[Marxism] NPA Crisis: An Analysis from the French Left (Gauche Unitaire).

Louis Proyect 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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