Lutte Ouvrière stays away

European Social Forum: Lutte Ouvrière’s boycott is very much to be regretted

Comrades from the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire were present in large numbers at the ESF. Enthusiastic participants in the anti-globalisation (or ‘altermondialist’) ‘movement’, they sponsored their own workshops, intervened in the seminars and plenaries, and of course provided two of the leading figures on the French mobilising committee in the shape of Pierre Khalfa and Sophie Zafari. In addition the LCR comrades produced a free eight-page daily supplement to their weekly paper, Rouge, for each of the three days of the ESF proper.

Quite a contrast with their coalition partners for next year’s European and regional elections in France, Lutte Ouvrière. LO did not even send along paper-sellers to any of the ESF venues and if their comrades were present on the magnificent demonstration on Saturday November 15 this writer did not see them. The “notable absence of Lutte Ouvrière”, not only from the ESF, but from the anti-globalisation milieu itself, was remarked upon by the LCR - especially in the context of the mutually cooperative and comradely noises coming from both organisations (Rouge Quotidien November 14).

The ultra-economistic LO campaigns almost exclusively on trade union-type questions of pay, redundancies, pensions and workplace control and dismisses the social forum movement. True, “Many participants, no doubt in all sincerity, are shocked by economic disorder, the increase in poverty, redundancies, famine in poor countries and the degradation of the environment” (Lutte Ouvrière November 14). However, at best, they hold to the “noble dream” of an illusory, humanised capitalism; and, at worst, ‘altermondialism’ is a “prisoner of protectionism”. Besides, says Lutte Ouvrière, there is nothing new about globalisation - capitalism has always had the tendency to expand into a single, global system.

Agreed, replies the LCR, but we are now witnessing a “new phase” - the “commercialisation of everything across the planet” - and that is what is provoking the internationalised resistance (Rouge Quotidien November 14). What is more, the protectionist tendencies promoted by the Attac majority, most notably its honorary president Bernard Cassen, are not shared by most of the thousands who flock to the ESF.

The main point, of course, is that it is the duty of communists to fight for all the oppressed and to side with those who want to oppose the horrors of capitalism - not stand on the sidelines bemoaning the fact that they have not yet identified socialism as the answer or the working class as the emancipatory agent. LO has noted the attempts by establishment figures, claiming to ‘understand’ and ‘empathise with’ the ESF sentiment, to incorporate the social forum movement. But the comrades fail to grasp the simple truth that bourgeois politicians will certainly find it easier to neutralise the ESF if communists give them a free run.

However, there are signs of a new readiness to admit its mistakes on the part of Lutte Ouvrière - at least when it comes to its previous sectarian attitude towards concluding an electoral arrangement with the LCR. It was “wrong not to do so before the 2002 presidentials,” concedes LO, welcoming the decision of the recent LCR conference to back the draft agreement for the 2004 elections (Lutte Ouvrière November 7).

The LO membership must now ratify the deal at next month’s conference of the organisation.

While LO regrets the LCR conference decision to drop the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ from the league’s vocabulary, it realises that - especially in view of the changes in electoral law, introducing a second round for regional elections with a 10% threshold - it is essential for the left to stand together. Moreover, it is the “responsibility of both organisations to explore the possibility of common interventions in other spheres too” (ibid). Hopefully this new-found spirit can be extended to include other groups. In an encouraging development, the revolutionary Gauche Communiste faction of the ‘official’ Parti Communiste Français has asked to be included in the electoral alliance.

While it is still early days, the privately expressed hopes of the PCF leadership that the LO-LCR agreement will founder on the rocks of ‘altermondialism’ look to be misplaced. Like the LCR, the PCF was present at the ESF in force - aiming to channel the rebellious sentiment back into the mainstream, reformist left.

Another reason why Lutte Ouvrière’s boycott is very much to be regretted.