by Barry Weisleder
Anti-capitaliste et Revolution is a tendency within the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste (NPA) in France. The NPA encompasses supporters of the Fourth International (FI) in that country. The A&R tendency, which is the most active component of the NPA, stands for working class political independence and revolutionary party building. Together with other tendencies in the NPA, the A&R won a majority last year in favour of running a candidate in the 2017 presidential election in France. The A&R is now playing a leading role in opposition to the anti-labour and pro-austerity policies of the Emmanuel Macron government.
On June 24-25 in Paris, A&R hosted an educational conference to which SA Canada was invited. Elizabeth and I attended, along with Dan P. from SA-USA, members of IZAR from Spain, the PCL of Italy, and about 80 comrades of A&R from across France. The OKDE, the FI section in Greece, with which we’ve been working closely, could not attend.
A&R has about 160 members. Its central leader, Gael Quirante, expressed satisfaction with the conference in terms of political education and the integration of new members.
The main topics of the conference were as follows: 1. After the victory of Macron, the role of the “Social Front”, or How to Organize the fight back. 2. What’s at stake at the next convention of the NPA – the role of the A&R. 3. Debates inside the Fourth International, and a discussion of the text “Seize the time, build an International for revolution and communism.” 4. Lessons of the Russian Revolution. 5. The Bolshevik Party, and what it teaches us about the construction of a revolutionary party today.
The quality of the presentations that introduced each topic, and of the discussions involving rank and file members, was quite high. That reflects the level of class struggle, and of militant engagement in France and Europe.
Dissatisfaction with the traditional parties of the left, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, and those of the right wing, notably the Republicans, is huge. This contributed to the near collapse of those parties. Macron, who posed as a youthful “outsider”, downplaying the backing by big business he enjoys, was best able to take advantage of the situation in the run-off against the racist Front Nationale of Marie Le Pen. But there was a very high rate of abstention, up to 57% in the second round of the election held for the National Assembly. Macron, whose instant party now has a big majority in the Assembly, says he will proceed with legislation to weaken unions and to tear holes in the minimum wage law. Union federations, like the CGT, FO, CFDT and others promise to fight this offensive, but actually refrain from initiating mass action. However, pressure is growing from below. Just between June 2 and 7, there were 190 strikes. Compared to a year earlier, there is a big increase in strike activity, although precise data is elusive because the Ministry of Labour no longer issues statistics on strikes. It prefers to talk about instances of “social dialog.” Macron says he will put an end to industrial conflict, step up austerity measures, and rule by decree.
Enter a growing radical rank and file movement. It was initiated by 15 prominent militants, including Gael Quirante, the A&R leader and embattled postal worker who faces firing and jail for his persistent, creative and effective activism. In France, workers frequently occupy their job sites in protest. They even lock the boss in his office for hours or days, which sometimes gives rise to charges of kidnapping.
The Social Front, a mass, radical, grassroots movement, insisted during the presidential election that the struggle is in the streets, not just in the voting booth. It organized a big demo in Paris before the vote, and it mobilized thousands across France to step up the fight against austerity, in opposition to the extension of the state of emergency law (which makes it illegal to demonstrate without a permit), and against the attack on unions. The A&R comrades reckon that the Social Front addresses, through its publicity and actions, an audience of over 100,000 workers who are looking for an alternative to the left of the reformists, including the left social-democrat Jean-Luc Melenchon and the platform La France Insoumise (Unbowed France).
I spoke three times at the conference. I contributed to the discussion on issues inside the F.I., on Permanent Revolution, and on the class and national character of the Canadian state. Elizabeth presented SA Canada greetings to the gathering. Dan P. spoke too, as did comrades from Spain and Italy. French comrades translated proceedings into our languages, and vice-versa. The conference ended on a cheerful note. A collective photo is posted with this report.
Following adjournment, leaders of A&R, IZAR, SA Canada and SA-USA met to evaluate the gathering and to consider plans for the future. Those include a November conference in Paris where our international tendency will be formally launched. Under consideration is the possibility of an international campaign, to advance the interests of the working class, and to unite our different organizations in practice. Ideas for global action include: Defend Venezuela against right wing coup; Support the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails fighting for freedom; Stop anti-labour laws; and End police brutality and killings.