New Anti-capitalist Party tries to channel worker discontent with the unions

By Anthony Torres and Alex Lantier

The impotence of the demonstrations
organized by the trade unions last spring
against government policy, and
the defeat of the strikes against
plant closures as a result of
the financial crisis, have provoked
a wave of mass opposition to
the trade unions and
political parties in France.
Inside the New Anti-capitalist Party
(NPA), whose leadership refuses
to make any criticism of the CGT
(General Confederation of Labour,
France's largest union, close
to the Communist Party),
some minority factions are attempting
to channel this discontent.
This is the case with the Prometheus
Collective and the Clear Tendency,
connected with the Argentinean PTS
(Socialist Workers Party).

Their position, which reflects above all

the NPA's support for the unions,

is distinguished by its lack of political

perspective and its basic incoherence.

Obsessed by the organisation of trade

union demonstrations, they paradoxically

propose repeating the same type

of initiative that they criticised in the first place.

In its statement "Priority to a fighting

programme of unity," the Prometheus group

criticises the trade unions' January 29

and March 15 days of action: "The 'policy

of unity' of the eight confederations

and their January 5 platform of demands,

after the UMP's symbolic victory

in the European elections, opened wide

the doors for the policies of

the government and the capitalist class."

It adds, "The working class and the youth,

faced with an offensive by

the capitalist class, went into this period

with weak, dispersed organisations

for the most part intending

to collaborate with the president."

This is a reference to the fact that

the unions organised days of action

at long intervals against President

Nicolas Sarkozy's policies, after having

consulted with him and his representatives

on what policy they were going to adopt

in many tripartite meetings and negotiations.

This enabled the unions to sap

the resistance of the workers

in struggle against austerity policies

and the bank rescue packages,

while claiming to be mobilising their forces.

The studied silence kept by the "left" parties

such as the NPA played a central role

in this anti-working class masquerade.

In its September 2009 issue, which contains

a large number of criticisms

of the leadership of the CGT

by union representatives, Clear Tendency

denounces "the abandonment and

treacherous line of the trade unions."

It continues, stating that the union leaderships

"boycotted the demonstration called by

the New Fabris workers July 31

at Châtellerault and refused to support

workers being prosecuted in the courts."

Clear Tendency also criticises

the tribute in the July 30 Nouvel Observateur

paid by NPA leader Alan Krivine

to Maurice Grimaud, the former Paris police chief

during the 1968 strikes. Krivine presented him

as "a good bloke" and "a left republican."

Clear Tendency commented, "

It is more than worrying that Alain Krivine

should strike the pose, like Cohn-Bendit,

of the veteran fighter who knew where

to draw the line. To assert that 'we knew

how far we should not go,' that is to give

the idea that we were the sort of

'reasonable' people that Grimaud could

count on to contain the movement."

Indeed, this is precisely the message

Krivine sends with his praise

for the police: the leadership of the NPA

is on the side of law and order.

These articles, coming from within the NPA,

amount to a devastating admission

about the political orientation of the party.

Struggles have been betrayed, organised

with no perspective of being won,

and workers have been left on their own,

confronted with trade union and political

organisations that were hostile to them.

The old conceptions, advanced by the media,

according to which the CGT is "militant"

and the NPA "revolutionary," were lies

in the service of the bourgeoisie.

On what basis, then, do Prometheus

and Clear Tendency want to construct

a new programme for the workers?

The Prometheus Collective proposes

the creation of "unitary committees" involving

all the organisations—political parties,

trade unions, associations. It proposes

to recycle an old slogan of the NPA

and its predecessor, the Ligue communiste

révolutionnaire (LCR)—"make sackings illegal."

The slogan for "the banning of sackings"

immediately rings false.

No perspective is developed to give

an orientation to workers in a revolutionary

struggle that could impose such

a fundamental constraint on the privileges

of the bourgeoisie and

the prerogatives of the state.

To propose such an initiative in "unitary"

committees, bringing together bourgeois

state parties such as the French

Communist Party (PCF) and the Left Party (PG),

and even the Socialist Party (PS),

is ludicrous.

