The "L'Etincelle" faction of Lutte Ouvriere has been expelled by LO, and will continue to work with the LCR on the project of a new united anti-capitalist party in France.
The minority faction emerged in the early 1990s out of a debate in LO on Russia after the fall of the old "Communist Party" regime. The minority said that Russia was becoming plainly capitalist. The majority - which had long had the view that the USSR was a "degenerated workers' state", though the other Stalinist states were "bourgeois states" - said not. It is not entirely clear what the majority says Russia is now - it has gradually stopped using the term "workers' state", however qualified - but it still refuses to call it straightforwardly capitalist.
As the factions separated, other differences emerged; the minority argued for a more vigorous united-front approach towards the French labour movement, especially to the Communist Party, and for a greater openness to revolutionary left unity, especially with the LCR.
For several years the faction had a regular column in the weekly paper Lutte Ouvriere, and a regular allocation of pages in LO's magazine Lutte de Classe; in day-to-day activity, however, it was pretty much walled off from the rest of the LO membership, and many of its active supporters were unable to gain formal membership in LO.
The faction was "suspended" earlier this year, and has now been formally expelled. The faction has issued the following statement:
After having suspended the "L'Etincelle" faction [some months ago], Arlette Laguiller's party has expelled the faction on Sunday 21 September, at a special national conference called for the purpose just two months before the regular annual congress, in December, which was due to debate the suspension and the political direction of the organisation.
Apparently the leadership of Lutte Ouvriere could tolerate neither criticism on its policy of support for the "union of the left" and for the Socialist Party at the last municipal election, nor debate on the balance sheet of this disastrous policy: on the one hand, LO did not at all get the number of elected councillors which it hoped for from the little space granted to it on Socialist Party, Communist Party, or SP/CP lists in return for its support for programmes and policies which were not its own; on the other, this opportunist policy has sullied, for a number of LO supporters and other workers, the image of firmness and principle which it had rightly gained from its previous policy.
The reasons adduced for the expulsion of the faction are either crude pretexts (charging the faction with an alliance it made with the LCR for the municipal elections in Agen, when the LO majority found itself in other cities on lists with the self-same LCR; or with having refused, at Wattrelos, to have outgoing LO municipal councillors, close to the faction, taken out of the election for not having accepted the new electoral alliance with the Socialist Party); or expressions of the introversion and political standoffishness of LO these days (charging the faction with having tried to explore, with other currents of the far left, the possibilities of building a new anti-capitalist party, as proposed by Olivier Besancenot).
The expulsion obviously changes neither the activity nor the politics nor the fundamental orientation of the "L'Etincelle" faction of LO, which fights for the building of a revolutionary communist proletarian party, the implantation of the Trotskyist current in the working class, and the development of a united workers' mobilisation, which is necessary in order to oppose the redoubled attacks of the bosses and of the government against the working class and the populace.
22 September 2008
This is LO's statement on the expulsion (in French):
Réunis en conférence nationale, le 21 septembre 2008, pour examiner les relations entre la majorité de Lutte Ouvrière et la fraction L’Étincelle, les militants ont voté à une majorité de 97,3 % la motion suivante :
"Le constat qui s’impose est que la Fraction L’Étincelle s’est, depuis sa création, de plus en plus éloignée de la majorité de Lutte Ouvrière, au point de constituer aujourd’hui une organisation complètement indépendante et autonome n’ayant plus aucun lien politique avec Lutte Ouvrière.
Pendant toutes ces années, elle n’a pour ainsi dire jamais accepté de soumettre ses projets, non seulement à une discussion véritable, mais à un vote pouvant décider d’une attitude commune. Elle a toujours confondu « informer » les instances de Lutte Ouvrière avec débattre et décider en commun.
En dernier lieu, avant les élections municipales, elle a décidé unilatéralement de soutenir et de participer à des listes de la LCR et surtout de soutenir, à Wattrelos, des dissidents n’ayant plus rien à voir avec Lutte Ouvrière. C’est son refus affirmé de respecter la décision prise par la majorité qui a amené celle-ci à la suspendre jusqu’à ce qu’une décision statutaire puisse être prise à leur propos.
A cela s’est ajoutée leur participation à la construction d’un NPA, ce qui les place non seulement en dehors mais très loin de Lutte Ouvrière.
L’existence d’une fraction faisant partie de Lutte Ouvrière est donc une fiction depuis déjà longtemps, et il est temps d’entériner cet état de choses."
Ce vote décide en conséquence la fin de toute relation entre Lutte Ouvrière et le groupe nommé jusqu’à présent Fraction Lutte Ouvrière - L’Étincelle.
The LO statement says, "la Fraction L’Étincelle s’est, depuis sa création, de plus en plus éloignée de la majorité de Lutte Ouvrière" - "the l'Etincelle faction has, since its creation, distanced itself more and more from the majority of LO" - but in reality, I think that, rather than Etincelle having evolving away from LO's politics, Etincelle has defended more or less a steady position while LO has degenerated further and further into a 'siege mentality'. LO's position since 1995 of declaring that French workers are in the middle of a 'profound downturn' and therefore nothing can be done in terms of creating a new party is eerily similar to the SWP's 1984 decision that because of The Downturn, the miners' strike was doomed to defeat from the start... Looks like democratic left groups make better strategic decisions.
I guess the question now is what attitude Etincelle will take to the NPA.