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Divisions between revolutionary socialists in France

Is a "broad party" approach still viable?

21 June 2021

Many political currents who hear news of a Trotskyist split react with laughter and derision.  For some reason the far larger divisions in Communist parties and Irish Republican groups don't provoke the same reaction.  It is often the case that the Marxist groups hold serious discussions about the overall direction of class struggle and how socialists should respond that are simply dismissed by many activists without thought.  Our account below of the recent division in France boils down to simple issues that apply in many forums across the globe. Should socialists ally with the reformist Insoumise group in elections? What should they do if the choice reduces to the fascist Le Pen or the imperialist Macron?  A similar question applies in Ireland. Should socialists support a "left'' Sinn Fein government? What if it is not so left and includes members of the other bourgeois parties?

Our report follows:

Recently Socialist Democracy has received letters from the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USEC)

the Revolutionary Communist Current (CCR) current in the New Anti Capitalist party in France (NPA)
The Terminal Crisis of the NPA - Left Voice

and from a longstanding activist Rob Lyons
“Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win”: An Open Letter to the Comrades of AyR and L’Étincelle, and to the Members of the Tendency for a Revolutionary International (TRI) – Left Voice

Rob Lyons is calling for us to take a stand in an internal dispute that has led to a split. The CCR grouping claim that they have been expelled, while the NPA leadership and USEC generally claim that they left of their own accord. The other left factions, including Anticapitalism and Revolution appear to agree that the comrades were not expelled and that they could have continued to work with the other groups to oppose the leadership

We are not familiar with the details of the dispute. The argument centres on electoral tactics and the programme and strategy that would lead to building self-organisation in the working class are not entirely clear to outsiders.

A big part of the discussion is standing an NPA candidate and the possibility of voting for the social democrat Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with the suggestion that electoral arithmetic will lead to a second-round battle between the far right Le Pen and the imperialist Macron and subsequent pressure on the left to hold their nose and vote for Macron. This happened in the US when supporters of Bernie Sanders went on to support Joe Biden.

What we can say is that the policies of the minority leadership of the NPA, generally reflective of the direction of travel of the international leadership of the Fourth International, are well understood and appear constantly to pull the group to the right. The revolutionary groups should unite to oppose that tendency. They should oppose the separation of the CCR, should take seriously the claims of the crisis in the NPA and should support and participate in a broad open discussion about revolutionary perspectives.

Our own perspective is that we participated in a Paris conference in 2016 that led to a linkage with Anticapitalism and Revolution and other currents in the Fourth International and the formation of an international tendency with the Fourth International and the adoption of a programme:

"Let’s seize the opportunities, and build an international for revolution and communism"

Since then, there has been a significant shift to the right in the Fourth International.  Activists and groups associated with it in the US advanced the theory of the lesser evil to quietly support the election of Joe Biden. A long-standing perspective of broad parties based loosely on working class organisations has been replaced with a formulation of anti-system groups bringing together rainbow coalitions.

The Fourth International - Tendency for a Revolutionary International, represented in France by AyR, appears to have failed to meet the promise of its formation.  Socialist Democracy seems to have been secretly expelled without notice and were excluded from an international meeting in advance of the 2021 International Executive Committee.

When the IEC took place and the new formulation was put forward a counter resolution by the US group was not supported by the other organisations in the tendency.  A resolution from Nordic FI sympathisers, also supporters of the tendency declaration, was not supported either.  The French AyR and other groups did not appear to put forward a counterposition and the initial programme agreed in 2016.

We hoped to see an effective international tendency to oppose the flight to the right by the USEC majority, but see no evidence that this is developing. We agree with elements of the broad global analysis put forward by Left Voice, the international journal of the CCR tendency, but we do not believe that a new international can be constructed simply through recruitment to themselves.

Above all there needs to be discussion among socialists about learning from past mistakes. Until recently there was a great deal of enthusiasm for Podemos in Spain, until it joined the government and then collapsed. There is no post mortem, just as no-one looks back at Syriza in Greece and other failed electoral formations. In Ireland the latest flavour is enthusiasm for a "left" Sinn Fein government, ignoring that party's presence in a capitalist and pro-imperialist administration in the North of Ireland.

There are no instant remedies to the weakness of the revolutionary left in the face of growing reaction. However, if we end the constant flight to the right, a route where no one looks back at a battlefield strewn with the corpses of past failed projects, we will be able to clearly understand those failures and draw the necessary lessons. What remedies that do exist involve an uncompromising struggle for a new revolutionary leadership and the political independence of the working class. That struggle has been playing out within the NPA and an appeal has been made to the broader left to take a position. In order to clarify their positions we must allow all tendencies to speak for themselves, to present their programme, their strategy and to discuss their tactics. We are happy to publish all, to encourage study and debate and in light of that to take a fully informed position on this important issue.

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