Wanted - an anti-capitalist transitional programme

In the light of the electoral agreement struck between Lutte Ouvrière and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, Emile Fabrol of Gauche Communiste (a revolutionary faction within the Parti Communiste Franà§ais) examines the possibilities for left unity in France following the mass strikes of May-June 2003

When one looks at the political situation in France, the weakness of the Raffarin government quickly becomes apparent.

True, in the spring, despite a powerful mass strike, the government was able to push through its counter-reform of the pension system. Now workers are facing a new wave of redundancies, and the second phase of public service decentralisation - preparing the way for privatisation - is about to be launched. While the pluralist left (Parti Socialiste, Parti Communiste Français, Greens, etc) has still to put its defeat in the first round of the presidential elections of April 21 2002 behind it, the government, backed by a solid rightwing majority, gives the impression of strength.

But this is just how things appear. With students beginning to take action against the European harmonisation of qualifications and the move towards university autonomy, the press learns from ministers that these controversial proposals are to be deferred. Fear of the working class leads the French bourgeoisie to question the wisdom of seeking the ratification of the European constitution in a referendum.

While they are hardly an accurate indication of class-consciousness, recent opinion polls show that two thirds of the population are opposed to Raffarin’s policies. This is a clear sign, after the mass strikes of May-June, of working class radicalisation, of the emerging anti-capitalist current that is breaking with reformism.

Confirmation of this phenomenon can be found in the virtual absence of the pluralist left parties during the spring struggles, and especially in the militant participation of youth in particular at the European Social Forum (in spite of the organisers’ attempts to hold back the ESF politically and organisationally - not least by its splintering into four separate venues, so as to reduce the expression of this fighting spirit to a bare minimum).

This situation brings with it an important observation. There is nothing mechanical in the class struggle: the present radicalisation will not automatically lead to the storming of the Winter Palace. Classical reformism, defeated on April 21 2002, could well resurface in a more alluring, modern form, speaking the language of anti-neoliberalism. One of its main champions is none other than Jacques Nikonoff, president of Attac.

Communists and revolutionaries will not be able to avoid the question of an anti-capitalist transitional programme for very much longer. Such a programme would clearly state that ending exploitation and oppression means doing away with capitalism. Doing away with capitalism means undermining its foundation - the private ownership of the means of production, communication and exchange.

And there is no other way of abolishing private ownership than through “the revolution of the working class … to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, as Marx and Engels wrote in The manifesto of the Communist Party. They added: “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state: ie, as the proletariat organised as the ruling class …” (ibid).

In the political situation created after April 21 2002, the electoral agreement for 2004 reached between Lutte Ouvrière and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire objectively represents an opening. But if this agreement is restricted to the electoral sphere and, moreover, is closed to other components of the workers’ movement, then the possibilities will evaporate in the fog of missed opportunities. The appeal from the LCR congress for the formation of an anti-capitalist party is positive in itself, but, for the same reasons, may also achieve nothing.

In order for the anti-capitalist opposition to make the necessary qualitative leap, there are at least three conditions. Firstly, all the networks, all the revolutionary groups and currents must come together within a common, agreed frame -work to discuss the drawing up of a common anti-capitalist transitional programme. Secondly, this common framework of discussion must also be a framework of joint action against global capitalism.

Thirdly, we must be clear and uncompromising in our relations with the parties of the pluralist left. There must not be the slightest illusion in the kind of politics held by their leaderships. The working class has already given too much and, on April 21 2002, made it clear it was prepared to give no more. Revolutionary-sounding speeches must correspond - in every struggle, including those of election candidates - to revolutionary practice.

This is the immediate objective that communists and revolutionaries can attain. The campaign of disparagement directed against the far left provides us with proof. We can leave aside the diatribes from the right and the Socialist Party leadership - nothing else could be expected from servants of the bourgeois order.

However, leaders of the internal PCF opposition - Jean-Claude Danglot (secretary of the extremely ‘nostalgic’ PCF federation in the Pas-de-Calais), Yves Dimicoli (an economist who holds to the reformist utopia of job security under capitalism), Nicolas Marchand (former secretary of the Val-de-Marne federation) and André Gérin (deputy mayor of Vénissieux and driving force behind Le Manifeste newspaper) - have put their names to a platform, published in L’Humanité, in which the hatred for the far left which they share with the PCF leadership was made clear: “Leftwing voters would thus have to chose between an opposition which is basically conciliatory in its attitude to the domination of financial markets and an opposition that appears radical, but has no viable answers to the demands of the current epoch” (November 27).

They added, in a passage not published by L’Humanité: “We need a clearly identified communist presence, if we are to avoid a further disaster, faced as we are with the hard, arrogant right, faced with the threat from the Front National, when we risk having part of our vote neutralised by the LO-LCR electoral deal” (see www.couleurpcf.net).

So the main danger is the possibility that the far left will act as a catalyst for popular radicalisation. We are offered the crude blackmail of the right - its extreme flank is waiting in ambush, just like the second round of the presidential elections. And - cherry on the cake - they are banking on the Parti Socialiste, with whom the writers do not want to break the links cemented since the 30s - the links of municipalism, that is. This political current does not want to give up the ghost - at a time when the PCF leadership is developing just such an orientation. If, as a result of its Stalinist-reformist logic, it objectively aids the bourgeoisie, it would not be for the first time.

If PCF militants who sincerely want to do away with capitalism are not to fall into the same trap, genuine communists - particularly those originating in the PCF like the comrades of the New Gauche Communiste - must develop a political perspective that breaks completely with the dead ends of the past and bases itself firmly on the realities of the moment, to ensure that the emancipation of the workers will be the task of the workers themselves.