ of the „Bolivarian Revolution“ in Venezuela, it is problematic from a revolutionary point of view not to distinguish oneself clearly from this.

Another example that weighs more heavily is that no clear position could be developed on the question of governments: right now, the NPA rejects a coalition with the social-democratic PS (including in the elections to the European parliament), but there are also right-wing forces within the NPA (as earlier in the LCR) who don’t want to rule out coalitions with all diffusely left-wing parties in France. However, for revolutionaries it has to be clear that they should not participate in any kind of bourgeois government (and not only reject governments carrying out social cuts, as the NPA does now). Instead, they should fight for a government of the working class that is based on a system of workers’ councils. In summary, it is entirely open which way the NPA wants to fulfil its aims.

At this point in time, the NPA is not revolutionary in the sense of having a clear concept of how the working class has to lead the struggle for socialism. But French revolutionaries can fight within the NPA for a clearer orientation.

Whether the NPA will develop into a successful model for the French radical left or not can’t be evaluated conclusively yet. The potential for such a development exists due to the acute situation of the class struggle in France (this year has already seen two general strikes). However, right now the NPA is more a party of the various social movements than a party with a revolutionary program. This can be its strength if the revolutionaries in the NPA are able to use the organizational broadness of the party to propagate revolutionary ideas. But this can also be its weakness if the NPA adapts to the political mainstream because of its programmatic ambiguities.

by Stefan, Revo FU Berlin

4 Responses to “A Party of Movements”

  1. Gerry Downing Says:

    Well, this is a more leftist assessment than WP (Britain). Dave Stockton say the LCP took a “sharp turn to the left” when they founded the LCR and Luke Cooper thinks that the NPA has a programme for the “overthrow of capitalism”, clearly wrong. You say that “At this point in time,the NPA is not revolutionary in the sense of having a clear concept of how the working class has to lead the struggle for socialism”. If they do do not have that they are not revolutionaries at all, and being led by those coming from the LCR tradition who did have some centrist concepts of how to do this but abandoned them then it is very unlikely they will readopt them, Bensaid denounces Trotskyism. If “French revolutionaries can fight within the NPA for a clearer orientation” then they will have to defeat this right moving current who have never renounced the vote for Chirac against Le Pen in 2002. We have an extended analysis of the NPA and WP attitude to it in our next journal which we can send you in PDF if you email

  2. Gerry Downing Says:

    Sorry email should be

  3. wladek Says:

    I don’t understand how WP ended up with such a euphoric assessment of the NPA – after twenty or thirty years of attacking the LCR’s opportunism. How can officially abandoning Trotskyism be a “sharp” or any other kind of turn to the left? I guess WP is a student group and students are easily excitable.

    What is your opinion of the work of groups like the LO Faction and the CLAIRE Tendency in the NPA?

  4. Gerry Downing Says:

    I think they re very youth vangardist, they are hoping up their youth and have decided to send some into the NPA from Britain. But that group must be left-moving to justify that so they have to come up with a rational on why it is left moving, to the amusement of the rest of the left.

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