LO, FI etc

Philip Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Mar 9 20:03:27 MST 2002

Alex writes:
>The LCR had proposed that Arlette Laguiller should be the common candidate
>for the LCR and LO.  LO rejected this proposal and refused to even meet
>and discuss this.

Well, if this is true I'd be interested in hearing their reasons.

>Also, as someone who's primary sphere of activism has been the labor
>movement for the past four years, I wasn't attempting to impugn LO's work
>"in the class."  I just don't think the shop-floor is the sole, or even
>the primary terrain for contesting capital.
>Ortho-Trots can flail away, but I think C.L.R. James's ideas about the
>independent validity of black and women's struggles and Ernie Mandel's
>concept of the "new mass vanguard" are applicable to the situation of the
>new anti-capitalist mood taking shape amongst students and young people,
>and I think Marxists need to be there, front and center.  Saying this
>should be the primary orientation in this period in no way diminishes the
>importance of building a long-term base in the class.

I would've thought the gains made by LO through pain-staking work in the
working class, as compared to the stagnation of the currents who have taken
the road you recommend, should be cause for some critical reflection.  As a
veteran of the 'new social movements' era, I have certainly had a great
deal of cause for critical reflection.

>IMHO, Seattle had more of an impact on the organized working class in this
>country than a whole generation of leninist industrializers working on the
>shop floor, even the very fine and admirable (albeit with mixed results)
>work of the former International Socialists.

The problem here is the politics and forms of protest.

LO has been quite critical of core aspects of the anti-globalisation
movement, pointing to the strong influence of nationalism, protectionism
etc and the focus on symbols rather than the essence of capitalist

It seems to me that a lot of left groups have chased after this movement in
the hope of influence and easy recruits and at the risk of losing critical
faculties.  The Genoa events represented the pinnacle of this.

LO have made a choice - they have limited numbers and resources and choose
an implantation in the working class and long, slow, patient work there,
rather than the more glamorous activity of running round with the Black
Bloc and so on.

>Also, Alternative's suggestion that French workers would find it
>distasteful if LO embraced the new movement reminds me of the pernicious
>garbage promoted by people like Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin who flail
>away at social movements for not being part of the he-man working class.

Given that all three LO MEPS are she-woman working class, this doesn't make
much sense as a criticism of LO.  Your counterposition of the working class
to women doesn't make much sense either.  Aren't you in danger of merely
inverting a workerist position?

>Incidentally, the LCR's fraternal co-thinkers in Brazil, the Socialist
>Democracy current of the PT, occupy key positions in the government of Rio
>Grande do Sul, including the vice-governor and the mayor of Porto Alegre.
>USFI forces played a crucial role in getting the first two World Social
>Forums off the ground.

I hardly think that is something to make a song and dance about.  The way
the FI makes out that they are pushing anti-capitalist policies, when their
Brazilian adherents are really helping make austerity more palatable, has
been commenbted on by quite a wide range of far left opinion.

One of the interesting things about LO is that they have made progress
under their *own banners* and not through entryism.  And another is that
their own banners have been clearly deep red, and not some form of 'radical
democracy' which tries to draw people into the democratising of austerity
instead of militant class struggle against austerity.

>Given that, as well as the role of Bernard Cassens in founding ATTAC and
>Angela Klein's leadership of the Euromarches against unemployment in
>Germany, it makes sense that the USFI would put most of its eggs in the
>anti-capitalist movement basket.

Well, I'd also go with the LO critique of ATTAC.  It's desire to put a wee
financial tax on speculators hardly amounts to taking the class struggle
forward - or even pointing in the right direction, for that matter.  In NZ,
the same policy has been advanced for decades by Social Creditors (when
they aren't fretting about the International Jewish Conspiracy).

Where are the revolutionary politics, Alex?  What has happened to the FI,
which just seems more and more like a collection of organisations of
radical-democracy a la Laclau and Mouffe?


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