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France: LCR votes to launch a new party
THE REVOLUTIONARY Communist League (LCR) in France held its 17th congress on 24-27 January and agreed, with a large majority, to initiate a new, broad, anti-capitalist party. They plan for the new party to have a founding conference at the end of 2008, and for the LCR to then dissolve itself.
The congress assembled with the developing conflict between workers and the right-wing Sarkozy government all too evident, as 400,000 public-sector workers were out on strike as the congress began.
The prime minister, François Fillon, has said he wants to freeze public spending for five years and many other attacks are planned, including making it easier for bosses to lay off workers, bringing 'market competition' into schools and to currently protected professions, lengthening the working week and raising VAT.
The opposition Socialist Party is acquiescing to the Sarkozy-Fillon attacks, so a new left force is urgently needed. The LCR's candidate in last year's presidential election, Olivier Besancenot, received 4.08% of the vote, double that of the Communist candidate, the Greens and of Lutte Ouvrière (LO - workers' struggle). So he is now in the strong position of being seen as the main genuine left opposition leader in France.
This means that the LCR with its few thousand members has an influence way beyond its size. Besancenot receives extensive media coverage and his presence and support is much sought after by workers taking strike action.
The next electoral challenge is the first round of local elections on 9 March 2008, when the LCR hopes to stand up to 200 anti-capitalist lists. Wrongly, LO has refused to participate in these lists. Opportunities to take joint steps towards a new party have been lost in the past; such mistakes should not be repeated.
The LCR envisages the new party as being firmly anti-capitalist, completely independent of the Socialist Party and Communist party, with no compromises when workers' interests are at stake. As well as many demands on issues such as jobs, housing and services, they want it to have a far-reaching programme, for public ownership of the top companies and a democratically run economy.
Unfortunately there are no other national organisations (apart from Gauche Révolutionnaire - the French section of the Committee for a Workers' International) or split-offs from other parties, who are willing to enter into a new party at present. So its success will depend on attracting workers, youth, environmental activists, etc, who are presently not in a party, or are individual members of other parties.
Local public meetings advocating a new party have already been held in a number of areas. In Marseille, LCR launched an appeal letter for a new party and is collecting signatures, an initiative that will now be taken up elsewhere.
The new party's structure will be decided by the founding congress, but the LCR envisages it including the right of platforms/factions to expression inside the party and publicly, to leadership representation and to their own international affiliation.
Wrongly, the LCR has a structure that entrenches the existence of platforms - it is not even possible to be a congress delegate without being in a platform. If carried into the new party, this will be an obstacle to bringing in a fresh layer of workers and to healthy development of the party.
While accepting that it will not be affiliated, the LCR hopes that the new party will maintain links with the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), and they will argue for a new European anti-capitalist formation to replace the present non-advancing 'European anti-capitalist left'. A large public international rally to mark May 1968 is planned in Paris on 30 May.
The Socialist Party (England and Wales) sent a representative and a message of socialist greetings to the LCR congress, agreeing that a new workers' party in France with a fighting programme is urgently needed.