Following huge strikes and demonstrations on 29 January against the French government’s response to the recession, last week brought further indications of the potential of the developing movement in France.
While union leaders debate whether to call more action or wait for their meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy on 18 February, students have formed a national coordinating committee with university staff to fight the marketisation of higher education.
Meanwhile in Paris the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), whose candidate, Olivier Besancenot, won the highest radical left vote in the last presidential election, dissolved itself in order to take part in the formation of the Nouveau Parti Anti-Capitaliste (New Anti-Capitalist Party or NPA).
The NPA has grown out of combatitive struggles against the neoliberal offensive of the right and disaffection with the Socialist Party’s dire response.
In a few months the NPA has formed 460 local committees and attracted over 9,000 members.
Nearly 70 percent of these members took part in electing around 650 delegates to the NPA’s founding conference which took place last weekend.
International delegations from over 30 countries were also present.
The conference agreed a set of founding principles based on the need for a revolutionary break with capitalism and for both unity in struggle on the left and independence from reformist organisations.
Socialist Worker spoke to some of those present about the new party.
Alain, from the CGT trade union, has been politically active for the past 40 years. “This congress has been a big success,” he said.
“The fact that so many people have come together over the new party’s founding principles is magical, proof that the project can work. Our main task is to engage in all the different struggles and to help them converge.
“It’s also to educate the new activists and to give people a sense that their struggles can find a political expression that goes beyond elections.”
Leila had been involved in campaigns over fixed term contracts and housing in Paris.
“When the call for an anti-capitalist party was launched a year and a half ago it wasn’t my intention to get involved.
“But there was a frustration with fighting these different campaigns when we’re faced with an enemy that fights globally.
“The campaigns are linked together by the market so it was frustrating not to have a political organisation proposing an alternative to capitalism.”
The conference elected a national leadership committee reflecting the different political currents within the NPA.
For Aurélie, “There are still a lot of important issues that need to be addressed. The question of reformist or revolutionary party needs to be clarified, as well as the question of electoral alliances and, in the future, of internal party democracy.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm about the congress but people have also had to make compromises.
“So there’s a lot of expectation but also some pain because people are leaving their political homes.”
Adil has been a community activist in the Marseille area for the past 15 years. “I’ve always been a sympathiser of the LCR in the sense that I voted Besancenot in the elections.
“Then I found myself at 35 years of age with two children and I’d had enough of permanently remaking the world around a dinner table.
“I don’t know anything about Marx or Trotsky but I know that the more we get involved, the more we can bring public services back to the French population and serve as an example to the rest of the world.”
For Besancenot, “There’s a profound exasperation at the policies of this government.
“For the moment that has translated into a social opposition but there hasn’t been a political outcome to these struggles. This is what we’re trying to respond to.”
The seriousness of this conference – delegates took part in debates on around twenty different issues over three days – is an indication that NPA members are rooted in the movement and fully aware of what is at stake.
France now has a new anti-capitalist party which can help shape the fortunes of the radical left across the world.