[Marxism] NPA Crisis: An Analysis from the French Left (Gauche Unitaire).
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 29 08:04:55 MDT 2012
Is there a Place for the NPA in this?
Introduction: The Nouveau Parti Anticaptialiste in Crisis.
Governments of the Right dominate Europe, while the left
fragments, David Miliband reminds us. Attempts to place public
services in private hands, the ‘market state’, have gone far in
many countries. In the United Kingdom this process is highly
developed. Begun under New Labour the latest wave of outsourcing,
accompanied by spending cuts, has met union and popular
opposition. Across the continent similar movements exist. But are
there signs of a robust political response to austerity – to
parallel social unrest? In the absence of a social democratic
challenge, splitnered between those who have adapted to the right
and those who maintain commitments welfare and public services,
the radical left is a potential vehicle of resistance and change.
France, a “political laboratory” shows some significant
indications of what this alternative might mean.
The Nouveau parti anticaptialiste (NPA) is one Europe’s larger
parties to the left of the social democratic Second International
and post-Communist formations. It was founded by the Ligue
Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), whose origins lie in the
open-minded Trotskyism of the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth
International (USFI) and the movements of May 1968.
Long largely confined to extra-parliamentary social activism in
2002 the LCR had a breakthrough into wider politics. Its
Presidential candidate, Olivier Bescancenot got 4,25% of the vote
in the first round. It beat the Communist – PCF – Robert Hue, who
had only 3,3%, and was not far behind the ‘eternal candidate’
Arlette Larguiller of the hermetic leftist Lutte Ouvrière, LO
(5.72%). In the legislative contests that followed the party got a
respectable 529,000 votes (209,000 more than in 2002). In 2007
prospects were even better. Besancenot became a media star, and
received 1,498, 581 votes, that is 4,08% (but with 287,019 more
ballots cast than in 2002). LO shrank to 1,33%%.
Besancenot, a young postal worker (born 1974), became a popular
figure with a broad audience. The LCR grew. Believing that a new
‘historical cycle’ had begun (a rebirth of the left after the
collapse of official Communism) the Ligue launched a call for a
new ‘anti-capitalist’ party in 2007. In 2008 they began the formal
process of transformation. Founded in January 2009 the Nouveau
parti anticapitaliste (NPA) seemed to be about to play an
important, even pivotal, role on the French left. It proclaimed
itself for a “socialism of the 21st century”. It would ally with
others, but only on an anti-capitalist and, stringently anti
Socialist Party (PS) basis. That it is, it backed a real “rupture”
with capitalism, and wanted to make a break with the
‘institutional mechanisms’ (as their theoretician Philippe Corcuff
put it) of the PS. Olivier Bescancenot considered that communism
and socialism needed to be enriched by “libertarian” ideas of
grass-roots power to free them from the “boa constrictor” of
professionalised “top-down” politics. (1)
The NPA therefore refused to contemplate electoral arrangements (a
“cartel”) with the former governing ‘social liberal’ (their words)
Socialists. It also implied (less directly) hostility to the other
parts of the left, notably the Communist Party, with its
remaining, diminished, bureaucratic apparatus and electoral fiefs.
This meant that during the European elections of May 2009, it
ignored calls to ally with the PCF and the left socialist Parti de
Gauche (PdG – a radical break-away from the Socialist Party). A
major objection to such an accord was the PCF and PdG were
prepared to make pacts with the PS to favour election under
France’s two-round system. The NPA decided to ‘go it alone’.
The LCR’s score, an average of 4,88% (and no seats in the European
Parliament), while the Front de Gauche passed the 5% hurdle and
won representation, indicated the limits of this stand.
Nevertheless the NPA had over 9,000 members. That is, less than a
hoped-for launch at 10,000 but a respectable figure (the more so
for their refusal to exaggerate numbers). Presence on the ground,
its respected tradition of working with others as equals, and a
vitality bolstered by the newness of their project, enabled the
party to maintain an impact.
But electoral failures continued. In 2010, for the regional
elections, the NPA partly went it alone, though in some regions
they made agreements with other left groups (a result of the
working practices just cited). The ballots confirmed a downward
trend, with an average of 3,40& (though with some successes where
alliances were made). The impression was created of uncertainty
(the NPA devolved responsibility), and of deflation of hopes. To
many it was a botched job.
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