AWL ran a stall at the annual fete of the French revolutionary socialist group Lutte Ouvriere on 22-24 May.
This event, drawing about 20,000 people each year to an open-air site near Paris, is one of the biggest events of the French left. This year it also benefited from unbroken sunshine.
It is a gathering of the international left: LO provides a stall free to any revolutionary socialist group willing to run one, though the number of such groups with sufficient energy to turn up has dwindled sadly in recent years.
This year, for example, AWL people were able to meet and discuss with activists from the Greek group OKDE at the fete.
A regular feature of the fete is a debate on perspectives between Lutte Ouvriere and another main organisation of the French revolutionary left, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste [New Anti-Capitalist Party] or, previously, with the LCR, now dissolved into the NPA.
This year the NPA was on the defensive. After its formation last year, it rapidly recruited new members, and its main spokesperson, Olivier Besancenot, scored very highly in opinion polls.
A poor showing in France's regional elections in April deflated it. “We fooled ourselves by saying that we were the only ones fighting Sarkozy, and forgot how to act politically”, said NPA leader Pierre-François Grond.
A few members have quit, and the organisation is heavily divided in the run-up to a congress in November.
The speakers from Lutte Ouvriere stuck to a simple line - the need for revolutionaries to be bold about their adherence to communist ideals, and not to play hide-and-seek - but scored some telling points.
Yvan Lemaitre, speaking for the NPA, and possibly chosen by the NPA for the job because he represents the wing of the NPA least vulnerable to LO's criticisms, could reply that "communism" means many different things to different people, and that revolutionaries need to consider bolder tactics than just one-by-one recruitment.
However, the LO speakers insisted:
- Revolutionary politics must be based on a positive programme, not just on an aggregation of people fighting against the status quo.
- In particular, to support Hezbollah and Hamas, as NPA has done in some articles, is shameful.
- "Anti-capitalist" means almost nothing as a positive political description.
- Too often, moreover, the NPA aims its complaints at the IMF or the European Union, rather than at the root, at capitalism.
- NPA focuses too much on pressing the rump French Communist Party and the Left Party (a splinter from the Socialist Party now allied with the CP) not to collaborate with the Socialist Party. But those groups are just as reformist as the SP.
Despite difficulties - and who ever thought that revolutionary organisations could be built without difficulties? - the NPA is still lively, with an open democracy. Let us hope its discussions can take on board the points made by LO.