The annual fete organised by the French revolutionary socialist group Lutte Ouvriere in grounds in a village near Paris drew large crowds again this year on 7-9 June.
LO has organised this fete at the Whit holiday weekend, first at Meriel and then at Presles, and it draws between 20,000 and 30,000 people each year.
LO offers other revolutionary socialist groups the facility to run stalls and forums at the fete. Workers' Liberty ran a stall and a forum this year, as we (or our forerunners) have done almost every year since the early 70s.
The fete included many food and drink stalls, children's games, music, bookstalls, cinemas, and large exhibitions both on historical and political questions, like World War One, and on scientific issues.
As in most years, a highlight of the political schedule was a debate between LO and the NPA, the other major revolutionary socialist group in France, on perspectives and tactics. The readiness of LO and the NPA to conduct these debates contrasts favourably with a pattern on the British revolutionary socialist left of each group pursuing its own schemes and tactics and rarely debating others.
Being in the open air, the fete is vulnerable to rain. This year the weather was mostly sunny until the Sunday evening, 8 June, and then, very suddenly, a series of hail storms followed, with rain and sometimes high winds. Unprecedentedly, the camping areas adjoining the fete had to be evacuated in the middle of Sunday-Monday night. The ability of the organisers to manage that evacuation calmly and efficiently is a tribute to their skill and dedication.
The turnout was around 20,000 people. Workers’ Liberty/Marxist Revival organised a stall at the event, as did many other groups from the European and worldwide left such as OKDE (Organization of Internationalist Communists of Greece), the International Bolshevik Tendency and many others.
As well as having fun stalls with games, music, food and books, debates were had out in the open between different groups on the left about issues as diverse as the threat of the Front National and how socialists should organise in France. In a manner that would be unusual to come across in Britain, French socialists from different groups such as the NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) debated and discussed ideas and strategy with others. Socialists must debate ideas as much as possible if they want to be influential in the wider movement and it would be good to take the open discussions at Fete de Lutte Ouvrière as a model.
The British left has a lot to learn from its French counterpart.
Workers’ Liberty used the Fete to argue for more discussion between Marxist revolutionaries and in particular highlighted how, with the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist Tendency, we produce the quarterly journal Marxist Revival, as a way to debate differences amongst socialist groups.
International solidarity was emphasised and links with the French group L’Etincelle (a fraction in the NPA) and the Greek group OKDE were strengthened, with plans to send delegations to each of the groups’ summer camps.
The sunny fields of Presles were the perfect place to continue the tradition developed by Marxists, of debating ideas in an open environment and Workers’ Liberty hopes to continue this custom in years to come.