What sort of party?

The LCR is calling for the construction of a new revolutionary party in France. Jean-Michel Edwin of the Prom�th�e group argues that it should be based on three key principles

What sort of organisation is necessary to open up the road to another society? What political project would it pursue, with what programme, and what sort of social transformation would it envisage?

Our comrades defending a working class, Marxist perspective in the heart of the Parti Communiste Français and those intending to commit themselves to the building of the new anti-capitalist party proposed by the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire are at least agreed on one point: we need a revolutionary party or else there can be no revolution.

But what sort of party? A Communist Party, indeed a ‘PCF worthy of the name’? An ‘anti-capitalist party’, a ‘Marxist party’ or a ‘party for socialism’? Or are all these terms simply aliases signifying the same entity, whose generic name is ‘revolutionary party’? We would be happy to leave it at that and call upon all comrades to join in one fraternal embrace if our project were reduced to a sort of secular ecumenism aiming to ‘bring everyone together’ and ignore our differences.

To cling to such a naive - almost angelic - ‘grand reconciliation’ would be to play down what distinguishes the perspectives of the PCF anti-liquidationists from those of the LCR Trotskyists. Problems cannot be resolved by skirting around them.

Let me say who I mean by the PCF anti-liquidationists: those (and only those) who are well aware that the dissolution of the PCF into a new conglomeration aping the German Die Linke would not represent the first liquidationist act, but only the final touch. For the PCF has long since been ‘liquidated’ as a revolutionary party in a sapping process that will only be completed with the current notorious ‘change’.

And the LCR Trotskyists? Let us be clear: we are speaking of the Ligue’s majority current, which on many questions has for decades departed from the historical programme of Trotskyism and is convinced today that, as far as the PCF is concerned, ‘you can’t make something new from the wreckage of the old’. Something fundamentally new has to be created from top to bottom.

I will be very clear on this point: the contradictions between these two points of view cannot be resolved now - things will only be settled by practice and by life itself. The two approaches are as good as incompatible. When Gilles Questiaux of the PCF anti-liquidationist group, Réveil Communiste, polemicised with the El Diablo blog on this precise point, both were right to state their intractable disagreement: there can be no compromise or middle ground between those who oppose the final liquidation of the PCF and those who intend to play their part in leading it to its ultimate end, with the death certificate duly signed.

Yet if we cling obstinately to this battle and neither side is willing to give way, it should be in full recognition of the problem and not on some ‘centrist’ (in other words conciliatory) basis.

Subordinating ideology

Our approach is founded on certain assumptions which I shall attempt to formulate as theses:

1. There is no possible solution to the crisis of capitalism - that is to say, no perspective for real change, for revolution - without a revolutionary party.

2. It is through the actual class struggle - giving rise to new elaborations, but also exposing terrible shortcomings - that the revolutionary party will be built, not through the ‘application’ of a pre-established ‘party-building project’.

3. Praxis determines everything and cannot be overridden by ideology.

4. It is thus through struggle - social, electoral, political, etc - that the class unity of revolutionaries must be realised in every action and every place; it is through this common experience and the march of events that pre-established party-building projects will either be validated or found wanting.

That is why we are in full agreement with Marx’s ideas on the party - and so completely against the sectarian conceptions of communism that have flourished for 60 years and more.

The Marxist party - a party which unites the class around its common interests, rather than dividing it according to the catechisms of the various chapels - need only agree on three ‘necessary and sufficient’ (to use the language of mathematicians) key points:

1. The independence of the proletariat, upon which rests the only prospect for the emancipation, the total liberation, of all humanity.

2. Militant internationalism, which strives to overcome at all costs the division of our class into its national components.

3. The fight for extreme democracy - in respect of both the internal functioning of working class formations and our immediate demands in relation to state institutions.

These three points must form the basis for the elaboration of a programme - a programme which must be neither a catalogue of trade union-type reforms, however ‘advanced’, nor an ideological straitjacket expressing the specific conceptions of this or that undercurrent of the workers’ movement.

The best - or rather the worst - example of what must not be done in this connection is, I think, that of the British ‘Cliffites’, who have adopted for the benefit of the masses the ‘united front of a special type’, comparable to a reformist popular front and including elements of the bourgeoisie (the Respect coalition); and for the benefit of the revolutionary militants who make up the party - theirs, the Socialist Workers Party - an extremely narrow ideological credo.

The debate that took place between the LCR and the anarchistic Alternative Libertaire can, dear readers, be regarded as a sort of practical exercise, if you like, to approach from a different angle this problematic, which, in my opinion, proposes to construct the revolutionary subject through subordinating ideology to praxis.

The necessity of a “neuralgic regroupment of the organisers of struggle”, indeed of an “internal vanguard for the social movement” - over this question, despite all their disagreements, despite all their contradictory conceptions of the geometry of the ‘organisation’ to be constructed, the leaders of these two opposite currents, Trotskyist and libertarian, are, unless I have misunderstood, not so far apart.

What is more, at the third point of the triangle, the consistent anti-liquidationists of the PCF are acting on the real terrain where struggles are produced and social movements unfold. Now isn’t that something to help us advance?