Forwarded from Ted Crawford (LO)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jun 6 16:28:05 MDT 2001

LO Fête 2001 2, 3, 4 June

This was a curious Fete. Once again we had a cool Saturday with occasional
spots of rain a rather better Sunday and a glorious Monday when we had to
leave. We sold more than £400 worth of literature which is a lot more than
usual so from that point of view it was very successful but there were even
fewer political stalls than last year – about 30 in all of which 7 or 8
were publishing groups like us – including Pathfinder. (With some
difficulty I refrained from kicking their stall in – cowardice in the form
of fear of the terrifying LO "service d’ordre" held me back.)

The absence of the British could be put down to the fact that many of the
groups were campaigning hard for the Socialist Alliance in the general
election but there was little discussion of the election and the attitude
to take to it. Workers Fight (the LO people in the UK) gave a presentation
as did the Workers Liberty crowd, Martin Thomas was there, but most of the
English people on the political stalls turned out to be French residents
like the Tony Short among the Northites – there was a face from the past.
Socialist Appeal was there but manned by French people or French residents.
Workers Fight supports the Socialist Alliance candidates but not those of
the Scottish Socialist Party which they see as nationalist. The Spark
group, the LO friends in the United States are lovely people but strike me
as terribly narrow and isolated even if they sell excellent barbecued ribs
and guacomole.

Most of the foreign political stalls struck me as frankly either rather
eccentric little groups who are going nowhere fast (the Bordigists etc) or
single issue groups, based in France on local themes foreign ones such as
protesting at torture in Turkey. There were about 2 or 3 people on the SWP
stall but both "Socialisme par en bas".supported by the SWP, and its IST
rival "Gauche" were noticeable by their absence. Certainly I did not see
John Mullen and Colin Falconer. We met Jean Jacques Marie again but did not
see Louise Barta while Pierre Broué has had some quarrel with LO and did
not come. That is such a pity as neither CERMTRI nor the LO bookshop were
selling the Cahiers Leon Trotsky for which I would imagine there is a good
market. The Etincelle fraction of LO which still exists and has at least a
couple of stands at the Fete but I had no time to talk with them. There was
a big LCR stall to where again I failed to talk to anyone

We too had rather fewer people available to man our stall and I must say
that I got round much less this year even I sold more literature so the
thinness of this account might be put down to my personal perceptions. When
not manning the stall I had all my family present and spent a little time
with them They all enormously enjoyed it while Mary had last gone to an LO
Fete in 1974! (My girls camped in the LO site while we stayed at a hotel.)
I continued to wander about the Fete wearing the red baseball cap from the
year before last which said "Votez LO-LCR" Unlike last year I think people
just assumed eccentricity rather than thought I was making some obscure
political point.

It is surprising to me that there is not more involvement at the Fete. I
know there is a certain hostility to LO but despite statements to the
contrary like that of Phil Hearse that LO is "an organisation which even
nuclear war wouldn’t shake out of its factory bulletin routinism" I beg to
differ. It is difficult to change LO that is sure but change it will, even
if very slowly, and should not be dismissed and written off. Personally I
always think that when I have queries about their line their answers as far
as France goes are generally pretty persuasive but outside the "hexagone" I
think they are much less sure in their touch. Despite the enormous devotion
of their splendid cadres in the UK and the USA they have gained little in
either members or influence.

It is easy to meet them at the Fete. With the massive changes elsewhere on
the international Trotskyist scene I think comrades are missing the chance
of using the Fete in a productive way.

Ted Crawford

Louis Proyect
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