Prometheus calls for "unitary collectives

for the illegalisation of sacking (collectives

which must decide on everything,

slogans, documents, material,

the dates of meetings and demonstrations)

and the organisation of a national

demonstration (this to be decided

on collectively)." So, having started off

criticising the political impotence

of trade union days of action,

Prometheus ends up proposing yet another.

As for Clear Tendency, it too proposes

a "national demonstration against sackings,"

pointing out that the NPA leadership

had defended this demand "

in the first quarter." The main proposal

of Clear Tendency is to put forward

the setting up of "an inter-union tendency."

This "should assemble class struggle teams

beyond the different political affiliations"—that is,

representing all the parties.

We glimpse a party impatient with its

own opportunism, which is caught up

in its incoherence—proposing to continue

with trade union pseudo-protests while

at the same time denouncing the effects

of this policy in order to cover

the left flank of the party from the workers.

Workers find themselves in a difficult

political situation, betrayed by the whole

mechanism of the trade unions

and the political parties that have

dominated 20th Century French politics.

What is indispensable for the workers

is the building of a new mass revolutionary

party resolutely hostile to the trade unions

and existing parties, which can give

a perspective to workers in a global

struggle for power.

The struggle for Trotskyism, that is,

for the continuity of the Marxists' revolutionary

struggles, is the essential element

of all working class politics.

Born last February with the call to put

Trotskyism "behind it," which it characterised

as "old-fashioned," the NPA can neither

transform itself into a revolutionary party

nor build one. Even the critics of

the NPA leadership merely propose more

one-off demonstrations, which are

fundamentally in line with the official strategy

of the government: the boosting of

the economy through enormous transfers

of taxpayers' money to the banks and big business.

Prometheus and Clear Tendency's lack

of critical independence in relation

to bourgeois public opinion stands out

in their treatment of the Iranian crisis

after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

in June 2009.

The defeated candidate, Mirhossein Mousavi,

mobilised the urban middle class in

demonstrations with the backing

of the clerical elite, including Akbar

Hashemi Rafsanjani.

They wanted to carry out a policy

of liberalisation of the economy and

opening it up to US and EU imperialism,

which is at present occupying

two of Iran's neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The NPA calls Mousavi "a democrat,"

as does French diplomacy, and claims

that the protest movements are made up

of workers aspiring to democracy.

On this issue, there is no real difference

between the analysis of Prometheus

and Clear Tendency and that of

the NPA and French imperialism.

In a June 24 article, Prometheus condemns

without proof the election

of Ahmadinejad: "The Iranian people go

into the streets to say 'no' to the results,

rigged by the Ahmadinejad clique,

and for its vote to be respected; that is

for respect for democracy,

which is incompatible with the dictatorship."

Prometheus describes Mousavi's movement

thus: "A powerful wave which comes

from afar, a whole people on the streets,

a government which cannot dominate

as before, there we have the ingredients

of a revolution that is beginning."

The fact that this would be "a revolution"

aiming to impose an imperialist yoke

on the Iranian people, surrounded on

all sides by NATO armies,

seems to escape Prometheus.

In its June issue, Clear Tendency even

explains that the pro-Mousavi

movement was "favourable to an

economic opening-up and to the

'normalisation' of relations with

imperialism so as to develop

its own businesses." However, Clear Tendency

proposes that the workers should

participate in this movement,

hoping eventually to spark off

a "self-organisation process" in their workplaces.

As if Total or ExxonMobil, having pillaged

Iraq's oil, would have agreed to share

Iran's resources with the Iranian workers

once Mousavi had negotiated his deals

with the West's governments and corporations!

The Iranian context clearly exposes

the reactionary content of the attempts

to mobilise workers in demonstrations

without perspectives and behind

whatever organisations.

Having helped Sarkozy's reactionary

reforms in France, the effect of the politics

of Prometheus and Clear Tendency in Iran

would be an even more blatant

capitulation to the interests of imperialism.

Whatever vocabulary—tinged with

Marxist phraseology—is utilised,

these "revolutionaries" are hanging

onto the coattails of the CGT,

the Elysée and the Quai d'Orsay.

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